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Riding Mower Performance: Handling and Cutting

According to the riding mower reviews we read, consumers put great weight on the value-to-performance ratio. Quite a few users comment that the best cheap models do what they're meant to -- that is, mow moderate-size expanses of lawn unmarred by too many boulders and stumps or steeply sloped terrain; make clean edges and produce a level cut; climb up and move down small hills with relative ease; haul a cart or snow thrower; and start up without balking.

Consumers recognize they're not paying top dollar (and thankfully so) and indicate their willingness to tolerate some slippage here and loose belts there, because at budget prices, who can complain? They get cranky, however, when assaulted by major problems such as brand-new mowers that won't start or parts that constantly fail and replacement parts that cost near as much as the mower itself.

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Here's how lawn tractor reviews sum up the performance of each model on our list.

Handling.

Riding mower reviews from consumers and advice from outlets such as the National Gardening Association suggest that ease of handling depends in part on the right match between machine and lawn. For example, in reviews of the Weed Eater One (starting at $730) on the Walmart website, users report that this lightweight riding mower is the right size for yards up to an acre and manages slight inclines, bumps, and dips. However, some riding mower reviews caution that the Weed Eater One struggles on hills, especially when the grass is wet, and others note it's not the best buy for yards with lots of rough spots.

Review continues below

For larger yards and/or terrain with steeper slopes, reviewers lean toward bigger, heavier, and more powerful lawn tractors like the Craftsman LT2500 (starting at $1,377) and John Deere D105 (starting at $1,499). In lawn tractor reviews on the Sears website, several reviewers praise the Craftsman LT2500 for moving easily up and down small hills. The Troy-Bilt Bronco 13YX78KS011 (starting at $1,199) is sized for a 1- to 2-acre yard and is pronounced fine for hilly terrain -- one user comments that the mower is so powerful, it takes some getting used to. At the same time, consumers who have posted reviews on the Lowe's website note that it's easy to navigate around flowerbeds on this tractor. The Ariens 960460056 (starting at $1,399) is another mower that's right-sized and right-powered for yards up to 2 acres. In riding mower reviews on the Home Depot site, users say this model handles rough terrain and hills with ease.

Cutting Performance.

For the most part, users are satisfied with the way their lawns turn out after mowing with the models we picked, according to lawn tractor reviews. Barring any mechanical or handling problems, reviewers say, you get a well-mowed lawn in less than half the time it takes with a walk-behind mower.

Riding mower reviews at Home Depot report that the Ariens 960460056 cuts evenly and quickly, even if the grass is high. Users of the Craftsman LT2500 echo this assessment in lawn tractor reviews on the Sears website, saying the mower cuts cleanly and makes the job look like it was professionally done. Users who have posted reviews of the John Deere D105 at Lowe's like the way it handles and mention that it's easy to use, even for people who have never owned a riding mower. Comments about the cutting talents of the Troy-Bilt Bronco in lawn tractors reviews at Lowe's are generally positive and often note how little time it takes to finish the job. Users even like the Weed Eater One for delivering even trim and close cuts around edges, according to riding mower reviews on the Walmart website. A rear-engine model we like better, the Troy-Bilt TB30R (starting at $1,000), makes lawns look as well-groomed as golf courses, according to expert and user reviewers posting at Mowers Direct, an online dealer.

Review continues below

by Elizabeth Sheer (Google+ Profile)

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