Who says that keeping your lawn perfectly manicured has to be expensive? Dealing with your lawn’s greenery doesn’t have to cost you a lot of green. There are plenty of powerful riding lawn mowers on the market that you can buy for affordable prices.
This complete guide features reviews of the best cheap riding lawn mowers along with an in-depth buyer’s guide to help you determine which is best for you and your lawn.
Backyard Boss Top 5 Cheap Riding Lawn Mowers for 2021
|Husqvarna YTH18542 Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Mower||
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|Troy-Bilt 382cc 30-Inch Riding Lawn Mower||
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|Snapper 2911525BVE Classic Riding Lawn Mower||
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|Simplicity 2691318 Zero Turn Riding Mower||
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|John Deere E100 Riding Mower||
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Why You Can Trust Us
Yards are our passion at Backyard Boss. As a team, we bring decades of experience in home and yard maintenance. We’ve published highly regarded content on every lawn care topic you can imagine, including our popular guide for the best small lawn mowers and detailed instructions on how to store your mower during the winter.
Not only are we proud of our own yards, but we also love our tool collections. We keep expanding our gadgets to build the knowledge needed to judge a product based on specs, user reviews, and our personal experience with the brands we feature. And in those few cases where we picked poorly or had a problem, we had the opportunity to learn which companies offer great warranties and customer support.
Essentially, we have been where you are now, overwhelmed by choice. We know what it’s like to dig through all the options to pick the right product. Equipped with all that experience, we’re here to make it easier for you, to help you find the best product for yourself.
Best for Hard to Mow Lawns
The Husqvarna YTH18542 riding lawn mower is a great pick for homeowners looking for a powerful but affordable upgrade to their current riding mower. This impressive riding lawn mower has a dependable Briggs & Stratton Intek engine that puts out 18.5 horsepower.
The engine is paired with a foot-operated hydrostatic transmission which is great for riders who don’t like to shift gears manually while mowing. The operation gets even more simplified with reverse mowing that is activated by the flip of a switch and a push on the foot pedal. Even inexperienced mowers can get the hang of operation on their first go!
The feature I love the most about this mower is the air induction that draws in the air under the deck so that with each pass you mow, you get a pristine cut. Though the mower offers a less than average 42-inch cutting deck, you should not underestimate its power. For starters, the smaller deck allows you to get into narrow paths in your yard, and it’s the best option for homeowners who want an easy to operate and reliable mower.
Practicality is what the Husqvarna YTH18542 is all about and the no-fuss operation of the mower can attest to that. The power matched with ease of use is a step up from entry-level riding mowers, making it ideal for someone who needs a mower that can tackle tricky lawns.
Best Cheap 30-inch Riding Lawn Mower
Although the Troy-Bilt 382cc 30-Inch Riding Lawn Mower is small, it’s mighty, with a 382cc Auto Choke OHV engine. You’ll be zooming around your yard with this impressive machine’s top forward speeds of 4.25 MPH and 6-speed transmission. This powerful machine is carried by durable 13×5-inch front wheels and 16×6.5-inch rear wheels.
The 30-inch cutting deck has five adjustable blade height settings so you can customize your grass’s height based on your preferences. The slim 30-inch cutting deck and 18-inch turn radius make this a great option for smaller yards or mowing otherwise hard-to-reach, compact spaces. However, this mower’s small size can also make it a bad choice for people with large areas to mow, since it will take much more time to mow them.
Not only is this mower easy to navigate it also has a manual power take-off for fast and easy blade engagement and a hassle-free start. With a comfortable mid-back seat and a large 13-inch steering wheel with a soft grip, this is one of the most ergonomic mowers you’ll sit on.
It has an impressive 2-year warranty, however, some people have complained that Troy-Bilt severely limits the warranty coverage, and often rejects claims over broken mowers. Luckily, this is a fairly durable mower so it’s unlikely you’ll even have to redeem the warranty.
