Lawn tractors have been a big part of home improvement for decades. Recent trends have mowers with seats, and walking mowers are slowly being phased out. If you’ve already thought of purchasing one of these, be ready to choose between a lawn mower and a zero-turn.
Lawn tractors may look a bit similar to zero turns but they have steering wheels and gas pedals like cars. Zero turns are a bit technical and include some levers powered by hydrostatic transmissions.
Let’s look at the two landscaping machines and further details on features, usability, and whether they are worth the juice.
|Category||Zero Turn||Lawn Tractor|
|Design||Joystick, levers, pulleys, PTO clutch, wheels||Gage wheel, front roller, gear, steering wheel|
|Speed||5 to 8 mph||3 mph|
|Performance||Great for flat surfaces, cuts grass faster||Excellent performance on steep hills|
|Price||$4,000||Great for flat surfaces, cuts grass faster|
What is a Zero-Turn Mower?
Zero turn mowers are farm machines that don’t leave any footprint radius when making a turn. They use a similar mechanism when riding a trolley at the mall. Their hydrostatic transmission facilitates controlling the tires by levers and gears. A zero-turn radius mower (ZTR) has an ergonomic design and can cut around corners, shrubs, trees, and other obstacles.
Each of the two rear wheels of a zero turn mower has its own motor, also controlled by levers. Since the zero turn mower doesn’t have a traditional steering wheel, it may look challenging for beginners. But it is easy to control once you get used to the machine.
Pros of Zero Turn Mowers
While lawn tractors seem faster than their counterparts, ZTRs move at even higher speeds. This helps the machine cover a larger area in a short time. You’ll notice professional maintenance crews using ZTRs as they quickly cover ground faster.
Zero Degree Turns
A zero turn mower’s most unique feature is the driving mechanism which you’ll notice at first glance. They use an effective hydrostatic system to move the wheels instead of a steering wheel; it has levers and gears. The effectiveness of this feature is that the mower is controlled by the rear wheel, responsible for making turns without moving backward or forward.
Tractors may spend a lot of time cutting grass because of the spaces left when they make corners. They have to pass more than once to ensure all grass is cut.
Great for Medium to Large Lawns
Once you match up the zero turn feature, large cutting decks, and speed, the zero turn turns (no puns) into a perfect lawn mower for large spaces. It can cover lawns larger than an acre, and you won’t feel exhausted.
What is A Lawn Tractor?
Much like a tractor, a lawn tractor takes care of small areas such as backyards, lawns, etc. They are preferred farm equipment because they can maneuver in small areas and cover big lawns in a shorter time.
A lawn tractor has four wheels, a steering wheel, and a gas pedal like a car. If you compare it to a zero turn mower, the lawn tractor is easier to learn, especially if you know how to drive a car.
Lawn tractors leave a large radius when making turns, leaving a big patch of unmowed grass needing you to make several rounds to cut those missed areas.
Pros of Lawn Tractors
Easy to use
Lawn tractors are designed in a way that it is easy to cut the lawn in your yard. They have steering wheels and gas pedals like normal cars, so you won’t have to learn anything new. Additionally, newer models with electric starts are efficient and can do the work for you.
Ideal Cutting Deck
Another great benefit of lawn tractors is they have several options for cutting deck lengths. You can choose from small to medium-sized cutting decks depending on the terrain you wish you trim. The tractors come in 30 to 60-inch cutting decks, each having a size relative to the deck.
Great for Small to Medium Lawns
Lawn tractors move perfectly on small to medium lawns as they will get it done in no time. Since they are generally small, putting them on a large lawn will simply overwork the engine and you might have to spend the whole day mowing.
Several Collection Choices
If you’re tired of emptying the trash bag after every lap on the lawn, the lawn tractor has a wide range of baggers that can be added on the go. They hold a reasonable amount of debris, leaving you with fewer trips as you cut grass.
Lawn Tractor Vs. Zero Turn: Comparison
Though the two are small farm equipment, no one wants to spend all day mowing their lawn. Investing in an efficient machine saves you the time needed to get the job done. Both the lawn tractor and zero turn mower move at a reasonable speed.
But the zero turn has a slightly higher speed as it spins on its own trail, turning faster than a lawn tractor. The ZTR has a speed of 5 to 8 miles per hour compared to a lawn tractor which moves at an average speed of 3 miles per hour.
So, a zero turn mower will cut grass faster as it makes less turns which do not require follow-ups.
The biggest difference between a zero turn and a lawn tractor is the way we use them. A lawn tractor has a steering wheel and a gas pedal, making it relatively easy to drive. If you already know how to drive a car, there are no added skills needed to drive it, just hop in and hit the yard.
