If you're a homeowner looking for the best zero turn mower, you've come to the right place. A zero turn mower can be a large investment for any homeowner so it is important that you choose the best mower for your situation.
In this article, we will compare residential to commercial mowers, zero turns and riding tractors, and the top five zero-turn mowers. There will also be mentions on what to look for when buying a mower and help you decide what is best for your yard.
Table of Contents
- How We Chose the Best Zero Turn Mowers
- Residential VS Commercial
- Toro Timecutter VS Toro 6000 Series Mowers
- Zero Turn VS Riding Tractor
- Best Residential Zero Turn Mower
- 1. Cub Cadet ZT1
- 2. Hustler Raptor
- 3. Toro Timecutter
- 4. Ariens Ikon
- 5. John Deere Z Track 300 Series
- Buying Guide – What to Look For
- How to Lift a Zero Turn Mower
- What Do You Think?
How We Chose the Best Zero Turn Mowers
If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you know my story. I have experience in the lawn care industry and the mower manufacturer industry. I've seen all of the behind-the-scenes and used many different mowers extensively.
I chose each of the best mowers on this list by extensively researching and demoing each mower. I didn't only demo these mowers, but I took a very close look throughout every inch of these mowers. Of course, some of this will be my opinion and a bit of my personal preference, but I try my best to keep an objective perspective of every mower I test.
Residential VS Commercial
Almost every brand has two lineups, one for residential or consumers and the other is for commercial and business use. The residentials will not have as much horsepower for zero-turn mowers, and the frames will not be as sturdy. The deck sizes are smaller, and they are not made of the same grade steel.
Commercial zero turns have more power and are built more durable with higher quality material. Commercial zero-turns have a broader wheelbase with a larger deck to handle the hill's incline when it comes to hills.
Toro Timecutter VS Toro 6000 Series Mowers
I get asked often for an example of the difference between a commercial and residential mower. There are actually quite drastic differences between the two. For this example, I will use the Toro Timecutter (Model 75755) and Toro 6000 series (72967.)
The most noticeable differences between these mowers are the frame/deck material, engine size/type, transmissions, speed, fuel capacity, and warranty. Overall, the commercial mower (like the Toro 6000) is going to be much larger, fast, and capable. Almost every aspect of the mower will be larger than a typical residential zero turn mower.
Of course, a commercial mower comes with a much higher price as well. Determining which mower is right for you is going to largely depend on your specific situation.
Below is a comparison chart between a residential and commercial zero turn mower.
|Spec||Toro Timecutter||Toro 6000 Series|
|Deck Material||10 Ga Fabricated||7 Ga Fabricated|
|Engine||24.5 hp Toro Engine||31 hp Kawasaki FX1000|
|Drive System||Hydro-Gear ZT2200||16 cc pumps and 17.1 ci motors with shock valves|
|Speed||7 mph||11.5 mph|
|Frame||10 Ga. Steel||7 ga Steel|
|Tire Size||Rear: 18 in x 9.5 in|
Front: 11″ x 6″
|Rear: 24 in x 12 in|
Front: 13″ x 6.5″
|Fuel Capacity||3 Gallons||12 gallons|
|Suspension||MyRIDE Suspension platform||MyRIDE suspension platform|
|Warranty||3 year unlimited hour residential warranty||5 year/1500 hours or 2 year unlimited|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Zero Turn VS Riding Tractor
The best way to decipher which one is better is by looking at the pros and cons of each.
Pros of the Zero Turn
- Has a zero turning radius
- Runs off of dual hydraulics, no shifting gears or shifting in forward or reverse
- Drives and cuts faster
- Has a broader wheelbase
- Has wider deck size options as high as 72+ inches
- Saves time behind the mower
- Comfortable with more space, especially for legroom
- Some come with suspension seats to cushion the bumps.
- Easier to work on with the open space as compared to riding mowers
- Work better for cutting larger areas with lots of twists and turns, easy to maneuver
- More horsepower in the engine options
- Usually comes with better features compared to a riding mower
Cons of the Zero Turn
- Expensive with prices up to $10,000-$12,000 for famous brands such as Toro, Gravely, and Hustler
- Traction is lost on slopes in inclines.
- Large back tires with rear-wheel drive can tear up a lawn on the turns.
