How To Choose A Zero-Turn Mower: Narrowing Your Options In 9 Steps!

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Choosing a zero-turn mower is not a walk in the park. It’s not like strolling through a store or scrolling online. To avoid getting ripped off or ending up with a hunk of junk, you must be well-informed and armed with what to look for to make your decision.

There’s a whole bunch of brands and models out there in the riding mower market, just waiting to catch your eye; it’s like a wild jungle of roaring engines and flashy colors competing for your money. So, you must consider what you need, the specific model features, and what you’re seeking to achieve with your lawn machine to make your choice.

To choose a zero-turn mower, features like the size of your yard, the type of terrain and turf, your expectations from the mower, personal preferences, and ultimately, your budget come into play. This allows you to select the best brand and model for you and your lawn.

Zero-Turn Dealbreakers You Must Know Before Purchasing

Whether you just moved to a new environment with a beautiful yard to explore or you are seeking to upgrade to a zero-turn mower, you should have standards you expect the machine must meet for your satisfaction. Your new zero-turn mower must be able to fulfill at most 90% of your needs to be the bang for the buck. Here’s what to expect:


Your zero-turn mower should be able to move faster than your previous mowing machine or fast enough to cover an acre in a maximum of 1.5 hours, regardless of the features of your lawn. Zero-turn mowers start at 5 miles per hour for residential ranges and can run up to 20 mph for commercial models. Typically, residential zero-turns operate at speeds of 5-10 mph, so you should be able to finish your mowing faster than before or within the right timeframe.


The most important feature of every zero-turn mower is its maneuverability. The ability of the machine to make tight turns is what sets it apart from its competitors. Your zero-turn mower must be able to take swift turns without groaning or sputtering. If you notice an issue with this aspect, your machine may have a weak transmission or engine.

Easy Serviceability

Zero-turn mowers are built with different features and techniques, although the majority of the machines have the same frame quality. Some brands make it easier to service your machine, which, in turn, would lengthen its lifespan for you. You should be able to access the parts of your zero-turn for systematic maintenance to ensure its longevity. Parts such as the engine, belts, blades, filters, tires, battery, and steering should be easily accessible to you without any problems. You needn’t call a professional repair person to simply check these parts for minor difficulties.

Premium Cut Quality

The cut quality of zero-turn mowers depends on how the decks are ideally built. However, other features such as the suspension and stability of the machine matter as well. ZTRs that have a good center of gravity tend to cut more nicely and evenly, which is a common feature of brands like Exmark. They also have a well-designed deck that encourages airflow and enhances the cut quality.

ZTR buying tips

9 Crucial Tips To Help You Choose The Best Zero-Turn Mower

Simply going to a store uninformed to purchase a ZTR may lead you to the wrong machine. You must do your research to know exactly which machine will meet your mowing requirements. Here are the zero-turn mower buying tips that will help you:

1. Draft Yourself A Budget

Budgeting is highly important when you’re dealing with lawn machines. It’s easier to narrow down your options when you know exactly how much you’re willing to spend. This allows you to fall into more of your needs rather than your wants, which is more often tricky to separate. A firm and stern budget encourages purchasing only the best qualities for your yard.

2. Consider The Size Of Your Yard

The size of your yard is easily the best start to choosing your zero-turn. Specifically, the acreage you’re going to tackle determines the grade of the model you should purchase. You could either go for the residential or commercial models of the brand of choice before considering other features like the design and usability of the machine.

If you’re mowing below 1.5 acres, you should go for a residential ZTR to maximize your budget. Acres above 1.5 to 3 can be paired with the higher-grade residential models, and above 3 acres, the commercial models are more fitting.

3. Select A Preferable Deck Size

This aspect answers how large your yard is, how much storage space you have, and how quickly you’re seeking to mow your lawn. The larger the deck, the quicker the job and the larger the storage space. A nice average size would be 54 inches which can be paired with both residential and commercial-grade ZTR models.

If you’re taking on a heavy-duty task that would be suited best with a commercial-grade model but are trying to conserve space, a 54” deck will be the best for you. On the other hand, less workload with prioritized-time efficiency and storage will fit a residential model paired with a 54” deck. The trick is to work with your deal breakers.

4. Evaluate Your Yard’s Terrain

The shape and features of your yard can help you further narrow your choice of ZTR to choose. Some models have much bigger tires than others, and some brands design their mowers to have a lower center of gravity for tackling slopes and hilly terrain. Though the difference isn’t tremendous, you can still prioritize one brand or model over the other.

If your yard is a bit bumpy, you may prefer comfort over stability especially if you’re going to be sitting in the machine for long periods in a stretch. Brands like Toro and Ferris are noticeable for their comfort-assuring designs that help protect you from the shocks and potential backaches that come with bumpy terrain. Also, the better the zero-turn model, the more comfortable it gets.

