In this guide, we’ll talk you through the three main options when it comes to large-scale mowing- ride-on mowers, garden tractors, and lawn tractors. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and we’ll help you make the right choice.
For the most part, ride-on mowers just cut grass. They’re smaller than the other options covered in this article, and therefore have a smaller cutting width- usually 60cm and up- and a small engine, typically about 4.4kw. While they are the smallest option here, they are also the cheapest.
These are usually larger than ride-on mowers, with a cutting width of a minimum of 76cm. They also have a more powerful engine, ranging in power from 8kw upwards. That means that they are more suited for larger, tougher areas, and they also have limited towing capabilities.
These powerful machines have impressive engines from 11kw and upwards, as well as a wide-reaching cutting width and a strong build. Their power also means that they can be used for a range of other uses, such as towing and clearing snow. However, all this comes at a cost- they are by far the most expensive option.
The Best Choices For A Difficult Lawn
If you have an uneven or sloping lawn, then you might want to consider four-wheel drive mowers. While these are more expensive, they provide much better traction, preventing the wheels from slipping and ensuring that you can cover every nook and cranny of your lawn.
They can be expensive, but worth it, so choose the most powerful engine you can afford to ensure that you can get up slopes effectively. You’ll also want to make sure your engine has a pump lubrication system, so that it still functions properly while on a slope. Most manufacturers list their recommendations about using their mowers on slopes on the box.
If your lawn is covered with potential obstacles for a mower, then you should think about buying a “zero-turn” mower, which can rotate on the spot to easily traverse anything in the way. This also ensures you can mow as efficiently as possible, and they are easy to park in difficult areas. Thanks to two separate steering handles, one for the front and rear wheels, they are easy to use. They’re also faster than regular mowers, so you’ll get the job done quicker.
Mulching and Collection Lawn Tractors
When you’re mowing a large area of grass, you’ll naturally be left with a lot of clippings. How you dispose of these will actually have an impact on the lawn itself. You can either compost them with the rest of your garden waste, or mulch them, putting them straight back into the lawn.
Rear Collection Mowers
These cheaper versions use the natural airflow from the mower to collect up the clippings and store them in a bag for easy disposal later. Some models instead use a power sweeper, or feature an integrated rear collection system. However, if you don’t want to collect up the clippings, you can install a deflector that will distribute them instead.
If you choose a rear collection mower, then check the size of the collection bag. If it’s small, you’ll have to keep stopping to empty it while mowing the lawn- although this will be easier than if it were a larger, heavier bag.
These lawn tractors come with a mid-mount cutting deck that directly sprays the clippings out sideways if you don’t wish to collect them up.
Main Features of Lawn Tractors and Ride-On Mowers
Manual transmission: Most come with this as standard- just like driving a car, so easy to get the hang of.
Hydrostatic transmission: While this option is more expensive, it gives better control, and is therefore more suitable for navigating anything in your path. Plenty of hydrostatic models also include cruise control to make it easier to mow larger areas of grass.
Cutting width: This determines how quickly you can get the job done when it comes to mowing. However, you should consider whether your mower will be able to get through any gates and other small spaces before you automatically buy the mower with the greatest cutting width. This will also be important when it comes to storing the mower.
Engine size: How powerful your engine is will determine whether or not you can use your mower for additional purposes, such as pulling a trailer or tilling your ground. You should also think about your terrain- it will take a more powerful engine to get up a steep hill. Engine power is often measured in terms of “displacement”, or how much fuel the engine uses up each time the crankshaft completely rotates. The larger this measurement, the more powerful your mower.
Cutting blades come in two main positions:
Out-front mowers With these mowers, it’s easy to see where you are cutting, and they are perfect for areas that are difficult to reach, as well as mowing under trees and low hanging plants. However, they are unable to collect grass clippings, meaning you will have to clean them up yourself.
Mid-mount mowers These models have blades directly under the seat. Many of them are “offset” to one side, meaning that it’s easier to cut to the very edge of your lawn.
Practical considerations Often, it’s the tiniest details that are the most important. Make one small mistake when choosing your mower, and you could find that it completely ruins your mowing experience.
There are a range of factors to consider when trying out a mower for yourself. Some of these include the comfort of the seat, how easy it is to get on it, changing the cutting height, how much fuel it can take, how simple it is to empty the clippings, and whether you can easily clean the cutting deck.
Storage Wherever possible, you should store your machine safely inside, instead of leaving it under a tarpaulin out in the open. However, you’ll need to make sure the entrance is big enough to safely get your mower in and out, and that you can easily turn around. For added security, you can also buy wheel clamps so that it doesn’t get stolen. You should check with your home and contents insurance provider whether your mower will be covered by this.
Servicing and maintenance When buying a new mower, you’ll likely be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. These vary in length- Honda, for instance, offer a five-year warranty, on the condition that you get your mower serviced every year. Whatever the warranty, though, you’ll be responsible for maintenance- this will all be detailed in your user’s manual. A full service can cost around £200, but will depend on your particular model. Mower wheels can be tough to puncture, but some large thorns will do it, so if you have any of these on your property, then you might want to treat your tires with a puncture-proofing solution. Ride-on mowers come with very low-pressure tires, and it’s vital that you get the pressure right for yours to work properly.