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Our Recommended Top Ride On Mowers Is The Castelgarden XE 866B!
When late spring turns to summer, one of the most common weekend sounds apart from that of leather upon willow or church bells, is the sound of countless time pressed gardeners desperately trying to mow their lawns as quickly as possible so they can enjoy some free time relaxing in their gardens before the weekend is over.
There will of course be some people with larger gardens than most others, and for them using a hand held motor mower of any kind will very probably end up being hours of very hard work. There is a solution to their plight though, the ride-on mower.
Ride on mowers are certainly not a new idea, and the concept is a fairly simple one. These lawn tractors as some would call them, are just like ordinary lawn mowers except they have a seat and are ridden, making very short work of mowing a large garden.
These machines are relatively easy to use and can be driven by any sensible adult. However, please remember that ride-on mowers can be dangerous. Make sure to always follow the manufacturer's advice, and also take a little bit of time to find out how rideon mowers, and particularly the one you have or the one you're going to buy, work. All the information you need will either be in the manufacturer's user manual or downloaded in pdf form from their website, usually free of charge.
This review will be looking at the following ride-on mowers:
■ Castelgarden XE866B
■ Mountfield 727H
■ Lawn King 60SDE
■ Stiga Combi 3072H
■ Alpina ATI 66HCB
So let's see how they compare.
One of the smaller models from the Castelgarden range of mowers, this machine shouldn't in any way be underestimated just because of its size. The XE866B is small enough to fit through a standard garden gate or even the back / side door of a garage, and it can therefore be easily stored in a comparatively small space; but that's really the only small thing about this lawn tractor.
Powered by an ever reliable Briggs Stratton 190cc electric start engine this little lawn tractor has a mechanical transmission with five manually operated gears, four forward and one reverse, so not only can a wide expanse of grass be cut quickly, but gentle manoeuvreing around obstacles with controlled power is also possible when the need arises . The tight turning circle and reverse gear makes awkward areas less of a challenge.
The XE 866B's cutting deck offers an impressive 66cms cutting width which is surprising given the machine's ability to get through a garden gate! Cutting engagement is done manually along with the 6 setting (30 to 80mm) grass cutting height with a lever on the steering column.
With a grass collector capacity of 150 litres allied to a 3.8 litre fuel tank, the XE 866B is capable of mowing a 1500 sqm lawn and is more than able to cope with quite steep slopes, with one particular owner saying that what will limit the mower's ability is the driver's inability to stay in the seat! However, should you ever fall out of the driver's seat the engine will automatically cut out as there is a safety circuit breaker in the seat designed to cater for such events.
If grass mulching is your preference, a mulching kit is available as an extra.
The Castelgarden XE 866B is delivered fully assembled and pre-checked, so all that need to be done is an oil check, filling up with petrol and it's ready to go. Also included is the battery charger and a lengthy 2 year manufacturer's warranty to give peace of mind.
The one small quibble with this ride-on lawn mower was that to reverse, the cutting deck had to be disengaged first, although it is by no means a major setback, it does add a little bit of time to lawn care. However once in reverse, mowing is possible.
☆ Mechanical transmission. With so many mowers in this class having hydrostatic transmissions, this one does not. Although it might not give such a smooth drive, it will reduce costs with time as mechanical transmissions are markedly cheaper to fix compared to their hydrostatic counterparts.
☆ Compact design allowing easy storage when not in use, and easy access to the garden.
☆ Fitted with the highly reliable Briggs and Stratton 875 series 190cc engine.
☆ A very generous 150 litre capacity grass box. Ideal for large lawns.
☆ 3.8 litre fuel tank. More than enough fuel to cater for lawns up to 1500 sqm in area
☆ A cutting width of 66cms. Impressive when considering its relatively small size.
☆ Cutting heights from 30mm to 80mm, all set with a lever within easy reach.
☆ Comprehensive 2 year warranty for peace of mind.
☆ A mulching kit is available as an extra..
☆ To use reverse, the cutting deck and blade has to be disengaged first, and then re-engaged for mowing (if so desired), otherwise the engine will cut out. A definite irritation, but it really is a very minor one
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Our recommended alternative is Husqvarna TS 138!
