Lawn Mowers Buying Guide

Lawn Mowers
  • Getting Started

  • Whether you've got a tennis court or a small lawn, there is a mower that fits your needs. If you don't have a mower or are considering an upgrade, read this guide to find a good deal.

  • Types of Lawnmowers

  • Even though you can find many different types on the market, fundamentally they all fit into these four categories: manual-reel mowers, self-propelled mowers, push mowers, and robotic mowers.

    Manual-Reel Mowers

    These are old-school cutters that need your energy to be moved. You just need to push it to turn a series of blades and that's it. This is a perfect mower for environmentally-conscious owners. They don't pollute and you don't have to store gas, charge battery or plug in a power cord. They are cheaper than others, quite safe and don't make noise. Besides, you'll get a nice workout unless you choose the more expensive option that has a motor and can spin the blades while you push.

    From the other hand, manual-reel mowers can't cut grass taller than 1.5 inches and it also can't trim closer than 3-5 inches around the obstacles. Cutting swaths are often small varying from 14 to 18 inches wide. Besides, some models don't disburse clippings like other types of mowers, so you'll need a rake or a bag. And be prepared for serious pushing if you allow your lawn grass grow for too long.

    The upkeep of manual-reel mowers is inexpensive and requires a simple sharpening and blade adjustment that you can do yourself. It's best for small lawns but if you have something from medium to large you may want to rethink your choice.

    Self-Propelled Mowers

    These mowers mostly come in gas, but you can also find electric models that use a battery or a cord, but they usually quickly eat up a charge. Gas models usually feature a four-strike engine. Most of them can easily handle thick and long grass and weeds, cut a 22-inch swath, and allow you to bad or mulch clippings. Besides, electrics don't produce emissions. Self-propelled mowers, however, are quite noisy. If you move uphill with a bag of clipping expect the most traction. Moreover, mowers with AWD are hard to push.

    Electric models only require blade sharpening, while gas mowers will need oil changes and tune-ups. Self-propelled mowers are the most popular choice for many home owners as they perform well and are easier to operate than manual-reel mowers.

    Push Mowers

    Push mowers come in electric and gas models. The gas ones are often equipped with a four-stroke engine. Electric models use a motor to turn blades. Just like the previous type of mowers, these can also cut 22-inch swath and can handle thick and long grass and weeds, can side-discharge and bag clippings. Electronic models can be cord or cordless and they start with push-button ease. Most of the push mowers offer a mulching mode and a rear bag to finely cut clippings and fertilize grass as they decompose. Modern cordless mowers can last longer than previous models but they are also more expensive.

    Just like self-propelled mowers, these are quite noisy and you may need ear protection. Gas models also produce emissions. Besides, plan for regular oils changes and tune-ups if you choose the gas model. Electrical models only need blade shaping. Push mowers work best for medium to small lawns without incline.

    Robotic Mowers

    Robotic mowers aren't used widely as they are the newest models on the market. They simply buzz along within an allowed perimeter. These robots are specifically designed to crisscross randomly, changing direction every time they reach an obstacle or the wire, and many models also can return to a charge station automatically. Once you have a schedule, your mower will start without your help - although it's better if someone can check on it from time to time. Robotic mowers are environmentally-friendly.

    However, you will need to set up a perimeter wire and decide on mower's boundaries. You should remove all the obstacles before it can properly work. Their performance also varies and they after cut worse than conventional mowers, while the price is always higher.

    Robotic mowers don't need any special upkeep, just cleaning and blade sharpening. They are perfect for those who have an obstacle-free, flat lawn and can supervise the mower.

  • Specifications and Features

  • Depending on how much you are ready to spend on a mower, there is a wide selection of specs and features available. Don't go for those that you won't need - it's best to cut costs on unnecessary options.

    Mower size

    Size is one of the most important considerations. A small garden can benefit from an electric or a hand push mower. Medium and large lawns will probably require a motor but if you have an extra-large lawn and awkwardness of a wire following you everywhere could make you consider petrol machine or cordless electric. If you don't care about the power cable, just make sure it's enough to extend to the end of your lawn.

    The way mower treats clippings

    Mowers have three ways they can deal with clippings. They can discharge them out the deck, mulch (cut clippings into smaller particles) or collect everything in a bag. There are models that have all three functions, and those with two of them. If you need versatility, go for a three-function model.

    Removable battery

    For cordless models, this is a useful option because the battery often lasts longer. Besides, it's easier to tote it inside, especially if you store the mower outdoors. Newer models have modern engines that allow you to detach the battery and charge indoors.

    Engine type

    Regular mower engine range usually ranges from 140-cc to 190-cc. If you have tough cutting conditions like high grass, bagging, or leaf mulching go for an engine with a large capacity. At the moment there are for engine types specifically manufactured for mowers. The least expensive model that many go for is a side-valve (the valves are and the engine block are on the same side). Thos engine has been slowly replaced by models with overhead valves, where the valves and the cams are in the cylinder head. There is also a direct-overhead-valve model. They are more expensive, but you get reduced emissions, quiet mowing, less vibration and you can save on fuel.

    Drive control

    There are four ways that allow mowers control their drive system:

        •  A metal rod or a bail that you should squeeze against the handle

        •  A lever that you should push with your finger

        •  A level that you should squeeze against the handle, like a hand brake you can see on a bike

        •  A telescoping handle that you should push forward or release pressure to increase or decrease speed respectively.

    Choosing drive control will influence the level of comfort and can affect the way you mower maneuvers. If you need to cut around landscape features and plants, have a lot of obstacles or just will do a lot of maneuvering with back and forth motion, you should choose a lever-operated model. You can stop the drive system and pull, push or pivot under different obstacles. A bail drive control and other systems are better for clean lawns and open areas.

    Air filter

    Check that you can easily remove the cover of the air filter. More expensive models offer pleated-paper, large air filters with a huge surface area. These are better if you have dusty or dirty conditions, or if you're planning to do a lot of mulching in the fall. Cheaper models usually have a piece of foam and use clean engine oil.

    Front caster wheels

    Front caster wheels can be useful when you need advanced maneuverability. However, they're not convenient if you need to adjust the cutting height since the front wheels should be separately adjusted when you lower or raise the deck.

    Wash-out fitting

    Many modern mowers offer a wash-out nozzle that allows you connect a hose to the deck and easily wash accumulated clippings from the deck. Cheaper options require you to thread the hose onto the nozzle.

  • Cost Considerations

  • Once you go to buy a new mower you'll see the cost depends upon its size, specs and features mentioned above, the variability of the terrain and the manufacturer. Let's take, for example, a regular mower with a simple cut and edge for 6,000 sq.ft. The average price would be around $150, but if you want to have a cordless model, you should add $300-350 more to the price. Besides, electronic mowers are often cheaper than those that require petrol.