9 Best Riding Mowers of 2022 [Reviews]

Man atop a black riding lawn mower with orange rims and green accent color and lights on the frontrange

Old-fashioned push lawn mowers are great for small urban and suburban lawns – but they don’t cut the mustard for rural and exurban homeowners. Ride-on mowers are the standard for keeping large lawns beautiful and tidy.

Riding mowers come in all shapes and sizes: commercial-grade zero-turn mowers, compact rear-engine designs, high-tech electric models, and more. Finding the right fit for you can be a hassle. 

That’s why we’ve reviewed over two dozen ride-on mowers, and found the top 9 today. We looked at power, width of cutting deck, weight, special features of riding mowers to come up with our ranking. We’ve also included a helpful buying guide and FAQ to make your shopping experience a breeze.

Riding mowers range in cost from less than $2,000 to $4,000 or more. To make your choice easier, we have listed the general price (prices fluctuate) for each riding mower on our list:

  • “Inexpensive” – less than $2,000
  • “Moderate” – $2,000 to $4,000
  • “Expensive” – Above $4,000

Here are Lawn Love’s picks for the top 10 riding lawn mowers:

Top 10 Riding Lawn Mowers — Reviews

1. Best Overall: Husqvarna YTH18542
Category Winners
2. Best Electric Riding Mower: Ryobi RY48111
3. Best Zero-Turn Mower: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1
4. Most Bang for your Buck: John Deere S120
Runners-up
5. Cub Cadet XT1
6. Troy-Bilt Pony
7. Ryobi 42-inch Zero Turn Mower
8. Husqvarna Z254
9. Toro 42-inch Timecutter

1. Best Overall: Husqvarna YTH18542

Husqvarna’s YTH18542 riding mower is designed to be compact and durable while providing enough power to cut any medium-to-large sized lawn.

Designed with maneuverability in mind, this tractor-style mower has a tight 16-inch turn radius. A single foot pedal controls a hydrostatic drivetrain for smooth transitions between forward and reverse.

The 18.5-horsepower engine is made by Briggs & Stratton, America’s most reliable small engine manufacturer. The YTH18542 can reach a top speed of 7.4 mph, making it one of the fastest tractor-style mowers on the market.

Despite its compact size, Husqvarna has packed a ton of features into this machine. The 42-inch deck uses air induction to keep your grass from flattening under the mower, ensuring a clean cut every time. Dual anti-scalp wheels protect your lawn from the mower deck when passing over uneven terrain.

Husqvarna offers a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty on new mowers.

A clipping bag and mulching kit are sold separately to increase this lawn tractor’s utility. The YTH18542 is also compatible with Husqvarna’s whole line of tow-behind accessories.

Specifications

Power Source: 18.5 hp Briggs & Stratton Intek engine
Transmission: Foot-operated hydrostatic transmission
Top Speed: 7.4 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 6 positions, 1.5 to 4 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Compact for storage and maneuverability
Durable steel construction
Reliable Briggs & Stratton engine
High-end hydrostatic transmission
3-year warranty
Attachments sold separately
No fuel gauge

Where to Buy

2. Best Electric Riding Mower: Ryobi RY48111

An improvement on the original RY48110, Ryobi’s new generation of riding mowers features a state-of-the-art 100 amp-hour battery, allowing for up to 2.5 hours of continuous mowing on a single charge.

The 38-inch cutting deck can fit into tight spots and create precise cuts around garden beds and landscape features. Three separate brushless motors power the wheels and two blades, delivering cutting power comparable to a gas-powered mower. The Ryobi RY48111 has a top speed of 8 mph, making it the fastest mower on this list.

The RY48111 also is the quietest riding mower on the market, never exceeding 70 decibels. What this means: You can mow bright and early without disturbing the neighbors. 

Other things we liked about this riding mower:

  • Active cruise control delivers consistency on long stretches of lawn. 
  • Mulching capability: This mower comes equipped with mulching capability, with an optional collection bag sold separately.
  • Cool features: The RY48111 has LED headlights, a cupholder, and a USB charging port. 
  • Battery charges overnight with a standard 120V power outlet. This mower is the most energy-efficient choice for yards under 2.5 acres.

