Zero turn mowers are fast becoming a favorite yard care tool for residential homeowners. Why are they so popular? One reason is that they are very maneuverable. They can turn on a dime and can cut close to trees and obstacles. That means a lot less trimming and edging after mowing.
A second reason is that they are fast at mowing. Some zero turn mowers can move up to 13mph, with an average speed of 4mph. That’s like cutting the grass at a brisk walk with a push mower. Combine that velocity with a wide blade deck from 30 to 74 inches in width and mowing the lawn becomes a very easy task.
The main downside to a zero-turn-radius mower is that they are top-heavy. That makes them less stable on hills.
So how do you know if a zero turn mower is the best choice for you? Let’s look at one factor—size.
Choose the right size zero turn mower
When selecting the right size of zero turn mower for your yard, here are two things to consider:
- Acreage or square footage to mow
- Width of the space between gates or other obstacles
Size guidelines for cutting decks:
- 1 Acre, or 43,560 sq. ft. = 30 to 42-inch deck
- 1-2 Acres, or up to 87,120 sq. ft. = 42 to 46-inch deck
- 2+ Acres = 48 inches or wider deck
Top Zero Turn Mowers
Now let’s take a look at the best zero turn mowers on the market. We’ll begin with ones made to cut larger acreage and work our way down to smaller models.
Swisher ZTR2760BS Response 27HP 60-Inch B&S ZTR Mower
Swisher, the company named after the inventor of the first zero turn mower, has a 60-inch wide zero turn mower that’s perfect if you have two or more acres to cut on a regular basis. In fact, it’s actually commercial-grade, from the engine to its build. To back up their claim that this is a reliable, durable mower, Swisher offers a 3-year limited warranty.
Unlike many lawn mowers on the market these days, the Swisher ZTR2760BS is made in the USA. The powerful and durable 27Hp Briggs & Stratton engine and three Gator mulching blades are made to help you get a professional-looking cut every time.
Plan on getting the job done fast because this mower speeds up to 8mph both forward and in reverse. With the Ogura clutch and Hydro Gear 2800 transmission, it’s easy to switch gears. The engine isn’t the only commercial-grade part; it has a heavy-duty welded steel frame and 11-gauge cutting deck for years of rugged service.
Switch between cutting heights easily with the foot-assisted deck lift. Haul a spreader, a cart, or an aerator with the rear hitch, or haul the mower itself with the front hitch. Although zero turn mowers really aren’t ideal for using on slopes and hills, the Swisher ZTR2760BS has rollover protection in the form of a bar behind the driver seat.
Besides the keyed start, there are some other useful features that add to your comfort while you work. By the driver’s seat, you’ll see the built-in cup holder and the 12V adaptor in case you need to charge your phone while you mow. The hour meter helps you stay on top of maintenance. Bring some tools along in the storage compartments integrated into the fenders. The 8-gallon gas tank will keep you working for a long time between refueling stops.
And when you’re done for the day, keep in mind that you’ll want to have a good-size space to store it. The Swisher ZTR2760BS measures 69 inches in width and 81 inches in length.
Husqvarna 967324101 Z254 V-Twin 724 cc Zero Turn Mower, 54″
Husqvarna’s Z254 54-inch Zero Turn Mower is designed to mow two or more acres with minimum effort and maximum speed. It’s powered by a 24Hp Briggs & Stratton engine that’s easy to start with its automatic choke and simple to control with the EZT hydro-static transmission. The oversized cooling fan of the engine pulls in air from both the top and bottom of the cutting deck, so it lifts grass up for a neater cut.
At a top speed of 6.5mph and with three cutting blades, you can cover up to 2.8 acres per hour. The large 3.5-gallon gas tank means fewer interruptions for fill-ups. This zero turn mower can mulch, discharge out the side, or bag in the rear just like a 3-in-1 push mower. The cutting height adjusts between 1.5 and 4 inches so it’s great for any kind of grass, from centipede to fescue.
To make mowing easier, the Z254 has an electric blade clutch and an automatic park brake system. The automatic brake kicks on or turns off when you move the steering levers inward or outward. Its 54-inch reinforced steel cutting deck is made to resist rust, dents, and damage from hard use. When you’re all done for the day, the deck washout port makes for easier cleanup underneath the deck.
There are a few more conveniences you may like a lot. For one, the cup holder comes in handy on hot days. The adjustable vinyl seat has springs to keep your ride smooth over bumpy terrain. And the hour meter keeps track of usage so you know when to perform regular maintenance. Husqvarna covers the Z254 with a 3-year warranty.
Poulan Pro 967331001 P54ZX Briggs V-Twin Pro 24 HP Cutting Deck Zero Turn Radius Riding Mower, 54-Inch
After you see the Husqvarna Z254 described above, you may notice that the Poulan Pro P54ZX has a lot in common with it. This is no surprise because Poulan Pro is part of the Husqvarna Group.
