Zero-turn mowers are a favorite among homeowners and professional landscapers for their unmatched maneuverability. And even though the machines are ultimately designed for one purpose, they differ from one another in ways more than one. And with its unquestioned popularity, several brands have jumped on the bandwagon to create their own zero-turn line. One quick search for zero-turn mowers can lead you to limitless brand websites, and you will only be doing yourself favors if you fall for their clever marketing tactics.
These extensive websites generally choose their words carefully with an impressive product description and positive paid or unpaid reviews. And for that matter, there might be better alternatives than your local dealer, for they are also tied to specific brands and are incentivized to make sales.
Now, this is in no way to tarnish any brand image or to slag off any design choices they made. As we mentioned zero turn mowers are top-rated, so several models are competing to meet the towering expectations of the buyer due to the extortionate rates of these products. But we can also not let you spend thousands of dollars on equipment that will not last you years and, as many frustrated buyers say, “a piece of junk.”
Looking into customer reviews on e-commerce websites or unbiased articles can be a method for you to find a product worth your money, but if you are short on time and wish to find all the zero-turn brands to be wary of, then this is the article for you. These are the worst zero turn mowers, and why they made this list.
Worst Zero Turn Mowers | What Makes A Zero-Turn Mower Bad?
We’ve put together a brief rundown of the most frequent issues customers encounter to assist you in determining what exactly constitutes a deal-breaker in the case of a zero-turn mower and the warning flags you shouldn’t disregard whenever you decide to buy one.
- Bright colors and an attractive design may be highly eye-catching, but that also implies that it attempts to divert your attention away from problematic design flaws. To avoid getting sidetracked by ultimately irrelevant things is always a good idea, even though this may only sometimes be the case.
- With zero-turn mowers, it’s sometimes best to go big or home because bigger machines can be pretty difficult to maneuver in small spaces, especially for homes with gated yards. Equally ineffective are very small models. The best course of action for you would be a mid-size selection.
- To identify engine issues, you should check for white smoke emissions during a test drive. Although test drives are always advised when purchasing a mower, they are particularly helpful in this situation because engine problems, regardless of their nature, can result in fuel inefficiency.
- Ergonomics and the operator’s comfort should also be considered when designing a riding mower that could need hours of work. You should seek other options if your machine doesn’t start or rattles ceaselessly. Zero-turn mowers will inevitably vibrate, but you can minimize the vibration with the right seat and steering.
- Even though you may have found a satisfactory zero-turn mower, you will only make it a little far with warranties and solid customer service. It is a good idea to read the warranty information carefully as some companies make dodgy claims and do not offer warranties on several parts, so it is good to get a heads-up about that.
NOTE: This doesn’t mean that these brands don’t offer good and the report is based on recent ground reports!
Brands To Steer Clear Of
Take everything with a grain of salt with the claims made by the brands mentioned below, as you may want to dig deeper to unveil the mystery behind their sales.
Even though Troy Bilt flaunts a simple and user-friendly design to its name, there is little to back this up. They sure do pack affordability into the menu, but they manage to achieve a significantly low production cost by using flimsy material. Be it the deck or the frame of the machine, you name it, and the material employed is probably not up to the mark, which might work for a few seasons but wear and tear will eventually take over.
The engine and transmission of these mowers can also pose several problems, as some of the most common issues, according to several forums and articles, are inherently caused by it. Engine not starting, leaking, and smoking is prevalent and, in one shocking case, became a fire hazard posing a severe threat to the operator. Other issues include the inability to drive straight and steer correctly, uneven cuts, and rattling.
Now we realize that dubbing Cub Cadet the worst zero-turn mower might be too harsh as these are pretty well balanced and sturdy in their own right and have many customers for that reason. But these pleasing-to-the-eye bright yellow machines may not be all that fun to work with. The design needs to be optimized to minimize damages as the flip-up seats do not stay in place if not held in place, and the drop may cause the deck’s abrasion.
Other parts of the mower lack optimization. Some common problems of a Cub Cadet zero-turn mower include starting failures, frequent loss of power, and smoke emissions that may be connected to the engine. These units are also notoriously fuel inefficient, which might cause you to take several stops for refills on top of the money spent on buying fuel. Being extremely loud and flimsy decks not supporting a lot of weight are also things to consider. However, some new models in the 2022 lineup have attempted to salvage the brand image, and we would be lying if we said that they could be better.
