Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2024 - Consumer Reports (2024)

From tractors to zero-turn-radius and battery-operated models, common factors among the top-rated riding lawn mowers in Consumer Reports’ tests are strong mulching performance, cutting evenness, and a smooth-handling ride. But which riding mower is best for you depends on several factors, starting with your yard.

In this article

  • Best Tractors Zero-Turn Rear Engine Riding Mowers
  • How CR Tests Lawn Mowers

“If you have a fairly regularly shaped lawn and want that groomed look, it may be best to opt for a tractor,” says Misha Kollontai, who oversees Consumer Reports’ lawn mower testing. “They generally provide a more even cut and cost less than a zero-turn mower.”

You’ll also occasionally find rear-engine riding mowers available, but based on our testing, they perform worse than the other variety. You should consider one only if you prioritize a smaller size and price, Kollontai says. But even the latter point is moot, as you can find comparably priced higher-rated models.

CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of the best lawn tractors, zero-turn mowers, and rear-engine riders on the market right now. You’ll find gas-powered models from Cub Cadet, Gravely, and John Deere, plus battery-powered zero-turn mowers from Ego and Greenworks. We also explain how we test them. You can find even more options in CR’s lawn mower ratings and read shopping tips in our lawn mower buying guide.

Best Lawn Tractor Riding Mowers

A classic tractor is especially good if the land you’re mowing is hilly. Lawn tractors feature a stable cutting deck, from 42 to 54 inches wide, and typically top out at speeds of 6 to 7 mph.

Many John Deere tractors perform impressively in our tests. It’s one of only three brands to earn an above-average or higher score for predicted reliability and one of only two with stellar owner satisfaction in CR member surveys. All of the tractors in the 100 series (we evaluate five models) should perform similarly, and those in the 200 series (we evaluate two models) should deliver similar performance.

Best Zero-Turn-Radius Riding Mowers

Zero-turn-radius lawn tractors have historically used lever arms to navigate, though there are now models with excellent performance that have joysticks or steering wheels instead. Available in gas and electric, these riding mowers are typically pricier, but they’re faster and can turn in place, which lets them nimbly maneuver around obstacles such as trees.

Electric battery-powered riding mowers are too new a category for us to judge long-term predicted reliability or owner satisfaction.

Best Rear-Engine Riding Mower

The rear-engine riding mower is the smallest category of riding mowers, usually built with a 30-inch cutting deck and good for anyone who doesn’t have a ton of storage space.

How CR Tests Lawn Mowers and Tractors

To get you ratings and reviews of the latest models by early spring, we travel to our mower testing facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to conduct tests in late winter at grounds we prepare each year.

We plant 1,800 pounds of grass seed (predominantly annual rye, prized for its dense growth) and cut 500,000 square feet of grass in three modes—mulching, side-discharging, and bagging, producing a total of 3,000 pounds of clippings. We mow both level turf and slopes to get a feel for each model, and we review their convenience features.

Each model’s Overall Score incorporates all of that performance data along with predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings from our latest member surveys. We leverage data on more than 9,600 riding mowers owned by CR members purchased new between 2013 and 2023.

Note: For models with noise-at-ear ratings that are unsatisfactory—or less than satisfactory—we recommend that you use hearing protection. Also, CR doesn’t judge zero-turn mowers for bagging because our research shows that just 11 percent of their users bag their clippings.

Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2024 - Consumer Reports (1)

Tobie Stanger

As a senior editor at Consumer Reports for more than 30 years, Tobie Stanger specialized in helping readers shop wisely, save money, and avoid scams. Her home- and shopping-related beats have included appliance and grocery stores, generators, homeowners and flood insurance, humidifiers, lawn mowers, and luggage. She also covered home improvement products, including flooring, roofing, and siding.

Best Riding Lawn Mowers of 2024 - Consumer Reports (2024)
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