If you’re like me you will be somewhat house-proud. This pride in your living space probably goes well past your actual house and seeps into the outer environment around your home. If you are like me then you will agree with me that mowing is one of those activities which you never want to ignore.
But like any house-proud homeowner, who has a lawn that is much bigger than the average American has to deal with on mowing days, not any old lawn mower will do.
If you have more than an acre to mow then it is unlikely you will want to bother with the tedium of a walk-behind mower.
However, if you have less than an acre of lawn and are happy enough with a walk-behind be sure to read our walk-behind mower buyer guide which will help you identify which type of walk-behind machine is best for your personal needs.
For everyone with “too much lawn for a walk-behind” the best bet is a riding mower or stand-on mower.
Here we will give you some simple guidelines to follow to choose the best riding mower for your personal needs but these same guidelines can be applied equally well to stand-on mowers should you choose to purchase one of those mower types instead.
Tips to Assist You in Your Riding Mower Choice
This type of mower is preferred a lot by many since it gets quite enjoyable to mow your garden when compared to pushing a mowing machine all over the area. If you decide to go for the riding mower, you will have to consider the tips below so as to get the best mower, worth the amount of money you will have to spend:
When it comes to buying your new riding mower you will be presented with various brands and models to choose from. Each brand has its own strengths and weakness and each model will come with various features and extras.
Therefore, it is wise to first acquaint yourself with the needs of your own yard and the requirements of your lawn environment. Only by knowing exactly what you need can you make the best decision on a purchase.
If your garden is entirely flat, then you will have a variety of choices to make, since you can use almost any type of ride-on mower and achieve perfect results every time.
However, for those individuals whose lawn may be a bit more challenging certain specific features should be taken into consideration.
For example, if your lawn is significantly steep you will need to consider going for a machine with a low center of gravity and a strong engine.
Also, if you allow the height of the grass to grow significantly, or in an uneven manner (perhaps due to partially shaded areas), you will discover than some riding mowers are better equipped to give a cleaner cut than others.
This also applies to gardens with particularly rough or uneven terrain.
In such a case, you will have to get a machine built for tougher conditions, since you won’t expect a lightweight ride-on mower to deal with such grass unless you are willing to deal with some results which might not be appealing to you at all.
It’s advisable to make sure that your mower is not only well powered but that it also has an engine whose brand is of high quality – such as Briggs & Stratton. The engine should also be from a brand that offers easily accessible and reasonably priced e parts should it ever require repairs.
Never get misled by the Horsepower, since there is more to an engine’s power than that. You will realize that there are some mowers with a less horsepower than others, but they perform well as far as power efficiency is concerned, which also has the added advantage of greater fuel efficiency.
Diesel or Petrol Engines
Here, you might find the applicability of the “Cheap is always Expensive” saying also know as “the false economy”. This refers to buying something cheaply to save money but in the long-term the purchase ends up costing you more money.
When applied to riding mowers this can be likened to diesel-driven engines versus petrol driven engines. Riding mowers with diesel engines tend to be more expensive when compared to the petrol-driven machines but can save you on fuel costs over the long-term.
However, the primary concern to take note of here is that diesel engines will always provide more torque not just because they are cheaper to run when compared to the petrol counterparts.
Torque is a crucial point to keep in mind if you have a challenging terrain to mow. Higher torque will keep the blades of your mower running at a good, even cutting speed to produce a smooth even finish while also significantly saving on engine wear.
Of course, these points are only concerns depending on your specific needs and how frequently you will using your mower.
The cutting deck is the principal part of your mower since this is where all the cutting action takes place via the blades.
Most riding mowers come with an entirely fabricated steel deck, which is first cut and then welded into shape; it is seldom pressed or stamped.
When you get into a showroom, you might get attracted to pressed steel decks which are handsomely priced, and also look great. However, when faced with the difficulties of mowing, fabricated decks will always emerge as the clear winners.
Don’t forget to consider the width properties of the deck since this is important as well. A wider deck means a larger cutting area.
If you have already encountered the belt fitted mowers, you know that they can be somehow frustrating when faced with harsh conditions, and can as well stretch, smoke, or break in the worst case.
This means that a mower that operates on belts can be quite a challenge to maintain when compared to shaft driven decks which are built for tougher conditions so that they will be able to tackle much longer grass.
The chassis is also a crucial part of your mower, and you want to make sure that it is strongly built and with a high durability. Preferably go for a mower that has a welded chassis.
For a domestic ride, it is worth noting that a bolted chassis is better than a riveted one.
Features and Attachments
When looking at available mowers in within your price range, try to go for a dedicated lawn mower and not a machine that promises to accomplish all your lawn-related tasks.
If you opt for a machine that performs well straight off the production line without the need for extra, often expensive, extras, you’ll avoid being dazzled by all the “bells & whistles” often used to sell inferior machines.
In short, make sure that you keep away from mowers that are using extra attachments and add-on features as main selling points unless you are being offered a truly exceptional deal; a good riding mower should be able to perform all essential mowing tasks without add-ons – you can always get extras later to make your, already great, mower even better.
The only exception you can have in such a case is the shaft-driven mower since you can add attachments which employ the Power Take Off shaft to the front.
If you ensure your mower has as simple a setup as possible you will ensure even the maintenance part won’t be an issue to you.
Before you go shopping for a riding mower do a little research on the top brands available. Just like individual models, individual brands offer different qualities and have different strengths and weakness.
As a rule-of-thumb assume that the brands that have been in the market for a long time are most likely to offer better quality. Also, when it comes to a high-ticket purchase such as a riding lawn mower it can be advantageous to go for a machine that comes from a company which deals exclusively with the manufacture of lawn mowers only.
As you expect unknown or little-known brands often offer lower prices or substantial savings but many people have had to face the bitter truth of a false economy when they realized they purchased a lower quality product after being deceived by the sweetness of a lower price.
You may justify the reason to go for the lower prices, by suggesting that your budget does not allow for high prices. But, ask yourself only one question, “is it better to spend a bigger amount once, or spend small amounts over and over again on upgrades, replacements, and repairs?”
When you think of that question, you will find it better to buy a high-quality mower, so that you won’t have to use so much cash on repairs.
Backup, Services and Parts
When you buy a mower from a particular company, make sure that they offer easily accessible, affordable and substantial quantities of spare parts stock. This will help to eliminate any excessive downtime in the event of a breakdown.
You always want to be sure that a service agent can pick up your mower in the case of a malfunction and that you don’t have to arrange the transportation yourself.
Steering: Wheels or Levers?
Most people who are after comfort will always stick to a wheel-steering mower, which offers less of a learning curve than a lever steering model.
Although a small consideration, if you have a large, open lawn with few obstacles, the steering wheel option will probably be the first choice for most people. However, you may want to consider a lever steering mower since it is quite easy to operate once you become accustomed to it and can offer a little more manoeuvrability depending on the make and model.
In conclusion, always make sure that you first conduct your own quality assurance research before you head out to any showroom to make such a huge purchase.
Although one of the most common research methods used is asking for opinions from your friends, relatives, and peers who own similar machine checking online reviews can yield much more information from unbiased sources. Be sure to check out online lawn mower and landscaping forums as well as checking Amazon and Ebay reviews on specific models you may be considering.