What are Zero Turn mowers and how are they different from other lawn tractors that you have heard about? This is a fair question considering many would not know what “zero turn” is. The term “zero turn” refers to zero radius that is required for these mowers need to turn. This, basically, means these types of mowers can turn within their footprint. Compared to a traditional lawn tractor, zero turn mower does not use a traditional steering wheel or a pedal brake. The seat is mounted in a lower position. Another main difference is in the controls. Both wheels in the back have their own independent wheel motor and can be controlled by dedicated steering handles. This setup, exactly, is the reason that gives the awesome maneuvering abilities that many landscapers love about.
Some of the salient features of zero-turn (ZTR) mowers….
1. Mowing Pattern
When mowing with a traditional lawn tractor, the wider turn radius leaves strips of uncut grass. You will have to make difficult maneuvering to reach the uncut areas. You may have to make multiple passes at the end of a mowing row, driving over already mowed areas. When all things considered equal, a ZTR mower allows you to cut the lawn more efficiently due to its ability to turn 180 degrees at the end of a mowing row. The efficient cut pattern helps you achieve that high quality of a professional job. On the other hand, additional difficult maneuvering required with a traditional tractor mower can create a not-so-efficient pattern of mowing, increasing the overall time you would need to mow a client’s property.
2. Reduce Mowing Time by up to 50%
Many service providers who migrated to using zero turn mowers have found out that they can cut their mowing time by as much as 50%. In addition to providing the ability to make single row pass for mowing, ZTR technology also provides some of the below timing saving features:
Easy maneuvering around Obstacles: The maneuverability of zero turn mowers will allow you to mow around trees, flower beds/huge rocks and other obstacles more easily than with a steering wheel vehicle such as a riding lawn tractor. Some residential lawns or commercial yards may have huge rocks or objects placed as a showpiece. A ZTR would help you to go around such objects easily
Faster speed: ZTR mowers are designed to cut the grass twice as fast compared to traditional mowers. Reviews of these mowers report significant improvement in straight-line mowing speeds. A typical tractor mower cuts at speed of around 3 MPH while a typical zero turn mower cuts at speed of around 6 to 7 MPH.
Less follow-up trimming: Zero turn mowers provide an unobstructed view of the cutting deck, thus allowing you to easily cut very close to your trip edges. There is almost 0% need to trim difficult-to-reach areas as a follow-up, which is generally the case with regular, traditional mowers.
3. Versatile Additions
You can drastically increase the versatility of your zero turn mowers by adding a vast number of different attachments that are available in the market. Most of these attachments either improve or add more functionality to your machine. You can bag clippings, transport materials. You can even clear snow by using one of the many attachments specifically designed for zero turn. The most useful and popular attachment is a bagging system for collection of grass clippings. There are many options available when it comes to these systems. Mainly two or three bucket/bin systems. There are bagger systems that have a belt-driven powered blower that forces clippings into the bags.
When it comes to finding attachments that will be useful to you, if you are providing commercial service, there are high-quality bagger systems that you can dump without getting off the machine. You will be using a lever to tilt the collector right from your seat. Almost all of these need to be attached to the rear of the machine. Some of these attachments need various kits for installation and these kits can be found in the market as well.
ZTR mowers can accommodate a variety of rear attachments such as a dump cart, spreader, plug aerator, lawn detacher, sprayers, and rollers. Depending on any given attachment, some need a hitch and some don’t need a hitch. As previously mentioned, you can use your machine even to clear snow. There is a front-mounted blade for clearing debris or even a snowblower for clearing snow. These attachments, in some cases, may require an adapter kit or weight kit. “Quick hitch” mechanisms may also be available for fast and easy changeover.
4. Easy to Drive
Most of us are so used to steering wheels, seeing a zero turn machine without a steering wheel could look intimidating at first sight. However, most users become comfortable with the way it handles after a few occasions of using it. Steering a zero turn mower is not that different from steering a shopping cart. To drive in a straight cutting row, you need to ensure the same amount of pressure is applied to both levers.
Most of this type of mowers do not have a foot pedal brake. Control of both the direction and the speeding/breaking is with the steering handles. To increase the speed, you need to push the handles forward. To slow down or to stop, you simply pull the handles back into the neutral position which is their original position. If you think about it, this is very intuitive and how you would normally expect to operate a machine. Zero turn mowers are also equipped with a parking/emergency brake.
5. How do zero turn mowers handle on slopes?
If you have a lawn or your client’s lawn that has slopes over 10 degrees, you would have to rethink your strategy of using zero turn mowers. It is not recommended to use these mowers for such lawns. Because these mowers steer by traction of the rear wheels, a loss of traction, because of too much slope, would drastically reduce your ability to stop. You will not be able to steer with the handles if the mower is sliding or skidding. Remember, there is no power provided to the front wheels of a zero turn mower.
6. Cost Comparison
It is no doubt, zero turn mowers typically cost more than a traditional lawn tractor. Some of the additional cost can be attributed to the fact that these mowers have two hydrostatic transmissions as opposed to one in a lawn tractor. These mowers usually have bigger engines, larger decks, and stronger frames. And, overall, there is more steel used in the construction of these machines compared to lawn tractors.
Their high cost may be a barrier, however, there are some long term savings associated with owning a zero-turn mower. Because mowing with a ZTR (Zero Turn Radius) cuts your mowing time by half, you would be using less gas for the whole lawn. Shorter cutting times mean less wear and tear on the belts and pulleys resulting long life for the machine. And honestly, who does not want to save his or her time?.
In a nutshell, if you are in the market for a new mower, it would be amiss if you do not at least consider buying zero turn mowers and evaluate the pros of these type of mowers and see if they fulfill your need. Current 10 best zero turn mowers would outline all the pros and cons of various ZTR mowers. If you are a professional providing grass cutting services, zero turn mowers can be a good tool to your advantage. If you’re interested, here is general lawn mower buying guide.