If you’ve got an ample lawn and a meticulous mind, you’ve probably been locked in a battle with Mother Nature for some time. The seasons come and go, but there’s always work to be done if you want to maintain that lush, green grass. In large spaces, regular mowing can be a real chore, but searching for the best zero turn mower could be a solution.
While there’s some debate about exactly who invented the ‘z turn’ mower, it has been popular with homeowners for many years. This is because it essentially rotates on a dime. It spins and turns without its own footprint so that no grass is left uncut even when the machine is maneuvering around obstacles or changing direction.
The result is a much faster, much more accurate cutting process. The innovative pivot technology means that there is no need for repeat trips across the grass to pick up leftover patches. It is an excellent way to mow vast areas such as sports pitches, parks, and private estates. However, it also comes in handy for speeding up maintenance on regular lawns.
It is common for zero turn mowers to come without steering wheels. Instead, they have a series of levers which are used to control two motors. Each of the motors is connected to a rear wheel. Pushing both levers causes the machine to drive forward while bringing them back is the fastest way to reverse. Speed is determined by how far the levers are pushed.
If you’ve never experimented with ‘z turn’ devices before, it’ll take a little time to get used to the way they move. Master the controls, however, and you’ll be able to cut your mowing time in half. These machines are remarkably agile. They turn round corners better than any other type of grass mower and leave lawns looking clean and vibrant.
We know that anything which makes your life easier is worth a second look, so today we’re trying to find the best zero turn mower of 2020. Take a look at our list of the finest products on the market and pick one which suits your lawn.
|Product Name||Deck Size||Engine Size|
Our Top Pick
Best Value Mower
|Ariens Zoom 34|
Best Budget Option
|Poulan Pro||54 inch||24hp|
|Troy-Bilt Mustang||46 inch||24hp|
|Swisher ZTR2454KA||54 inch||24hp|
|Z-Beast 48ZB||48 inch||20hp|
|McCulloch ROB 1000|
Best Automated Zero Turn Mower
|Troy-Bilt 725cc||54 inch||25hp|
1. Troy-Bilt XP – Best Overall
No search for the best zero turn mower of 2020 would be complete without an entry from leading brand Troy-Bilt. The company has been creating heavy duty cutting and plowing equipment since 1937. If you’re looking for the best commercial zero turn mower of 2020, check out the Troy-Bilt XP FAB Deck Mower. It’s a beautiful piece of machinery and comes packed with features. This mower has been precision engineered for commercial applications, though there’s no reason (apart from the price) why it couldn’t be used on private land too.
While the Briggs and Stratton engine is not unique to Troy Bilt mowers, many would argue that they make the best use of them. These motors are true workhorses. They can withstand the most demanding of conditions, particularly when built for heavy use. The 25hp engine in the Troy-Bilt XP FAB Deck is kitted out with a sophisticated debris management system.
When coupled with its dust and particle filters, there’s no type of grass it cannot tame. Plus, with a smooth hydrostatic transmission, the ride is always smooth, even on bumpy ground. In fact, there are two separate transmissions, working together to move the rear wheels independent of one another. This is while the front casters rotate to make zero radius turns.
We like that Troy-Bilt has thought about the comfort of the driver too. Whether you’re mowing for thirty minutes or ninety, rough terrain makes for a tiring ride. The product has an extended frame for extra leg room and an adjustable lap bar. This lap bar is actually an important part of the safety mechanisms. It needs to be fully activated for the mower to start.
2. Husavarna Z254 – Best Value Option
Not only does the Husqvarna come with a beastly Briggs and Stratton engine, but it also has a very clever induction system. This is quite unique because it draws air in from the top and bottom sides of the cutting deck simultaneously. The result is increased grass lift and a much smoother, sharper shear. For ease of handling, the deck is actually spring loaded.
You can reach it when sat down on the mower, so you don’t have to get up to adjust the settings. We were instantly enamored with the quality of this machine. It is very sturdy, without being too heavy or cumbersome to move. The reinforced frame is guaranteed to last, even under heavy pressure from the elements.
We did find the Husqvarna Zero Turn Mower to be a real frustration fresh out of the box. It is a complex device and, if you don’t have any experience with motorized lawn mowers, we suggest seeking some help. Once it’s assembled though, it’s worth all the tinkering. The 46’’ cutting deck is more than ample, and it allows this mower to tear through large gardens.