Like the Z254, the Poulan Pro P54ZX is powered by a 24Hp Briggs & Stratton engine. With a top forward speed of 6mph (and reverse at 3mph), it can also cut up to 2.8 acres per hour. Set the cutting height between 1.5 and 4-inches high and put it in gear with the hydrostatic EZT transmission to get underway.
Underneath the reinforced steel cutting deck are three blades and four anti-scalp rollers. Choose between side discharge, mulching, and bagging grass. Control the mower with the two levers, one on either side.
Just like the Husqvarna Z254, the Poulan Pro P54ZX comes with an hour meter so it’s easy to keep track of usage and stay on top of maintenance. It’s covered by a 2-year residential-use warranty. If you had to choose between the Husqvarna and the Poulan Pro, the additional year of warranty on the Husqvarna might be the best deciding factor.
Troy-Bilt Mustang 46 22HP 46-Inch Zero-Turn Mower
You may have heard of Troy-Bilt’s Mustang if you follow Consumer Reports. This model won a recommendation as a “Best Buy” riding lawn mower. They called it the “ultimate in cutting performance.” It has a 42-inch deck size and twin blades, perfect for customers with at least one to two acres to cut as well as sufficient space to store it.
Owners have commented that the Mustang “maneuvers effortlessly around obstacles.” The 24Hp V-Twin Briggs & Stratton engine moves it forward at speeds up to 7mph and in reverse up to 2.5mph while the Dual EZT Transmission is simple and smooth to use.
The eight adjustable cutting heights are ideal for a wide range of grass types. The 360-degree maneuverability makes it possible to cut very close to obstacles. You might not even need an edge trimmer to finish the lawn.
The 18-inch high back padded seat and dual-suspension springs makes the Mustang comfortable to drive for long periods of mowing. This is a higher seat back than the ones on either the Swisher, the Husqvarna, or Poulan Pro models.
The Mustang also comes with a rear bumper and deck wash-out port. The wash-out port lets you connect a garden hose to clean clippings off the underside of the deck without having to lift up the mower. You can also add other accessories like a bagger or mulch kit, tire chains, and a cart for hauling.
Troy-Bilt offers a 3-year limited warranty for residential customers as well as a limited lifetime warranty on the Mustang’s frame.
Ariens Zoom 34 – 19hp Kohler 6000 Series V-Twin 34″ Zero Turn Lawn Mower
Now we’ve arrived at our smallest of the best zero turn mowers. It’s the Zoom 34 from Ariens, with a Kohler 6000 Series engine. This mower makes it possible for home-owners with smaller lawns and less storage space to enjoy the performance of a highly-maneuverable riding lawn mower.
The Zoom 34 has an apt name because its top speed is 6mph. Its 34-inch cutting width is perfect for squeezing through gates and doorways. The 19Hp/660cc engine is powerful enough to cut up to 2 acres quickly. Plus, you can adjust the cutting height from 1.5 to 4.5-inches, perfect for just about any kind of residential lawn grass, from St. Augustine to Kentucky Bluegrass.
Besides cutting, you can add a few accessories like a 36-inch Poly Roller, a 48-inch Plug Aerator, a dethatcher, and a spreader. Ariens also sells a bagger and a mulcher that are compatible with the Zoom 34 model. That way your investment goes a lot further because you can use it as a mower as well as for other landscaping and gardening jobs. They offer a 3-year limited warranty.
If you have a yard or lawn that measures an acre or less, or if you have a narrow gateway or strip of lawn, consider getting the Ariens Zoom 34-inch zero turn mower. You’ll have the ability to do a lot more than just cut grass. You can use the mower to pull an aerator and more.
If you want to mow one acre or up to two, consider the Troy-Bilt Mustang. It’s quite a bit wider at 46 inches, but it’s also a very comfortable and user-friendly machine.
If you’re looking at cutting two acres or more of grass, the Swisher, the Husqvarna, and the Poulan Pro are all made to help you get the job done as fast as possible. The Swisher is a commercial-grade mower that is especially made for groundskeeping. It has the fastest speed and the largest gas tank of all the models in this review.
Now that you’ve seen our top picks for zero-turn-radius mowers, here are some accessories to help you store, maintain, and use your mower with more ease and comfort.
Accessories for mowing
After spending your hard-earned money on your new zero turn mower, you’ll want to protect it. Why not get a dust cover to keep it clean while it’s being stored?
Classic Accessories 73997 Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower Cover, Black, Up to 50″ Decks
The Lawn Mower Cover from Classic Accessories protects against dust, rain, and UV rays so your mower stays clean and looking good. It has an elastic cord at the bottom to draw it shut and help it fit well on any zero turn mower up to 50-inches wide.
Femco SS4444G Tuff Top ZTR Sunshade for Lawn Mower
Forget the baseball cap—keep the sun off your whole body with a sunshade. The Femco Tuff Top fits onto the Swisher 60-inch zero turn mower as well as similar mowers with square tubular roll-top protection bars.
Arnold Blade Balancer and Sharpener Kit
You can save money by sharpening blades yourself. This blade balancer and sharpener kit from Arnold will help you put an edge on your lawn mower blades so they cut instead of tear your grass.
