Is It Hard To Drive A Zero Turn Mower?

Zero turn mowers are the most agile and maneuverable mowers out there that are commonly found in large athletic fields to trim expansive ranges of land in as little time as possible. However, since they are manuevered using control levers, they can be challenging to control. 

It will take some time to get used to the controls. The main thing you need to know is that the control levers operate the wheels on each side of the mower independently. This means that you can make sharp turns by pushing one lever forward and pulling the other backward.

Once you learn how to control the machine, it’s pretty fun, and you’ll be zipping around the yard in no time at all. 

In today’s article, we’ll find out more about zero-turn mowers, how to drive them properly, and tips to ensure excellent results while cutting the grass.

Is Driving a Zero Turn Mower Difficult?

Driving a zero turn mower can seem like a challenge when you see the machine for the first time. 

However, after spending as little as a few minutes practicing the zero turn mower, the controls become much easier than you thought. In fact, many people actually believe that driving a zero turn mower feels a lot easier and even slightly more fun than driving a regular lawn tractor!

How Long Does It Take to Master the Zero Turn Mower Controls

A zero turn mower’s speed, responsiveness, and controllability actually make it significantly easier to drive than regulate lawnmowers. However, you’ll need some practice time before getting the hang of it.

Luckily, however, it doesn’t take long, and the more frequently you use the mower, the quicker you’ll master its control.

Ideally, you’ll be able to move forward, backward, turn in the same place, and steer in both directions at various degrees in as little as 5 to 10 minutes of using it for the first time.

Mastering the zero turn steering might take a few more trials. However, after one or two sessions with the mower, you’ll easily control the mower exactly how you want it to by controlling the turns in any direction you want.

Zero Turn Mower vs. Regular Lawn Mower

At first glance, zero turn mowers may look like regular lawnmowers. However, there are some distinct differences between the two. For starters, the most apparent difference between a zero turn mower and a standard lawnmower is the steering method and the riding position.

A regular lawn mower or tractor is set to function like a go-kart or a small car with grass clipping blades. You sit behind the engine, use pedals to accelerate and brake, and control your mowing direction using a steering wheel.

Lawnmowers are usually rear-wheel drive and can turn anywhere between 30 to 60 degrees. This means that as you rotate the steering wheel all the way, it’ll only change direction by a minimum of these angles.

On the other hand, zero turn mowers use control levers on either side of the mower to control the direction of the machine rather than pedals and steering wheels. 

The engine in a zero turn mower is behind the driver, and the machine is also rear-wheel drive, but the left and right sides of the machine are independent of each other in terms of controls.

This unique control allows you to steer at a precise level that can be as little as zero degrees, hence the machine’s name.

Zero turn mowers are also faster than regular lawn tractors, with a top speed of about 9-10 mph when compared to the lawn tractor’s 3 to 8 mph.

How to Drive a Zero Turn Mower

Now that you know more about zero turn mowers and how to differentiate between them and regular lawn mowers or lawn tractors, let’s have a quick look at how to drive one the right way:

Engaging and Disengaging the Parking Brake

After stepping on the mower’s platform, sitting down on the seat, and turning on the engine, the first thing you need to do is to learn the emergency parking brake to stop the mower immediately.

This is actually pretty easy, and all you have to do here is to push both levers away from you while in the middle position to engage the brakes. You can then push them back towards you when you’re ready to drive the mower again.

Moving Forward and Backward

Push the two levers equally forward to move the mower forward and push them equally backward to go backward. The levers are pressure-sensitive, so the further you push forward or backward, the faster the mower will go.

It takes a while to learn how to go straight, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be driving in a straight line in no time. 

Making Turns

To make a turn to the right, simply apply more pressure on the left lever than the right one. If you want to turn to the left, push the right lever further. The further you’re going to push the control lever, the tighter your turn will be.

If you want the mower to spin on the spot in a zero turn angle, simply bring the mower to a stop by returning the levers to their original position, then push the lever opposite to the direction you want to go.

For example, if you want to make a zero angle turn to the left, keep the left lever in place and push the right lever forward. 

Once again, the further your press, the faster you’ll turn, so make sure that you push the lever slowly.

Do You Need a Specific License to Drive a Zero Turn Mower?

The answer to this question is that it depends mainly on the local laws in your area. So the best thing to do here is to contact your local government and inquire about any special requirements or licensing that you need to have to drive a zero turn mower.

In most cases, you won’t need any special requirements or licenses to operate a zero turn (or any other riding mower), especially if you’re only using it around your house and not for commercial purposes.

The law still varies in the United States depending on the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state. But since the DMV doesn’t recognize zero turn mowers as vehicles in most areas, they’re illegal to drive on public roads and are treated like driving a vehicle that isn’t street legal.

Additionally, it’s common in several states and countries like the UK to prohibit driving the zero turn mower if you’re under 16 years old, so you have to keep that in mind.

Tips to Ensure Excellent Results While Driving a Zero Turn Mower

Now that you know more about zero turn mowers and how easy it is to drive them, here are some essential tips that will help you improve your driving skills and results:

  • Get a machine with adjustable speed controls to avoid going extremely fast as you drive for the first few times
  • Learn the three-point turn to avoid tearing the grass 
  • Always train on a level, flat ground to avoid accidents
  • while making a zero angle turn, push the opposite lever backward a little bit to prevent scuffing


As you can see, driving a zero turn mower can be a bit challenging if you’ve never driven one. But, like anything with practice, it becomes second nature, and you won’t have a problem driving the mower.

The first time you mow your yard, it will probably take you longer than usual. But, once you get the hang of it, it won’t be any problem.

However, just because you’re able to drive the zero turn mower doesn’t mean that you’ll avoid tearing the grass as you do that, so make sure that you practice for a few minutes before you start cutting grass for the first time.

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