However, a zero turn mower uses levers which may take a bit of time to learn how to control. For instance, if you want to accelerate, you need to push the levers forward. Making a turn on a ZTR is quite challenging as you’ll need to use two levers at the same time, pushing one lever forward while pulling the other backward.
There is a lot to learn when riding a zero turn and if you’re a complete newbie, give yourself some weeks before getting the hang of things. So, a lawn tractor is a great option if you need a machine that’s easy to learn.
When buying farm items like zero turns and lawn tractors, expect to pay top dollar. Generally, zero turn mowers are pricier and you might want to buy a lawn tractor if you’re on a budget. An entry-level lawn tractor starts at about $1,200 exclusive of extra attachments and baggage. Zero turns cost between $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the model. Like in lawn tractors, the price does not include attachments which must be purchased separately.
The high price tag of zero turn mowers comes with value. It is faster and uses less time to maneuver in tight spots. With such time-saving features, ZTR seems to have the best value for its price.
There are smaller models of ZTR that are cheaper although they aren’t as efficient as the standard ones. In fact, if you’re not careful, they can be damaging to your lawn. A small ZTR has smaller tires that can dig up on the soft ground during cutting. They are also difficult to move on wet grass because the front wheel lacks as much traction. Lastly, small zero turns do not have the reverse option, making it extremely difficult to pass over already-trimmed grass.
Lawn tractors are seemingly easier to operate unless your lawn has shrubs, trees, and other obstacles. In such cases, a zero turn will do the trimming efficiently, cutting corners and dodging obstacles as it moves.
The ZTR’s zero radius feature allows it to cut around trees and other obstacles without riding over and over. A lawn tractor may have to pass several rounds before completely trimming grass in such tight spots. It is only best on a flat lawn with little to no obstacles.
Zero Turn Vs. Lawn Tractor: Which is Better?
Both lawn tractors and zero turn mowers are incredible machines for mowing lawns fast. But each has its pros and cons, which you may need to consider to determine which one is best for you.
If you have a flexible budget, a mid-range ZTR might be the best for you. They have stronger wheels but are wide enough to stay stable on the lawn. Their wider decks make it easy to cover a large piece of land, coupled with greater horsepower as well.
Zero turns are also preferred if your lawn has many curves and obstacles, such as trees or shrubs.
On the other hand, lawn tractors are affordable alternatives if you’re on a tight budget. You’d do pretty much any lawn work with lawn tractors, as they have attachments for spreaders, dredgers, carts, and snow dredgers.
We recommend lawn tractors for hilly areas simply because they have a front-wheel drive option. Zero turns can handle flat areas and struggle on sloppy terrains as they operate on the rear wheels.
Since zero turn mowers are rather popular, more and more attachments are made for zero turn mowers every season. You may not find plenty of attachments on lawn tractors and this edges out the machine on versatility.
All in all, we hope that this in-depth comparison between zero turns vs. lawn tractors gives you enough insight to make purchase decisions. As long as you prioritize your preference and special needs, you’ll definitely choose the best for you!
Which is better a lawn tractor or zero turn?
The choice between a lawn tractor and a zero-turn mower depends on your specific lawn care needs. Lawn tractors offer versatility and are suitable for larger yards with various terrain types. They can accommodate attachments for additional tasks. Zero-turn mowers excel in maneuverability and are ideal for larger, open lawns with many obstacles. They can turn 180 degrees without leaving uncut grass. The choice should consider lawn size, terrain, and personal preference.
Does a zero-turn mower cut better than a riding mower?
Zero-turn mowers are known for their superior cutting performance compared to traditional riding mowers. Their ability to turn on a dime allows them to cut efficiently around obstacles, resulting in a more precise and even cut. However, riding mowers are still effective for most residential lawns, and their cutting quality can be excellent with proper maintenance.
What are the disadvantages of a zero turn lawn mower?
While zero-turn mowers offer excellent maneuverability and cutting performance, they do have some disadvantages. They can be challenging to operate for beginners, as the zero-turn feature requires skill to control. Zero-turn mowers are also less suitable for uneven or hilly terrain, where traditional riding mowers may perform better. Additionally, they tend to have a higher price point compared to lawn tractors.
What is the difference between a lawn mower and a zero turn?
The primary difference between a lawn mower and a zero-turn mower is in their maneuverability. Zero-turn mowers can pivot on the spot, making them highly maneuverable and efficient at turning. Traditional lawn mowers, including riding mowers and walk-behinds, have a larger turning radius, which requires more space to turn around obstacles. Zero-turn mowers are favored for their ability to navigate tight spaces and deliver precise cutting.