How to buy the best lawn tractor Lawn tractor features

Transmission

Manual transmission 

This is the most common option; this system uses a clutch to change gears and will be familiar to most car drivers.

Hydrostatic transmission 

This is more expensive, but easier to use and good for going round obstacles. They have better speed control, too. Many also offer cruise control, which is great for cutting large, open areas.

Cutting width

The wider the cutting width, the quicker the mower will get through large areas of well-maintained grass. However, don’t buy a mower that’s wider than the narrowest gap that it will have to fit through (gates, for example). Also consider how wide your storage area is, as you’ll need to be able to park the mower. You’ll still often see cutting width referred to in inches, although centimetre measurements are becoming more common.

Engine size

Despite EU regulations that state this should be communicated in terms of kilowatts (kW), you’ll also frequently see horse power (hp) referred to. When considering how powerful an engine to go for, think about what sort of additional tasks you’ll want to perform (such as pulling a trailer). Also, what sort of terrain will you be working on? Going up steep ground takes more power.

You may see the ‘displacement’ referred to. This means the fuel capacity that the engine consumes in one cycle rotation of the engine crankshaft. In simple terms, the larger the displacement, the more power the lawnmower has when cutting. Fuel consumption will depend on the type of use and over use of the throttle.

Cutting deck position

There are two basic options for where the cutting blades are: 

A ride-on mower with an out-front cutter mowing close to a garden border

Lawn tractors with the cutting deck at the front are useful for hard-to-reach areas

Out-front, models give greater visibility and access, making them useful on lawns with hard-to-reach areas, trees and overhanging plants, although they can’t collect grass clippings. Husqvarna, Stiga and Countax offer good ranges of out-front mowers.

Mid-mount, ie under where the driver sits. Several mid-mount decks are ‘offset’, which means they are positioned to one side of the mower, rather than the centre. This helps you get closer to the edge when cutting around borders, or up to fence lines and under hedges.

Practical considerations

Sometimes the small things can become the most important. If a detail is wrong, and you use the machine regularly, it can become very annoying. Things to consider when you try out a mower include:

  • Seat comfort
  • Ease of mounting the mower
  • Clarity of the fuel gauge
  • Ease of changing cutting height
  • Size of the fuel tank
  • Ease of emptying the clippings
  • Collection bag
  • Ease of cleaning the cutting deck
  • Safety systems

Storage

A shed or garage is a much better option than covering your mower with tarpaulin outdoors. Make sure the entrance is wide enough and think about what room you’ll need for any attachments. Having somewhere to turn is useful, or you could find yourself having to reverse in or out. In terms of security, you can buy wheel clamps to immobilise the mower. Check that your home contents insurance policy provides cover that is high enough to replace your mower should it be stolen or damaged.

Servicing and maintenance

Extended warranties are offered by some manufacturers and some, such as Honda, offer a five-year warranty, conditional on an annual service. Most will say subject to normal maintenance, which is often outlined in the operator’s or owner’s manual. Servicing can cost up to £200, depending on the model.

Punctures are usually only a problem where there are thorny hedges, but tyres can be protected by puncture-proofing products. Ride-ons have very low pressure tyres and the pressure in them is critical to get the best performance and longevity.

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