When you buy a new mower, it's a big decision. It's a big decision because it's one that is either going to save you a lot of time in the long term and give you a beautiful finish, or it's going to cause endless frustration or regret that you didn't consider your options better.
We've put together 10 tips to help you decide on a new Ride on Mower:
1 - Catch, Side Discharge, or Mulch?
This is the first major choice you need to make and depends on the size of your lawn, grass type and geographic location. Catching as a rule will always give the nicest/cleanest finish, while side discharge will cut your mowing time down, while leaving a slightly messier finish and often rows of cut grass. Mulching gives a great finish without messy clippings, but must be done in the right conditions.
2 - Cutting Deck
This is where it all happens - so it's important to make sure your deck is fully fabricated - e.g. steel that is cut then welded into shape, not pressed or stamped. Pressed steel decks are attractively priced and look great on a showroom floor - but when the rigours of mowing take their toll, it is always fabricated decks that are heavier duty and will go the distance.
Width is important as well. In New Zealand the most common deck size is 42" for catching or 50-60" for non catching.
3 - Belts
If you already own a ride on mower, you'll know that belts can be frustrating beyond belief. In long or wet grass they can stretch, slip, smoke or even break, causing endless frustrating and unnecessary cost. Take a look at Walker Mowers, which have a shaft driven deck - giving optimum torque, blade tip speed, and the ability to tackle much longer grass than their belt driven counterparts.
4 - Engine
It's important to make sure that not only is your mower powered well, but the brand of engine is top quality and you'll be able to have it serviced and buy parts in the future. With this in mind, Horsepower (hp) isn't everything - and can often be deceiving. Shaft drive mowers that are zero turn, such as Walker Mowers, will use power far more efficiently than their competition giving you better fuel efficiency. For example, an entry level tractor style mower with a 42"deck may have a 26hp Briggs & Stratton, whereas a commercial grade Walker Mower starts with just 19hp.
Also consider whether the engine is rated at net (or 'critical') horsepower, or gross horsepower, as this differs by brand and can lead to overrated hp figures.
5 - Chassis
Make sure the chassis is strong and durable - preferably welded. If you're looking at a more domestic ride on or zero turn mower, bolted chassis are far more durable than riveted.
6 - Features & Attachments
Steer clear of anything that offers you everything else as well as a mower! You are buying something to mow your lawns, not trim the hedges and tend to the flower bed. You don't want to buy something that is the Jack of all trades, but the master of none. An exception is a mower that is shaft driven, where you can add attachments to the front which utilise the PTO shaft.
Also watch out for flashy features including suspension and deck wash ports - these are marked and branded for a reason and not for your mowing. Keep it simple.
7 - Brand
Buy a ride on mower brand that has a long history of manufacturing ride on mowers, and that has had a long history in New Zealand. Some brands are right at home in a British garden, or cutting fine dry grass in the American summer season, but when they land on a New Zealand lawn that is often wet, cut short and mown most of the year round, they struggle. Many brands including BOB-CAT and Walker have had significant changes made to make them work better in New Zealand - so that you don't have blockages and other problems.
It's also important to be aware of brands that sell everything else and have a ride on mower range as part of their brand - more than likely this is an add on, and lacks research/development and focus. If you're buying off a brand that only makes mowers, you've made the right choice.
8 - Price
'The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten'. Don't just look at the price tag when buying your new ride on mower. It's worth paying more to get a zero turn mower that will do the job better and save you significant amounts of time. Don't just compare marketing - dig deeper and find out why some cost more - and what this means for the user.
9 - Backup, Service and Parts
Remember that included in the price you pay is the service offering of the company your are buying from. Make sure there is a substantial spare parts stock that is readily available to you so there's minimal downtime in the event of a breakdown.
You want to make sure you have a dealer or service agent nearby that can pick up your mower and give it professional care and service.
10 - Demonstration
There's no substitute for actually trying out a mower on your property. Get expert advice from people who have experience in making recommendations for you and who may see your property from a different angle.