Cheap Riding Lawn Mower

If you are in the Market for a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower than you should stop and ask yourself, why a buy a cheap one?

The word cheap usually for most of us has one of two meanings. First cheap can mean of the way a product is manufactured usually of lesser quality. An example of this would be if you purchased a garden leaf rake. On the first day that you used it the handle snapped and broke under normal use. One would say to themselves man what a cheap rake, I paid the regular price and that’s all I got for my $25.00.

Secondly to most of cheap is how a product pricing is perceived. An example of this cheap pricing would be when buying a head of romaine lettuce at the grocery store. Your normal grocer may charge $2.50 but you notice at the local big box grocery store the price of a similar quality head of romaine lettuce is $1.79. One would say to themselves now that is a cheap head of lettuce.

So when you are looking to buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower are you only driven by a cheap sticker price or does the thought of having the lawn mower break down more often due to lesser quality parts or workmanship appeal to you?

To purchase a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower at a low price and not get a piece of equipment that is always in the shop here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy.

The questions to answer are:

1. Is the sticker price the only reason to buy it?

2. Was any thought given to what size of riding lawn mower is needed for the lawn being mowed?

3. Is it a brand name that you recognize or a no name that you have not heard of before?

4. What type of warranty is there if you are buying new? And if buying used is there an hour meter on the mower?

Engine size in ratio to Deck size is important even with a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower 

Riding lawn mowers are all powered by four stroke gas engines. These engines vary greatly in size from 8 hp to 20 plus hp Of course the smaller the engine in turn the smaller the decks size (the part of the mower that holds the attached blades in position while the mower is moving over the lawn). With a smaller deck size you are decreasing the cutting width of your riding lawn mower and increasing the amount of time needed to mow the lawn. It will take more passes across the lawn in order to mow the total square footage of your lawn.

As with most things in life the smaller the riding lawn mower the lower the price, the larger the mower the more costly it becomes within each manufacturer. It will be tougher to get a cheap riding lawn mower when considering a commercial grade riding lawn mower. Again you get what you pay for and I know each of us has a different amount in their budget. We will come back to the budget issue from time to time but let’s go with a blank check approach.

Lets’ assume that you have 2/3 acre or so size lawn, it’s flat with no hills and only one or two trees to worry about. You’re going to Buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower as I mentioned earlier that riding lawn mowers start at 8hp and the deck size on a 8 hp riding mower is not very big. Most likely the deck will be only the size of a large push mower (22”-30”) as the motor has to be able to mow the lawn efficiently, carry you as well as the weight of the machine around your lawn. As the hp gets larger, let’s say 10-12 hp then deck size will grow to the 30’s (30”-38”).

If you see a cheap riding lawn mower with an 8 hp engine and a 36” deck than beware, the motor and deck are mis-matched and you will wear out the mower very quickly especially if your lawn is thick and mulch your lawn clippings (as you should). You will have engine problems as the motor will have to work too hard in order to turn the deck as well as carry the weight of a larger deck. You will not be able to mow as fast to achieve a good looking cut either.

It is around this 10-12 hp 36”-42” deck combination will best suite a 2/3 acre or so lawn. Mowing shouldn’t take much more than ½ an hr. That’s just the right amount of time to be enjoyable, to go out and ride in the fresh air but not too long for it to become a chore. 

Things to look for when you go to buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower that you drive with a steering wheel (similar to a car) is how strong is the front axle? Is it just steel rods covered with sheet metal or is cast, solid piece of metal? Are there plenty of grease fittings? Is the deck stamped out of a thin gauge metal or fabricated with heavy gauge steel that will stand up over time (mowing hours). What about the bearings (is there a grease fitting, I hope so) and the spindle that the blades mount to on the deck? Are they good quality? Are they covered under the warranty for 1 or 2 years?

The front axle in many home owner brand base models is just steel rods and linkage covered by sheet metal. This type of front end will not stand up to many years of use. The front axle and steering mechanism on a riding lawn mower take the brunt of stress/force created while driving over uneven ground and turning. The weight of the driver who is larger may add extra stress to mower as well.

By making sure that you buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower that has a cast front axle you will double the life of the front end. The difference in the cost should only be $100-$200 at most.

Grease fittings, the more the better on a riding lawn mower. Look to ensure that bearings such as those found on axles where the wheels are mounted, pivot points such as steering rod pivots to control steering and the most important bearings, those that encase the spindles (the part that the mowing blades are mounted to) all have grease fittings. If they don’t then you are shortening the life of these bearings and adding an unnecessary cost early in the life of your mower. Remember that a tube of grease is only a few dollars compared to $20 plus dollars and the down time and the labour involved in replacing the worn bearings.

