How Long To Mow An Acre And What Mower Size Is Best?

Mowing the lawn is one of those “50/50” chores…some people absolutely love it, while others loathe it to no end. Whatever your disposition towards this task, you cannot argue that modern lawnmowers are much quicker and more efficient than ancient methods of lawn care.

You can expect to mow an acre of grass in one hour and forty minutes using a 22-inch walk-behind mower. With 30-inch walk-behind you can mow an acre in an hour and twenty minutes. With smaller riding mowers expect an hour and with larger commercial models as fast at twenty minutes.

But just how are some of these so quick and efficient and others less so? That is what we’ll be looking at today, as we discuss how mowers of varying sizes fare against an acre of grass. We also explore the factors that can influence this efficiency as well as the speed you can expect from these machines.


What Affects How Long It Takes To Mow An Acre?

Like a lot of industries, the world of lawnmowers is home to some of the best and most efficient machines ever created. The mowers on the market today can run rings around machines from earlier generations.

The competitive landscape (pun intended) demands manufacturers to constantly innovate, and they continually recruit the best designers, engineers, ergonomists, etc. to give themselves an edge.

That said, while lawnmowers are quicker and more agile than ever, their performance is still subject to a variety of factors. Knowing these can help you speed up your mowing times significantly.

1 Cutting Radius Affects Acre Mowing Speeds

The first is the size of the lawnmower, particularly the size of the mower deck and blades. The longer a mower’s blades, the fewer passes it needs to make over the grass. Mowers with larger decks will almost always clear an acre faster than those with smaller decks.

2 Mower Engine Power Decreases Cutting Time

Another factor is engine power. The more powerful a mower’s engine is, the faster it will move. Greater speed means quicker passes over the grass. The blades (which are also powered by the engine) will also spin faster, reducing cutting time.

3 Maneuverability Helps Decrease Acre Cut Times

However, just like with cars, power needs to be paired with maneuverability. A mower’s maneuverability directly affects its ability to negotiate obstacles. Greater maneuverability will also make transitioning into new cutting lanes easier.

4 Regular Mower Maintenance Is Key To Lasting Fast Mowing Speeds

No mower can perform at its best if it is not in peak operating condition. Over time, the mower will require service. This includes oil changes, carburetor cleaning, and blade sharpening/ replacement. An under-serviced mower will take longer to cover an acre.

5 Terrain And Obstacles Can Lengthen Acre Mowing Times

Obstacles and terrain can also impact cutting time. If you have to navigate past lots of trees, bushes, and kids’ toys, mowing the grass will take longer than it would on a relatively clear lawn. Mowing on uneven terrain also takes longer than on flat and even grounds. 

6 Excessive Grass Height Can Make Acre Cutting Times Longer

The height and thickness of your grass are other major factors. Oftentimes, thicker and taller grass requires multiple passes before it is at an acceptable level. Multiple passes will increase the cutting time.

7 Wet Grass Lengthens The Time To Mow An Acre

Other grass conditions affect your cutting time. Cutting wet grass will take more time when compared to mowing after the dew has evaporated. This is why experts recommend that you cut your grass during mid-morning or the late afternoon.

8 Push Mower Times For Cutting Is Affected By Operator Fitness

One factor that is exclusive to push mowers (whether reel or powered) is the strength and endurance of the operator, as well as the weight of the mower. People in good shape will probably mow an acre faster than people who aren’t. At the same time, lighter mowers are easier to push than heavier ones.

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How Long Does It Take To Mow An Acre With A Riding Mower?

Riding mowers typically have larger decks than walk-behinds, which allows them to make fewer passes, especially if the area is free of obstacles. Obstacles such as fountains, flower beds, garden statues, etc. can make certain jobs too intricate and impractical for a riding mower.

The average time range for 38-inch garden tractors is between 40-60 minutes. Tractors with 42-inch decks will cover an acre in 30-50 minutes, while 46-inchers will do it in 25-45 minutes. A 54-inch tractor can mow an acre of grass in about 20-40 minutes.

However, on the whole, riding mowers cover much more ground than push or self-propelled walk-behinds. It is not uncommon for a riding mower’s prowess to be “measured” in how many football fields it can (theoretically) cover in a given period.

Subject to the above factors, most lawn tractors worth their salt will clear an acre in under an hour. 

How Long To Mow An Acre With A Zero Turn Mower?

