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Cutting it Down to Size: Tips for Buying the Best Lawn Mower

From manual to gas-powered and self-propelled, buying the right lawn mower has a lot to do with your budget and your lawn.
lawn mowers

The grass may actually be greener on the other side: Your neighbor might tend to his lawn on the regular, finding that manicuring the lawn, trimming hedges, and pulling weeds are a well spent afternoon in the sun. To make the most of your own lawn care chores, you'll first want to make sure you've got the best lawn mower for your property.

Consider Your Needs and Compare Lawn Mower Types

The first decision you'll need to make is how you will mow your yard: Will you walk or ride your mower? Consumer Reports suggests that if your lawn is greater than a half-acre (a lot approximately 220 feet by 100 feet) you should consider a riding mower. If your lot is smaller but you really like to ride, you're still allowed to buy a riding mower; just be prepared for eye-rolling looks from your neighbors. But otherwise consider a walking mower. You can choose between a motor-powered or man-powered lawn mower; gas or electric; battery or corded, self-propelled or push, and more.

Before you get to cutting, you'll also want to define how you plan to use your mower. Are you a bagger who collects your clippings? A mulcher who wants a machine that chops the cut blades of grass into tiny confetti bits that fall to the ground and nourish the lawn? A side-discharger, who'd like the clippings blown out of the side of the mower and lets them remain where they fall? And finally, consider the terrain you're cutting. A 15-degree slope is roughly the maximum angle you can cut safely. But remember, if your lawn does have a lot of slopes you might not want to be lugging a behemoth mower up and down it.

So, what's the best lawn mower for your needs? Read on for further details about each type.

Manual Reel Mowers

Many new homeowners are drawn to the bucolic charm of the manual reel mower, as it was the standard among households in the first half of the previous century. These push mowers emit no pollution, make little noise, require little upkeep, and can be had at a fraction of the cost of a power mower.

But cutting grass with a manual mower is hard work, especially if the grass needs more than a 1" haircut. These machines also don't trim close to objects like trees, so even basic landscaping requires some hand-trimming.

Corded Electric Mowers

People who are concerned about pollution often opt for an electric lawn mower: they are effortless to start and maintain, run quieter, and many models mulch, bag, and side-discharge.

There are some disadvantages to this type of mower though, the primary being the awkwardness of wrestling with the cord — and trying not to cut it. Moreover, these lawn mowers are only as powerful as the current they can draw from your home wiring and accordingly don't handle long grass very well. They're also designed to cut a narrower swath of grass compared to more highly-powered models, thereby increasing the time it takes to mow.

Electric Battery Mowers

This type of electric mower is cord-free, operating from a battery enclosed in the housing. Less cumbersome than corded models, these mowers can start at the flip of a switch and just need to be plugged in to recharge. Electric battery mowers are also emission-free at point-of-use. The downsides here are that, for many models, the recharge time can be close to a full day, and the battery is heavy, making the mower more cumbersome to push.

Gas-Powered Mowers

There is a lot to be said for today's modern gas-powered mowers. They are efficient, powerful, durable, and dependable when properly maintained. Some even come with electric starters, which alleviate the user from the old rope-yanks. Yet these machines are still noisy, which is why you should wear ear protection while mowing. And while we're at it, eye protection is also a good idea, since mowers can kick up small pebbles and other debris.

Most gas lawn mowers are powerful enough to cut yards that have been allowed to grow a bit beyond ideal, so don't be sucked into a horsepower competition with your neighbors. Instead, look for a lawn mower that has side-discharge, bagging, and mulching options included, not as additional purchases. A washout port (the place to screw in a hose and wash out the cutting chamber after you mow) is also a useful feature, as is a blade brake, which allows you to empty the clippings bag without stopping the mower. Plus, padded grips help avoid numb hands.

But no matter the bells and whistles, be prepared to maintain your gas powered mower with regular blade sharpening, oil changes, filter cleaning, and spark plug replacement.

Self-Propelled Gas Mowers

If you don't fancy shoving a heavy mower around your lawn all day, you might consider investing in a self-propelled version of the walking mower. It harnesses the power of the mower to pull itself along the yard and vastly reduces the amount of work necessary to manicured the grass.

In weighing the cost of any lawn care service — which could charge upwards of $30 a week — it makes economical sense to invest in your own lawn mower. And with the right mower, cutting the grass doesn't have to feel like much of a chore, and it'll leave you with some extra green!

Contributing Writer

Tom Barlow is a freelance journalist specializing in lifestyle and consumer issues. In addition to DealNews, his writing has appeared on many websites, including and Aol’s
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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This article leaves quite a bit to be desired.

First off, the stock photo in the overview to this article shows a robotic mower. There is zilch about those in the article. What about hover-mowers, what about sit-down mowers?
If you change the oil, or at least never let the oil get too low, the good ol' Briggs and Stratton mower engine will last forever. Occasionally, the air filter needs a soapy wash, and the richness/mix screw needs a little adjusting.

If, after several years, you find that adjusting the mix screw won't make the engine hum any more, then you probably have a torn diaphram in the carburetor on top of the gas tank. It's a $3 part, but a little hard to find and only requires some screw driver work to replace.
This is an okay overview of the mower types. I was hoping for something a little more in depth about the relative merits of specific mowers.

All of the gasoline powered mowers I have seen lately mount the front wheels on a plastic housing, instead of on a sturdy steel deck. This means that within a few years, the body of the mower will be irretrievably broken, even if the engine still works.

When my mower's deck cracked and bent at the handle's attachment point, I disassembled it and took it to a welder for repair. It cost me a good percentage of a new mower's price, but I've had this mower for 18 years and my Dad had it for many years before that. It's from Montgomery Wards -- how long since they went out of business.
Last Fall, my old mower died and finding a new one locally was impossible since all the retailers had started to stock snow blowers. I ended up buying a highly rated self-propelled Honda on line. All I had to do was put oil and gas into it and miraculously, it started up without a problem. I got a good deal and it was shipped free to my door. Highly recommend you consider an online retailer who specializes in these kind of machines. I used, but there are others - depends on the brand you are interested in.