Excerpt from my ebook Growing Great Lawns
I’m asked from time to time what is the best kind of lawn mower to buy, so with Christmas right around the corner, I thought I would put my suggestions in writing. A new lawnmower under the tree could make someone very happy, and you will get the best prices on mowers this time of year. Spring and Summer are the main buying seasons for mowers, and believe me, that’s when the retailers bump their prices up. In the Fall and Winter you can get some great deals.
Although I have my favorites, I don’t want to suggest a specific brand here because I haven’t used them all, and some brands are only available regionally; but I will tell you the elements I look for when I go mower shopping.
First let me pass on one of my father’s favorite sayings: “Only a rich man can afford cheap tools.” His point was that if you buy a quality product, you will only need to buy it once, but if you buy a low quality tool then you will probably need to purchase a second or a third when the cheap product breaks down. Keep that advice in mind when mower shopping.
Now, you probably want to know which style lawn mower I suggest – reel-style or rotary-style? The only time I recommend a reel-style mower is if you have a very small lawn or if you have a putting green in your near future. If this doesn’t describe your situation, I suggest that you get a power rotary mower. Besides, reel-style mowers are for very specific grasses, so I almost always suggest a rotary-style.
Next question is whether you should get a self-propelled or push type mower. If you have a very small lawn then get a push type. It will save you a hundred bucks or more on the purchase price, some cash on gas or electricity, and pushing it will give you a bit of exercise. If you have a medium or a large lawn (over 500 sq ft.), definitely get a self-propelled type. You will thank me in the heat of the summer, and you can always shut off the self-propelled control and push the mower if you need some exercise.
We all want to be as green as we can, so you may be wondering if you should get an electric or gas lawn mower. This one’s easy. Don’t waste your time with an electric lmower. They don’t have enough power, and I guarantee that you will run over the electrical cord at some point.
Many people want to know what size mower to buy. In case you didn’t know, lawnmowers come in various sizes. The size refers to the width of the deck or the width of the area cut when you make one pass across the lawn. Common sizes are 18 inches to 24 inches wide. For larger laws areas, you may want to consider a riding mower or a commercial sized 36” walk-behind mower. I don’t discuss the larger mowers here, but I do in my new eBook Lawn care and Gardening Equipment Basics that I am writing for the Rainforth Home and Garden “Great Gardens Simplified” series. For a normal-sized residential home lawn, I suggest a 21- to 24-inch deck. The decks come in different materials. I prefer a steel deck to aluminum, and I would never buy a lawnmower with a plastic deck because they are dangerous in my opinion.
Horse power would be your next concern. Most manufactures offer a variety of motor sizes. I prefer the larger motors, in the 4.5 hp to 5 hp range. The standard motor is usually 3.5 hp to 4 hp, but I think the larger sizes last longer and make the work easier if you can afford them. You will probably also have an option on which motor manufacturers to choose from. The two most common are Briggs & Stratton and Honda. Honda motors have a reputation of lasting longer, so if it were not more than a $50.00 upgrade, I would go for the Honda – but Briggs is a fine product too.
If you like a very neat lawn or if you like to compost, you’ll want to look into catching your clippings. I would almost always go with a mower that has a grass catcher over one that does not. The new recycling mowers are nice, but there are many times when I will want to bag my clippings, and most lawn grows better if you catch the clippings and remove them. If you have a turf type lawn that doesn’t require that the clippings be picked up, such as Bahia (southern states), you can always take the bag off. Just make sure it has a deflector so that when you use your lawn mower without a bag you don’t send rocks and debris flying everywhere. The recycling mowers have a special design that really chops up the clippings and spits them back down onto the grass. This usually won’t be a problem, but if you have a bluegrass, ryegrass, or fescue lawn, you should get a mower with an option to catch or not. During most of the growing season you will want to capture the clippings and take them to the composter, but certain times of the year, when the lawn is growing very slowly, you can get by without bagging the clippings. I suggest you just get one that has the option to catch.
You will have to decide if you want to buy your mower in a traditional store or online. I’ve always purchased my mowers from a store or paper catalog (commercial mowers), but as long as your online retailer has a reasonable return policy, and the mower has all the elements you’re looking for, I really wouldn’t have a problem with buying on the Internet.
So to recap, here are my suggestions in a nutshell:
- 4.5 or 5 horse power Honda engine (Briggs & Stratton is fine)
- Gasoline engine
- 21 inch steel deck
- Grass catcher with a recycling option
I hope that this helps you in your search. If you have questions or need further assistance just send me a note or post a comment here.