What is a zero turn lawn mower?

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First time lawn mower shoppers often encounter hard selling sales pitches for zero turn mowers.

The sales guys quip that these amazing machines can reduce your mowing time by half. That’s a huge motivation.

The advertisements talk about how comfortable they are to use as compared to a push mower. True. If you have hilly terrain, a push mower can be a nightmare.

But that swanky looking zero turn mower isn’t cheap. And you don’t know anything about riding one.

So, you are skeptical whether it will be worth the investment.

Here are my unbiased answers to all the doubts that you had about the zero turn mower.

What is a zero turn lawn mower?

A zero turn mower is a type of mower that has a zero-inch turn radius. In other words, it can make 180-degree spins and extremely tight turns getting closer to obstacles in the lawn than any other type of mower.

It can be a riding mower, a push behind one or a stand-on variety.

Typically, these machines are designed for maneuverability and speed. You can turn it on a dime and you can do it fast.

That’s the big draw and hence, you will often find lawn contractors riding these mowers on sports fields and massive lawns that will take forever to mow with a conventional lawn tractor.

These also have the mowing deck in front, rather than in the back like other types of mowers which further improves the performance.

How does a zero turn mower work?

Zero turn mowers are usually four-wheeled. There are two large drive wheels on the rear and two swiveling wheels on the front. A hydraulic speed control mechanism allows the user to control the speed of each wheel independently.

Steering may either be controlled using two throttles (one each for the direction and speed), using steering wheels or even a joystick as seen in some newer models.

The user can stop one wheel and engage the other reducing the turn radius to zero. Both wheels can also rotate in reverse, in opposite directions as well as pivot midway around a point to make the Z-turn.

Homeowner zero turn mower models can hit top speeds of up to 6 mph whereas commercial models can hit top speeds of up to 8 mph.

Pros and cons

Despite all the hard sell, sometimes a zero turn mower may not be the right choice for you.

In fact, most of the negative press that these machines receive is because the buyer didn’t understand the limitations. Not because it was a bad mower.

Here are some of the pros and cons of these machines.


  • Reduces mowing time considerably
  • Perfect for straight lawns with lots of obstacles
  • Allows you to mow much closer to trees and other obstacles
  • Can make any kind of turn in tight spots
  • There’s a huge variety to choose from at different price brackets


  • More expensive than lawn tractors
  • May not be the best choice if your lawn has steep inclines and slopes
  • There’s a learning curve attached to using these machines.
  • You can easily damage the mowing deck by crashing it into obstacles if you aren’t careful enough

Where to buy zero turn mowers

Most big box stores offer periodic discounts and you also get a chance to demo a ride. But from what I’ve seen, the prices that you find online for zero turn mowers are nearly unbeatable.

To give you some perspective, it is completely possible to land a 30% discount on zero turn mowers. And you don’t even need to wait till Black Friday.

So, I highly recommend shopping online for these mowers. You can read more about some of the models I have personally tried in this post.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!