Homeowners with a lot of lawn to cut and little time to do it will appreciate the Husqvarna RZ5424 (Est. $3,300) for its 54-inch cutting deck, which mows wide swaths of grass. A 6.5 mph forward speed also moves the task along quickly, and the mower is a pro at cutting and bagging, reviewers say. The RZ5424 also ranks as well as zero-turn mowers three times its price for ease of use and handling in expert tests. Convenience features include a comfortable high-back seat, cup holder and hour gauge that helps owners track mowing time and stay on top of routine maintenance. Like most zero-turn mowers, experts warn that this machine doesn't have the best traction on slopes or slick ground. Reviewers also complain that mulching is a messy affair that can leave the operator covered in grass. Reliability and noise receive average marks.
The Toro TimeCutter SS5000 (Est. $3300) is even speedier than the Husqvarna RZ5424 with a top speed of 7 mph. It can also go 4 mph in reverse, and owners say the twin hydrostatic engine makes it a lot of fun to drive. Though the 50-inch cutting deck isn't quite as wide as the RZ5424's, reviewers say it trims their yards evenly. The SS5000's mulching and bagging abilities also earn raves. Toro gets good reliability scores in a major consumer survey, and owners say the mower's controls are easy to reach and use. They also like the comfortable high-back seat and ample legroom. But the mower lacks the RZ5424's handy hour gauge and suffers from the same stability problems on hills and slick terrain.
If you're tempted by zero-turn mowers but balk at the price, reviewers say the John Deere Z235 (Est. $2500) offers impressive performance for an entry-level machine. They report that the Z235 cuts, mulches and bags just as well as much pricier machines, and the 7 mph top speed matches that of the Toro TimeCutter SS5000. The mower's anti-vibration precision steering also wins raves. Conveniences include a cup holder, hour gauge, high-back seat and storage compartment. Reviewers also report few durability issues, citing John Deere's reputation for reliability. But some find the 42-inch cutting deck a bit skimpy for a zero-turn mower, and others say the lack of a fuel gauge or even a windowed fuel tank can be a major annoyance. Like the Toro and the Husqvarna RZ5424, the Z235 can lack traction on steeper hills and wet grass.