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The 5 best zero-turn mowers: Ultra-maneuverable lawn mowers

What is the best zero-turn mower? ZDNet's pick is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 with its 23HP engine, hydrostatic transmission, and ergonomic lap bars. Zero-turn mowers are great for both larger properties as well as yards with lots of obstacles like trees and flower beds since they are highly maneuverable and offer much larger cutting decks than other riding lawn mowers.
taylor-clemons
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro and  Sean Jackson

Zero-turn mowers are like the high-end sports cars of lawn and garden equipment. They feature a zero-inch turning radius which allows you to pivot in place and manoeuvre in tight spaces without ruining your lawn as well as more powerful engines and wider cutting decks than their regular riding mower counterparts. 

You can choose models with cutting decks as narrow as 42 inches for suburban lawns or as wide as 72 inches for larger, wide-open rural properties. And with engines up to 26HP, you'll get plenty of power to haul wagons of dirt, mulch, and tools or equipment like lawn rollers and aerators without overworking the motor. 

Zero-turn mowers also feature hydrostatic transmissions, which means that the more you push on the lap bars or harder you step on the pedals, the faster you'll go; which makes it akin to driving a car, so they're easier to learn how to operate. However, the lap bar steering system does take some getting used to, so I recommend driving around your yard with the blades disengaged to get used to how it will operate before you mow your lawn with it for the first time. 

To help you find the best zero-turn mower for your lawn, I've gathered a list of the 5 best ones available to buy. I've broken down their features and price points to help you match them up with your needs and lot size as well as your budget. To find the perfect zero-turn mower for your yard, you can keep reading below.

Must read:

A woman in work clothes using a Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 to mow around a concrete walkway
Cub Cadet

Cutting width: 50 inches | Power source: Gasoline | Transmission: Variable speed hydrostatic | Engine: 23HP 726cc | Mulching and bagger capable: Yes | Max cutting area:  4 acres 

The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 was featured as my pick for the best zero-turn mower in our list of the best lawn mowers you can buy, and it's still my number one choice. It features a 50-inch cutting deck that is stamped from 11-Gauge steel as well as a tubular steel frame design for strength, durability, and stability while mowing over different kinds of terrain. The 23HP Kawasaki engine uses a hydrostatic drive for easier forward acceleration up to 7.5Mph and quick reversing to manoeuvre around obstacles or go back over spots you may have missed. 

A removable floor plate gives you better and faster access to the cutting deck and engine when you need to clean things out or perform maintenance, while the smooth-tread front wheels allow you to drive, turn, and pivot without worrying about damaging your lawn. The ergonomic seat also features a suspension system to keep you comfortable and safely in place while driving over rough patches, while the lap bars have ergonomic grips for more comfortable operation. And with a maximum cutting area of 4 acres, the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 will feel at home in both larger suburban corner lots as well as big rural properties.

A man in work clothes using a Ryobi electric zero turn mower to cut his grass next to a flower bed
Ryobi

Cutting width: 54 inches | Power source: 48V integrated battery | Transmission: Variable speed hydrostatic | Engine: Brushless electric motor | Mulching and bagger capable: Mulching only| Max cutting area: 3.5 acres  

The Ryobi 48V zero-turn electric mower was one of my alternative picks on the list of best electric mowers, and after doing more research, I can say that it is the best electric zero-turn on the market. The integrated 48V battery can be charged via a regular wall outlet, which means you won't have to worry about keeping special chargers and cables on hand to top up your mower when not in use. It also makes the Ryobi 48V easier to integrate into your garage or workshop if you don't have any other Ryobi tools or equipment that could share a battery with the mower. The battery gives you enough power on a full charge to mow up to 3.5 acres, which is great news for anyone with a larger yard.

It features a 54-inch cutting deck with 3 sets of blades for a more even cut on each pass, and the deck can be set to 12 different heights for the perfect mow all season long. A control panel lets you monitor battery levels, turn on the LED headlights, mow in reverse, and even charge your phone with the built-in USB port. 

