Small riding lawn mowers are a great asset for any home with a lawn needing mowing and this would represent most homes. Therefore, these nifty little gadgets are definitely of great use to any gardener.
Our review offers a detailed analysis of 9 of the best riding small riding lawn mowers along with a resourceful buyer’s guide to make your selection an easier process because we understand how difficult it is to pick the best for your needs with thousands of brands out there.
Here is a quick-scan summary table with the top 9.
|Mower Name||Engine||Turning Radius||Brand|
|Troy-Bilt 382cc 2017 Edition -|
*Our Top Choice*
|Powermore Auto Choke OHV 382cc||18" Turning Radius||Troy-Bilt|
|The Murray 24” Rear Engine Riding Mower||Briggs & Stratton 190cc Engine||18" Turning Radius||Murray|
|Husqvarna RZ3016 Mower||16-1/2 hp Briggs and Stratton Engine||Zero Turning Radius||Husqvarna|
|Troy-Bilt Premium Riding Lawnmower||420cc Single Cylinder Troy-Bilt Engine||18" Turning Radius||Troy-Bilt|
|The Z235 42” 20HP Riding Mower||20 HP V-twin John Deere branded engine||Zero Turn||John Deere|
|The Z255 22HP Riding Mower||22 HP Engine||Zero Turn||John Deere|
|Cub Cadet Xt1 Enduro Series||18 HP Kohler OHV engine||18" Turning Radius||Club Cadet|
Why People Opt for Small Riding Mowers
The best most important advantage pegged on smaller riding lawn mowers is sheer convenience. Mowing is a task that doesn’t often make it to most people’s top ten to do list. Therefore, the less fuss involved in the process the better. In addition, these mowers make it easy for people, who wouldn’t otherwise use the normal size mower, to tend their gardens and regularly at that.
Provided you pick a suitable size mower, most average residential lawns can easily allow for a smaller cutting deck riding lawn mower like the 24”-30” mowers we’ll be looking at today. They’re almost as easy to maintain as the standard mower, and offer a combination of convenience and functionality. With them, you are sure of maintaining a trim standard lawn height great for the aesthetics.
What do I need to know about small riding lawn mowers?
When it comes to care and maintenance, most small riding lawn mowers don’t differ in the slightest from their larger cousins. They’ll serve you well and for a long time given the right handling.
However, you need to be aware that smaller cutting decks, lower capacity engines, and tendency to rear engine design in smaller riding lawn mowers will mean that they’re not suitable for yards with steep inclines and are best suited to a garden with a fairly steady grade.
The average 4MPH top speed that’s typical in small mowers is the recommended mowing speed anyway, so they lose nothing with their smaller engine capacity.
To pick on the right cutting deck size for your mower, you need to measure it against the turning radius required in your tightest garden spot. You may be tempted to buy a bigger size for faster mowing but this means you will miss some spots which you will have to mow manually.
Also, consider the door size of your storage shed when purchasing your riding lawn mowers. In general, small riding lawn mowers usually have cutting decks 32inches or less.
Listed below are our top small riding lawn mower picks:
Our top small riding lawn mower picks
These top 9 machines compliment their smaller size by delivering good value and great durability for the cost.
Troy-Bilt Premium Riding Lawnmower – 2016 Version
Although this small riding lawn mower from Troy-Bilt offers a host of great features, incline mowing is not one of them and this is typical of small size mowers. The design is front light and is ideal for even terrains with minimal level changes.
- Wheel dimensions: 12×5 inch- front, 16×6.5 inch- rear
- 30-inch cutting deck adjustable to 5 different settings
- 18 inch turning radius
- Manual power take-off
Cub Cadet Xt1 Enduro Series
This monster is certainly a very powerful riding mower that has made its way to the top of Cub Cadet best selling models. It may be a pricey choice in this category, but well worth it given its efficient and convenient offerings.
It’s easy to use with a twin cylinder engine and an 18” turning radius. It’s not the limber of the small mowers in this category, but it’s appropriate for up to 15 degree inclines, which makes it more stable than most small riding lawn mowers.
