You’re ready to purchase your first riding lawn mower. After going online and researching, you see there are a lot of options. Add in a trip to a big-box store trying to figure out which model, from basic riders to zero-turn styles, is the best choice, plus the attachments and accessories offered, and you could wind up more confused than when the search began.
The good news is this doesn’t have to happen. A reputable equipment dealership with trusted salespeople is a great place to start and finish the buying journey. You don’t have to spend countless hours online researching before you head to the store and, once you get there, you won’t be left to go at it alone. Just be ready to answer the three basic questions a helpful salesperson will ask.
“What’s your property like – size, shape and landscape?”
The characteristics of your property set the stage in determining the best mower type. One of the primary differentiators is steering. There are three main types offered to suit different property sizes and characteristics.
A more entry-level class of mower, this type works well for homeowners with an open space that doesn’t have many obstacles or tight corners. It’s generally a good fit for properties 1/3 of an acre up to 3 acres. Yards with a few slopes are no problem for a two-wheel-style unit.
A four-wheel-style mower offers a tighter turn radius than two-wheel steering, making it great for lawns that have naturally-occurring obstacles like trees and shrubs, or hardscapes. It’s typically advised for larger property owners with a total land area of 3 acres or more. Like the two-wheel-style, this unit can also handle slopes well.
Just as the name implies, a zero-turn mower (ZTR) has a zero-turn radius, and can hug tight corners and curves. This precision, combined with their speed, makes ZTRs a common choice for professionals in the lawn and landscape, maintenance, and parks and recreation industries. Homeowners with properties that include gardens, hardscapes, and several plants, shrubs and trees may find this mower is the best option. Unlike two- and four-wheel-style mowers, ZTRs are best suited for flat land with minimal slopes.
The property’s characteristics can also help determine another primary 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.
“What extra tasks do you expect the mower to do?”
Along with selecting the type of mower is finding the right accessories. Every buyer has different needs and expectations, and a variety of attachments and implements are available to meet them. However, keep in mind that some are only available with certain types of mowers, and certain features, designed for comfort or advanced operation, are offered as the mower goes up in price point.
Depending if bagging or mulching is preferred, the first and most common attachment needed is a bagger or a mulch kit, or, for some customers, both. Sweepers are another common material handling attachment. 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.
Those looking to do more with a mower or interested in options above the most entry-level model can take advantage of more options. Single-use and multi-use attachments offer landscaping abilities like tilling, aerating and thatching. Box and rear blades handle tasks like grading and backfilling. Operators planning to work longer hours or have more than one person onsite should consider safety accessories like mirrors and lights.
No matter what part of the country, weather is a factor in any type of outdoor work. Sun shades protect from summer’s heat and powerful sun rays, while full-enclosures and heater add-ons are ideal for cold-weather comfort. Front blades, blowers and brooms offer the ability to turn a mower into a snow removal machine during the winter months.
“How long do you expect the mower to last?”
This question seems like a no-brainer – the mower should last for as long as possible, right? But it’s an important question to consider, as it sets you up to take ownership of the maintenance and care needed for best mower performance and longevity.
All mowers include an operator’s manual. This handbook is key to understanding the parts of the machine, safety features and the proper way to perform basic maintenance tasks, so new owners should take time to review it and become familiar.
First Things First
New mowers have an engine “break-in” period, meaning engine oil should be changed after the first 8 hours of new mower operation. After that, check the oil prior to every use.
Additionally, before each use with the mower, do a quick overall 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.
Routine and Ongoing
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. Just like with the air filter, that frequency can change based on amount of use and operational conditions.
The mower deck should also be checked periodically, including the blade and belts, to ensure nothing is clogged, cracked or dull. The mower’s blade should be sharpened annually, prior to the first mowing of a new spring season. Blades can be sharpened throughout the season but don’t overdo it, as too much sharpening can actually 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. Take advantage of this service and get, not only the full TLC treatment the mower needs, but the peace of mind knowing the machine is primed and prepped for the season ahead.
About The Author
Marcus Braswell is a Transactional Account Manager for RDO Equipment Co. in Pasco, WA.
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.