Zero-turning-radius mowers are available in two configurations: mid-mount decks (Figure 1) and front-mount decks (Figure 2). Some manufacturers offer both types.
Each configuration has advantages and disadvantages, and each has proponents. Mid-mount decks are much more popular than front-mount decks. Many manufacturers also offer front-mount decks on vehicles that have steerable rear wheels controlled by a steering wheel. Those machines are not true zero-turning-radius mowers; they are versatile and have short turning radii but cannot spin around their centers. They are best suited to larger turf areas with minimal trimming requirements. They tend to be more expensive than true zero-turning-radius machines.
Mowers with front-mount decks tend to be a little more stable since they have longer wheelbases. In general, front-mount models tend to have lower centers of gravity also. Nevertheless, either type of mower should be equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) in case of an overturn.
The extra length that makes front-mount models more stable can be a disadvantage when the mower must be hauled on a truck or trailer; however, the deck folds up on some models to eliminate this disadvantage. The more compact mid-mount models may have an advantage here, because they take up less space on a truck or trailer. Because they are shorter, the mid-mount models can maneuver better in tight places.
Mowing Under Obstacles
Front-mount decks are better able to mow under fences, trees and other low-hanging obstacles since the area over the deck is clear. Mid-mount decks generally have some clear overhang on the sides and front, but not as much as front-mount decks.
Mowing Around Obstacles
Operators differ on this one. Some operators think front-mount decks are better for trimming since the deck swings around in front of the mower; other operators prefer maneuvering a mid-mount deck around trees and bushes. Since both types of machine have a zero turning radius, either can trim effectively.
Front-mount decks can be readily replaced by optional attachments such as aerators or rotary brushes. Mid-mount decks generally do not accommodate these attachments.
Ease of Service
Some front-mount decks can be tilted up for under-deck service. This is normally not possible with mid-mount mowers, but some mid-mount mowers allow the whole machine to be tilted up on a leg.
In summary, personal preference plays a major role in choosing between mid-mount and front-mount zero-turning-radius mowers. Either type of mower can do a good job of mowing and trimming. You just have to pick the one that best suits your needs and mowing style.