Ever wondered what exactly the differences are between a lawn mower and a garden tractor?

Or which would better suit your yard?

Whatever your question, this is the right place to find the answers, as we breakdown lawn tractors vs garden tractors.

In this article, we’re going to cut (sorry, couldn’t help it) to the chase and look at what defines a lawn tractor and a garden tractor. We’ll analyze the differences between the two and compare both types. We’ll also investigate what they’re best used for and the things you should look out for when buying one.

You’ll discover why lawn tractors are cheaper, why garden tractors are bigger, and why lawn tractors can be more maneuverable. So, if you’re ready to learn all about lawn and garden tractors, let’s get started.

What’s the difference?

At first glance, they look pretty similar. But lawn mowers and garden tractors are actually quite different when you know what to look for. And the primary difference is use.

A lawn tractor is designed for just that. Your lawn. If you’re mainly looking for a sit-on mower, something that will just cut your grass, a lawn tractor is perfect. It’s quick, efficient and a bit of fun (most people have a little secret smile when they’re driving around as king of the lawn).

male sitting on a lawn tractor
Lawn Tractors are designed to cut your grass and only that.

But if you’re looking for something that will not just cut your grass, but be useful all around the yard, then a garden tractor is your best bet. You can use a garden tractor for tilling earth, towing, plowing snow and other garden tasks. And it comes with a variety of attachments to let you achieve these goals.

male driving a garden tractor
Garden Tractors don’t just cut your grass, they’re industrial-sized garden machines

The rest of the differences between lawn and garden tractors come from their different uses. Differences in weight, size, power, cost and accessories all come from the fact they are designed for different jobs. So, while they look superficially similar, there are actually quite a lot of differences.

Lawn Mowers vs Garden Tractors

Now that we’ve covered the fundamental difference in design, it’s time to look closer at both lawn and garden tractors in our comparison:

Size

When it comes to size, garden tractors are bigger. The extra functionality a garden tractor is designed for means it needs larger heavy-duty components. That includes both the dimensions of the tractor and weight.

If you have limited storage space, you might need to take this into account. Check the footprint on the models you’re evaluating to make sure you have enough room to store them properly. This also applies if you have a tight passage you need to navigate, say, between a house wall and a fence. A smaller lawn tractor might be a better fit (literally).

Even the wheels are bigger on a garden tractor. Usually a garden tractor will have big back wheels to aid in towing and gripping for those heavy-duty tasks. A lawn tractor will have smaller and lighter wheels because it doesn’t need to push and pull accessories as much.

Size also includes the cutting width. Lawn tractors usually stop around the sub 50-inch mark for cutting width. Whereas a garden tractor will often go beyond 54-inches. If you have a large area to cover, then a garden tractor will get the job done quicker.

Maneuverability

Following on from size comes maneuverability. A lawn tractor is lighter and smaller. Combine that with those smaller wheels and it makes lawn tractors more agile.

If you have a lawn with an irregular shape or lots of obstacles (flower beds, ponds) you need to mow around, consider a lawn tractor. Your lawn tractor will make tighter turns. And will make mowing easier than a heavier, less maneuverable garden tractor.

Don’t just consider the size of your lawn, but take into account the shape and the objects you’ll need to mow around. A lawn tractor that is maneuverable with a smaller cutting deck may still cut a large lawn faster. If there are lots of irregularities to steer around, a big cutting deck that is harder to turn might just get in the way.

Power

One of the reasons for the size difference is power. The heavier duty garden tractor needs more power to tow, shovel snow, and till earth.

Usually, a garden tractor will have horsepower from the mid-twenties and up, whereas a lawn tractor will be in the lower twenties. The extra horses mean a garden tractor has the power to pull or push heavy loads or use other attachments.

Accessories

Speaking of attachments, a garden tractor will allow you to do all sorts of jobs outside of just mowing your lawn. Generally, a lawn tractor doesn’t have the ability to use bigger, heavy-duty attachments. It’s designed for a single job, mowing your lawn. Although some models can use certain attachments, so you do need to check your model.

Some of the attachments available are (dependent on manufacturer and model):

  • Rear-mounted
    • Baggers
    • Dump & swivel dump carts
    • Lawn sweepers
    • Spreaders
    • Aerators, cultivators, and dethatchers
    • Rollers
  • Front-mounted
    • Dozer blades
    • Scoops
    • Snow throwers & blades

Price

It’s bigger, has a larger engine, heavy-duty components, and is built to do harder work. A garden tractor will usually be more expensive than a lawn tractor. Some high-end lawn tractors may overlap with low-end garden tractors. But generally speaking, lawn is cheaper than garden.

Don’t forget that it’s not just the purchase price that is bigger for a garden tractor. The bigger engine and the heavier machine mean that fuel costs are greater as well. Depending on how much use they get, this can add up to a significant amount over the years.

Conclusion: Lawn Mower or Garden Tractor?

Well, the answer depends on what you’re going to use it for and the kind of lawn you have.

First off, think about your grass. How big is your lawn? If it’s less than an acre, a lawn mower will do the job perfectly and a garden tractor may well be overkill. If your grass is somewhere between 1-2 acres, then a lawn tractor is still a suitable tool, but a garden tractor (if the lawn is regularly shaped and without too many obstacles) will do it quicker. Over 3 acres, and a garden tractor is probably best.

lawn
A lawn mower is perfect if your lawn is less than an acre.

Now, what else would you like to do and what are you willing to pay for?

If you have a big driveway and live in areas with a lot of snow, a garden tractor’s snow plow functions would definitely be worth it. Or if you want to aerate, pull dump carts or use a dozer regularly, then the extra for a garden tractor makes sense.

But if these are things you seldom need or do, in most cases a lawn tractor will be the better choice. If you’re primary goal is to mow your lawn and your lawn is not huge, a lawn tractor is good.

Final thoughts

Whichever you choose, a lawn or a garden tractor is a good investment for those with big lawns or a lot of outdoor projects. Modern tractors are efficient, a lot quieter than they used to be, and reliable.

We’ve explained that the difference between lawn and garden tractors is in the job they are designed to do. And we’ve examined and compared key features of each. With your newfound information, you should be ready to make a decision on what type of tractor you need.

Good luck and happy mowing!