- 18-inch turning radius
- 4200cc engine
- LED headlights
- 12-position cutting heights
- Smooth lever engaged PTO
- Open high-back seat with oversize base and elevated back support
- Rubberized steering wheel with E-corrosion defense system
- Push button cruise control
- 3 gallon fuel tank with sight gauge
- Quick connect deck wash system for easy cleaning of the under deck
- Multi-season attachments: twin bagger, snow thrower, sun shade/snow cab, snow blade, mulch kit, steel and poly carts, and a rear spreader (sold separately)
Yard Machine 420cc 42-inch Riding Lawn Mower
If you have been wondering whether there is a small mower for uneven terrain, here is one for you. Having a very powerful 420cc Powermore Engine with Shift on the Go Drive System this bad boy is a premium choice. With the 7 choices of speed, you will be able to conquer stubborn lawns no matter the terrain.
- 420cc Powermore Engine Shift on the go drive system
- Mulching and bagging capabilities
- 7-speed gear shift
- 42-inch cutting blade
Husqvarna RZ3016 Riding Lawn Mower
This 30” 13gague stamped deck mower offers 16.5 HP, not bad for one of the smallest riding lawn mower. It’s manually adjusted, yet offers a non-clutch automatic ride to make up for the irritation. Going by the manufacturer’s information, this unit has a maintenance free drive system and the electric start makes it easy to operate.
- 30-inch stamped 13gauge cutting deck
- 5hp Briggs & Stratton endurance engine
- Single blade manual engagement
- Dual Hydro-Gear EZT Drive System
- Turf tire dimensions 11 by 4 – 5 –Front, 18 by 6-1/2 – 8- rear
- Durable steel tube frame
- 12v electric start
- Foam padded levers
- Vinyl seat with built in slide
Poulan Pro PB185A42 Riding Lawn Mower
Established in 1944, Poulan has stood the test of time, and rightly so. With a fierce 18.5 HP Briggs & Stratton engine, this lawn mower will shred all unwanted grass. Having a 42-inch cutting deck and a 16-inch radius, it has a higher capacity and can work through a wide grass area allowing you to be more efficient.
- 5HP Briggs & Stratton engine
- Pedal auto drive
- 10 year belt warranty
- 42-inch cutting deck
- 16-inch turning radius
- Tire dimensions: 20-inch rear, 15-inch front
- Powerful headlights
The Murray 24” Riding Mower
If you’re looking for the simplest, smallest riding lawn mower by Murray, this one makes a good choice. It provides an almost equivalent power as its larger cousins with its 190cc professional engine, yet it is designed for smaller gardens.
- Designed for small to large sized yards of up to 1 acre with a flat terrain
- Briggs & Stratton 190cc professional series engine
- Quick, simple on and off switch
- 6 speed shift-on-the-go transmission
- Steering column with 18″ turning radius
The Z235 42” 20HP Riding Mower
This unit by John Deere is ideal for the smaller garden, being that it is one of the few smaller riding lawn mowers on offer by this manufacturer. It is built with a pretty powerful 20 HP engine, hydrostatic transmission and it’s a Zero Turn mower.
- 42-inch cutting deck
- Heavy duty steel frame
- Large tires
- 20 HP V-twin John Deere branded Engine with cast iron cylinder liner and overhead valves
- Comes with a wash pot for cleaning the underside of the deck
- 1inch to 4inch cutting height with ¼ increment heights
- Easy flip foot platform
- Color coded operating controls
- Comes with a standard hour meter, cup holder, and storage compartment
- Multiple position control levers
The Z255 22HP Riding Mower
This is yet another offering by John Deere for residential line purposes. The Z255 model comes with a powerful 22HP engine, the usual hydrostatic transmission, and a monster 48” cutting deck ideal for even the widest of residential lawns.
