The Best Small Riding Mowers

By Jonathan Bales , last updated January 31, 2012

Buying a small riding lawn mower can be a scary proposition, particularly if you are not sure what it is for which you are looking. The "best" riding lawn mower is not a completely objective concept, as different mowers are designed for different tasks, riders and so on. Thus, the "best" riding lawn mower is the one that most appropriately suits your needs. Before you head to your local home improvement store to purchase a riding lawn mower, read the considerations below to determine which particular model is best for you.

First, you want to consider the size and dimensions of your mowing area. If you have a large but open mowing area, you will want a mower with a larger cutting deck. If you have a lot of obstacles in your lawn, a mower with a small cutting deck and superb maneuverability is perfect for you. A mower with a zero turning radius, for example, is a necessity for those with lawns that are full of trees, rocks and so on. These mowers have two levers that separately control the two wheels in the back of the mower, allowing it to turn in place. This lets you to move the machine around its own track, wasting no motion. Conventional riding mowers take anywhere from four to 28 inches to make a turn, which can be quite a nuisance if you are trying to cut the grass around trees and bushes in your lawn. Also, zero-turn riding mowers are generally about twice as fast as conventional mowers. As you might expect, those mowers with wide cutting decks and zero turn radius are more costly.

Next, think about exactly what tasks you want to accomplish with your riding mower. If you simply plan to cut grass, you do not need to splurge on things like engine power or unnecessary attachments. If you do plan on using your mower for other things, however, you may want to indulge on a more powerful engine (if you plan to pull things for example), or attachments such as a snow plow, a snow blower or a rototiller. Also, make sure you have an area to store your mower and any attachments.

Of course, price will also be a consideration. The average price of a mower today runs anywhere from $800 to $5,000 dollars. Generally speaking, the more features you mower has, the more expensive it will be. A typical zero-turn mower, for example, is generally $2600 and up. That can be quite the sum for a machine you may not use that often. At the end of the day, it is your decision how you want to balance the quality of your riding mower with your budget.

A "hidden" cost of riding mowers that people tend to forget is the fees for maintenance. Remember, the more complex your machine, the more likely it is to break down. Add on a bunch of attachments and special features, and you will be looking at more maintenance fees down the line. Thus, unless you have big ambitions for your lawn and your mower, it may be best to select a low or moderately-priced riding mower that, despite the lack of bells and whistles, still gets the job completed.

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