Pick the Best Lawn Tractor for Your Property – Consumer Reports
Riding mowers are the way to mow for lawns of a certain size, typically one-half acre or more. If your property is even more princely, you may want to consider a tractor with a wider cutting deck. And if you need to cut around trees and other landscaping features, consider a zero-turn-radius rider, which has a fun factor not usually found in mowers. Consumer Reports tested more than 60 tractors and riders, and here are the best from our tests.
Lower-priced on average than zero-turn-radius riders for properties larger than a half-acre, tractors are the better bet for bagging clippings—and they’re easier on turf and more stable on hills. Top scores and high-quality features make the John Deere X350, $ 3,200, well worth its price. For $ 1,000 less, the Craftsman 20442, $ 2,200, a CR Best Buy, has a larger deck, mulched more thoroughly, and can turn more tightly. You might also like its 6½-mph ground speed. John Deere, however, is more reliable than most other lawn-tractor brands. Another Deere, the John Deere S240 Sport, $ 2,500, comes with an extra-wide, flat chute that, for side-discharging, shows some improvement in dispersal of clippings over older Deere tractors; it’s also priced more competitively.
Top wider-deck tractors
Wider-deck lawn tractors haven’t traditionally fared as well at cutting evenness as their smaller siblings have, but this trio has changed the rules with exceptional cutting. The Craftsman 20445, $ 3,500, has the largest deck, at 54 inches, and offers tight turning around trees and other obstacles. A bargain for 50-inch cutting, the Troy-Bilt Super Bronco 50, $ 1,900, a CR Best Buy, matched the Crafstman for cutting and offers the same electric power takeoff, automatic drive system, and other features. The John Deere D155, $ 2,200, is slightly smaller, with a 48-inch deck, but offers impressive cutting in all modes.
Top zero-turn-radius riders
Zero-turn-radius riders offer the greatest ground speed—though you should be mowing at about 4 mph—and easy turning around obstacles on fairly flat lawns. We’ve called the 42-inch deck of the Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACS, $ 2,300, a CR Best Buy, the ultimate in cutting performance, and the 42-inch Cub Cadet RZT L42, $ 2,500, another CR Best Buy, follows that tradition—making both the highest-scoring riding machines overall. For more stability on hills, the Troy-Bilt Mustang Pivot 17ARCBDT and Toro SW4200 74784, both $ 2,900, have a steering wheel and steerable front wheels instead of the usual control levers and caster-style front wheels, an innovation we first saw in the Cub Cadet RZT-S42, $ 4,000, the Cub Cadet RZT-S 17WF2BDT, $ 3,000, and other MTD-made models.
—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)
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