5. Measure The Workload You’re Handling

If you’re going into commercial mowing, you must purchase a commercial mower to equal the task. A residential mower will be unable to take on the stress of mowing frequently or mowing more than 3.5 acres of grass. It puts too much strain on the engine and transmission which would in turn reduce the lifespan of the machine.

6. Take Note Of Your Kind Of Turf

Usually, you’d have no problem mowing any kind of turf with your zero-turn. This problem is mostly associated with commercial mowers that mow different yards over time. In this case, aim towards the zero-turns with the highest capacity. The engine specifications don’t usually matter with commercial ZTRs as they’re built strong enough to withstand intense grass cutting.

7. Choose Between Bagging Or Mulching

Some brands and models are better at mulching compared to others. If you’re going for residential mowing, you should mulch rather than bag especially if you’re dealing with only grass clippings. However, if you have huge trees that shed a reasonable amount of leaves, models that can bag better should be your choice. If you are a commercial landscaper, you’d be tasked with problems that come with tall grass which makes mulching almost impossible to achieve. So, bagging may be your only option.

8. Go For The Most Serviceable Zero-Turns

The more serviceable it is, the less likely you’d have to replace full parts. If you’re tackling heavy-duty mowing, the serviceable hydrostatic transmission will be a better option. Ensure you have easy access to the plugs, bolts, screws, deck, battery, and air filter so that maintenance is easier and achievable for you. The more maintenance, the longer your machine lasts.

9. Choose The Mower With A Dealer Closest To You

Another important aspect we often ignore when buying a ZTR is the dealer proximity. Try as much as possible to purchase your mower from a dealer that’s close to you so that you can easily contact them for repairs and spare parts. It can get really ugly when you need to replace certain warranted parts of the machine and your dealer is miles away from you.

PS: Never buy a zero-turn from big stores or malls.

Which Zero-Turn Mower Company Should I Purchase From?

Paralysis of analysis gets the best of us when we’re deciding which brand has the best ZTRs. Although the companies are similar in functionality, they’re still quite diverse making it even more difficult to choose a brand out of the many. In this case, you should highlight your most important quality and go for the brand that specifies that.

The table below will guide your decision-making better:

Zero-Turn BrandSpecialty
ExmarkExcellent Cut Quality
ToroUser comfort and suspension when mowing
ScagDurable and long-lasting construction, best in stability and traction
John DeereBest dealers, accessibility to spare parts, and reliability
Cub CadetErgonomic and user-intuitive design
AriensMost economical models
HusqvarnaBest model designs for customization
HustlerSpeediest models
CraftsmanMost serviceable
Bad BoyBest for bagging

Bear in mind that your yard has a major influence on the performance of your zero-turn mower and their specialties only serve as a guide for the mower that’s most likely suitable for you. In the end, the ZTR models determine what brand you should buy from.

Should I Get The Kawasaki, Briggs & Stratts, or Kholer Engine?

I recommend models with Kawasaki engines as they are longer lasting and reliable compared to their competitors. However, they’re much pricier than Kholers and Briggs. If you must choose between Briggs & Stratton and Kholer motors, the Briggs are more affordable for the same capacity. Kholer engines are mostly a thing of luck; you may be doing everything right and still be paying irritating trips to the repair man or your dealer.

It’s important to remember that engine reliability can also depend on factors such as maintenance practices, usage conditions, and individual experiences. Regular maintenance, including proper oil changes, air filter cleaning, and spark plug replacements can contribute to the longevity and performance of any engine.

Should I Buy A Used Zero-Turn Mower?

It’s absolutely safe to purchase used ZTRs if you have the chance. Some of them will offer you exactly the same benefits as a brand-new one with affordability. If you’re seeking tips for buying used zero-turn mowers, a dealer close to you will help you with most of your concerns. However, here is some guidance you can use:

  • Never buy a used zero-turn mower with over 1000 hours on it. Ensure the gauge is working properly as well before you buy the machine so that you can keep track of its longevity.
  • Make inquiries about the whereabouts of the dealer that sold the ZTR. This allows you to have access to the warranty of the mower.
  • Inspect the deck closely for holes or dents. The deck can easily be as expensive as the mower itself if you need to replace the whole unit. Take several peeks at the belt and ensure that it hasn’t gotten chewed up with time and ensure that the deck is a-okay!
  • Never get a used mower with non-serviceable hydros. The serviceable transmission allows you to repair parts of the unit instead of replacing the whole thing which can cost more than an arm! If the machine is used, the chances of the transmission flunking after a short while under your care are high.
  • Take a test run of the zero-turn mower you’re willing to buy. Sit in it and take a few short laps to see if anything feels weird. If you hear any sounds or motions that seem a little off-putting, ensure that you get answers to explain them. If you don’t know what to look for, take a repair person with you to help you test-run the mower.
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EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Lawn Mower. He is a riding mower enthusiast who enjoys spending more time discussing and covering various ride-on mower topics. He has been active in the industry for years comparing models of different ZTR and lawn tractor brands.