How Long Do Riding Mowers Last? (Experts Explain)

Riding mowers are among the most revolutionary inventions in the world of landscaping. From acre-eating garden tractors to precise zero-turn mowers, their efficiency and convenience cannot be matched. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, with the same sentiment extending to lawnmowers of all shapes and sizes.

In numbers terms, you can easily expect 10-15 years of good performance from a new riding mower. In some cases, your mower can last 20+ years, subject to several factors. Mower manufacturers often assign hour ratings which give a rough idea of the mower’s lifespan when you purchase them.

Today we will be looking at the typical life expectancies of riding mowers. We will examine the factors that can influence your mower’s longevity, as well as the classic “repair vs replace” argument. Finally, we will highlight some of the most durable riding mowers out there today.


What Is The Average Life Of A Riding Mower?

There are two main metrics that most riding mowers are judged by in terms of lifespan. They both measure the same thing, but from different points of view.

If cared for and maintained properly, riding mowers can be used for many hours over many years.

Jerry McMillan, McMillan Lawn Service, 40 Years Experience, Great Grandpa

How Many Years Do Riding Mowers Last?

The first is more used by owners keeping track of how long they have used them in years. They want to know how many years they can expect to mow their lawns with the equipment before having to invest in major repairs or a new mower.

In years, the average lifespan of most non-commercial riders is 12 years of regular use. For commercial machines, you can expect with a normal workload to have them last 15 or more years on average. The number of years both types last goes down with abuse, lack of maintenance, or over-use.

For most residential uses, understanding the life of a rider in terms of years makes the most sense. Of course this number will be subjective since the size of the lawns cut and many other conditions tend to play a role.

How Many Hours Do Riding Mowers Last?

The other is using the measurement preferred by manufacturers and some professional lawn crews. They gage these machines by recording mowing or running hours.

High end residential style riding lawn mowers if well maintained will last an average of 1056 total usable hours. Commercial ride-on or stand-on mowers can feasibly be relied upon to give an average of 16,500 total hours. These numbers are based on normal residential versus commercial weekly usage.

Some riders even come equipped with meters that keep track of these hours in service.

Totals here are based on 25 hours per week of commercial usage and 2 hours per week of non-commercial cutting time. This is not including setup, take down, and cleanup times. Here we are talking about cutting times only.

Quality Of Construction Matters For Riding Lawnmowers

Some higher end non-commercial brands like John Deere and Husqvarna will last 2000 hours or more before major replacement is needed. This is also dependent on regular maintenance and careful usage.

According to Peter Sawchuk, director of Consumer Reports lawn mower tests, if you are only spending $500 on a residential class mower, you may be looking at considerably less in terms of usable hours. Per Sawchuk’s estimations, most residential style lawn mowers at around the $500 range are designed to last between 250 and 300 hours of use.

For high end heavy duty lawn tractors used in commercial applications, the hours can exceed the 16,500 hour average. This also comes with a caveat. Treating the machine as if it is your own with regular maintenance and care is key.

I’ve had a Gravely mower for the past 13 years and have used it all but two months out of the year for grass and even mulching leaves. It has run for 30 hours or more most weeks. I still use it today.

Jerry McMillan, McMillan Lawn Service, 40 Years Experience, Great Grandpa

Jerry went on to explain that though he used his Gravely for everything from grass cutting to leaf mulching, he took exceptionally good care of the mower through weekly maintenance.

This workhorse of a machine has logged over 17,160 commercial, hard working hours and is still cutting. Though this mower will probably go on for many hundreds of more hours, it is more a testament to taking proper care of equipment than the intended longevity of the design.

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How Maintenance Affects How Long Riding Mowers Last?

Anyone who finds themselves paying the often-lofty purchasing price of a riding mower will not only expect top-notch performance and longevity but demand it.

Seriously, these things are not cheap, with some high-end commercial lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers easily going over the US$10,000 mark. You could get a used car for less than that! With such price ranges, a riding mower is less of a “consumable” and more of a “long-term asset”. 

The good news is that the longevity of your riding mower (mostly) depends on you! There are a few factors that you, as the owner, have direct control over.

How You Use Your Riding Mower Affects How Long It Lasts

The first is how you use the mower.

  • Do you drive aggressively?
  • Are you always cutting your grass while it is wet?
  • Do you use it on rough terrain?
  • Are you trying to cut steep inclines regularly with it?
  • Are you running over large sticks or small limbs with your rider?

These are just some of the things that can have a negative impact on your mower’s longevity. If you do some of these it could mean loosing a year or two off of your mower’s lifespan.

If you are doing all of these and more you could effectively cut your mowers productive years in half. That could be a considerable amount of your upfront capital.

Who is using it matters as well. Homeowners use a rider once weekly on average for less than ten months of the year. Professional crews use a mower much more.

Jerry McMillan, McMillan Lawn Service, 40 Years Experience, Great Grandpa

Maintenance Frequency Can Affect Riding Mower Lifespans

The second, but equally important factor here is the frequency of service and timeliness of repairs. Oil changes should be carried out as and when required to avoid compromising the engine. Quality is just as important as quantity where oil is concerned, so any shortcomings on either side will knock a few hours off your mower’s lifespan.