- 48-inch cutting deck
- 22HP V-twin John Deere branded engine
- Cast iron cylinder liner and overhead valves for fuel economy
- Dual hydrostatic transmission
- Comes with a wash pot for ease of cleaning the underside of the deck
- Varying cutting heights ranging between 2 and 4 inches with ¼ inch increments
- Heavy duty steel construction
- Flip platform for easy access to the top of the mower
- High-back seat with armrests and an adjust tracking
- Multi-position control levers
- Color coded operating controls
- Standard hour meter, cup holder, and storage compartment
Small Riding Lawn Mowers – Buyer’s Guide
Lawnmowers are wheeled machines used to cut our compound grass to desirable levels. They are designed with rotating blades on their wheels and cut grass as they move along. Ideally, mowers work well on flat surfaces. Steep terrains wear out the mowers quickly, reducing their lifespan.
While these units may not be as fast and powerful as lawn tractors, they are certainly more silent and easier to operate. They commonly feature a motor integrated on their rear, a single blade mowing-deck, and larger rear wheels than the front ones. Some can handle gentle slopes quite well and others will not.
History of Lawn Mowers
In 1830, Edwin Budding invented the first mower. This mower replaced the Scythe and was intended for use on sports field and extensive gardens. Budding’s mower was pushed from behind and the rear roller drove the knives to the cutting cylinder. In August 1830, Budding’s mower was granted a British patent.
This allowed Budding to enter into an agreement with John Ferrabee and together they licensed other manufacturers to produce lawn mowers. It was not until 1832 that Ransomes of Ipswich began making lawn mowers. Animal driven lawn mowers were developed approximately 10 years later after Budding’s invention. It was sixty years later that steam powered lawn mowers were invented.
During the 1850s, Thomas Green and Son invented the first silent mower and called it Silens Messor. It used a chain drive to transmit power to the cutting cylinders. These mowers were a bit
more expensive and gained popularity thanks to lawn sports. Since then, more manufacturers have come on board each producing more advanced and somewhat unique lawn mowers giving users a wide variety to choose from.
Types of Riding Lawn Mowers
Small riding lawn mowers are popularly used on fairly sized lawns since walk behind lawn mowers limit the user’s speed and work time due to fatigue. There are 3 main types of small riding lawn mowers.
- Rear Engine Riding Mowers
These are small sized lawn mowers whose engine is located at the back. They are a good alternative to lawn tractors and most preferred by homeowners with minimal budget and storage space. Rear engine mowers are best used on small to medium sized lawn with a flat terrain.
Since the engine, fuel, and the rider are all located at the rear, they exert a lot of weight making it quite a task for the mower to go uphill.
- Lawn Tractor and Garden tractor
These are well suited for larger yards. They are wider and more powerful hence enable you to mow faster. They can mow on just any terrain and doubles up as a snowplow blade or work cat. They have a front engine and a cut width range of 42 to 54 inch swath. The weight distribution along the mower coupled with its dual blades is the guarantee you will have for high performance even on large, hilly terrains.
Garden tractors are superior versions of lawn tractors. They are used on large yards usually 1 to 5 acres in size. The heavy duty version works quite well on estates of at least 2 acres. Garden tractors extend their utility to more ground breaking tasks such as tilling, furrowing and towing heavy cats.
If you need to decide between getting a lawn tractor or garden tractor, think about the nature of work you intend to put it to. A lawn tractor does easy tasks such as cutting grass and clearing
snow while a garden tractor is suited for more heavy tasks. On terrain, garden mowers are more stable on slopes below 15% as compared to lawn tractors. Garden tractors also have higher horsepower of 24 HP or more. In terms of cost, garden tractors are more expensive. They come in a variety of brands and series to choose from with other manufacturers developing more improved heavy- duty garden tractors.
- Zero Turning Radius Lawn Mowers
These are commonly referred to as ZTRs. Like the rear engine mowers, their engine is located at the back. However, the two rear wheels are controlled independently by two steering levers. This makes it possible for them to maneuver obstacles and manage a cut swath of 42 to 54 inches. They are not well suited for uphill terrains since the engine and rider exert a lot of weight at the back.
Top Small Riding Lawn Mower Brands
- John Deere riding mowers
John Deere is a US based manufacturing company founded in 1837. It has its headquarters in Moline Illinois. They manufacture agricultural, construction and forestry machinery. It is listed 97th in the Fortune 500 America’s ranking and 364th in Fortune Global 500 ranking 2016.
