For areas of a ½ acre or more, a push mower isn’t so ideal. Riding mowers or lawn tractors can make the work much easier with a larger area, as they can mow much faster. The use of a robotic mower can also be useful for such areas. But which is better: a riding mower or a robotic mower?
Is a robotic mower or a riding mower better suited for mowing large areas? Whether a robotic mower or a riding mower is better suited for large areas depends on the nature of the lawn and personal preference. On some lawns, robotic mowers can also get stuck very often. But a lawn with many obstacles can make mowing with a riding mower very inefficient.
There are many other factors that should be considered when deciding whether you should buy a robotic mower or a lawn tractor. The topic can be quite complex, but with this article I want to make your decision as easy as possible.
This article is aimed primarily at people who have large areas to mow. In smaller areas, the use of a riding mower is usually not advisable, even if it saves a certain amount of time, since the operating costs are significantly higher than those of a push mower due to the costly maintenance and repairs.
Robotic Mower and Riding Mower in Comparison
Before we look at the differences in detail and compare why one or the other is better, here is a short overview for you. After that we will have a look at the individual points in detail.
Robotic Mower for Large Lawns
Riding Mowers for Large Lawns
What Are the Advantages of a Robotic Mower over a Riding Mower?
Robotic Mowers Save Time
One of the biggest advantages of robotic mowers is that they take a lot of work off your hands. Robotic mowers work completely automatically. You program the days and times you want them to mow, and your robot does the rest.
At the appointed time, it will start working while you have time to do something else. Even the recharging is done by itself. It has a charging station for this purpose, which it returns to as soon as the battery is nearing its end. At least this is how robotic mowers with boundary wire work, which includes 90% of all products on the market.
The only work for you is the regular cleaning and maintenance. With a good installation you can plan less than 10 minutes per week.
Robotic mowers are therefore particularly worthwhile in larger areas, as the work involved is largely limited to maintenance and care, which is independent of the area worked on.
Robotic Mowers Require Less Maintenance
Compared to a lawn tractor or riding mower, robotic mowers require significantly less maintenance. In contrast to a lawn tractor, you do not have to worry about oil changes, air filters or spark plugs.
Maintenance is limited to the regular replacement of the blades. Depending on the model, the blades must be replaced approximately every 3 months (blade disc) or only once per season (star cross ).
The cleaning is done in less than 10 minutes and can be done once a week or even only once a month, depending on how quickly the robotic mower gets dirty (weather- and terrain-dependent).
Once a year you should do a thorough cleaning and maintenance checkup. There is no other regular cleaning or maintenance work, which is in great contrast to a riding mower (more on maintenance of the lawn tractor below).
The Operating Costs of Robotic Mowers Are Very Low
Overall, the operating costs of a robotic mower are extremely low, even if you compare it to a normal lawn mower. Compared to a riding mower or even a lawn tractor, they are of course even lower.
In an area of ¼ acre you can count on a robotic mower having annual costs of about $130. The costs can vary slightly depending on the conditions in the area.
A riding mower ranks in a completely different area. The energy consumption alone is significantly higher. It’s logical, a riding mower can have an empty weight of only 440 lbs without a tank, grass bag, or the person sitting on it. In comparison, a robotic mower for an area of ¼ acre weighs between 20 and 45 lbs..
The electricity costs of a robotic mower for ¼ acre are about $20 per year depending on the electricity provider. For the same area you have to calculate with an economical lawn tractor with $60 fuel costs per year.
Also in terms of maintenance, a robotic mower is much cheaper. Usually only the blades need to be replaced. After 4 to 6 years the battery has to be replaced, which costs around $60.
The riding mower requires regular replacement of oil, oil filter, air filter and spark plugs, but only for regular maintenance of the engine. In addition, there may be costs for the maintenance of the steering, mower deck, wheel suspension and other parts.
If you compare the regular consumption of wear parts and the energy consumption of a robotic mower with that of a riding mower, you will soon realize that you can mow more economically with a robotic mower.
Robotic Mowers Work Very Quietly
There are big differences in the volume of robotic mowers, but the quietest devices only reach 55 dB. This is about the same volume as a running refrigerator and is so quiet that you can’t hear it at all from a certain distance.
This has the advantage that you can also operate the robotic mower outside the usual mowing times, such as late in the evening or even at night.
