The best Toro Zero Turn Mowers in 2017


There are quite a few good reasons to go for the Toro brand if you`re in the market for a zero turn mower. For one, Toro has a long experience of offering a full line of commercial zero turn mowers with a very good reputation among lawn care pros, and this experience filters down to their residential line. Toro mowers are used not only by homeowners, but also by commercial users all over the world.

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Reasons to buy a Toro zero turn mower

Relation to the commercial line

Many features and parts Toro uses in their residential zero turns were first introduced in their heavy-duty commercial mowers, and many are even the very same parts. For example, Toro fits their larger residential ztrs with the heavy-duty HG-ZT2800 transmissions, so they can do some serious pulling. The hydrostatic transmissions are a common weak spot on the average residential zero turn. You can wear them out quickly if you regularly pull loads that are too heavy or go sideways on slopes with a lap bar model.


Long warranty

You can tell Toro has high confidence in the quality of their residential zero turns because they offer 3 year warranties without hour limits for all of them. That is not very common for residential ztr manufacturers, who typically give 1 year warranties with hour limits.


Build quality

If you have compared the Toros with zero turns from other brands first hand you can feel their build quality, the thickness of the metal, the rigidity of the construction and the overall feel of durability. Toro uses 10 gauge steel frames and heavy-duty steel engine guards on all of their residential ztrs. The caster forks are notably stronger than what we are used from the residential competition. Cast iron and steel front axles and steel cross members between the transmissions add to this impression of strength. These red beasts are built to last, even the residential ones.


Toro offers tow hitches on all of their zero turns. They know their hydro transmissions will last, even while pulling (but don`t exceed the maximum pull weight nevertheless!). Other manufacturers usually don`t equip their ztrs with tow hitches - you have to buy them as accessories or aftermarket parts. I guess this is their way of discouraging you from towing things with them, and they usually do this with good reason. But not so Toro. Again, a show of confidence, which is not unwarranted as we will see.


Whether you came here already knowing these (or more) reasons that speak for Toro, or wether you just learned about them - this leaves you with the question: Which of the Toro zero turn mowers is the right one for you?


The Toro homepage tells us that they offer no less than 51 different residential zero turn mowers. And quickly after reading about some of them, you will find out that there is even a feature they call Custom Z-Builder, which allows you to configure some of their ztrs to your own desires and needs. You can get overwhelmed real quick with so many choices.


But we want to come to your help with this comparison, picking the top 5 out of this huge lineup - or rather, the top one in each sub-niche. We`ll show you why these are our top picks in that niche and which one of them will fit your particular needs best.


What are their differences? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each model? We will provide you with answers. All this is served with a side-dish of general wisdom and advice for buyers of zero turn mowers, be they first time buyers or users with some experience with ztrs or lawn tractors.



What zero turn mower should I buy?


Zero turn mowers mow a lawn of the same size quicker than lawn tractors because they can turn in their own footprint, thus eliminating the need for elaborate patterns that lawn tractors often require. If you have large (preferably flat) areas to mow, a zero turn mower is the right choice for you. Lots of obstacles like trees, flower beds, etc. to mow around make a ztr an even better choice for you, because they can maneuver around them way better than lawn tractors.


If your property is not very large, and/ or you have narrow places you have to go through, like gates, there are special small zero turn mowers that give you the advantages of a ztr, without the disadvantage (well, in your special case) of their usual large deck sizes and widths. These machines are specialty machines though because you really have to stay away from slopes due to their tipping-proneness. Even roots that protrude from the ground can tip one of these tiny machines over. Tiny as related to their width, because they`re pretty long, too. We included a Toro zero turn from this niche, because their 32 inch ztr is worth considering if you want a ztr but need one that is slim.


Mowing on hill-sides is always tricky business. While it is easier to hold a straight line with a lawn tractor while mowing sideways on a slope than with a lap bar operated ztr, the lawn tractor is prone to tipping due to its small wheelbase - the distance between the two wheels of one axle. Even lawn tractors with large decks don`t have large wheelbases, too - zero turn mowers with large decks, on the other hand, do, which gives them superior sideway stability on hills.


