Of all the investments people make in their house, the space outside of the home is among the most valuable. A beautiful yard is both aesthetically pleasing and functional living space, making basic lawn care a must for any homeowner.
And speaking of investments, when buying a riding lawn mower for the first time, it’s important to choose correctly and take care of the mower for years of reliable operation and return on investment.
A reputable equipment dealership with trusted salespeople is a great place to start and finish the buying journey. Here are three key areas they’ll assess to ensure the right purchase is made.
#1: The Property – Size, Shape, and Landscape
The characteristics of a potential buyer’s property set the stage in determining the best mower type. One of the primary differentiators between riding lawn mowers is steering. There are three main types offered to suit different property sizes and characteristics.
Related article: How to choose a mower to match your acreage
Typically found in more entry-level riding mowers, two-wheel steering setups work well for homeowners with an open piece of land that doesn’t have many obstacles or tight corners. Also, yards with a few slopes are no problem for a two-wheel style lawnmower.
When it comes to property size, a two-wheel-steer riding lawnmower is generally a good fit for properties 1/3 of an acre up to 3 acres.
A riding lawnmower with a four-wheel-steer setup offers a tighter turn radius than a two-wheel steering mower, making it great for lawns that have naturally-occurring obstacles to navigate like trees and shrubs, or hardscapes. Like the two-wheel-steer mowers, four-wheel-steer lawnmowers also handle sloped terrain well.
Looking a property size, the four-wheel-steer mower is typically advised for larger property owners, those caring for a total land area of 3 acres or more.
Just as the name implies, a zero-turn mower (ZTR) has a zero-turn radius – meaning it can turn on a dime to hug tight corners and curves. Homeowners with properties that include gardens, hardscapes, and several plants, shrubs and trees may find this mower to deliver the best results and faster than other mowers. One potential downside, however, is ZTRs don’t perform as well on hilly terrain as two- and four-wheel-style mowers, making them best suited for flat land with minimal slopes.
Related video: How to choose a riding lawn mower or zero-turn mower
ZTRs also operate at a higher average speed than two and four-wheel mowers. Their precision, combined with speed, makes ZTRs a premier choice for professionals in the lawn and landscape, maintenance, and parks and recreation industries. It also makes them a nice option for larger properties to cut down on total mowing time.
The property’s characteristics can also help determine one more primary buying decision: deck size.
Does the yard have a fence with a narrow opening/gate? Are there trees or shrubs close enough to one another that it could be a tight fit for the mower to get through? Knowing these unique features of the property ensures the proper deck size is selected.
#2: The Functionality – More than Mowing
Buying a lawnmower is only part of the process – equally as crucial is buying the right mower accessories. Every buyer has different needs and expectations, and a variety of attachments and implements are available to meet them.
Two things to keep in mind:
Number one, some accessories are only available with certain types of mowers. ZTRs, while compatible with some attachments, are primarily designed to mow.
Number two, certain features, designed for comfort or advanced operation, are offered but only as the mower goes up in price point.
Depending on if bagging or mulching is preferred, the first and most common attachment needed actually may be two: a bagger or a mulch kit – or, for some customers, both.
From there, three more common attachments are popular with homeowners. Sweepers are another top attachment for material handling. Tow-behind carts are great for hauling materials and supplies for gardening and landscape activities. Sprayers can apply a variety of materials including liquid fertilizer, weed killer, and even de-icing material.
Five More Advanced
Those looking to do more with a mower or interested in options above the most entry-level model can take advantage of more options. Not a traditional attachment, mirrors and lights are good safety accessories, especially popular with buyers who plan to work at dawn or dusk, or those who have more than one person onsite, like professional operators.
When it comes to the attachments, single-use and multi-use options offer landscaping abilities like tilling, aerating, and thatching, while box and rear blades handle tasks like grading and backfilling.
Five Weather-SpecificNo matter what part of the country, weather is a factor in any type of outdoor work. Sunshades protect from the summer heat and sun rays, while full-enclosures and heater add-ons are ideal for cold-weather comfort.
Speaking of cold-weather use, operators in seasonal climates can still use the mower year-round. The addition of front blades, blowers and brooms which turn the mower into a snow removal machine during the winter months.
#3: The Maintenance – Return on Investment and Uptime
One of the most important lawn mower operation tips is applied when the mower isn’t in operation. Proper routine maintenance is the best way to ensure hours of worry-free uptime. Here are a few basic lawn mower maintenance tips to protect the investment and keep it up-and-running.
Before performing maintenance on – or even operating – the mower, first review the operator’s manual. All mowers include this handbook, which is a great tool for first-time users to understand the parts of the machine, safety features, and the proper way to perform basic maintenance tasks.
First Things First
New mowers have an engine “break-in” period, meaning engine oil should be changed after the first eight hours of new mower operation. After that, the oil doesn’t need to be changed as frequently, just get into the habit of checking it prior to every use.
Another good habit to form prior to every mowing is to do a quick overall lawn mower inspection. Check for any visible signs of damage, loose parts that should be tightened, or areas needing grease. Also, inspect the tires to be sure air pressure is adequate and even. Check the fuel level and refill when necessary.
Finally, give the mower a quick cleaning to remove excess debris – or, save this step for the end. Cleaning the mower after every use ensures it’s ready to go next time.
Routine and OngoingThe final pieces of a maintenance routine are the tasks that should be done, yet not daily – frequently up to annually.
Every year, the air filter should be changed. Large property owners and those who live in dusty, drier environments should check and clear air filters on a more frequent basis.
Oil changes are another task typically done on an annual basis or per every 100 hours of operation. Similar to air filter, that frequency can change based on amount of use and operational conditions.
The mower deck should also be checked periodically to ensure nothing is clogged, cracked, or dull. Take special note of the blade and belts. The mower blade should be sharpened annually, prior to the first mowing of a new season. Blades can be sharpened throughout the season but not overdone; too much sharpening can degrade the integrity of the metal.
If the mower sits idle for a month or longer, the fuel likely needs to be changed. Ethanol-gasoline blends will separate over time. This can lead to condensation build-up or water in the carburetor – both can cause a host of problems. If it’s known that the mower will be taking an extended break, add fuel stabilizer. Or, the fuel can be drained completely and properly discarded.
Finally, some dealers offer an annual mower inspection. RDO Equipment Co. mobile service is offered in select areas, provided by a certified RDO service technician. Mobile maintenance brings lawn mower service right to customers – whether at home or on the jobsite – and scheduling is easy and convenient.
Whether mobile service or at the local dealership, take advantage of an annual mower inspection. Not only does it give the full TLC treatment the mower needs but also the peace of mind knowing the lawn mower is primed and prepped for the season ahead.
About The Author
Juan Gamez is a Transactional Account Manager for RDO Equipment Co. in Sunnyside, WA where he’s focused on customer service, both providing information and answering questions on John Deere equipment, and ensuring a smooth sales and final delivery experience. He enjoys meeting customers and helping them find the Deere equipment for their needs.
For more information on choosing the right lawn mower and attachments, or servicing your existing equipment, call or visit your local RDO Equipment Co. store.