The 8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2021
The best way to keep larger lawns in top shape
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The Spruce / Chloe Jeong
Riding lawn mowers are no small investment, but they’re a worthwhile purchase for many homeowners. This style of lawn mower allows you to take care of your yard in less time, and dare we say that they even make lawn care enjoyable? With a nice riding mower, you can simply sit back with a drink and steer the machine, instead of pushing it around your yard by hand.
There are several types of riding mowers to choose from, including lawn tractors, which can be used for many tasks, and zero-turn mowers, which often have larger decks and can turn on a dime. There’s also the choice between traditional gas-powered mowers and eco-friendly electric models—both have their merits, so it’s really a matter of which best suits your needs.
The following are the best riding lawn mowers for all types of yards.
Best Overall: RYOBI 42 in. 100 Ah Battery Electric Riding Zero Turn Mower
Even those who have used gas lawn mowers their entire lives will be wowed by the RYOBI Electric Riding Zero-Turn Mower. This high-end electric mower is every bit as powerful as its gas counterparts, yet it requires none of the time-consuming maintenance like oil changes or spark plug replacement—oh, and it’s eco-friendly, to boot.
This mower is available with either 75Ah or 100Ah batteries, and the 100Ah model can cut up to 3 acres on a single charge. It’s equipped with a 42-inch steel deck and two precision-cutting blades with a 12-position single-lever deck adjustment. Additionally, the mower has side discharge, mulching, or bagging capabilities. The RYOBI mower comes with a towing hitch and tow assembly hardware, allowing you to use it for more tasks around your home, and when its battery is low, you can charge it up via a standard 120-volt outlet.
As if all that wasn’t enough, this high-end zero turn mower is equipped with a number of extra features, including LED headlights, a battery level indicator, and a USB charging port. Not to mention that it operates quietly—ideal for mowing in the early morning—and gives off no carbon emissions.
Best Budget: Troy-Bilt 30 in. 6-Speed Manual Drive Gas Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
Riding lawn mowers are significantly more expensive than walk-behind models, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a riding mower under $1,000. However, one of the most affordable options you can buy today is this model from Troy-Bilt, which features a small 30-inch deck and a 382cc single-cylinder engine.
This compact gas-powered mower has a rear-mounted engine that allows you to see better over the front, and it turns on a dime, allowing you to navigate around rocks and other obstacles in your yard. It’s equipped with a rear hitch that allows you to pull a cart or sprayer (sold separately), and you can opt for side discharge or mulch grass clippings as you mow.
Just keep in mind that this Troy-Bilt mower is only recommended for flat terrain, and it has a 6-speed manual transmission that you’ll have to operate. A small price to pay to save some money, if you ask us!
Best Small: CRAFTSMAN E150 30-in Lithium Ion Electric Riding Lawn Mower
The Craftsman E150 Riding Lawn Mower has a compact 30-inch deck that allows it to squeeze into tight places, and it will take up minimal space in your shed or garage. This small riding lawn mower is powered by a lithium-ion battery that delivers up to an hour of cutting per charge, and you’ll be surprised at just how comfortable it is to drive around.
You’ll be able to avoid obstacles with ease thanks to this mower’s 18-inch turn radius, and its mid-back seat and soft-touch steering wheel will provide both support and comfort. The mower has LED headlights for increased visibility, and there’s even a mulching kit available (sold separately) if you want to return nutrients back into your lawn. Plus, its battery-operated design means limited maintenance and no harmful emissions.
Best Electric: RYOBI 38 in. 75 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower
More people are switching over to electric lawn mowers, which offer decreased maintenance, fewer emissions, and impressively quiet operation, and RYOBI is the top electric lawn mower brand on the market. RYOBI mowers offer power that can compete with traditional gas models, and they boast a sleek, easy-to-use design that will appeal to both new homeowners and lawn care veterans alike.
This RYOBI Riding Lawn Mower is a step down from our overall pick, but it still delivers a stellar performance thanks to its 38-inch deck and 75Ah batteries, which give you around two hours of runtime per charge. The mower has a two-blade deck and a 12-position height adjustment, as well as cruise control, USB charging, LED headlights, and more, and it charges via a standard 120-volt outlet, usually taking around 12 hours to reach max battery power.