Since the Ryobi 48V zero-turn mower doesn't have a gas engine, that means that you'll save both time and money by not having to do any oil changes, spark plug cleanings, or fuel treatments at the start and end of every season. And no gas engine means no exhaust emissions, making this a more environmentally friendly option for lawn care.

A woman in a polo and khaki pants using a John Deere Z345R CARB to mow her lawn next to her stone-face house.
Lowe's

Cutting width: 42 inches | Power source: Gasoline | Transmission: Variable speed hydrostatic | Engine: 22HP 724cc | Mulching and bagger capable: Yes | Max cutting area: 2 acres 

Zero-turn mowers and John Deere equipment both have a reputation for being on the high end of expensive, but whether you're a brand loyalist or just have your eye on that Kelly Green, the Z345R CARB is one of the most affordable zero-turns (and pieces of John Deere equipment) you can buy. 

At just under $3,000, the Z345R CARB is a bit easier on the wallet while still providing premium-grade features like a 22HP V-twin engine, dual hydrostatic transmission, maximum cutting area of 2 acres. The 42-inch cutting deck is stamped from 12-Gauge steel for durability and strength, while the twin blade sets give you an even and consistent cut on every pass. 

The steering lap bars feature padded grips, and the seat has durable cushioning, arm rests and a suspension system for better comfort while driving over both flat grass and rough spots. You can even kit out your Z345R CARB with a mulching deck or bagger attachment to re-feed your lawn with ultra-fine clippings between fertilizer applications or collect clippings for your compost bin or lawn waste pick-up. 

The Z345R CARB has color-coded controls for quick and easy identification as well as a low fuel warning light, so you never get left stranded with an empty tank.

A man in work clothes sitting on a Toro Titan MAX and surveying his farm.
Toro

Cutting width: 60 inches | Power source: Gasoline | Transmission: Variable speed hydrostatic | Engine: 26HP 747cc | Mulching and bagger capable: Yes | Max cutting area: 7 acres 

The Toro Titan MAX zero-turn mower was tailor-made for larger properties. It features a 60-inch cutting deck, 23-inch rear wheels, and a 26 horsepower Kohler engine for all of the power you need to handle properties up to 7 acres in size. 

The hydrostatic drive provides easier and faster forward acceleration up to 9.0Mph, so you can make short work of pastures and wide-open backyards while the pivoting front wheels give you enhanced maneuverability around garden beds, fruit and ornamental trees, and outbuildings. 

The Titan MAX is equipped with a 7-gallon fuel tank, so you can spend more time getting work done and less time refueling or worrying about getting stranded in the middle of your lot with an empty tank. The frame and deck are made of hardened, 10-Gauge steel for extra strength and durability while driving over uneven ground and around obstacles. The Titan MAX also features a high-back seat with armrests and a cup holder so you can stay comfortable and hydrated while maintaining your property. 

Craftsman-Z5200-zero-turning-radius-mower-with-blower-and-edger
Craftsman

Cutting width: 42 inches | Power source: Gasoline | Transmission: Variable speed hydrostatic | Engine: 20HP 656cc | Mulching and bagger capable: Yes| Max cutting area: 2 acres  

If you're looking to expand your lawn and garden equipment arsenal, Lowe's is offering a bundle featuring a Craftsman Z5200 zero-turn mower, BP510 backpack leaf blower, and SE2200 lawn edger for just over $3,500. The mower has a 42-inch deck and 20 horsepower engine to make short work of lawns up to 2 acres in size, while the hydrostatic drive, lap bars, and pivoting front wheels make maneuvering around trees and other obstacles a breeze. The 13-Gauge steel deck is designed and built to withstand just about any weather and terrain, while the twin blade sets give you an even cut on every pass. 