Robotic mowers work in your absence
Since, as mentioned in the previous point, you can also use the robotic mower late in the evening or at night, as long as the right conditions are met, you can also program the robotic mower to mow when the lawn is not in use anyway.
This is exactly how your robotic mower mows when you are not at home. For example, in the morning when you are at work and the children are at school. Then nobody is using the lawn anyway and the robotic mower can do its work in peace.
Keep in mind, however, that the less time your robotic mower has available to mow the area during the day, its area output must be correspondingly greater.
The Lawn Quality is Significantly Improved by a Robotic Mower
Robotic mowers ensure in many ways that the lawn quality improves significantly. Some people even think that the correct term for a robotic mower would actually be lawn care robot.
Because in order for the lawn to grow beautifully, conditions have to prevail that are not guaranteed in most lawns. One of them is that the lawn is mowed very regularly. The grass in our lawns are specially bred to be mowed daily or every other day.
Unlike many other plants that want to spread out on your lawn, the grass varieties of a utility yard can handle it very well. They stimulate more vigorous growth, which in time will give you a carpet-like lawn.
It also stimulates root growth, which increases the shear strength of the turf. This is particularly important for lawns that are subject to stress, such as sport turfs, as it virtually prevents the lawn from “tearing out”.
At the same time, weeds have a harder time spreading on the lawn. Some weeds and grasses do not tolerate frequent cutting and their spreading mechanisms are also disturbed (e.g. dandelions that cannot form flowers when mowed daily).
In addition, the stronger growth of the lawn prevents immigrant plants from taking advantage of gaps in the lawn to spread out. The mulching system of the robotic mower also contributes to stronger growth of the lawn.
The Robotic Mower Mulches the Lawn
I have just mentioned the mulching system of lawn robots. This works differently than the classic mulching. Because robotic mowers mow so often, the lawn grows only a very small piece between each mowing cycle.
If the robotic mower mows the same section of lawn again, it only cuts a very small piece at a time. This results in tiny little pieces of grass that are hardly even visible on the lawn. They sink in between the blades of grass and rot there rather quickly.
In this way the lawn is continuously supplied with new nutrients. This ensures better growth and the lawn looks generally healthier and greener. As mentioned in the previous point, this also contributes to the fact that weeds can spread less easily.
But not only that: Since all of the grass clippings land on the ground as mulch, you have more space in your compost bin. That can be a huge amount if you have a very large lawn. You can also use less lawn fertilizer. Although the mulching system does not completely replace fertilizing, you can use up to 40% less fertilizer.
No Local Emissions from the Robotic Mower
Most riding mowers and lawn tractors run on gasoline. This of course means that you have a lot of exhaust fumes every time you operate the mower, which you disperse in the environment. Since robotic mowers are electronic, you no longer have these local emissions. Instead, the exhaust gases are produced in the power plant, which works much more efficiently and is equipped with better filters. This is better for nature, the environment and the climate.
Most robotic mowers, however, use lithium-ion batteries. You may have heard that the production of these is problematic, especially because of the lithium production. That is also true. However, as rechargeable batteries are becoming more and more important in our everyday lives and are being used more and more, the battery technology is also being improved more and more. So we are also working on making them more environmentally friendly.
More Storage Space in the Shed
A riding lawn mower takes up a lot of space. When storing it, you have to allow for an area about half the size of a compact car. That is not exactly a “little” space. You can save this space by using a robotic mower, because the robotic mower is outside around the clock.
Either it mows straight through the day, or it rests in the charging station, where it charges itself or is on standby. This leaves you more space in your shed or garage that you can use for other things. At least that is true for most of the year. In winter you can also bring the robotic mower to a maintenance shop for its Winter check-up: they often offer Winter storage as well.
But beware: if you let the lawn grow too long at any point, your robotic mower will no longer be able to mow it and you will need a lawn tractor or riding mower again. This can be the case, for example, if you brought your robotic mower inside while on vacation for safety reasons, or if you start mowing too late in Spring.
If in doubt, you can also borrow a lawn mower.
Special Equipment Can Also Manage Larger Gradients
For riding mowers, larger gradients in the lawn can be quite a problem. Many lawn tractors can only be used up to a maximum of a 10% gradient. Riding mowers for steeper inclines need pressure lubrication, because if the incline is too steep, the lubrication of the motor is no longer guaranteed, which can cause the motor to fail after a few minutes. In general, riding mowers are very problematic when the incline is too great.
