Riding Mowers and Lawn Tractors: What is the Difference?

Man on riding mower

Do you need a riding mower or a lawn tractor? You need to know the difference first before you can determine what you need for your lawn or yard.

Read on to find out the difference between riding mowers and lawn tractors.


Similarities


Riding mowers and lawn tractors are the same in the sense that they are kinds of lawn mowers that have the person riding on them rather than pushing them.

This revolutionary idea is a vertical food garden that lets you convert those unwanted kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer you can feed back into your garden.

The riding mower sounds like something that is for the lawn or backyard while a tractor seems like something you see in farms.

Look

Both of these are kinds of mowers that would be ideal for large fields. This would make your mowing job easier and faster.

Large means at least half an acre to more than one–sometimes maybe even two.

That’s right

Using a push mower for a field with the size of half an acre would be too taxing already. It may even take you an hour to finish.

But

With the riding mower or lawn tractor, such a job could be done in around 30 minutes–give or take.

Understandably

The riding mowers and lawn tractors are more expensive than push mowers.

Of course, the makeup and the engineering behind riding mowers and lawn tractors are also more sophisticated. They are also more powerful than regular lawn mowers.

Man on Toro mower

Riding Mowers vs Lawn Tractors


The main difference between the riding mower and lawn tractor is the location of the cutting deck.

With riding lawn mowers, the cutting deck is under the front of the vehicle. On the other hand, the lawn tractor has a mid-mounted cutting deck.

So

This difference in the location of the cutting deck also provides an advantage.

On the part of the riding mower, for example, the cutting deck being in front of the vehicle makes it a better device in terms of maneuverability.

Let me expound

If a lawn has more shrubs or is dotted with trees, maneuverability becomes an issue.

But

Generally, lawn tractors are more powerful than riding mowers. There was even a blog that described a lawn tractor as a riding mower on steroids.

An even more powerful and bulkier vehicle-mower is the garden tractor. Of course, the more powerful the machine, the more expensive it is.

Hence

A lawn tractor is largely more expensive than the riding mower, and the garden mower is more expensive than a lawn tractor.

The garden mower is capable of mowing a field that is over five hectares. It is also a preferred machinery for commercial use.

This means

If you have a lawn that is over an acre in size, the riding mower is great. But for more than that, the lawn tractor would be better.

For even larger areas, then you will need the garden tractor.

Ryobi riding mower

Battery vs Gas


There are two kinds of riding lawn mowers: battery-powered and gas-powered. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start!

Battery-powered mowers are quieter and environmentally friendly.

There was a time when they were considered inferior to their gas-powered counterpart.

Not anymore

After much innovation, battery-powered mowers now cut grass just as well as the more popular gas-powered ones.

However

The downside has always been its run time. No matter how long you charge the battery, they will never last as long as the gas-powered mower.

Having said that, the battery-run mower will only be good for smaller lawns.

Although

You can always have another battery with you and just change it when the other one has drained. But that’s just too much of a hassle, right?

You should know

Electric mowers are actually quite easy to operate. You mostly just press a button and it will run.

Even your 12-year-old child can operate this machinery–not that it is advisable at all!

Savings

You can save on tuneups and change-oil on this particular device, too.

While this type of riding lawn mower is also pricier, you will be able to recoup the amount in no time since you don’t need to buy gas regularly.

Meanwhile

The gas-powered mowers have been tried and tested with time. It was popular decades ago and continues to be so.

It is still dependable and can last for quite some time–depending on the gas you have in your tank.

Power

There is also more power in the gas so that you won’t have trouble moving through bumpy grounds or even through a slightly uphill yard. 

Be warned

The gas-powered riding lawn mower is really noisy. You might need ear protection if you operate this machinery.

Also, because it uses fuel, you are going to have some carbon footprint.

Not only that

You need to change the oil of the vehicle as well as send it for regular tuneups. The mower should be properly maintained so it can work well.

Listen:

If you have a yard that is difficult to mow–if it is dotted with trees with some tight spaces, you definitely need a zero-turn mower.

You just press a lever and the mower will turn in place. A zero-turn mower is also quite fast.

Top view of Cub Cadet

When to Buy a Riding Lawn Mower


If you just want a simple cut for your home lawn or backyard, a riding lawn mower will do. The size of the machine is smaller, which makes it more convenient.

It won’t take up a lot of space in the shed or wherever you plan to store the mower when not in use.

Frankly

Even if the lawn tractor is more powerful than the riding lawn mower, when it comes to suburban use, the latter is just right.

It’s easy to operate.

This means

Anybody in the household could easily maneuver the mower.

You may even attach a small wagon onto the riding mower.

But

Any other accessory that’s bigger than a small wagon may not be applicable. But you wouldn’t need anything more than that if you just need to cut the grass on your lawn.

Lawn

When to Buy a Lawn Tractor


If you have a lawn that is more than an acre or around two acres, the lawn tractor would be a better option.

A lawn tractor can cut grass as well as tow light trails. If you really want tool attachments, check out the lawn tractor with hydrostatic transmission.

What it can do

The average lawn tractor has the capability to mow 42- to 48-inch wide in every pass. Still, the bigger and more expensive ones have wider capacity. 

It can also bag and mulch.

Steering

Lawn tractors use a steering wheel just like a car. So if you know how to drive, this is very easy to maneuver for you.

Unfortunately

Lawn tractors have wider turning radius.

John Deere riding mower

Summary


There is not a lot of difference between riding mowers and lawn tractors. However, there is a difference among riding mowers since they could be battery- or gas-powered.

So when you are shopping for a mower for your yard that is at least half an acre or more, you really ought to try different kinds–whether it is a riding mower or lawn tractor. Find something that is comfortable for you and easy for you to handle.

If your yard has trees and flower beds, then you will need a zero-turn mower. If you need heavy-duty attachments, then you will need a garden tractor.


Frequently Asked Questions


At what height should you mow your lawn?
This is actually dependent on your preference and on the season of the year.

If it’s spring, the grass should be really short. If it’s summer, you want the grass to be longer because it can help with the heat. Lawns can actually help keep the air temperature cooler.

Do you need to scalp your lawn?
As long as your lawn is healthy, you don’t really need to scalp it. Scalping is a lot of work. It is usually done after winter so you could scrape off winter debris on your lawn.

This way, your soil will be exposed to direct sunlight. But if it’s summer or spring, there is actually no need to do some scalping because it would just reduce the amount of nutrients the root of your grass will receive.

How often should you mow the lawn?
The normal rule of thumb is weekly. However, grass always grows faster during the summer, so you might have to do some mowing before the week is up.

During the colder months, you might not need to mow until two weeks later.


You Might Also Like


A riding mower that has a 60-inch cutting deck? Awesome, right? Check out my review of the Toro TimeCutter riding mower.

Check out my more extensive list of the best riding lawn mowers.

If you have a small yard, perhaps a push lawn mower is just right for you. Here is our list of the best push mowers this year.


Useful Resources

  • How to Find the Right Mower for You – Pasadena Now
  • Best Ride-On Lawn Mower 2020: Mini Tractors Built for Levelling Larger Lawns – T3
  • 14 Mowing Mistakes Everyone Makes – BobVila.com
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