The different names of ride-on mowers and tractors can be confusing and many manufacturers use different terms. For example, what is the difference between a ride-on lawn mower and a lawn and garden tractor?
There are a number of categories we use at MowDirect, and there are some machines that cross over and appear in both. In this guide we will try to offer some clarity and lay out the terms and titles that we use, as well as alternative names and aliases that you may well come across as you shop for your ideal ride-on machine.
We will also on occasion use the shorter Ride-Ons rather than Ride-on Mowers and Tractors. Here are the categories we use...
Rear Engine Riders: Also known as Riding Mowers or simply Ride-ons. For smaller areas, these are the entry-level machines in the ride-on mowers and tractors category. These are very popular and are exclusively mowing machines, designed for maintenance of large lawns. They differ from ride-on tractors, which are for larger mowing tasks and can also be used for towing and attaching other implements like cultivators and trailers. Grass collectors are often included as these machines are ideal for wet and dry grass collection. There are rear and side discharge versions of this ride-on.
Rear Engine Rider (Side discharge)
Rear Collect Tractors: Other names for these are Lawn Tractors, Garden Tractors or Lawn and Garden Tractors. These are also large-scale machines, ideal for mowing extensive lawns, perhaps 1 – 2 acres. They have wide cutting decks of between 75 and 125cm, powerful engines and a range of drives from multi-geared systems to hydrostatic drives for infinite and detailed control. Some come with mulching capability and they range widely in power and capability.
Rear Collect Tractor
image courtesy of lawnflite
Side Discharge Tractors: Also known as Garden Tractors or Tractor Mowers, these are similar in scale and specification to Rear Collect Tractors, but their side discharge decks mean they are more suited to cutting on less formal ground and lawns and can deal with longer, rougher grass. Powerful and capable of towing attachments as well as mowing these, like the rear collect tractors can be great all round garden vehicles as well as effective mowers. They will collect grass in dry conditions but are not ideal for wet collection due to the distance from the deck to the collector. Grass collectors tend to be sold as an optional extra for these, rather than being included. These tractors can also come with mulching capability, sometimes in the form of separately available mulching kits and they are generally very good value for the size of cut on offer.
Side Discharge Tractor
image courtesy of Toro
Front Cut Ride On Mowers: Also known as Out Front Riders and Sit-On Lawn Mowers with Out Front Decks . They offer great visibility, can cut under bushes and over-hanging tree branches and are designed for large scale mowing, with powerful high performance engines and mulching capability nearly always built in. They will enable cutting up close to edges and often come with four-wheel drive capability for work on uneven terrain and slopes.
Front Cut Ride On Mower
image courtesy of Stiga
Zero Turn Ride On Mowers: Sometimes called Zero Turn Riders or simply Zero Turns. These ride-ons are amazingly manoeuvrable and literally turn on the spot so there are no un-cut patches therefore no having to go back to re-cut saving time and cost. They are usually controlled by two levers or paddles (see image below) which control both forward, and reverse motion and then turn the ride-on on the spot if you push one forward and pull the other back. Some models now come with zero-turn steering wheels and drives are always hydrostatic giving you total control over speed for an even more efficient performance. This style of ride-on is becoming increasingly popular.
Zero Turn Ride On Mower
image courtesy of Toro
Heavy Duty Garden Tractors: Also frequently referred to as Estate Tractors. As the name suggests, these are serious, powerful large-scale garden tractors that are used commercially and by owners of large estates and gardens. They sit between the smaller domestic tractors and full-on agricultural tractors. They will have cutting decks of around 127cm to 152 and engines of 23m to 30 horsepower, often three-cylinder. They will be able to deal with heavy-duty attachments, ploughs, cultivators, sweepers etc and can cover very large expanses of lawn and rougher terrain. Some of them run on diesel and they will often come with mulching capability, even able to mulch long grass in orchards and meadows. Some, like the Westwood models, use a sweeper system which uses a powerful brush to lift the clippings, plus leave sand other debris into a collector. This particular type of large-scale ride-ons are also fitted with metal rollers at the rear so that if you mow in alternate directions you can produce a well defined stripe on your lawn.
Heavy Duty Garden Tractor
image courtesy of Westwood