- Cost more to repair
- The faster the speed in cutting, the less quality in cutting
- Takes time to learn and skill to operate
Pros of Riding Tractor
- Cheaper with prices around the $900-$2,500 range.
- More accessible for beginners to learn and operate.
- Work better for pull-behind cart and other attachments.
- Options of shift or hydraulic transmissions
- Better traction with front-wheel drives or steering.
- Cutting quality is better due to slower speed.
- Not as expensive on the repairs as a zero-turn
- Able to fit through tight spots due to the mower is not as wide as a zero-turn
- The back tires will not tear up a yard on a turn.
- Easier to control due to a slower speed.
- Hauls trailers and equipment better with the pull behind cart.
- Has more power over slopes and hills
Cons of a Riding Tractor
- It has a wide turning radius, will not cut everything without a second pass or continual forward and reverse motion.
- Takes longer to mow a yard at a slower speed, has smaller deck size options, and too many double passes.
- Not as much horsepower in engine options compared to a zero-turn mower.
- Constant fighting with the steering wheel with a yard with curves, twists, and turns
- Not many mowers have suspension options to help with the bumps.
- More compact for the operator with not as much legroom, and the steering wheel may not have a tilt steering option to alleviate the space problem.
Best Residential Zero Turn Mower
|Specs||Cub Cadet ZT1||Hustler Raptor||Toro Timecutter||Ariens Ikon||John Deere Z Track 300 Series|
|Cut Width||42″-54″||42″ – 60″||34″ – 60″||42″ – 60″||42″-54″|
|Engine||Kawasaki FR, Kohler 7000||Kawasaki FR600, Kawasaki FR651, Kawasaki FR691, Kawasaki FR730||Kohler, Toro V-Twin, Kawasaki® V-Twin||Kawasaki V-Twin, Kohler 7000||V-Twin|
|Drive System||Hydro-Gear EZT||Hydro-Gear ZT-2800||Hydro-Gear EZT||Hydro-Gear EZT||Hydro-Gear EZT|
|Up to 8 mph||Forward Speed|
|Fuel Capacity||3.5 gal.||3 gal.||3 gal.||2.80 gal.||2.1 gal.|
|Seat Type||20″ high back||high-back seat||standard, handcrafted high back||plush, high back seat||Medium back|
|Warranty||3 years||3 years||3 years||3 years||2 years|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Cub Cadet ZT1
The Cub Cadet ZT1 and the entire ZT series are some of the best residential zero turn mowers on the market. They have some of the best specs and features this level of mower has to offer.
The ZT1 mower is great for the homeowner with a fairly large yard. There are several different deck sizes and come with reliable engines and transaxles.
- Comes in different size decks (42-54 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
- Broad wheelbase
- Dual hydro-transmissions
- All-terrain back tires with the option for steel chains for better traction
- 22-24 horsepower motor able to handle rolling hills
- Lap bar controlled for better steering.
2. Hustler Raptor
The Hustler Raptor received a pretty big upgrade in 2020. This definitely caught my eye and has quickly become one of my favorite zero turn mowers for homeowners. It not only looks awesome, but it has some really great features.
This mower is built very well and will definitely last and homeowner a very long time. There are several different models in the Raptor lineup that are sure to meet your needs.
- Different lineups in the series (X, XL, XD, XDX)
- Comes in different size commercial grade decks (42-60 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
- Broad wheelbase
- Dual hydro-transmissions
- Exclusive 20″ BigBite back tires (One of a kind)
- Bigger Transmissions Hydro-Gear® ZT-2800®
- 18-24 horsepower Kawasaki motor able to handle rolling hills
- Lap bar controlled for precision and on-the-go traction.
3. Toro Timecutter
The Toro Timecutter is a great budget buy. They have some good features and some beefier models in the lineup that may be better suited for you if you have a larger yard. The Timecutter also has some very inexpensive models that are good for the homeowner with a fairly small yard (1-2 acres.)
This isn't my favorite residential zero turn, but it if you're in the market for a mower and have a lower budget one of these may be the mower for you. The good part about the Timecutter is Toro is a well respected name in the industry that has been around a long time. This goes a long way because they are held to a high standard.
- SW has the steering wheel, ZS Series has the lap bars. Both are Zero-turn mowers.
