Does Craftsman’s New Electric Riding Lawn Mower Outperform My Gas Lawn Tractor?
With a rock-solid reputation built from generations of gas-powered equipment, the brand’s latest electric riding mower is breaking new ground.
Buying a new riding lawn mower has always come with a certain amount of homework. Before settling on a specific model, you first need to navigate the various types: rear engine, lawn tractor, or zero turn. Then, there’s figuring out the appropriate size and whether gas or electric power suits your needs. To further complicate the shopping process, both the capability and pricing of battery-powered riding lawn mowers have improved dramatically.
We’ve reached the point where legacy gas lawn mower brands like Craftsman are increasingly influenced by the successes of battery-powered lawn mower companies like Ego Power+, Greenworks, and Ryobi. But can the old-timer shift gears and replicate the success that the newcomers have experienced? I recently tested the new Craftsman 56V 42-inch electric riding lawn mower to find out.
Using an electric riding lawn mower is a great way to reduce noise and exhaust emissions. In that regard, the Craftsman 56V 42-inch model produces less of both. And thanks to several key design and performance details, it rises above the competition in terms of maneuverability, operator comfort, overall versatility, and the acreage it can mow per charge.
While this mower is not quite perfect, it could be your best option if you are looking for a battery-powered riding lawn mower that works at least as well as its gas equivalent. Ahead, find out the high and low points I experienced while testing this Craftsman battery riding mower.
Craftsman 56V 42-Inch Battery Riding Mower: At a Glance
- Mower type: Lawn tractor
- Weight: 420 pounds
- Battery: Built-in 56-volt (V) 60 amp-hour (Ah) lithium-ion battery
- Charger: 56V MAX lithium-ion charger
- Charge time: 4.5 hours
- Runtime: 1.75 hours
- Motor type: Brushless
- Deck width: 42 inches
- Number of blades: 2
- Deck height range: 12 positions; 1.25 inches to 4 inches
- Blade speed: 3,200 revolutions per minute (rpm)
- Max forward speed: 6 miles per hour (mph)
- Max reverse speed: 3 mph
- Familiar feel with travel controls identical to gas-powered hydrostatic riding mowers
- High vantage point and sloped hood improves the operator’s vision
- 42-inch cutting deck and TurnTight steering give the mower excellent maneuverability
- Runtime and speed allow up to 3.5 acres of mowing per charge
- Mulching and bagging capable (even though accessories are sold separately)
- Highback seat is well padded, ventilated, supportive, and comfortable
- Shallow deck does not create as much suction to pull grass blades upright
- Not suitable for steep hills or severely overgrown areas
- Seat-mount system was extra bouncy with no shock absorber and felt a bit wobbly
- It takes time to become familiar with the forward and reverse pedal sensitivity
- Quieter operation than comparable gas riding mowers and produces zero emissions while mowing
Get the Craftsman 56V battery riding mower at:
What is the Craftsman battery riding lawn mower?
In keeping with the trend toward battery-powered lawn equipment, Craftsman introduced a new line of American-made 56V electric riding lawn mowers for the 2023 season. The new lineup includes a compact 30-inch electric riding mower, a 42-inch electric lawn tractor, and a 42-inch electric zero-turn mower, assembled in Ohio and Tennessee.
I tested the lawn tractor. Three brushless motors—one for the drive wheels and two for the blades—are powered by a built-in 56V 60Ah rechargeable lithium-ion battery. In my tests, it charged in 4.5 hours and delivered approximately 1.75 hours of runtime per charge. The 42-inch mowing deck features two universal blades capable of side discharge, mulching, or bagging (mulch kit and bagger sold separately).
With a maximum forward speed of 6 mph, this machine is capable of mowing about 3.5 acres of grass per charge. It also features the patented TurnTight 5-inch radius steering system. Other standout features include bright LED headlights, soft-touch steering wheel, premium cut-and-sewn high-back seat, lighted battery-life indicator, and onboard rapid charging system.
How do you get started with the Craftsman electric riding mower?
Although the battery arrived partially charged, I wanted to begin the test with a full charge. The battery is not removable for remote charging, so I had to park the mower fairly close to a power outlet. The rapid charger plugs into the wall outlet on one end and into the mower on the other for a 10-foot reach.
Because of the fixed battery, users need to be aware that lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to heat and cold. Storage temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit degrade the lifespan of these batteries, and operating temperatures below freezing reduce the working capacity until the temperature warms. A climate-controlled garage is the best place to keep this mower during temperature extremes.
I tested the mower on two adjoining properties:
- A three-quarter-acre lot with a gated backyard and numerous landscape beds and other obstacles that reduce the total grass area to about half an acre
- A full acre of grass with no obstacles other than undulating terrain
On a single charge, I was able to mow both of the properties twice—about 3 acres of grass total—before the battery was depleted. It took about 4.5 hours to recharge.
Is the Craftsman electric riding lawn mower easy to use?
To anyone accustomed to a gas-powered riding mower, the first thing that will stand out is the quiet drive motor. When the blades were not engaged, this mower drove almost silently. Even when the blades were running, this battery-powered riding lawn mower operated much more quietly than a gas-powered riding mower. Craftsman states that its tests showed it to be 80 percent quieter than one of its own gas models, which seems about right to me.
