The 3 Best Zero Turn Mowers of 2017: A Review

There is nothing more nostalgic or reminiscent of summer than the smell of fresh cut grass. Having a beautiful lawn has been a top warm weather priority for decades. Hours of back breaking work, sweaty foreheads, and (most likely) a few choice words are combined to get those lawns to look like a baseball diamond.  A zero turn mower can take all of the hard work out of summer lawn care as well as leave you with prestigious curb appeal.

What is a Zero Turn Mower?

A zero turn mower is a riding lawn mower that has a zero degree turn radius. That zero degrees makes for a smooth ride and a professionally manicured lawn. That’s why you are reading this guide after all, isn’t it?

Hiring a lawn service can be expensive and you never know what results you could end up with. There is another option besides hiring a hungover college student to do a mediocre job. Investing in a zero turn mower is a great way to save money in the long run and make sure your lawn is up to your standards.

Unfortunately, not all zero turn mowers are created equally. There are a lot of different choices out there and it can be overwhelming to find the right mower. After much deliberation, we have picked the top 3 zero turn mowers, taking the hard work out of your hands.

Here are the top 3 zero turn mowers in descending order:

#1. Cub Cadet RZT S 42” Riding Mower- 22HP

PROS

  • Easy to use
  • Reasonably priced
  • Steering Wheel instead of bars
  • Automatic Transmission
  • Gas and brake pedals
  • Large Wheels
  • Small Deck
  • Powerful

CONS

  • Back tires interfere with mowing close to objects
  • Does not mow in reverse as advertised
  • Can throw grass and debris up at you
  • Mulch kit leaks out contents
  • Changing oil is difficult

What You Need To Know

The Cub Cadet RZT S 42” Riding Mower is our top pick for zero turn mowers. It excels in almost every category. Let’s go through it’s main features so you can see just why we love this mower so much.

Why You Want the Cub

The Cub’s ease of use has to be it’s number 1 selling point. By replacing lap bars with a steering wheel, they really made this mower accessible. It’s so easy my 84 year old grandma could drive this thing. The brakes and gas pedal are also a no-brainer as far as operating goes. Finally, the automatic transmission makes sure you don’t have to operate a rocket to run this baby.

Why you want the Cub

What’s almost better than an easy to use mower? The price being affordable! Now, it may still seem like an investment (and it is) but this is an excellent priced machine for what you get. Currently, the Cub Cadet RZT S 42” Riding Mower is put at a $2,699 MSRP. That is one hell of a deal!

Your lawn mower shouldn’t shred your lawn. It’s meant to cut the grass so you have a nice luscious oasis to sprawl out on should you wish. The large wheels in the front allow you to operate this mower without tearing up the grass as you go. This is a huge deal because now you can tackle even the wildest of yards without fear of destroying it.

The small deck makes it able to maneuver easily around your yard. That is, in addition to the fact that it is a zero turn mower. The Cub is built to deal with a hilly, bumpy, and large yard. That’s not to say it can’t handle a small flat yard either, though!  It’s 22 HP allows you to zip across your lawn and cut your mowing time way down. Several buyers commented their mowing time was cut in half! That’s a whole lot of extra time to sip lemonade, or something stronger if you wish.

Finally, the Cub name brand speaks for itself. Cub has been around for a very long time creating reliable machinery. In fact, my grandfather used a Cub tractor to mow his lawn way back in the day. I don’t know about you, but I certainly trust a good new brand that has stood the test of decades.

The Downside

On to the not so glamorous side of things. There is no perfect mower, or product for that matter, on the market. It’s just life. We have to take the bad with the good. Luckily, with the Cub mower, there aren’t too many downsides. Let’s address them so you know if it’s the right fit for you.

Those back tires are a bit annoying. When you are trying to use the full force of the zero turn capability and the back tires are bumping against your object, you have a right to be annoyed. A lot of buyers have mentioned that getting close to trees and landscaping can be a hassle because of this feature. Using a weed eater isn’t the end of the world, but when you are investing in a zero turn mower, you are trying to get rid of the extra work.

Cub advertises the mower being able to mow in reverse. Apparently, that just doesn’t work. Why is this a bad thing? Well, most lawns aren’t perfectly square with no objects in them. Because of this, sometimes you need to back up, turn, and restart in certain areas. Being able to mow in reverse cuts down on the time mowing your lawn and makes for a more professional cut.

Lawn work isn’t meant to leave you clean as a whistle afterwards. However, the Cub seems to throw up more grass and debris than other riding mowers do. This leaves you a little bit of a mess after mowing. Not to mention, it’s not real pleasant having grass thrown in your face for an hour. The mulch kit doesn’t make this problem better. It seems to leak out debris and grass as well.

Last complaint! Changing the oil yourself in a mower is not a must but most people do it. Changing the oil in this Cub mower is a challenge because the plug is hard to get in and out. You can end up with a mess and a frustrating afternoon if you do decide to do it yourself. Best leave that part to the professionals if you can.