Despite its bulk and speed, it is quite a gentle piece of technology. You can run it hard, and it won’t leave cutting marks or blemishes on your lawn. Plus, the cooling fans ensure that none of the internal mechanisms get hot enough to risk a blowout. Though it’s a tricky thing to get started, it pretty much takes care of itself and requires only minimal maintenance.
3. Ariens Zoom 34– Best Budget Option
The Ariens Zoom 34’’ Zero Turn Mower caught our attention because it’s quite popular with serious gardeners. However, it also has its fair share of detractors, so we thought we’d try and get to the bottom of whether or not it’s a good purchase. Right away, we noticed that it’s a bigger hit with homeowners. It is widely touted as the best residential zero turn mower.
This is because it performs beautifully in moderately sized spaces. If your lawn is relatively flat and not much larger than a half-acre, you’ll have everything you need. It isn’t great on slopes, and it has a fairly small turn radius, but it excels in the right conditions. The adjustable height deck was easily our favorite feature. It can be raised or lowered with a pedal.
When you want to take the mower over stubborn obstacles, like tree roots, you just step on the pedal and adjust its height. There are seven height settings, so you’ll be hard pressed to find an obstacle which the Ariens Zoom cannot tackle. It makes the fact that it struggles on slopes all the more curious.
The problem seems to relate to its compact size which is, ironically, one of its main strengths. If you’ve got a modest lawn and you don’t want to be hauling heavy equipment around, the Ariens is a handy compromise. It offers speed and power, but it isn’t weighed down by hefty wheels or a gas guzzling motor.
The Poulan Pro PPX46Z doesn’t come cheap, but there’s little doubt that you’re getting the best zero turn mower for the money. The unique selling point for this machine is its innovative EZT transmission system. It has advanced hydro gears, so the mower wheels rotate independently for incredibly smooth maneuvers. They make tackling obstacles as easy as gliding through butter. The ‘z turn’ technology is capable of providing the neatest cut even when rotating around trees and flower beds.
The only downside is that you’ve to accept a trade-off between power and efficiency. This is not, in any capacity, a low emission machine. It isn’t CARB compliant, and this could put some people off. On the other hand, if fuel economy is less of a priority, you’ll be glad to know that this doesn’t affect performance.
The Poulan Pro can manage 2.8 acres in just sixty minutes without breaking a sweat. So, it’s very fast and puts its power to good use. The tank is a bit larger than you might find on other models and it means that you’ll spend less time refilling. We managed to get a surprising amount of mowing sessions done before it ran dry.
The machine has a 46’’ deck, which translates to about 2.4 acres of mowing in just ninety minutes. Although, as the engine delivers an impressive 24hp, you’re probably looking at an even faster job than this. It does depend, of course, on how big the lawn is and how many turns you’ll be doing to reach it all.
We managed to finish the whole of the 2.4 acres on one gallon of fuel, so it is a surprisingly efficient mower considering its size and power. The little peephole on the side is handy for keeping an eye on how much is left. You don’t even have to unscrew the fuel cap. Plus, when Troy-Bilt tells you a mower is ‘zero turn,’ it’s a promise you can trust.
The Mustang 46’’ Zero Turn Mower has robust throttles which spin the frame on a zero radius and not a patch of grass is left unscathed. It did take us a while to master the maneuver – the front wheels have a tendency to rotate a tad faster – but it is close to perfect when you get it right. It’s a satisfying feeling too, so you may end up with a love for mowing yet.
The Swisher ZTR2454KA Response ZTR Mower is fast and powerful. It is built to go the distance and to get there at top speed. For this reason, it enters our list as a candidate for the best zero turn mower of 2020. While it can be used on residential land, you’d need quite a big lawn to allow the Swisher to stretch its wheels.
One of our favorite features was the little meter on the dash. This is a cautionary warning system which alerts the owner when the engine requires a bit of a tune up. It doesn’t happen often, but this isn’t the lowest maintenance mower we’ve found. If you don’t want to do any tinkering with the motor, you might be better off with a smaller, more compact product.
The tough Gator mulching blades make swift work of long grass. You can either collect these very fine cuttings once you’ve finished mowing or buy an attachment bag. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with bumpy terrain because a little pressure on the pedal lifts the height of the deck and allows it to skirt over hard obstacles.