Next, is the deck a stamped deck made from a thin gauge of sheet metal? If so then the life of the deck will not be as long as one that is fabricated from much heavier gauge steel. A stamped deck won’t hold up as well over time to especially at major stress points on the deck such as where the spindle housing on the deck. Other areas that are vulnerable include where the deck hangers attach to the deck (deck hangers hold the deck in position above the lawn to give you he desired cutting height).

Most of these lower end models stamped metal hanging bracket held on with cotter pins. Remember you get what you pay for.

When you venture into commercial brands of riding lawn mowers you will find that all of these issues have are already been solved. The axles are all heavy duty cast, there are multiple grease points, all bearings can be greased, the decks are made from thicker gauge metal, fabricated not stamped and deck hangers will be of a heavy duty nature. In the case of my Toro mower there are heavy duty chains instead of hanger brackets.

Another key part in evaluating a mower before you buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower is the engine. There are many manufacturers, but the main ones are Briggs and Stratton (B.& S.), Tecumseh, Honda, Kawasaki and Kohler. Most home owner brand riding lawn mowers offer B.&S., Tecumseh or Kohler made engines. These engines offer good value and keep the cost of riding lawn mowers to a reasonable price. A Kawasaki, Honda and to a lesser extent Kohler offer superior engine when it comes to longevity as in commercial use. The only draw back with these types of mowers is although they may last longer than there home owner brands before they need repair, they will most likely cost more to fix when the time comes.

You’ve got an estate lawn that is greater than 2/3 of an acre with plenty of trees and other obstacles. The riding lawn mower manufacturers have created mower with you in mind.

A recent addition in the riding lawn mower world is the Z.T.R. mower (Zero Turn Radius). These mowers don’t use steering wheels to steer with, they use two individual sticks (a left hand and a right hand). By using the sticks powered by hydraulics they are able to steer by moving a stick in a forward motion. If you move them forward an equal amount, then you will move straight ahead. If you only move one stick all the way forward then you will turn 360 degrees in a circle until you let off on the stick. Pull backwards then you move backwards. Steering becomes much more exact.

When it comes time to turn to mower around to cut in the return direction all you have to do is stop, pull a stick back and the other forward and ta da! You’ve turn 180 degrees around and you are mowing back to the other end of the lawn. Instead of having to take big wide turn to get back to the return mowing path or having to stop and make a 3 point turn. It also increases the speed at which you can mow your lawn and therefore decreases the amount of time it takes to mow the lawn.

These types of mowers are excellent for getting in close to obstacles such as trees, fence lines. Prices for this type of mower are greater than your average riding mower but if speed and manoeuvrability are important to you then this might be what you are looking for.

Non-commercial riding lawn mowers will start in the $1000 dollar range for a 10 hp mower. A good rule of thumb for pricing home owner brands is a $100 per hp. (10 hp-$1000.00, 12 hp- $1200.00). If the manufacturer has addressed some of problems mentioned above such as the front axle then add more money for that machine to the $100.00 per hp guide line. When you want to buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower of the commercial nature then the $100.00 dollar guide line may turn into $300.00 per hp., but remember it is purchased to make you money. As far as commercial lawn care equipment I have had great luck with Toro products. 

If you are thinking you want to buy a Cheap Riding Lawn Mower that’s used then follow all the same guide lines mentioned above. Also if buying used, take the time to look at how clean the mower appears, is the oil clean or black? Clean is better than black. Is the deck in good shape, are there any welds broken? You don’t want broken welds. Are the blades in good shape or are the chipped? Chipped means it’s time to buy new blades.

Take it for a spin, does it start easily? it should. Is the steering sloppy or tight? it should be tight. While you are driving it engage the deck, do you feel any excessive vibration? If you do then the bearings maybe worn or the blades are not balanced properly and are prematurely wearing out the bearings in deck.

Another important fact to know in 2010 and after there is that a lot more cheap stuff is being made in china and shipped here. I strongly suggest if you don’t recognize the name don’t buy it. In a recent conversation with my small engine repair guy he mentioned that the local big box store had called him about looking after warranty service claims for riding lawn mowers that the big box store was carrying. The big box store said that they would only warranty work up to $200.00. Why $200.00 because that was all that they paid for the $800-$900 riding lawn mower. After that it was considered a throw away.

The second problem he noted was that because a lot of the stuff was coming form off shore that he had no part numbers or break downs for any of these mowers either, so how is he supposed to fix something he has no way of getting parts for? Buyer beware!

By answering these questions you will be able to make a much more informed decision when you want to buy a Cheap Riding Lawn mower. 

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