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We have been testing the best ride-on lawn mowers to find which models are the best right now, and which ones are fantastic value for money. After lots of testing, we consider the Husqvarna Rider 214TC as the best ride-on lawn mower of 2021. This ride-on lawn tractor is a high-performance machine and perfect for large areas with lots of troublesome obstacles.
Alternatively, the best tractor model ride-on lawn mower with the cutting motor in the middle is the Viking MT 4097 SX. This model’s exceptional comfort, versatile trailer and towing hook make it a useful tool for homeowners and even professional gardeners.
We tested all the models over a long duration for at least one summer. We assessed the mowing result both immediately after mowing and after a period of regular mowing to be able to provide consumers with all they need to know. All of the ride-on lawn mowers were tested on several different grass areas with varying grass types, conditions and heights. We also mowed on different grass moisture levels to put each model to the test – within our test!
In our review, we focused on the following characteristics to determine the best riding lawn mower for the money:
How efficiently does the ride-on lawn mower cut the grass without impairing the mowing result? Can it cope with tall grass? How good is it at cutting tufts of damp grass?
How comfortable is it to operate the ride-on lawn mower? How easy is it to understand? Are there a lot of vibrations? How easy is it to clean and maintain?
How well does the ride-on lawn mower work in a garden with lots of obstacles? How efficient is it on larger surfaces? How does it cope with slopes, hollows, bushes and tight corners?
The ride-on lawn mowers were also assessed in terms of size, build quality, functionality, noise levels, petrol fumes, fuel consumption and available accessories. All of these factors have been taken into account, and a final score has been awarded on the basis of the lawn mower’s value for money.
We have tested a selection of the market's most popular ride-on lawn mowers. Compare prices of all the listed ride-on lawn mowers on PriceRunner.
A high-performance mini tractor for large areas with lots of obstacles
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 12.8 kW (at 3100 rpm) Tank volume: 12 l Cutting height: 25-75 mm (10 step) Cutting width: 94 cm Speed: Forwards: 9.5 km/h | Backwards: 9.5 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 244 kg Noise level: 83 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 2.5 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The Husqvarna Rider 214TC is a fast, rear-wheel drive ride-on lawn tractor with a replaceable front-mounted cutting deck. This makes it much more than a lawn mower because it can also be equipped with accessories such as a snow shovel, brush or aerator. The design makes the steering intuitive and gives good visibility of the area you’re cutting. Unfortunately, there are no headlights for mowing in low light.
Accessibility and manoeuvrability are both exemplary and make it easy to mow around bushes and trees. However, you have to remember that if you're not careful, the rear section can swing out and hit fences and walls.
The cutting width is nicely judged for larger areas with lots of obstacles. But it would have been nice if the cutting deck was 5 cm further out from the wheels, as this would make it easier to mow around flowerbeds.
Sit on mowers like these provide excellent comfort for both short and tall drivers. It has a comfortable seat, easily accessible controls, a compartment for drinks/tools and a pedal-controlled hydrostatic gearbox. The hydrostatic transmission is worth its weight in gold in areas that require a lot of reversing.
The cutting result is excellent, and the cutting height can be set very low. Mulching is particularly effective as long as the grass isn’t too tall or wet. It’s effortless to clean off the cutting deck as long as you have a hose. The 214TC is a clearly well-designed ride-on lawn mower, and despite its high price tag shows it is decent value for money, which is why we designate it as our best ride-on lawn tractor of 2021.
King of the ride-on lawn mowers, which gets maximum points in everything we give it to do.
Mows and navigates efficiently on both larger and fiddly areas – but this is reflected in the price tag.
Suitable for many different garden types and thus for a broad section of homeowners.
A versatile and useful value-for-money tractor with good comfort
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 7.2 kW (at 3100 rpm) Cutting height: 35-90 mm (8 step) Cutting width: 95 cm Recommended grass area: Up to 6,000 m2 Weight: 197 kg Noise level: 86 dB Gearbox: Hydrostatic Manual (PDF):
We selected the Stihl RT 4097 SX mini tractor as the best lawn tractor in the test due to its time efficiency, great cutting result and versatility. For example, the fact that it has a towing hook makes it an excellent tool for moving things in the garden. If you buy a small trailer, the 4097 SX can cope with towing weights of up to 40 kg without problems. The good turning circle and strong drive help you navigate quickly and easily around the garden. It also has lights to see clearly even at dusk, which is a nice bonus. And when it comes to grass cutting, the 4097 SX is very impressive. It quickly and easily cuts large surfaces. The cutting result is uniform, even in tall, wet grass. It also does a perfect job of grinding up the grass, which means that the lack of a mulching function isn't as noticeable (you can buy attachments and kits for about £40). The cutting head is centred underneath the machine as is always the case on garden tractors. This means that the 4097 SX doesn't find it as easy as front-mounted ride-on lawnmowers to access everywhere. It's therefore best suited to larger, uncomplicated lawns. In more complicated gardens you'll have to do quite a lot of additional cutting around raised vegetable beds, bushes and in tight corners.
