Lawn Tractor Reviews

Editor's Note:
With its super tight turning radius, the Craftsman Pro 27042 is a top lawn tractor choice for larger yards. If your yard is modest, and you'd like to ditch gas altogether, give the cordless electric Ryobi RM480ex a serious look. We also found lots of other lawn tractors, riding mowers, and zero-turn mowers to fit any yard and any budget.
 
Craftsman Pro 27042 Review
Specs that Matter
Deck size -- 46"Turning radius -- 5"Cutting height -- 1" to 4"
Best Reviewed

Best riding lawn mower

Craftsman Pro 27042

If you've got a lot of yard to tame and need a dependable workhorse with which to do it, the Craftsman Pro 27042 fills the bill. Reviewers say that this Craftsman lawn tractor is an all-around solid performer when it comes to cutting, bagging and mulching. Its 46-inch cutting deck is ideal for all but the biggest properties, and the 5-inch turning radius may make you forget about opting for a zero-turn mower instead. See our full review »

Cub Cadet XT1 LT42 Review
Specs that Matter
Deck size -- 42"Turning radius -- 16"Cutting height -- 1" to 4"
Runner Up

Best-value lawn tractor

Cub Cadet XT1 LT42

If you have a smaller property and don't have a lot of contours that require close cutting capabilities, the Cub Cadet XT1 LT42 is a top choice and a terrific value. Experts say that, on a smooth, flat lawn, the XT1 offers a perfect cut that's comparable to that offered by commercial landscape companies. The 42-inch model has a 16-inch turning radius and is rated for lawns of 1 to 2 acres.

Toro TimeCutter SW4200 Review
Specs that Matter
Deck size -- 42"Turning radius -- 0"Cutting height -- 1.5" to 4.5"
Best Reviewed

Best zero-turn mower

Toro TimeCutter SW4200

With its steerable front wheels and conventional steering wheel controls, the Toro TimeCutter SW4200 eliminates most of the negatives of zero-turn mowers while retaining all of their positives -- including the ability to turn on a dime to cut around trees, plantings and the like. A lawn tractor will still offer better stability and performance on slopes, but the SW4200 outperforms most other zero-turn riding mowers on inclines. Overall cutting performance is very good as well. See our full review »

Ryobi RM480ex Review
Specs that Matter
Deck size -- 38"Turning radius -- 16"Cutting height -- 1.5" to 4.5"
Best Reviewed

Best small riding lawn mower

Ryobi RM480ex

If you have a smaller property to mow, and would like to be rid of noise, fumes and maintenance headaches of a gas-fueled riding mower, the 38-inch Ryobi RM480ex riding mower deserves serious consideration. This cordless electric riding mower can run up to 2.5 hours on a single charge, more than long enough to handle a typical suburban lot. Best of all, it's a competent performer whether called on to bag, mulch or just discharge clippings. See our full review »

Cub Cadet CC30 Review
Specs that Matter
Deck size -- 30"Turning radius -- 18"Cutting height -- 1.5" to 4"
Runner Up

Best cheap riding lawn mower

Cub Cadet CC30

With its rear-engine design and 30-inch deck, the Cub Cadet CC30 might not do if you need a riding mower to handle the back 40. However, it's near perfect for smaller suburban properties of up to an acre. It does great when mulching or discharging clippings, though bagging performance is a notch below. When the cutting is done, the Cub Cadet CC30 won't take up as much space in the garage or shed as a beefier tractor.

Types of Lawn Tractors
Lawn Tractors For Large Properties

If your lawn is two acres or larger, a traditional lawn tractor is your best bet. These front engine tractors boast tough frames, powerful drive trains and reliable performance. The best ones sport good ergonomics and features such as cruise control to make the time spent in the seat less tiring. These lawn tractors are also your best bets if you want to tackle more than just mowing -- for example plowing snow with a plowing attachment or hauling wood in an accessory cart.

