Tips on picking the right mower to keep your lawn trimmed.
A lot of people already have taken their lawn mowers out of storage and given them a couple of workouts.
How did the mower perform? Is it time to buy another? If it is a gas-powered mower, are you thinking about switching to electric, or to battery power, or an old-fashioned push mower?
If it’s time to buy a new lawn mower, here are some things to consider, no matter which side of the push/electric/gasoline debate you’re on.
Chore or joy: Do you enjoy mowing the lawn, or does it become a chore after the first few outings? Would it be worth it to hire the neighbor’s kid or to contract with a service? If you like mowing or think that the exercise, even in the dog days of August, is what the doctor ordered — wear a hat — then doing it yourself is the way to go.
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Choose the right size: How big is your yard? How much is lawn and how much garden? Is the surface smooth or bumpy from stones? Are there places always in the shade or wetlands where moss, not grass, predominates? Would you have to run over tree roots? How easy would it be to mow around trees, bushes, walls, and similar obstacles? Is your lawn level or does it slope up or down? If it runs uphill, it might be easier to deal with it using a self-propelled machine.
Stow and go: The mower will have to be stored somewhere, which means finding a less-than-backbreaking way to get it in and out. You won’t want to maneuver a heavy, gas-powered mower up and down the basement stairs, and you really should have a garage or a storage shed with a ramp if your lawn requires a ride-on mower. You’ll also need a place to store the gasoline and oil — and you don’t want to do that near the furnace.
Rear or side bag: The bag on most lawn mowers is in the rear, right underneath the handle. They hold two to three times more grass clippings than a side bag.
Don’t go cheap: What you can afford to spend should be factored in along with the kind of mower you and your lawn deserve. Depending on the type, lawn mowers range from the manual-push variety at $80 to ride-on tractors that can cost up to $6,000. Typically, $300 to $700 can get you an electric, battery-powered, or gasoline-powered mower that suits most lawns.
The reel thing: If you’re nostalgic, fitness-minded, or environmentally sensitive, the human-powered reel mower could be the one for you. Whether you push or a gas engine pushes for you, reel mowers use blades on a revolving cylinder to shear the blades of grass. Rotary mowers bend the grass first, then cut it. Rotary action is best for those who let their grass grow for weeks before cutting it.
Push vs. self-propelled: Regardless of which energy source powers your mower, you’ll have a choice between pushing it as the engine whirs or simply guiding the mower across the lawn. As you might expect, self-propelled mowers cost more. Two desirable features on self-propelled models are a blade-brake clutch — which allows you to pause to pick up a kid’s toys but lets the engine run so you won’t need to restart — and a single-lever height adjustment for the proper cut.
Powered with gas: These include both push and self-propelled models, most with four-stroke engines and a cutting swath 21 or 22 inches wide. They are noisy, require regular maintenance, and, though federal rules have reduced emissions, still pollute more than others do.
It’s electric: These are push-and-walk-behind mowers, with an electric motor driving a rotating blade. Corded and cordless versions start easily with the push of a button or flip of a switch, produce no exhaust, and have interchangeable blades. Mowers with cords are limited by distance from the electrical outlet, and there’s always an opportunity to run over the cord. Cordless, battery-operated models are improving, but you must remember to charge the battery — typically 24 hours for a complete charge.