We did notice a substantial downside to the Swisher ZTR Mower. While it has a monstrous eight-gallon tank, there’s a good reason for this. It eats through fuel at a gallop, and you will have to spend a fair amount on gas if you’re covering large areas. On the other hand, the tank doesn’t have to be full for the mower to perform at top speed, for short bursts.
7. Z-Beast 48ZB
The Z-Beat 48ZB lives up to its name, as it has a powerful 48’’ cutting deck and a sizeable 20hp engine. It is a Briggs and Stratton motor too, which is common to these machines. They produce some of the finest engines on the market for heavy duty mowing equipment. On this particular product, we liked the extra wide 20×8’’ wheels.
They handle bumpy terrain with barely an effort and the cutting deck is made out of stamped steel, so rough rides aren’t a problem. We have a soft spot for the mowers which come with cool safety features. After all, it’s easy to forget that zero turn devices are heavy duty. You do need a proper belt system and a roll bar, like the Z-Beat 48ZB, to shear in security.
Lifting the floating deck won’t affect it, as long as you wait until you’re on relatively level ground to make adjustments. The settings change quite slowly (in half inch increments), but it means that the entire mower stays steady while you make adjustments. The dual hydrostatic drive system ensures that handling is always smooth and satisfying.
8. McCulloch ROB 1000– Best Robotic Mower
Now, for something different. The McCulloch ROB 1000 Programmable Robotic Mower is, as stated, an automatic machine. You don’t ride it or control it while it’s cutting the grass. It is surprisingly small and looks more like an expensive cleaning device than a mower. However, we decided to give it a try after hearing that it boasts an impressive zero turn radius.
The first thing to know is that the McCulloch is fully programmable. You choose the settings, place it on the lawn, and it does the work unaided. It can work in daylight or after dark, and bad weather conditions do not affect it. It sounds too good to be true, right, especially if you’ve spent years dreading mowing season.
This little robot has a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It means that there are no harmful emissions and the McCulloch is easily one of the greenest mowers around. While it can only manage 0.25 acres of grass, per battery charge, it’s still hard not to be impressed. It does get a little annoying having to go out and swap the battery for much bigger lawns though.
We definitely recommend buying a spare battery (or two), so that you can switch them around and avoid delays. However, some other perks include a completely silent motor, a theft alarm, and an incline capability of around 25%. Our only gripe is that the obstacle demarcation system is a bit basic. You have to mark out the perimeter of your lawn with string before mowing.
The snappily named Troy-Bilt 17ARCBDW066 is a pretty hefty machine, though it offers a bit less power than some of its rivals. In our opinion, a degree of force has been traded off for precision, and most people are going to be happy with this. If you’re looking for a rough brute, however, this might not be the mower for you.
It comes with a synchro-steer system for fluid, uninterrupted turning. All four wheels can be controlled in an independent fashion, and this leads to faster, neater cutting. We particularly liked the variable seat as it means that anybody can operate the machine in comfort. The seat is actually high backed and slightly curved, so it kind of hugs the body and absorbs vibrations.
With this Troy-Bilt model, you actually get an impressive pivot deck for zero turn mowing and a steering wheel for ease of control. In fact, we’d recommend this product if you’re planning to buy your first ‘z turn’ mower. It can be tricky to get the hang of movement without a wheel, so opting for one with traditional controls is a good idea.
As with other Troy-Bilt products, the warranty is quite short, at just three years. It’s worth keeping this in mind. The machine is definitely built to last. It has greaseable caster wheels for an extended bearing life and a reinforced steel frame. We just don’t understand why the manufacturer isn’t willing to back up this durability with a longer guarantee.
Factors We Considered
We understand that helping you pick the best zero turn mower is about more than just a list of recommended products. After all, if you don’t know precisely what makes a mower great, you can’t shop with confidence. So, the next section will explore some of our key selection criteria and tell you which features are worth the money.
The strength and quality of the cutting deck are really important, as this is where the magic happens. If your deck breaks down, you won’t be able to use the machine, and you may even need to buy a replacement. Therefore, a strong, sturdy structure is essential. There are two main types of cutting deck found in commercial and residential mowers.
They are stamped and welded. While stamped decks are common to commercial machines, they are less rugged than welded systems. If you’re going to be riding over very rough terrain, you really do need something extra tough. In most cases though, a reinforced stamped deck made out of heavy duty steel is sufficient.
