Pros & Cons of Each – Zero Turn Vs Garden Tractor

 

If you have a large lawn or live near a hillside, you may be familiar with the difficulties of using a push mower. A push mower requires real physical effort, even if it’s a self-propelled model. A riding mower is an excellent solution to the physical strain of mowing large lawns using a push mower. But not all riding mowers are created equal. MowersAll garden tractors are not created equal. I will show you how to tell the difference between a garden tractor and a lawnmower. zero turn mowerSo you can quickly and easily decide which one is best for you.

Zero Turn Vs Garden Tractor: Overview

When buying and using a riding lawnmower, you want something you can rely upon and that will withstand the test of time. There are other factors to consider. So, to help you make the right decision, we’re going to compare two popular riding mower options: the Zero Turn mower and the Garden Tractor.

We will compare the two in terms of features as well as the pros and cons of using them in order to help you come to a final decision about which one is a better choice for you and your unique circumstances.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Zero turn vs garden tractor. What are they?

Some riding mowers are much more powerful than others and, as they say; with great power comes great responsibility. This is never more important than it is if you are planning to use such a machine on large yards.

From a broad perspective, zero turn lawnmowers and garden tractors perform similar functions and are very often used in similar ways. This is because both machines will usually have similar builds and sizes and both allow you to perform basic same garden and lawn function. However, as we will see later garden tractors, although inferior to zero turn mowers in many ways, are much more versatile in the yard.

Both zero turn mowers and garden tractors (also known as lawn tractors), will cut grass on large lawns and can be used to haul garden equipment and supplies via a pull behind wagon (which is almost always sold separately). Both zero turn mowers and garden tractors can also be fitted with a myriad of different rear-mounted accessories from pull behind tillers to grass-catching baggers.

However, although these two riding mower types are very similar in functionality, they have some very fundamental design differences. So let’s take a closer look at each machine to see how they compare and how they differ.

What is a zero turn mower?

Zero-turn mowers, also called zero turn tractors, z-turn mowers and z-turn tractors, are lawnmowers that have a zero-turn radius.A zero turn mower can literally turn on a dime being able to redirect its movement by turning within its own footprint. Think of it like a tank’s turret that can turn from side to side or completely reverse its direction without the actual tank moving. A zero turn mower is the same only with a zero turn mower the entire machine can turn like a tank turret.

Zero-turn tractors are more popular among people who have to cut large lawn areas with, uniform layouts and/or tight turns and/or lots of shrubs or trees. The ability to turn the machine without actually moving it along the ground allows the user to access and cut areas that many traditional riding mowers (that have an average 18″ turning radius) would find difficult to navigate. For this reason almost all commercial landscapers will have a least one zero turn mower in their fleet.

Another difference between these two machines lies in the position of the cutting deck.

Most riding lawnmowers have the mowing deck placed directly under the tractor but this is not so with zero turn machines. Zero turn mowers have the mowing deck more to the front of the machine usually directly under the feet of the operator. This placement of the mowing deck helps to make them fast and easier to maneuver. This is another major reason why they’re so popular among pro landscapers.

Zero turn mowers perform well thanks to hydraulic controls that allow the machine to be maneuvered with ease. Although there are small zero turn mowers, and even a zero turn push mower, most modern zero turn mowers are large commercially-sized machines designed to cover all types of large lawn areas quickly, efficiently and professionally.

The operator on a zero turn mower has a lower center of gravity on the machine having a much lower seated position.

What is a garden tractor?

A garden tractor looks how you would imagine a riding lawn mower to look.

Though fairly big in size, with a much higher seating position than a zero turn, garden tractors are a perfect fit for small and medium-sized lawns. They tend to perform best on lawns that are straight and that do not have a lot of obstacles. This is largely due to their fairly wide turning radius that makes it more difficult to cut around obstacles and in tight turn areas.

Garden tractors are very easy to maneuver however and are operated like a typical automatic road vehicle.

Despite being considered an expensive lawn mower option, being much more expensive than a walk-behind mower, they are still cheaper than zero turn mowers.

Being much more powerful than a push mower and usually having a wider cutting width (with the exception of wide area push mowers) they are superior to push mowers but mostly inferior to zero turn mowers (due to their larger turning radius). Though they do have advantages over zero turn mowers as you will see later.

Zero Turn Vs Garden Tractor: Key design differences?

