Zero Turn vs Riding Mower: Differences + Which to Choose

A great mowing experience comes with the right type of mower for your lawn. It can be a great challenge deciding whether to choose a zero-turn or riding mower for your lawn upkeep. So, what’s the difference between zero-turn and a riding mower?

Zero-turn mower work by a dual hydraulic transmission system that is controlled with two levers. This setup allows the user to manoeuvre the wheels separately to make tight turns when mowing grass on curved areas.

A riding mower, on the other hand, is a small-sized vehicle with a manual transmission system engine. It’s operated using a steering wheel similar to cars and trucks. Some are equipped with an accelerator and a brake pedal for easy use.

Here is a summary of the differences between a riding lawn mower and a zero-turn lawn mower:

Zero-Turn Lawn MowerRegular Riding Lawn Mower
Has almost zero turning radius which is suitable for a lawn that has many obstacles.Has a large turning radius that limits its ability to mow around obstacles.
It is faster in speed which can help save time.Not very fast and it may take longer to complete a mowing task.
It is only limited to cutting grass.It can perform more lawn care practices when appropriate attachments are added.
It is not ideal for sloppy or hilly landscapes.It is suitable for mowing grass on a steep and hilly landscape
Very expensive to purchase.Relatively less expensive to acquire.
work by a dual hydraulic transmission system that is controlled with two leversHas a manual transmission system and is equipped with a steering wheel for control.

Zero Turn vs Riding Mower – Differences

The name zero-turn can be misleading, as it means that it can’t turn at all. The reality is that a zero-turn mower has less turning radius than any other type of mower. It can make much tighter turns as compared to a regular riding mower.

Zero-turn and regular riding mower differs in terms of functionality, manoeuvrability, speed, terrain adaptability and price. Let’s have a detailed look at each of them:

1. Functionality

Other than cutting grass which is the main purpose of these machines, a riding mower can be used for hauling things in your garden or cleaning driveways after a snowstorm. Zero-turn riding mower has less versatility of functions in comparison to a regular riding mower due to its design and centre of gravity.

With a regular riding mower, you are able to cut your grass as well as use this machine for other functions in your garden. On a tractor-riding mower, you can attach a trailer to haul things from the garden. You can also use it to do other tasks such as aerating or fertilizing your lawn.

2. Maneuverability

Poor manoeuvrability is the main disadvantage of using zero-turn riding mowers. You will simply realize it when using it for the first time. It’s easy to have control over a steering wheel than using two levers to control the machine. It creates a learning curve when using two levers.

With a regular riding mower, there is no learning curve. You simply manoeuvre this machine using a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal. However, you have a wide radius when turning around trees, stones and other obstacles in your garden

3. Speed

Speed is what you will enjoy most when using a zero-turn riding mower. This machine can move up to a speed of 10mph when mowing. However, the speed is determined by the model you are using. It saves you time when mowing large fields of grass.

On the other hand, a regular riding mower is not faster in comparison to a zero-turn. It can top a speed of 7mph when mowing.

4. Terrain

Zero-turn mowers work best on a flat landscape. Its turning radius is also suited for a landscape that contains numerous curves. It can manoeuvre well around trees, stones and other obstacles in your lawn.

A regular riding mower can easily manoeuvre on different types of landscapes. It has the power to drive uphill and is easy to control when going downhill. It easily traverses uneven surfaces without trouble. However, you may have difficulty mowing around obstacles like trees.

5. Price

Zero-turn riding mower will cost you more due to its design and speed. Low-end models will cost you more than $1,000. With high-end models, you will be required to get deeper into the pocket to acquire one.

Regular riding mower on the other hand is cheap. A high-end regular riding mower is even cheaper than what can be considered a low-end zero-turn mower.

Advantages of Zero Turn Mowers

Here are the advantages of a zero-turn mower over a regular riding mower:

  • The zero-turn mower has almost zero turning radius that is suitable for a lawn that has many obstacles such as trees, rocks, raised beds, flower plants and other things.
  • It’s faster than a regular riding mower. It can move up to a speed of 10mph when cutting grass.
  •  Zero-turn is suitable for cutting large fields of grass due to its speed. It also has a comfortable sitting platform that allows the operator to work for long hours without feeling exhausted.
  • It doesn’t leave patches of grass uncut around curved areas.
  • It reverses easily.

Disadvantages of Zero Turn Mowers

Let’s look at its disadvantages:

  • It is not a good choice of machine for hilly or sloppy landscapes. It has no safety bar cages to protect the operator on slopes.
  • The zero-turn mower is expensive. You will not afford it when you’re on a tight budget.
  • It doesn’t have rough-cut capabilities. It’s only ideal on grass that is mowed regularly.
  • Small models of zero-turn mowers have a tendency for front casters to stick in the soil. On the other hand, shifting your weight at the back to avoid getting stuck can cause wheelies.

Advantages of Riding Lawn Mower

Regular riding mower has their own advantages over the zero-turn mower. Here are some of them:

  • A riding mower is perfect for mowing large fields of grass. It has a comfortable sitting position and is easy to control using a steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedal.
  • Other than mowing, can be used for other lawn care practices such as aerating and fertilizing.
  • It is suitable for mowing grass on a steep and hilly landscape. It has traction that can manoeuvre easily on a slope.
  • A riding mower is easy to acquire when you are on a budget. A high-end regular riding mower is even cheaper than a comparable zero-turn mower.

Disadvantages of Riding Mower

  • A regular riding mower is not best when it comes to mowing grass around obstacles such as trees and stones due to its large turning radius.
  • A riding mower has a lower speed in comparison to a zero-turn mower due to its design and weight.
  • They are not best at mowing large fields of grass when time is of the essence.

Also Read: Self-propelled vs push lawn mower.

Zero Turn or Riding Mower, which is better?

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each mower, the decision on which one is better depends on four main factors:

  • Features of your landscape
  • Size of your lawn
  • Your budget and
  • The versatility

If the landscape of your lawn is featuring many obstacles such as trees, stones, flowers, raised beds or other things, then a zero-turn mower is ideal.

Both zero-turn and regular riding mowers are ideal if you are owning a large field of grass, and choosing a tractor mower is ideal if you value comfort while mowing your lawn. However, if time is of the essence, zero-turn mowers come first on the list.

Don’t forget about your budget and versatility. A riding lawn mower is cheaper and more versatile. If you are on a budget, it is the best choice. However, you can go for a zero-turn if money is not an issue.

Final Thoughts

Both zero-turn mower and regular riding mower offers an excellent way of keeping large fields of grass short and healthy. When intending to purchase one, you should consider the features and terrain of your landscape. Either way, you will have a mower to keep your lawn grass short.

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