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Riding Lawn Mowers, Lawn Tractors
Riding Lawn Mowers Features
Riding Lawn Mowers.For yards one-half to one acre with even terrain, cheap riding lawn mowers featuring a rear-mounted engine and blades encased in a deck between the two front and two back wheels are a good choice.
Lawn Tractors.For yards of one to five acres, a cheap lawn tractor is the best option. Lawn tractors feature one-cylinder, front-mounted engines that range from 13.5 HP to 22 HP and have a cutting deck with two blades between the front and back wheels. Because of their engine size, heft (well over 400 pounds), and center of gravity, lawn tractors are able to handle large and hilly areas, and can haul small attachments like a cart, snow thrower, or sprayer. The Ariens 42 In. Deck 19 HP 42 960460024 (starting at $1,399 ), Craftsman YT 3000 46" 21 HP 28924 (starting at $1,350, Amazon ), and the John Deere lawn tractor D100 17.5- HP Manual 42" (starting at $1,499, Amazon) are all examples of cheap lawn tractors (even if the manufacturer calls it a riding mower).
Garden Tractors, Zero-Turn Radius Mowers.A few leaps up in price and power puts you in garden tractors territory, but these models with their front-mounted engine, large wheels, high clearance, and heavy-duty hauling capabilities are way beyond our price range. In the riding mowers category -- that is, models with a rear-mounted engine -- you can go upscale in price and technology with a zero-turn radius (ZTR) mower. Thanks to individually-controlled rear wheels (one can spin forward as the other spins backward), a ZTR mower turns 360 degrees "on a dime" and maneuvers easily around obstacles. But like traditional rear-engine riding mowers, ZTRs are challenged by hills and aren't capable of hauling attachments. ZTR mowers sit well outside the Cheapism niche, as well, but one of the garden tractors we do like is the Toro TimeCutter Z4200 (starting at $2,449, Amazon ), with a 19.5 HP engine and a 42-inch cutting swath.
Lawn Tractors Discharge.Most, if not all, cheap riding mowers use a side-discharge for grass clippings. If you prefer to bag or mulch the clippings, the necessary accessories (a bag and a mulching kit) must be purchased separately to the tune of several hundred dollars, depending on the make and model. The specifications on some models, like the Weed Eater One WE261, note that the blades alone do the mulching before the clippings are deposited back on the lawn.
Riding Mowers Deck and Cutting Height.The width of the deck determines how wide a path the riding lawn mowers can cut; the wider the cut, the fewer times you'll need to go back and forth across the lawn. Deck size varies in the cheap lawn tractors category, although decks typically range between 38 and 46 inches. The lawn tractors we researched show up throughout: The Yard Machines 13.5 HP 28604 (starting at $892, Amazon) cuts a comparatively narrow 38-inch path; the 42-inch path of the Ariens 960460024 and John Deere D100 sit in the mid-range; and the Craftsman YT 3000 28924 and Troy-Bilt Automatic 42" Riding Mower 13AX78KS011 (starting at $1,249, Amazon) cut the widest swath at 46 inches. (Ariens also offers a cheap 46" lawn tractor, the 22 HP 9640460026, for $1,499.) Riding lawn mowers (with rear-mounted engines) generally sport decks in the 25- to 38-inch range; the only cheap riding mower on our list, the Weed Eater One WE261, cuts a slim 26-inch path.
Lawn tractors generally feature two cutting blades; the Weed Eater One riding mower has just one. The cutting height on riding mowers starts at 1.5 inches and tops out at 4 inches, but the number of cutting positions varies by model. The John Deere D100, for example, gives you a choice of 13 cutting heights compared to six for the Ariens 42-inch 960460024 and Craftsman YT 3000 28924, and five for the Weed Eater One WE261.
Anti-scalping wheels (or rollers) placed under the deck help give an even cut on uneven terrain. The John Deere D100 and Troy-Bilt 13AX78KS011 include two anti-scalping wheels and the Craftsman YT 3000 28924 and Ariens 42-inch 960460024 boast four.
Don't Bother Cheap Riding Mowers
Troy-Bilt 20 HP Automatic 42 in. Riding Mower
A strong 20 HP engine, 42-inch cutting width, two blades, and top forward speed of 5.5 mph would seem to mark this Troy-Bilt as a good buy, but users complain about parts that give out within a season or two, maintenance headaches, and a chronic need for servicing. Read more »
Troy-Bilt 20 HP Automatic 42 in. Riding Mower Review
Weed Eater One Review
John Deere D100 Review
Craftsman YT 3000 Review
Ariens 42 in. Riding Lawn Mower Review
Troy-Bilt 22 HP Hydrostatic 46
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