A zero turn mower is designed to maneuver in a way that more traditional riding mowers cannot, using lever control mechanics to turn the mower on a zero-degree turn radius. This means a zero turn mower can actually turn in a full circle within its own footprint, ensuring you don’t miss patches of grass due to a wide turn radius.
The best zero turn mower for you will depend on the size, the incline, and the landscaping of your yard. In general, you could consider a residential zero turn mower if you have a yard at least 1/3 acre in size, while you would only need a commercial zero turn mower if you have a very large area to mow. Take a look at our top picks for the best zero turn mowers below, chosen for product efficacy, affordability, and overall value.
- BEST OVERALL: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 V-Twin Gas Zero Turn Mower
- RUNNER UP: Toro TimeCutter V-Twin Gas Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Troy-Bilt V-Twin OHV Engine Gas Zero Turn Mower
- UPGRADE PICK: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT2 V-Twin Gas Zero Turn Mower
- BEST ELECTRIC: RYOBI Battery Electric Riding Zero Turn Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 Kohler Series Zero Turn Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Toro TimeCutter IronForged Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- BEST FOR HILLS: John Deere Z375R Gas Dual Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Types of Zero Turn Mowers
Zero turn mowers can be split into two broad categories based on power, size, and utility: residential and commercial.
Residential zero turn mowers are smaller and less powerful than commercial zero turn mowers. They can either be gas-powered or electric-powered, though gas-powered zero turn mowers are much more popular and have a wider variety of options. This type of lawnmower is perfect for yards that range from 1/3 acre up to 4 acres; however, they may have difficulty navigating very rough terrain and steep inclines. Not surprisingly, residential zero turn mowers are also less expensive, more fuel (or battery) efficient, and easier to learn to control.
If you need to tackle a very large area—like a golf course—or you have multiple large yards to mow on a regular basis, then a commercial zero turn mower makes more sense. These mowers are much more powerful than residential zero turn mowers, and they often have large cutting decks that can make your job much quicker.
However, all that power comes at a price—literally. Commercial zero turn mowers are more expensive than residential zero turn mowers, and you will also end up paying more in fuel for a gas-powered model. In fact, due to the size and power required to operate a commercial zero turn mower, this style is not typically available in electric- or battery-powered options.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Zero Turn Mower
Before making a purchase, consider these important product features to find the best zero turn mower for your mowing needs.
Yard Size and Ground Type
One of the first considerations to take into account is the size and type of terrain you will be mowing.
- Residential zero turn mowers are not suitable for rough terrain or for mowing on an inclined slope that exceeds 15 degrees. These lightweight zero turn mowers are also not designed for daily use and will wear out faster than commercial zero turn mowers if they are used with the same frequency. This style of mower is intended for yards between 1/3 acre to 4 acres.
- Commercial zero turn mowers are better able to maneuver on steep inclines and over rough terrain, though for very rough ground, consider a lawn tractor instead. Commercial zero turn mowers are also more powerful and durable, intended for repeated use on a daily basis. Use this style of mower on yards that exceed 4 acres in size or if you have to mow multiple large yards regularly.
Gas vs. Electric
While gas-powered zero turn mowers are more popular, recent advances in battery technology have led to comparable electric-powered zero turn mowers that are an excellent alternative for smaller yards.
- Gas-powered zero turn mowers have a wider price range because this style of zero turn mower is much more common than the newer electric type. Gas-powered mowers are more powerful than electric-powered mowers, but they also weigh more and require regular gas refills.
- Electric-powered zero turn mowers are a relatively new innovation, and are usually priced the same as mid-range gas-powered zero turn mowers. The electric type is not as powerful as a commercial gas zero turn mower, but it does have a comparable power output to a mid-range residential gas zero turn mower. One major benefit of having an electric mower is that you never need to pay for gas; just keep your batteries charged to get the job done.
Horsepower (HP) measures the power output of a zero turn mower engine and can range from as low as 10 HP to over 25 HP.
- 10 to 20 HP zero turn mowers are an ideal option for small yards with relatively flat terrain. This amount of horsepower is sufficient for 1 acre or less but isn’t the best option for multiple properties. Most residential mowers fall into this category.
- 20 to 25 HP zero turn mowers are an excellent mid-range option that fall into the residential mower category. These mowers are equipped to handle larger yards of up to 3 acres, as long as the terrain isn’t too rough and inclines do not exceed 15 degrees.
- 25 HP and higher zero turn mowers are almost exclusively from the commercial mower category. These powerful machines are designed for regular, repeated use on very large plots of land, like a golf course or multiple large yards.
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel tank capacity is an essential consideration for gas-powered zero turn mowers. It won’t matter how fast or powerful the mower operates if you run out of fuel before you can finish the job. For plots of land that are 5 acres or more, choose a zero turn mower that has at least a 4-gallon tank.
