Self-propelled lawn mowers vs. riding lawn mowers


Before adding attachments to a riding mower, always double-check that they are approved and compatible with your specific model to avoid any injuries or malfunctions.

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Which type of lawn mower is right for your yard?

With the growing season now in full swing, the grass in your lawn is likely inching higher each day. To keep your yard from looking overgrown, every homeowner should invest in a quality mower. 

There are a few factors to consider before rushing off to buy a new lawn mower, however. For those with more extensive yards, you’ll want a riding mower or a self-propelled mower. Riding mowers will save you time and energy and are best for large plots of land, while self-propelled mowers work well on uneven terrain, require less effort than standard push mowers and will ultimately save you money when compared to riding models.

Riding lawn mowers

Most lawns under half an acre won’t require the use of a riding mower, though that doesn’t mean they still can’t be used for smaller spaces, especially by those with limited mobility. If faced with a sizeable overgrown lawn, a riding mower will be your best friend. They cut through tough grass with ease while you sit and steer comfortably without exhausting yourself. 

Riding mowers are available with decks ranging from 30-50 inches. To mow larger areas in the least amount of time, a wider deck will prove most effective. Like the car you drive, a riding mower will also feature either a manual or automatic transmission.

For quality riding mowers, you should expect to spend somewhere between $1,000-$4,000 depending on brand, size, power and additional features. 

What you’ll love about riding mowers

  • Minimal effort: The least physically demanding style, riding models won’t require you to push or pull any heavy equipment.
  • Speed: Most riding mowers will be able to mow at speeds between 4-8 mph. That allows you to cut much larger areas in a fraction of the time. 
  • Multi-purpose: Many riding mowers can do more than simply cut grass. By adding additional attachments such as a snowplow, snow blower, aerator, pull cart or something else, you can make your mower a year-round machine. 
  • Extra features: Headlights, comfortable seating, cup holders, storage compartments, cruise control and other convenient features are unique to riding mowers. 

What you should consider about riding mowers

  • Cost: The unbeatable convenience of riding mowers comes at a high price. Though worth the investment for expansive yards, if you’re on a tight budget, they may not be practical.
  • Maintenance: Utilizing more complex engines means that you’ll be required to perform more regular maintenance, including oil changes, filter changes, tire pressure adjustments and more. 
  • Safety hazards: Riding mowers have several safety features built-in to keep riders protected, though when driving on steep hills or inclines, there is an increased risk of rollover. 
  • Maneuvering: Riding mowers are great for mowing large open areas but don’t perform well if you need to mow tightly around trees, gardens or other obstructive objects. 

Top gas-powered riding mowers

Troy-Bilt Bronco 42-inch 19 HP Automatic Gas Riding Lawn Mower

Troy-Bilt Bronco 42-inch 19 HP Automatic Gas Riding Lawn Mower

You’ll be able to comfortably mow a couple of acres in no time with this automatic riding mower, featuring a convenient foot pedal and low-effort maintenance.

Sold by Home Depot

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-inch Fabricated Deck Hydrostatic Gas Riding Mower

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-inch Fabricated Deck Hydrostatic Gas Riding Mower

The advanced cutting abilities mean you’ll get your desired result every time you mow. Plus, the smooth hydrostatic transmission eliminates the need for shifting.

Sold by Home Depot

Top electric riding mowers 

Ryobi 38-inch 75 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower

Ryobi 38-inch 75 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower

If you don’t want to worry about scheduled maintenance, this electric option still delivers power and reliability without any harmful fumes or emissions.

Sold by Home Depot

Self-propelled lawn mowers

For homeowners with in-between lawns that feel a little too big for a push mower but not large enough to necessitate a whole riding mower, a self-propelled mower might be your best option. Offering assistance as you mow, you won’t have to use all your strength to push a heavy lawnmower up a hill or over long distances. 

Self-propelled mowers come in various deck sizes, and you can find gas-powered options with both two-stroke and four-stroke engines. Two-stroke engines are cheaper and lightweight, but four-stroke options are known to last longer. 

Whichever style you choose, on average, you can expect to pay between $250-$1,000 for a decent mower.

What you’ll love about self-propelled mowers

  • Price: While still more expensive than classic push mowers, you’ll be able to save a significant amount when compared to riding mowers.
  • Less effort: If you’re used to a push mower, you’ll enjoy the assisted propulsion designed to cut down (but not erase) the overall effort required. 
  • Great for hills: If your yard isn’t perfectly flat, a self-propelled mower will give you the extra boost needed to safely and efficiently mow up and down hills and embankments.
  • More precision: Being easier to maneuver than some push mowers and with a better turning radius than many riding mowers, you’ll have more control over your yard. 

What you should consider about self-propelled mowers

  • Smaller mowing area: Self-propelled options still aren’t designed for multi-acre plots of land unless you want to spend all day mowing.
  • Not self-driving: These mowers are meant to assist you while cutting your grass but will not take away all of the manual labor associated with mowing. 
  • Less power: While self-propelled mowers hold their own when it comes to overgrown yards, they tend to be slightly less powerful than riding mowers. 

Top gas-powered self-propelled mowers

Toro Recycler 22 in. SmartStow Walk Behind Gas Self-Propelled Mower

Toro Recycler 22 in. SmartStow Walk Behind Gas Self-Propelled Mower

For those with limited storage, this easy-to-stow mower is great for space-saving and quickly cutting mid-sized lawns without hassle.

Sold by Home Depot

Honda 21 in. NeXite Variable Speed Gas Self Propelled Mower

Honda 21 in. NeXite Variable Speed Gas Self Propelled Mower

A great all-around option, this mower is capable of more than just clipping your grass. The four-in-one feature lets you decide between mulching, bagging, discharging and leaf shredding.

Sold by Home Depot

Top electric self-propelled mowers 

Greenworks 40V 21-Inch Brushless Self-Propelled Mower

Greenworks 40V 21-Inch Brushless Self-Propelled Mower

You won’t have to worry about adding gas or oil to this environmentally friendly mower, which features a 60-minute runtime and variable speeds.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a riding mower or a self-propelled mower?

There is no quick and easy answer, but once you’ve factored in the size of your yard, the amount of physical labor you’re willing to put in and your overall budget, you should have a clearer picture of which mower would work best for you. Both styles have their advantages, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference and need. 


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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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