What's your terrain like? Landscaping elements -- slopes, ditches, flowerbeds, ponds -- can be a challenge to keep tidy. If you have inclines, especially those steeper than a 15 percent grade, select a lawn tractor that has adequate traction and stability for hills. For properties with lots of obstacles, a zero-turn mower or a lawn tractor with a tight turning radius and reverse mowing will shorten your mowing time and reduce the amount of post-mowing cleanup.
How big is your property? Don't get pressured into buying more mower than you need. For flat lawns up to an acre, experts recommend a riding mower or a light-duty lawn tractor with a 42-inch deck. Lawns between 1 and 2 acres are best maintained by a light- or medium-duty lawn tractor with a 46-inch deck. For properties larger than 2 acres or with numerous obstacles, a larger lawn tractor or a zero-turn mower is best.
Will you use your lawn tractor for more than just mowing? With attachments such as garden carts, front blades and snow throwers, many owners use their lawn tractors year-round. Not all models are tough enough to haul wood or plow snow, however. If you plan on tasking your tractor with other chores, make sure it can handle the load and the proper attachments are available.
It's OK to ask for a demonstration. The dealer should take time to show you all the features on the lawn tractor, and even demonstrate deck-height adjustments and other controls. Many consumers say this instruction helps them better understand their lawn tractors and improves their mowing.
Check all fluids and settings. Even with pre-purchase inspections, plenty of owners say they need to add oil and adjust the deck before the first mow. New owners often complain of uneven mowing, and many say an easy fix is to correctly adjust the level and height of the mowing deck.
Consider a service plan. These cover regular maintenance for new mowers. Even if you intend to service the lawn tractor yourself, make sure there's a service center nearby for potential warranty issues.