This ride-on mower has the experience of Mountfield's 50 years in the lawn mower industry behind it.
Powered by a generic 193cc electric key start engine and 3.8 litre fuel tank, Mountfield claims that this lawn tractor is quite capable of cutting up to 2000sqm, a very large lawn indeed!
Transmission is hydrostatic ensuring a smooth ride and with a turning radius of just 58cms (one of the best on the market) the 727H is certainly highly manoeurvrable, ideal for cutting around shrubs and other obstacles.
The steel cutting deck houses a 65.5cms cutting blade which is electronically engaged, giving an actual cutting width of 66cms, and cutting heights from 30mm to 80mm on a 6 pre-set scale makes this riding mower more than ably equiped to cut a much larger than average lawn.
Mowing while reversing is another feature of this mower which also adds to its already high manoeuvrability.
The 727H is a mulching only riding mower with one added little option. When the grass is either just too coarse or long to mulch, then the cut grass can be simply discharged from the side, plus its very easy to use.
As with almost all modern ride-on mowers this machine is fitted with a seat-located safety circuit breaker cutting the engine should there be a mishap.
The Mountfield 727H comes fully assembled so that it can be driven off the pallet and be put to use almost immediately.
Mountfield's customer service is primarily through a chat line on its website. There is no need to wait, responses are almost immediate and manned by real people, who know their stuff, not like so many websites where answers are preset and of little use. A digression perhaps, but very useful to know.
☆ Fitted with a 193cc engine and 3.8 litre fuel tank gives this ride mower a huge lawn coverage.
☆ Pre-set cutting heights from 30mm to 80mm.
☆ Highly manoeuvrable with cutting while in reverse and an extremely tight turning radius.
☆ Grass discharge option when grass is either too coarse or too long for mulching.
☆ Delivered fully assembled, so it's ready to use almost immediately.
☆ Excellent customer service, professional and efficent, albeit online.
☆ Uses a generic engine. It may be reliable, but then again it might not. There is no real way of knowing until it has been used a couple times or so.
☆ Hydrostatic transmission. While it does give a very smooth ride, hydrostatic transmissions need more care, and when they do go wrong, it can be very expensive to repair.
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Our recommended alternative is The Stiga Combi 3072]!
The 60SDE is a side discharge lawn tractor with a mulching plug and deflector option. Powered by an MTD 196cc electric key start engine, this mower boasts a clutter free simple to use driving area which seems to depend heavily on electronics. With no pedals and levers to get in the way Lawn King claims it is safer and easier to mount and dismount than most other ride-on mowers.
With what is essentially Lawn king's version of hydrostatic transmission and its incredible turning circle of just 46cms the 60SDE is probably the best ride-on lawn mower for manoeuvrability of all the lawn tractors featured in this review.
While it is highly manoeuvrable, cutting width seemed to have been made the victim here, and is a disappointing 60cms. Its lack of width does however allow it to pass through a normal size garden gate.
The 60SDE's performance on rough grass areas was particularly impressive, making it one of the few lawn mowers to be at home in both coarse grass and "bowling green" lawn conditions. The cutting deck and blade are engaged by a clutch mechanism and has cutting height levels from 38mm to 95mm in 5 settings.
The seat is ergonomically designed to give as little vibration as possible and is fitted with the usual safety circuit breaker for "just in case". Unusually for lawn tractors of this size the 60SDE has a tow hook fitted as standard. For peace of mind the 60SDE comes with a 2 year domestic use warranty and comes ready assembled, ready for use.
One of the disappointing features of this lawn mower was the size of the fuel tank, which was only 1.2 litres, leaving the feeling that its range was limited and it would be a struggle to cover a large lawn like it has been designed to do.
☆ Fitted with MTD 196cc Engine, allowing good performance in rough grassland.
☆ A truly incredible turning radius, making this machine the most manoeuvrable of all the ride-on mowers in this review.
☆ Clutter free driver's area making it extremely easy to get on and off.
