Zero-turn mowers are often thought of as those used by professional lawnmen. Many major manufacturers make standard mowers that can be used by professional lawn crews. Is it the right choice for you? Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of a zero-turn lawn mower to help you make the right choice in your next purchase of a new lawn mower.

The pros and cons of Zero Turn Mower

These mowers work best on large, medium-sized or large lawns with plenty of space. They come with large cutting deck options and powerful engines. They also operate at a higher speed than other types. Zero-turn mowers have a faster cut time and achieve a higher standard of cut than other mowers.

Zero Turn Mowers: The Advantages

The zero-turn lawnmowers have a unique design thanks to hydrostatic transmission and independent drives. This sets the zero turn mower apart from other mowers and gives them advantages that other lawn mowers just can’t achieve. The mower will run faster and have a bigger deck. Let’s take a closer look at what the zero turn does differently from other lawn mowers and how they are taking advantage of new technology.

Hydrostatic Drive and Steering

Hydrostatic transmissions can be used with zero turn mowers. They can also be used with other independent drives. Hydrostatic drives are becoming more popular in lawn tractors. They drive a differential gear and simultaneously power two wheels.

Each wheel is driven by a hydrostatic motor, which makes it different from a zero turn. Each wheel can turn at different speeds, in different directions. What does this all mean for you? A zero-turn lawnmower has the ability to move in any direction and can even move across the grass.

The upside to this is that the mower doesn’t waste time getting itself into position like a lawn tractor does. This reduces the lawn’s over-compaction by not having to run over the same grass multiple times. This reduces grass damage and grass thinning as well as the effects on soil permeability.

Large Cutting Deck Size

Previously, a 42” inch cutting deck would have been considered big. Large decks were the reason lawn tractors were the most popular choice for large lawn owners. Now, with the availability of zero turns in both residential & commercial versions, 42” inches is considered standard. Depending on the size of your wallet, you can extend your cutting width out to 120” and up.

Faster lawn mowers

Hydrostatic drives are capable of providing a much quicker mowing than the zero-turn mower. Lawn tractors have been capable of reaching speeds of 5 MPH for a while. This is where even the cheapest zero turns start.

Zero turns can be a great option to cut the time it takes to trim your lawn. Zero turns can be done at speeds of approximately 5-8 MPH. This could cut down on the time it takes you to mow your lawn by as much as half. Additionally, you will save time by taking advantage of the mower’s turning ability which eliminates the need to cover ground that’s already cut just to turn around.

If saving time is of real concern, then Dixie Chopper’s Extreme cuts at 15 MPH!

Advantages of Zero-Turn Mowers Summary

The introduction and advancement of zero-turn mowers have made a significant difference in the quality, health, and appearance of your lawn.

  • Superior turning ability “Zero Turn”
  • Large Cutting Deck Options
  • Faster cutting speed
  • Shorter Working Time
  • Reduction of Grass Damage
  • Reduced soil compaction

Zero Turn Mowers’ Disadvantages

There are some downsides to zero-turn lawnmowers. Let’s take a look at a few of the drawbacks zero-turn mowers have and discover if they’re going to cause you an issue.

Learn how you can drive

When you first sit on a zero-turn, you might be curious as to where the steering wheel is. You wouldn’t be the first, including myself. It takes time to master zero turns. So don’t be surprised if you can’t cut in a straight line (I wrote a piece on how to cut in straight lines with a zero turn, which might help) or flatten a few flowers during the first few weeks. As you learn how to drive your mower, be patient.

Cost to buy

Zero turn lawn mowers are complex machines that require complex equipment. These mowers also require complex components such as hydrostatic drives and larger decks. This means that they come at a high cost. Zero turns are the sports car of the mowing world, and they don’t come cheap.

Slopes & Traction

Are zero turns good on hills? Not exactly…Zero turns are notorious for having bad traction and struggle with slopes. This is true, unfortunately. If you have a zero-turn, you will get stuck. This could be caused by a steep slope, or damp grass.