It would be better to use a robotic mower for such inclines. There are big differences between the models in terms of their climbing ability, but there are models that are designed for 45% for example. For an area between ¼ acre and ½ acre there are suitable devices between $1000 and $2,000.
Some models can even cope with a 70% gradient. However, these special all-wheel robotic mowers are not very cheap, with costs starting at $3,500. An example of such a robotic mower is the HUSQVARNA Automower 435X AWD, which is designed for up to 0.9 acre and a 70% incline.
What Disadvantages Does a Robotic Mower Have Compared to a Riding Mower?
The Installation of the Robotic Mower is Complex
The most common robotic mowers are equipped with a boundary wire. With some robotic mowers a guide cable is also included. In addition, the charging station must be installed. For the charging station, a suitable place must be found where it can be installed.
Especially for very large areas from upwards of 1,000 square meters, the installation of a robotic mower can be very costly and take several hours of work. After all, the boundary wire has to be laid completely around the entire area. In addition, you have to exclude areas within the area that should not be mowed.
When installing the boundary wire or search cable, the cable is either laid above ground and secured with special hooks, or it is laid directly underground. At the beginning it is better to install the boundary cable above ground, because you will probably want to make some improvements shortly.
As a rule, you must know how to adapt to your individual needs. For this, the device must be configured. The programming of the times the robotic mower should mow is relatively simple with most devices, but more advanced devices come with many more functions that you have to get used to.
Even in retrospect, an installation can still create work: a broken cable is the nightmare of every robotic mower owner. The cable break must then be tracked down with a transistor radio or fence device. A complete guide on how to find a break in boundary wire can be found here.
Without Lawn Edging Stones Grass Remains Unmowed at the Edge
Robotic mowers cannot mow to the edge. This is because there is a safety distance between the mowing unit and the outer bodywork. This distance varies according to the model. Some robotic mowers have a laterally offset mowing unit so that they can mow closer to the edge.
To make sure that the robotic mower really mows everything and you don’t have to walk along the edge at regular intervals and re-mow it yourself, it is necessary to lay these lawn edging stones along the lawn edge.
If you have a very large area, this can be quite complex, especially if you also want to border the excluded areas within the mowing area with lawn edging stones.
Not Suitable for Many Uneven Areas in the Lawn
Robots are not suitable for every lawn. Especially if you have a lot of unevenness in your lawn, it can happen more often that the robotic mower gets stuck somewhere.
Holes that are 2 inches deep or deeper are generally a problem for robotic mowers. In the same way, smaller humps on the lawn can cause the robotic mower to drive up and high-center, getting stuck. At such places the robotic mower may also damage the lawn with its blades.
And even if the robotic mower gets stuck again, even if it hits the humps, it may recognize them as obstacles and drive around them. If you have many such bumps in your lawn that the robotic mower drives around, this will cost you valuable time while mowing, which reduces the robotic mower’s area output and efficiency.
In any case, you should repair such unevenness to ensure that the robotic mower runs optimally. With a large lawn and many such lumps and bumps this can of course take quite some time.
Generally Not Suitable for Very Wild Lawns
The “wilder” the lawn is, the more difficult it is for robotic mowers to find their way around. Does your lawn look more like a meadow than a yard, do you have no clearly defined lawn edges, are there many uneven areas, do you have many trees with protruding roots, or which shed masses of branches, twigs, fruit, or leaves? All this makes it more difficult for a robotic mower.
Although manufacturers are equipping their robotic mowers with increasingly sophisticated techniques so that they can find their way around even in difficult lawns, there are still limits to what they can do.
So if you have a huge lawn that is fairly overgrown in many places, it could be very difficult to use a robotic mower. You don’t want to have to search for your robotic mower all the time because it gets stuck. Nevertheless I am of the opinion that almost every lawn can be adapted in such a way that a robotic mower can be operated on it without any problems. The amount of effort this will take depends on the initial condition of the yard.
Problematic for Rabbits and Other Small Animals
Robotic mowers are problematic for rabbits and other small animals. And for several reasons: For one, rabbits do not directly recognize robotic mowers as a danger, or they recognize them too late. Rabbit nests are also located in and under the grass and can be very hard to locate, so the robotic mower runs the risk of running over a nest of baby bunnies.