☆ Ergonomically designed seat for a comfortable vibration free drive.
☆ 2 year "domestic use" warranty for added peace of mind.
☆ Delivered fully assembled, "ready to go".
☆ A disappointingly small cutting width of only 60cms.
☆ 1.2 litre fuel tank. Less than a third of the size of its nearest rival; concerns over the ability to cover areas without refueling.
☆ Hydrostatic transmission. Extra care of the machine must be taken. When hydrostatic transmission goes wrong, just like an automatic car, it can be very expensive to put right.
☆ Over dependence on electronics, one micro processor need only to malfunction and an expensive ride-on mower is rendered inoperable.
☆ Only having 5 settings for cutting height.
The 3072H is a true lawn tractor in every sense. As far as mowers are concerned, this is a collossus. Powered by a Briggs Stratton 3130 series 344cc engine, the 3072H has the capability to cover a staggering 4000 sqm of lawn, while boasting its green credentials of reduced emmissions, thanks to a new innovative overhead valve design.
With Stiga's patent "infinitely variable" hydrostatic transmission this lawn tractor is deceptively manoeuvrable, being able to move around trees and other obstacles with ease. With an impressive cutting width of 72cm, 7 cutting height settings (30mm to 76mm), a grass box capacity of 170 litres, a mulching plug and disperser option fitted as standard, and ability to mow while in reverse, this ride-on machine is heavy duty in every way.
Stiga hasn't forgotten the user either. With new anti vibration technology there is no measureable vibration on the ergonomically designed, and very comfortable seat, while the soft grip steering wheel has minimal vibration to hands and forearms, making it one of the best ride-on experiences of the review.
The cutting deck and blade are engaged manually using a lever on the steering column, while emptying the cuttings box is done by simply pulling a lever just to the side of the seat. Both are very well thought out features with some thought given to where the levers are situated. As is the case with all ride-on mowers there is a safety circuit breaker in the seat in case of an accident.
Unlike many mowers, the 3072H is fitted with an LED dashboard, it's more of a gimmick than of any real relevance. Stiga have also fitted a headlight, for "better operation in poor visibility conditions", just another gimmick really, as no one in their right mind would mow their lawn in the dark or in bad weather!
Despite its weight (162kg) and size the 3072H is still able to pass through a standard width garden gate. Given its size and weight, the 3072H thankfully, is delivered fully assembled and pre-checked, along with a comprehensive 2 year manufacture's warranty for added peace of mind.
☆ Fitted with a low emmission Briggs and Stratton 3130 series 344cc motor. Reliable and powerful enough to cope with the largest of gardens.
☆ A huge 72cm width of cut. Allowing mowing to be done in double quick time.
☆ A very generous cuttings box size of170 litres and a mulching option. Both features offering a professional grade choice and is coming as standard.
☆ 7 cutting height settings (30mm to 76mm) to give a chosen finish to various areas of the garden.
☆ Mowing while in reverse. Giving a boost to an already highly manoeuvrable machine for its size and weight.
☆ The ergonomically designed vibration free driver's seat. Comfortable and less draining because there is no constant engine vibration (or very little) that the body has to absorb.
☆ 2 year manufacturer's warranty.
☆ Delivered ready assembled. Literally unpack it and drive it off the pallet!
☆ Hydrostatic transmission. Although highly developed these days, the one really big drawback is when they go wrong, it goes wrong in style! To fix a hydrostatic transmission is extremely expensive. To maintain electrostatic machines takes a little more care and attention on the part of the owner.
☆ A very small fuel tank for such a large engine. At only 4 litres, this tank seems to be a bit too small for such a large motor. Given that the usual benchmark capacity for a 190-ish cc motor is 3.8 litres, and the 3072H has a 344cc engine, perhaps Stiga has not thought this area through as thoroughly as they should have done.
☆ Why on earth would a mower need to have a LED dashboard fitted? This seems to be a bit of a gimmick to try to appeal to users of a certain type. An unnecessary extra which doesn't really contribute to the machine's performance.
