Zero Turn Mower vs Riding Mower: What Are the Differences?

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Larger landscapes can no longer be accommodated by your standard home lawnmower. This is where the big guns come into play. For large scale lawns, you’ll need either a Zero Turn or a Riding Mower. But of course, you first need to identify what a Zero Turn vs Riding Mower is. 

Zero Turn vs Riding Mower

There are two main large scale lawn mowers. These are the Zero Turn mower and the Lawn Tractor. They are both used for big mowing projects such as mowing golf courses, sports, and school campus fields.

They are both built for mowing large scale grass lands. They can be both ridden for an ease of mowing big landscapes.

To know which one you should buy for your needs, you’ll need to first understand the difference between the two mowers. 

What is a Zero Turn Mower?

A Zero Turn Mower is a riding lawn mower that is made to have a zero turning radius. It is built to be capable of maneuvering around any corner, or angle, to cut as much grass as possible, without missing any patches.

A zero turn mower parked outdoors

This lawn mower is designed to be ridden and to be powerful enough to cut for long periods of time at a large scale. Its direction of cutting is controlled by two levers that maneuver two motors simultaneously

Zero Turn Mower Considerations

There are a few factors you need to consider when choosing to buy a zero turn mower. Here is a quick buying guide to help you learn the advantages and disadvantages of buying a zero turn lawn mower.

Zero Turn Advantages

  • It is a faster machine to work with: You will be able to save a lot of time working on a larger lawn as this machine has a faster process of cutting grass.
  • It is precise with its cutting: It is built for precision when it comes to cutting around any obstacle. You can cut around weird shapes, around trees, and large rocks – the mower and its blades are designed for virtually all scenarios. This is one of the prominent reasons why landscapers prefer buying a zero turn mower. 
  • It does not leave any patches of grass uncut: Because of its ease to maneuver, it is also easy to cut through all parts of your lawn. Therefore you will never have to worry about uncut patches of grass.
  • It is designed to cater to creating outstanding grass: The way that the machine works was carefully engineered to guarantee that it effectively cuts grass in a way that it can grow beautifully all throughout the year. 

Zero Turn Disadvantages

  • It’s the most expensive type of lawn mower: Being the fastest, and most precise type of riding lawn mower, it is no surprise that it is also the most expensive type. The price can range from $2600 to $5000, depending on the brand and if there are special features built into the mower.  
  • It can’t cut grass that’s over 7 inches long: Most zero turn mowers are not great at cutting grass that is far too long. And the ones that can cut long grass blades, are a lot more expensive.
  • It is difficult to maneuver (at first): It really takes a lot of getting used to when you try to maneuver your zero turn mower as you will be using two handles to control it. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. 
  • It requires a large covered storage space: As it is significantly wide, it requires a large space to store it in. It is advised that it is stored in a dry, covered area. This means you’ll need to guarantee that you have space in the garage before you buy one. 

Take note of these advantages and disadvantages of zero turn mowers before you decide to buy one. Really consider if this is what you need as it does require a big sum of money to invest in one. 

What is a Riding Mower?

A Riding Mower is the next larger scale mower compared to the standard home lawn mower that requires it to be pushed. It was built the same way regular lawn mowers are built, but for a bigger lawn job. 

You too can ride the riding mower (hence the name). It differs from the zero turn mower as it is maneuvered with a steering wheel

Riding Mower Considerations

You also need to consider what you get with a riding mower when comparing a riding lawn mower vs zero turn. These are the advantages and disadvantages if a riding mower. 

Riding Mower Advantages

  • It’s more affordable: The good thing about a riding mower is you get the advantage of a faster mowing time without the expensive cost of a zero turn. You can mow your lawn comfortably, and easily, no matter how large it is. The prices range from $1000-$3000. 
  • It is easy to maneuver: A riding mower is maneuvered with a steering wheel, making it a lot easier to use than zero turn. It doesn’t take a lot of practice to get the hang of the machine.
  • You have the option of add-ons for your landscaping needs: If a riding mower is a Power Take-Off (PTO) mower, then you can attach different add-ons for different landscaping purposes. This varies from a sprayer, a fertilizer spreader, snow blowers, aerators, or even a utility cart to move heavy loads with. 

Riding Mower Disadvantages

  • It only turns at a certain angle: This may not seem like a big deal, but the problem with this is that it does leave room for improvement. And by this, we mean, the riding mower leaves patches of uncut grass that it can not get to if the angle is not right. 
  • It can’t be used on lawns with rocks and trees: It’ll be difficult to maneuver around obstacles such as rocks and trees. It is better on lawns that are relatively empty where the grass can be cut in straight lines. 
  • It requires a large space to store it: The riding mower is similar to the zero turn as they both require a large and dry area to keep them safe from weathering. This again means that you will need to guarantee that you can accommodate your riding mower, to help it last longer.  
A green and yellow colored riding mower beside a hedge

This buying guide is really helpful if you want to consider a riding mower over a zero turn mower. It has a lot of advantages, and could be a better choice for you, rather than the more expensive zero turn mower. 

Which Mower is Best?

If you have a smaller yard, you’ll never need to consider these styles of lawn mowing devices. But, for larger lawns, you will probably have to pick between one of the two.

These two mowers are capable of doing different jobs well, and others, not so well. Here’s a breakdown of what jobs you can expect either a zero turn or a riding mower are best for. 

  1. Cutting Grass Around Obstacles: As previously mentioned, this is a job for a Zero Turn Mower. This machine is far more effective and is specifically designed to cut grass around difficult angles and obstacles such as flower beds, distorted pavements, large rocks, and tree bottoms. 
  2. Flat Terrain: Both a Zero Turn Mower and a Riding Mower can mow effectively on flat terrain. The decision of which one to buy will ultimately boil down to your budget, with many riding options being less expensive. In this case, with both mowers effective on a flat lawn, you can choose the cheaper mower
  3. Hilly Terrain: Grass on a hilly terrain will definitely need the use of a Riding Mower as these have larger wheels that are safer to use on slopes. And the fact that they are easier to maneuver also makes them the better choice. 
  4. Time Saving: It is known that the Zero Turn Mower is a lot faster at cutting grass than any other mower. But in relation to regular push mowers, a Riding Mower is also fast enough. This decision boils down to your budget and preference. 
  5. Other Gardening Needs: If you need to fertilize, aerate, or even push snow off of your lawn, you’ll have more of the freedom of attachment options with a Riding Mower. You might just be surprised just how many gardening needs your riding mower can accommodate. 

These are the different functions that both the zero turn mowers and riding mower are both effective at doing. The mower you’ll buy will definitely depend on the needs of your lawn, and you as the landscaper. 

Related: Read up on the top battery options for lawn tractors here.


When it comes to the zero turn vs riding mower, both have really great advantages, and some downfalls. What matters is what you need as a user. Either way, these two mowers will make cutting your grass and maintaining your lawn a lot easier and faster to do.

This is something that you’ll definitely need when you are handling a large lawn. The decision of which one you’ll buy will ultimately be decided by your budget and what you’ll need the machine the most for.