Spring is here and we’re all a year older and a bit more busy than we were last year. It seems like a good idea to invest in a Riding Mower but there are so many choices out there. Between all of the options and manufacturers it can be difficult finding a Riding Mower that you can live with for the next five or ten years so you have to do your homework and find one thats right for you.
Here we will cover the different shapes and sizes and engine horse power. We will also look at the additional options you might have with your riding mower that can extend its use for winter plowing of snow and hauling stuff around your yard. Not everyone needs every option and it seems that as the years go past manufacturers continue to upgrade their products to attract higher prices.
Price vs Value How much do you need in a Riding Mower?
You will find that riding mowers can be purchased new from about $900 to well over $4,000 and that is for Residential owners not for Professional models that are used by Lawn Services. Now you should also know that residential branded mowers can be used by professionals if you look for the right options. However the higher end professional riding mowers are not normally something needed even by people with relatively large properties. Even if you have a few acres of grass to cut every week you can most likely use a retail residential riding mower if you buy one with the right options. This will save you thousands of dollars.
One of the primary features you want to look for is Automatic or Hydrostatic Transmissions. If you want a lawn mower that you can easily shift while you drive then you need this option. Some also call it shift on the fly. Manual transmissions will only save you about 15% if that because more manufacturers are simply not making them anymore because they make their products harder to use. Another thing to note is that you can’t get one model with either or auto.. it is normally the lower end models that are still manual shift which requires you to stop to change gears.
For people with smaller properties you can probably get by with the smallest riding mower and this will save you both time and energy. If your property is under one acre you should look for a model that is in the $1000 range. Anything more is really overkill because you are offsetting the frustration of pushing a lawnmower for an hour for riding. However you must also account for areas your riding lawnmower can’t reach. For that reason you don’t want to throw away or sell that push mower. You will need it in tight areas like around bushes. Sure you can weed wack some of it but then you are swinging a weed wacker for an hour and thats harder than pushing a lawn mower.
The one good thing about some lower cost Riding Mowers is that they duplicate the design of the most expensive models. Commercial riding mowers often have a lower center of gravity so they can be used on light hills. They are often open and easy to work on. You will also notice that the engines on commercial riding mowers are normally in the rear to provide weight over the drive wheels. The difference you will find from the lowest cost and commercial grade rear engine riding mowers is the durability of the parts and the size of the engine. However if you have a small yard a smaller engine on a lighter frame will work great for you. Some people even buy these smaller rear engine models and upgrade their engines.
The next range of riding mowers will cost you between $1,200 and $2,400 normally places the engine in the front. The design is probably the most common type that you will find in most homes. The frame, suspension and engines in these models are much tougher than the entry level and they often provide the option to add features. Obviously the larger the engine and more features you can add will increase the cost. However if you believe you might need a snow plow attachment or the ability to haul a small trailer you must make sure your model is able to add those features. Many of the mid-range Riding Mowers look like they should be able to do more than they can but because manufacturers don’t add hitch plates or mounting points for accessories you can end up buying a riding mower that can only be used for mowing for more than one that has all of the optional accessory features available.
The final range of residential riding mowers will run you in the area of $1800 up to about $3,500. I think when you are willing to pay this much money you really need to understand why you are spending that much. I would not spend that much money for a riding mower unless it had options that were reaching into the commercial class range of riding mowers.
For example you can find a MTD, Craftsman, Husqvarna, Cub Cadet and John Deere riding mower with similar features, the same size engine and extremely different prices.
The things you MUST consider when you are forking out $1500 or more include:
Are you just paying for a Name?
Are there features you can’t get for Less?
Are replacement parts easily available?
Are add-on options limited and expensive?
Will Repairs require a dealer or do third parties make lower cost parts?
Is the Warranty Dramatically different to justify the cost?
I see a lot of people who are attracted to a brand because that brand has intense marketing. Cub Cadet and John Deere are two of those brands. I am not saying that they are not worth the extra money. I am just saying you’re gonna be paying extra money.
Since I am a former Mechanic I enjoy the ability to save money and do repairs myself when I can. I think most owners of Riding Mowers can complete many repairs and upgrades themselves if they take the time to learn how to. This means a trip to the dealer to buy a part vs finding it online or at a local store is not something I really enjoy especially when the cost is much higher.
Things You Should Do Before You Buy a Riding Mower
I think the first thing you should probably do before you buy a riding mower is take notice of the type of mowers your neighbors use. When doing so you should also notice how they use them and if they seem to have difficulty with them.
I have one neighbor that has a zero turn mower they probably paid $2,400 for and they drive it like they are riding a slug. The mower is way too much for them to deal with and their property size along with the number of bushes they have makes it very difficult to use. Not to mention they seem to be scared of it.
I have another neighbor that had to sell their brand new front engine riding mower because they were too scared to use it. They bought it then had a family member use it but it went unused for a season and the next year and from then on they were pushing a power assist mower.
I have another neighbor that has a riding mower but he leaves it in his shed because he wants the exercise and because about a third of his property is too hilly for him to use his front engine rider.
Another neighbor use to have a push mower then finally got a used front engine riding mower. Its about 15 years old and probably cost him $200. It gets the job done in about 25% of the time and with much less effort.
I think that last neighbor has the best deal. He has a mower he can use and it benefits him greatly. On the other hand he probably will see some repairs in his future but if he didn’t pay that much he could always sell it for parts and buy another for $200 that will work for a few more years.
And thats another option. Do you want to buy new or used and even many dealers that do repairs have used riding and push mowers. They won’t put them out on the sales floor or in front of the building but if you go in and start the conversation off that you are looking for a used mower before they can start to sell you on a new one you might be able to find one. If they try to push you towards a new one and you just can’t justify the cost then quickly ask do you know anyone else around here that sells used mowers and they will understand that they are about to lose a sale… thats just how I would go about it if I was doing that. And ask for a manager or ask the parts or service people instead of the sales people. Thats always a good idea.
When selecting the right riding mower you want to find one that you are comfortable with.
It should be something you feel safe using and are able to maintain and possibly repair.
If the engine is too small you won’t have good results but on the same side if you buy one thats too big and powerful you will be riding it around in turtle mode in first gear and thats as bad or worse than one thats too small.
Lower Cost Rear engine riding mowers even though not the same give you some of the better features found in the most expensive brands. If you don’t need a plow or to pull a cart then they might be best for anyone with under 2 acres of grass to cut.
If you have a large property you want to look at models that have features available. You may not choose to buy those add-ons right away but the ability to plow a really long driveway with your riding mower rather than doing it with a large snow blower or even by hand will really save you time and burden. If you have 100+ feet of driveway its really going to help you and you can’t snow blow over a stone driveway so you’re either putting a plow on your pickup which you might not own or you’re paying someone who may not show up.