But going up and down slopes is trickier with a zero turn than with a lawn tractor because they have most of their weight at their back. They can tip over backward if you tackle an incline that is too steep. If you have to go up a steep slope, you should back a ztr up in reverse (all Toro 0 turn mowers can mow in reverse).


And if you go down a hill that is too steep, the small front wheels can dive into the soil. You should mow slopes steeper than 15° with a walk behind mower, especially if there is water or a drop off at the end of the slope. You really don`t want to slide or tip while sitting on a ztr in this case!


On even surfaces, all this weight on the rear is an advantage for zero turn mowers - it gives them superior traction compared to lawn tractors. They`re the Porsche 911s of the lawn mower world, with their engines (and the driver) weighing down their driven rear wheels.



The 2017 Toro TimeCutter Series


Features that all Toro zero turn mowers share

There are certain features that all Toro zero turn mowers have, and others that are specific to their lap bar operated ones or their steering wheel ztrs. We will explore these first, and then go on telling you only about the things that set each mower apart.


They all have frames made of 10 gauge (0.135 inch) steel sheet metal. These sturdy frames show the kinship of Toro`s residential ztrs with their commercial mowers, which can take the occasional bump into a rock or house corner. While we strongly advise you not to bump your Toro TimeCutter ztr into anything, these heavy frames, the steel rear engine guards, and the massive front casters instill the confidence that these mowers won`t bend or fall to pieces at first contact (some other residential ztrs do!). The rigid frames can be a disadvantage while going over rough terrain or tree roots though, because they don`t absorb the forces as much and can shake the driver up a bit more than the more soft-framed ztrs.


All Toro zero turn mowers have 3 gallon fuel tanks with display windows so you can easily see how much fuel is left. These are quite large tanks compared to other residential ztrs. One tank of gas will last from 1,5 to 6 acres -this depends very much on the type of terrain, the length of the grass, which mower you have, the way you mow, and some other factors. All engines can take gas with up to 10% ethanol.

HydroGear EZT2200 Transmission


All ztrs except for the most expensive model we review here have the Hydro-Gear EZT 2200 hydrostatic transmission powering 18 inch rear tires. These transmissions are used in virtually all residential ztrs because they are compact and operate efficiently over a wide range of torque-to-speed ratios, making it ideal for independently steering the rear wheels of zero-turn mowers.


The standard tow hitch kit is another nice feature found on all Toro ztrs, so you don`t have to go through the hassle of buying and installing an extra tow kit. Toro has a list of approved attachements for every zero turn mower, but they all can pull things like dump carts, de-thatchers and fertilizer spreaders with the hitch that comes standard with all of them.


Another really cool feature that the Toro zero turns with wheel steering have in common is Toros unique SmartPark braking system. If you turn the SmartPark switch on, the sensors in the seat automatically engage the parking brake and disengage the blades when you get off, while the engine keeps running. That is extremely convenient compared to other mowers where the auto-shutdown feature can`t be turned off. You`ll really appreciate this feature every time you have to move branches or litter out of the way. Once you get back on, just step on the pedal, push the PTO and continue mowing.


The KeyChoice mowing system present on all Toro ztrs means you can pull a key so operators can`t mow in reverse. This allows for the safety feature of disabling mowing in reverse for, say, your overconfident teenage son, while allowing the very same feature for operators you trust - like yourself. Competitors often blanket disable mowing in reverse, and a lot of people complain about having to re-engage the PTO every time after backing up - well, not with Toro ztrs, if you don`t want to.


Toro simply offers the best decks for residential mowers in the industry. The cleanness of the cut, mulching capability (with their mulching kits that are available as accessories - they call them recycler kits), power and durability are superb, no matter if you go with a stamped or a fabricated deck.


The deck washing adapters are pretty much standard with all new mowers now. You can attach a garden hose to them and wash the deck with the power of the blades, without having to lift the mower deck or fumble underneath it with a hose. Some of the larger Toro ztrs even have two of them.


All Toro zero turn mowers are covered by a 3 year residential warranty without an hour limit for the chassis, the engine and the transmissions. Batteries are covered for one year, belts and tires for 90 days. If you buy from Home Depot, you have a 30 day return period independent from the Toro warranty. Toro even offers a commercial warranty for their residential ztrs, albeit only for 30 days. But this is still way more than many competitors offer.



