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Treat yourself this summer with a zero-turn mower: Our top picks

What is the best zero-turn mower? ZDNET's pick is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 with its 23HP engine, hydrostatic transmission, and ergonomic lap bars. Zero-turn mowers are great for both larger properties as well as yards with lots of obstacles.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer and  Sean Jackson, Contributor on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Zero-turn mowers are like the high-end sports cars of lawn and garden equipment. They feature a zero-inch turning radius, which allows you to pivot in place and maneuver in tight spaces without ruining your lawn, as well as more powerful engines and wider cutting decks than their regular riding mower counterparts. 

You can choose models with cutting decks as narrow as 42 inches for suburban lawns or as wide as 72 inches for rural properties. And with engines up to 26HP, you'll get plenty of power to haul wagons of dirt, mulch, and tools or equipment without overworking the motor. 

Zero-turn mowers also feature hydrostatic transmissions, which means that the more you push on the lap bars or the harder you step on the pedals, the faster you'll go. This makes it akin to driving a car, so they're easier to learn how to operate. The lap bar steering system does take some getting used to, however, so I recommend driving around your yard with the blades disengaged to practice before you mow your lawn with it for the first time. 

To help you find the best zero-turn mower for your lawn, I've gathered a list of the 5 best ones available to buy. I've broken down their features and price points to help you match them up with your needs and lot size -- as well as your budget. To find the perfect zero-turn mower for your yard, you can keep reading below.

Must read:

What is the best zero-turn mower?

My pick for the best zero-turn mower is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1. It features an 11-Gauge steel, 50-inch cutting deck with twin blade sets for an even, consistent cut on each pass as well as a tubular steel frame for strength and durability. The 23HP Kawasaki engine and hydrostatic drive make operating the mower easy while providing plenty of power to handle lawns up to 4 acres.

Zero-turn mower


Cutting width

Max cutting area

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1


50 inches

4 acres

Ryobi 48V zero-turn


54 inches

3.5 acres

John Deere Z345R CARB


42 inches

2 acres

Toro Titan MAX


60 inches

7 acres

Craftsman Z5200 with blower and edger


42 inches

2 acres

Which one is the right zero-turn mower for you?

Once you've finalized a budget for your new zero-turn mower, you'll want to look at cutting deck widths, engine sizes, fuel tank capacities, and what attachments each model is compatible with. Smaller 42-inch decks are ideal for suburban lawns with lots of trees and other obstacles, while larger 54- or 60-inch cutting decks are more suited for wide-open rural properties.

Engine size also helps you determine which is right for you, since higher horsepower means you can do things like haul wagons of tools, mulch, or potting soil or use equipment such as lawn rollers and aerators without destroying the motor.

Choose this zero-turn mower...

If you want...

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

A well-rounded zero turn mower for medium-sized lawns

Ryobi 48V zero turn

An electric zero turn mower for eco-friendly lawn care

John Deere Z345R CARB

A more affordable zero turn mower option

Toro Titan MAX

A zero turn mower for larger properties

Craftsman Z5200 bundle

An affordable bundle to add to your lawn equipment

How did we choose these zero-turn mowers?

I chose a variety of cutting deck widths, engine sizes, and fuel tank capacities to curate a list of zero-turn mowers that will suit just about any larger suburban or rural property. 

I also picked models that had quality-of-life features like seat suspension systems and ergonomic steering bars for added comfort while mowing and even USB ports for keeping your phone charged while you work.

What is a zero-turn mower?

A zero-turn mower is a type of riding mower that has a zero-inch turning radius (hence the name). This means that you can use either the left or right rear wheel as a pivot point and turn in place, which gives the mower superior maneuverability around trees, garden beds, and other obstacles.

They also tend to have larger decks sizes than regular riding mowers, making them favorites with homeowners with larger properties.

What size lawn is a zero-turn mower best for?

A zero-turn lawn mower is best suited for any yard that is an acre or larger, since they have more powerful engines and larger cutting decks than regular riding mowers. You can choose a deck from as narrow as 42 inches to as wide as 72 inches, letting you almost tailor-fit your mower to your lawn.

Are zero-turn mowers worth the money?

A zero-turn mower can be a very valuable asset in your workshop if you have a yard suitable enough for one. If you have a small suburban lot measuring less than .75 acres, there won't be enough room for your mower to actually do its job, plus it would be very difficult to store such a large mower in a typical backyard garden shed.

But if you have a 1 acre or larger property, a zero-turn mower is a good choice, since they can make short work of just about any lawn and are perfect for steering around orchards, outbuildings, and garden beds.

Do zero-turn lawn mowers have baggers?

Yes, zero-turn lawn mowers feature bagging attachments to collect clippings of grass. Depending on the model you select, you might have to purchase it separately from the mower. 

Are there alternative zero-turn mowers worth considering?

There are lots of options available if you're looking to buy a new zero-turn mower. Here's a short list of alternative choices I thought were worth a look:

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