- SmartSpeed feature for optimal performance
- SmartPark Brake System for the SW series and Automatic parking brake system for the ZS series.
- Toro V-Twin Engine
- Dual Hydrostatic transmissions have the power and torque to go up and downhills.
- Broad wheelbase to handle cutting on inclines.
4. Ariens Ikon
The Ariens IKON mower is a very well-built residential zero turn mower. It has a lot of similarities to the Cub Cadet mower. That new little “residential rollover protection system” is becoming a trend and Ariens recently jumped on this train.
Overall, this is a solid mower with great specs and an even better company behind the name. They have a wide selection of mowers within the XD lineup with different engine options and deck sizes. You should be able to find the perfect mower to fit your needs and your budget.
- XD Series has up to 60″ deck
- The mower is designed for stability, comfort, and reliability for long-lasting hours.
- Commercial-style deck with 4″ deep fabricated with airflow advancement and the best cutting performance.
- High plush seat for cutting anywhere comfortably, even on hills.
- Larger tires with better traction. It also offers a smoother ride.
- Hydro-gear transaxles are perfect for response and control, especially on hills
- Choice of Kawasaki V-Twin engine or Kohler 7000 series.
5. John Deere Z Track 300 Series
Of course, how could I not include John Deere? The John Deere Z Track 300 series is a solid residential mower and has a great brand behind it. Personally, John Deere isn't my favorite mower on the market, but I do give respect where it's due.
I think the Z Track 300 series is an overall good mower that will be perfect for the average homeowner. They are well built and have all the features that many comparable mowers have. You can't really go wrong with a John Deere mower.
- Comes in different size decks (42-54 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
- Broad wheelbase
- Dual hydro-transmissions
- 18-20 inch All-terrain back tires
- 20-22 horsepower motor able to handle rolling hills
- Lap bar controlled for precision and on the go traction
Buying Guide – What to Look For
The type of yard you have can play a factor in what is the best mower to purchase. Lawn tractors do better when it is a wide-open space to cut and not many obstacles. Zero-turns maneuver better in tight spots and areas where there are many buildings and trees to go around.
Gas VS Electric
These could also be called brushed VS brushless motors. Which one is better is determined by your property. Also, the neighborhood. Brushless motors or electric are quiet but powerful. Battery power may last from 3 to 4 hours.
Fuel times may vary but may last the same amount of time. If the yard is too big, and you find yourself running out of battery power before finishing, the gas would be the better option.
Residential users may only need 19 to 24 horsepower for small yards. Some motors are made to cut bigger and thicker yards. In these situations, commercial users with over 25hp engines would be sufficient.
Nearly every residential zero turn is going to have two independent transaxles. These will usually be Hydro-Gear brands. In most cases, residential zero turns will have EZT, ZT-2800, or ZT-3100 transaxles. There are only slight differences between these transaxles.
Single Cylinder VS Twin Cylinder Engines
The most significant difference in these engines is the single-cylinder has more torque but produces less horsepower. The twin cylinders have more power but produce less torque. Single cylinders also vibrate more than other engines, so it can make for a rougher ride.
Fuel Tank Capacity
Most gas tanks are around 1.5 to 2.5 gallons on a riding mower. Zero-turns hold more fuel, especially if they have two tanks. How much fuel the tank holds determines how long the mower will run before having to refuel again. It is never fun to run out of gas, so always check the fuel level before starting.
The size of the cutting deck makes a world of difference when the operator has a big yard to mow. The bigger the deck, the fewer passes have to be made. Most decks start at 42″ and go as high as 60.” The bigger the deck, the more blades there will be underneath. For example, a 38″ may only have one blade. A 42″ to 54″ may have two sets of blades. 60″ decks will have 3 sets of blades underneath the deck.
Battery Life and Runtime
The downside of electric mowers is the battery life and the charge times. The more the battery has to get charged, the less cutting you are doing. If the owner has a small yard, then a mower with a battery is no big deal. If the yard is too big and the battery runs out of juice, it serves no purpose in finishing the yard. Most batteries take up to a couple of hours to charge.
Comfort is everything when buying the best zero turn mower. The last thing a person wants is to get off the mower hurting because the ride was painful. Some things to look for to add comfort are suspension seating, plush seats, High-back seats, seats with armrests, and a comfortable place to put your feet while operating the mower.