Specifications

Power Source: 100 Ah battery, 3 brushless motors
Transmission: None
Top Speed: 8 mph
Deck Width: 38 inches
Cutting Height: 12 positions, 1.5 to 4.5 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Low-maintenance – no gas, filters, belts, or spark plugs
Zero emissions
Quiet
Compact for storage and maneuvering
Mulching included
Can cut only 2.5 acres per day

Where to Buy

3. Best Zero-Turn Mower: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

A top-of-the-line mower for residential markets, Cub Cadet’s Ultima series makes short work of the largest lawns. Driven by a 22-horsepower Kohler engine, this machine can reach a forward speed of 7.5 mph.

A fully adjustable racing-style seat provides ultimate comfort while operating the ZT1. The lap bar control is also adjustable in three dimensions to ensure precise maneuvering. Dual LED headlights help you cut in low-light conditions, and the rubberized cockpit floor reduces vibrations.

The 20-inch rear wheels and 11-inch front wheels offer enough traction to tackle gentle hills, and are engineered to protect your turf while pivoting. A 3.5-gallon gas tank lets you spend more time mowing and less time refueling. 

Cub Cadet offers a three-year, unlimited hour powertrain warranty and a lifetime warranty on the frame. The ZT1 also comes in a 50-inch version for added efficiency and coverage. Cub Cadet has also recently released the Ultima ZT1 56V MAX60 electric zero-turn.

Specifications

Power Source: 22 hp, 725 cc Kohler 7000 series twin-cylinder engine
Transmission: Dual hydrostatic transmissions
Top Speed: 7.5 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 15 positions, 1 to 4.5 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Powerful 22 hp engine
Fully adjustable seat and controls
Best-in-class warranty
No gas gauge
Attachments sold separately

Where to Buy

4. Most Bang for your Buck: John Deere S120

If you have thick grass or heavy brush on your property, the 22-horsepower John Deere S120 delivers heavy-duty power at an affordable price. 

The high-torque engine makes the S120 great for cutting thick grass and hauling heavy loads. John Deere makes a wide range of tow-behind and front-mounted accessories, such as spreaders and snow plows. This little lawn tractor does the work of more expensive models with ease.

The S120 has large 22-inch rear wheels and an 18-inch turning radius. The high-back seat is fully adjustable, including lumbar support.

The 100-series also includes the inexpensive S100 and the highly acclaimed S180. The entire line is compliant with the CARB California emissions standards and is backed by John Deere’s 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Specifications

Power Source: 22 hp V-twin engine
Transmission: Hydrostatic
Top Speed: 5.5 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 13 positions, 1 to 4 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
High horsepower engine
California-compliant
Easy-to-read gas gauge
Slow
All accessories sold separately

Where to Buy

Runners-up

5. Cub Cadet XT1

The XT1 is Cub Cadet’s most popular lawn tractor. Powered by an 18-horsepower Kohler engine, this machine is designed with comfort in mind. It features a wide-bottomed, high-backed seat with adjustable back support and an ergonomic, anti-vibration steering wheel.

A smooth hydrostatic transmission, responsive steering, and cruise control make the XT1 easy to operate. A proprietary paint protects the tractor from corrosion. A quick-connect deck wash system lets you plug in an ordinary garden hose for easy cleaning.

This Cub Cadet has long-lasting LED headlights and is backed by a three-year powertrain warranty and five-year chassis/axle warranty.

Specifications

Power Source: 18 hp Kohler 5400 Series single cylinder engine
Transmission: Hydrostatic
Top Speed: 5.5 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 5 positions, 1 to 4 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Best-in-class warranty
California-compliant
Comfortable
Slow
All accessories sold separately

Where to Buy

6. Troy-Bilt Pony

If you’re looking for a budget option but still want a tractor-style mower, the Troy-Bilt Pony is your best bet. Though the Pony isn’t the most powerful mower on the market, it has all the features you need to keep a medium- to large-sized lawn neatly mown.

Built around a reliable 15.5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine, this Troy-Bilt lawn tractor can easily tackle regular mowing jobs. The 7-speed “shift-on-the-go” manual transmission is designed to smoothly move from one gear to the next.