The Verdict

The Cub Cadet RZT S 42” Riding Mower is a brilliant zero turn mower. It’s ease of use and power are it’s strong points and for a good reason. Being able to just start this thing up and go is a huge positive. Mowing your lawn in half the time is what getting a nice zero turn mower is all about.

#2. Ariens Max Zoom 60″ Riding Mower – 725cc

PROS

  • Durable
  • Professional grade
  • Steel deck
  • Mulching and bagging capabilities
  • 60-inch mowing deck
  • High-back seat
  • Anti-scalp wheels

CONS

  • Can leak oil
  • Not extremely fast
  • Not perfect on hilly surfaces

What You Need To Know

The Aries Max Zoom is the big boy of zero turn mowers. It’s large deck and heavy duty frame make it a monster of a machine. There are some really great attributes to it followed up with a couple negatives.

Why you want the Aries Max Zoom

The 60-inch steel framed, welded deck make this mower an iron giant (in this case steel). It makes it both durable and professional grade. The 60 inch deck allows for you to take a wider pass at your lawn cutting down the time it takes to mow it.

Perhaps one of the best features of the Aries is the anti-scalp tires. If you have worked with a riding mower before, you know how easily you can leave divots or skid marks in your lawn. The anti-scalp tires help prevent this from happening. They balance out the largeness of the Max Zoom so you get a professional cut every time.

It’s mulching and bagging capabilities skim down even more yard work for you. You can do a few steps in one with this feature! Have your lawn looking you hired it done with no clumps of grass or debris laying around after you mow.

Finally, the high back seat really is a marvel. On this big of a machine you want to be comfortable. Sit on this throne without fear of back pain the next day. You can actually relax while you work!

The Downside

There have been a few accounts of oil leaking on the Aries Max Zoom. This may be customer specific. It’s always hard to tell if it’s an outside factor or the machine itself. However, the fact it’s been mentioned a few times is worth the concern.

If you are looking for a mower for a bumpy or hilly yard, this isn’t the mower for you. It’s largeness does promote a smooth ride, but if you are on uneven surfaces it will definitely leave you jostled.

The need for speed won’t be met with the Aries Max Zoom. It’s not slow by any means, but with a 60-inch deck, it can’t go incredibly fast. It does seem to balance itself out on mowing times though. You are basically trading out speed for a wider path mowed.

The Verdict

The Aries Max Zoom is a quality investment for a zero turn mower. It is incredibly durable and efficient. There’s a reason we mentioned several times that it is commercial grade. If you have a large lawn, this is a great buy. Just make sure your lawn isn’t super uneven.

#3. Husqvarna MZ52 52″ Mower – 23 HP

PROS

  • Wicked fast
  • Professional Cut
  • Welded mower deck
  • Ergonomically designed deck raising system
  • 12 different height adjustments
  • Smooth and comfortable ride
  • Quiet

CONS

  • Leaves divots in lawn with sharp turns
  • Back wheels lack adequate traction
  • Lap bars instead of steering wheel (debateable if this is a pro or con)

What You Need To Know

The Husqvarna MZ52 52” mower is a beast of a machine. It has the capability to mow commercial which makes it fast and efficient. Less mowing, more summer. There are a whole lot of positives and very few negatives on this powerhouse.

Why you want the Husqvarna MZ52

8.5 mph will leave quite a few mowers in the dust. If you are looking to gain back more of your time, this is the mower for you. You can zoom through mowing your lawn and get on to bigger and better things. It boasts being able to mow 3.5 acres per hour.

It’s sturdy. The Husqvarna has a welded deck making it nearly indestructible. This also allows for a more smooth ride. It vibrates less, it’s more quiet, and because of this, it’s a very smooth ride.

Let’s talk more about the deck on this thing. The ergonomic deck raising system allows for a professional cut every time. It has 12 different levels you can raise or lower the deck to. This ensures the right height for your lawn so there is no tearing. Over time, you will have a more healthy and beautiful lawn.

Finally, it’s really comfortable! The high back on the seat coupled with the welded mowing deck allows for maximum comfort. A smooth ride at a faster rate will leave mowing the lawn a delight instead of a chore.

The Downside

The Husqvarna MZ52 is a real delight, but it does have a couple negative features worth mentioning.

Because it’s a big mower with a large welded deck, it is a little more tough on your lawn. The tires can leave divots in your lawn if you are going too fast and take a sharp turn. The whole point of a zero turn mower is to be able to do that, so it’s a serious thing to consider before buying.

The back wheels can slip and slide on slopes. Why is this an issue? It can cause tearing in your lawn for one. Also, it is a safety hazard if you have a hilly yard. Take caution when you are mowing and keep in mind that those back wheels aren’t the best.

The last negative is more of a matter of opinion. Lap bars instead of a steering wheel are easier for some to use than others. Personally, I find the lap bars easier to maneuver a tighter turn. Novices often find the steering wheel easier to operate because it’s familiar to them. Whichever way you look at it, it’s not necessarily a negative but more of a preference.