John Deere lawn mowers are characterized by cutting edge systems for high performance, powerful engines and reliable full length welded steel. Their models are compatible with
Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki, and Kohler engines but they still have their own branded engines mostly in the small riding mowers.
- Troy Bilt riding mowers
Troy Bilt is a leading manufacturer of outdoor power equipment such as lawn mowers, cultivators, tillers, snow blowers for the home user. It is owned by MTD PRODUCTS INC. a global manufacturer of outdoor equipment. They have their headquarters in USA, near Cleveland Ohio. The MTD PRODUCTS INC is a family owned private company that was started in 1932.
Troy Bilt lawn mowers are powerful brands and top selling in Amazon and Lowes and come with a limited warranty from the manufacturer. You can choose from self-propelled or walk behind mowers whose performance is of high quality. Additionally, Troy Bilt has some of the fair priced units that perform quite well.
Importance of a Small Riding Lawn Mower
Lawn mowers are important for keeping unwanted grass and weed off our yards. A small riding lawn mower can be used both at home and in extensive lawns. However, you can expect to spend a bit more time to mow a larger piece of land. Larger commercial versions of these mowers are usually a better bet if you are considering frequent commercial use. Otherwise, for a better effortless mowing experience, a small riding lawn mower will be your best bet.
The small riding mowers are known to let you mow your large yard without as much effort as you will need in the walk behind mowers because you simply need to ride them over your grass quite comfortably. In fact, if there is an equipment that will motivate you to keep your yard
kempt, it is the small riding lawn mower.
These mowers are easy to use by both beginners and professionals and guarantee a clean cut on your lawn.
What to Consider when Selecting Small Riding Lawn Mower during Selection
- Your Lawn Terrain – is your terrain expanse or small and enclosed, is it flat-even or sloped, does it have flowerbeds, trees, fences, or other obstacles needing cautious maneuvering, is it rugged or smooth? These questions will greatly inform your choice of a riding lawn mower. Generally, a riding mower is suitable for medium to large yards.
Further on, you need to be aware that smaller cutting decks, lower capacity engines, and tendency to rear engine design in smaller riding lawn mowers will mean that they’re not suitable for yards with steep inclines and are best suited to a garden with a fairly steady grade.
- Engine power – measured in horsepower (HP), should match the size of your cutting decks as well as the size of your yard. Higher horsepower does not necessarily mean that your mower will be efficient. Again, a higher HP means more fuel consumption which has an effect on operation cost. Horsepower should be considered among other mower factors.
- Transmission – a Manual transmission will let you select manually from a range of set speeds, an automatic transmission is controlled by a gas powered pedal and comes as a great convenience when you need to maneuver obstacles and corners because it lets you change speeds with much ease. Hydrostatic transmission on the other hand is similar to an automatic transmission only that it is powered by fluid pressure. The latter is the easiest to maintain of the three, is the most durable and presents a smooth ride.
- Engine displacement– this defines the size of an engine and is measured in cc. A larger engine displacement is obviously more efficient than a smaller one. Still, select one that matches your yard size. While at this, be sure to select a mower with an engine that has an inbuilt cooling and an oil filtering mechanism to reduce fast depreciation and have it serve you longer.
- Engine torque – this is the force that powers the cutting blades to spin. Higher torque is better especially for tall or thick grass.
- Blades – when considering the blades, check the number of blades your preferred riding mower will have as well as the cutting width. Most ZTR mowers will have two or more blades unlike the other small riding mowers which will typically have only one. The cutting width of the blades refers to how much portion of grass your mower will cut at a go. 42-inch decks are ideal for yards up to 1 acre otherwise you may have to go for a larger deck, up to 60 inches if your yard is bigger.
- Cutting Deck–To pick on the right cutting deck size for your mower, you need to measure it against the turning radius required in your tightest garden spot. You may be tempted to buy a bigger size for faster mowing but this means you will miss some spots which you will have to mow manually. Also consider an adjustable cutting deck if you need to cut your grass to varying heights.
