These mowers offer the ability to cut tight contours, meaning less time on foot with a hand trimmer or push mower. They also offer improved visibility and faster cutting speeds, so you can spend less time maintaining the lawn and more time enjoying it.
Like any other investment, a zero-turn riding mower can be a great asset if you take the time to learn as much as you can before you buy. The lawn-mowing experts at Toro offer some tips on what to look for when you’re ready to buy:
* Durability – Overall sturdiness of the frame and deck construction are key elements of durability. Comparing specs on steel frame design and dimension, the gauge of the steel (the lower the gauge, the thicker the material) and protection surrounding the rear-mounted engine can give you a good idea of overall durability.
* Deck construction – Is the deck stamped? Commercial zero-turn mowers typically have decks made of several pieces of continuously welded heavy-gauge steel, while residential mowers have decks of lighter-gauge steel stamped in a press. For homeowners, stamped decks will be more than adequate, but for properties with rough terrain they may be less durable than the welded decks found on most professional mowers. Welded decks appear on commercial-grade products and are constructed to stand up to more rugged daily use. Also look to see if the mower has small wheels designed to raise the deck over uneven terrain to protect the lawn from getting cut too short, or scalped. How many gauge wheels does the deck have, and are they adjustable to accommodate different cutting heights?
* Engine design –Zero-turn mowers at the lower end of the pricing spectrum may come equipped with a single-cylinder engine. Twin-cylinder OHV engines are becoming more prevalent, and are widely used on commercial grade zero-turn-radius mowers. These engines are more powerful and run smoother.
* Easy-to-adjust cutting height – Adjusting the cutting height on the mower should be easy and fast. Look for a foot assist, if you want the extra leverage, in addition to a hand lever, to quickly raise the deck for short periods, such as when you’re mowing over an exposed tree root.
* Wider tires – Look for a mower with wider tires, which distribute the machine’s weight over a large area and are easier on the grass. They also provide improved traction. Opt for more durable four-ply-rated tires.
* Comfort – Granted, you’ll spend less time riding your zero-turn mower than you would a lawn tractor, but comfort is still key. You will be leaning back against the seat instead of leaning over a steering wheel, so back support is an important consideration. Is the control panel easy to see and reach from the seat? When all the controls are on the same side, it makes operation easier.
* User friendly – Are you a novice or an expert operator? Some zero-turn mowers allow you to adjust your mowing speed to match your level of comfort and control. Choosing the “high mode” gives you maximum speed for mowing flat, open spaces in your yard. The “low mode” allows for enhanced maneuverability when cutting around trees, landscaping, or other tight spaces.
* Price – Zero-turn mowers range in price from just less than $2,500 to a little more than $6,000 for residential versions, and more for commercial ones. While it’s possible to get a quality zero-turn at the lower end of the price range, keep in mind riding mowers at higher range of the spectrum usually come equipped with more features and added durability.
Finally, while zero-turn mowers can significantly reduce the amount of time and effort involved in caring for a large acreage, you’ll still need to follow appropriate lawn mower safety practices. To learn more about lawn mowing and zero-turn mowers, visit www.toro.com.