Comfort levels are high. You have a very comfortable position on the well-padded seat, which effectively counteracts problems with vibrations when driving. It's easy to reach all the levers and pedals. In addition, it has twin bottle holders. It's also easy to read the cutting head's height level. However, it can be a little fiddly to get the right level on the first try. The button for cutting while reversing is also a bit stiff. We'd also have liked easier removal of the cutting head. These are minor points by and large, and generally, user-friendliness is top-notch. For example, you can see what speed you're moving at, and the machine reacts smoothly to speed alterations. One disadvantage for lighter users is that the ride-on lawnmower is equipped with a non-adjustable weight lock to prevent use by children. It should activate at 35 kg, but it also started for a tester weighing almost 50 kg. Overall, however, the 4097 SX is an extremely good value for money tractor that gives you a lot of ride-on lawnmower for the money. And let’s not forget how fun it is to ride sit on mowers, particularly in larger, uncomplicated gardens.
A potent garden riding mower that does the job well!
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 12.8 kW (at 3100 rpm) Tank volume: 12 l Cutting height: 25-75 mm (10 step) Cutting width: 94 cm Speed: Forwards: 9.5 km/h | Backwards: 9.5 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 244 kg Noise level: 83 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 2.5 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The Husqvarna R 216T AWD is an extremely competent and versatile ride-on lawn tractor for anyone seeking high build quality, a strong motor and incredible manoeuvrability. It’s like your very own mini tractor and probably won’t fit in the standard garden shed.
This is a four-wheel-drive sit on lawn mower that doesn’t merely give great mowing results but also copes with pulling heavy loads too. For example, the lawn mower had no problems pulling a heavy pallet of limestone. The 216T is so strong that our testers used it to pull things rather than bother using its four-wheel drive.
As we've said, the mowing result is very good. It's quite similar to that of its smaller sibling, the 214TC in that, thanks to the rear-wheel drive it's very efficient and easy to manoeuvre. You can easily navigate around obstacles, and the response is excellent.
But you do need to remember that the back end sticks out when you manoeuvre, so if you're turning in a narrow area, you need to stay alert. This means that small, winding areas can be rather time-consuming to mow. But as long as you're aware of this, you’ll be fine. It's rapid on open spaces and, despite the speed, succeeds in mowing the grass thoroughly.
The 216T AWD mini tractor is easy to start throughout the season, even when it's cold. It doesn't have a choke, and it's nice not to have to deal with one of these, while it doesn't seem to negatively affect the machine's ability to start.
The ergonomics are also decent. You have a comfortable position, there are few controls to deal with, and of course, there's a cup holder. One advantage is that you can adjust the wheel, so the lawn mower suits both tall and short users.
The Rider 216T is easy to maintain and has a counter so you know when it’s time for the next service.
The front LED is powerful. It's beneficial for anyone also using the sit on lawn mower to pull things. Most people cut their lawns in the daytime, but it's useful to work in the garden in the early morning or late evening.
But of course, all this means it costs more. This is far from a cheap ride-on lawn mower, but as a premium mower, it's quite simply in a class of its own. If you're looking for a machine that can replace both a four-wheel drive and a lawn mower on an undulating, large plot – even one with lots of obstacles – you should consider this mower. The 216T is a real workhorse.
Fast and efficient mini tractor perfect for larger green areas or paddocks
Motor: AL-KO Pro 700 Motor power: 13 kW (at 2900 rpm) Cutting height: 30-80 mm (6 step) Speed: Forwards: 9 km/h | Backwards: 4 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 234 kg **Noise level:**72,3 dB (measured) Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The Solo by Al-KO T 22-111.7 HDS-A V2 is a garden tractor mower with low vibrations thanks to its combination of a plastic chassis and stable sheet metal frame. However, the plastic chassis is a little rigid, which means the hood is rather stiff to open. You sit relatively high up on this machine, making it difficult to get close to trees and bushes with low hanging branches. At the same time, the height gives you a perfect overview of the area you're cutting. The turning circle is good, and the steering bites immediately, even with minimal movements. The V2 motor makes the HDS-A V2 powerful, and it handles both tall and coarse grass easily. Cutting even a meadow with this machine is no problem. The tyres also give you a good grip. The comfortable seat combined with the low vibrations makes mowing the lawn a pleasant experience. The seat is easy to adjust and there's plenty of legroom.