- Discharge Capabilities – most mowers come with side discharge capabilities. Mulching and bagging are an added advantage that some mowers will come with, to enhance their utility.
- Accessories – cup/water bottle holder, armrests, mulch bag, and side discharge chute are some additional in a riding mower that makes it more convenient to use. Also check the comfort of the mower’s seat and steering wheel on your hands.
Operation and Maintenance Tips
Handling your lawn mower properly prolongs its lifespan and ensures it serves you as expected.
- Read the manufacturer’s’ manual to help you understand how to operate your mower.
- Regularly check your mower oil and be sure to drain out old or contaminated oil.
- Clean and drain gasoline at the end of each mowing season. For spring season, always use new gasoline.
- Grass and debris may clog the undercarriage. The air filter may also be clogged reducing the overall efficiency of the mower. Always clean out this clog after finishing each mowing. As for the air filters, annual replacements are recommended for better performance.
- The spark plug is responsible for the start of the mower. Always check on it and if possible do annual replacements as well.
- Keep your mower blades sharp. You can visit your local professional technicians to have them sharpened from time to time.
- Wear protective gear at all times when operating your lawn mower. These include heavy footwear, eye and hearing protection
- Tune up your engine on regular basis. This helps extend the life of your engine, reduces consumption of fuel by 30% and reduces mower emissions by 50%.
Frequently Asked Questions
When was the first lawn mower invented?
The first lawn was invented in 1830 by Edwin Budding. It was a small mower pushed from behind. It operated on mechanical power generated from the rear rollers and directed towards the cutting cylinder.
From this invention came other improved mowers such as steam mowers. In 1860s, more lawn mowers were produced with leading manufacturers producing up to 8 different brands. This was fuelled by the increased popularity of lawn games. Edwin Budding partnered with John Ferrabee and got their British patent in 1830 which allowed them sell licenses to other manufacturing companies.
What is a rotary mower?
This is a mower which has horizontally spinning blades using a sucking and tearing action to cut off grass blades. Rotary mowers can either be electric or gas engine powered. Rotary mowers have one blade which rotates extremely fast to cut a variety of grass types and conditions.
They work best on flat lawns with medium to tall grass. Most rotary mowers have a grass box behind while others have an integral grass box.
What is the lifespan of a lawn mower?
This depends on how well you use your lawn mower. For instance, it is discouraged to use a lawn mower on rugged terrains. This causes strain on the engine and blades. If you are using gasoline powered engine mowers, always clean and discard off old gasoline.
Regularly tune up your engine and replace parts such as air filters. Remember that debris and dirt clog your air filters and undercarriage. Use a brush to remove this debris and clean your under carriage. By observing proper operation and maintenance guidelines, your lawn mowers should serve you for some years.
Which is the best lawn mower brand?
There are several lawn mower brands in the market. John Deere and Troy Bilt are the top lawn mower manufacturing brands. They both have a series of lawn mowers to choose from depending on your intended use and preference. These companies are based in the USA but do manufacture and distribute their products globally.
Their mowers guarantee quality finish, longer life span and unmatched efficiency. They are also among the bestselling brands on Amazon. As a new lawn mower owner, it is advised to consult with a professional to help determine the best brand for your needs. You can also check customer reviews to help decide on which brand to buy from.
How do I pick out the best mower for my lawn?
The best way to pick out a lawn mower is to consult with a professional. But before then, you should define your intended use; check out some top brands within the market and their reviews. For instance, are you seeking a home use or commercial lawn mower? What is your terrain type? What is the height, and nature of your grass? Do you prefer a self-propelled, riding or walk behind mower?
By answering these basic questions, you will be able to narrow down your list of mowers to choose from.
Although they’re small, the top of the range small riding mowers can easily provide the service, convenience, and quality that their larger cousins provide yet for home improvement purposes. If you are keen on time and efficiency, then these mowers will come in handy.
We never end this review with a best pick. Our pick today is the Cub Cadet cc30. It certainly is top of the game with its unique all weather features. You can work perfectly through the snow or under the scorching sun without feeling any effects. Engine size and maneuverability are tops too.