Other maintenance tips include checking for, and removing, any built-up residue in the fuel tank, as well as regular reapplication of lubricants, hydraulic fluid, and other consumables. You should also make sure to regularly check the sharpness of your blades and keep the mower deck and air filters clean.

The engine is the heart of any lawnmower, so maintaining it will help prolong lifespan. Apart from the oil and air filter changes, you should carry out a total engine inspection and make repairs and replacements before irreparable damage can occur.

The rest of your routine maintenance can be done once a year, or if you suspect something is wrong. Some of these measures include:

  • Belt inspections and replacements
  • Fuel filter replacements
  • Battery inspection/ replacement
  • Axle lubrication
  • Checks for loose connections and nuts
  • Tire pressure and integrity checks
  • Sparkplug checks

Storage Conditions Can Help Mowers Last Longer

Storage is another factor you can control. Always try to house your mower in a dry shed or garage. Prolonged exposure to the sun, day in and day out may cause damage to rubber and plastic components. If you plan on storing your mower for an extended period (i.e., during winter), make sure to drain the oil and store it safely.

The Quality Of Construction And Materials Affect Lifespan

Of course, some factors are beyond your control too. Build quality, for one, is the responsibility of the manufacturer. The good thing is if your mower is new, your manufacturer probably offers a multi-year warranty.

If any problems occur as a result of an unforeseen performance blip or poor build quality, the manufacturer will repair or replace your mower.

Is It Worth Fixing A Riding Lawnmower?

There comes a time when every owner reaches the crossroads of deciding between repeated repairs and biting the bullet and purchasing a new mower.

The truth is the question of repairs being worth it depends on the cost of repairs when compared to the cost of replacement. 

If your mower only requires minor fixes and parts, then repair is almost definitely worth it. This is especially true if your mower is still relatively new. Even bigger parts like pulleys, belts, headlamps, etc. can be repaired or replaced at a lower cost than it would take to buy a new mower.

However, if you’ve had your mower for a long time (e.g., 10+ years) and are experiencing major problems such as total engine failure, a re-think might be in order. Do you really want to buy a brand-new engine for a mower that ought to be on its last legs? Probably not.

Is It Worth Buying A Riding Mower With Longevity Considered?

If ‘worth it’ is a question you have about riding mowers, it really will come down to personal circumstances and the size of the job. If you are a retired owner of a townhouse with a postage stamp yard to tend to, then probably not. Though, if you are young and in great shape a walk behind may also fit even a larger sized yard.

It is worth buying a riding mower if you have a lawn or field at least a quarter of an acre in size and you are looking to cut down on physical exertion. The amount of usage home owners need from a mower makes a rider a very good investment for the time saved and enjoyment added to a weekly chore.

It is also worth considering the extent of the job when deciding on the type, quality, and deck size of the rider. The features will also increase the price and play a role in whether the rider is ‘worth the investment’ or not in your particular situation.

Riding lawnmowers are efficient, reliable, and fast methods to cut most lawns of the proper size. They are a great buy if the right one is chosen for the right job.

What Are The Most Reliable Riding Lawnmowers?

If reliability is what you’re after, the following lawnmowers are the very first place you should look at.

Husqvarna Z254F

You’ll hardly ever go wrong with a Husqvarna, and the Swedish manufacturer’s Z254F is an elite level zero-turn mower that will perform excellently on your personal property, or for your lawn care business.

The Z254F sports a 54-inch mower deck that is made from 10-gauge steel. It is powered by a 23 horsepower Kawasaki FR 691V engine. Fat rear tires offer great stability while the front caster wheels facilitate a nimbleness that belies the mower’s considerable heft (595lbs).

The Z254F’s standout feature is arguably its overall simplicity. What you see is what you get…and what you see is a rugged trimming machine that could very well outlive you.

Husqvarna offers a 3-year homeowner warranty for this awesome mower.

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series LT42

Cub Cadet’s legacy as one of the finest mower brands is in very safe hands with the XT1 Enduro Series LT42 lawn tractor. This beautiful machine is driven by a Kohler 5400 Series engine, producing an impressive 18 horses.

As far as garden tractors go, the XT1 is highly maneuverable thanks to its 16-inch turning radius. You also get LED lighting, a hydrostatic transmission, and a soft-touch steering wheel. The 42-inch deck is highly adjustable and you can choose from 12 heights.

The list of the XT1’s features is seemingly endless, but reliability is what Cub Cadet (and parent company MTD) prides itself on. Expect at least a decade of unrivaled performance from what is, without a doubt, one of the best garden tractors ever made.

Cub Cadet offers a limited 3-year warranty for the XT1, as wvell as a 5-year warranty for the chassis and front axle.

Other Notable Riding Mowers

Of course, the aforementioned mowers are just two of the great choices on the market.

The following are some of the other reliable riding mowers you can get your hands on today.

Final Touches On How Long Do Riding Mowers Last…

If you buy a quality mower and take care of it regularly you will have it for a decade or more. You get what you pay for in riders and reap what you sow maintenance wise.

Hopefully this article has brought you that much closer to making a decision on your next mower purchase. Riding mowers are not only efficient and a good investment, they can also make a possibly mundane chore quite a bit more enjoyable.

Find out more info on riding mowers in some of my other articles…


Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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