The Best Small Riding Lawn Mowers in 2020

If you’re in the market for a small riding lawn mower, read on! These small, but powerful mowers will save you both time and energy on lawn maintenance and ensure that your lawn remainsbeautiful and healthyfor years to come. Homeowners may ask themselves if they want to replace their push mower with a riding mower, and they should consider the fact that these two pieces of machinery are separate tools for separate purposes. Push mowers are great for a lawn with an intricate garden or sharp corners to navigate, as well as very steep slopes. Riding mowers are better for lawns larger than an acre and lawns that have thick grass and weedy patches.

Though it is more expensive than their standard push mower counterparts, a riding mower might be an investment worth making, especially if you live in a climate where lawn mowing is a year-round chore. The standard push mower costs between $150 and $400, while the standard riding mower costs an average of $2,000 so they are definitely an investment. That being said, these machines take a chore that can normally take multiple hours and simplify it by saving time.

Many customers noted that purchasing a riding mower made mowing fun and comfortable instead of back-breaking labor. The durability and strength of a small riding lawn mower can definitely save you in the long term. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of these high-power machines and help you select the best riding mower for your needs.

What Should I Look for When Buying Small Riding Lawn Mowers?

There are three types of riding lawn mowers: rear engine riding mowers, tractors, and zero turning radius mowers. Each one has its strengths and specific characteristics, so depending upon your personal lawn needs, you can decide which suits you best.

In addition to those types, which we will explore, you want to consider the size of your lawn, which will determine the most appropriate cutting deck for you. You also want to consider the transmission of the machine (automatic, manual, or hydrostatic), the comfort of the seat and steering wheel, and if you’d like it to be battery powered or run on gas. We will offer options in this article which possess each of those varying traits.

In terms of the three types, rear engine riding mowers have the engine located on the back of the mower near where you would sit. Rear engine riding mowers tend to have smaller deck sizes, which are ideal for lawns that are less than one acre. Rear engine riding mowers are great if you need to navigate obstacles like flower beds or drive your mower through narrow passageways. These are the smallest, most compactmowers, which should allow you to store them easily in your garage or shed. In terms of maneuverability, its deck pivots with the front axle which ensures a smooth cut, even when turning. These are known to be more affordable than tractors and zero turning radius motors.

Lawn and garden tractors are larger and more heavy duty, though for the purposes of this article, we will focus on some of the smaller tractor options. Lawn tractors are designed specifically to cut grass and do light yard work. Garden tractors are able to carry out more heavy duty tasks like tilling and cultivating. Garden tractors have a larger cutting width, generally ranging from 50 to 54 inches, while lawn tractors have 38 to 54 inch cutting widths. The horsepower of their engines also differ, with garden tractors all having at least 24 horsepower engines which are capable of towing heavy duty attachments.

Lastly, there is the zero turn radius mower which is fast and can make 360 degree turns in a pinch. These machines are typically used by professional landscape contractors. They are fast and maneuverable, which will increase how efficiently you can get the job done. Zero turn machines help cut a lawn more efficiently because of their ability to turn 180 degrees at the end of a mowing row. This leaves no awkward patches of uncut grass that you have to go back over after the job is otherwise complete. Zero turn mowers can go from forward to reverse in no time and can mow close to obstacles in your yard like fences and landscaping. The typical zero turn mower cuts at a speed of 5 to 8 mph, which is faster than the typical 3 to 4 mph of a lawn tractor. For the purpose of this article, we are not going to be focusing heavily on zero turn mowers because they are generally not designed for the average homeowner’s yard.

Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Small Riding Lawn Mowers

In determining the best riding mowers, we explored a number of features at varying price points. We kept our focus on the 30 inch riding mowers, which are the smallest of the bunch, while offering some larger options. Some of the features we focused on were speed, turn radius, adjustable cutting features, reverse mowing, safety features like headlights, and comfort. We also took into account both positive and negative reviews from trusted customers to back up the claims made by the companies and offer real, on the ground assessments of these ride on lawnmowers.

#1: Cub Cadet CC30H Rear Engine Riding Mower (Best Value – All-Purpose)

The Cub Cadet 30 inch 382 cc Auto-Choke Engine Hydrostatic Drive Gas Rear Engine Riding Mower is a small, rear engine riding mower. Because of its size, it is easy to maneuver around obstacles that may come in the way. This ride on lawn mower features adjustable cutting, adjustable speed, reverse mowing, and headlights. This compact, easy to use riding mower has a comfortable seat and, because of its size, is easy to store in a garage or small storage shed.

This Cub Cadet riding mower is the best value, all purpose machine on this list because, of the smallest options on the market, this product is the best value for its speed, features, and ease of use. The Cub Cadet riding mower has a maximum forward speed of 5 mph, which is more than the comparable Troy-Bilt 30 inch product. It also has a smaller rear wheel to the Troy-Bilt riding mower, speaking to how compact this product really is. It has a hydrostatic transmission, which boast the benefits of easy operation, quick to stop in an emergency, and no gearbox, which means that the hydrostatic transmission is much smaller. A hydrostatic transmission is better for small landowners, and the Cub Cadet is the perfect size for those who are looking to mow 1/2 – 2 acres of lawn.