Now that you have a good understanding of what each riding mower type is and what it is used for, let’s get into more detail about the main differences between the two.

Deck size

The mowing deck size of a riding mower matters a lot. This is because of the simple fact that the larger the mowing deck, the quicker and easier it will be to cut large areas of a lawn without having to go back and forth repeatedly. The wider the cutting deck, the more grass area can be cut with every sweep.

Garden tractors usually have decks that range in size from anywhere between 36 – 54 inches. This size makes garden tractors a perfect fit for medium-sized to large lawns.

When it comes to deck size though zero-turn mowers have the edge. A zero turn mower will have a cutting deck that will measure from 42 inches all the way up to 60 inches.

For a large lawn with no obstacles, a standard garden tractor, like the John Deere D140 or Cub Cadet XT1 and XT2, will perform admirably and be able to handle most typical lawn types and will excel on lawns with hills.

However, with very large lawns, which require a mower with a wider cutting deck, and those lawns that are littered with obstacles (such as trees) and that have tight turns, it is zero-turn mowers, that are a much better choice.

Zero turns mowers like the Poulan Pro (our pick for best zero turn mower), the Troy Bilt Mustang, or just about any Ariens zero turn, are a better choice for large lawns and lawns with less symmetry because they can cover larger areas quicker than garden tractorsTheir zero turn capability further reduces cutting time while making the whole experience much more frustration-free.

Speed

As mentioned earlier, zero turn mowers win when it comes to reducing cut time. Not only do they cut faster than garden tractors due to their wider cutting decks but they are also faster machines in general.

With a standard operating speed of 5-mphAnd a top speed of 10-mph, zero turn mowers are quite fast.

Garden tractors, on the other hand, are slower at 4-mph and 7-mph respectively.

But, motor speed doesn’t always equal efficiency. It does not necessarily mean that grass is cut faster. The more grass that is left untrimmed by a lawn tractor while the cutting deck is engaged, and the faster it moves, the greater the chance of grass being damaged.

This is because zero turn mowers perform better at higher speeds than garden tractor’s in this regard, but neither should be used at maximum speed while cutting grass unless you are happy with a messy lawn.

Even though zero-turn mowers can go at 10 mph, it is unlikely you’ll want to risk lawn scalping so you will cut at lower speeds. No matter what model or type, most riding mowers can be used at similar speeds. A riding mower’s top speed is usually used to move from one side to the other or to transport supplies and equipment.

Tractor control

Another This feature sets garden tractors apart from zero turn tractorsThe vast differences in the control functions of tractor motors sets them apart from each other.

Garden tractors share a similar control mechanism as road vehicles. These machines can be used by anyone who is familiar with driving an automatic road vehicle. They are controlled by the traditional controls of a steering knob, brake pedal, and accelerator pedal.

In contrast, a zero turn mower consists of a lever mechanism control (though there are some that come with traditional controls – Cub Cadet offer their zero turn mower range with either lever control or steering wheel control).

A zero turn mower’s level control is simple to use and is very easy to learn. All functions of the mower, including steering, acceleration, and breaking, are easy to use with simple, intuitive lever controls.

Multi-functionality

The ability to do more than a simple lawnmower is another major difference between the tractors. However, garden tractors perform better than zero turn mowers in terms of yard functionality.

Garden tractors can be used for a variety activities, such as plowing snow, tilling soil, tilling garden beds, seeding the ground, and towing equipment. This allows them to be very flexible in terms of functionality.

These mowers are superior to zero turn mowers in that they can accept rear-mounted, side-mounted and front-mounted accessories. Zero turn mowers can only take specific rear-mounted accessories.

Zero turn tractors were designed for lawn work and can pull wagons and tillers. You cannot add accessories to zero-turn mowers like garden tractors.

A zero turn mower is a mower that is more like a lawn tractor than a garden mower.

Engine

When it comes to engines, both tractors will come equipped with a motor that has 15 – 25 HP. What sets the yard machines apart is the fact that a garden tractor uses a single-cylinder motor, while a zero-turn mower uses a twin cylinder.
The greatest advantage of a twin-cylinder engine is its simplicity and power. It also drives more smoothly and doesn’t vibrate as much.

A riding mower’s fuel tank capacity is another important factor. Bear in mind that fuel tank capacities are subject to change based on the manufacturer’s preference. However, garden tractors typically have a fuel tank capacity that ranges anywhere from 1 – 6 gallons.