The Solo by Al-KO T 22-111.7 HDS-A V2 spreads the grass well from the discharge and has a large petrol tank that lasts a long time. The noise level is higher than average, even when the cutting deck is turned off, so you need to use hearing protection. The tractor doesn’t have a towing hook, which is a shame as it would have given it many more applications because it's such a powerful machine. However, you can buy one separately. The pro transmission provides a good speed, which is most useful over large areas. In combination with the strong motor and the large petrol tank, this means that the AL-KO T 22-111.7 HDS-A V2 is best suited to rough lawn mowing over larger green areas.
Agile giant riding mower with great ergonomics and good mowing results on flat areas
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 8.82 kW (at 3200 rpm) Tank volume: 12 l Cutting height: 25-85 mm (electronic) Speed: Forwards: 10 km/h | Backwards: 7 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 237 kg Noise level: 86 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 2.5 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic Transmission: Can have a combi cutting deck from 95 to 105 cm with multi clip and rear discharge
The Stiga Park 420 P is a relatively large but still convenient ride-on lawn mower that's quite quiet and easy to manoeuvre thanks to articulated steering. The significant advantage of articulated steering is that the back wheels follow in the front wheels' tracks. In other words, you don’t need to line up the back axle with the obstacle before you start turning – if the front wheels get around the obstacle, the back ones will too! This means that it’s straightforward to manoeuvre even if you have a garden with many obstacles. And that makes it ideal for use around paddocks too!
Even though it's relatively large, it never feels clumsy. One advantage of the size is that you're relatively high up, which gives you a good overview around you – even right in close to the machine.
However, we weren’t keen on the cutting deck's front frame. The design means that you can’t get access to mow right up to something. Struggles to grip, but a premium height adjustment system
The most significant disadvantage of the 420 P riding mower is that it skids very easily. This is most noticeable when reversing on a slight slope or rough ground, but it also happened frequently on occasions when starting from a stop or when reversing. We suspect that the tyres have poor terrain-handling abilities. We tried deflating them a little, but it didn’t help.
Its tendency to slip makes this model less suitable on undulating ground.
Otherwise, the 420 P is very nice to operate and has a high-quality feel. It has electronic cutting height setting, instead of a lever or other solution. Even if this doesn’t make much difference in purely practical terms, it gives a more premium experience.
The seat has holes in it, which keeps it dry as any rainwater or dew runs away quickly. The seat is also comfortable to sit on, even when using it for a more extended period.
All of the controls are easily accessible, and the sit on lawn mower has headlights so you can mow into the evening. It also has a reasonably sized cup holder.
The accelerator pedal is a little stiff – if you're going to change between going forwards and backwards often, your foot might get tired.
The 420 P delivers a reasonable mowing result. The substantial cutting width means that it mows large surfaces quickly. Other models shred the cut the grass better, but the bits left over are still small enough to disappear into the lawn quickly.
One negative thing we noticed is that the cutting deck “jumps” a bit on uneven ground because of how it's suspended. It should be a much springier movement but doesn't always succeed. If you have an uneven lawn, this means that the mowing result will also be a bit inconsistent in places. But if your lawn is well trimmed, this won’t be a problem.
If you have a large, flat and relatively even garden, and want to manoeuvre around bushes and trees easily, the Stiga Park 420 P is a very comfortable and easy to steer option.
Useful garden tractor mower with a large cutting deck
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Intek 7200 V-Twin Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 11.45 kW (at 2800 rpm) Tank volume: 6 l Cutting height: 25-80 mm (7 step) Cutting width: 108 cm Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 180 kg Gearbox: Hydrostatic Miscellaneous: Towing hook
The Stiga Tornado 3108 HW is a relatively strong and compact ride-on lawn tractor. For example, it has no problems pulling a small trailer full of soil on a flat surface. Starting on an uphill slope sometimes tends to end up with the lawn mower skidding, so it’s essential to keep the tyres free of grass to ensure the best possible grip.
The tractor goes quite fast, so when you’re not mowing the lawn but merely moving things from one place to another, it’s quite efficient.
The 3108 HW can sometimes lock up because of the seat (which needs to sense there’s enough weight on it for the lawn mower to start). If this happens, you have to sit down again with a little more force to press the seat down. You can’t tell by looking that it’s locked – the only way you can tell is when the sit on lawn mower doesn’t start. Otherwise, the lawn mower runs very well throughout the entire season.
It’s easy to control the speed of the 3108 HW, and at least as easy to set the cutting height. The lever on the left is rather heavy to adjust, but this also makes it more childproof. From a safety viewpoint, it’s great that the ride-on lawn mower is so quick to shut off when you stand up. At one point, our tester happened to step the accelerator as they climbed off the lawn mower, and this could have been very dangerous if the engine hadn’t stopped so quickly.
