How many people can honestly say they hate the concept of shifting in forward and reverse to make a circle around an object in the yard, such as a tree stump? It appears we could end this debate with just that one question alone of zero turn vs riding mower.
However, many differences are noticeable to the operator when driving and operating the mowers. The overall outcomes, which are the deciding factors as to which one is better, are the yard and the pocketbook.
Table of Contents
Pros and Cons
Here, we can look at each mower's good and bad points, the zero turn vs the riding mower.
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 Dixie Chopper, 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, whether it has two levers or a joystick for the steering
Pros of Riding Mower
- 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 Mower
- 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, 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.
Who Should Own a Zero Turn Mower?
After looking at the pros and cons of each, we must always take the yard into consideration. Even though the zero turn is the better mower according to the features and comfort, it may not always be the best option for the yard. For a yard with much landscape, yes, the homeowner would do better with a zero turn mower.
Another thing to consider is the drive tires that may tear up the turf. This is common with yards that use sprinkler systems or have softer grounds. There is a way to avoid this with a zero turn mower, but it defeats the purpose when dealing with time and having the zero turning radius.
If the operator can cut the corner of the turn down to a curve by going forward and reverse slowly, the drive tires will not lift up the ground. Those who know this trick are the commercial business owners that cut daily. We have learned the tricks of all the trade.
Commercial operators definitely need zero-turn mowers because they are better commercial grades than a riding mower. Time is money, and the zero turning radius, size of the decks, and speed they can cut work in the business owner's favor.
It also works in the homeowner's favor who does not like to waste their time behind a mower. The faster they get their yard cut, the quicker they can enjoy their evening or weekend. Especially those with a lot of acres to cut. Then some love to cut grass and find the zero turn mowers fun, and they feel they can ride on them all day long.
Who Should Own a Riding Mower?
As mentioned above, those who have soft ground should stick with the old fashion riding mowers. They cut slower but deliver a better cut without tearing up the turf. Those who do not have the money to spend on zero turns would also do better by purchasing a riding mower. This way, they do not break themselves in the pocketbook just to cut their yard.
The only other thing to look at is the deck size. Most are the same or close to the same size in width. Those who have buildings close to one another or gates that are not wide when opened will also be glad they purchased a regular riding mower.
If the mower cannot pass in these openings, it does not pay to have them. It only leaves more for weed eating and the push mower. The only reason a commercial lawn service would have these mowers is simply for backup should one of their zero turns go down.
Wrapping It Up
Putting everything in a nutshell, the price and the yard should make the decision easier. Whether commercial or homeowner, it may be best to have the riding mower as a backup, no matter what. But as for which one is better, hands down, the zero turn, if used correctly, is the better of the two.
What Do You Think?
This article about Zero Turn vs Riding Mower should help you decide which one is the perfect fit for you. Which one are you planning to get? Let us know in the comments!
If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on reviews of the latest mowers sign up for our newsletter below!