Customers praise this Cub Cadet mower as one of the best because it’s small, so it can easily maneuver between narrow passages, like between a flower bed and a pool. They also noted that the hydrostatic transmission means no gears to shift or jerky starts. It’s easy to use, powerful, rides nicely and has a great turn ratio for those tight turns. Some customers noted that it can be tricky to maintain traction on an incline but that keeping it on a lower speed helps with the ability to control the mower. Others said that they wished it provided for 1/2 inch cutting heights (for example, 2.5 inches instead of having to choose between 2 and 3), but that this is definitely not a deal breaker.


#2: Weibang E-Rider Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Mower (Best Machine)

Say goodbye to oil and gas with this eco-friendly option. The Weibang E-Rider 72 Volt Lithium-Ion Battery Electric Read Engine Riding Mower is an environmentally friendly option that comes with a rechargeable battery that provides up to 2 hours of mowing at full charge. This mower features a user friendly control panel that offers forward, neutral, and reverse, a 2 blade cutting system, a comfortable and adjustable seat, and an easy to clean deck.

The E-Rider lawn mower is at a higher price point than the Club Cadet machine of the same size we named above, but for good reason. This riding mower is the best machine because there is no assembly required, it is battery-powered, weighs about 50 pounds less than the Club Cadet, and has a fabricated (versus stamped) deck, meaning that it’s built to face longer wear and tear as it’s made from heavier plate steel. It also has LED lights mounted on the front bumper as well as an easy to clean deck.

Customers love that the Weibang E-Rider riding lawn mower is great quality and easy to operate and it comes assembled, charged, and ready to go. One customer noted that “this product makes me no longer dread mowing the yard.” Because it’s electric, there are no leaks, oil changes or gas smells. This lawn mower is quiet, has no problem climbing inclines, and is easy to clean.

Some customers noted that it did not remain charged for the advertised 2 hours, rather needing to re-charge at about an hour and 20 minutes, but nonetheless many felt that they could finish the job on one charge. Others noted that the user manual could include clearer and more comprehensive instructions. That being said, the Weibang customer service representatives were reviewed positively.

Reason #1 to Choose This Product

You have a higher budget and you care to reduce your carbon footprint. Because of its Lithium-Ion battery, this is one of the best riding mowers to help contribute to a greener environment. In addition to contributing to a greener environment, having a battery-powered mower means no oil changes or maintenance and no gasoline smell.

Reason #2 to Choose This Product

The Weibang E-Rider is a sturdy, well-built, long-lasting machine. This machine has similar features to its competitors at about 38 inches, but is less expensive and more compact.


#3: John Deere 42-Inch Z345R (Best Small Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower)

Zero turn riding mowers are best for those with 20,000 square feet to four acres of grass and range in size up to about 60 inches. Since we’re focusing on the smaller end of the riding mower spectrum, we are going to suggest the best 42 inch zero turn machine. The John Deere 42 inch Z345R is designed with exceptional maneuverability and trimming capability. With a 42 inch Accel Deep Mower Deck that delivers improved cut quality at higher speeds, this product can side discharge, mulch, and (with an additional rear bagger) collect grass and leaves.

The John Deere 42 inch Z345R mower is the best small zero turn mower because of its 22-HP V-twin John Deere engine, dual EZT transmissions ensuring optimal speed and performance, and floating deck, which makes it well suited for hilly yards. It can also reach a top speed of 7 mph which gives it the power to get through thicker grass.

Customers describe this zero turn mower as “an absolute dream”, “marvelous”, and easy and enjoyable to operate. One customer wrote that he wished he bought this zero turn mower years ago. They said that it takes them less time to mow their lawns and provides a uniform cut every time. One customer noted that instead of the 2.5 hours it once took to mow his lawn, with the John Deere 42 inch zero turn mower, it took just 45 minutes. Some noted that the controls are sensitive, but once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t prove to be a problem. One customer pointed out that it has a bit of trouble going backwards uphill but otherwise it’s a great, reliable product.


#4: Troy-Bilt Rear Engine Riding Mower (Best Low Cost)

The Troy-Bilt 382 cc Auto-Choke Engine 6-Speed Manual Drive Gas Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower is ideal for lawns up to 1.5 acres with relatively flat terrain. This machine allows users to easily switch from side discharging grass clippings to mulching mode, which helps avoid thatch buildup and returns nutrients to the soil, keeping your lawn healthier. Steering is simple and comfortable and vibrations are reduced with this mower’s Soft Touch steering wheel.

This ride on lawnmower is the best low cost machine because at $1299.99, it’s less expensive than most of its competitors, at the same size and with many of the same features, like reverse mowing and adjustable speed and cutting heights.

