Tow-Behind Mower Buyer's Guide
How to Pick the Perfect Tow-Behind Mower
Whether you're cutting rough trails, maintaining plots of land or building your field of dreams, tow-behind mowers, also known as pull-behind mowers are up to any task. Pull-behind mowers are so named because you use a tractor to "pull" or "tow" them across acres of land.
There are three types of tow-behind mowers available:
- Gang reel
- Finish cut
- Rough cut
Designed to meet a variety of needs, these mowers have no propulsion of their own and must be towed using a garden tractor, ATV, or UTV.
Before choosing a tow-behind mower, be sure you know your towing vehicle's towing capacity. You should not tow more weight than your tractor, ATV, or UTV is rated to handle.
Take a look at the comparison chart below to see the differences between the classes of pull-behind lawn mowers, and read on to learn more about each type.
Gang Reel Mowers
Tow-behind reel mowers are ideal for mowing golf courses, very large lawns, athletic fields, and other open-range areas that require a quality cut.
You'll often see golf course landscapers towing gang mowers over fairways, cutting just grass.
Unlike most lawn mowers, gang reel mowers don't have an engine. Instead, they're towed behind an ATV or tractor at speeds up to four miles per hour. They're easier to maintain because they're entirely mechanical and require no gas or oil changes.
These ultra-wide mowers contain three, five, or seven reels, stretching up to 11 feet wide so you can mow up to five acres per hour. Gang reel mowers cut like scissors, providing a precise finish for a well-manicured lawn.
Each reel will follow the contour of the turf, eliminating scalping or uneven cuts.As a bonus, the clippings fall back onto your lawn, providing the turf with a natural fertilizer as they decompose. Keep in mind that gang reel mowers are not designed to cut high grass, weeds, or brush. You'll need a finish cut or a rough cut mower.
Finish Cut Mowers
Finish cut mowers (also know as trail mowers) are also designed for mowing large grassy areas and could potentially double your cutting area if paired with a garden tractor. They include a high-powered engine mounted on top of a large cutting deck that can easily rip through thick grass and small twigs, leaving a finished cut..
Pull-behind finish cut mowers have three different cutting widths:
- 44 inches
- 60 inches
- 66 inches
The articulating hitch on a finish cut mower allows you to offset it from the center of your tractor so that you can use both the mower deck on your tow vehicle (if so equipped) and the cutting deck of the finish cut mower in a side-by-side manner to increase the total cutting width.
For example, with a 42" deck and a 60" finish cut mower offset behind it, all of a sudden you're mowing 8.5 feet in a single pass! Models that have this articulating hitch can also be used for mowing ditches or reaching areas under low hanging trees.
Finish Cut Blades
The 44" finish cut tow-behind mowers have two cutting blades, while the 60" and 66" models are equipped with three blades. The more these blades overlap, the higher the quality of cut you'll receive.
Look for decks with anti-scalping wheels, which prevent the mower from taking gouges out of your lawn as it passes over uneven terrain. You can tow these mowers up to 5 miles per hour, but any faster and you will compromise the quality of cut.
A tow-behind finish cut mower will keep your lawn looking great. But if you have high grass, weeds, or brush that needs to be tamed, you'll need a rough cut mower.
Rough Cut Mowers
If you've got some wild, overgrown property that you'd like to tame, you'll need the machete-like cutting action of a rough cut mower, sometimes called a tow-behind brush mower. Its powerful engines are designed to thresh thick brush off the beaten path with no problem.
Tow-behind rough cut mowers (also known as trail cutters) use either one or two steel cutting bars that swing back and forth to cut vegetation up to three inches in diameter. They include an articulating hitch that can be offset to the left or right of your towing vehicle.
This is important when cutting through brush so you don't have to drive directly through the wilderness. It's also useful when mowing under low hanging trees or in ditches.
While these pull-behind mowers are capable of cutting through heavy brush, understand that they're not effective for cutting grass lawns.