The Toro TimeCutter SW4200


The Toro zero turn mower we recommend for most homeowners

Toro TimeCutter

SW4200

4.7

Features

Ease of use

Reliability

Quality

Bang for the buck

Price

Overall

The Toro TimeCutter SW4200 (model number 74784) is the best choice for properties up to one acre, maybe one and a half acres. It has the powerful steering wheel option, so you avoid the steep learning curve associated with lap bar zero turns as a beginner, and get the far superior slope stability. Toro has gotten their ztr steering wheels just right!

One remark regarding Toro`s model numbers: They often have models with and without a "C" at the end. The C simply means that you have access to Toro`s customization options, called Custom Z-Builder. You can choose from different engines and add features like hour meters if the standard models don`t have them.


This is nice if you want to add a certain feature or know that you want a certain engine, but can get overwhelming for a lot of people. We review the standard models here and mention if a certain add-on is really nice to have.


The engine

The SW4200 comes standard with Toro`s commercial 708cc ZX v-twin engine that outputs 24.5 hp. Toro developed this engine specifically for their zero turn mowers and introduced it to the market in 2015. The torque curve of this engine was designed to work best with this mower and its deck, delivering the best performance in every mowing situation. And you can really hear and feel this - the ease with wich it makes the mower go and mow is simply amazing.


Toro 708cc ZX 24.5 HP V-Twin

This engine isn`t labeled commercial without reason. It has heavy-duty pistons with triple rings, cast-iron liners and the head is secured with 5 bolts. A two-barrel carburetor feeds air to each cylinder separately for better performance and control. The vacuum override choke ensures that the choke is disengaged automatically when it is not needed anymore.


A self-cleaning air filter designed by Toro always ensures proper air flow to the engine. A quick drain oil hose makes changing the engine oil a walk in the park - you don`t need any tools, just a bottle or pan to receive the drained oil. Access to oil drain, oil refill and check and air filter are all on the right side of the engine for easy access.


All of this combined makes for one of the best zero turn mower engines available. While Kohler, Briggs & Stratton and especially Kawasaki make some really good mower engines, this Toro power plant can stand up to any of them.


The drivetrain

Nothing special here, just your trusty EZT 2200s, securely bolted to Toro`s stiff unibody frame and held together with a cross member. These are good for normal ztr duty and pulling light stuff. Don`t pull carts full of firewood or do ground-engaging work with them - these are jobs for a garden tractor.


Maximum forward speed is 7 mph, max reverse speed 3 mph. Optimal cutting speed is 3-5 mph.


The mowing deck

We have already lauded Toro`s floating mowing decks for their performance. The 42 inch dual blade deck on the SW4200 is the second-smallest deck available for Toro ztrs and makes for an overall width of 46.1 inches. The cutting height is adjustable from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches in 7 steps. The lever is not spring-assisted, so you have to use some force to pull it up.


The stamped deck has two anti-scalp wheels that offer reasonable protection against cutting too low on bumps for a deck this size. You have to be a bit careful what you hit with this deck because it`s not a welded deck, and it lacks reinforcements. The 13 gauge thickness makes up for this a bit, though.


The top discharge design of Toro is what makes their decks stand out. The clippings get lifted up and then discharged (or mulched), and this works very well. It is 4 inches high and provides for great mulching capability when you install Toro`s recycler kit. It has a powerful side discharge in standard mode that throws the clippings far and even and is not known for any issues with clumping or gaps between the blades. The twin bagger available from Toro also works flawlessly.


The single deck washing port makes keeping the deck clean for consistent performance a breeze.


Other features

The best features of the SW series zero turns is really the steering wheel. With the standard (and less expensive) lap bar ztrs you have to push or pull two bars to control the speed of each rear wheel independently, which is not the easiest thing in the world.


The SW4200 is steered with a standard wheel, and you control the speed with a pedal - just like in your car. Anyone can drive a ztr like this!


3-Position adjustable steering wheel

Another added benefit of this steering system are the front wheels that are actually steered and don`t just bounce around in their casters (the way they do in their lap bar brethren). This is especially useful while mowing sideways on hills or slopes. It requires far less work and attention to hold a Toro steering wheel ztr on a straight line in these conditions - the lap bar mowers always want to go downhill. Plus lap bar mowers really strain the downhill facing transmission, making it wear out quickly if you spend a lot of time mowing in these conditions.