There must be a good reason why Country Clipper, a well-known brand with a wide range of clients, made our list despite offering excellent cut quality, a comfortable mowing experience, and improved maneuverability and efficiency. The brand’s abhorrently awful customer service must be held accountable for its bad reputation. If you live close to a dealership, count yourself lucky since availing warranties which you will most likely need, might prove to be quite a bit of pain.
Now you may be questioning our choice of words as we mentioned that you would most likely need warranties, but we made this argument based on the poor functionality of the machine in the long run, which may mask itself in the initial hours and test drives. For Country Clippers, issues like deck belts snapping out of position and transmission failures occur far too frequently. Additionally, there are some apparent engine problems, and because of their subpar traction, hilly slopes are not where the mowers are suitable for use. But then, several unique features exclusive to the brand redeem the brand, like joystick steering, stand-up deck, and certain handicap features.
In this day and age, where substantiality is a heavily discussed subject, we certainly see the appeal of battery-powered devices. Added to all the environmental advantages are zero emissions and vibrations. That shift has also occurred with zero-turn mowers, albeit not all can provide the necessary power and performance. One such example is Earthwise. Although battery-powered solutions still have a ways to go, employing outdated technology shouldn’t be an excuse.
Earthwise zero turns use lead acid batteries that are relatively inexpensive than lithium-ion but drain rapidly. Additionally, the batteries last a short time, draining your cash in replacements.
Some design flaws can also be pointed out, including a dysfunctional handle causing the inability to steer correctly, so it might take a while to get the hang of things. So it is not for snappy users who want to save time because it will probably do the opposite for you.
A brand with a long and celebrated history and which proudly claims to be the world’s fastest lawn mower isn’t one of the worst. And if that’s what you’re wondering, you’re not altogether off the mark since Dixie Choppers boasts a robust construction. But the real problem lies with its suboptimal engineering that does not do justice to the high-grade parts. One prominent example is the engine stalls and malfunctions in humid atmospheres despite the primary engine brands used being Briggs and Stratton and Kawasaki.
To further extend this list of problems, belts and spindles also face issues frequently, and the machines are not cut out to work on hilly terrains due to subpar tire traction and transmission system. Although, as we mentioned before, the brand is generally competent, it does redeem itself with specific models.
Another one of our battery-powered zero turns, but a somewhat popular one this time, is Ryobi. And the brand does offer some significant advantages as they make a range of power tools that essentially runs with the same batteries, so you can use them interchangeably and save some bucks. On top of that, it is one of the most budget-friendly battery-powered zero turns out there. However, this affordability heavily backfires as they do not use the industry standard and technologically superior lithium ion and goes for lead acid instead.
And as we have established that lead acid batteries not only deplete quickly but also lose power in the long run much faster, requiring replacements. Another unappealing thing about these batteries is that the battery percentage determines the performance, so you can only expect decent power for a short time. So despite the popularity and being a decent mower overall, Ryobi does not cut it for being so inefficient as you cannot expect to mow an entire lawn with a single charge.
Walker is not a terrible mower by any means because it provides one of the better cut qualities, but if you are considering buying one, be prepared for your neighbors to be very envious of your consistently immaculate lawn. But the places where it lacks speed and productivity and any mid-mount zero turns will quickly take them over in that area. Being incredibly slow will lead you to spend many more hours than you intend.
Walker zero turns are also generally very heavy, with most of their weight concentrated which adds to its already poor performance on slopes. The heavy design quickly translates to high maintenance requiring regular servicing, so chances are that you will only see your mowers sometimes. Also very large and bulky, consuming a lot of space.
What Makes A Zero-Turn Mower Good?
If you want to cut your hours mowing your lawn and enjoy your time while mowing, then an excellent zero-turn mower can help you achieve it with its undeniably innovative and brilliant features. And as you are paying a lot of money, it is only natural to expect the best. The zero-degree turning radius of zero-turn mowers, which enables the two drive wheels to turn at different speeds so that you may achieve that, is highly regarded by landscaping enthusiasts. This guarantees precision and a superb finish, and the rest of the machine ought to complement that.
- You should search for a dependable engine brand and power output. For battery-powered mowers, you should look for industry-grade lithium-ion batteries with suitable motors, ideally brushless.
- To efficiently cut down mowing time, you should look at the top forward and reverse speeds.