However, the tractor is sluggish to react when you’re trying to mow while reversing. If you accelerate fast with the cutting deck down the lawn mower cuts out immediately. But, if you accelerate slowly to a higher speed, you can continue mowing even while moving backwards without holding the button in, you're actually supposed to need to mow in in reverse.
The advantage of a garden tractor mower is that they're so easy to manoeuvre over problematic areas and you don’t have to think about a cutting deck at the front. Moreover, the 3108 HW struggles a little with mowing uneven ground because it has a relatively large cutting deck. The grass isn’t cut evenly if the ground level varies, which becomes quite visible. However, it's very efficient on large, relatively flat areas because of the speed, a good turning circle, and a strong cutting motor.
Unfortunately, the petrol tank isn’t huge so you have to top it up quite often. According to the specification, it should hold 6 litres, but we don't even get a 5-litre can's worth in it. Given the tractor's price, we’d have also liked to see the level in the fuel tank without opening the hood.
It has a cup holder, a smaller square compartment just behind it and a larger compartment between the driver’s feet. The larger compartment could have been a bit deeper, but it’s nice to have so many places to put your things in general, mainly if you often carry tools and so on.
If you’re looking for a garden tractor mower that you're only going to use as a lawn mower, there are more affordable alternatives to the 3108 HW. But if you have a relatively flat and large lawn and want an efficient and versatile machine for more than just mowing, the Stiga 3108 HW is a good buy. Partly because it's stable and well-balanced, but also because it’s so user-friendly.
Neat and robust, but some design issues
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 6.4 kW (at 3000 rpm) Tank volume: 4 l Cutting height: 25-70 mm (7 step) Cutting width: 85 cm Speed: Forwards: 7 km/h | Backwards: 3 km/h Weight: 190 kg Noise level: 89 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 1.6 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The Husqvarna Rider 112C has a good drive and outstanding terrain-handling abilities, making it suitable for many different garden types. It’s also quite neat and equipped with articulated steering, which means that you can mow into awkward nooks and crannies, and have reasonable control when turning. We have no problem running it up slopes, cutting on a gradient etc., either in wet or dry grass.
Forward and reverse are controlled by two different pedals, instead of a single pedal, as is the case on many other ride-on lawn mowers. We like this solution as it means you have to move your foot when you change direction.
However, a clear disadvantage with the R 112C riding mower is that you have to get off it to change the cutting height. The height setting is at the front, and thus, you can’t reach it from the seat. Over time this quickly becomes irritating, at least if you're used to adjusting the cutting height as you mow.
In addition, the height adjustment is meant to consist of seven steps, but we can only find five and a service position. The service position is used to tip the cutting deck, and unlike the cutting height adjustment, the position of this is useful because you can stop the machine and are then immediately ready to start cleaning.
The petrol filler cap is also well positioned. However, we see it as a disadvantage that you can’t easily see how much petrol is left in the tank from the outside.
The R 112C gives a good result, but it only has two blades at the front, plus two front wheels. This means that you can’t get close in when you're mowing around obstacles. However, it leaves your lawn nice and neat.
The ergonomics are pleasant, too. You have a comfortable position and there’s a handy cup holder immediately in front of the seat.
The biggest disadvantage with this ride-on lawn tractor is the design and build quality. The seat is formed so that rainwater collects in it, which could have been handled better. It also has a tendency for parts underneath to break if you lower the cutting deck too quickly. Over a test period several months long, it manages to chew through both belts and plastic housings underneath. A drive wheel also broke, and had to be replaced after we lowered the cutting deck too quickly. We’d have liked to see a solution either where the cutting deck couldn't be lowered too quickly or a design that could stand up to it.
The machine is also equipped with plastic clips which lock very cleverly, but these aren’t very good quality. They break easily and cost quite a lot to replace.
However, it gets a bonus for having a towing hook.
If you’re careful when you lower the cutting deck, the R 112C is still quite a handy and neat ride-on lawn mower. Because it’s easy to manoeuvre and navigate obstacles, it’s ideal for a winding or smaller garden. Of course, you can use it on an open lawn too, but the design is most suitable for spaces where larger garden tractor mowers would have problems.
Fast, powerful garden tractor mower with a few unusual construction choices
Motor: Toro V-Twin, 708 cc Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 12.8 kW (at 2850 rpm) Tank volume: 11.3 l Cutting height: 38-114 mm Cutting width: 107 cm Speed: Forwards: 9.6 km/h | Backwards: 9.6 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 254 kg Noise level: 87 dB Drive: Double hydrostatic transmission
The Toro Timecutter ZS 4200 T is a very powerful ride-on lawn tractor with several exciting construction choices. It’s remarkable in that you control it with joystick controls. If you're used to operating a digger, you may appreciate the joystick controls because it means that you accelerate and steer with your hands. At the same time, we can’t see why it wouldn’t have been more user-friendly – and reached a broader target group – if Toro had instead chosen to give it a steering wheel (this model is also available in a steering wheel version). However, if you're used to operating machinery with joystick controls, it’s easy to manoeuvre as a whole.
