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Selecting the Right Lawn Mower

Just because a machine cuts grass doesn't mean that it's the best lawn mower for you. Expect to pay between $120 — $700 for non-riding models

  • Decide between manual, gas or electric. Manuals work great for very small lawns. Electric mowers that must be connected to an outlet have a range of about 100' with extension cords. Battery operated mowers can go further, but may require more frequent recharging.

    • Manual push reel mowers are less expensive to purchase with minimal noise and no pollution whatsoever. Select a push reel mower (cuts with a scissor-like action of rotating blades passing over a stationary knife) if you have a small lawn. They do require extensive manual exertion and you absolutely can't let the grass get tall between cuttings.
      As a youngster I was responsible for the lawn and all we had was a manual push mower. I dreaded going on the family vacation because I knew when we returned the lawn would be about 6" high and I would have to cut it with a scythe before I could even attempt to cut it with the manual reel mower.

    • Gas mowers are noisier (90 decibels), cost more to run, and pollute the air. They handle medium large lawns exceptionally well. Do require yearly maintenance to change oil, plugs, and filters. Range from 3.5 — 7 horsepower.

    • Electric mowers are quieter (65 — 85 decibels) with less apparent air pollution. Range from 6 — 12 amps.

  • Calculate the size of lawn you'll be cutting. Electric mowers typically have smaller cutting widths, 14" — 18". Gas mowers range from 18" — 22".

  • Understand how thick and robust your grass is. Lawns with very thick, fast growing turf require more powerful mowers. For gas it means more horsepower. For electric it means more amps.

  • Self-propelled mowers put power to the wheels. Consider self-propelled mowers if your lawn is hilly, sloping or large. There are various types that go from 1 speed to multi-speeds and some that go with you.

  • Electric start features. Cost about $100 more and are really unnecessary unless you have a physical handicap that restricts your arm movement. New gas mowers with the pull-type recoil rope will usually start with one or two pulls.

Features to look for:

  • Cast-aluminum housings known as decks, won't rust and they cost more than stamped-steel decks.

  • Premium engine brands (i.e. Honda) can add as much as $200 to the price

  • Side discharge is ok if you don't bag. Bags that attach on the side make it difficult to maneuver around items such as bushes, trees, etc.

  • Rear discharge is preferred if you do bag on occasion

  • Mulching option chops grass blades into small bits— works great if you don't cut the lawn wet and the grass isn't too tall. Consider doing both: grass recycling and grass mulching. Recycle clippings to a compost pile during the spring and mulch the clippings back into the lawn during the summer months with growth rates are typically slower.

  • Front or rear wheel drives: Rear wheel drives on self-propelled mowers gives better traction for hills and large areas. Front wheel drive offers easier maneuvering in small yards.