Briggs & Stratton 5431K Oil Extractor Pump, 4-Liter
Briggs & Stratton Spark Plug Wrench 5402K
One thing that always needs changing on a gas lawn mower engine is the spark plug. This wrench from Briggs & Stratton will help you remove the old plug so you can replace it with a new one.
Lincoln Lubrication 1134 Heavy Duty Pistol Grip Grease Gun with Whip Hose and Rigid Pipe
Greasing wheels and fittings on a zero turn mower goes a lot faster and easier with a grease gun and hose.
MoJack MJPRO 750-Pound Lift For Tractors And Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
How do you lift up a zero turn mower so you can remove the blades? With the MoJack Lift. This handy tool makes it light work to raise the front end of a mower or tractor. When you’re done with it, it folds down for compact storage.
Now that you have some tools to take care of your new grass cutting machine, let’s go over some simple tips on keeping it running well.
Care and maintenance of a zero-turn-radius mower
Like any other lawn mower with a gas engine, there are some basic maintenance steps everyone has to take to keep it working well. Here are some points to consider:
- Examine the mower for rust and damage each time you mow
- Check the tires, fill with air if needed
- Keep the underside of the deck clean of clippings
- Sharpen the blade(s) at least once a year or replace them to avoid tearing your grass
- Change the spark plug once a year
- Remove the spark plug wire BEFORE you begin working on the engine or the blades
- Inspect the air filter, and clean or change it if it’s dirty
- Check the battery, clean the terminals if needed
- Inspect belts and wires for wear
- Make regular oil changes just like you would on a car (check your owner’s manual for a suggested timeline)
- Use fresh fuel so sediments and moisture don’t build up
- Drain the fuel if you’re going to store the mower without using it for more than a month, or put in fuel stabilizer
Beyond these basics, here are a few things not everyone thinks about.
When you fuel your mower, make sure you use the kind of gasoline recommended for its engine. This means checking the ethanol level, too. Gas with more than 10% ethanol usually causes trouble for lawn mower engines.
Fuel stabilizers tend to keep gas good for six months to a year. If you don’t want to drain your gas before the winter, add a stabilizer to the tank. This keeps the gas from breaking down into a watery solution that will corrode your engine.
Keep your mower dry in storage, and let it dry before you put it away, if possible. If you’re going to spend this much money on a machine, keep it in a shed, barn, or garage.
Tire pressure can affect whether the grass is cut evenly. Check air-filled tires just like you would on a car.
Also check any fluid levels each week, including oil and hydraulic fluid.
Save time and hassle by performing regular maintenance like oil changes before storing the mower for the winter. Then it’s ready to work first thing in the spring.
Typical maintenance schedule for a zero-turn-radius mower
Just like you have certain mileage checkups scheduled for your car, your mower needs them too. Here are some suggested times to perform routine maintenance steps. Now you see why having an hour meter on the mower is so helpful.
After 10 hours of use
- Lube caster axles and the front pivot axle
- Check battery terminals and clean if needed
After 25 hours of use
- Check and clean engine cooling fins and/or coolant levels to keep the motor running cool
- Clean the prefilter
After 50 hours of use
- Change the oil, and make sure you use the recommended viscosity for your engine
- Lube wheels and fittings with grease
After 100 hours of use
- Replace air filter
- Replace fuel filter
- Inspect spark plug and gap
After 300 hours of use
- Change hydraulic fluid
Before storing the mower for the winter
- Cover exhaust ports with aluminum foil secured with a rubber band to keep critters from crawling inside
- Fully charge the battery
- Fog the engine by spraying oily fog aerosol into cylinders to keep out corrosion
Safety while mowing
A riding mower can be a lot of fun to use, and a zero turn mower even more so. It’s like magic gliding around the lawn, turning on a dime around shrubs and trees.
Before you engage the blades, practice driving your new mower. Even if you have experience driving a zero turn model, your new mower may be different from what you used before. Before you cut, just drive and get used to it. Adjust the seat and so forth for maximum comfort.
Review the manual so you understand any safety features it has. Riding mowers usually need the parking brake to be engaged in order to start the engine, for example. Standing up and taking pressure off the seat may stop the blades from turning.
Wear hearing protection, wear sturdy shoes or boots, and protect yourself from too much exposure to sunshine or high temperatures.
With zero turn mowers, stay off steep slopes and hills.
History of the zero-turn mower
The first zero turn mower had three wheels instead of four. It was invented in 1949 by Max Swisher from Missouri. There was no reverse gear—the driver simply turned the steering wheel 180 degrees to go in the opposite direction.
Then, in the countryside of Kansas in the early 1960s, John Regier invented the next iteration of the zero-turn-radius mower and sold his patent to the company where he worked. That mower became known as The Hustler.
Since the first models rolled out onto the market, there have been innovations regarding steering as well as attachments. Even better, the zero turn mower has become available and affordable to residential owners instead of only commercial landscapers. Now some zero turn mowers can also haul carts, aerators, and sprayers as well as cut grass. This makes them a very useful piece of equipment for lawn care.