Zero-turn mowers are even more efficient, which is why they are the popular choice for commercial landscapers. Unlike lawn tractors, which require constant J, U, and 3-point-turns as well as proper lane alignment, zero-turns can turn on the spot. This helps with navigating past obstacles and maintaining mowing lanes.

With a time range of 20-25 minutes, 42-inch zero-turns can mow an acre faster than 54-inch lawn tractors! A 46-inch zero-turn can do the job in about 17-25 minutes. A 54-inch zero-turn can do about 15-20 minutes, while a 66-inch machine can do it in around ten minutes.

The largest zero-turns (72 and 96 inches) can devour an acre of grass in under ten minutes.

Given the right conditions, a 96-incher can easily mow an acre in under five minutes. That’s about 10 football fields in an hour!

Average Mowing Speed

The following table has estimates of the average mowing speed of various lawnmower types and sizes. Speed is in acres per hour.

Lawnmower type (and deck size)Speed (acres-per-hour)
Power push mower (22 inches)0.4-0.6
Power push mower (30 inches)0.6-0.8
Lawn tractor (38 inches)1-1.8
Lawn tractor (42inches)1-2
Lawn tractor (46 inches)1.2-2
Lawn tractor (54 inches)1.5-2.5
Zero-turn (42 inches)2.3-3.1
Zero-turn (46 inches)2.5-3.4
Zero-turn (54 inches)3-4
Zero-turn (66 inches)4.5-6
Zero-turn (72 inches)5-7

Best Lawnmower For An Acre

When it comes to the “best” mower for cutting an acre of grass, a big zero-turn is the obvious choice. The bigger, the better.

However, these large machines are extremely expensive to buy and run. In most cases, the purchase cost is in the tens of thousands.

Such an outlay rarely makes sense for homeowners with one-acre yards. Paying north of US$10,000 just to cut an acre of residential lawn is not a great value-for-money investment, especially when you could just hire landscapers.

Should I Use A Tractor To Mow An Acre?

Lawn tractors are more affordable than zero-turns. They are also more versatile as they can be used for plowing and clearing snow as well. However, they are also not cheap and they are not as maneuverable as zero-turns and walk-behinds.

Should I Push Mow An Acre?

Walk-behind mowers are the cheapest option, with prices starting below US$200. They are also nimble enough to avoid obstacles. However, their smaller decks mean you will have to make more passes over the grass, which will take time.

As far as private home use, the best mower choice is subjective. The accessibility of your yard, as well as obstacles, budget, and your affinity for mowing, will shape your decision.

However, 30-inch push mowers and 38-inch garden tractors are a good sweet spot for an acre.

For commercial mowing, you won’t go wrong with larger zero-turns because they (should) eventually pay for themselves.

How Much Should You Charge or Pay Per Mowed Acre?

The amount you are going to need to pay as a landowner or the fee you should charge as a professional lawn care service will depend on a couple of factors. So, taking these into account what would a fair and professional price be for cutting an acre of grass? Jerry McMillan of McMillan Lawn service gives a rundown…

For a flat level acre where the grass is not excessively high $75 is appropriate to pay or charge. With a an fairly steep incline or high unkept grass the price will need to be at the $100 mark. If the ground is lumpy as in a grown over vegetable garden, $150 is fair.

The difference in price has to do with two main factors.

  • One is the time it will take to mow and acre as was discussed above.
  • The other is wear and tear on the equipment used.

For instance, Jerry McMillan gives an example of how the potential wear and tear on a mower can dictate how fast the machines can run and thus the time it takes to mow the acre. This in turn affects labor costs as well as fuel.

I had a mowing deck one time get cracked trying to mow in a field that used to be a vegetable garden. If you mow too fast over lumpy terrain, you can tear up your mower.

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

The Final Touches On How Long To Mow An Acre…

If you are intending to use a push mower, and have the stamina to do it, you should expect between an hour and a half to two hours to finish cutting an acre of grass.

If you are using a basic residential riding lawn mower, you could finish the acre in around an hour.

If you are using a large commercial mower, it can take between ten to fifteen minutes to finish the job.

If you are wanting to forgo the process all together and pay a crew to do it for you, or are a new professional landscaper wondering what to charge, the a normal flat acre should be around $75 to cut. Expect around $100 to $150 for high grass, steep inclines, or lumpy ground.

I recommend these other articles on mowers and how they work…


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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