Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (2024)

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Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (1)

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Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (2)

Steve Conaway Labs Manager / Senior Technical Project Manager

I am the Labs Manager for CNET's Home Division based in Louisville, KY. My interest in technology began in the early '90s, and soon after I began my double major in computer science and computer engineering. I've worked in many areas, including computer hardware, software, technology, networking, graphic design, instruction, construction, music and even ballroom dancing!65% Ron Swanson, 25% Ben Wyatt, 10% Andy Dwyer.

Expertise portable power stations, tools, coolers, lawn mowers, diy

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Our Picks

$3,799 at Home Depot

Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (3)

Best zero-turn riding lawn mower

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

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$2,199 at Home Depot

Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (5)

Best riding lawn mower value

Troy-Bilt Bronco 42

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$4,999 at Ace Hardware

Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (6)

Best electric riding lawn mower

Ego Power Plus Z6 42-inch

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Riding mowers are a great way to keep your grass looking its best if you live in an area where yards run large. They can save you time and effort, and they can be a lot of fun to use. But with so many different models and brands on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you.

There are a few things to consider when you begin thinking about buying a riding lawn mower. The size of your lawn is one of the key factors -- it may be overkill to use a riding lawn mower for a 0.05-acre plot when a push mower will do it in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, there's a huge price gap between even the nicest of push mowers and most budget-conscious riding mowers. On top of that, not all lawns are created equal. You may need to take steep inclines or other rugged terrain into consideration when making this type of decision.

With recent advancements in battery technologies, you now also have the option of electric versus traditional gas motors. There's a lot to consider here. For one, if you run out of gas when mowing your lawn, you can take a couple minutes to add more gas and keep going. The same scenario with an electric unit could see you with an hour or two gap in your mowing while you recharge. So sizing your machine to your specific lawn can be even more important when looking at electric options.

On the other hand, some of the electric units are compatible with battery platforms, meaning you could take the batteries from the mower and use them in other tools as well. That also means that if you have extra batteries for those other tools, you could pop those into your mower if they were charged and you find yourself running out of power -- sidestepping the time delay in refueling versus recharging. There will still be an offset on pricing, however. There's a hefty upfront investment in batteries that may be tough to recoup.

An important note: Unlike the vast majority of best lists on CNET, this one is based on our research rather than hands-on testing -- only because the size and expense of these units made the acquisition of product samples logistically challenging. I've compared all the specs to find the best riding lawn mowers on the market, so you can make an informed decision about which one could be right for you.

Let's dig in. Here are my best picks.

$3,799 at Home Depot

Best zero-turn riding lawn mower

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-inch riding mower is a great choice for homeowners with large lawns. It has a powerful 23-horsepower engine and a 50-inch cutting deck, making it easy to mow even the largest lawns quickly and efficiently. The mower also features a hydrostatic transmission, which makes it easy to maneuver around tight spaces. This also allows for a speedy 7 mph forward speed and 3.5 mph in reverse.

In addition, the Ultima ZT1 comes with a variety of features (some at an extra cost) that make it a great choice for homeowners who want the best possible lawn care experience. These features include a mulching deck, a bagger, side discharge chute, tow/haul capability, snow plow or even a sun shade. The fabricated mulching deck delivers a signature cut with fewer clumps and stragglers, finer clippings, increased evenness and improved soil health, while the bagger and side discharge chute make it easy to collect grass clippings. Overall, the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50-inch riding mower is a great choice for homeowners who want a powerful, easy-to-use and feature-rich riding lawn mower.

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$2,799 at Lowe's

Best gas-powered riding lawn mower

John Deere S130

Some people prefer the traditional steering experience of the round wheel mounted on the steering column, and my pick for best gas riding mower is a John Deere lawn tractor that offers just that. The S130 sports a 42-inch cutting deck and a 22-hp engine that will get you up to 5.5 mph forward or 3.2 mph in reverse. Much like my pick for best zero turn, the S130 offers many add-ons including a snow plow, snow blower, tire chains and even a full cab enclosure for extra protection from the elements.

The S130 includes the John Deere "Easy Change" 30-second oil change system, a proprietary all-in-one oil and oil filter canister that allows you to quickly change its tractor oil with "no hassles and no mess." The list price at $2,799 is attractive for a name-brand unit with these specs. Throw in a seasonal discount you can likely dig up somewhere, and the S130 becomes a great choice for nearly anyone considering a riding mower.

Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (9)

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$2,199 at Home Depot

Best riding lawn mower value

Troy-Bilt Bronco 42

My pick for best value riding mower falls into a categorization of riding mowers that are designed for lawns of 2 acres or smaller. You still have access to plenty of power with a 19-hp Briggs & Stratton engine and a 42-inch cutting deck. The Bronco 42 is designed to provide easy on and off accessibility with a "Step-Thru" frame design that makes it a great pick for people at all physical capability levels. The automatic transmission and foot pedal control are also designed to allow the mower to drive "like a car."

You will still have access to all the add-ons and pull-behind carts, spreaders and sprayers with the attached rear hitch. When you look at these specs and performance options at a list price of $2,199, which is near entry-level pricing for name-brand riding mowers (entry level being around $2,000), the Bronco 42 becomes an easy choice for best value.

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$4,999 at Ace Hardware

Best electric riding lawn mower

Ego Power Plus Z6 42-inch

Choosing the titleholder for best electric riding mower is a bit trickier, given the wide variance in how these batteries and electrical systems perform. The Z6 42-inch does work on a removable battery platform where you can use the individual batteries from the mower (up to six of them) in the company's lineup of other outdoor tools. Included with the mower are four of the 10-Ah batteries (Ego currently offers batteries with amp-hour capacities of 2.5, 4, 5, 6, 7.5, 10 and 12) and two additional spaces for you to add additional batteries of your own. To start the mower, you will need a minimum of 15-Ah batteries loaded, with full capacity being 60 Ah, which Ego says will get you up to 3 acres.

There are three driving modes: Control, Standard and Sport, which give you different degrees of aggressiveness and speed during maneuvering. Your speeds while cutting will range from 3-7 mph with an overall top speed of 8 mph during travel mode. Included is a wall-mounted fast charger similar to a standard EV charger so you don't have to charge each battery individually. This is also handy if you're invested in the Ego ecosystem and prefer to charge multiple batteries simultaneously.

You'll also get some nifty extras like an LCD control screen and a USB port to charge or power things on the go. The Z6 42-inch model is a great choice if you're already invested in this outdoor tool platform or interested in one. It's also great if you're generally an electric/EV/battery power enthusiast. Generally, the performance you'll see will rival that of similarly sized 22-hp gas engine models. The price tag might be a little higher due to battery buy-in, but overall this is a great machine with exceptional performance.

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Other units we evaluated

Ryobi 48-volt, 100-Ah Electric Zero Turn Riding Mower: Ryobi has a few nice options for electric riding mowers, including this 100-Ah version that has the largest battery capacity of all our evaluated units. However, looking at the math converting both the Ryobi and Ego units to watt-hours by multiplying their battery voltage by battery amp-hours, Ryobi has 4,800 Wh versus Ego's 3,360 Wh. At these stated capacities, both manufacturers claim their mowers cover "up to" 3 acres, which makes the Ego system appear to be more efficient.

Greenworks 60-volt, 42-inch CrossoverT Electric Riding Lawn Mower: This mower is the least expensive of the electric options I evaluated. I do like the integrated storage bed in the back of the unit. It comes with six 8-Ah batteries and there is an extensive outdoor tool collection to interact with these batteries just like the Ego platform. For recharging, you will need to use the three included double battery chargers to bring your six batteries back online. It can cover up to 2.5 acres per charge.

Craftsman T110 42-inch 17.5-hp Riding Lawn Mower: This gas-powered mower boasts similar specs to some of our other units, albeit with a slightly smaller 17.5-hp engine. A decent choice overall, especially if you're already a Craftsman fan, but a slightly higher price tag per spec keeps this one out of the winner's circle.

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Riding mower FAQs

How much does a riding lawn mower cost?

Riding mowers vary greatly in cost. Entry-level costs for most known brands is around $2,000 and can exceed $25,000 for larger multifunction lawn tractors designed for very large lawn areas. An average lawn mower costs in the $3,000-$3,500 range.

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What size lawn should I have before considering a riding mower?

This answer will vary a bit based on the individual, but in general anything over half an acre is a great candidate for a riding mower.

You still might consider a riding mower for smaller lawns especially if you have concerns about your physical ability or stamina to push mow whatever size yard you have. Even in those circ*mstances there are self-propelled push mowers that take the majority of the work out of the task.

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Which is better, a traditional riding mower or a zero-turn mower?

Both mowers have their advantages. Up front, one of the main differences will be cost. Zero-turn mowers will usually cost at least 25% more (usually closer to 50% more) than their traditional counterparts. Zero-turns will, however, mow your space faster and with greater maneuverability than the traditional riding mower. Smaller residential yards are easy candidates for traditional mowers while larger yards or people who mow multiple yards (like landscape companies) might opt for zero-turns to increase their time efficiency.

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Best Riding Mowers for 2024 (2024)
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