Zero In on a Zero-Turn Mower

Consider your land maintenance to choose the right zero-turn mower for you.

  • This leaf-collection system adds versatility to the machine, and would be perfect for tidying up the fall yard.
    Photo courtesy Grasshopper
  • Zero-turn-radius riding lawn mowers are built for mowing, and they allow you to maneuver around obstacles and structures at nearly full speed.
    Photo courtesy Exmark
  • Belly-mounted mower deck models have an exceptionally low center of gravity, and their wide tires are especially easy on turf.
    Photo courtesy Toro
  • ZTRs are designed to mow your yard safely and efficiently. If you have a sizable yard to mow, they are worth the investment.
    Photo courtesy Toro/Erich Ernst Photography
  • Some subcompact tractors offer mower deck capability as well as a multitude of other accessories and applications.
    Photo courtesy Kubota/Roy Persinko

My wife and I have been lucky enough to live in the country for about five years now, and I’ve been responsible for mowing around 4 acres for roughly half of that time. Growing up, we mowed around 3 or 4 acres of lawn at our farm, on an old Craftsman riding lawn mower. Being the youngest of four boys, I was the last man to finally be allowed on the rider. I spent most of my younger days pushing an old beat-up push mower under trees and anywhere the rider wouldn’t go; sometimes where the rider would go, as I’d supplement with the push mower so it all got done quicker.

I can still remember how sweet it was when I finally got to drive that old Craftsman. Like the first time my dad trusted me with running a chainsaw, it felt like I’d made it to manhood.

These days, I spend many evenings every summer on a zero-turn-radius (ZTR) mower that’s about 8 years old but still gets the job done. The lap bars have become second nature, and I feel comfortable navigating the deck right next to structures at full speed, or dang near it. And, of course, it’s so nice to not make any extra passes and to be cutting grass nearly all of the time you are running — that’s where ZTRs really excel.

But, the question is, at what point does the property owner need a zero-turn-radius mower? What size or shape of lawn, and doesn’t a ZTR limit you to mowing chores where a lawn or garden tractor might also help you in the garden or accomplish additional tasks? And what about stand-ons, also called ride-ons?

Look within

In order to make the best purchase for your situation, the first thing to do is take a thorough look at what all you could potentially use this new machine for.

If mowing is your primary need, and you have significant yard to mow out in the country, a ZTR was made for this. When I called a local commercial lawn mowing company near me and posed the question of when someone in the country might consider a conventional rider — a lawn or garden tractor — over a zero-turn, I was met with confusion. “When would you ever?” came the puzzled response. The better question for those mainly concerned with mowing, and mowing large lawns, might be what type of zero-turn mower is best, the conventional belly-mounted or front-mounted deck with a tractor you sit on, or a stand-on type of zero-turn where the operator rides on the rear of the machine and operates while standing.

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