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How to buy the best lawn tractor

Types of lawn tractor

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Types of lawn tractor

Lawn tractor, ride-on mower or garden tractor –  the main types are explained in this expert guide.


The main choice is between a ride-on mower, lawn tractor or garden tractor, but there are further options if you have a lawn that's difficult to mow.

Find the best lawn mower for you with our Best Buy lawn mower reviews.

Ride-on mowers

The main function of a ride-on mower is to cut grass. This is the smallest type, with the engine at the back and a seat towards the front. They have smaller cutting widths (from about 60cm) and engine sizes (from about 4.4kW) and are the cheapest type to buy.

Lawn tractors

Generally, lawn tractors are larger than ride-on mowers and have the engine in front and the seat behind. Cutting widths start at about 76cm. They have more powerful engines, from 8kW upwards. This makes them suitable for larger areas, tougher terrain and harder tasks, such as towing (although they are limited to fairly low towing weights).

Garden tractors

Garden tractors are heavier-duty machines with the most powerful engines (11kW and above), the widest cutting widths and the strongest build. In addition to regular mowing, they can be used for towing, tilling and snow clearing. Garden tractors are the most expensive of the three types.

Ride-on mowers and tractors for a difficult lawn

Uneven or sloping lawns

Some of the more expensive mowers have four-wheel drive (sometimes called ‘all-wheel drive’), often with a differential lock. These are particularly useful for difficult sites, such as those that slope, as they offer better traction and less wheel slip.

Whichever mower you choose, go for as powerful an engine as you can afford, as this will have the force needed to tackle a slope. Also look out for engines that have pump lubrication to ensure that the engine is lubricated even when the mower is at an angle. Wheel chains can also help, as can a pivoting rear axle.

Manufacturers have recommendations about the use of machines on sloping ground, and limits on the slope on which an engine can be expected to perform normally.

A lawn that’s dotted with obstacles

Consider a ‘zero-turn’ model. These are designed to turn on the spot, so they’re easy to negotiate around obstacles. There’s also no wasted movement when you’re turning at the end of each ‘stripe’, and they’re good for parking in tricky storage areas.

They have two steering handles that separately control the rear wheels, instead of the conventional steering-wheel system, which controls only the front wheels. They generally have a faster top speed than conventional models, too.

Hydrostatic transmission models are better than manual ones for ease of manoeuvrability and tackling obstacles.