Written By
Published Feb. 5, 2021

For large yards with tight corners and obstacles, nothing beats a zero-turn lawn mower. These agile mowers are powerful lawn-maintenance machines designed for maneuverability. The unique lever steering allows for complete 360-degree cutting, meaning no blade of grass is safe from the wide and nimble cutting deck. Today’s zero-turn lawn mowers are fuel-efficient and comfortable, with options and features to tackle just about any size yard. Residential zero turn mowers are ideal for the suburbs. Larger commercial models are great for fields, golf courses, and hills. The best zero-turn lawn mowers run literal circles around the competition.

What to consider when shopping for the best zero-turn mower.

Are all riding mowers with lever steering the same? Not at all. Size, weight, horsepower, and fuel source are just a few of the things to look for when shopping for a zero-turn mower. Before opening up the wallet, understand how these mowers operate, how much they cost, and how much they can accomplish.

The two types of zero-turn mowers: commercial and residential.

For years, zero-turn lawn mowers were only available as commercial yard equipment. Landscaping companies and groundskeeping crews who needed to tame and maintain large areas of grass used the big industrial lawn mowers. But recently, residential zero-turn lawn mowers have given suburban homeowners the power and agility of lever steering. 

The big difference between commercial and residential zero-turn mowers is power (and price). Commercial models are designed for big areas and constant use. They’re heavier, have wider cutting decks, and pack more horsepower. Residential zero-turn lawn mowers are smaller, easier to handle, and are better at once-a-week cutting. These lawn tools are less powerful, so hills can be challenging. But they still provide incredible maneuverability and handling at a much more affordable price. 

For yards smaller than three acres, a residential zero-turn mower is the efficient, user-friendly way to go. If your lawn is larger, or you plan on using the mower on a daily basis, a commercial mower may be the best option.

How much horsepower do you need?

The best zero-turn mowers offer between 10 and 25HP. But 10HP is only good for yards smaller than half an acre. And those mowers can’t handle inclines. For residential lawns up to three acres, 20 to 25HP is perfect. In addition, zero-turn mowers tend to work well on hills up to a 15-degree incline. That said, any zero-turn lawn mower offering 25HP or more may be overpowered and overpriced for a typical suburban yard.

Gas vs. electric lawn mowers.

Yes, there are electric, battery-operated zero-turn mowers on the market. And they do a pretty good job, especially for yards smaller than an acre. Battery-powered riding mowers are more than just noisy, angry golf carts. They have real cutting power and the technology is only getting better. 

Electric riding mowers cost about the same as gas-powered models. You’re not saving money, but you are saving the planet while performing yard care. Electric mowers are more environmentally friendly since they don’t emit any exhaust fumes. But they do need batteries and that’s the biggest drawback. The battery on even the most energy-efficient electric mower can die quickly and recharging time will eat up your Saturday. If you don’t mind the limited battery life, or you plan on stocking up on backup batteries, electric mowers are just as good as gas-powered mowers. 

Gas-powered mowers will be more powerful, but not by much. Gas mowers are also heartier machines that are better riding over rough terrain and (mild) hills. Electric mowers aren’t good for commercial use, where horsepower and repeated use are a big concern. However, for flat lawns no bigger than an acre,  don’t overlook the electric machines as your best zero-turn riding mower.

What size cutting deck do you need?

The cutting deck houses the blades. But bigger isn’t always better. Zero-turn riding mowers start out with cutting decks measuring 32 inches and can go as large as 61 inches. The extra size is really only good if you’re cutting more than three acres of grass. While zero-turn mowers are made for tight turns and precise handling, a big mower is still a big mower and will be cumbersome in small yards. 

If your yard has a lot of obstacles, such as trees and sheds, make sure the lawnmower is small enough to fit between the tight space. For suburban homes with about an acre of land, opt for a smaller mower with a cutting deck between 32 and 40 inches.

Understand the steering and stopping.

The distinguishing feature of any zero-turn mower is the lever steering. There’s no steering wheel, and you don’t drive a zero-turn mower like a car. Instead, the two levers control the pivot point of the mower. Pull the right lever back and push the left lever forward to make a sharp right turn. 

Due to the pivot steering, it’s usually best to mow the lawn in a Y pattern instead of making drastic turns that could dig the wheel into the lawn and create divots. And watch out: Most zero-turn mowers don’t have brakes. You hold the steering levers in a neutral position to brake. 

If you’ve never used a zero-turn riding mower, give yourself some practice time before attempting tricky spins. The best zero-turn mowers are intuitive, and you’ll pick up the steering mechanism quickly. But your first time using this piece of yard equipment should not be along the edge of a beloved flower garden. While you often see professional lawn crews zipping around on these mowers, it’s best to go slow. The machine has more pickup than you may anticipate and it’s easy to overcorrect and make a wrong turn.  

The best zero-turn mowers

Which mower is best for you depends on your type of lawn. Any of these mowers will work wonders on a flat lawn. But if you have hills or big areas to cover, you’ll need a more specialized yard tool. Look for the features and size that work for your yard and your budget.

Best overall: Husqvarna Z254F Riding Mower


Check Price

Big yards need big power and the 23HP Husqvarna mower straddles the line between residential and commercial zero-turn lawn mowers. The wide 54-inch cutting deck gobbles up a big area of grass quickly. It handles great, even on small inclines. But be careful—there’s more oomph in this lawn mower than you might think. If you’re not paying attention, this powerful riding mower will get away from you. Practice first in a nice wide open area so you get the feel of the controls, speed, and steering. If you have a yard larger than three acres and want a powerful lawn-cutting machine, the Husqvarna riding mower is a powerful option.