Robotic mowers are also often used at times when rabbits are the most active, namely at dusk and dawn. Quite a few owners of robotic mowers program their mower in such a way that it always mows exactly when nobody is using the lawn. That means late in the evening or early in the morning.
Since rabbits are active in the evening, so robotic mowers and rabbits tend to get in each other’s way. There are however ways of operating a robotic mower in its lawn and at the same time protecting the small lawn inhabitants from the robotic mower.
Problematic for Bees and Other Beneficial Insects
Robotic mowers aren’t just problematic for small animals. Bees and other beneficial insects in your yard can be endangered by a robotic mower. An area which is constantly mowed does not offer a food supply for many insects, which are dependent on the flowers of the plants. At the same time there is also no shelter for the insects.
On the other hand, robotic mowers are a bit more “gentle” when mowing than conventional lawn mowers. Both push mowers and riding mowers suck in the grass while mowing. Insects hiding in the lawn have no chance of escaping the blades of these mowers. Robotic mowers, on the other hand, only cut off the topmost tip of the lawn.
So the best thing to do is to operate a robotic mower, but at the same time offer areas that the insects can use as a food source and shelter, such as a wildflower island.
A robotic mower is an automatically mowing lawn mower that has to recognize obstacles on its own. This also applies to persons or animals that could be injured by the robotic mower. There is no human being who controls the device with his own mind.
For this reason, particularly high safety standards must be applied. The manufacturers of robotic mowers have spared no expense or effort in installing various safety functions to make the devices safer.
Nevertheless, robotic mowers repeatedly score badly in various tests, in terms of safety. One particular criticism is that robotic mowers do not detect small children on the lawn reliably enough.
In fact, there have been several accidents with robotic mowers in which children have suffered severe cuts. However, the manufacturers clearly point out that small children must at least be under strict supervision while the robotic mower is in the yard. It is even better if children and the robotic mower are never on the lawn at the same time at all.
Since the mowing times of the robotic mower can be programmed, this can actually be set up quite well. For example, the robotic mower can simply mow in the mornings when the children are at daycare or school.
Broken Equipment Can Usually Not Be Fixed by Yourself
Are you someone who likes to use your DIY skills to repair broken appliances and equipment? Unfortunately you will have problems with a robotic mower! Robotic mowers are equipped with elaborate technology and use very complex electronics.
Many defects on the robotic mower cannot be repaired just like that. In case of problems, the device usually has to be sent in to be repaired by an authorized workshop of the manufacturer.
At best simple issues with the mechanics, such as problems with the chassis or perhaps the mower, can be repaired with a little expertise. But for other parts it is difficult to get spare parts.
Robotic Mowers Are in Operation for Several Hours a Day
Robotic mowers are designed in such a way that they usually have to mow the area several hours a day. Exactly how long they have to be in operation depends on the size of the area and the maximum area output of the device.
If your robotic mower has a maximum area capacity of 2,000 square meters and your lawn is 1,000 square meters, the device must be in operation for 12 hours every day to mow the area (this applies to devices that do not have a maximum number of mowing hours per day, i.e. can mow for 24 hours).
Some people may have a problem with the fact that robotic mowers spend several hours a day in the yard. However, with the right device it is not so much of a problem in terms of noise or distractions.
Like your safety, as I mentioned before, you should make sure that while the robotic mower is on the lawn, small children do not inhabit the lawn.
Robotic Mowers Cannot Mow Grass That Has Grown Too High
The cutting height of many robotic mowers can be adjusted between 0.8 Inch and 2.4 inch, even though for the North American market there are also many models available with a much higher cutting height that can be adjusted between 2 to 3.5 inch.
On the one hand, robotic mowers simply cannot mow lawns above a certain height. But the mulching system of the robotic mower is not designed to mow lawns that are too high. Actually, the robotic mower should only ever cut off a small tip of the lawn. These tiny lawn cuttings are hardly visible and disappear between the blades of grass.
Due to their tiny size they weather very quickly. Longer lawn cuttings do not weather so quickly which can cause lawn thatching or, in the worst case, the lawn cuttings can even rot. Or diseases can spread.
Therefore the grass should not be much taller than the maximum cutting height of the mini-robot. If the lawn has become too high, you should not use your robotic mower. In this case, the lawn had to be mowed again with a device with a catch basket, i.e. a riding mower or push mower.
