Are you moving into a new house on a hillside and don’t want to deal with hauling your push lawn mower all the way up and down your property? If so you’re probably concerned about safety with a riding mower — wanting something that won’t tip while navigating the pitch of your lawn.
In this article we’ll compare two great riding mower options — zero turn vs lawn tractor to help you make the best choice for your property.
We’ll explain the key differences between zero turn mowers and lawn tractors, discuss the pros and cons of each type of mower, and make a recommendation based on these factors.
Let’s get started!
What is a Zero Turn Lawn Mower?
When considering which type of riding lawn mower is best for your property property, you may want to look at a zero turn mower.
A zero turn is just what it sounds like. It is a lawn mower tractor with a nearly zero turn radius.
It’s the preferred type of mower for landscaping and lawn care professionals. They are expensive, but they offer excellent performance, and if you own a large property it may be worth the investment.
Zero turn lawn mowers work through a series of hydraulic controls which are available on the handles you use to pilot the mower.
This allows you to spin around without losing your place on your lawn completely.
Zero turn lawn mowers generally make your lawn work go faster, but they can be more expensive than a lawn tractor.
What is a Riding Lawn Tractor?
A lawn tractor, like the zero turn lawn mower, is a riding mower that will help to cut your yard work time in half. Named after its appearance, a lawn tractor looks similar to a full-size tractor, but it’s the right size to fit easily in your garden shed or garage.
Unlike the zero turn lawn mower, the lawn tractor has a larger turning radius, similar to what you might be used to with your car. This means that you’ll have to circle back to ensure all of your lawn is cut.
A lawn tractor will typically be less efficient at mowing your property than a zero turn mower, as you may have to take extra passes and you can’t zip around trees and gardens with quite the same ease.
With that said, a lawn tractor offers some advantages for those living in northern climates, as it’s easy to swap out the mower for a snowblower during the snowy months.
Lawn tractors also tend to be less expensive than zero turn mowers.
Comparison: Lawn Tractor vs Zero Turn Mower
Now that you know a little bit about each type of riding mower, lets compare the two in a variety of different categories:
Because it has superior maneuvarability, the zero turn lawn mower comes out on top when it comes to speed. Zero turn mowers can make short work of any lawn … whether your yard is wide open without obstructions, or has many trees, gardens, and landscaping features.
While a lawn tractor is faster to maneuver than a push or walk-behind mower, its inferior turning radius makes it less precise than mowing with a zero turn mower.
Not only does the improved radius of the zero turn mower play a role here, but zero turn mowers also offer superior visibility. The engine is below your seat, which allows you a clear view of the terrain in front of your machine.
If you’re on a budget, you can usually get the best bang for your buck with a lawn tractor. Your local hardware store or big box store will likely have a number of lawn tractors to choose from in your price range, and you can also order these machines online with free shipping if you’re so inclined.
I recommend you consider the size of your yard and how much storage space you have available for your mower before making a purchase. The cheapest lawn tractor won’t last as long as a more expensive model with a superior engine.
Read some reviews online to choose the right model for your property.
Performance on Hillsides
Hills are an obstacle that poses a challenge to many types of lawn mowers, and if you have a hilly property to mow, then it’s important to consider several factors before you choose between a lawn tractor and zero turn mower.
- Grade of the Hill – If the hills on your property are not steep and you have the budget for it, I definitely recommend the zero turn lawn mower. It is quick and effective, and you’ll look like a pro driving it. With that said, if you have steep grades on your property, I feel a lawn tractor will be safer, especially if you buy one with a roll bar (just in case).
- Safety – Because of the lab bar on the zero turn mower, the lawn tractor is a lot safer to use on steep hills in my opinion.
Special Considerations When Using a Riding Lawn Mower on Hillsides
If your property has hills where the drop is one foot or more every three feet of hillside then you probably should consider alternatives to a mower.
Tipping on a riding lawn mower when mowing on a hillside is a very real concern and even if you’ve mowed your hilly property a hundred times, all it takes is one tip to cause catastrophic injury.
It’s just not worth the risk on steep grades.
Alternatives to a Zero Turn or Lawn Tractor for Properties with Steep Hills
There are many options that homeowners have when they live on a property with a steep hill.
- Use a Push Mower – Steep hills are a pain to mow with a push mower, but if you get a powerful self-drive walk behind mower, you can do it without too much exertion, and it’s much safer than a riding mower.
- Build a Terraced Garden – If you have a green thumb, consider building a terraced garden on your hillside. You’ll be able to grow beautiful flowers and edibles here, and offer more variety to bees and butterflies than a grassy yard ever could.
- Use a String Trimmer – If your steep slope isn’t that big, you can use a string trimmer to keep your hillside neat and tidy.
- Invest in a Slope Mower – If you have a large property with many steep hillsides and you’re determined to have those hillsides be maintained as lawn, there are several different varieties of piloted or remote-controlled slope mowers that are up to the challenge and which are safe to use on steep grades.
- Buy a Robotic Lawn Mower – These innovative machines come with a docking station where they charge up and you can program them to mow your lawn or just your steep hillsides on a certain schedule. They work like a Roomba robotic vacuum would in your home, and they are surprisingly affordable. Here are the models I recommend.
Zero Turn vs Lawn Tractor: Which Should You Choose?
As long as your hillsides are of a modest pitch, either a zero turn mower or lawn tractor can work for your property.
My preference is a zero turn mower, which is fun to drive and a great investment if you have a large property as it will cut your mowing time significantly and make it easy to navigate around trees, garden beds, and other obstacles.
In northern climates, I typically recommend a lawn tractor because you can purchase a snow-blowing attachment to use with your lawn and garden tractor in the winter, making it a year-round piece of equipment for your property, and a better investment.
I hope this article has helped you when comparing zero turn vs lawn tractor. Let me know in the comments which type of riding mower you chose and why!