Other highlights: 

  • Automatic headlights that adjust to low-visibility conditions
  • A cupholder to help you stay hydrated on hot summer days
  • 2-year limited warranty

Specifications

Power Source: 15.5 hp single cylinder Briggs & Stratton engine
Transmission: 7-speed manual
Top Speed: 5.5 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 5 positions, 1.25 to 3.75 inches
Price Range: Inexpensive

ProsCons
Reliable Briggs & Stratton engine
California compliant
Affordable
Low power output
Manual transmission
Few cutting height options

Where to Buy

7. Ryobi 42-inch Zero Turn Mower

Ryobi’s mastery of electric power doesn’t end at rear-engine mowers. Ryobi went all-out to design an eco-friendly zero-turn mower that can hold its own against its gas competition.

Powered by four separate motors, one for each driving wheel and one per blade, this zero-turn mower distributes exactly the right amount of power to the components that need it most. The 75 amp-hour battery can last up to 2.5 hours of constant mowing, making short work of yards up to 3 acres.

A 7 mph top speed and fast, responsive turns let you mow farther and faster than other electric mowers. The battery charges overnight from a standard 120-volt outlet. A digital meter keeps track of the battery level and hours of use. This zero-turn mower has powerful LED headlights, two cupholders, and a USB charging port.

This Ryobi mower doesn’t quite produce enough power to tackle thick brush or wild growth, but it is perfectly capable of handling standard grasses. This mower comes with mulching capability, and a bagging system is sold separately.

Specifications

Power Source: 75 Ah battery, 4 brushless motors
Transmission: None
Top Speed: 7 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 12 positions, 1.5 to 4.5 inches
Price Range: Expensive

ProsCons
Low-maintenance – no gas, filters, belts, or spark plugs
Zero-emission
Fast and powerful
Mulching included
Narrow mowing deck
Can run for only  2.5 hours a day

Where to Buy

8. Husqvarna Z254

This Husqvarna zero-turn mower is ready for heavy-duty work with a 26-horsepower engine and a 54-inch cutting deck. With the most powerful engine on this list, the Z254 makes short work of lawns and fields. 

Though the Husqvarna Z254 costs more than the Cub Cadet mentioned above, customers with massive yards or dense, wild growth areas can benefit from the added power.

Because of its focus on cutting power, the Husqvarna Z254 is a little slower than other zero-turn models on the market. It has a single-lever deck height adjustment with six positions. The Z254 uses Husqvarna’s air induction system to keep grass upright for a cleaner cut. This zero-turn mower also is equipped with a “ready start” system for easy operation.

Specifications

Power Source: 26 hp Kohler engine
Transmission: Hydrostatic
Top Speed: 6.5 mph
Deck Width: 54 inches
Cutting Height: 6 positions, 1.5 to 4 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Powerful 26 hp engine
Wide cutting deck
Easy-start
No gas gauge
Seat not adjustable

Where to Buy

9. Toro 42-inch Timecutter

The last entry on our list, the Toro Timecutter series features a “Smart Speed” system that automatically adjusts the lap bars’ sensitivity to your operating pace. How cool is this? It has three modes of operation that redirect engine power: 

  • Mow mode is focused on speed, topping out at 7 mph. 
  • Tow mode focuses on wheel torque, with a top speed of 5.5 mph. 
  • Trim mode directs power to the cutting deck, reducing the top speed to 4 mph to plow through thick brush.

Other things we like about Toro’s Timecutter:

  • Cupholder and an under-seat storage cubby in the cab.
  • Tire fenders, which protect the engine and the operator from mud and debris. 
  • Shock-reducing dampers that keep the steering bars steady when you hit bumps.

Toro offers a 3-year, unlimited-hour residential warranty. The Timecutter is compliant with California emissions standards. Owners of larger yards should check out their 23hp 50-inch version and 23hp 54-inch model.

Specifications

Power Source: 18 hp Kawasaki V-Twin Engine
Transmission: Hydrostatic
Top Speed: 7 mph
Deck Width: 42 inches
Cutting Height: 1.5 to 4.5 inches
Price Range: Moderate

ProsCons
Multiple operation modes
Comfortable cab
Low engine power
No gas gauge

Where to Buy

Buyers Guide: Riding Lawn Mowers

Buying a ride-on mower is a big decision. With so many options available, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. This buyers guide will walk you through the types of riding mowers on the market and outline the important factors to consider. We’ll also explain how we came up with our rankings.

Types of Riding Lawn Mower

Riding lawn mowers are not all the same. While most ride-on mowers run on gasoline, several electric mowers have hit the market in recent years. Whether gas or electric, riding mowers tend to come in three general body shapes.