Unfortunately, the choke controls, ignition and other controls are beneath the armrest, so you have to lean over the machine to access them. The choice of positioning for the cutting deck is also somewhat unusual. It isn't underneath like a tractor model, but nor is it at the very front like a standard front-mounted sit on lawn mower. This means that it doesn't benefit from the front-mounted design’s advantage – better access. Instead, you have to squeeze a large part of the machine – and yourself – into larger bushes. This makes it more like a tractor model.
However, you get a splendid view when the cutting deck isn’t directly beneath you like it is on a tractor model. So there are both advantages and disadvantages to this design. However, we would have liked the large wheels on the cutting deck positioned differently or made smaller to increase accessibility. As it stands, it’s challenging to get in around trees and other obstacles if you don't approach them on precisely the right angle.
The TimeCutter ZS 4200 T riding mower does an excellent job on large, flat surfaces. The cutting deck is large, and you can drive quite fast with it so you can get through a large area of lawn quickly. It’s evident that the motor is 24 hp because it's so powerful. This is very clear when you're going uphill and even when you’re reversing on a slope. There are a total of three speeds, and you choose between these with a centrally placed lever.
The TimeCutter ZS 4200 T moves forward at high speed and has no problems mowing the grass. Despite working at high speed, the mowing result is exceptional. The only times we notice it struggling a bit is if we allow the lawn to grow taller – 10 cm or more. And we also appreciate that it offers plenty of options when setting the cutting height.
However, it could have had better terrain-handling abilities. We notice several times that it continues to slide forward when we brake on a gentle slope. The wheels lock, and there’s a risk that it will skid into obstacles.
However, it gets a bonus for having a towing hook. It also gets bonuses for the soft, comfortable seat with armrests on the sides, the fact you can see the fuel level from the outside and the fact that you have a good view over the motor.
Overall, the TimeCutter ZS 4200 T is best on large, flat and open surfaces where its speed and power come into their own. In smaller or winding gardens it quickly becomes clumsy.
A strong garden tractor that clears undergrowth
Motor: AL-KO Pro 450 Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 8.5 kW (at 2900 rpm) Tank volume: 7 l Cutting height: 30-90 mm (6 step) Cutting width: 110 cm Recommended grass area: Up to 10,000 m2 Speed: Forwards: 9 km/h | Backwards: 4 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 224 kg Measured noise level: 92 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 2-4 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The AL-KO T 15-110.6 HDS is a substantial garden riding mower that can quickly cut large areas. One of its main strengths is how easily it can mow down everything from regular grass to tougher undergrowth. For example, we gave it a try in an overgrown area with large numbers of bushes, and it had no problems chewing up the branches – although it's primarily intended as a lawnmower. Like other garden tractors, the T 15-110.6 is primarily intended for larger, uncomplicated gardens. The cutting deck is centrally placed, so it doesn't reach into corners or right out to the edges. The T 15-110.6's hydrostatic transmission is a little jerky, and it doesn't come equipped with direct steering. This means that manoeuvrability is a bit lacking. At the same time, it has a strong drive, a good turning circle and doesn't slip. It's also easy to understand how to operate the machine. The controls and pedals are easy to adjust, and the lawn mower reacts swiftly.
The cutting result is good. The T 15-110.6 does a good job of grinding up and spreading out the grass cuttings, both on short lawns and very tall grass. The results are so neat that it's hardly noticeable that you've just cut the lawn – it just looks well-tended. And when it comes to maintenance, the bodywork is easy to clean. However, the cutting deck is a little bit awkward to remove and we would have liked to see a flush nozzle. Nor are the comfort levels brilliant. The seat on this sit down mower is quite hard, and you have to put up with a lot of vibration. The construction quality is rather plasticky in parts and some aspects of the product come across as unnecessarily stingy. One example is that there is glass for lighting and lighting wires under the bonnet, but no bulbs. That seems misleading. We would also have liked a towing hook, which we think should be standard on a garden tractor. The T 15-110.6 is undoubtedly good at its core function of cutting grass. But given that it's a garden tractor, we would have liked greater versatility.
