O.K. team, when you are ready to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower make sure you’ve taken the time and considered the many types, styles and options that are available. Lawn size and price may be the final determining factors but before that there are a number of questions to be answered first.
Is the lawn mostly flat or are there steep hills? Are there a large number of trees or other obstacles on the lawn? Are you looking to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower that will last for many years to come or just a few? What about looking at used riding lawn mowers?
So, you have a lawn that’s large enough to need a riding lawn mower or do you want to buy a riding lawn mower in order to still be able to mow it yourself (too physical to push any more). When you move into the riding lawn mower arena you will find that there are many manufacturers of riding lawn mowers (some say lawn tractors).
When you wanted to Buy a Lawn Mower (push mower) there were options such as reel, electric, battery and gas powered mowers. This is not the case when it comes time to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower.
Riding lawn mowers are all powered by four stroke gas engines. These engines vary greatly in size from 8hp to 20 plus hp of course the smaller the engine in turn the smaller the decks size (the part of the mower that holds the attached blades in position while the mower is moving over the lawn).
With a smaller deck size you are decreasing the cutting width of your riding lawn mower and increasing the amount of time needed to mow the lawn. It will take more passes across the lawn in order to mow the total square footage of your lawn.
As with most things in life the smaller the riding lawn mower the lower the price, the larger the mower the more costly it becomes within each manufacturer. This is even more apparent when considering to buy a riding lawn mower of a commercial grade .
Again you get what you pay for and I know each of us has a different amount in their budget. We will come back to the budget issue from time to time but let’s go with a blank check approach.
Lets look at your lawn again, if it’s on the smaller size let’s say ½ an acre which should be the entry level size for needing a riding lawn mower. Is your lawn flat or on a hill? Are there many obstacles or trees with low lying branches?
If the answer is yes, then it may point us towards a type of mower that falls in between a push mower and a riding mower. It is know as a walk behind mower.
These walk behind mowers have deck and engines sizes comparable to medium size riding lawn mowers. These walk behind mowers offer the cutting width and power of a rider but offer the manoeuvrability of a push mower.
An important when looking to buy a riding lawn mower as this lets you get close to trees and under low branches that would be impossible with a normal riding lawn mower. Another benefit of this type of mower is the fact that it has an oil filter and pump. By having an oil pump this allows it to be used on hills without fear of having the motor seize from lack of lubrication as you would with a 4 stroke gas powered push mower.
Not all manufacturers make a walk behind mower which means your selection won’t be as great as if you were choosing a riding lawn mower. To help you narrow it down even further I strongly suggest you buy a walk behind mower that is gear driven (most have at least 5 forward speeds and a couple backwards).
With at least 5 forward speeds you can find a speed that is comfortable to you and still does a quality job mowing the lawn.
As the weight of one of these mowers is substantial it is better to have it pull you along at a pre-determined speed than constantly adjusting up and down as you would with a hydrostatic transmission. This is contrary to what I suggested when you Buy a Lawn Mower that is self propelled.
When holding on to the grip (handle bar) of a walk behind mower you are adding stress/fatigue to your hands, elbows and forearms as your hand/arm posture must be kept in the same position for an extended period of time. Most of the grips come in a style known as a pistol grip.
If at all possible buy a walk behind mower that offers you be a “T” bar handle, the best manufacturer I found was Toro. This “T” bar handle allowed me to still control the mower with ease and more importantly allowed for a change in position/grip while operating the mower.This is very important if you have a larger hilly lawn that is more time consuming to mow.
Price wise at the low end of the scale for a walk behind $1500-$2000 on the high end $3500 and up. Remember team that deck size and hp on these walk behind mowers are comparable to those on riding lawn mowers so high end maybe a 48” deck and a 19 hp motor.
Now lets’ assume that you have the same size ½ acre or so size lawn, it’s flat with no hills and only one or two trees to worry about. You’re going to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower as I mentioned earlier that riding lawn mowers start at 8hp and the deck size on a 8 hp riding mower is not very big.
Most likely the deck will be only the size of a large push mower (22”) as the motor has to be able to mow the lawn efficiently, carry you as well as the weight of the machine around your lawn. As the hp gets larger, let’s say 10-12 hp then deck size will grow to the 30’s (30”-38”).
It is around this 10-12 hp 36”-38” deck combination will best suite a ½ acre or so lawn. Mowing shouldn't take much more than ½ an hr. That’s just the right amount of time to be enjoyable, to go out and ride in the fresh air but not too long for it to become a chore.
Things to look for when you go to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower that you drive with a steering wheel (similar to a car) is how strong is the front axle? Is it just steel rods covered with sheet metal or is cast, solid piece of metal? Are there plenty of grease fittings?
Is the deck stamped out of a thin gauge metal or fabricated with heavy gauge steel that will stand up over time (mowing hours). What about the bearings (is there a grease fitting, I hope so) and the spindle that the blades mount to on the deck? Are they good quality? Are they covered under the warranty for 1 or 2 years?