The BP510 is a backpack-style, gas-powered leaf blower that is perfect for handling everything from stray grass clippings in your driveway to clearing thick layers of fallen leaves in the Autumn. The shoulder straps evenly distribute the weight for more comfortable carrying and operation, while the joystick controls give you better handling of the air chute direction and blower speed. 

The SE2200 is a handheld, gas-powered blade trimmer designed to give you perfectly straight lawn edges along sidewalks, curbs, and driveways. The 7.5-inch blade makes short work of overgrown weeds and grass for a perfectly manicured look along walkways and driveways as well as around flower and vegetable gardens. 

What is the best zero-turn mower?

My pick for the best zero-turn mower is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1. It features an 11-Gauge steel, 50-inch cutting deck with twin blade sets for an even, consistent cut on each pass as well as a tubular steel frame for strength and durability. The 23HP Kawasaki engine and hydrostatic drive make operating the mower easy while providing plenty of power to handle lawns up to 4 acres.

Zero-turn mower

Price

Cutting width

Max cutting area

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

$3849

50 inches

4 acres

Ryobi 48V zero-turn

$5099

54 inches

3.5 acres

John Deere Z345R CARB

$2899

42 inches

2 acres

Toro Titan MAX

$7199

60 inches

7 acres

Craftsman Z5200 with blower and edger

$3547

42 inches

2 acres

Which is the right zero-turn mower for you?

Once you've finalized a budget for your new zero-turn mower, you'll want to look at cutting deck widths, engine sizes, fuel tank capacities, and what attachments each model is compatible with. Smaller 42-inch decks are ideal for suburban lawns with lots of trees and other obstacles, while larger 54 or 60-inch cutting decks are more suited for larger, wide-open rural properties.

Engine size also helps you determine which is right for you since higher horsepower means you can do things like haul wagons of tools, mulch, or potting soil or use equipment such as lawn rollers and aerators without destroying the motor.

Choose this zero-turn mower...

If you want...

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

A well-rounded zero turn mower for medium-sized lawns

Ryobi 48V zero turn

An electric zero turn mower for eco-friendly lawn care

John Deere Z345R CARB

A more affordable zero turn mower option

Toro Titan MAX

A zero turn mower for larger properties

Craftsman Z5200 bundle

An affordable bundle to add to your lawn equipment

How did we choose these zero-turn mowers?

I chose a variety of cutting deck widths, engine sizes, and fuel tank capacities to curate a list of zero-turn mowers that will suit just about any larger suburban or rural property. 

I also picked models that had quality-of-life features like seat suspension systems and ergonomic steering bars for added comfort while mowing and even USB ports for keeping your phone charged while you work.

What is a zero-turn mower?

A zero-turn mower is a type of riding mower that has a zero-inch turning radius (hence the name). This means that you can use either the left or right rear wheel as a pivot point and turn in place, which gives the mower superior manoeuvrability around trees, garden beds, and other obstacles.

They also tend to have larger decks sizes than regular riding mowers, making them favorites with homeowners with larger properties.

What size lawn is a zero-turn mower best for?

A zero-turn lawn mower is best suited for any yard that is an acre or larger since they have more powerful engines and larger cutting decks than regular riding mowers. You can choose a deck from as narrow as 42 inches to as wide as 72 inches, letting you almost tailor-fit your mower to your lawn.

Are zero-turn mowers worth the money?

A zero-turn mower can be a very valuable asset in your workshop if you have a yard suitable enough for one. If you have a small suburban lot measuring less than .75 acres, there won't be enough room for your mower to actually do its job, plus it would be very difficult to store such a large mower in a typical backyard garden shed.

But if you have a 1 acre or larger property, a zero-turn mower is a good choice since they can make short work of just about any lawn and are perfect for steering around orchards, outbuildings, and garden beds.

Are there alternative zero-turn mowers worth considering?

There are lots of options out there if you're looking to buy a new zero-turn mower. Here's a short list of alternative choices I thought were worth a look:

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