Primarily suitable for large open spaces
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 9.1 kW (at 2800 rpm) Tank volume: 3.8 l Cutting height: 30-95 mm (5 step) Cutting width: 107 cm Max gradient: 10° Weight: 175 kg Noise level: 82 dB
The MTD Smart RG 145 is a low-priced ride-on lawnmower that we expected to be quite simple in design – not particularly strong perhaps, but with a few, basic functions and producing a good cut. What we got, however, was something completely different from that.
For example, this mower isn’t particularly easy to use. MTD have messed things up with a complicated set of levers. You control speed, reverse and neutral using the pedal, but you set maximum speed and RPM with two other levers. And for example, if you set the RPM to the lowest level and the speed to the highest, the machine will become sluggish and the engine likely to cut out.
You also have to depress the clutch each time you select a new speed mode. So you can’t just pull the lever steplessly. The whole solution feels unnecessarily time consuming and complicated.
The mower's construction is fairly basic and in line with our expectations. All the same, we think that the solution whereby MTD has mounted the fuel tank using cable ties is perhaps too simple - even on a budget machine.
But the Smart RG 145 does have an attractive design overall. The mower features a sporty steering wheel, which is comfortable to hold. The seat is also comfortable, enabling you to sit up straight. In addition, the mower also has lighting – albeit a rather weak lighting. Unfortunately, the anti-slip protection for your feet becomes slippery immediately it gets damp, so you need to be a bit careful when you step on and off the mower.
If you want to adjust your seat position, you also have to use a few tools and loosen some screws. It's normal for other models to hold a lever and move the seat forwards or backwards, so the MTD solution doesn’t feel very user-friendly. On the other hand, tank caps and filters are easily accessible for filling and maintenance. It’s also easy to set the cutting height.
The engine is powerful for the price, and it seems to us that this is where MTD have focused. The machine can handle reasonably tall grass and even some brush with good results. The cutting width is substantial so the mower is efficient on open and straight areas. It also has a solid, tight turning circle.
Overall, the MTD Smart RG 145 is suitable for anyone who owns a large, open, obstacle-free lawn and has a limited budget. However, you need a pretty good understanding of how engines work to continuously find the right setting in strength and speed.
A budget model that affords a lot of power for a reasonable price
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 6.3 kW (at 2800 rpm) Tank volume: 3.8 l Cutting height: 30-95 mm (5 step) Cutting width: 96 cm Speed: Forwards: 0-9 km/h | Backwards: 0-5 km/h Max. gradient: 11% Weight: 150 kg Noise level: 98 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 5 m/s² Transmission: Hydrostatic (hand control) User manual: PDF
The MTD Smart RF 130 H is a compact riding mower of a garden tractor type. The motor is strong and chews through metre high grass without problems. It’s also extremely fuel-efficient.
The accessibility and manoeuvrability are both good for the price, as long as there aren’t too many obstacles, and the terrain isn’t too bumpy. However, reversing could have been more straightforward. The lawn mower reverses slowly, and you also have to switch off the cutting deck when you reverse because otherwise, the motor stops for safety reasons.
The 130 H has hydrostatic transmission, which means stepless speed adjustment and you don’t have to stop when you change gear. However, the transmission is controlled by hand controls, which aren’t as straightforward as pedal controls. This makes fine adjustments difficult in practice, and the speed tends to end up either fast or slow.
The cutting height and parking brake are easy to adjust.
The way the petrol tank is suspended feels somewhat improvised and not as reliable as you’d like. A headlight improves visibility in darker conditions.
It’s straightforward to clean the cutting deck, even though it’s located beneath the driver and can’t be folded up. However, a flush nozzle would have made this easier.
The seat could have been softer, but overall the comfort levels are adequate.
The 130 H has no integrated collector, but you can buy one separately. You can also purchase a mulch plug, and many other attachments for towing, such as a trailer.
Easy to clean ride-on lawnmower with electronic height setting
Motor: Briggs & Stratton Motor type: Petrol Motor power: 7.4 kW (at 3200 rpm) Tank volume: 4.2 l Cutting width: 85-95 cm Recommended grass area: Up to 4,000 m2 Speed: Forwards: 9 km/h | Backwards: 7 km/h Max. gradient: 10° Weight: 212 kg Measured noise level: 88 dB Steering wheel vibrations: 0.3 m/s² Gearbox: Hydrostatic
The Stiga Park 220 ride-on lawnmower has articulated steering and a front-mounted cutting deck with electronic height setting that makes it easy to adjust the cutting height. The fact that it's front-mounted makes it easy to access even more complicated gardens. You don't have to do so much additional cutting as you would with a garden tractor. However, it does have a problem achieving a uniform cutting result on uneven lawns, because it follows the unevenness. It also leaves an unnecessarily large amount of grass uncut for a front-mounted ride-on lawnmower due to a relatively long distance between the blades and the front edge. This ride-on lawnmower is also limited by a relatively jerky hydrostatic transmission and small wheels. In addition, it has a half steering wheel, which makes it more complicated than necessary to navigate around your lawn and yard. Combined with the fact that it struggles with slopes, this means you're relatively limited in how you can drive it. When we cut a lawn in a tighter space, it felt heavy to drive. Another disadvantage is that it sometimes slips when reversing and that this risks damaging the lawn. However, the tyre pattern means that it doesn't leave any marks when you drive forwards. We also feel that it's useful to have direct steering, as this improves manoeuvrability.