Zero-Turn Mowers

A zero-turn mower puts the engine is in the back, leaving the front deck wide open for extra legroom and visibility. True to their name, zero-turn mowers are extremely maneuverable so are a good choice if you have a lot of elaborate landscaping. However, experts don't recommend them for yards with lots of hills or dips because they lack the traction and stability of a traditional lawn tractor. Zero-turn mowers can bag clippings and pick up leaves, but they typically aren't suited for hauling heavy garden carts or using attachments such as fertilizers, sprayers and snowplows. They're also pricier, in general, than typical lawn tractors.

Riding Mowers For Small Properties

Rear-engine riding mowers are meant for lighter duty but can typically handle regular mowing for lawns up to 1 to 2 acres. These riding mowers are often smaller and quieter than larger tractors, great for easy storage or fitting through typical garden gates, but they may be slower and less precise too. If all you want is a clean-cut lawn, there are a few riding mowers that can mow, mulch and bag at a cost of around $1,000. Pricier models perform better, however, including a cordless electric model that also eliminates most of the headaches of maintaining a gas engine.

Is a riding mower right for you?

Lawn tractors and riding mowers are ideal if you have a large yard or simply want a more comfortable way to cut your grass than a push mower or even a self-propelled mower can provide. They can significantly reduce mowing time and keep you from breaking a sweat. However, they aren't the ideal solution for every lawn or situation.

Even compact riding mowers will still require a fair amount of storage space in your shed or garage, so beware if space is tight. Lawn tractors also require more routine maintenance, guzzle more gas and spit out more exhaust than push mowers, though cordless electric riding mowers are available, and one rates highly enough to be a consideration for those with smaller properties (up to two acres). Homeowners with a lot of hills and landscaping need to choose even more carefully; some riding lawn mowers can handle these tasks, others aren't quite as adept as a regular lawn mower -- and it can be downright dangerous to use a riding mower -- especially zero-turn mowers -- on steeper slopes.

Finally, if your property is on the small side -- a half acre or under -- a riding tractor might simply be overkill, making a self-propelled mower or even a basic push mower the less expensive, more practical choice, and those are covered in our lawn mower report. To put the finishing touches on your yard work, we also offer reports on string trimmers and hedge trimmers.

Make safety a priority

Most riding lawn mowers have similar safety systems, including mechanisms that shut off the engine if you leave the seat while the mower isn't in park. But there is much more to mower safety, particularly when it comes to cutting grass on slopes. Be sure to read your lawn tractor's manual for safe-operating practices. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also offers a guide. And while they can sometimes seem to be a nuisance, don't try to override a tractor's built-in safety interlocks. Finally, check for recalls -- several mowers have been the subject of recalls for reasons including fire risks and laceration hazards in recent years. The CPSC also has the latest information regarding lawn tractor recalls.

Finding The Best Lawn Tractors
Our Sources1. ConsumerReports.org
Lawn Mowers & Tractors2. ConsumerReports.org
Pick the best riding mower for your property3. HomeDepot.com
Riding Lawn MowersSee All

To find the very best lawn tractors, our editors turned first to expert reviews. Currently, no reviewer looks at more riding mowers than ConsumerReports.org, which reports on around 50 lawn tractors, including zero turn mowers. No expert has more insight on lawn tractors than Paul Sikkema of TodaysMower.com. While it appears that his hands-on testing is limited, he still provides valuable information on the pros and cons of many tractors. Popular Mechanics offers a four-tractor comparison of sub-$2,000 tractors, but it appears that most are now discontinued. User reviews provide the rest of our research. We looked at thousands of reviews spread across sites such as HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Sears.com, MowersDirect.com and elsewhere.

With that research under our belts, we analyze the feedback to rate factors such as performance, ease of use and safety. The results are our picks for the best lawn tractors, riding mowers and zero turn mowers available, including some that are suitable for smaller properties and/or smaller budgets, and alternate choices that are worth considering.