This can be a problem if you have been on vacation and have brought the robotic mower to safety inside while you were away. In the meantime, the lawn may already have reached a decent length. The same could happen if you use the robotic mower too late in the spring.
Robotic Mowers Are Difficult to Find if They Are Stuck in a Large Area
If you have a very large lawn, which may not be ideal for the robotic mower, every once in a while the robotic mower may get stuck somewhere. With a correspondingly large and perhaps also still unmowed surface, searching for the mini robot can become quite annoying. Especially since it is also a comparatively small device.
This is precisely why robotic mowers are actually only worthwhile if the area is really suitable for a robotic mower. I would not do half measures there. If you decide on a robotic mower, you should adjust your area accordingly so that the robotic mower can work on this area without any problems.
However, the effort can be worth it. Think of all the time you will save in the long run if you don’t have to mow your area every week.
Danger of Theft
Robotic mowers are of course also a sought-after target for thieves. Especially because they are relatively expensive devices that are unattended most of the time. It is also a bit dependent on the area you live in. But even sometimes out in the country there have been cases of stolen robotic mowers.
Therefore, the manufacturers of robotic mowers have come up with various functions to protect the robotic mower from theft. From simple PIN code locks and alarm systems to geofencing and GPS tracking, robotic mowers are equipped with all kinds of features to prevent theft.
Nevertheless, there is a certain risk of the device being stolen. If you want to worry a little less, you can of course insure the device. I would even advise you to do so. In order to protect the robotic mower from theft, certain conditions must be met.
What Are the Advantages of a Riding Mower over a Robotic Mower?
Can Mow Large Areas in a Very Short Time
One of the biggest advantages of a riding mower is, of course, that they can work very large areas in a very short time, because that is what they are designed for. If your area is not too complex, and you can work it off one lane at a time, you can easily be done within an hour.
Finally, there is no other machine that can compete with a riding mower when it comes to speed in mowing the lawn – apart perhaps from a combine harvester.
Also suitable for taller grass
While the usefulness of a robotic mower is limited in terms of lawn height, a riding mower offers the exact opposite. This is because in principle it can also mow very tall grass. So if you have not had the chance to mow the lawn for a while, for whatever reason, it is probably no problem.
So you should consider whether this situation can occur in your lawn. A robotic mower mows continuously, even if you are not there. Then, however, the question is whether you want to use the robotic mower even if you are not there for a longer period of time, for example when you are on vacation.
The point for mowing tall grass goes to the riding mower in any case.
Also Suitable for Uneven Terrain and “imperfect” Lawns
For a riding mower the lawn does not have to be perfect. Minor unevenness on the surface is no problem at all. The edge of the lawn does not have to be absolutely exact either, but it may well be that you need to rework the edge with another machine- either with a smaller lawn mower or with a lawn trimmer.
Can Be Upgraded with Snow Chains, Snow Blade, Snow Blower, Road Salt Trailer
Another point that many may not be directly aware of: a lawn tractor can be upgraded in this way. Snow chains, snow blade, snow blower, road salt trailer: these are all possible upgrades for your lawn tractor.
So when you buy a riding mower or lawn tractor, you are in a sense paying for a multifunctional machine. However, it should be noted that these additional parts all cost money. If, however, you often need to clear large amounts of snow and are looking for a suitable machine anyway, a riding mower may simply be the better choice.
Often Come with Headlights
Riding mowers are often equipped with headlights. This can be an advantage if you want to mow your lawn early in the morning or late at night. On the one hand, a robotic mower does not need this, because it automatically mows the lawn without needing to “see” it.
There are also robotic mowers that are equipped with lights so that you don’t stumble over them in the dark, and they are also easier to find.
Some Defects Can Be Repaired by the Skilled DIY Enthusiast
If you know your way around, you can repair many things on a riding mower yourself. There are no complex electronics, nothing high-tech that you just don’t understand anymore. It’s a great advantage. Above all, the device does not have to be sent in for weeks or months waiting for a repair.
What Disadvantages Does a Riding Mower Have Compared to a Robotic Mower?
Require a Relatively Large Space for Storage
Lawn tractors are relatively large machines. To store such a machine, you need to plan for at least a 6’x4’ storage space. If space is limited, you have to consider whether you can or want to make room for it.
