There comes a time when we start to think about upgrading to a zero turn mower to make the task of mowing easier, or at least we hope so. The old saying, there’s a tool for every job, is certainly correct when it comes to selecting a type of lawn mower. Different types of lawn mowers can tackle different scenarios and are best suited to their specific strengths.
So, how do you figure out if you should buy a zero turn or walk behind mower for your lawn? Well, you need to look at the pros of each and see which comes out on top. Let’s take a look at how these two designs score.
Should You Choose a Zero Turn or Walk Behind Mower? (The Short Answer)
As a general rule, if a lawn takes you more than an hour to cut, then a bigger mower is a worthwhile consideration. Walk behind lawn mowers tackle small, tight spaces well. They also have the added bonus of mowing slopes safely. Zero turn mowers are ideal for wide, open areas where there is a lot of ground to cover. Most lawns are going to fall somewhere in between.
|Walk Behind||Zero Turn|
|Purchase Below $500||X|
|Low Running Cost||X|
|Quick Cutting Time||X|
Pros of Walk Behind Mowers
Walk behinds are the smallest design when it comes to mowers, but that doesn’t mean they are the weakest. They pack a punch that even the biggest mower sometimes can’t compete with. Let’s take a look at where the walk behind lawn mowers wins.
Cost to Purchase
Whenever considering any new purchase, the cost is probably the first thing we all think of. Walk behind lawn mowers come in at the lower end of the scale. You will easily find a lot of affordable options available in the stores.
This doesn’t mean that all walk-behinds are cheap; far from it. Professional models will still run in the thousands, but these are the bigger, wider cut, and more powerful models. So, for the average person with an average lawn, there’s an affordable walk behind mower available.
Light(er)weight & Small
Another big benefit of a walk behind mower is its actual size. If you have limited available space to store a mower, say in the corner of the garage, then a walk behind is definitely the least intrusive.
Sometimes, the design of our yards limits the size of lawn mowers we can actually use. You’ll more than likely be able to use a walk behind lawn mower in any area where you can comfortably walk.
Safety is a factor you should consider when selecting a mower type. Walk behind mowers can cover the majority of lawns safely and are only really limited by the operator’s ability to tackle steep hills.
Pros of Zero Turn Mowers
Moving on to the zero turn mowers, let’s take a look at where they perform well and what areas they do better than the walk behinds.
Effort to Operate
Like any riding mower, it takes minimal effort to operate. Once a zero turn is let loose, it can run for hours, with you needing to do very little. So, if you don’t want the walk that a walk behind offers, then a zero turn is the way to go.
Big Cutting Width
Zero Turn mowers come in a range of deck size options. Smaller versions start around 30 inches and they can exceed 100 inches. So no matter how much grass you have, a zero turn can handle it.
Speed of Cutting
Zero turns win in the speed section. They even outclass a riding tractor by a few MPH. So, if time is a consideration, then a mower that can cut between 5-10 MPH is an option. However, keep in mind that you’ll only reach this speed in open spaces.
Factors that Will Impact Your Decision
As you can see, these two types of mowers have their benefits for different scenarios. Now it’s time to see how they fit with your personal needs.
Your Physical Ability
After a long, hard week, you may simply not have the energy left to push your walk behind around the yard. However, for some of us, it’s the only exercise we actually get, and it’s worth keeping. So, before making a decision to upgrade, consider where you fall on this scale.
If you are used to being out in the yard for an hour cutting the lawn, the upgrade could cut this in half. There’s a noticeable difference between mower speeds and the difference in cutting times. So, depending on how much time you have available, there’s a mower to suit your needs.
The Cost to Buy
Zero turn mowers are going to be approximately x10 the cost of a walk behind. This is when you’re looking at middle-of-the-road consumer models of both the walk behind and the zero turns. Even if you look at entry-level commercial models of both, it’s still around x10.
Your Yard Design
Take a step back and look at your yard. If you have a lot of open lawn, then you already know which mower to go for. But if you think you’re not going to be able to tackle all of it with a big mower, then you need to consider if it’s worth the investment.
My Recommendations for When to Use a Walk Behind Mower vs. Zero Turn
As you can see from the table below, walk behind lawn mowers and zero turn lawn mowers tick certain boxes when you’re matching them up to your yard. I’d suggest taking time to think about where your yard fits into the table below.
|Lawn Factors||Walk Behind||Zero Turn|
|Large Slopes Over 15 Degrees||x|
|Limited Access “Narrow Gates”||x|
Finally, if your yard (and wallet) is big enough, having the right tool for the job could mean that you need to use two different tools to get the job done. If you have a small area of lawn with a big slope, then you might want to tackle this with a walk behind. If the rest of the property is a large, open lawn, then you can finish it off with a zero turn—just a thought.