Riding lawn mowers are a larger variety of lawn maintenance machinery. These machines are used to increase productivity and efficiency in lawn care for both commercial and private homeowner use. Depending on the size of the lawn, the layout of the landscape, and the added features wanted, a homeowner has many choices to make when choosing a riding lawn mower.
There are two types of riding lawn mower: the garden tractor and the zero-turn radius mower. Garden tractors are the older of the two types. Zero-turn radius, or ZTR, mowers cost more, but can handle sharper curves and move in tighter locations. This is because of their ability to turn without forward motion that common garden tractors do not have. ZTR mowers are also more efficient in their ground coverage because of this ability. Garden tractor mowers have a speed of 4 MPH while ZTRs can more than double that speed at 9 MPH.
Look for riding lawn mowers to come with various sizes of mowing decks. Choose from a range between 38 inches up to 54 inches, depending on the size of the lawn and the amount of obstacles to mow around. The inches represent the length of the blades which determine the width of the cutting surface. Garden tractors have a tractor-style body mounted on four wheels with the blades under the frame. ZTR models are mainly a mowing deck, engine and blades mounted on wheels without the body frame. Consider the optional features that come with various mowers for your type of lawn, including attachments for mulching, seed spreading and spraying, thatchers, snow blowers and snow plows.
Various advantages make riding mowers a better choice over walk-behind models for larger lawns. Mowing lawns larger than 1/2 acre with a riding mower takes less time and provides greater efficiency over walk-behind mowers. Riding mowers often have larger mowing decks and increased speed compared to walk-behind models. Less effort is required for operation because riding mowers are operated similar to motorized vehicles, using gears, pedals and steering mechanisms.
Riding lawn mowers are higher cost compared to walk-behind models, both in initial cost and operation. Trimming around edges is still required with the use of riding lawn mowers, including ZTR models, because they cannot reach under brush or along borders. Steep slopes or hills are not suitable for riding mowers because of their tendency to tip over from an imbalance in weight.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 37,000 injuries and 95 deaths occur yearly from lawn tractor-related accidents. Most accidents occur from improper operation of the riding mower. Many occur from attempting to conduct repairs or maintenance while the motor is operating. Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to sit on or operate riding mowers. Following guidelines provided by the manufacturer in the operating manual is recommended.