It is also way easier to get on and off the SW models because you don`t have to bend the lap bars aside every time. The steering wheel column is adjustable in 3 positions, with the forward-most position being near horizontal, so you have a lot of space to move.


The seat with its 18 inch high back and decent lumbar support is well suited for mowing extended periods and superior to much of what competitors on the lower end of residential ztrs have to offer. It is adjustable enough to even accommodate very tall people.


And of course there is a cup holder - no mower would be complete without it, right? Stay hydrated during long mowing sessions.


Which accessories are available?

There is of course a mulch kit, labeled recycler kit by Toro. It hacks the grass clippings up and blows them back into the grass, fertilizing the soil. We highly recommend it, and the twin bagger too. With these extras you have all the options - collect the clippings (or leaves), or mulch. Another advantage of the steering wheel ztrs is that the baggers cost much less and you don`t need a front weight to counterbalance them (you do with the lap bar models).


Twin Bagger

Brinly Attachments

Toro recommends various pull or direct mount attachments from Brinly: carts, lawn sweepers, dethatchers, aerators and sprayers are available - choose what you need, or some other brand. There are limitless possibilities.


Step Assist Handlebar

Cargo Carrier

The step assist kit with a handle bar might be a good idea if you need additional security getting on and off the mower. You have something to hold on to and an extra step.


The cargo carrier that goes on the rear hitch seems like a good idea only for very light things. It makes the mower even more back-heavy and requires additional balancing weights.


Sun Shade

Mower Cover

Lastly, there are a cover, a sunshade, an armrest and an hour meter - decide for yourself what you need. It`s nice to know that these things are available from Toro, if you do.


What are the pros and cons?

The big pros for this mower are its great deck, engine and steering wheel, and the overall quality of Toro ztrs, all combined in a package with a msrp of $ 3,299.00.


The cons are the lack of deck reinforcements and features such as hour meters, arm rest or headlights. The two former can be added if you choose to use Toro`s configurator, headlights can`t. We really recommend using an hour meter to keep track of maintenance intervals.


If you don`t have that much acreage to mow and want the steering wheel, go for this mower.



The Toro TimeCutter SS4225


Recommendation for homeowners wanting the best Toro-bang-for-the-buck

Toro TimeCutter

SS4225

4.0

Features

Ease of use

Reliability

Quality

Bang for the buck

Price

Overall

The SS4225 (model number 74721) is pretty much the SW4200 with lap bars and a 22 hp Kohler engine. If you are comfortable with lap bar steering or don`t mind the challenge of learning how to use it, you can save $ 500 compared to the SW4200, just by swapping the wheel for bars and the Toro for a Kohler engine.


The engine

The 725cc Kohler v-twin engine has an output of 22 hp and is a rock-solid engine for this 42 inch ztr. It is inferior to the Toro engine of the SW4200 regarding power, refinement and detail solutions, but is still a good engine by any means. There are no complaints about durability or performance. If you want to save the money, this is not a bad choice.


The speed is adjusted with Toro`s SmartSpeed system, which gives you 3 speed options: Trim, tow, and mow. To stop the mower just move the control arms outward - this automatically engages the parking brake, so you don`t have to push an additional button.


Some people complain that you can leave burn marks in the grass from the exhaust if you let the hot mower sit still for some time. Be careful if this is the case for you, too.


The drivetrain

It´s the same as the SW4200.


The mowing deck

That is also the same.


Other features

The controls on the SS4225 are very responsive - little bar travel translates to large speed differences. This can be a good thing because you can steer with the flip of a finger, but some people deem the controls touchy and hard to operate - this is really a two-edged sword.


The Kohler engine allows for a little tool box - that`s nice if you want to store small stuff onboard.


Which accessories are available?

You can mount everything that goes on the SW4200, except for the step assist handle. You don`t need it because you have all that free space in front of you, once the handle bars are folded to the sides. You can hold on to these while stepping off if you need to.


Because there are no pedals, you have the space for an anti-vibration floor mat available as an accessory.


What are the pros and cons?