If you will be using the zero turn mower for 4 acres or less, then you can use a 3-gallon fuel tank. For smaller areas, a 2-gallon fuel tank will ensure you can mow the entire lawn without having to stop and refuel.
Single Cylinder vs. Twin Cylinder Engines
Zero turn mowers can feature a single-cylinder engine or a twin-cylinder engine.
- Single-cylinder engines are less fuel efficient, but they can be very loud because they are more susceptible to increased vibration. However, zero turn mowers with single-cylinder engines are more affordable and may be all you need if you are only mowing once a week.
- Twin-cylinder engines are better for frequent mowing because they are more fuel efficient and durable than single-cylinder engines. This type of zero turn mower greatly reduces vibration, but it comes at a higher price.
The cutting deck is the covered area on a zero turn mower where the blades rotate to cut the lawn. The size of this deck can vary from a small 32-inch cutting deck that is appropriate for yards that are less than 3 acres to a wide 61-inch cutting deck intended for golf courses or yards that are larger than 3 acres in size.
While it may seem like the best option to purchase the largest deck size possible within your budget to mow as quickly as possible, this could be counterproductive. Consider whether your yard has any obstacles that would be difficult to move around or between. If it does, then you would be better off with a smaller deck that can maneuver around objects in your yard.
Battery Life and Runtime
Battery life and runtime are only applicable to electric zero turn mowers, and even then they are dependent on many other factors. For example, the age of the mower; how the mower is driven; the type of terrain on which it is used; the tire treads for ground grip strength; and the weight of the zero turn mower can all impact how long a battery will last.
Battery power is typically expressed in ampere hours (aH), with a typical range of 75 aH to 100 aH. Batteries with 75 aH are recommended for yards that are 2 acres or less, while 100 aH batteries can mow up to 3 acres on a single charge. If you have a larger yard or multiple yards to mow, consider investing in more than one battery so you can alternate them.
When looking for a new zero turn mower, keep in mind that you will be sitting on this machine, so the seat should be comfortable enough for you to ride the mower for an extended period of time. Look for features that help to reduce operator fatigue like a generously-padded seat cushion and a high backrest.
You may also want to find a mower that comes with cushioned armrests and an adjustable seat position so you can move the seat up or slide it back. This allows you to comfortably work the levers no matter your height.
The controls of a zero turn mower do not typically feature a foot pedal. Instead, you have two levers that provide power to the drive wheels when you press them forward (away from the driver). One lever controls the drive wheel on the right side of the mower, while the other lever controls the drive wheel on the left side.
While there are no significant differences between the controls on zero turn mower models, consider a product that comes with soft, ergonomic padding to help reduce hand fatigue during use. This padding will also help you grip the levers, even when your hands become sweaty working in the hot sun.
The tires on just about any vehicle or wheeled machine are designed to help direct the movement of the object. Drive wheels on a zero turn mower propel the mower forward but also help to grip the ground so you can turn effectively. All zero turn mowers have similar air-filled tires like those you would find on a go-kart.
Consider the type of terrain you have and the amount of rainy weather in your area. If it is likely your zero turn mower will need to operate on very wet grass or across rough terrain, then look for a product with very deep treads; this additional traction will ensure you can accelerate and turn without issue, even in poor conditions.
Weight is another important factor to consider when it comes to how you want your zero turn mower to operate. Lightweight zero turn mowers are more fuel efficient, but they may not have enough power to effectively complete the job if you have a very large yard or multiple yards to finish in a single day. These lighter zero turn mowers are also more difficult to control on rough, wet, or sloping terrains because they do not grip the ground as well as heavier zero turn mowers.
Heavyweight zero turn mowers typically fall into the gas-powered, commercial mower category. These mowers are expensive, and they have an ongoing fuel cost. However, while heavier zero turn mowers are less gas- and battery-efficient, they are more powerful and easier to control.
Zero turn mowers are large, powerful machines that can be very dangerous. For this reason, many manufacturers build in specific safety features, like parking brakes, headlights, and an automatic shutdown feature.
- Parking brakes are a necessary safety feature for mowing sloping land. This simple addition to your zero turn mower can protect you if you have to get off the mower for any reason while you are cutting.
- Headlights are definitely more of an added feature than a safety feature since you would normally mow the lawn during daylight hours. However, if you still have another 30 minutes of mowing to complete and the sun has set, these headlights can allow you to finish the job while ensuring you can see properly.
- An automatic shutdown feature is designed to turn off the zero turn mower when it senses that the driver of the mower is no longer in the seat. This safety feature ensures that the mower will not continue operating when you leave it to move an obstacle out of the way or if you accidentally fall off while mowing.
Our Top Picks
Check out some of the best zero turn mowers on the market in various categories, based on these specific considerations, as well on quality and price.
