Mowing the lawn can be really easy if you have the right mower. There are essentially 4 different types of lawn mowers to choose from - gas powered, electric mowers, lawn tractors, and zero turn radius mowers. The most common are the gas mowers that are best suited for lawns smaller than 1/2 acre in size. The self-propelled models from Honda and Toro lead the pack. Electric mowers are convenient in that you don't have to add gas or oil, they produce no exhaust fumes or emissions, and are fairly quiet. Electric lawn mowers also never need tuneups and the push button starting mechanisms are great. You can even get cordless electric lawn mowers than run on battery packs which last up to 45 minutes on newer models. Lawn tractors are best for lawns that are over 1/2 acre and we will go into those in a separate article. The last type of lawn mower are the zero turn radius models, or otherwise referred to as ZTR mowers. They work best on flat lawns that are 1/2 acre or larger that have obstacles to move around like trees, shrubs, fence posts, and patios. The rear-wheel steering capabilities on these ZTR's make them very adept in tight spots.
Pricing varies greatly from style to style. Gas powered mowers that are considered "push style" are from $150 to $400 and the self-propelled models run between $200 and $700. Electric mowers that have cords are $200 to $300 and the cordless mowers are $300 to $400. Black and Decker and Homelite offer the best electric mowers on the market. As for zero turn radius mowers, you are looking at spending at least $2900 and maybe up to $4000. ZTRs are more expensive than the lawn tractors and they are not recommended for hilly terrain since steering then becomes an issue. Almost all gas powered mowers are so noisy that experts recommend using ear protection while mowing. The Snapper RP2167519BDV, per Consumer Reports, was the noisiest of all engines. The type of mower you pick should be based on the size of your lawn and the way your yard slopes (if it does at all). Almost all mowers can mulch, bag, or side-discharge lawn clippings. The ZTR mowers may require that you buy accessories to like a mulching kit. Other features to consider are blade-brake clutch which turns off the blade but not the engine, easier starting mechanisms like electric starters, variable drive speeds, one-lever height adjustment to lower or raise the mowers deck, rear-wheel drive, and a quality engine (look for overhead valves or camshaft). The one option I think is the most convenient is being able to empty the clippings bag without turning off the engine. My mower doesn't allow that and I am always having to restart the mower each time I want to dump the bag. Don't buy an electric push mower unless you have a relatively small and flat yard since these are not as powerful as the gas mowers which do quick work of regular sized lawns and aren't any more expensive. In terms of reliability, Troy-Bilt and Honda are tops in self-propelled models while John Deere is the worst. For push mowers, Honda and Craftsman take top billing for least repairs necessary and Lawn-Boy is overwhelmingly last. We found some excellent in depth reviews done by Consumer Reports and Popular Mechanics. You can read owner feedback on mowers posted at Sears.com (Craftsman) and in the Landscaping section About.com. Lowes and Home Depot carry brands like Bolens, Troy-Bilt, Black & Decker and Yard Machines with customer ratings and comparisons listed on their websites for specific models. The Consumer Reports tests were the most in depth since they tested for evenness, mulching, bagging, side discharge, handling, ease of use, rear-drive, and speeds. Some of the the "best picks" are listed below when comparing all findings. BUYING ADVICE - We have shopped online for year with Amazon and feel like they have a solid selection of lawn mowers on their website. You can see the most popular gas powered mowers here.
Best Lawn Mower:
Remember that more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better, but if you have the cash and want the best, then go with the Honda HRX217HXA ($700) which is a gas powered and self-propelled lawn mower. The 6.5 HP engine will surely make quick work of your lawn and leave time for more relaxation on the weekends. It scored well in all areas with exceptional mulching, bagging, and ease of use. For a more reasonably priced gas mower, go with the Toro 20076 ($460) which is hundreds cheaper than the Honda and performs almost as well (does better at side discharging). The 20076 from Toro has the blade-brake clutch which we mentioned above so you can conveniently empty the bag while the motor is still running. Toro also received good ratings for reliability and is less repair prone than other brands like Yard Machines and Lawn-Boy. BEST - The Lawn-Boy 10642 20-Inch 6.5 GT Briggs & Stratton Gas Powered Lawn Mower is a top rated gas mower with variable speed rear wheel drive self propel, a 20 inch cutting deck, and the capability to bag, mulch or discharge the grass clippings. This reliable mower is one that customers have voted the top selling on Amazon. Features electric start.
Zero Turn Radius Lawn Mowers:
ZTRs are great for yards that don't just have one big slab of lawn. Zero turn radius lawn mowers can maneuver like no other and work around tight spots without a problem as the rear-wheels turn you around in circles if you like. Although they are expensive, you will find that the ability to pass over all areas of your lawn once will cut down on mowing time compared to having to use a lawn tractor or gas powered mower in and out of trees or fence posts. The tight turning John Deere Z225 ($2900) is a perfect running zero turn radius mower with a 42-inch cutting deck and fine bagging ability. The Z225 cuts very evenly although experts say it takes a few times on the machine to get the hang of the twin levers that turn these ZTRs so tightly. John Deere has a great reputation with lawn tractors in terms of repairs and it seems that same craftsmanship has been put into their ZTRs. Another model that is slightly cheaper and performs just as well is the Toro Z5000 ($2800). The one benefit of the Toro over the John Deere is that the cutting area is 50 inches which means less time on the mower. The bagging and mulching kits will cost additional on both models ($370 and $500 respectively). You can find out more details at Toro.com and Deere.com.
Top Rated Walk Behind Mower:
Homeowners that have flat yards and still want gas powered should consider the Cub Cadet 11A-18MC ($230) which is a gas push mower. Consumer Reports rates this model as a 'best buy' with a 19 inch cutting path and a durable engine. The Cub Cadet lawn mower handles and maneuvers just fine and will take on smaller lawns with no problems. The Yard Machines 11A-546B ($230) is a close 2nd for gas powered push mowers although their long term reliability is still in question versus Toro or Honda. BEST - Talk about a top performer, the Poulan Pro 22-inch 625 Series Briggs & Stratton Gas Powered gets excellent customer feedback and owners say this self propelled mower is easy to maneuver. Features front wheel drive, an electric start, a 22 inch cutting deck with 5 position height adjusters, and a solid Briggs and Stratton engine. We were a bit surprised to see Poulan rated so high, but their new line of gas mowers have really done well in tests by experts and now consumers are learning about their benefits. Probably the best in this class of mowers for the price.
Ok, so you have a small lawn and can't justify firing up a gas powered mower to do the work. That's perfectly understood and who would want to walk behind a loud gas mower anyways if given an option. The Black & Decker MM875 is a corded electric lawn mower that rates very good at mulching, bagging, side discharging, and is easy to use. The price is not cheap, but given you never have to add gas or oil and it doesn't require yearly tuneups like gas powered mowers, you will save quite a bit in the long run. If cords are not your thing (I personally thing they can be dangerous), then go with the cordless electric Homelite UT13122 ($300). The convenience factor is why this mower costs more than the Black & Decker, and it still functions just fine at cutting your grass. BEST - Although the MM875 is a great choice, we think the Black & Decker LM175 is another excellent option. Odds are if you are using an electric mower you probably don't have that much grass to cut in the first place. The 6.5 amp motor on the LM 175 is more than powerful enough to handle smaller lawns. The 18 inch cutting path and 100 foot range along with easy height adjustments make this an award winning mower. Also, you never have to worry about tune ups, adding gas or oil. Black & Decker has a solid history in mowers and their electric lawn mowers have no competition.