Zero-turn mowers can turn on a dime and have a zero-turning radius. They’re often described as the pinnacle of mowing, but you must consider the pros and cons of zero-turn mowers to ensure you make an informed purchasing decision.
Is a zero-turn mower worth your money? What are the advantages of zero-turn mowers? What are the disadvantages of zero-turn mowers?
A zero-turn mower is a top-tier machine that can tackle most properties quickly and effectively. It gives you superior turning ability, faster mowing times, maneuverability, more comfort, and ease of use, plus reduced grass damage and soil compaction.
But like all good things, there are various disadvantages of zero-turn mowers to consider.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of zero-turn mowers to help determine whether it’s a good choice for your lawn.
- What are the Advantages of Zero Turn Mowers?
- What are the Disadvantages of Zero Turn Mowers?
- Features to Look Out for in the Best Zero Turn Mowers
- Should I Get a Zero Turn Mower?
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Key Takeaways – Should I Get a Zero Turn Lawn Mower?
Here’s why you should get a zero-turn lawn mower:
- It operates at high speeds and reduces mowing time.
- High maneuverability allows you to cut across obstacles easily.
- It’s more versatile with more attachment capabilities.
- It’s eco-friendly and consumes less fuel.
- It’s more comfortable to use.
- It produces a better-looking lawn with perfect stripes.
What are the Advantages of Zero Turn Mowers?
Better maneuverability can increase your mowing efficiency, especially if you have flower beds, bushes, trees, or rocks on your lawn. Zero-turn mowers give you exceptional maneuverability, making it easy to get close and trim around hard-to-reach spots.
How do zero-turn mowers maneuver?
Zero-turn mowers have a zero-turning radius, allowing you to turn them 180 degrees for more efficient cuts. You can easily trim around objects without causing damage or using additional equipment and turn directions on a dime without leaving untrimmed grass behind.
Fast Mowing Time
Zero-turn mowers operate at high speeds, which significantly reduces mowing time. They feature faster ground speeds than other mowers and are equipped with a low center of gravity for improved balance and safety.
Here’s the deal.
Zero-turn mowers feature standard speeds of between 5 to 8 mph, with some reaching up to 15 mph. They’re designed to mow your lawn 50% faster than other mowers. High speeds combined with improved direction shifting and turn around allow you to finish mowing your yard in no time.
Low Fuel Consumption
Zero-turn mowers feature innovative engines that improve energy efficiency. Improved efficiency cuts your lawn care time in half, reducing fuel consumption and saving on costs.
Why is this important?
By burning less fuel to carry out the same task as other mowers, you spend a lot less and reduce localized carbon emissions and hazardous air pollutants. This makes zero-turn mowers cleaner and greener, helping protect the environment and your health.
With zero turn mowers, you’ll be spoiled for choice. They come in a wide range of models of different varieties. You can choose deck sizes from a standard 40 inches and up, ensuring enough coverage for large projects and flexibility for tighter areas.
And that’s not all.
Some of the best zero-turn mowers can be customized to fit your needs and budget. They offer more adaptability than single-use mowers, eliminating the need to buy and maintain other machinery. Accessories like mulching kits, collection systems, dethatchers, fertilizer spreaders, and snowplows are also available.
A Beautiful Lawn
A zero-turn mower can make your vision real if you want your lawn to look like a golf course. You can quickly achieve stripes on your lawn and get natural mulching that promotes thicker, healthier grass growth.
How does this benefit you?
You can get the green lawn you want without buying multiple bags of fertilizer. Zero-turn mowers feature high-speed blades that grind grass tips and leaves into finer mulch than other mowers. You can add a mulch baffling kit to increase the natural mulching ability of the zero-turn mower.
High speed, maneuverability, and efficiency reduce the time you need to mow your lawn, meaning less use for your lawnmower, which increases durability.
Why is this important?
Limiting the number of hours put on your mower benefits your wallet and the environment. You’ll spend less on fuel and maintenance costs while reducing localized emissions.
A zero-turn mower is an excellent choice if you want a comfortable mowing experience. A power steering feature in most models ensures you’re not wrestling the steering wheel to get where you need to go.
The best zero-turn mowers feature weight-adjusting high-backed seats with armrests, foam-padded handgrips, and vibration dampeners.
How does this benefit you?
The build quality of a mower decreases impact and strain on your back, knees, and legs. An ergonomic design and improved steering provide better direction and speed control, meaning you don’t have to work as hard on any terrain.
So Much Fun
Buying a zero-turn is like owning a go-kart with a 26-horsepower engine (the fastest go-karts are 20hp) that can turn on the spot. The more horsepower you have, the faster it goes.
Choose a zero-turn mower with the highest horsepower you can afford but remember to choose the correct deck and something you’re comfortable controlling.
What are the Disadvantages of Zero Turn Mowers?
Zero-turn mowers are sports cars of the mowing world and don’t come cheap. They’re more expensive than regular or lawn-tractor mowers, and you may have to spend over $3,000 for a residential mower. Check out this article for some of the best budget-friendly zero-turn mowers.
Not Suitable for Hills and Slopes
Zero-turns are lighter in the front than they are in the back. They’re notorious for having poor traction and struggling with slopes. Smaller zero-turns tend to ‘pop a wheelie going uphill. That’s why the roll bar is situated behind the driver.
Zero-turn mowers are unsuitable for slopes steeper than 10 to 15 degrees and can quickly get imbalanced and lose control. However, with some of the best zero-turn mowers for hills and a few crucial techniques, you can safely mow large, hilly areas.
Features to Look Out for in the Best Zero Turn Mowers
Zero-turns come in residential, professional (commercial), and semi-pro models, depending on the size of your estate.
