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Ride-on lawnmowers

14mar ride on lawnmowers hero default

Got a lot of grass to mow?

Ride-on mowers cut a wide swathe of grass – anywhere from 700mm to over 1 metre. Compare this with the 460 to 480mm width of the standard walk-behind rotary mower and you can see how much more quickly you can mow large areas. We tested 8 models - find out how they rated.

From our test

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About our test

We tested 8 models: 1 true ride-on and 7 tractor-style mowers.

To assess mowing, our testers used the side-discharge chute and mowed 4 swathes with each machine, through grass that was 125mm to 150mm high.

For mulching, they used the mulch plugs and mowed 4 swathes through grass 100mm to 125 mm high. To mulch longer grass, all models recommended at least 2 passes at reducing heights – and that’s how we tested. We also drove more slowly than in the mowing test.

The cut grass was evaluated for evenness of cutting, evenness of spreading the cut grass from the side-discharge chute, as well as the amount of clumping of the grass during mulching. We also noted whether the engine had ample power or struggled to keep the blades spinning, forcing us to cut more slowly.

To rate ease of use we looked at how easy it was to drive and steer the machine, to find and use the controls and functions, and understand the control-labelling.

To rate safety we assessed the instructions, warning stickers and labels, pulley and belt coverings, and automatic safety cut-outs.

Our experts

Our expert mower, Brian Tatton, has more than 20 years’ experience as a groundsman – and he regularly mows at our test venue, the Solway A&P showgrounds in Masterton.

Our “once-a-week” mower was Consumer NZ’s Hamish Wilson. Hamish and his wife own a lifestyle block in Wairarapa, which is kept tidy by a few sheep and goats plus a 42” ride-on mower and a petrol line-trimmer.

What we found

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out which mowers we recommend, and how they rated for mowing, mulching, ease of use and safety.


In order to keep your ride-on mower running well, you need maintain it properly.

Making it last

Domestic ride-on mowers are belt driven. The transmission and blades are connected to the motor by V-belts, which can get damaged by careless use. Be careful not to over-work the belts, particularly when mulching or mowing heavy grass. If the blades get jammed by an excess of clippings, the belts can get burned out in one place. This may cause vibration or a weak spot that will eventually break.

Sharpen up

Keep the blades sharp. A keen cutting edge will give a cleaner finish and make mulching work better. An annual pre-season sharpen and service is recommended.

If you’re handy, a 100mm angle grinder will quickly restore a stone-damaged blade edge. Be careful not to take off too much metal and make sure you take the same amount from each end or the blade will go out of balance. You’ll need to remove the deck and then the blades to do this. It’s not difficult on most machines as you only need to take the drive belt off (it’s loose and slips off easily unless the PTO is engaged) and remove 3 or 4 spring clips or bolts to release the deck. The deck can then be slid out from under the machine.


More maintenance is required than for a standard mower. Consumer Reports says ride-on mowers are among the most repair-prone products it tests. So check out your retailer's after-sales service.

Maintenance is also something to consider when buying second-hand. Has it really been looked after?

Make sure you change the oil and oil-filter (where fitted), check and clean or replace the air filter, replace spark plugs and grease any greasable points at recommended intervals.

If you don’t want to do your own maintenance think about how you will get the mower back to the dealer. Dealers may be pleased to come and collect the machine and maintain it, but all this can add significantly to the running costs.

Washing port

Ride on mowers typically have a pressed-steel mowing deck (the housing that covers the blades). Steel is vulnerable to rusting if you leave wet grass clumps under the deck. A washing port connects a garden hose to wash the underside of the deck (with the blades running), to help keep the deck free of damp grass.

Remove the mulch plug and clean around the opening. Damp grass often builds up here, and using the washing port won’t always remove it. Remove the deck so you can clean and dry it thoroughly before putting the mower into storage for long periods.


To prolong the life of your ride-on mower, keep it out of the weather – you'll need a covered space of around 1.2m x 1.8m.

Battery charger

Ride-ons are likely to sit in the shed for months at a time in dry summers or cold winters when the grass stops growing. Make sure you have an appropriate battery charger so you can charge it up or even keep it on trickle charge, so it’s ready to go when needed.

Safe use

When using a ride-on mower, it's important to follow these safety tips.

  • Wear hearing protection and safety glasses when using your ride-on mower. In dry dusty conditions a dust mask is also advisable.
  • Don’t use side-discharge mowers if other people, children or pets are nearby. Sticks and stones can be flung a considerable distance. Windows may be at risk even from some distance.
  • Buy a model with a "seat shut-off switch" that stops the blades as you get off the mower or if you don’t set the park brake before hopping off.
  • Keep off slopes, particularly on wet grass. Check the manual for slope limits.
  • Avoid mowing in reverse – it's hard to see whether there are children or pets in the way. Choose a model with reversing safety features if you need to back up frequently.
  • Check you can get on and off the mower without bumping into controls that might accidentally start the mower operating.
  • Mowers with a rear-mounted grass catcher may need front weights to stop the front wheels lifting.