A Guide to Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers

A Guide to Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers

Zero-turn lawn mowers are a type of ride-on lawn mower designed for precision manoeuvrability.  

They’re typically larger, more powerful and faster than other types of mowers, and are well-suited for use on large lawns where a clean, professional-looking finish is desired. 

In this article, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of zero-turn mowers, the features to look out for and highlighted some important considerations when shopping for a new mower.

What are zero-turn lawn mowers?

zero turn lawn mowerZero-turn mowers have a rear-mounted engine and are directed using levers instead of a steering wheel. 

They’re able to make very tight turns, even with a large cutting deck, which can be a boon when you’re in a hurry and dodging obstacles such as trees and garden beds. 

Many zero-turn mowers also have a cutting width of 100cm or more, and a top speed higher than other types of ride-on mowers, which means you can mow your lawn more quickly and efficiently.  

In common with all ride-on mowers, zero-turn mowers typically have more powerful engines than push mowers, making it easier for them to cut through thick and overgrown grass.

Another advantage is their comfort and convenience. Most models are designed with the user’s comfort in mind, with features such as padded seats, adjustable cutting heights, and detachable grass clipping bags.  

However, zero-turn mowers also have some drawbacks.  

It can take a lot of practice to learn how to drive a zero-turn mower and models with caster wheels on the front can be less stable because the wheels don’t grip the ground. 

Another disadvantage is their size and weight. These mowers are larger and heavier than other types of mowers, making them difficult to manoeuvre and store if space is limited.  

Zero-turn mowers are also typically more expensive than other types of ride-on mowers, which can be a significant barrier when you’re on a budget. 

Ultimately, the decision to use a zero-turn mower will depend on your individual lawn care needs and preferences. 

If you’re not sure a zero-turn mower is what you need, take a look at our complete Lawn Mower Buyers Guide 

Things you’ll need to consider: 

  • Lawn size – Zero-turn mowers have a rear mounted engine and levers rather than a steering wheel that can go faster and deliver a very tight turning circle, but are the most expensive of all the ride-ons.  

Lawn and garden ride-on mowers have the engine at the front and throw clippings out the side. They’re ideal for lawns that are more than 4000 square metres in size.  

Rear engine mowers are usually basic and cheaper, with a smaller chassis and cutting width. This makes them suited to smaller lawns. 

  • Terrain – Ride-on mowers are best suited to a lawn that is flat or gently undulating. Zero-turn mowers are typically safer for use on hills and there are some all-wheel drive models available, but these can be very expensive. If you have a small steep area, it might be worth using a self-propelled rotary mower on that section, keeping the ride-on for larger, flatter areas to reduce the risk of injury if the heavier machine overturns. 

Choosing the best zero-turn mower features

Voltage: Electric zero-turn lawn mowers with higher voltage batteries allow the motor to run longer and cut more grass at a time. Lithium-ion batteries generally hold a charge for longer than rechargeable lead-acid batteries, but lead-acid batteries are considered more resistant to corrosion. With regular maintenance, a battery can last for three to five years. 

Engine torque measures: Torque is the amount of power produced by the lawn mower engine. More powerful engines can handle thicker grass and uneven terrain with ease, but are louder and more expensive to operate. 

Cutting width: The cutting width of a lawn mower refers to the width of grass the mower can cut with each pass. A wider cutting width means you’ll be able to cover more ground in less time, but these mowers will be more expensive and heavier. Consider the size of your lawn and your budget when choosing a cutting width. 

Safety: If you’ll be using a zero-turn lawn mower on sloping ground where there’s a risk of the machine slipping or overturning, check its gradient rating and think about adding an optional roll bar to protect yourself or whoever will be driving it. 

Other important considerations: Consider the warranty offered by the manufacturer. A longer warranty period can give you peace of mind and protect your investment in case something goes wrong with the mower.

Lawn clippings 

Most mowers can be fitted with a catcher that collects lawn clippings to make it easier to put them in a compost bin or trailer for disposal at the dump. 

Catchers and bags can be fitted to the side or rear of your mower, but rear mounted catchers are easier to manoeuvre around obstacles in the yard. 

If you prefer to leave your clippings on the lawn, look for a mulching mower, which has blades that cut the grass into very small pieces before spitting it back out. This is best used on finer grasses, such as Zoysia or Couch. 

Not sure whether to leave grass clippings on your lawn? Read this article 

General mowing guidelines and tips

Whatever type of mower you choose, ensure it performs at its best by following the manufacturer’s operating instructions. 

Always wear protective boots and safety glasses when mowing and never touch the blades or engine parts while a mower is running. 

Regular maintenance will ensure your mower lasts longer and keeps your lawn looking amazing. 

You can read our guide to lawn mower maintenance and troubleshooting here. 

Mowing heights 

The general rule of thumb for mowing your lawn is to cut only one third of the leaf each time, and adjust cutting height to the seasons. 

During summer, when your lawn will be growing at its fastest, you can cut a little closer to the ground. Try to avoid scalping which puts your lawn under stress and can make it prone to disease, weed or pest outbreaks. 

In winter, your lawn should be allowed to grow a little taller to provide insulation against the cold for the roots. 

Optimum height and mowing intervals differ between grass types and whether they’re exposed to sun or shade. There’s a guide to the best mowing heights for Buffalo, Zoysia, Kikuyu and Couch lawns here. 

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