The front axle in many homeowner brand base models is just steel rods and linkage covered by sheet metal. This type of font end will not stand up to many years of use. The front axle and steering mechanism on a riding lawn mower take the brunt of stress/force created while driving over uneven ground and turning. The weight of the driver who is larger may add extra stress to mower as well.
By making sure that you Buy a Riding Lawn Mower that has a cast front axle you will double the life of the front end. The difference in the cost should only be $100-$200 at most.
Grease fittings, the more the better on a riding lawn mower. Look to ensure that bearings such as those found on axles where the wheels are mounted, pivot points such as steering rod pivots to control steering and the most important bearings, those that encase the spindles (the part that the mowing blades are mounted to) all have grease fittings.
If they don’t then you are shortening the life of these bearings and adding an unnecessary cost early in the life of your mower. Remember that a tube of grease is only a few dollars compared to $20 plus dollars and the down time and the labor involved in replacing the worn bearings.
Next, is the deck a stamped deck made from a thin gauge of sheet metal? If so then the life of the deck will not be as long as one that is fabricated from much heavier gauge steel. A stamped deck won’t hold up as well over time to especially at major stress points on the deck such as where the spindle housing on the deck.
Other areas that are vulnerable include where the deck hangers attach to the deck (deck hangers hold the deck in position above the lawn to give you he desired cutting height).
Most of these lower end models stamped metal hanging bracket held on with cotter pins. Remember you get what you pay for when you buy riding lawn mower.
The good thing when you venture into commercial brands of riding lawn mowers when considering to buy a riding lawn mower is you will find that all of these issues have are already been solved. The axles are all heavy duty cast, there are multiple grease points, all bearings can be greased, the decks are made from thicker gauge metal, fabricated not stamped and deck hangers will be of a heavy duty nature.
In the case of my Toro mower there are heavy duty chains instead of hanger brackets.
Another key part in evaluating a mower before you Buy a Riding Lawn Mower is the engine. There are many manufacturers, but the main ones are Briggs and Stratton (B.& S.), Tecumseh, Honda, Kawasaki and Kohler. Most home owner brand riding lawn mowers offer B.&S., Tecumseh or Kohler made engines.
These engines offer good value and keep the cost of riding lawn mowers to a reasonable price. A Kawasaki, Honda and to a lesser extent Kohler offer superior engine when it comes to longevity as in commercial use.
The only draw back with these types of mowers is although they may last longer than there home owner brands before they need repair, they will most likely cost more to fix when the time comes.
You've got an estate lawn that is greater than 2/3 of an acre with plenty of trees and other obstacles. The riding lawn mower manufacturers have created mower with you in mind.
A recent addition in the riding lawn mower world is the Z.T.R. mower (Zero Turn Radius). These mowers don’t use steering wheels to steer with, they use two individual sticks (a left hand and a right hand).
By using the sticks powered by hydraulics they are able to steer by moving a stick in a forward motion. If you move them forward an equal amount, then you will move straight ahead. If you only move one stick all the way forward then you will turn 360 degrees in a circle until you let off on the stick. Pull backwards then you move backwards. Steering becomes much more exact.
When it comes time to turn to mower around to cut in the return direction all you have to do is stop, pull a stick back and the other forward and ta da! You’ve turn 180 degrees around and you are mowing back to the other end of the lawn.
Instead of having to take big wide turn to get back to the return mowing path or having to stop and make a 3 point turn. It also increases the speed at which you can mow your lawn and therefore decreases the amount of time it takes to mow the lawn.
These types of mowers are excellent for getting in close to obstacles such as trees, fence lines. Prices for this type of mower are greater than your average riding mower but if speed and manoeuvrability are important to you then this might be what you are looking for.
Non-commercial riding lawn mowers will start in the $1000 dollar range for a 10 hp mower. A good rule of thumb for pricing home owner brands is a $100 per hp. (10 hp-$1000.00, 12 hp- $1200.00).
If the manufacturer has addressed some of problems mentioned above such as the front axle then add more money for that machine to the $100.00 per hp guide line. When you want to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower of the commercial nature then the $100.00 dollar guide line may turn into $300.00 per hp., but remember it is purchased to make you money. As far as commercial lawn care equipment I have had great luck with Toro products.
If you are thinking you want to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower that’s used then follow all the same guide lines mentioned above. Also if buying used, take the time to look at how clean the mower appears, is the oil clean or black? Clean is better than black.
Is the deck in good shape, are there any welds broken? You don’t want broken welds. Are the blades in good shape or are the chipped? Chipped means it’s time to buy new blades.
Take it for a spin, does it start easily? it should. Is the steering sloppy or tight? it should be tight. While you are driving it engage the deck, do you feel any excessive vibration? If you do then the bearings maybe worn or the blades are not balanced properly and are prematurely wearing out the bearings in deck.If you notice any of these problems on a riding lawn mower you're thinking about purchasing, you may want to walk away.
By answering these questions you will be able to make a much more informed decision when you want to Buy a Riding Lawn mower.
“Keep It Simple to Succeed” lets get out there and make our lawns healthy and green!