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How to buy the best ride-on lawn mower

From brands and features to how much it might cost, our expert guide explains everything you need to know about buying the best ride-on lawn mower for your garden
Jade Harding
Man driving an orange ride-on lawn mower

If you've got a large lawn and don't fancy pushing around a heavy mower, a ride-on mower could be a sensible option. But before you part with your money, it's important to know which key features to look out for, plus how much you should expect to spend.

With prices starting at around £1,000, a ride-on mower won't be a cheap addition to your gardening toolkit, but it could be the best. Popular models are easy to use and able to navigate slopes and muddy areas.

Read on as we take a clooser look at the various types of ride-on lawn mower and what they offer.

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Do I need a ride-on lawn mower?

Whether or not you need a ride-on mower ultimately depends on your property and your budget.

If you have a medium lawn and don’t want to spend more than £500, a ride-on lawn mower probably isn't a priority. Instead, you might want to consider buying a petrol lawn mower or a powerful cordless mower instead, as these will tackle lawns over 150 sq m. 

Assuming reducing the work of cutting the lawn is your priority, a robotic mower (also known as a robot lawn mower) is a good option as it will look after the lawn by itself. Alternatively, you could opt to pay for someone to cut the lawn and get rid of your mower entirely.

For more on robot lawn mowers, check in with our guide on the best robot lawn mowers. You can also head straight to our expert robot lawn mower reviews.

Man cutting grass on a ride-on lawn mower

How much does a ride-on lawn mower cost?

If you're shopping for a ride-on lawn mower, be prepared to spend at least £1,000, with prices varying depending on engine size and the machine's ability to tackle tricky terrain. 

Here's an overview of the different ride-on lawn mower types and expected costs:

  • Ride-on mowers cost around £1,200.
  • Lawn tractors cost around £1,500.
  • Garden tractors cost between £2,000 and £5,000+.

Which type of ride-on lawn mower is best?

Ride-on mowers

Cutting grass under a bench using a ride-on lawn mower

If you have less than an acre of lawn to cut, a ride-on mower with the cutting deck towards the front (or even ahead of the front wheels) is a good bet. The engine sits at the back and they’re small, manoeuvrable machines, ideal for cutting around flower beds, trees and under furniture.

Ride-on mower features to look for:

  • Mulching function – mulching cuts the grass into fine pieces and blows it back into the lawn to rot down, which means you don’t have to deal with a grass box and dispose of the clippings.
  • Twin blades – look for a model with twin blades instead of a single blade, as twin blades give a smoother finish.
  • Zero-turn mowers - if you have a complicated garden or a lot of trees, a zero-turning circle mower will help you cut the grass right up against obstacles easily and corner smoothly.

Lawn tractors

Man using a red lawn tractor

Generally, lawn tractors are larger than ride-on mowers. They have the engine in front and the seat behind, and rotary cutting blades under the seat. They have more powerful engines than ride-on mowers, which makes them suitable for large areas and tough terrain. 

These machines are ideal if you have a mix of flat lawn and rough paddock to deal with. However, they may not be the best for sloping lawns. 

Although lawn tractors are expensive, they don’t cost more to maintain than smaller ride-on mowers. But you’ll need to be happy to keep an eye on some things, such as the battery charge and tyre pressure, to make sure your machine starts easily and gives your lawn an even cut.

Lawn tractor features to look for:

  • Hydrostatic transmission – this automatically changes gears; you just control whether you’re going forwards or backwards by using pedals. However, if you prefer to use your hands to change gears there’s also an option to have a lever-operated hydrostatic transmission.
  • Four-wheel drive – worth considering if your mower will be dealing with slopes and wet, muddy areas.
  • Deck height – check that this can be changed easily to suit the time of year and length of grass you want.

Garden tractors

man using a garden tractor

If you want to do more than mow, a heavy-duty garden tractor capable of handling over five acres might be what you’re looking for.

Garden tractors generally come with an integrated tow-bar and power source at the back, so you can attach different accessories that allow you to use it for much more than mowing. Trailers and grass collectors are fairly common choices, but you can get leaf blowers and chemical sprayers, too.

Garden tractor features to look for:

  • Unnecessary extras – unless you have a very flat lawn, lawn sweepers, aerators, rakes and other lawn-care equipment can be tricky to use.
  • Engine size – members who own a garden tractor told us it’s worth splashing out on a powerful engine, 500cc and above, and power-steering, so the machine is easy to use, no matter how long your grass is.

If you don't want to spend time looking through our reviews, here's our round-up of the best lawn mowers.

Mulching mower vs a mower that collects the lawn clippings

Mulching mowers 

Dedicated mulching mowers give the best result – the blade cuts the clippings until they are very fine, and then blows them into the lawn, where they decompose and help feed the turf. 

You can convert some collecting mowers into mulching mowers by fitting a special mulching plate.

Rear-collection mowers 

The cheaper systems rely on airflow to push clippings into a collection bag. More expensive ones use a powered sweeper to brush them up, or an integrated rear-collection system. If you don’t want to pick up the clippings, you can often buy a deflector, which goes on the back or side of the mower and helps to distribute the clippings evenly over the lawn. 