Smallest Cheap Riding Lawn Mower
The cutting deck on the Snapper 2911525BVE Classic Riding Lawn Mower is only 28 inches, so it’s compact, which makes it perfect for people with small yards. It will easily navigate between trees and shrubs and can be parked in a small garden shed or a corner of your garage. It comes with a bolted-on stand so you can store it vertically, taking up even less space and making it very easy to clean the undercarriage or change blades.
Despite the size, it’s powerful enough, with an 11.5 HP Briggs and Stratton Intek engine sitting in the rear of the mower and providing a less-bumpy ride with lots of legroom and foot pedals that are easy to reach.
The controls are simple, including engaging/disengaging the blades. Start-up is simple: just turn the key and pull the start button; no need to choke or prime the engine like many push mowers and some riding mowers. It’s fun to ride and is reasonably fast on straightaways; top speed 4.5 mph.
This riding mower is excellent for beginners with small yards, being the next step up from a push mower. It’s comfortable, although it would be a bit more ergonomic if it featured a high back seat, and safe, including a typical debris management system, keeping projectile rocks away from you, that we expect from modern riding mowers.
Best Cheap Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
One of the best features the Simplicity 2691318 Zero Turn Riding Mower has going for it is comfort. If you had dreams about perching on your riding mower like a king on a throne while the peasants around you grunt and push their mowers, this is the machine for you.
The Simplicity 2691318 has a unique suspension system that allows it to reduce vibration when you are mowing up to 25%. If you have mowed with a zero-turn mower, then you know the rough bumps that come along with the ride. Compared to other zero-turn mowers, the rear and front suspension support of the Simplicity 2691318 makes this the best mower for someone who has a rough yard with overgrown grass and weeds.
Balancing comfort and strength, this riding lawn mower has a V-twin 23 hp engine from Briggs & Stratton. This engine coupled with the welded steel frame and durable mower deck is why I think this is the best mower for homeowners with stubborn lawns or lawns that have rough terrain. You get dependable power by the trusted engine and a really clean cut with the durable ball bearings in the castor spindle.
If you have a small lawn, but still need a heavy-duty lawn mower, I really like that Simplicity offers you a smaller deck size of 36 inches. Bigger lawns would benefit from the 42, 48, and massive 52-inch options.
Best Cheap Riding Lawn Mower Under $2,000
If you are purchasing your first riding mower, then the John Deere E100 lawn mower is the best option to go with because it is a comfortable transition from push mowers to riding mowers.
For starters, John Deere is considered to be the best riding lawn mower by many because of the brand, comfort, and power associated with it. With this mower, the brand keeps it simple and straightforward with a basic, compact design while delivering on its commitment to quality.
The E100 series is the newer version of the discontinued E100 series. The main difference between them being the E100 delivers more power with its 17.45 horsepower engine.
The engine alongside the dependable battery means that you can store your mower away and for the season without worrying about whether or not the battery will hold its charge. This level of dependability is what I appreciate most about the brand and this mower specifically. If you do need more power, I like that the E100 gives you the choice of different engine and transmission options; a choice that not all mowers offer.
What I like best about this mower is the versatility it offers and you can see it in the generous 42-inch deck that has cutting height increments of 1/4 of an inch. This size is great for small to above-average lawns. It’s also ideal for stubborn lawns because the cutting deck is supported by cast-iron front axles that elongate the life of the mower.
Why Do I Need a Riding Lawn Mower?
Riding lawn mowers aren’t just about chilling on top of your mower like a noble steed while your neighbor sweats and grunts next door, struggling on lap 25/ 40 to finish his lawn. It’s about genuinely doing what’s best for your body.
They save your body from unnecessary physical exertion and strained or pulled muscles, for which push mowers are notorious. When it comes to riding mowers vs. push mowers, there’s just no question that a riding lawn mower is much healthier to use.
It will not only save you physically but will also save time, which you can then use to enjoy the lawn that you so beautifully mowed.