“We tested the mower’s cutting abilities several times, starting with a two-acre plot in a large field, then moving on to the front yard and a section of heavy, overgrown lawn. In each task, we found that the RYOBI exceeded expectations, cutting and handling just as well as a commercial-grade gas mower.”—Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Zero-Turn: Husqvarna Z254F 23-HP V-twin Dual Hydrostatic 54-in Zero-turn Lawn Mower
If your priorities when shopping for a lawn mower are maneuverability and speed, a zero-turn mower like this one from Husqvarna should be your top choice. This style of riding mower has two swiveling wheels in front and lap bar controls, allowing you to turn it on a dime and navigate around obstacles in your yard.
This Husqvarna mower has a 54-inch deck and is powered by a 23-HP Kawasaki engine that can achieve speeds of up to 6.5 MPH. It has a hydrostatic, no-maintenance transmission, as well as a deep deck design with high-performance blades, and the mower’s comfortable seat, ergonomic control panel, and anti-slip foot area will ensure your comfort, even during longer mowing sessions. This model can side discharge, bag, or mulch grass clippings, but the accessories for the latter two options are sold separately.
Best for Hills: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46 in. 22 HP V-Twin Kohler Gas Hydrostatic Front Engine Lawn Tractor
Not every lawn mower is capable of climbing hilly terrain, but the Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro can. This lawn tractor sports a 22 HP twin cylinder-engine and hydrostatic transmission, which eliminates the need for shifting, and reviewers say it tackles hills with ease—impressive considering its reasonable price tag.
The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro has a 46-inch deck with 12 cutting height positions, and it offers cruise control, LED headlights, and a smooth 16-inch turning radius. The mower is equipped with a high-back seat for comfort, and there are numerous multi-seasonal attachments you can use with it, including a twin bagger, snow thrower, sunshade/snow cab, snow blade, mulch kit, steel cart, and more.
Best for Large Yards: Toro 54 in. TimeCutter 24.5 HP V-Twin Gas Dual Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower
If you have several acres of property to maintain, you’ll love the Toro TimeCutter Zero-Turn Riding Mower. Not only does this mower have a large 54-inch deck to cut large paths on every pass, but it’s also equipped with the brand’s MyRide suspension system, which provides a smoother ride for more enjoyable operation.
The Toro mower is powered by a 24.5-HP engine that offers speeds up to 7 MPH in mow mode and 5 MPH when towing. The brand claims this machine can cut your mowing time up to 50 percent thanks to its zero-turn steering, and you’ll stay comfortable the whole time thanks to the high-back seat with armrests and a built-in cup holder.
Best for Rough Terrain: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. 23 HP V-Twin Gas Engine Zero Turn Mower
Not all mowers can handle rough, uneven terrain, so those with bumpy yards will want to invest in a model like the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1, a zero-turn mower that performs well on all types of ground. It’s equipped with a 23-HP twin-cylinder engine for commercial-grade power, and its dual hydrostatic rear-wheel transmission can achieve speeds up to 7.5 MPH.
This mower has a 50-inch triple-blade deck with reinforced leading edges that create finer clippings, fewer clumps, and increased evenness, and the foot-operated deck lift and a dial control knob allow you to easily set the deck height to your liking. The machine’s smooth tread front wheels and 20-inch premium rear tires provide excellent traction and a smoother ride on uneven ground, and you’re sure to love its adjustable ergonomic lap bar, dual-LED headlights, electronic fingertip blade engagement, and other premium features.
The RYOBI Electric Riding Zero-Turn Mower (view at Home Depot) offers all the power and versatility of a high-end gas mower, but without any of the maintenance or emissions, making it a top pick for anyone with a large yard. However, for a machine that can do more than just cut grass, consider the John Deere E160 Gas Hydrostatic Lawn Tractor (view at Home Depot), which can be used with baggers, aerators, carts, and more.
What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to buy a gas- or electric-powered riding lawn mower. Gas mowers are generally more powerful, but they’re louder, less eco-friendly, and require more maintenance. Electric mowers, on the other hand, are typically less powerful with a shorter run time, but they’re quieter, easier to start, and better for the environment.
The deck size of a lawn mower dictates how wide a path it cuts—larger decks cut wider paths on each pass. A deck size of between 30 and 60 inches is recommended for most homeowners. Bigger decks are better for lawns with few obstacles and turns, while smaller decks will be helpful if you have to mow around trees or garden beds.
Don’t forget to consider how the lawn mower handles grass clippings. Some machines simply spit clippings back out onto your lawn, while others have options to bag or mulch the cut grass. The best option for you simply depends on how you prefer to handle your clippings.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance contributor for The Spruce. As someone who grew up on a 70-acre farm and now owns a 5-acre property herself, she’s no stranger to lawn mowers, and she’s written extensively on them, even doing first-hand product testing.