Powerful and versatile, this gas-powered, commercial zero turn mower has a 3.5-gallon fuel tank capacity and a twin-cylinder engine so you can mow for hours. The wide 50-inch cutting deck houses three sharpened cutting blades that make quick work of yards between 2 to 4 acres in size. This zero turn mower also features pneumatic tires and a reverse mowing feature, allowing you to reach up to 3.5 MPH in reverse.
The mower weighs 570 pounds and can reach up to 7.5 MPH in speed. However, you can also reduce the speed to gain better traction on rough or hilly terrain. Raise or lower the height of the cutting deck to make it easier to cut rough terrain without the blades hitting uneven ground, rocks, or other obstacles. This zero turn mower also offers an 11-gauge steel deck, a cup holder, and headlights for mowing in dim conditions.
This residential zero turn mower is an ideal option if you have a yard that is 2 acres or less in size that also has relatively flat terrain, even if there are a few obstacles. You can raise or lower the cutting height of the two powerful cutting blades that are safely stored under the 13-gauge steel cutting deck, which measures 42-inches wide and can be used with a bag, a side-discharge chute, or a mulching feature.
The gas-powered mower provides a fuel tank capacity of three gallons and a 22.5 HP twin-cylinder engine. It weighs 502 pounds and reaches speeds of up to 7 MPH when it is moving forward and 3 MPH in reverse. The control levers feature extra padding that reduces hand fatigue and gives you a better grip surface so you can stay in control of the mower at all times.
If you want to purchase a new zero turn mower but many of the products are priced too high for your budget, then this residential zero turn mower may be the product you need. The affordable gas-powered mower offers both forward and reverse mowing settings, with top speeds of 7 MPH moving forward and 2.5 MPH in reverse. It weighs 580 pounds and has a fuel tank capacity of 3.5 gallons, allowing you to mow for hours.
Adjust the cutting height of the 12-gauge steel cutting deck for a longer or shorter cut on your grass, and you can also use this feature to raise the two sharpened cutting blades enough to make contact with uneven ground. The deck measures 42 inches in width and is best for yards that are 2 acres or less in size and relatively flat. However, the powerful twin-cylinder 22 HP engine and gripping treads on the pneumatic tires equip this mower to handle somewhat hilly terrain.
With a massive 11-gauge steel 60-inch cutting deck and three powerful cutting blades, the extra cost of this commercial zero turn mower could be well worth the time that it saves you. Appropriate for multiple yards or properties over 4 acres in size, the gas-powered zero turn mower has a 3-gallon fuel tank so you can work until the job is done.
The mower has a relatively quiet twin-cylinder engine, a 24 HP power output to the rotating cutting blades, and pneumatic drive wheels for a maximum forward speed of 7.5 MPH—despite coming in at 752 pounds. The power of the engine combined with the grip of the wheels, the adjustable cutting height, and the weight of this zero turn mower allow you to mow safely on uneven, hilly, or rough terrain. It also features headlights, a cup holder, padded armrests, and an advanced polymer seat suspension for added comfort.
While this residential electric zero turn mower is suitable for yards that are 2 acres or less, you can cut up to 3 acres on a single 100Ah battery charge, though it should not be used with very rough or hilly terrain. When the battery runs dry, just plug the mower into a standard 120-Volt outlet to charge it. Keep in mind that it can take up to 10 hours to fully charge the mower, so it is best to charge the battery overnight.
You can adjust the 12-gauge steel 42-inch cutting deck and the two cutting blades for a shorter or longer cut. This zero turn mower weighs 700 pounds and provides an onboard control panel to engage the cutting blades, operate the headlights, check the battery level, and even charge your phone or another device with the built-in USB charging port. Dual engines propel this mower at up to 7 MPH when moving forward or 4 MPH in reverse, all with low maintenance requirements and zero harmful emissions.
When your yard is less than 2 acres in size, you won’t need a commercial zero turn mower to get the job done. Instead, a product like this versatile residential mower with a smooth, twin-cylinder 22 HP engine is suitable for yards between 1/3 acre and 2 acres. Despite the relatively light weight of492 pounds, you can safely use it on some rough and uneven terrain due to the deep treads on the drive wheels.
This gas-powered zero turn mower has a 3-gallon fuel tank and a wide 13-gauge 42-inch steel cutting deck that houses two sharpened cutting blades. Raise or lower the height of the adjustable cutting deck to change the length of the cut or to avoid uneven ground that may strike the blades at a lower height setting. The mower reaches a maximum speed of 7.5 MPH in forward and 3.5 MPH in reverse and also features headlights and a cup holder.