The pros and cons for the SW4200 are valid for this mower, too. On big extra pro is the lower price - two extra cons are the lack of the steering wheel and the lack of the Toro engine. If this trade-off is for you - only you can decide that in the end.



The Toro TimeCutter SW3200


The Toro zero turn mower for small yards

Zero turn mowers with 32 inch decks are a niche product for people with narrow places that their mower has to go through, and a desire for a full-fledged zero turn mower, as we have mentioned earlier.


Toro TimeCutter

SW3200

3.5

Features

Ease of use

Reliability

Quality

Bang for the buck

Price

Overall

The SW3200 (model number 74780) is slimmer (only 36. inches wide!) and longer than the smallest regular riding mowers. Because it is a zero turn and has Toro`s great steering wheel, this mower really is one of the most maneuverable riding mowers you can get, despite its length. It has the same chassis as the other Toro ztrs, and hence the same length as the other Toro ztrs with steering wheels - 78.9 inches. With its msrp of 3,199.00 it is quite expensive for a 32 inch mower though, so it really is a specialty mower - kind of a tuned down version of the SW4200, with a smaller deck and a smaller engine, but otherwise the same.


The engine

Toro put a proprietary 452cc single cylinder engine in this mower and doesn`t give a horsepower rating for it. We think it outputs around 12 hp - enough for a maximum forward speed of 4 mph. And that is fast enough for a mower with such a small wheelbase. Be careful while turning with this mower, and be especially careful on any inclines. The engine is full pressure-lubricated, so lubrication won`t be a problem on slopes - the main problem is the tipping-proneness.


The engine is fed from the same 3 gallon tank as the larger Toro ztrs. It shares some features with the Toro ZX v-twin and is a reliable and suitable engine for this mower.


The drivetrain

There are no differences regarding the transmissions between the SW3200 and the SW4200.


The mowing deck

The stamped single blade deck has no anti-scalping wheels. Otherwise, it has the same 4 inch high lift design as the larger decks, with the same 7 step adjustability from 1,5 to 4 inches. It works just as well as the larger decks, but can`t achieve their evenness of cut due to the lack of size and anti-scalping wheels. But this is the tradeoff you have to make when you want a slim mower.


Other features

This slim mower has the same features as the larger SW4200, apart from engine and deck. So you will really have a luxury mower for its size, with features you won`t find on any regular 32 inch riding mower: you get all the goodies mentioned earlier, including the comfortable 18 inch seat, the SmartPark braking system and the rigid steel frame (which can be seen as a disadvantage though, because it makes for less traction on rougher terrain).


Which accessories are available?

All accessories that are available for the SW4200 are also available for the SW3200.


What are the pros and cons?

The big pro is that you essentially get a full-sized residential zero turn mower that is only 36.2 inches wide and fits through places that the larger ztrs don`t. As a con you get only a 32 inch deck for a very high price and have a tipping-prone mower. Again, this is a specialty machine that we recommend only because it is very good in its (literally) narrow niche! We recommend one of the 42 inch models if they fit everywhere you need to go.



The Toro TimeCutter SWX5050


Our recommendation for people who want "the best Toro ztr" without breaking the bank

Toro TimeCutter

SWX5050

4.5

Features

Ease of use

Reliability

Quality

Bang for the buck

Price

Overall

There is Toro`s Titan series - these are "pro-sumer" models that pose as commercial mowers with their roll bars, and they come with a price tag far beyond $ 6.000. And there are TimeCutters with 60 inch decks. But we consider the SWX5050 (model number 74797) as the top pick for homeowners that have lots of 1.5 to 4 acres and want the best mower without breaking the bank or spending more money than necessary.


The engine

This is the same 24.5 hp 708cc ZX v-twin engine that the SW4200 has. We already heaped praise on this engine. It has plenty of power for the 807 lb. of the SWX5050 and its 50 inch deck.


The drivetrain

The SWX5050 is the cheapest steering wheel model that gets larger 20 inch rear tires for better traction and a smoother ride in rough terrain, and HydroGear ZT2800 transmissions. These are the largest residential transmissions from HydroGear. They will last longer than the standard EZT2200s and mow at higher speeds of up to 7 mph. They are also responsible for a considerable increase of pulling capability.