The noise level is below average, but above all, the noise profile is relatively pleasant, with a low growling noise. Nor did we experience any problems with vibrations. The only disadvantage regarding its comfort is that larger people may find it challenging to get at some buttons as their buttocks and thighs may tend to hide them. It's easy to clean both the bodywork and underside of the Stiga Park 220. We would have preferred it to be possible to tilt the cutting head a little more to avoid having to bend your back during high-pressure cleaning, but on the whole, it's easy to wash and keep clean. It also has economical fuel consumption and a good turning circle.
A ride-on lawn mower is a large mower you sit on and control. Underneath the machine is a cutting deck that drives one or more blades, and these are what cuts the grass. A ride-on lawn mower can also be operated without the cutting deck running, for example, when you need to drive between two different areas of grass in your garden.
There are several different types of ride-on lawn mower, and the type you should choose depends on your lawn.
There are two main types of ride-on lawn mower: those with front-mounted cutting decks, usually categorised as a traditional ride on mower, and what is often called garden tractors, which have the cutting deck mounted in the middle of the body.
The advantage of a front-mounted mower is that you can easily get in everywhere, especially on winding areas of grass. On the other hand, these mowers are almost exclusively built for mowing lawns and not for any other task.
By contrast, the garden tractor is more versatile. As its name implies, you can use a garden tractor to tow a trailer or even clear snow, as well as for mowing the lawn. But precisely because they are intended for other uses, they aren't always as good at cutting your grass correctly. For example, it’s difficult to get in everywhere because of the cutting deck's positioning. Then again, garden tractors are also often a little cheaper.
Lap bar mowers are another type that it’s worth knowing about. You control these ride-on lawn mowers with levers instead of a steering wheel. Zero-turn mowers (about which more below) are usually lap bar mowers.
Ride-on lawn mowers can also be divided based on their power source – either battery or petrol.
Petrol-powered ride-on lawn mowers run on four-stroke fuel. These have the advantage that you can always use them immediately you need them, provided you have petrol at home. You also get good performance at a reasonable price. The downside is that these machines emit exhaust fumes and make a lot of noise.
Battery-powered ride-on mowers are, of course, battery powered, and these have to be charged before you can use them. The advantage of these machines is that they don’t emit exhaust fumes, that they're quieter than petrol-powered models (you could always buy a quiet muffler is this is an issue) and you don’t have to buy fuel. The downside is that you have to remember to charge the battery between uses, and you’re limited to your machine's battery life. Once it runs out of juice, you have to wait before you can finish mowing your lawn. They are also – at the time of writing – still quite expensive in terms of what sort of performance you get for your money. This will probably change with increasing sales volumes and interest in the product.
As well as these different terms, manufacturers sometimes have their own names for lawn mower types. For example, rider, mini-rider and zero-turn.
Rider: Rider usually refers to a classic ride-on lawn mower with a front-mounted cutting deck.
Mini rider: A more compact and flexible ride-on lawn mower that is well suited to smaller lawns.
Zero-turn: Means that the mower can turn around its axis, so you don't have to worry about the turning circle.
Other lawn mower terminology includes articulated steering and rear-wheel steering. Mowers with front-mounted cutting decks often have articulated steering. This means that they pivot around the centre of the construction and no part of the machine protrudes very much. Rear-wheel steering means that the turning circle is determined from the rear of the machine.
In recent years, four-wheel-drive ride-on lawn mowers have also begun to appear. These offer better terrain-handling abilities. Four-wheel drive means that all four wheels have power, not just two of them as is the case with traditional ride-on lawn mowers. This makes them better on uneven lawns and when the grass is wet. Four-wheel drive mowers are often referred to as AWD or 4WD.
Finally, it's useful to know the different techniques ride-on mowers use to deal with your grass.
For example, some come with collectors that are useful in the autumn if you have lots of leaves you don’t want lying all over the lawn. You can simply collect up the leaves in the collector and empty it into your compost bin.
Mulching, sometimes also called bioclip, is another essential concept. This means the ride on mower doesn’t spray out the cut grass from the discharge but instead chops it so finely so that it quickly breaks down into nutrients for your lawn (instead of you ending up with deep piles of grass clippings all over the lawn).
