Should You Buy a Used Riding Mower?

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Getting a brand new mower can be very costly so getting one that’s used can help you save quite a bit of money.

Whether you’re buying a lawn mower for commercial or residential use, you want to make sure you’re getting good value for money and you’re not being ripped off. Saving money from buying used equipment is nice, but mechanical problems, downtime and repair costs can be more hassle than it’s worth.

Commercial machines generally have hour meters which makes it easier to judge how much wear and tear a mower may have. If you’re buying something for residential use, you’re probably going to have to use your own judgement.

In short, buying a used riding mower is perfectly fine if you know you’re buying a machine that has been well-maintained. While you might be paying a little more initially for a mower that’s been well looked after, you’re much less likely to encounter expensive repairs.

Whenever I buy a machine, I try to figure out how much money I’m going to need to spend in addition to the sale price to get or keep the mower in a working condition.

The fall or the winter can be a great time to purchase a used mower because this is when people are often looking to upgrade their equipment for the next year. Also, there’s likely less people who are looking to buy during this time, so there’s more chance of you getting a better deal.

In this article, I’ll provide some tips to help you decide whether purchasing a used riding mower is worth it. I’ll share some things to look out for so that you can avoid purchasing something that is totally wack!

Should You Buy a Used Riding Mower?

Where should you look for a used riding mower?

You may have someone selling in your local area at a garage sale. I’d also keep your eye out on craigslist and the Facebook marketplace.

What brand of riding mower is recommended?

It’s good to go with a brand that you have experience with or confidence in. These are likely to be more reliable and if there’s a problem, you know you can get it fixed.

The quality of the engine is probably the most important thing here.

It’s likely that everyone has their own opinion on which brand is the best, but it’s good to stay within the well-known reputable names.

Know your prices

It’s good to know your prices before you go to look at the mower. Check the price of getting the mower new and then judge how much you think it’s worth based upon its condition. If it’s been really well maintained and looked after, you should be prepared to be a slightly higher price.

Knowing what a mower should cost takes quite a bit of experience so it certainly helps to regularly check the market to see what the going rate is for different riding mowers.

Are you able to repair the mower yourself?

For those of us that are not mechanical, it might be worth getting something with less hours on it. If you are the mechanic-type and you like to work on things then you may not mind replacing parts yourself, but if you’re not this way inclined, its probably better to get something more dependable.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Riding Mower

The first thing you’ll want to do is give the mower a quick check over. Make sure it looks to be in good condition.

Look for basic giveaway signs that the mower has not been taken care of!

Look at the paint work and the seats. Question the owner too! Try to get a feel of how they treat their equipment. Ask if they have any record of any maintenance work that has been done on it. 

Look at the spark plug and air filter. If they aren’t clean, it may be an indication that the mower has not been serviced properly.

Check for weather damage too. Are the plastics faded or does the mower have rust? This gives an indication if the lawn mower has been stored correctly.

Check the engine

The most important thing to pay attention to on the mower is the motor. It’s the most expensive thing to replace while sometimes it can be hard to tell if the starter is going to go bad.

You need see how easy it is to start the engine from cold. If it doesn’t start up fast, it could be a sign the motor is worn out or there is a carb issue.

I’d also recommend getting a compression test on it to see if the psi is too low.

If you pull the dip stick out and it’s all black, it means that the mower has been run hot which has likely done some damage to the engine.

Test drive the mower

This sounds obvious but a lot of people take things people say at face value and they don’t even bother to test out the thing they’re about spend a lot of money on.

Don’t necessarily trust what the owner tells you!

  • Make sure the blades spin correctly and it cuts good.
  • Check the pumps are working properly.
  • Most tractor mowers are going to be non-power steering so you need to make sure its not too hard to make those turns.
  • Any rattling noise is a big no no!

Check the deck

Check the deck to make sure it’s in reasonable condition.  The mower you’re looking at might have a hand, foot or electric lift that you’ll need to check you’re comfortable with.

You want to make sure the spindles aren’t loose. Put your hand on either side of a spindle and try to see if there is any play. If you’re able to make the spindle move at all, it needs to be replaced. This is not too hard to do but it’s not particularly fun.

Check for rust in the deck too. Some rust isn’t a big deal but if its rusting through to the spindles, it’s probably not worth purchasing the mower since replacing the deck is very expensive.

Tire Tread

Look to see if the tires are wearing or rotted dry. It’s not such a big deal, but it can be an indication of previous treatment of the mower.

If you see the mower doesn’t have good tire tread, it could also be an indication that the mower has a lot of hours on it.

Buy from a reputable dealer

If you’re going to purchase from a dealer, try to find out about its reputation. It’s never a good idea to buy a mower from a dealer that has a reputation for treating its customers badly.

Make sure it’s in your vicinity so you’re able to take it into the shop if it needs to be worked on.

Ask about warranty

Even if you’re buying from Joe Bloggs down the street, you may be able to negotiate a deal to where if the mower breaks in a period of time, you can take it back. You’re going to have to take their word for it, but its worth asking. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee of them holding their word but this one of the risks you take when buying a used mower.

Be prepared to negotiate

If you do see some problems with the mower, you might be able to use this as negotiating power. For example, you might look at mower where the deck pulley has a wobble in it and it needs to be replaced, you may be able to argue a lower price.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be scared of buying a used riding mower! A good quality mower that has been looked after and well maintained should last many years. Getting a used mower is a great way to save a lot of money but you need to make sure you know what to look for before you make a purchase.

If you’re not too geared up on the mechanical side of things, it might be a good seek out advice. Get someone to go with you to look at the mower. The last thing you need is to purchase something and then be let down with expensive repair costs. Don’t worry about all the parts being in amazing shape. While the blades are easy and relatively inexpensive to repair, replacing the motor is going ot be very costly and its critical to the life length of the mower.

In general, it’s good to stay away from quick fixes. If you see anything held together with duct tape, string or a zip tie then don’t waste your time. It’s a sign that the previous owner has not fixed things properly. Temporary fixes aren’t what you’re looking for because things are much more likely to go wrong and it will be at your expense.

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