What Is a Zero Turn Mower: Everything You Need to Know

Mowing the lawn is far from an amusing chore that many of us just wish we didn’t have to do. Especially if you have a considerably sizeable lawn. In time, the evolution of lawn mowers made this chore a little less of a bore to an even more exciting task especially with the appearance of riding mowers like tractors and zero turn mowers. So, what is a zero turn mower? How’s it different from other mowers we are used to? Let’s find out!

What is a zero turn mower?

The name ‘zero turn’ comes from its turning radius which is technically zero inches. A zero-inch turn radius means that the wheels can literally turn on a coin. This means that a zero turn mower can literally turn in place and continue mowing where you left off. See "How to mow with a ZTR" for a step by step guide.

A zero turn mower (ZTR) is a riding mower powered by a twin-engine with a mowing deck sitting right under the rider. See "Best zero-turn mower" for recommendations on which ZTR type suits your needs the best.

Basic History on the Zero-Turn

Among the many types of mowers in the market, the zero turn is relatively new. Although the initial designs and first models of the z-turn mower came out in 1966, it started gaining popularity in the year 2000s. The first zero turn mower was designed, developed and launched by Hustler Turf.

Despite being a great machine, the first designs were highly inefficient because the technology at the time was insufficient in sustaining the grand idea of a riding mower. Now, we have an efficient machine that cuts through your grass without a hassle.

How efficient is a z-turn mower?

This type of mower comes in different types and sizes, but despite the size, all of them are efficient. Zero turns have double hydraulics powering separate engines for both rear wheels and a mowing deck with at least three blades. All mowers also come with height adjustments to trim your grass to your ideal height without going back another turn.

Try visualizing a one-acre lawn with design features like garden patches, fountains benches, and trees to go around, here’s how long it will take to mow it:

Type of mower

Time it takes to mow and trim the lawn

22-inch walk-behind mower

3.5 hours mowing and trimming

42-inch lawn tractor

1 hour, 20minutes mowing, 20 minutes trimming

42-inch mid-mount residential zero-turn

>1 hour mowing, 15 minutes trimming

42-inch front deck zero turn mower

45 minutes, 5 minutes trimming

Pros of Zero-turn mower

  1. High mowing speed. Zero-turn mowers can reduce mowing time up to 50%
  2. Excellent maneuverability around obstacles. ZTRs have the ability to go from forward to reverse in the blink of an eye while easily maneuver around obstacles such as trees, flower beds, etc.
  3. Produces beautiful, uniformly cut lawns. Thanks to the features z-turns offer, you can easily achieve a beautiful golf-course finish by alternating the mowing directions.
  4. You can attach trailers to tow supplies. Many larger zero turn mowers have a built-in hitch where you can attach equipment that you can tow such as bagger, snowblower, grass mulcher, cart and more.
  5. Comfortable and less tiring. Weight adjusting seats and power-steering are some of the features most zero turn mowers offer to ensure a more comfortable seat while mowing for hours.
  6. Powerful enough to mow large yards. ZTRs have an impressive optimum speed, they can move up to twice as fast as a traditional lawnmower. Also, they have the ability to do a 180˚ spin which allow them to mow in a single pass.
  7. High cutting precision. Their cutting blades are located on the mower’s rear side and are adjustable to various cutting heights, depending on user preferences. Most z-turn mowers have cutting widths ranging between 36 to 72 inches. These will cut your lawns evenly to give a beautiful golf-course finish.

Cons of Zero-turn mower

  1. Driving Difficulty. This type of mowers does not have the usual steering wheels. Instead, it has two hand levels, which the landscaper pushes forward to accelerate and pulls them back to decelerate.
  2. Expensive. Z-turn mowers can go from $2500 to $12000.There are many factors that affect the cost of a zero turn mower such as material, engine, mowing deck and more.
  3. Low traction, especially on wet grass. traction is generally low, especially on wet or parched grass. Depending on the season, you will need to check the pressure of your mower’s rear and front tires more often.
  4. Not ideal for use on sloped areas. Despite the heavier weight, improved control, and better center of gravity zero turn mowers are not capable of mowing hills greater than 15 degrees in angle.

Z-turn vs riding tractor: What’s the difference?

Putting them side by side, they completely look different. Here are notable differences between zero-turn mowers and tractors.

  • Size

Although both types of mowers are pretty large, the zero-turn looks smaller and is more compact than a lawn tractor. Your lawn tractor looks exactly like a smaller tractor while a zero turn mower comes with a seat mounted on its machinery.

  • Mowing prowess

Usually designed with a triple-blade mowing deck, the z-turn is a powerful machine that cuts your grass at different heights. The mower is more efficient since it runs faster than a lawn tractor but cuts just as well or even better.

  • Riding seat

There are different types of zero turn mowers. The z-turn can either have its seat sitting on top of the engine and the mowing deck or slightly offset behind. The riding seat on a lawn tractor is sitting behind the mower and the engine.

  • Steering 

A lawn tractor has four equally sized wheels and is driven like a tractor or a car. The zero-turn uses two-levers that control the steering of the rear wheels individually. The two front wheels of the z-turn mower are the ones with a zero-turn radius hence are smaller compared to the rear wheels.

A zero-turn mower is essentially the newest design when it comes to large riding mowers. These machines are powerful and efficiently quick when mowing large pieces of land that even have obstacles to avoid.

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