Best for first-timers: Ariens Edge Zero-Turn Mower


Check Price

If you’re looking to replace your traditional lawn tractor or push mower, the Ariens zero-turn lawn mower is a fantastic upgrade. The 19HP Kohler 6000 series engine is strong and consistent. Great for yards smaller than three acres, the Ariens riding mower has a 42-inch cutting deck in its sturdy frame. It’s a residential zero-turn mower that’s as durable as some of the commercial mowers. Yet it’s not an overpowered, overpriced, over-complicated lawn tool. If you’re new to the world of zero-turn mowers, this is the perfect machine to give you comfortable, confident handling. 

Best for comfort: Craftsman 50-Inch Hydrostatic Gas Zero Turn Mower


Check Price

Riding mowers have come a long way in regards to comfort, and the Craftsman zero-turn riding mower is one of the most body-friendly yard tools out there. The high-back seat gives you much-needed support, especially if you’re cutting big areas. And the 23HP engine and 50-inch cutting deck give you enough power to chomp through up to 3 acres of grass. Cutting big yards can take time and that can take a toll on back muscles, so never overlook ergonomics. The rubber foot pad of this riding mower helps reduce the vibrations that can cause foot and leg pain. The steering bars feel great without being over-sensitive. This is not only a solid zero-turn lawn mower, it’s a comfortable outdoor throne. 

Best for the pros: Swisher Big Mow Commercial Pro Front Mount Tractor


Check Price

This is not the riding mower for everyone, but the Swisher zero turn tractor is one of the best commercial mowers you can get. If you’re starting a lawn care business or need to equip a lawn maintenance crew, this is a solid investment. The Swisher mower has a 31HP engine. The cutting deck is sold separately, but can go as big as 66 inches. The zero-turn tractor can handle inclines and embankments. It’s dependable. It’s safe. And as big as it is, it handles great. You always feel in control of the 900-pound monster. The bad news? It’s not cheap. With a price tag soaring past $10,000 and another $3,000 for the cutting deck, this is not a typical piece of lawn equipment. This is a commercial-grade lawn mower with enough horsepower to mow an entire neighborhood.  

Budget pick: Husqvarna Z246 46-Inch 20HP Briggs and Stratton Zero Turn Lawn Mower


Check Price

Residential zero-turn lawn mowers are typically all in the same economic ballpark. You can expect to spend between $3,000 and $5,000 for a reliable riding mower. This Husqvarna is one of the cheapest zero-turn mower, hovering around the low end of that spectrum and is a great mower for the money. Husqyarna mowers are known for their quality, so even a lower-priced Husqyvarna riding mower is a trusted, dependable machine. This zero-turn mower has a wide 46-inch cutting deck and a 20HP engine, putting it right in the middle of not being too weak and not being overpowered. If you have an acre of land to mow, there’s no need to spend money for extra size and power you’ll never need.


Q: What is the most comfortable riding zero-turn mower?

The most comfortable zero-turn lawn mower is the Craftsman 50-Inch Hydrostatic Gas Zero. The high-back seat makes all the difference. Without the proper support, your muscles will get angry as you try to maneuver the mower. The vibrations of any riding mower can cause foot, leg, and arm pain, aggravating nerves you never knew existed. The Craftsman zero-turn mower helps reduce these vibrations with a rubber foot rest that absorbs some of the constant rumbles. If your riding mower is uncomfortable, it will only get worse the more you use the machine. Always consider the seat, the steering handles, and the foot placement to find a zero-turn mower that fits your body.

Q: What is the best zero-turn mower for 2 acres?

The best zero-turn mower for 2 acres is the Ariens APEX Zero-Turn Mower. It has the right amount of horsepower to cover that area efficiently. (Assuming you don’t have many hills or inclines.) That said, 2 acres of land falls into the sweet spot for most of the zero-turn lawn mowers on this list. Residential zero-turn mowers are designed for areas smaller than 3 acres, with cutting decks between 30 and 50 inches. For smaller yards, anything under an acre, you should save some money and space by opting for a more compact riding mower.

Q: How to operate a zero-turn mower?

To operate a zero-turn mower, you use the steering levers. These levers typically rest over your lap. In the neutral position, the mower stands still. Push both levers forward, and the mower moves forward in a straight line. Push both levers back, and the mower travels in reverse in a straight line. The real fun begins when you push one lever and pull the other, thus creating a pivot point. The zero turn mowers are designed to make sharp turns and pivot 360 degrees. This makes it easier to steer around obstacles. It feels very different than using a steering wheel. Give yourself time (and room) to practice and you’ll get the hang of it.  

The final word on the best zero turn riding mowers.

A zero-turn riding mower is ideal for navigating around sharp curves, obstacles, and landscaping beds. They are also the best type of riding mower for covering big areas quickly. Residential zero-turn riding mowers give you nearly all the power of the commercial-grade behemoths, but at a more manageable size and price. These nimble mowers are the perfect yard tool for lawns ranging between 1 and 3 acres. Find a comfortable seat, an adequately sized cutting deck, and a brand name known for quality. Discover today’s best zero-turn lawn mowers to effectively and efficiently maintain your yard.