While zero turn radius lawn mowers are fast, highly maneuverable and represent the latest in residential riding lawn mower technology, they are not without their flaws. Zero turn radius mowers have front-steering and rear-steering wheels, which allow them to turn within their own footprints. This feature, theoretically, makes it easier to navigate into tight corners and to cover more ground in less time because you do not have to make wide, sweeping turns. Unfortunately, zero turn radius lawn mowers still have several problems.
If you get into the driver's seat of a zero turn radius lawn mower, the first thing you will likely notice is the absence of a steering wheel. In addition, upon glancing down at your feet, you may be surprised to notice a lack of gas and clutch pedals. Unlike with standard riding mowers, drivers accelerate, decelerate, reverse and steer zero turn radius mowers using two side levers: one for the left hand and one for the right. As the science and technology resource website Popular Mechanics mentions, with most models, while all of the wheels can freely rotate, the back wheels provide the power. When you push the handle on the left side of a zero turn radius mower forward, this increases the power on the left wheel, causing the mower to accelerate and move to the left simultaneously. To go straight, you must balance out the power of the left wheel by pushing the right lever forward to the same degree. While there is nothing mechanically dysfunctional about this method of operation, the main problem is the learning curve associated with it. Drivers who are used to the feel of a traditional riding mower will have to adjust to this new system, which they may find uncomfortable or hard to master.
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In comparison to traditional-style riding mowers, zero turn radius mowers are considerably more expensive. As the technology resource and product review guide Galt Tech mentions, the most popular models, like the John Deere EZtrak Z225, the Toro TimeCutter Z4200 and the Craftsman ZTS 7500, cost between $2500 and $2800 as of September 2010. However, there are even more expensive models on the market, like the Swisher ZT2660 at $3800. Also, if you are looking for a zero turn radius mower that is capable of bagging, you will likely need to purchase a separate bagging kit, which can drive your cost up an additional $400 to $800.
While zero turn radius mowers are known for their incredible maneuverability, this feature may not always contribute to a perfectly trim lawn. As Galt Tech points out, some residential owners complain that in comparison to standard, tractor-style mowers, zero turn radius mowers do not cut grass as evenly, especially while making turns.