☆ Again, the question "why?" must be asked for Stiga fitting a headlight to the 3072H, which like the LED dashboard, adds no real benefit. Stiga's answer? To be able to mow in poor light conditions. It's certainly not the best idea that Stiga have come up with. Poor light conditions suggest evening or night time, or bad weather. Who in their right mind would be mowing their garden at night or during bad weather? It can be only one thing: a gimmick.
☆ Weighing in at 162kg, it is by far the heaviest of all the lawn tractors in this review, and concerns were raised about furrowing and spoiling of the ground.
☆ The price.
So why oddly coloured? Most lawn mowers in this class are usually a combination of "strong" colours, green and black, yellow and black or red and black. This machine is neutral grey and black, the colour scheme doesn't usually affect the performance of a ride-on mower, and it definitely does not with this one.
The AT1 66HCB is powered by the ever reliable Briggs Stratton 950 series 223cc electric key start motor, and with a 3.8 litre fuel tank to boot, there is more than enough oomph to cover a 1500 sqm garden.
As with a fair few ride-on mowers, the AT1 66HCB has a hydrstatic transmission system, giving a smooth ride. The turning circle is adequate and when combined with the hydrostatic transmission feature, the overall manoeuvrability of the AT1 66HCB is good, which means steering round trees and other obstacles poses no real problems.
The cutting width of 66cms and cutting heights of six settings from 30mm to 76mm allows good coverage and a good "professional" overall finish. Blade engagement and cutting height are all operated manually.
Clippings are collected into a very generous 150 litre cuttings box, but for those who prefer to mulch, there is a mulching kit available as an optional extra.
Alpina has given quite a bit of thought to the driver when they designed this lawn tractor. The steering wheel is ergonomically designed to reduce vibration to the hands and forearms. This vibration reducing technology has also, thankfully, been extended to the driver's seat, making driving less tiring. One of the best ideas in this area was to make the seatback a little bit higher giving more support to the user's lowr back. This is something that will be appreciated by many. As is the norm for these types of lawn tractors, there is a safety circuit breaker in case of an accident.
The AT1 66HCB comes fully assembled, so it's ready to use. A battery charger is included in the purchase and of course this machine comes with a comprehensive 2 year warranty.
Despite the AT1 66HCB having a higher seat back and a Briggs and Stratton motor, there are really no other outstanding features of note. However, this machine is reliable, and a solid performer.
☆ Fitted with Briggs & Stratton 950 series 223cc electric key start engine. Briggs and Stratton is a byword in reliability.
☆ 150 litre cuttings box and the choice of a mulching kit as an optional extra.
☆ The ergonomically designed steering wheel and seat reducing vibration fatigue, and giving extra lower back support by increasing the height of the seatback.
☆ Delivered ready assembled, and ready to go.
☆ Manufacturer's 2 year warranty.
☆ Hydrostatic transmission. Although convenient in some small way, it will require added care. When this type of transmission does "play up" or goes wrong it can be very expensive to put right.
The top five best ride-on lawn mowers were taken, their specifications scrutinised, and then each one of them put through their paces to see if they really lived up to the manufacturer's claims, the machine's specs and general expectations.
Bear in mind that each one of these machines are of the highest quality, and this review used a particularly tough set of criteria to assess each machine.
The Castelgarden XE 866B was judged to be the best ride-on mower this review for a number of reasons:
■ The fitting of a Briggs & Stratton motor. Briggs and Stratton are one of the best manufacturers of engines, and are internationally renowned for reliability and quality.
■ Cutting width. For its size and weight, the Castelgarden XE 866B had the best cutting width compared to the other lawnmowers tested.
■ Mechanical transmission. Keeping it simple. Mechanical transmission is far simpler than a hydrostatic system, and in the long run it will save the owner money.
■ Ability to negotiate slopes.
■ The large 150 litre grass collector. Again for its size the XE 866B has a huge grass box, meaning less work breaks.
■ Easy storage. As is a light weight machine and compact in design it can be easily stored away.
■ The price. Castelgarden offers an awful lot of "bang for your buck" with this model. It really is exceptionally good value for money.