- One of the most crucial aspects of your mower is its construction, and you should opt for durable materials like steel. Despite being lightweight, plastics lack the resilience required for such demanding duties. Additionally, steel can be found in stamped and manufactured forms, with various thicknesses having various properties, so you should look into that further.
- Another crucial factor is transmission, which comes in three varieties—manual, automatic, and hydrostatic—to increase operational simplicity. Because they are great for both beginners and experts, automatic and particularly hydrostatic transmissions are what you should ideally seek.
- Brands focusing on operator’s comfort are the true gems, as mowing long hours can do a number on your back and limbs, so a comfortable seat with a good suspension can help a lot and a rubber floor mat is a cherry on top. A storage compartment and cup holders can be great additions too.
- Some bells and whistles always attract people looking for something extra that might help them with a particular area, like use and maintenance or ergonomic design so you may look for that too. Stand-up decks, flip-up seats, wash-out ports, and headlamps are some to name.
Below are some of the brands that have perfected their craft over the years and have provided style and substance to their buyers for quite some time.
A hundred-and-thirty-year-old legacy of Husqvarna that eventually turned into lawnmowers and power equipment is still one of the market’s finest and most durable ones. With a wide range of residential and commercial models with deck sizes ranging from 42 to 72 so that inches, when combined with Briggs and Stratton, Kawasaki, and Kohler engines for optimal performance, deliver a consistent cut quality. The power output of the said engines ranges between 17 to 31 HP for all sorts of yard sizes in question, covering everyone from an amateur to a professional.
There are several bells and whistles to these zero turns, and a dedicated article would need to discuss them all. Still, a few notable ones are the pedal-operated speed, direction control, patented parking brakes, and many more. However, it is to be noted that the quality comes for quite a lot of money as the price ranges from a little under $3000 to a whopping $15000.
A family-owned business that has made quite a name for itself and, frankly, deserves to be on this list. The four product ranges available in Ariens are Zenith, apex, Ikon, and Edge, spanning residential and commercial grade zero turns. With deck sizes of 42 inches and going up to 72 inches is available paired with Kawasaki and Kohler engines for reliable power and performance. With the Edge model, you receive the smallest deck size option of 34 inches for gated yards.
The decks are made of fabricated steel optimized for airflow, creating a suction beneath the deck to enhance cut quality further. A fully welded tubular chassis further enhances durability. Wider rear tires for improved traction and anti-scalping wheels, so the deck does not get wedged into the ground and damages your turf. Certain lineups offer operator safety and comfort with a rollover protection system and integration seat isolation to dampen vibrations. Excellent warranties are available as well but this doesn’t mean that problems are not seen in Ariens lawn mowers.
To demonstrate that these mowers can compete with gas-powered beasts, too, if you design them effectively, we decided to include Ego since no one else makes battery-powered equipment as they do. To provide for interchangeability, Ego also manufactures a wide selection of power tools using a single battery and charger. Four 10 AH batteries are included, and there are spaces for two additional ones in the 42-inch zero-turn.
With its six batteries, the mower can mow up to 4 acres. Six 12 AH batteries are included with the 52-inch as standard, allowing it to cover up to 4 acres on a single charge. And for the icing on the cake, the Ego zero turns are computer-controlled, you can change a lot of the settings, including the forward speed and blade tip speed, so you can use it at full force for thick or typical grass or dial it back for finer cuts.
FAQs | Worst Zero Turn Mowers
What are the cons of a zero-turn mower?
Some of the common disadvantages of owning a zero-turn mower are that it is not for everyone as these heavy machines take time to get used to, require a substantial amount of fuel to get the job done, are not very efficient in handling slopes, and clock in at higher prices.
What are the most reliable zero-turn mowers?
We have mentioned some of the more reliable brands in this article and the things to look out for if you want to find one or avoid a faulty one. You can use this information whenever you shop. Other than that, brands like Scag, Wright, Bad Boy and John Deere are some great brands.
Not everyone can afford a zero-turn mower and even if you could throw money at a product that will not last you years or will be a hassle to use and maintain is simply not worth your time and care. Substantial investments do come with the need to be critical about the things that are not done right by the brands, which is what we have attempted to do. And if you follow our approach in your shopping, you will find the zero-turn that will fit all your needs just right as it is a rapidly evolving market. We advise you that taking a few moments to dig deeper into the product you are eyeing might change everything. Write to us in case of any further queries, and happy shopping.