If you’ll be using your zero turn mower for mowing large yards on a regular basis, then this gas-powered commercial zero turn mower is a logical choice. It is designed for yards that range from 2 to 4 acres in size and features a 3-gallon fuel tank so you won’t have to worry about running out of gas before the job is done.
Three powerful, adjustable cutting blades are safely stored under the 10-gauge steel 50-inch wide cutting deck to increase or decrease the length of the cut. The mower reaches speeds of up to 7 MPH in forward and 3 MPH in reverse and weighs 694 pounds. It also features a twin-cylinder 24.5 HP engine, a comfortable high-backed seat, and padded armrests.
This commercial zero turn mower is an excellent option for mowing on rough, uneven, or hilly terrain since the deep treads on the air-filled pneumatic tires allow it to grip the ground with ease. The large 11-gauge steel 54-inch adjustable cutting deck and three powerful cutting blades make this mower appropriate for multiple yards or properties that are over 4 acres in size.
The gas-powered zero turn mower offers a modest 2.1-gallon fuel tank and a smooth-running twin-cylinder engine with a 25 HP power output. A cup holder, padded armrests, and firm padded seat for added comfort round out the features. It provides a maximum forward speed of 7 MPH and a maximum reverse speed of 3.5 MPH, despite weighing a heavy 624.5 pounds.
The Advantages of Owning a Zero Turn Mower
One of the biggest advantages of a zero turn mower—and the feature that sets it apart from any other riding mower—is its ability to turn in a zero-degree radius so you don’t miss patches of grass or become stuck in tight areas as you mow. This tight turning radius combined with a fast operating speed lets you mow at a much quicker pace when you use a zero turn mower as opposed to a push mower or even a lawn tractor.
Another advantage of a zero turn mower is that every model is designed with a power-steering system so you won’t have to struggle with a manual steering wheel to maneuver the mower. A zero turn mower also typically offers a high-backed seat that lets you drive in comfort, and some products even feature ergonomically-designed lap bars, a spring-assist deck lift, and a rubber floor mat, all intended to improve your mowing experience.
- Zero turn mowers offer much better maneuverability than other ride-on mowers.
- You can mow your lawn much faster with a zero turn mower than a push mower or lawn tractor.
- The power-steering system and high-backed seat of a zero turn mower make it comfortable and easy to use.
FAQs About Your New Zero Turn Mower
Before investing in a new zero turn mower, take a look at these frequently asked questions and their answers.
Q. What are zero turn mowers?
Zero turn mowers are riding lawn mowers that you can turn in a zero-degree radius using hydraulic speed control of the individual drive wheels, instead of having both wheels powered to the same level by a combined control. This allows you to accelerate one drive wheel, while the other remains unmoved, so only one side of the mower turns, allowing you to fully turn the mower within its own footprint.
Q. Are zero turn mowers better than lawn tractors?
Both zero turn mowers and lawn tractors have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the situation. Zero turn mowers are intended for medium to extra large yards that have a lot of curves but not many inclines. They operate at a faster speed, but the controls may take some time to master, while lawn tractors have controls similar to a car, so they are relatively easy to learn. Lawn tractors can’t make the same sharp turns, but they are better for inclines. Both zero turn mowers and lawn tractors risk tipping over if you use them on inclines greater than 15 degrees.
Q. How do you steer a zero turn mower?
You steer a zero turn mower by moving the control levers. Both levers straight ahead will make you move forward in a straight line. If you pull one lever back slightly, it will decrease the power to that wheel, while the other side of the mower retains its power. This difference in power output causes the mower to turn. For a zero-degree turn, only use one lever to move. This will result in only one side of the mower being powered, while the other side turns in place so the mower can fully rotate within its own footprint.
Q. Do zero turn mowers have a brake?
Most zero turn mowers don’t have a traditional foot-pedal brake, but they do have lever controls that increase or decrease the acceleration of the mower. They also typically come equipped with a parking or emergency brake.
Q. Do zero turn mowers work on slopes?
Zero turn mowers can work on slopes, though they are better for handling curves. Lawn tractors are best suited to slopes; however, both types can tip over if they are on an incline over 15 degrees.
Q. How do you maintain a zero turn mower?
To maintain a zero turn mower, you must consistently follow these maintenance procedures:
- Regularly check and replace the oil, spark plugs, and air filter to ensure they all continue working effectively.
- Clean the mower deck after each use to prevent dirt, grass, and other debris from building up. If you don’t regularly clean moisture from the deck caused by built-up grass clippings, it can cause significant damage to the deck and blades. Cleaning the mower deck also provides a much smoother cut.
- Have your mower blades sharpened two to three times a year, depending on the frequency with which you mow.
- Check the tires before every use to ensure they are all at the same air pressure and height.
- Store your zero turn mower in an enclosed space, like a shed or garage, so it isn’t exposed to rain, snow, or even extreme sunlight for an extended period.