Zero turn mowers have a greater fuel tank capacity, up to 12 gallons. This is another reason why zero turn mowers are better suited for larger lawns. They require less fueling, which is why commercial landscapers often use zero turn mowers on large lawns that are straight and flat and suitable for a garden tractor.

Turning Radius

Garden tractor’s turning radius is different from zero turn mowers.

The most significant difference between a zero turn mower or a garden tractor is their turning radius.

A garden tractor’s turning radius will typically be between 4 and 28 inches, with an average of 18 inches.

Garden tractors can be driven and turned in the same way as a regular vehicle. If you have to make a tight turn, you’ll need to either reverse or make minor adjustments to your vehicle each time. This will ensure that you properly align your vehicle and trim the lawn. You can also move over areas that have been mowed previously.

You may encounter a similar problem navigating garden obstacles.

Zero turn mowers on the other side have a zero degree turning radius. They can change direction in as little as one step, and they can turn on a dime. They can rotate and change the cutting direction without having to move the machine on the ground.

Zero turn mowers can turn 360 degrees without having to move from their spot. This saves you the tedious task of constantly maneuvering your riding mower to cut grass in difficult-to reach areas. This zero turn capability can reduce cutting time by nearly 50% in gardens with difficult lawns.

Now that we have discussed the difference in the features of the two riding mowers, let’s discuss the pros and cons of each in brief.

Zero turn tractor: Pros & cons

Let’s start with the zero turn mower.

Pros:

The greatest advantage of owning a zero-turn mower is their ease of use, even in tight spaces.

Zero turn mowers have this advantage: they can turn around tight corners, and even switch between forward and backward (without needing to reverse), with just a push and pull from a lever.

They are able navigate and circumvent any type of obstacle.

A zero turn mower is a great choice if time is tight and you want to cut down on mowing time.

They also offer faster speeds. Because of their larger decks, they can cover large areas of grass and cut more grass per sweep.

Cons:

If you’re thinking about getting yourself a riding lawnmower, but have steep areas in your yard then being concerned about it tipping over while driving up a hill is a valid concern.

Zero turn mowers are less traction-efficient than garden tractors. This makes them unsuitable for use on steep hills and slopes.

Zero turn mowers are often used on hills but they are far from ideal for this task and can tip in these situations.

Zero turn mowers are very expensive lawnmowers.

This is why most people buy them only if their gardens are too big or unsuitable.

Commercial landscapers may have multiple garden tractor models in their fleet, but they will typically limit their zero turn ownership to one machine.

Garden Tractors: What are the pros and what are the cons?

Here are the pros and disadvantages of the garden tractor.

Pros: 

A garden tractor is a better choice than a zero-turn if you have a bumpy or hilly area with steep inclines.

It will be easy to climb or descend the hills of your lawn.

Garden tractors can be used to do more than just tow and mow. You can attach multiple accessories to your garden tractor to make it more than just a mower and mowing machine. Snow blowerThis type of functionality is called a digger.

Garden tractors can be attached to a wide range of accessories for a variety of yard jobs. This makes them more versatile than zero turn mowers which can only use limited pull-back accessories.

Cons:

  • Often requires multiple sweeps

Because of their large turning radius, garden tractor cannot be turned in tight spaces because they are too heavy.

They will struggle in difficult turning-terrain, areas with many obstacles and awkward turns.

This is why they may need to make multiple trips to mown the grass in an unsymmetrical area. This can lead to slower mowing times and make the riding mower more cumbersome in certain environments.

Zero Turn or Garden Tractor? Which one is better for you?

Since we have highlighted the differences between a garden tractor and a zero turn mower, let’s move on to the next important question: which one is the best choice for you and your individual and specific uses?

This question is difficult to answer because it depends on your particular requirements, but I will try my best.
Here are some factors to consider that will help make an informed decision.

Size of your yard

The size of your yard should be the first factor.

Some people have yards that are too big for a push mower but too small for large riding mowers.

A good idea of the dimensions of your yard will help you decide between a big zero turn mower and a smaller garden tractor.

Here’s a table that will help you.

Acre MeasurementRecommended TractorRecommended horsepower and deck size1 – 2 acresGarden tractor14 to 16 hp/35 to 40-inch cutting deck3+ acres and aboveZero turn mower18 to 24 hp/46 to 54-inch cutting deck

Type of yard

The type of yard is also important when choosing between a zero turn or garden tractor. You will be more efficient in your garden if you choose a riding mower that suits the needs of your yard.

