There’s nothing like spending a hot summer day lifting a lawn mower in the yard to warm you up to the idea of a riding mower. While it requires a pretty steep price, it certainly beats a walk-behind mower for grass that covers over half an acre. You don’t need to upgrade to a $ 2,500 ZTR mower that can turn on in no time. For less than $ 1,500, you can get behind the wheel of a well-priced lawn tractor that circles your old push mower.
Here are Cheapism’s top picks among cheap riding mowers:
* The Ariens 960460056 (starting at $ 1,399) features a powerful 22-horsepower Briggs & Stratton twin-cylinder under the hood, where most other economy models have single-cylinder engines. The wide 46-inch cutting deck and 16-inch turning radius help users complete the job in fewer passes. Critics say they can count on a level cut even when not on level ground. Many particularly appreciate the ability to mow in reverse and put the machine in cruise control. (Or buy)
* The Craftsman LT2500 (starting at $ 1,377) also features a 46-inch cutting deck, cruise control, and a 22-hp engine, in this case a single-cylinder Kohler. A five-year warranty on the frame and a lifetime warranty on the cast iron front axle rounds out the two-year limited warranty you typically see on inexpensive mowers. Reviewers consider this lawn tractor to be excellent value for money. (Or buy)
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* The John Deere D105 (from $ 1,499) raises the bar over its already well-rated predecessor with an automatic transmission in place of the old gear drive system. Expert reviewers and users say it’s easy to use and rank the brand as one of the most trusted. This model features a 17.5 hp engine and a 42-inch deck that promises precision, with 13 different cutting heights between 1 and 4 inches. (Or buy)
* The Troy-Bilt Bronco (starting at $ 1,199) is another strong contender, with specs in the same quarter – 19 hp Kohler engine, 42-inch cutting deck, 18-inch turning radius – but a hundreds of dollars lower price. Experts and users alike report that it skillfully removes clippings and performs well even on hills. (Or buy)
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These mowers all have some type of automatic transmission, so rather than manually shifting between preset gears, you can move at any speed up to the maximum, which goes from 5 to 5.5 mph and 2.3 at 5.5 mph in reverse. Consumers sometimes complain in online reviews that these machines (with the exception of the Arians) do not mow in reverse, but guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission discourage mowing in reverse.
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If you have a particularly large yard, look for a larger gas tank so you don’t have to fill it halfway through mowing. The Ariens and John Deere models listed here hold around 2.5 gallons, while the Craftsman and Troy-Bilt hold around 1.5 gallons. These and other economical lawn tractors unload clippings to the side; a mulching kit or bagger usually costs extra.
More from Cheapism:
Comprehensive report on inexpensive riding mowers