Rear-Engine

Rear-engine riding mowers are the most compact and least expensive model. The engine (or electric motor) is mounted behind the operating seat. This gives rear-engine mowers great front visibility but can affect their turn radius. With smaller cutting decks, rear-engine mowers can fit through gates and are great for medium-sized lawns.

Lawn Tractor

The standard riding lawn mower for over a century, the lawn tractor has a front-mounted engine that powers the wheels and cutting deck. Lawn tractors typically have cutting decks around 42 inches, though higher-horsepower tractors may be larger. Recent models may have automatic or hydrostatic transmissions, though many are manual.

Zero-Turn

The zero-turn mower has been around since the 1960s and has risen to prominence in the last 20 years. These high-tech machines use a hydraulic system to control the two powered wheels independently, allowing them to rotate on a dime. 

Zero-turn mowers are typically controlled by a pair of levers across the operator’s lap and can be tricky to maneuver without practice. Their shape allows zero turns to sport wider decks. Zero-turns are usually a little more expensive but are the best choice for large yards.

Electric

With fossil fuels on the decline and rising gas prices, it may be the right time to invest in a battery-powered riding lawn mower. New advancements in green technology have led to some truly impressive eco-friendly lawn mowers from several manufacturers. With batteries that last up to three hours on a single charge, electric mowers can deliver similar power outputs to gas models.

What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower

Riding lawn mowers are complicated machines, and it’s important to consider a variety of specs when comparing them. We looked at several details and features to determine utility and cost-effectiveness for our top 9 picks.

Power

An important stat for any tool, the power of a riding lawn mower’s engine will determine your top speed and your blade torque. Gas engines of this size usually measure in terms of horsepower (hp), while large batteries measure amperage per hour of use (Ah).

Consider a higher-horsepower engine if you plan to cut thick brush or wild growth. Low-to-medium power is usually adequate for standard grass lawns.

Cutting width

A wider machine increases your coverage on each pass across the yard. Wider machines are more efficient, but require more power to operate and are therefore more expensive.

Deck Height

Adjustable decks are standard in modern lawn mowers. Most of them can cut grass between around 1.5 inches and around 4 inches, with several increments in between. This feature is usually more a matter of preference than necessity.

Special Features

Manufacturers like to add comfort and utility features to their riding lawn mowers to make them stand out. Features like cupholders, USB chargers, and anti-vibration steering wheels are great for getting more enjoyment out of mowing. Some models include mulching kits or leaf bags, while other manufacturers sell them as separate attachments.

Price

The most important factor in choosing the right mower is your budget. Riding mowers are a big purchase, and we recommend you shop at a few different vendors and local dealers to find the best deal. We quantify the above features and compare them to cost, to help you get the best value.

FAQ About Riding Lawn Mowers

1. What is the best ride-on mower to buy?

Our research shows that the best riding lawn mower is the Husqvarna YTH18542. We chose this as our top riding mower for its reliability and utility relative to price. Other standouts: We also found that the best zero-turn mower is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 and the best rear-engine mower is the electric Ryobi RY48111.

2. What is a hydrostatic transmission?

Hydrostatic drivetrains rely on hydraulic fluid to transfer power from the engine to the blade or wheels. Because there are no gearboxes involved, power can smoothly increase and decrease along the drivetrain without the need for manual shifting.

This increases engine efficiency and allows power to flow differently to each part of the machine. Zero-turn mowers use this method to supply power to both wheels independently.

3. How much should I spend on a riding mower?

Riding lawn mowers are a big investment. Although some budget riding lawn mowers will cost under $2,000, the majority of residential-use models are priced between $2,000 and $4,000. Plan to spend around $3,000 on a new ride-on mower, or shop around local dealers for discounted prices on pre-owned machines.

When to Call a Lawn Care Pro

Riding lawn mowers are a hefty investment and they take up space in your garage. If you’d rather a lawn care pro keep your grass green and healthy, we can help.  Lawn Love pros can give your yard a professional manicure at affordable prices. Call 800-706-4117 to see how a professional lawn care crew can show your yard some Lawn Love. 

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock photo with text overlay

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Stephen Kime

Stephen Kime is a freelance writer and professional actor based in Washington, D.C. When he isn't in rehearsal, Stephen enjoys running, hiking, and experimenting with new cocktail recipes.