Apart from the above pros and cons of zero-turn mowers, you need to conder the following factors when making your purchase:
The bigger, the better.
At first glance, the zero-turn might be mistaken for a tractor mower. Whereas tractor mowers have two big drive wheels at the back and two smaller wheels for steering up front, Zero-turns have two big wheels at the back and two castor wheels at the front.
Bigger wheels in the back mean more traction and a faster ground speed. Oversized castors mean that the zero-turn will not get stuck in the mud.
Remember that the left and right lap bars are the throttles for the rear drive wheels, which are powered independently. To turn right, you push the left bar forward and the right bar back. The difference in speed between the drive wheels is what changes your direction.
If your property is more like four acres, you’ll be riding around on the uneven ground for a couple of hours at least, bouncing up and down with your lower back taking the strain.
Do yourself a favor and buy the model with the best suspension. Your spine will thank you for it.
A Sun Canopy
You could wear an Aussie slouch hat like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider while buzzing around, but a sun canopy is better. Make sure it’s made of durable plastic, not a fabric that rots in the sun and falls apart.
After a couple of hours of hanging onto the handlebars, your arms will feel like they’ve been injected with liquid cement. You need somewhere to put your elbows to take the weight off.
Most models come with a two-year, but some come with a three-year residential warranty.
Zero-turns are all about ergonomics. Merriam-Webster defines ergonomics as an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.
When you first sit down in one, these are the questions you should ask yourself: Is everything at my fingertips? Can I see how much fuel is left in the tank? Can I see if the battery is fully charged?
When you’re out there comparing models, and the salesman is demonstrating features, ask him to show you how the oil is changed. You shouldn’t have to change the oil frequently, but it should be accessible without unscrewing bolts and removing panels.
The same goes for the air filter. Cleaning the air filter should take two minutes, not thirty, and should be undertaken every time the mower is taken out before you start mowing.
It must be readily accessible. If you don’t put it on trickle charge for the winter, come summer, you will have a dead battery.
When you’re done mowing, the belts and spindles need to be cleaned as easily as flipping open the footplate.
The deck pedal raises and lowers the cutting blades. It can be locked at one height, or it can also be adjusted on the move by pressing down on the deck pedal. So it stands to reason that you want a stamped metal pedal with a raised tread that grips the sole of your shoe and doesn’t slip as you raise and lower your foot.
Fit and finish
Take a look at the mower’s appearance, the quality of its parts, its overall design, the way everything fits together, and the attention to detail. It should tell you all you need to know about brand commitment. Is it just one more mass-produced item to fill out their catalog, or do they care passionately about making something one-of-a-kind and excellent?
An excellent example of this is the Toro Titan Max. A five-minute inspection is all it takes to realize that they’ve gone out of their way to think of everything and produce a genuinely exemplary, superior machine.
Consider the Learning Curve
Find someone with a zero-turn who will let you take it for a spin. But be careful.
Here are some general rules to follow in different situations:
Don’t attempt an incline of more than 10 degrees
Lawn-care professionals can take their zero-turns up 40-degree gradients only after years of experience and multiple mishaps.
Always mow up, not down, a slope
You should always be facing up the hill when mowing on a gradient. It’s easy to lose control mowing downhill. This is not to say that it can’t be done: some strategies make it possible but are beyond this article’s purview.
Remember that you might escape undamaged when your zero-turn tips over, but the fence or wall or frail little gardening shed at the bottom of the hill won’t. A half-ton of out-of-control machinery traveling at speed does more than just leave a dent.
Watch and learn
If your property has a lot of ups and downs, if slopes are unavoidable, educate yourself. There is a ton of YouTube on negotiating slopes.
When changing direction, keep both drives (rear) wheels turning
If you keep one lap bar in the neutral position while accelerating with the other, one drive wheel will stay locked in place while the other advances.
The upshot is that the stationary wheel will pivot on the spot and tear a great, big, gaping hole in the grass.
Survey the terrain before you mow
If the ground is uneven and the grass is long, you can avoid scalping some places while leaving other areas too long by taking a few minutes to walk around.
Make a mental note of where the soil has fallen away, where the terrain is the roughest, and the difference in height between the low and high areas, then mow accordingly, using the deck pedal to raise and lower the blades.
One possibility you might want to consider is not mowing everything down to one height right away. Instead, trim progressively lower by half an inch every couple of days for a week or two.
This way, the cut grass is effectively mulched, fertilizing your lawn, and cut grass is absolutely the best fertilizer. A bonus is that when blades of cut grass are that short, they don’t clump and smother the grass underneath by denying them sunlight.
Should I Get a Zero Turn Mower?
A zero-turn mower is a worthwhile investment if:
- You have a medium to a large lawn with a flat surface.
- You’re looking for a comfortable mowing experience.
- You’re looking for a mower that will give you years of service.
- You want fast mowing time.
- You want improved maneuverability around your lawn.
- You’re looking for a multi-use mower.
How long should a zero-turn mower last?
The average lifespan is ten years, but since everything on the mower can be replaced, it can last almost indefinitely.
Which is better, a zero-turn or a tractor?
You must consider the pros and cons of zero-turn mowers vs. tractors based on your unique needs and resources.
Is a zero-turn mower good on hills?
Zero-turn mowers are unsuitable for hills, but with experience and expertise, you can manage, provided you mow straight up and straight down and proceed with caution.
Can zero-turn mowers tip over?
Yes. You can tip over if you mow on wet terrain or in a diagonal direction across a slope.
What size zero turn do I need?
The size you need depends on the size of the area you plan on mowing. For anything over six acres, a Commercial model is preferred. A Residential model can handle a half-acre. Anything in-between is categorized as Semi-professional.