Different Types of Riding Mowers
Riding lawn mowers come in a range of sizes, power capabilities, and types. Here are the three types of mower styles most commonly offered on the market.
Lawn and Garden Tractors
These are commonly referred to as lawn tractors and come in two varieties: standard lawn tractors and heavy-duty lawn tractors.
Standard lawn tractors like the John Deere E100 are designed and built to only mow grass. While heavy-duty lawn tractors come fitted with a hitch so they can lug around necessary items.
Some heavy-duty tractors also have the capability of fitting a snow blower or snow plow onto the front. These tractor snow blower combinations allow you to continue using your riding mower even during the offseason.
Depending on the power and engine size of your lawn tractor, the mower will typically go anywhere from 3 to 6 miles per hour
Rear Engine Riding Mowers
When it comes to riding mowers, Rear Engine Riding Mowers are the kings of comfort.
As the name suggests, rear engine riding mowers house the engine in the back of the unit. This frees up a lot of space in the front, creating more legroom, which can make them more comfortable for riders.
They also tend to have an elongated steering wheel, which is not only easy to use, but also adds to the rider’s comfort. Some rear engine riding mowers even allow you to adjust the height of the steering wheel so it’s in the best position for you.
These are not the fastest types of mowers, but they certainly provide the most relaxing mowing experience, even including cupholders sometimes. Additionally, if your yard has a lot of hilly areas, this is the best mower for the job.
Zero-Turn Radius Mower
Zero-turn radius mowers are one of the most popular riding mower options because they offer speed, agility, and power. Their zero-turn radius means that you can turn your mower very sharply allowing you to change directions seamlessly. The quick maneuverability also allows you to get around tight corners easily.
In addition to being able to access hard-to-reach spots, zero-turn riding mowers are known for their speed. They are the fastest type of mowers and significantly reduce your mow time. Lastly, zero-turn radius mowers typically have levers instead of steering wheels that allow you to control the direction.
What to Look for in a Riding Lawn Mower
Understanding Cutting Deck Size
The cutting deck size is the width of a strip of grass that will be cut during each pass with your riding mower. The cutting deck size is measured in inches and can range anywhere from 28 inches to 52 inches on a riding lawn mower. Knowing the cutting deck size your lawn needs is imperative to buying the right mower for your home.
Lawns under half an acre generally require a cutting deck up to 40 inches. Lawns half an acre to two acres require a 40-48 inch cutting deck. Anything above two acres will typically need a cutting deck of 48 inches or higher.
Power and Speed Options
Similar to how if you have a larger lawn you should go for a larger cutting deck size, the more area that your mower is going to cover the more power it should have behind it.
Powerful engines allow you to work better and can offer you more speed. For some riders, there is a priority in power over the cutting deck. Many models of riding mowers will allow you to choose the engine and cutting deck size so that you have the best mower for your lawn.
The only downside to having a more powerful engine is that the more power your lawn mower has, the more your mower will cost overall.
Riding Mower Transmission Options
Just like engines, mowers come with all sorts of transmission options. Typically, there are three different transmission options you’ll find: automatic, gear drive, and hydrostatic. Here are the pros and cons of each.
An automatic transmission will switch gears for you. You simply pull the lever or push the pedal and the speed of the mower will increase. There will also be a pedal that allows you to go in reverse (though not all mowers will cut in reverse).
Automatic transmission riding mowers are great for lawns that require lots of turns and have hilly terrain. The change in direction and power does not require you to manually shift, thus requiring you to work less.
Gear-driven or manual transmissions will require the rider to change gears every time they increase or decrease their speed. Much like a car, gear-driven transmissions allow you to have the most control over your mower. Also, the simplicity in the design aids in the overall lifespan of your mower.
The drawback to a gear-driven transmission is that when you make a turn or go up and down a hill, you will need to shift to the proper gear every time to accommodate the speed difference. For some riders, this is too much work. The upside is that the simplistic construction of a gear-driven transmission allows this type of transmission to be the most budget-friendly of all three options.