In contrast, robotic mowers actually do not take up any space at all, as they are on the lawn for most of the year. Either they are mowing straight through, or they are hanging out in the charging station. In some countries you can even let a service company take care of your robotic lawn mower during the winter, including storing it. However, I haven’t found such services in the US or Canada yet (if you know one, let me know).
High Operating Costs
Another big negative point for riding mowers and lawn tractors are operating costs. This is mainly due to the fact that they are usually equipped with a gasoline engine. These are comparatively maintenance-intensive.
To ensure that the engine continues to function well for years to come, it must be serviced regularly. This means, for example, regular replacement of the oil, oil filter, air filter and spark plugs.
None of this is needed with a robotic mower. In addition, there are other parts of the riding mower that should get occasional maintenance, such as the steering, the mower, or the wheel suspension.
In addition, the energy costs for a riding mower are relatively high.
High Energy Consumption
A riding mower has at least 440 lbs empty weight. This all has to be moved while the lawn is mowed. Therefore it is not surprising that even an economical riding mower consumes about half a gallon of fuel per hour when used on a lawn of moderate difficulty.
With a fuel price of $2.50 and weekly mowing, you will pay $40 in fuel costs for an annual 32 weeks of vegetation time for a lawn which takes an hour to mow. For comparison, a robotic mower consumes 72 kWh per year for the same area. If you assume an electricity price of $0.13 per kilowatt hour, that’s only $9.36 per year to power your robotic mower.
High Maintenance Effort
Riding mowers are relatively high maintenance. The engine must be kept in good condition, which means the oil, oil filter, air filter, and spark plugs must be replaced regularly. Many other wearing parts also need regular maintenance or replacement.
Then there is also the cleaning. This is in any case much more complex for a riding mower than for a robotic mower. The workload of a riding mower is therefore particularly heavy. Even if the actual mowing of the lawn goes relatively quickly, compared to a push mower, for example, you already have a relatively high workload due to the high maintenance effort.
In this area, a robotic mower is therefore much more effective. Of course, this requires an ideal robotic mower installation, which does not cause any problems during continuous operation.
Often Higher Purchase Price Than Robotic Mowers
A reasonable riding mower usually costs around $1,000 and upwards. If you want to have various extra features, you can spend even more. If, for example, you need a lawn tractor that can cope with steeper inclines, that may cost you several thousand dollars more (i.e. engine with forced-feed lubrication).
Add to this the fact that you may have a very twisty lawn with many narrow places and you need a riding mower with a small turning radius. Only machines with a central handle have this, but most of them do not have a catching bag. Those with a bag can cost upwards of $2,000.
Time Spent Mowing
Even though working with a riding mower is of course faster than with a push lawn mower, over time this can add up to an immense number of working hours.
Even if your lawn can be mowed in an hour – which is only possible on a large surface if it is designed as simply as possible – you still get 32 hours for 32 weeks a year. That’s almost a day and a half you spend mowing. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time.
In more complicated areas, it may even take you much longer to mow. If you have to make lots of difficult turns because you have a lot of twists and turns and bottlenecks in you yard, it will of course take even longer.
And then consider the many maintenance requirements that are added to the mowing time.
Mostly Unsuitable for Many Obstacles or Narrow Passages Due to the Large Turning Radius of Most Mowers
I just mentioned it briefly: riding mowers tend to have quite large turning radiuses. This makes it difficult to work in narrow and winding lawns.
With a large turning radius you have to do a lot of skilled maneuvering with the riding mower, and that takes time. And the places you can’t reach with the riding mower at all , you have to mow again with a push lawn mower or a lawn trimmer.
In such a case I would tend to favor a robotic mower. There are robotic mowers that can handle very complex surfaces well. Even narrow places are no problem for the better devices. The manufacturers of robotic mowers have already come up with a whole range of useful functions for this purpose.
Be it the old Artificial Intelligence Algorithms (AIA) from WORX, or Automatic Passage Handling from HUSQVARNA, bottlenecks are no longer a problem for robotic mowers. Multi-zone function, remote starting points, or secondary zone function are the terms you have to look out for when you are looking for a robotic mower that is suitable for complex surfaces.
For very large, complex areas I would even recommend a robotic mower with GPS.
Paint Can Become Damaged if There Are Many Bushes or Low Branches,
A riding mower is a rather bulky piece of equipment and if you have a lot of bushes or low branches in your lawn, it can cause your machine to get quite a lot of scratches in the paintwork.