The electronic controls were clear and easy to use. A safety key unlocks the system when the operator is seated. Insert the key with the brake pedal depressed. Then press and hold the start button to start. The system beeps twice to signal that it is awake, and the screen lights up to display the battery charge level. At this point there is zero sound, but the mower is ready to drive or mow.
Operating the mower felt very familiar—nearly identical to the gas-powered hydrostatic riding lawn tractors I’ve used. The brake pedal was on the left, with an emergency brake lock lever on the console below the steering wheel, and the forward and reverse pedals were on the right. The pedals are pressure-sensitive press and go: The harder you press, the faster you go. The mower is equipped with a cruise control system to maintain a set pace with less operator fatigue. There were no gears to operate and no high/low power range to manage. Two buttons below the display screen control the LED headlights and the power take-off (to engage the mower blades).
Is the Craftsman electric riding lawn mower comfortable to operate?
The Craftsman 56V electric riding lawn mower seat was super comfortable—a tier above the molded foam and vinyl seat on the 10-year-old lawn tractor I still use at home. It was well cushioned with a soft fabric cover and good ventilation. Visibility was really good all around thanks to the downward slope of the hood. The seat mount was almost too springy, though. Riding across bumpy ground delivered some serious bounce. It would have been nice if a shock absorber was paired with the dual coil springs.
Craftsman’s TurnTight steering system was a nice added feature that stood out in comparison to other lawn tractors. The patented design allows the front wheels to make sharper turns without bumping into the mower deck or frame. But that’s not all. I’ve used plenty of lawn tractors with regular steering systems that do not grip the ground when the steering wheel is fully turned, causing the front end to drift sloppily around the corner. I really appreciated that the Craftsman system actually gripped those tight turns instead of sliding across the ground.
How well does the Craftsman 56V electric riding lawn mower cut grass?
The stamped steel mower deck of the Craftsman 56V electric riding lawn mower was easily adjustable with a hand lever on the right side of the operator’s seat. Although 12 positions appeared on the lock-in height selector, the lever wouldn’t reach the highest or lowest position on the machine I tested. This was probably something that could be adjusted in the deck-mounting system, but I didn’t need either of those positions for the test. As it was, I mowed on 2.5 for a nice tight finish on Bermuda grass and raised it to 10 for the field of tall fescue.
The mower performed best when cutting less than 2 inches of foliage off the grass, regardless of the starting height. It’s not a very deep deck at about 4 inches, so it doesn’t generate a lot of suction to pull tall grass blades upright. When I tried to remove more than 2 inches of the existing height, whether cutting 6-inch grass down to 4 inches or 3.5-inch grass down to 1.5 inches, the finish became increasingly ragged, requiring a second “cleanup” pass.
The 3,200-rpm blade speed is about average for lawn tractors. In my assessment, this mower is a great choice for routine lawn maintenance and occasional cleanup but definitely not for heavy-duty field cutting.
Is the Craftsman 56V 42-inch battery-powered riding lawn mower worth the money?
After testing the Craftsman 56V electric riding lawn mower in my yard, I compared the riding mower to similar battery-powered lawn tractors by Ryobi, Troy-Bilt, and Cub Cadet. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to test the competition, my comparison is based solely on the manufacturer specs.
All of these battery-powered riding lawn mowers are priced within $200 of each other, so the price should be considered fair as long as the specs are similar. In the cases of Troy-Bilt and Cub Cadet, the specs are essentially identical to the Craftsman mower. Furthermore, all three are manufactured by MTD for their respective brands. The Ryobi electric riding lawn mower, the most expensive of the group, offers slightly less mowing power and shorter runtime than the others.
With all of this in mind, I consider the Craftsman model to be a fair value. It will set you back about $1,500 more than a comparable gas-powered riding lawn mower, but much of that price difference will be returned over its working life by eliminating gasoline, oil changes, and other aspects of gas engine maintenance.
Is the Craftsman battery-powered riding lawn mower right for you?
The Craftsman battery-powered riding mower is a great choice for maintaining 1 to 4 acres of lawn. The ride is quiet and comfortable, it’s easy to operate, and it produces plenty of mowing power. It can even tow a cart or spreader. But it may not be the best riding mower for every shopper.
Those who need a heavy-duty riding mower to cut down high grass and weeds in an overgrown field will find that this one lacks the deep mower deck and powerful airflow needed for an efficient cut. Also, the built-in lithium-ion battery presents some limitations outside its optimal temperature range. This is not a mower you’ll want to rely on for snow removal, and the battery’s longevity may be compromised by the long-term effects of extreme heat.
Even with those caveats, the Craftsman 56V electric riding lawn mower is a really good mower. For regular mowing without the noise, exhaust, and other hassles associated with gas engine maintenance, most users won’t be disappointed.
Where to Buy the Craftsman 56V Brushless Battery Riding Mower
Get the Craftsman 56V battery riding mower at:
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industries. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn care products, and other outdoor living goods.