The mowing deck

This mower comes with a fabricated 50 inch deck housing the triple blades. It is far more rugged and can take more abuse than the stamped decks. Fabricated decks are welded together from steel plates and have an edgier shape because of this. This can lead to inferior airflow and more grass clippings getting caught in the corners.


Toro makes not only the best welded decks for residential zero turns, but also one of the fabricated decks with the best air flow and high lift capabilities. It mows and mulches exceptionally well.


The sharp corners on the outsides can be a problem though. You have to be careful when mowing close to fences or other obstacles.


Other features

The steering wheel on the SWX5050 is the same as on the other steering wheel ztrs, giving you the same ease of use and great maneuverability.


The seat on this mower is one class above the seats of the other ztrs in this comparison. It has thicker padding, a back rest that is independently adjustable and comes standard with armrests. This makes for better comfort while mowing the larger areas that this ztr is built for.



Which accessories are available?

You can get the same accessories as for the other steering wheel mower - except for the hour meter, that`s already included.


What are the pros and cons?

This is one of the most heavy duty residential mowers available. It is great for large, hilly properties due to its excellent hill stability. It is better than any lawn or garden tractor in this regard. The big pros are the great Toro engine, the heavy duty transmissions, and the large, fabricated deck.


Cons would be that the front edge can get caught if you`re not careful, and that this deck seems to throw dirt and clippings around some more than other decks. You will need goggles while mowing with the SWX5050. You will also need a lift to raise this mower for maintenance because it is so heavy.


Overall this is one of the best steering wheel ztrs for large properties and the most heavy duty residential use imaginable. It reaches way into the territory of landowner mowers, for a reasonable msrp of $ 4,899.00.



The Toro TimeCutter SS5000


The best-bang-for-the-buck 50 inch zero turn mower

Tor TimeCutter

SS5000

3.9

Features

Ease of use

Reliability

Quality

Bang for the buck

Price

Overall

The SS5000 (model number 74731) is the cheapest 50 inch zero turn mower from Toro. Yes, you can get a true 50 inch ztr from Toro for a msrp of $ 3,199.00 - exactly the same as their 32 inch SW3200. It has lap bars instead of the super steering wheel, but it comes with the great 24.5 hp Toro ZX v-twin. It also benefits from the wide wheelbase, making it a good choice for sideways action on hills.


The engine

We have already said enough about it. There is a reason why we recommend mowers with this engine.


The drivetrain

It has the standard EZT2200s. Toro rates the pull weight of this mower at 650 lb., which seems kind of large. Make sure Toro really sticks to its claim before trying this out.


The mowing deck

The 50 inch triple blade deck of the SS5000 is stamped and has dual washout ports. It also his 3 anti-scalp wheels. Aside from this, it is similar to the other stamped decks. It is not as rugged as the fabricated deck of the SWX5050, but is easier to clean and you can`t catch things with it so easily due to its round shape.



This mower gets the same lap bars as the SS4225 and all the other features that the 42 inch SS4225 get. Nothing special for this 50 inch mower, but all the standard goodies are on board.


Which accessories are available?

In addition to all the accessories available for the SS4225, you can get a foot pedal that lets you lift the deck with the power of your foot. This is a useful addition because the 50 inch deck is quite heavy for the non-spring-assisted deck lift lever. We also recommend the hour meter.


What are the pros and cons?

The big pro is the large deck for the small price. With this mower you get a ztr with the great Toro quality, strength and basic features and a 50 inch deck - and all of this for a very reasonable price. The con would be the lack of the formidable steering wheel - but nothing is free, right? So decide for yourself, if this tradeoff is worth it. If you don`t mind the lap bars (and eventually paying for some add-ons), you won`t be doing anything wrong if you buy the SS5000 for your residential property of up to 4 acres.



Conclusion


There are other good manufacturers of residential zero turn mowers, but Toro sure stands out. Especially their great decks, the ZX v-twin and the overall strength and quality are very good reasons to opt for a Toro ztr. In the end, everybody has to decide for themselves if this is the right choice for them, and if the mowers we reviewed are the right picks out of Toro`s 51 different residential ztrs.


But we hope we gave some good suggestions by mentioning a few of the ztrs that we feel stand out of their assortment and that have received a lot of good reviews for earlier model years.

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