Almost everybody can benefit from an adjustable deck, which is why they have become such a common feature on ‘z turn’ mowers of all kinds. This feature allows the operator to pull a lever or push on a pedal and lift the cutting plate higher or lower off the ground. It is great for moving safely over rough terrain. For instance, if there are tricky tree roots, try a variable deck.
Obviously engine size correlates with the power and speed of a zero turn mower. In our experience, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the quality of the cutting itself. So, pay more for a bigger engine or a dual motor only if speed is a top priority. Keep in mind the fact that ‘z turn’ mowers are designed to be faster than standard mowers anyway.
In residential environments, a single cylinder engine is almost always powerful enough. It’s only really when you’re working with big pitches and estates that super boosted motors become valuable. Even so, twin cylinder OHV engines are appearing in more and more residential mowers. If you can pick up one for a reasonable price, your lawn will surely benefit.
Comfort and Control
Comfort can slip to the bottom of priorities, especially when you’re focused on getting the job done. Yet, in our opinion, it is one of the most pressing concerns. You could end up with the best zero turn mower of 2020, but it won’t be any use if you can’t bear to ride it. Take some time to think about features that are likely to give you a smooth, enjoyable experience.
The seat, for example, should be made out of high quality materials. If you are quite tall, it’s best to spend a little more on a height adjustable chair. In fact, if the mower is going to be operated by more than one person, adjustable settings are advised. Remember that most zero turn mowers come without a steering wheel.
You’re not usually bent over the wheel, as you might be with a standard mower. The zero turn system normally requires an operator to lean backwards and forwards in their chair, so pick a ‘cab’ with plenty of room for rotating your body. The control panel and the levers should be easy to reach and manoeuvre without straining.
Once you’ve found a product which offers all the features you want, scrutinize its overall build quality. There is no one answer to the question ‘what is the best zero turn mower?’ because your needs are unique. Nevertheless, build quality should always factor into a purchase like this. These mowers don’t come cheap, and you have a right to expect plenty of rugged wear.
The typical lifespan of a ‘z turn’ mower is around 3,500 hours, but a lot of internal and external conditions can affect this. If you buy a top product, with an impressive build quality, there’s no reason it can’t last longer than this with proper care. On the other hand, the harder you run your machine, the more pressure you’ll put on the engine and turning mechanisms.
It really depends on the terrain, frequency of use, quality of care, suitability of storage, and a host of other factors. The best way to guarantee longevity is to pick a zero turn mower with a robust warranty. It is one of the reasons why the Troy-Bilt models can be frustrating. We know that the build quality is fantastic, so you’d expect a more emphatic guarantee.
A Brand You Can Trust
There is no shortage of dependable brands available. Many of the biggest ‘z turn’ manufacturers are quite iconic companies, with a lot of experience in the heavy duty farming and landscaping industries. Troy-Bilt is a great example. The brand has been operating since 1937 and supplies cutting equipment to large scale operations around the world.
Swisher, Z-Beast, and Ariens are similarly respected. They are just a few of the trusted manufacturers creating premium mowers right now. Once again, the question of who offers the best machines is arguably subjective. However, we can help you evaluate the options and pick a brand which suits your mowing needs.
For all of the reasons mentioned, Troy-Bilt is regularly touted as the best producer of zero turn mowers. We can’t argue with the quality, but warranty may be an issue for some buyers. Most of its products are covered for just three years, which is something to think about when making your choice. The good news is that Troy-Bilt has a lot of very impressive machines on sale.
As its name suggests, Husqvarna is a Swedish manufacturer of outdoor power products. Quite remarkably, the brand has been in existence since 1689, when it first opened as a rifle factory. However, it wasn’t until 1919 that the company acquired a mower producing business and began to craft heavy duty garden tools.
Ariens is another company with a long history of producing industrial and heavy duty outdoor equipment. It refers to itself as ‘the King of Snow,’ because the brand is known for its snow blowers and weather management tools. Ariens is also the official mower of the White House. So, if you want to get your hands on perfectly presidential tools, this is the place to go.
The Poulan brand is a subsidiary of Husqvarna. If you’re a fan of the Swedish manufacturer and their sturdy outdoor tools, you’ll probably love Poulan products. In recent years, the brand has made steps towards the ‘luxury market.’ You might find, then, that these mowers are a little more expensive. It does still sell midrange machines, but prices are steadily increasing.
