Riding mowers are even better than the average lawn mower because they have larger cutting decks, plus you can sit while getting your maintenance job done. If you’ve ever looked for a riding mower at your local hardware store, you know how expensive they can be.
Consumer Reports has you covered if you want to be sure you’re getting the most reliable riding mower for your money. Three of these models even cost below $2,000. Besides a bargain of a price, what makes these three riding mowers so great?
The John Deere E130 — a mulching master
While the E130 hits the $2,000 mark, it’s still a great bargain for all its strengths. It gets its power from a Briggs and Stratton two-cylinder engine, which also gives it easy handling around the yard. Cruise control is standard. This riding lawn mower has a hydrostatic transmission, so you don’t need to manually switch gears.
Consumer Reports rates lawn mowers based on three different categories: side discharging, mulching, and bagging. Side discharging refers to how well grass clippings are shot through the mower’s discharge chute. A high score in the mulching category means the grass clippings are finely chopped and distributed across the lawn. The lawn mower’s bag should be able to hold a lot of clippings and the chute shouldn’t be easily clogged.
The John Deere E130 is a master at side discharging and mulching, but only average when it comes to bagging. CR says that the blades evenly trim the grass, plus it can also cut in reverse. Cleaning the parts is easy thanks to the standard washout port.
The E130 was also found to be more comfortable than most riding mowers because of its high-back seat. However, CR testers also found that the engine is incredibly loud from the driver’s seat and even from 25 feet away. This riding lawn mower also has a short warranty of only two years.
The John Deere E140 lawn mower comes with a few extra options
In terms of performance, the John Deere E140 is the same as the E130, even down to the base price. However, this one offers an optional 48-inch cutting deck, six inches bigger than the E130’s. That means you’ll have to make fewer trips across the lawn to cut the grass to a reasonable length.
It comes with a 22-hp V-twin engine, and its high back seat is easily adjustable which offers more comfort while the rider makes their way across the lawn. Comfort while doing a tough maintenance job under the sun is never a bad thing.
However, the E140’s engine is still so loud that CR recommends wearing hearing protection while riding. It also doesn’t have standard cruise control like the E130 and features the same subpar warranty that you wouldn’t expect while shopping for the best lawn mower.
The Cub Cadet CC30 H is a more cost-effective option
The Cub Cadet CC30 H is a rear-engine mower, so it’s not as large as a full-size riding mower. Still, it’s a cost-effective option for shoppers with small or medium-sized lawns. These lawn mowers also don’t take up as much space in the garage.
Despite only having a one-cylinder engine, the CC30 H exceeded CR’s expectations. Its hydrostatic transmission is also a rarity for rear-engine mowers, and it has great handling. Its 30-inch cutting deck performed above-average in terms of side discharging and mulching, but the bag couldn’t hold much grass.
It doesn’t have the bothersome bagging blade standard on most rear-engine mowers. However, all the blades still have to be switched with a lever. Noise is slightly bothersome for the rider but improves from 25 feet away. While ear protection isn’t needed, some riders might feel uncomfortable with the less supportive lower seatback.
Despite these flaws, the Cub Cadet CC30 H still has a perfect owner satisfaction score. Predicted reliability is also above average. While it might be a hassle to use on bigger lawns, it’s a great riding mower for $1,600.