Hydrostatic transmissions are the perfect mix of both automatic and gear-driven. Hydrostatic transmissions use fluids to move power from the engine of your mower to the wheels. You do not need a pedal to shift gears and there are no internal belts like those found in an automatic.
The result of a hydrostatic transmission is typically a smoother ride as compared to the jerks you will experience on a gear-driven transmission. The drawback, however, is that hydrostatic transmissions tend to be the more expensive of the three types of transmission options.
Grass Clipping Options
When you are cutting your grass, the clippings have to go somewhere. With riding mowers, you will find three different types of clipping options.
Side discharged clippings are released back onto your lawn through a side discharge funnel. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not like the look of leftover clippings on their lawn after a fresh mow.
The collection of the clippings can be achieved by attaching a bag to your lawn mower. For many riding lawn mowers, this attachment is not included in the initial purchase.
The result is a well-manicured lawn that is free of any clippings. The drawback, however, is that as the bag becomes full, you will need to empty it (often several times) throughout your mowing session.
Some riding lawn mowers have the ability to mulch-up your clippings. When this happens, the mulched-up clippings are released back into your lawn leaving your lawn with a thin film of short grass clippings. These mulch clippings do your lawn good because they go back into the soil and help fertilize your lawn.
Where to Buy Riding Lawn Mowers for the Best Price
When purchasing a riding lawn mower, you can buy it in-store or online. The obvious advantage of buying in-store is that you get to actually see the machine, sit on it, and really know what you’re buying. Online, however, does have the advantages of convenience, being able to see reviews on the product, and being able to easily compare it with other models.
If you are buying in-person consider check out a small business or home improvement store like Home Depot. If you are buying online, you can typically buy directly from brands or even on Amazon.
Trusted Brands in Riding Lawn Mowers
Some of the best brands in riding lawn mowers include Troy-Bilt, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, Simplicity, Snapper, and John Deere. Each of these brands creates excellent, quality products, which you will see below, some of which are premium options and some of which are affordable.
As fun as riding lawn mowers may be, they can also be dangerous, just like any other piece of heavy machinery. Stay safe when you use your riding lawn mower by implementing the safety tips below.
Wear Safety Goggles
The power of many riding lawn mowers allows them to reach speeds of up to 6 miles an hour, which may not sound like a lot but will feel like a lot if you mow over a stick or a rock and your mower’s momentum causes it to be flung up in the air so it hits you in the eye.
Because of this, it’s important to wear safety goggles. They have the added bonus of protecting your eyes from dust or pollen that may become airborne as a result of your mowing.
Wear Ear Plugs
Lawn mowers are known for being annoyingly loud. Because you are so close to the engine when you are mowing, it is important to cover your ears every time you operate one. The best protection is earplugs, but noise-canceling headphones that cover the entirety of your ear can work as well.
Do Not Wear Baggy Clothing
There are many moving parts when you are riding a lawn mower. Because of this, any loose clothing that can get pulled into your mower could become a hazard to you. Avoided this by wearing clothing that is well fitted and not baggy. Additionally, do not tie long sleeve shirts to your waist while you are riding or keep lanyards or long handkerchief hanging from your pockets.
Use Your Judgment When Mowing
Riding mowers requires you to be alert and attentive when you are out on your lawn. Because of this, it is important to use your best judgment when you are mowing. This includes staying clear of obstacles and not mowing over items like loose balls, toys, or other objects. Be sure your path is clear before you mow.
The Best of the Cheap Riding Lawn Mowers
Our overall pick for the best cheap riding mower in 2021 is the Husqvarna YTH18542. This mower offers the perfect combination of power, quality, and ease of use. With an impressive motor, hydrostatic transmission, and a sizable 38-inch cutting deck, this hassle-free mower is perfect for taking on modestly-sized lawns.
Of course, every riding lawn mower on this list is a winner, and each has different strengths, so if you didn’t fall in love with the Husqvarna YTH18542 then consider one of the other excellent options we reviewed.