The history of the Swisher brand is rather complex. It appears to have changed hands a number of times, and it isn’t primarily known for outdoor equipment. Despite this, we found its mowers to be very reliable and more than capable of standing up to bigger names and reputations. If you’re looking for something less well known, Swisher is a good option.
Again, not much is known about the company which produces the Z-Beast zero turn mower. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth a look though. We found the Z-Beast 48ZB to be a very sturdy, consistent machine. Unlike a lot of models, it takes the time to think about comfort and how ride on mowers actually feel after prolonged use.
Should I Buy Used or New?
There are lots of reasons why a used zero turn mower might be a better choice than a brand new one. The cost is obviously cheaper, which is handy for those on a tight budget. You may be unsure whether ‘z turn’ technology is a good match for your cutting needs. Purchasing a second-hand machine is one way to test them out before you commit to a full sized investment.
The important thing, if you are buying used, is to scrutinize the build quality and degree of wear. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about how the mower has been used, stored, and maintained. It can be tempting to focus on frequency of use as an indicator of quality, but this isn’t always the case.
Often, older mowers with lots of action are in a better condition because they have constantly been cared for and maintained. What you don’t want is a machine that has been sitting around, gathering dust and attracting corrosion. When static for long periods, the belt rots, the bearings dry out, and the seals burst. Rarely used doesn’t always equal high quality.
On the other hand, if you are considering an older ‘z turn,’ enquire about its maintenance history. Commercial operators almost always keep a service log, and this will tell you a lot about the machine and its weak points if there are any. If possible, ask to take the mower out for a quick test drive so that you can assess the health of the engine.
The engine and the deck are the two most important parts of a zero turn mower. They can be repaired or replaced, in most cases, but both are expensive. Do not purchase a mower with a seized engine unless you are willing to replace it. In this condition, the parts won’t ever fit together in the right way again. They almost always require a full replacement.
Finally, the deck must be free of cracks and fractures. It is a common problem, but you don’t want to be the one to pay for repairs. Fixing a cracked deck housing can run into the hundreds of dollars, and it isn’t the worth trouble when there are plenty of other mowers out there. Generally, surface level scratches and dents are not a problem and won’t affect performance.
Best Zero Turn Mower 2020 – A Quick Review
Best Zero Turn Mower
The Troy-Bilt XP FAB Deck Zero Turn Mower is a contender for the best zero turn mower in commercial environments. It is a flawlessly built machine, which does its job remarkably well. You can really see and feel the quality of this product, and it’s a good job because it comes with a hefty price tag.
Best Bang For Your Buck
The Husqvarna 967271501 Briggs and Stratton Zero Turn Mower is deceptively gentle, considering its bulk and power. It is able to move across large lawns without leaving marks or blemishes. It can take a while to set up, but the results are definitely worthwhile.
Best Budget Option
The Ariens Zoom 34 Mower is perfectly suited to smaller gardens and modest pieces of land. When conditions are relatively standard – without slopes – it performs magnificently. Plus, the compact frame is easy to transport and control.
Best Robotic / Automated Option
The McCulloch ROB 1000 Programmable Robotic Mower is hard not to love because it’s so exciting. Unlike the other mowers on our list, it is a fully programmable robot lawn cutter. You choose the settings, place it on the grass, and leave it to do the work unsupervised.
We come to the end of our search for the best zero turn mower of 2020. If you began with only a small amount of knowledge about these machines, we hope that you’ve picked up some insights and feel confident making a purchase. It’s all about finding a machine which fits with your lifestyle and mowing habits. Use our recommendations, but add your own requirements.
Whether you’re looking for the best commercial zero turn mower for the money or you just want a garden run around, you have plenty of options. It’s worth sticking with established brands, as quality is assured and vulnerable parts are covered by a warranty. Some providers, like Ariens, offer what is known as a ‘white glove service.’
It means that buyers with homes within a certain proximity to the distributor get their mowers assembled and delivered for free. In some instances, the service also includes a quick tutorial on how to operate and maintain the machine. It can be very handy for those who are trying zero turn technology for the first time.
One other way to pick up some expertise is to quiz your seller if you’re planning to buy second hand. Commercial sellers, especially, tend to have lots of experience. They are usually happy to pass on some pointers and help you get the best out of your mower. The only thing left to do now is get to it, so start browsing. You’ll be a master of lawn maintenance in no time.