Selecting a Lawnmower - Tractor/Rider

It's bound to happen, anyone that has to mow a lawn week after week for several months will start to think what it would be like to own a riding mower. This is especially true for large property owners, and I don't necessarily mean acreages, if you have at least 1/4 of acre a riding mower would save a lot of time and effort.

There are electric riding mowers, in the same manner that there are standard push mowers. There are batteries needed, of course, and they will power the mower for 1/2 acre or more before you need to re-charge. They have advantages such as they are quiet, don't produce fumes, don't use fossil fuels, and other things. Some disadvantages are that they just don't have the power that gasoline powered riding/tractor mowers have and they can get stuck in areas of thick grass and brush.

There are tractor mowers designed with reel blades and they shoot an ultra-fine mulch out the front, most lawn professionals prefer that type of mower. If you are the typical homeowner and don't have a golf course to mow, the rotary blade type is the most common and is less expensive than the reel blade type and is probably the one that you would use. The rotary blades are housed under the deck housing, since the seat fits on top of this housing it will cause some vibration, but a good quality and thickly cushioned seat should take care of this for the most part.

The smaller type of tractor mower is often referred to as a 'riding mower' but the basic design is essentially the same. Some differences may be between the horsepower of the engine and the physical size of the unit itself. It makes sense that more horsepower means a more powerful unit, but efficiency has an essential role to play as well. A quality, well built model doesn't need as much horsepower to do as good as job.

The grade or steepness vs. levelness of your yard has an effect on how much horsepower is needed to do an adequate job. A hilly, sloped area will require more horsepower to maneuver through the terrain then a level piece of land. For property where the latter holds true, a full size lawn tractor is the best choice.

A full sized tractor usually comes equipped with an engine in the 10 to 15 horsepower range, which may seem like nothing compared to the 150 to 300 horsepower that a typical car engines have. And, as a general rule, the more horsepower of the engine the more expensive the unit will be. However, before you pay the extra money for a riding tractor/mower analyze if you will really need the extra horsepower.

Another feature that effects price is the cutting area of the blades. The blades usually range between 38 to 42 inches (96-107 cm). It stands to reason that the wider the blade, the more grass will be cut, and thereby mowing the lawn will get done in less time. But the big surprise may be that the difference is only about 10%, and it may be even less if you factor in some inaccuracy and the general way in which the tractor is operated.

Of course, if you want to, you can purchase a garden tractor with a big engine, 20 horsepower or more and an blade deck of 60 inches, but if you only have to mow a lawn it is a little overkill. However, you may want to consider it if you have other things that need that kind of power around the property. Things such as hauling tree parts, bushes, dirt, gravel and a host of other tasks around the yard. Many of the larger models have options like trailer hitches that will enable you to haul a garden trailer and other attachments, but of course these cost more money.

Another feature you will need to concern yourself with is the turning radius of the model you are considering purchasing. Models that are designed with tight turning radius's, even as low as zero will be more expensive. Here again, consider if you really need one that tight. An average lawn with a level terrain that is easy to navigate through will not warrant the more expensive machine.

In the store, sit down on the unit, determine if you can get a feel for the steering and other controls. Test out the pedals and handles and ensure that they are within reach and feel comfortable to you. Make sure that the unit itself is made of quality materials so that the tractor will last for a long time. You should expect to pay anywhere from several hundred dollars to over $2,000 or more. Then, after you buy, get ready, hop on and you'll have a more enjoyable time riding instead of pushing that old mower.

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