You can generally tell you're looking at a zero-turn mower if it has two control levers instead of a steering wheel. Occasionally, you'll find one that sports a steering wheel or even a joystick at the helm.

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The Benefits of Zero-turn Mowers

If your lawn is on the small side, a zero-turn mower might not be worth the investment. But if you have a lot of ground to cover, literally, then it could be worth the cost. Here's one suggestion for sizing up your lawn mowing needs.

Lot size:

  • Up to half an acre: a reel mower, battery-powered mower or electric mower
  • Between a half-acre and an acre: a gas-powered push mower
  • Between one and three acres: a riding mower

[source: USA Today]

But if you have a big lot and not a lot of patience when it comes to mowing the lawn, not just any riding mower will do. That's because one of the main perks of zero-turn mowers is how much time they save over regular riding lawn mowers. According to one avid fan, the switch from a traditional riding lawn mower to a zero-turn model cut back mowing time by 70 percent [source: Maxwell]. Other estimates also tend to be very favorable, albeit slightly more conservative.

Zero-turn mowers help save time because they're easy to handle, highly maneuverable and constantly in action. Plus, with a zero-turn mower, you can cut closely around obstacles like bushes and flowerbeds, eliminating the need to waste time trimming with a weed whacker.

The concentration of obstacles and floral features in your lawn will be a factor when determining which zero-turn mower to buy, because one thing to consider during the purchase is cutting deck width. Too wide and you could have trouble squeezing the mower into all the little nooks you need to reach; too narrow and you won't be saving as much time. Options like cruise control and a variety of attachments are also available on different models, so consider carefully which features will be beneficial to you depending on your situation.

With a new zero-turn mower, you'll be zipping around the yard in no time, but it's not all fun in the sun. On the next page, we'll consider a couple of drawbacks to purchasing a zero-turn mower.