Customers commend this riding lawn mower as one of the best low cost small ride on lawn mowers because it runs smoothly and cuts corners in a small radius. Some customers noted that it does not have power steering, which augments the effort needed to turn the steering wheel, making it simpler to drive. Others noted that it requires assembly, unlike other models that come ready to use, but for this price, the value of this mower is unbeatable.


#5: Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 (Best for Comfort)

Here’s another Cub Cadet product, but this one is their 42 inches zero turns riding mower with a strong, tubular steel frame providing for more strength and durability. It features a Kohler 7000 V-twin engine, which ensures reliable starting and smooth operation. Its Deck Wash SmartJet system makes sure that the grass that builds up underneath the desk is easily cleaned out using high-pressure water. The premium tires offer excellent traction and help this mower ride with power on uneven ground.

The Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 is best for comfort because of its fully adjustable 18 inch seat, high back seat, adjustable lap bars with soft-touch ergonomic hand grips, vibration-dampening rubber floor mat, and ample leg room.

There was an overwhelming amount of positive reviews on this product, with many customers noting that they were impressed with its performance, comfort, power, and precision. One customer said it was the best purchase they ever made and “makes cutting the yard a breeze!” Some customers noted that the manual they received was not the correct one for this mower, and even the correct one wasn’t the most helpful.


On a Budget? Try These:

#1 Budget Troy-Bilt 42-Inch Pony Manual Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor

The Troy-Bilt Pony 42 inch 439 cc Auto-Choke Engine 7-Speed Manual Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor is best for lawns up to 2 acres. With 6-speed, 7-speed, and AutoDrive, it has a variety of transmissions that allow for easy speed control, a range of deck sizes from 36 inch to 54 inch and a garden hose attachment for easy and convenient deck maintenance. Other attachments available for this product include a rear bagger and mulch kit attachment which are sold separately.

This lawn mower’s engine is tested to ensure dependable starting in all weather conditions. It also provides increased visibility with automatic headlights, and its rear hitch makes it easy to pull garden carts, sprayers, and spreaders.

Customers love that this lawn tractor starts easily and moves smoothly over slightly uneven, hilly terrain. It’s also easy to maneuver around trees and shrubs. They appreciate that it’s a well-built, reliable machine that is low maintenance and “runs like a beauty.” One customer noted that in order to mow in reverse, you have to disengage the blade, which is inconvenient.


#2 Budget: Troy-Bilt 36-Inch Pony Gas Manual Drive Mulching Riding Lawn Tractor

This lawn tractor is similar to its 42-inch counterpart, just smaller. It features the same easy speed control, powerful engine, and 36-inch to 54-inch cutting deck options to find the right deck for your yard.

This 36-inch lawn tractor features the same soft touch steering wheel and low to high back seats. This lawn tractor is ideal for smaller yards and gated areas and offers optional attachments like a rear bagger and tow behind accessories like aerators, dump carts, and sprayers.

Customers enjoy the fact that this mower is large enough to get the job done efficiently yet small enough to get into those tight spots. The controls are easy to use, it rides smoothly, turns on a dime, and gives a good, even cut. Some customers noted that they wished it had anti-scalp wheels, which help to control the height of the cutting deck on uneven and rough terrain. Also, similar to complaints of some of the other products, customers said this machine could benefit from a clearer owners manual.


#3 Budget: Craftsman R110 10.5-HP Riding Mower

This rear engine mower is one of the most affordable products on the market. Its features include 6-speed transmission, 18-inch turning radius, and a mulching kit to help return nutrients to your soil to optimize lawn health. It also has a stamped steel deck for extra durable use.

Though this product is cheaper than the average riding lawn mower, it doesn’t compromise on making sure that when you’re finished mowing, you have a professionally finished lawn. This Craftsman R110 mower comes with a soft touch steering wheel and mid-back seat which accommodates different heights for maximum comfort.

Customers love this product for its narrow width and tight turning radius, allowing it to easily maneuver in and out of yard gates, shed doors, and around flower beds. This simple to operate mower is best for small to medium sized yards and cuts very clean. One customer noted that “if you just want to cut grass and do not have too much property, this is a perfect choice … [and] actually kind of fun to drive too.” One customer noted that the steering is a little bit off, but manageable.


Verdict: Your Best Small Riding Lawn Mowers 

If you want the best value for money, pick the Cub Cadet 30 inch 382 cc Auto-Choke Engine Hydrostatic Drive Gas Rear Engine Riding Mower.

If you specifically would like a zero turn mower, pick the John Deere 42 inch Z345R.

If you want to keep the spend under $1300, pick the Troy-Bilt 382 cc Auto-Choke Engine 6-Speed Manual Drive Gas Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower.

When it comes to the best small riding lawn mower, it’s best to consider the size and terrain of your yard, if you will need to be navigating in and around narrow areas, and what features matter most to you. Every individual is going to have the features they value most, some being a tight turn radius, others being the comfort of the seat and steering wheel, and still others being the type of transmission. No matter your needs and values, you can feel confident that the products on this list are of high quality, so once you determine what you need, you can find the right mower to get the job done.

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