The Verdict

The Husqvarna MZ52 is an excellent choice for a zero turn mower. It has the power and durability you need while maintaining the comfort you want. Mow down your time and gain back your Saturday with the Husqvarna MZ52.

What to look for in a Zero Turn Mower

Now that we have gone through our top zero turn mower list, you are probably wondering how and why we picked the mowers we did. Though we summarized the pros and cons of each mower, it is important to know the specifics.

There are a lot of different categories that you should take into account when looking for the right zero turn mower. Durability, engine design, deck construction, comfort, user friendly, adjustable cutting heights, tire width, and (of course) price are the top categories we looked for in our mowers.

Price

What’s your budget? A zero turn mower can run you anywhere from $3,500 to $15,000. It all depends on what you want to spend and what kind of lawn you have. You can go for the lowest price mower, of course. In the long run though, you might end up paying more for repairs and end up having to get another mower sooner than you hope.

Durability

This should be at the top of your list. We all make mistakes, myself included. Sometimes, you just don’t see that stump in the yard, especially if you forget to mow for a couple of weeks! You want a mower that can stand up to a few accidents as well as the test of time.

Engine Design

Let’s get a little more technical now. A smaller engine is going to give you less power. So, when you are looking at zero turn mowers, the lower price range typically has a smaller engine, or a single cylinder engine. This is going to fine if you have a small yard. However, if you have a bigger yard, you are going to want a little more umph. That umph is in the form of a two cylinder engine.

Deck Construction

No, we aren’t building a deck after you mow the lawn. Relax! The deck of your mower is what covers up the engine. It raises and lowers based on what height you need to cut your grass at. Why is this important for you to know? If the deck construction is poor, your mower isn’t going to withstand much.

The less expensive, lower quality mowers will have a cookie cutter deck. It’s going to be all in one piece with no welding and it may even be fairly thin. However, if you have a frankenstein deck welded together, you are looking at one tough and durable mower.

User Friendliness

This is a big one folks. If you aren’t comfortable with riding lawn mowers or machinery in general, this is one of your top categories. Even if you are a gear head, you probably don’t want to have to think hard about mowing your lawn. You want to find a mower that is as close to turn-key as possible. All you have to do is start it up and away you go.

Cutting Heights

This may seem like a trivial category but it’s not! Being able to adjust the cutting height on a mower is really crucial to a well maintained lawn. If your grass is tall and you mow too low to the ground, you are going to either choke the lawn mower out or rip the grass. This leaves you with a messy looking lawn.

Adjustable cutting height vary from a few options to multiple options. Picking a mower with more options may be better for a professional cut. However, keep in mind your experience level with mowing. If you have no idea how high or low to cut it, think about finding a mower with fewer options to take some of the guesswork out.

Tire Width

You are probably wondering what in the world tire width has to do with mowing your lawn. It actually is a key factor! Think of it this way, if you had really small skinny tires, you would put all the weight of the mower on those tires. What would the result be? You got it! Small skinny lines running through your yard.

Instead, you want to look for wider or fat tires. These are going to distribute the weight of the mower out better leaving you with no lines. It also provides a better grip on your lawn so you aren’t skidding your tires and creating holes.

Comfort

This is about as simple as it gets. When you sit on the lawn mower seat, is it comfortable? If not, don’t buy it! You are going to be spending a lot of time on this puppy. While there is always a certain degree of wearing or breaking the seat in, there is no reason to suffer through it. Get a mower that is comfortable for you.

What is the best Zero Turn Mower for you?

This is the question you have probably been repeating to yourself while reading this article. Here is your answer! Only you can be the judge on which mower is going to be best for you. I know, major flop for a climax. Here is the deal though. Your mower needs to fit your life and so there isn’t a straightforward answer.

However, there are some things you should really think about before making a decision. One of the more obvious categories to consider is price. What amount do you want to spend on a mower? Following that, you probably want to find the most user friendly.

Another key factor to keep in consideration is your lawn type. If you have a flat and small lawn you can get away with a smaller, one cylinder engine, less expensive option. However, if you have an acreage that has you mowing for hours, you will want  a commercial grade mower that is more durable and probably a little more expensive.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, it is your yard, your mower, and your summer. Forking over the money for a zero turn mower is not always easy. Keep in mind that it is an investment and going to save you money down the line.

A zero turn mower is going to leave you with a beautifully manicured lawn. It is also going to cut down your time and energy in maintaining it. On top of all that, it’s just plain fun to drive and ride that thing in your yard! Remember that old saying, “that baby can turn on a dime”? Well, they must have been talking about zero turn mowers.

All said and done, I would highly recommend the Cub Cadet RZT S 42” Riding Mower. Don’t spend one more summer slaving away in your yard. Take your summer back. Get your zero turn mower today. Go on, make the neighbors good and jealous.

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