Turf tires are often used for zero turns. They are great for grass, but they do not provide traction. If you’re adamant about cutting the slope, then you could go for a track-driven zero turn. These are not good for lawns. This could be an option if your property has grassy bank.

This article is also mine on how to improve traction with a zero-turn mower. It may be worthwhile reading.

Gasoline-Powered Motors

Finally, one thing we can’t ignore is the fact that zero turns generally have gas-powered engines. We all know that harmful gases can be very damaging to the environment, and we all want our part in protecting it. You can change to a natural gas engine and get rid the gasoline. You can also choose an electric zero turn mower (the verdict is still out).

It is sensible to purchase a zero-turn mower

If they are placed in the right place, they can be a huge help to your garden and provide a lot of benefits. So, let’s look and see if it makes sense to have one in your yard.

The Time It Takes to Cut Without a Zero Turn Mower

If it takes you more than an hour to trim your lawn with a walking mower, a zero turn mower or riding mower would be a great upgrade. Before you consider an upgrade, make sure to check how long it takes to cut your lawn using your current mower.

You can read my comparison between zero turns and walk behind mowers for more information.

Push Mowing can be too difficult

Mowing with a push mower isn’t always that easy, well, for me at least. Zero turn lawn mowers make it easy to mow. A zero turn lawn mower is an excellent choice for people who love to mow but are unable or unwilling to use a push mower.

Your Lawn Size

Next, take a look at the size of your lawn and decide if it’s small, medium, or large. A zero turning can save you time if your lawn falls within the medium-large to large range.

Design Your Garden

If you have good access to your garden and gates and flower beds do not obstruct you, then you know you’ll be able to cut the whole yard with no trouble.

It’s not the best choice to buy a zero turn mower

It’s possible to have your heart set on a new zero turn. But is this the right decision? There are situations where a zero turn just isn’t going to work. Sometimes it’s down to the yard to decide whether or not a zero turn is the best option. Let’s dive in and see if your yard works for a zero turn.

Mowing Doesn’t Take You Long

As we’ve discussed, it is important that you think about how much time it takes to cut your lawn. If you are only out cutting for 30 minutes or so, then a zero turn really isn’t worth the cost. This isn’t saying you can’t use a zero turn; it just seems overkill. But there’s no rule against it.

A small amount of grass can be cut

This really comes into the same category as how long it takes to cut your lawn, but it could take you a long time to cut because it’s a difficult yard to cut. It could be a waste to spend your hard-earned money on a zero-turn mower if there isn’t much grass to cut.

Your Yard: Very Limited Spaces

Next, take a look at your yard’s design. You’ll want to make sure that a new zero turn is going to be able to access the yard and get to all the sections of the lawn. You don’t want a mower that is too large to reach the lawn.

Too Many Hills

Zero turns are not recommended for slopes and hills, as I already mentioned. Zero turns can be more difficult at temperatures higher than 10-15 degrees. Some mowers are better than others, so it’s worth checking the reviews for the particular mower you’re interested in first. However, zero turn mowers equipped to have turf tires performed poorly in temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees. A different design mower will allow you to avoid getting stuck or tearing your lawn.

Do you have somewhere to store your mower?

Do you have a place for your mower to be stored? Zero turns are more than a little walk behind. If you don’t have enough room to store the mower and keep it out of the weather and somewhere safe, it may not be the best choice to purchase.

My Recommendations

You should now be able to assess if your yard is a good match for zero turn lawn mowers. These are examples of different types yards and how zero turn mowers would suit them.

Type of YardYes/No
Small lawn on a slopeNo
Small, flat lawnNo
Medium-sized lawn with easy accessYes
Medium lawn with little gate accessNo
Medium-sized lawn with easy access from a steep slopeNo
Large lawn, flat ground with a big gateYes
Large lawn with access on a 5-degree slopeYes

A Good Choice for Your Yard

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