Best Zero-Turn Mowers

Zero-turn mowers are faster and more efficient than other riding mower designs — but how do different models compare? To find out, we assigned 14 riders to evaluate 27 machines.

| April/May 2013

tight turns made on a zero-turn mower

A zero-turn mower's tightest turn can spin the machine in place — useful for working in small spaces.

Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer

If you have a lawn big enough to warrant a riding lawn mower, then one of these days you'll probably be in the market for a zero-turn mower. Since its invention in the early 1960s, the zero-turn riding lawn mower has gradually revolutionized the task of mowing grass. With zero-turn mowers available in all shapes and sizes, figuring out which one will work best for you can be a challenge. To help cut through the confusion, we assigned a team of 14 individual riders — all of them owners of suburban or rural properties with significant lawns — to test 27 different mower models representing 14 brands. We graded each mower for common variables, such as handling and ease of use, but we also measured how loud they were and their fuel consumption. For the testers’ evaluations of the mowers, see our Zero-Turn Mower Models chart. For complete specifications on each zero-turn mower see our Zero-Turn Mower Specifications chart.

Zero-Turn Mower Mechanics

Zero-turn mowers are faster, safer, more efficient and more comfortable than any other design. And they come in every size and capacity, suited to your particular situation. Whether you’re a suburban lawn geek with barely enough grass to justify a riding mower or a rural property owner maintaining acres of green around your homestead, the zero-turn mower will likely prove itself a better choice than any other lawn mower or tractor out there.

One reason zero-turn mowers excel at cutting grass is that they aren’t adaptable to any other chore. These machines are designed to mow your lawn safely and efficiently. Period.


The zero-turn mower generally has two drive wheels hydraulically controlled to spin independently. Turns are initiated when one wheel spins faster than the other, or in the opposite direction. The mower’s tightest turn spins the machine in place — literally, it can turn on a dime.

Mowers built with the zero-turn design have an exceptionally low center of gravity. Their wide tires are particularly easy on the turf. Hydraulic steering controls allow the operator to adjust speed minutely and steer with great precision — although our testers found the quality of the steering controls varied significantly from one mower to the next.

5/8/2014 3:01:08 PM

Thanks for the in depth look at zero turn mowers. They have grown immensely in popularity over the last several years, outselling lawn tractors and other riding lawn mowers. Too bad you cant get many attachments for them, but you get the speed and agility. You can get reviews on hundreds of models here

dennis schwab
4/22/2013 3:33:25 PM

This article was fairly good on its face with respect to what the mowers were being tested for, i.e., comfort, ease of use, fuel consumption, cost, etc, but it missed its mark as far as I am concerned. I'm sure the data is there but just not deemed important and not recorded in this article. To me the most important aspects are how well does it cut the grass, does it leave a trail of grass clippings in its wake, can a collection basket be attached, does the exit chute easily clog up, and can the underside of the cutting deck be easily cleaned or does it have some sort of self cleaning devices built in that cleans the decks underside from matted grass before it hardens like cement? Or also can the underside of the deck be flipped up for cleaning and changing blades?

roland green
4/11/2013 7:54:53 AM

This might be a facetious comment, but if you do have a lawn that big as Steve Racz says put it into production so why not use sheep. They have a number of advantages besides cropping the grass short in that they produce wool and meat. They are also self-replicating. It could be an idea for some entrepreneural livestock man to hire sheep out during the grass growing season. They don't need gas and are non-polluting. You can let them get on with it by themselves - no driver needed. They also have the ability for zero turning.

david wilkins
4/10/2013 11:44:15 PM

I've used several different zero turn mowers and the best one I've found and still use is the Farris which wasn't tested. It has four wheel independent suspension and can mow at 12 to 14 MPH. I used to have a Woods Mow-n-Machine and there's no comparison between the two. A lot of zero turns have no suspension systems and some have a pivoting front axle and both ride pretty rough but the Farris has shocks and springs on the front and rear. It rides like a Cadillac compared to the others therefore you can mow a lot faster. The one I use is 28 HP, has a 61" cut and cost about $8000 but if you have a lot to mow it's well worth it. My yard is about 4 acres with a lot of things to mow around (trees, buildings & landscaping). Takes about two Hours.

jason hinton
4/10/2013 6:18:49 PM

Zero turn mowers are great for cutting flat lawns but are very unstable when side cutting hills. When side cutting a hill one needs to keep nose of the mower pointed uphill. If the nose is allowed to drop even slightly downhill the machine will pivot about the downhill rear wheel and head downhill in a uncontrolled manner. There is no recovery once the slide begins and no way to control your descent. I have worked for a transmission suppler for zero-turns and a zero-turn manufacturer and have experienced some wild downhill rides!

steve racz
4/10/2013 3:36:19 PM

"If you have a lawn big enough to warrant a riding lawn mower", then you have too much useless lawn. Trying planting some food.

jay lloyd
4/10/2013 2:08:11 PM

You guys should have tested Yazoo mowers.

3/18/2013 1:07:54 PM

Why didn't you test Gravely? They are the best out there!

jonathan thyng
3/15/2013 2:21:56 PM

Keep in mind that you can contact a dealer and ask them for a demo! There are many more models from the Hustler Turf brand like the New Raptor starting below $3000. The only in its class with a welded deck versus a stamped deck and a 3 yr warranty on the Kawasaki engine.

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