This not only looks unattractive, but also leads to a depreciation of the equipment. In addition, the paint also has a protective function against rust. So a riding mower can also be quite unsuitable for such a lawn.
Riding Mowers Struggle with Steep Inclines
Riding mowers are not suitable for lawns with significant inclines. An incline as mild as 10% can be problematic for a riding mower. If a robotic mower has no forced-feed lubrication, it can become seriously damaged on steeper gradients.
In this case the lubrication of the motor is no longer sufficiently guaranteed. After a few minutes, it can be completely ruined.
Also, lawn tractors can tip over on slopes that are too steep, which can be very dangerous for you as a driver. You also need a machine with more horsepower for steeper inclines. On steeper gradients of 30% or more, if you really want a mobile machine, you will have to use a vineyard or orchard tractor. These cost anywhere from $20,000 up to $80,000.
Although every robotic mower can cope with large inclines, there are some devices that can handle even more. For a gradient up to 45%, there is still a quite large selection of devices. And even with up to 70% incline, which is really extreme, there are robotic mowers that can manage.
In terms of gradient, robotic mowers therefore have a clear advantage over Riding mowers.
Riding Mowers and Lawn Tractors Are Not the Same
Many people are not aware that lawn tractors and riding mowers are no longer the same thing. Riding mowers are built differently than lawn tractors. With a riding mower, the cutting deck is located under the front of the vehicle. When it comes to lawn tractors, the mowing deck is mounted in the middle.
However, the two devices differ not only in their appearance: Lawn tractors are equipped with considerably more horsepower than a riding mower. However, they are also somewhat more expensive. Another difference is the cutting width. Most of them have a cutting width of between 15 to 40 inches. With lawn tractors, this can be much larger.
Another advantage of lawn tractors over riding mowers is that you can use them for tasks other than mowing the lawn. Lawn tractors can be upgraded in different ways: Snow chains, snow blowers, snow shields, or road salt trailers are typical upgrades you can equip lawn tractors with. But of course these cost extra.
Cost Comparison: Lawn Tractor, Riding Mower, and Robotic Mower
The price of robotic mowers depends very much on the requirements of your yard. For normal areas between ¼ and ½ acre, with no particularly extreme gradient or complexity, you can get a robotic mower for as cheap as $700 up to $1500. Robotic lawn mowers for large areas of 1 acre or more can cost $3,500 or more.
I came up with a rule of thumb that usually gives you a rough idea of what price you should expect for a robotic lawn mower: For every ¼ acre of surface area your robot will cost you another $1000. However other things like the number of features, or the gradeability may also factor into the equation.
So what about the cost of riding mowers and lawn tractors? In the US, the prices between riding mowers and lawn tractors hardly differ. I would say that you can get a lawn tractor for the same price as a riding mower, that is just as good. Halfway reasonable lawn tractors cost from $1000 upwards.
If you have extreme slopes in your lawn, the riding lawn mower and lawn tractors are out of the question anyway. For slopes up to 70%, there are special robotic mowers that can handle such extreme slopes: such a model would be the HUSQVARNA Automower 435X AWD, for example.
Here on the blog we have compiled various recommendations for robotic mowers for different sized areas:
- Recommended Robotic Lawn Mowers for Small Yards 2021
- Recommended Robotic Lawn Mowers for Medium Yards 2021
- Recommended Robotic Lawn Mowers for Large Yards 2021
Between conventional lawn mowers and robotic mowers, you cannot say one or the other is better. Rather, it depends on the individual situation. In terms of costs, robotic mowers are often cheaper than riding mowers (though not push mowers). In many cases, the initial costs are lower, but above all, the running costs are also lower than for lawn tractors.
You also save a lot of work with mowing the lawn and maintaining the equipment, since robotic mowers require comparatively little maintenance. However, robotic mowers are not suitable for every lawn: in order for the robotic mower to really do its job smoothly, some lawns first have to be extensively adapted.
Only the laying of lawn edging stones and the repair of unevenness makes the lawn an ideal lawn for robotic mowers. In addition, robotic mowers are quite complex devices, which in many cases cannot be repaired easily by the user.
However, robotic mowers can also significantly improve the lawn quality and can practically mow in your own absence. Last but not least, there are special models that can cope with steep inclines, where ride-on mowers or lawn tractors would fail. Therefore the purchase of a robotic mower is definitely worth considering.
*Specifications without guarantee.
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