A zero turn mower is an option for curved yards with tight turns or lots of obstacles.

A large zero-turn mower can also be used to reduce the time it takes to cut large yards.

Some large yards may have uneven terrains, with steep hills or angled terrains. If this is the case then a garden tractor is the best choice. It will offer better traction on hills and greater safety, even though it requires a smaller cutting area. Garden tractors are equipped with a front-wheel drive, which gives them more leverage than zero-turn mowers that come with rear-wheel drive.

Time factor

If time is precious when it comes to mowing your lawn, you will need a faster mower with wider cutting deck.

If you’re switching from a push lawnmower and a riding mower, you will want a machine which is more efficient and less demanding.

Below is a table that will help you see the differences between a standard garden mower and a zero-turn mower.

Type of TractorSize of the Cutting DeckTime taken for Lawn to be Mown per AcreGarden Tractor36 inches1 hourGarden Tractor48 inches45 minutesZero Turn Tractor50+inches30 minutes

If you have a difficult yard with many obstacles and turns, you can expect to spend more time working with a garden tractor. A zero turn mower will save you time, as they can navigate through difficult areas.

Example of a popular zero turning mower

If you’ve decided to buy a zero-turn mower, we can help. Top pickFor you.

Husqvarna Z254 Zero Turn Mower

This Husqvarna zero turn mowerIt comes with a powerful Kawasaki engine of 21.5 horsepower that is both powerful and very reliable.

The mowing deck can be found in the middle of the tractor, right under your feet.

The perfect positioning of the mowing deck is crucial to the smoothness and smoothness of the twists and turns that this zt mower can do. It can even run for hours. One thing that garden tractor owners complain about is the speed at which it heats up during longer mowing tasks. But, you will have no such problems with this zero turn beauty as it comes with an over-sized cooling fan to allow the engine to run for extended periods – just one of the reasons that makes it so popular among many commercial users.

It can be used in large yards with soft hills because the wheels are very traction for a zero-turn machine.

The best part is that this zero turn also includes a front crash bar to protect your machine from any sudden impacts on bumpy terrain. Commercial users also get this benefit.

Pros:

  • Comfortable and supportive seat for extended use.
  • Larger mowing boards allow for more coverage.
  • Handles and controls that are ergonomic.
  • Great professional lawn-cut quality.

Cons:

  • The engine may not work in 5+ acre yards.
  • It isn’t cheap.

This zero turn mower is for you if you want a powerful riding lawnmower that combines comfort with power, commercial machine protection, and professional lawn care results.

Example of a popular garden machine

We have a great machine for you if you feel a garden tractor is best for you.

Craftsman T225 garden tractor

It is easy to see why this mower is so popular. It has a powerful Briggs and Stratton engine of 19 HP and a 46-inch mowing surface. Craftsman T225 garden tractorOne of the most popular products on the market.

This garden tractor has a hydraulic transmission that makes it easier to drive on any terrain.

This garden tractor’s best feature is its ability to mow in reverse mode. It does this without scalping or creating an uneven cut. This is something that other riding mowers with reverse cut capabilities cannot do. This feature allows you to cut small areas of grass without having to travel back and forth across your yard.

If traction is what you need while performing other yard work then you’re in luck because this tractor comes with turf saver wheels, which are durable and strong as well as having the ability to hold the terrain well. This makes hill work much easier.

Comfort is another feature of the garden tractor. The high-placed seats provide more support to your back while you’re doing longer mowing tasks.

Pros:

  • Excellent traction.
  • Multiple accessories are available to suit different types of yard jobs.
  • Professional cut quality.
  • Reasonably priced
  • Two-year warranty

Cons:

  • Some parts feel fragile or light to the touch.
  • Not suitable for commercial heavy/sustained use.

This gas-powered garden mower is ideal for mowing and other yard activities.

What is the difference between Zero Turn and a Garden Tractor?

There is no one lawnmower or lawn tractor that will suit everyone’s needs. Each person is unique as their yards.

To ensure your yard is well-managed, you must consider everything I have said before making a decision between a zero-turn mower and a tractor. And … keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better – it’s about which machine type is a better for you and your yard.

Pros & Cons of Each – Zero Turn Vs Garden Tractor

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