The ideal back tires are 18 to 20″. Traction and grips are a must, especially if dealing with inclines and hills. All-terrain tires work the best. Getting tires with large grips also can be a lifesaver when cutting on hills and in wet spots.
Weight is a minor factor when cutting on a hill. The heavier set the mower is, the sturdier it is. It can also be fatal if the incline is over 15 degrees and miscalculations occur. Most commercial zero-turns weigh between 450 and 650 lbs.
Most of the brand-name mowers have built-in features that are safety mechanisms. Things like seat belts and roll bars may prevent severe injury or death in rollovers. Rollovers happen on inclines where control is lost, and the mower flips.
Other features may be a safety switch under the seat that kills the motor as soon as the operator leaves the seat. These are a few to mention.
Always look for a warranty with two or more years to the manufacturer. Some dealers may have their own, but the manufacturer is the most important. Those that back up their products with a good warranty speak volumes about what the consumer is getting from the beginning.
Are zero turn mowers better than lawn tractors?
It depends on the preference of the operator. They both have their good and bad points. Zero-turns have a better turning radius; they do not operate as well on inclines but travel and cut at a higher rate of speed. Lawn tractors are easier to learn, drive, and maneuver on inclines. It is essential to know both can flip with inclines more significant than 15 degrees.
Why are Zero turn mowers so expensive?
Because they are built with the best and highest quality parts. They are bigger, cut faster, made for more extended use times, and are better in the commercial world. If the price is worth it, it is up to the owner of the property. It can easily be $3,000 or more.
How are zero turn mowers delivered?
Some come in metal or wooden crates. Others come on pallets, and it needs to be assembled upon arriving at the location. Many dealerships handle this, so it is nothing to worry about. It is called pre-delivery, and they take the mower out of the crate and put it together. The mechanics double-check everything and make sure everything is working, the fluids are filled, and the mower is ready to use.
Do zero turn mowers have a brake?
No. They operate off of lever controls. Pulling back while in a forward motion will slow down or stop the machine. The parking or emergency brake is usually put on when the levers are locked outward.
Do zero turns work on slopes?
Yes. They work on slopes and must take precautions when in the operation of 15 degrees or greater. Lawn tractors operate better, but both can quickly flip.
How to Operate a Zero Turn Mower?
Most zero-turns have lap bars. One controls one side while the other controls the other. Both in a forward motion means the mower is going forward and straight. Pulling back on the levers slows down or stops the machine. One forward is to turn while the other side is in the forward motion turns the opposite direction. The rest operates the same as a rider.
Which gas is best for a lawnmower?
The type of gas you use in a lawnmower is very important. Be sure not to use E15 gas in any of your lawn equipment. Especially if you have a carburated engine. These carburetors will gum up and prevent your mower from starting. There's nothing worse than going out to mow the grass and your lawnmower doesn't start.
It is recommended that you use non-ethanol gas for any lawn equipment, especially your zero turn mower. This can be 87, 89, or 93 octanes should be fine. As long as you aren't using 85 Octane or high ethanol gas you should be fine.
Instead of loading your mower on a trailer to fuel up at a gas station, it is much more convenient to use a gas tank. There are several great gas tanks on Amazon that you should check out. My favorite is the SureCan Gas tank… primarily because of the nozzle. It is a genius design for a lawnmower. I've used them many times and
If you are storing your zero turn mower over the winter it is highly recommended to either run all of the gas out of the mower or use a fuel stabilizer. My personal favorite brand of fuel stabilizer is Seafoam. This stuff is incredible, it works so well.
Another good alternative if you don't want to use Seafoam is Stabil. This is a long-time brand that has made a quality product for a while. They are still a top choice when choosing a fuel stabilizer for your mower.
How to Lift a Zero Turn Mower
Lifting a zero turn mower can be very dangerous. It is very important that you take the necessary safety precautions before attempting to lift a mower.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way… why would you want to lift a mower? This is normally only needed if you plan to do some maintenance on the mower yourself. If you plan to only take your mower to a dealer there probably isn't much reason to lift your mower.
As you look at these options, we hope they will help you decide which type of mower you need. As we mentioned, it all depends on the property and the owner's preferences. Looking at the scenarios can save time, and money, so always choose wisely.
What Do You Think?
What do you think is the best zero turn mower? Let us know in the comments!
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