If you do decide to buy a collector mower, look at the size of the collection bag. The larger it is, the less frequently you’ll have to stop to empty it – although it will also be heavier. Some have to be emptied manually, while others have an automatic tipping system to reduce the effort involved.

Side-discharge mowers 

Lawn tractors that have mid-mount cutting decks with side ejection give you the option of spraying the clippings from the side of the deck when you don’t want to collect them.

Head straight to our lawn mower reviews to find the best model for your garden.

Tips for buying a ride-on mower

  1. It’s worth haggling to get the best deal, especially if you’re paying with cash.
  2. Find a reliable dealer that can offer good advice and sort out any problems quickly.
  3. Always check how easy it is to clean underneath the deck of your machine.
  4. Look for a mower with clutch control, rather than a push-button control, so you can reverse easily.
  5. Buy a mower with a hitch for towing trailers and other lawn attachments.

Ride-on mower features to consider

Manual vs hydrostatic transmission

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

However, the hydrostatic system is easier to use and good for going around obstacles, but it's more expensive. Models with hydrostatic transmission also have better speed control and many 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. 

Engine size 

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.

Once you've got all the gear, find out how to use it with our guide on how to cut the perfect lawn.

What is the best ride-on mower brand?

Honda ride-on lawn mowers

A popular name for ride-on mowers. As a brand, Honda is well known for its engines, which have a reputation for reliability. It has a modest range of machines that are mid-priced, ranging from small ride-on mowers for around £2,000, to garden tractors costing more than £4,000.

Honda ride-on lawn mowers

Husqvarna ride-on lawn mowers

Husqvarna, which owns Flymo, has a very large range of ride-on mowers with the cutting blades at the front, as well as lawn and garden tractors. The Swedish brand has a reputation for making easy-to-use lawnmowers. Models range from domestic mowers for around £2,000 to commercial ones for parks for £12,000.

Husqvarna ride-on lawn mowers

John Deere ride-on lawn mowers

A well-known name for large garden equipment. It’s a premium brand, associated with farm equipment. The smallest lawn tractors cost over £2,000 and tend to be heavy machines that can deal with a large range of attachments.

John Deere ride-on lawn mowers

Kubota ride-on lawn mowers

Kubota manufactures a huge range of garden tractors and ride-on mowers, many of which are aimed at amenity use, such as on golf courses or sports pitches, and have price tags to match. The brand is well known for zero-turn mowers. You can expect to pay around £4,000 for the smallest Kubota lawn tractor, but if you’re looking for a professional-quality machine, the brand is worth considering.

Kubota ride-on lawn mowers

Mountfield ride-on lawn mowers

Owned by Global Garden Products, Mountfield is the second most popular brand of lawn tractor with members. Mountfield mowers are widely available, so getting them serviced is easy. The small range of ride-on lawnmowers and lawn tractors are a lot less expensive than other brands, and cost just over £1,000 for the entry-level ride-on mower, and £5,000 for the most expensive lawn tractor. 

Mountfield ride-on lawn mowers

Stiga ride-on lawn mowers

Stiga is also owned by Global Garden Products, but the range of ride-on mowers is wider and focused on larger gardens. There are zero-turn models and a large range of mowers with front-mounted cutters to cut close around obstacles. Although you can buy a small ride-on mower from Stiga for around £1,000, it has models that cost up to £25,000.

Stiga ride-on lawn mowers

Westwood ride-on lawn mowers

This British firm makes garden tractors and is the second most popular brand of garden tractor with our members. Its models have some features specifically designed to appeal to a British market. For example, if you buy a machine that collects the grass clippings, it comes with a heavy rear roller to add stripes to your lawn. Prices start at £3,400 for the smallest garden tractor.

Westwood ride-on lawn mowers

We survey owners of lawn mowers from the likes of Cobra, Flymo, Gtech, Honda and John Deere to find out which are the best lawn mower brands to buy from.

Where to buy a ride-on lawn mower

Whether you decide to shop online or in-store, make sure you pay attention to the shop's returns policy.

Popular online retailers that sell ride-on lawn mowers include:

  • B&Q stocks a small selection of ride-on mowers made by Mountfield. The cheapest of the bunch is the Mountfield 28M, which costs around £1,700.
  • JustLawnmowers sells ride-on mowers from a range of brands including Atco, Honda and Mountfield. Prices start at around £1,900 and rise to £7,000.
  • MowDirect has a large selection of models to choose from. 
  • Toolstation sells ride-on mowers from AL-KO, the cheapest of which is around £1,600. 

Discover which retailers are rated highly by Which? members with our expert guide on the best and worst shops.

Servicing and maintenance

Some manufacturers offer extended warranties and others, such as Honda, offer a five-year warranty, conditional on an annual service. Most are 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.  

Now that your lawn is sorted, it's time to pay attention to the patio. Read our guide on the best pressure washersor see our full list of pressure washer reviews