In addition to these two techniques, more traditional mowers simply spray the cut grass out through a side discharge.
Usually, people buy a ride-on mower because they have a fairly large lawn. Robotic lawn mowers for large areas are quite expensive if you compare them with walk-behind mowers. But if you compare them with ride-on lawn mowers, they’re quite similar in price.
You can find cheap ride-on lawn mowers for large spaces for around £1,500-£2,000, and you can even find some robotic lawn mowers for larger gardens in the same price bracket. Of course, there are extremes at either end of the spectrum in both categories. You can find expensive robots for small lawns, or fairly cheap robots for large lawns.
The critical thing to keep in mind is that whichever you choose, the mower must be able to cope with your lawn. For example, ride-on lawn mowers can seldom mow gradients that are anything but subtle. They typically have a maximum gradient of 10 degrees. This is one area where many robotic lawn mowers (at least those with good terrain-handling abilities) have an advantage. Another advantage of the robotic lawn mower is that you don’t have to get involved in the mowing process because the machine does everything itself.
On the other hand, a ride-on lawn mower is very efficient. A robotic lawn mower has to be out and about for quite a few hours each week if your lawn is large - at least a couple of hours a day, almost every day of the week. But the mowing result is excellent, and the lawn will look fantastic after the robotic lawn mower has had time to graze all the grass down to a neat level. After that, it only mows your lawn for maintenance. If you want the same result with a ride-on lawn mower, it needs to boast a mulching function.
If you have a vast garden or lawn, you're pretty much stuck with a ride on mower, as that will be much more budget-friendly. Plus, let’s be honest, they're quite fun to drive.
If you’ve decided to buy a ride-on lawn mower, there are a number of factors to consider.
The size of your lawn: If you buy a battery powered sit down mower, its size is essential. You need to check how big an area the mower can handle on one charge. A petrol-driven lawn mower is less sensitive to this issue because you can refuel it more easily. What’s always important, however, is the cutting width. The larger the lawn, the wider the cutting width you’re going to want, because that makes the mowing much more efficient. The ride-on mower's speed, combined with its performance (in other words what allows it to mow while moving at top speed), is also pretty important.
Terrain type: For example, if your garden is undulating, you need a ride-on lawn mower with a bit of springiness in the cutting deck, so it absorbs these movements for an even cutting result. If you instead have lots of flower beds, pathways and bushes, you need to buy a mower that’s easy to manoeuvre and will allow you to mow close to these obstacles. If the mower has a large turning circle, you’ll have to pass over the same area several times.
Gradients: If your lawn is on a slope or if you have some kind of embankment in your garden, it’s important to check whether your mower can handle them or whether you need to buy a strimmer as well. Front rotary mowers with a low centre of gravity are often good at handling steeper gradients, especially in combination with four-wheel drive, as these mean you won’t get into a wheel spin on the slope and damage the lawn.
Spare parts and guarantees: Reputable manufacturers make most ride-on lawn mowers on the market. But make sure you buy a model where the spare parts will be available for at least ten years. And be sure to check the guarantee – how long is it, and what parts does it cover?
Accessories: If you buy a garden tractor, you can usually add accessories to it, such as a snowplough or a trailer. This means that, for example, you can use it in the winter as a small scale snow plough, or in the summer to transport soil around your garden. Check which accessories fit the model you’re considering. If you’re going to tow a trailer, it must be equipped with a towbar.
The price of ride-on mowers varies between about £1,500 up to several thousand pounds. For example, at the time of writing, you can pay around £5,000 for a four-wheel-drive sit down mower for private use, while you can find basic garden tractors for as little as £ 1,500. You might even find a mini rider for £200-£300 less than that.
So, if you’re looking for a cheap ride-on lawn mower, a mini rider or a tractor is your best option. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for maximum mowing results and efficient mowing, the front-mounted mower is your best bet, but they're also a little more expensive. Even the cheapest front-mounted ride-on mower usually costs more than £2,000.
When comparing prices, always check what’s included in the package. Many people sell mowers, excluding the cutting deck, which means that the price should be compared with other mowers without a cutting deck. You can calculate the total price by checking what the cutting deck costs for that particular mower.
An alternative to buying a brand-new mower is to buy a used one.
We’ve already touched on this earlier. If you are only going to use the machine for mowing, you should probably have a front-mounted mower. Some of these can even have accessories added to them, although this isn't as common with garden tractors.
But anyone looking for a more versatile machine that can also plough or tow a trailer should choose the garden tractor. These are better options for those on a limited budget.
Which mower is best for you depends entirely on your needs, your budget and your garden. Read our tests to ensure that the model you’re looking at matches what you need.
The minimum age for driving a ride-on lawn mower (in the UK) is 13 years.
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