Here, I’ll take a close look at the key features that are common to most types of lawn mower.
Push or self-propelled
One choice you need to make is whether you want a mower that drives itself or one that needs you to provide the driving force.
Push mowers are cheaper and if you have a small flat lawn, then they’ll probably be fine fine for you. But, if you have a lawn of any size, a self-propelled mower is likely to be a good investment in saving you time and energy.
Front or rear wheel drive
On self propelled lawn mowers, the drive power may be applied to the front or the rear wheels.
If you have a lawn with slopes or bumps, you’d be well advised to buy a lawn mower with rear wheel drive. Front wheel drive mowers have little traction on slopes and also lose grip over bumpy ground and even when you turn (if you lift the wheels as you do so).
In most cases, therefore, rear wheel drive models are preferable.
While we’re on wheels, you’ll also find that mowers with equal sized wheels at front and rear (see, for example, the Honda pictured) are easier to maneuver and turn and have greater all round stability as you mow.
If the wheels are not equally sized, try to avoid a large differential in sizes.
Look for a decent range of cutting heights because for you’ll probably want to vary the height of cut at different times of the year or to suit and personal preference you may have as to how high you want to keep your grass.
Also try to find a mower with a simple and easily accessible height adjustment mechanism. On some models height can be adjusted in a single action, others require adjustments to be made to front and rear wheel heights separately.
There are 3 basic types of grass discharge – side discharge, mulching and bagging.
Side discharge (believe or not :)) means that the clippings are discharged to the side of the mower as you mow. What you want from a side discharge action is an even spread of clippings with no clumps.
If clippings are left in clumps, your lawn is likely to suffer damage because light is obscured from the grass beneath the clumps and the leaves are unable to photosynthesize.
So, if your mower leaves clumps of clippings and you want to avoid damage to your lawn, you are put to the added effort of raking out the grass clippings.
Side discharge is the best means of dealing with your clippings when cutting long grass.
Mulching is where the grass clipping are cut up very finely within the mower deck and deposited back onto the lawn. The benefit of this is that the clipping provide nutrient value to the lawn as they decay. You are also spared the trouble of having to dispose of clippings if bagging is your only other option.
With a good mulching action the clippings are cut fine, dispersed evenly and driven down amongst the stems of the lawn.
If you are left with clumps or excess clippings on the surface, you will again face the risk of damage to your lawn for the reasons referred to above.
The bagging option pretty much speaks for itself – clippings are deposited in a collection bag as you mow.
Even so, some models are more efficient at this than others. Watch out for models where the bag intake chute begins to clog before the bag is full or where quantities of clipping are left on the ground as you disconnect the bag for emptying
It also make sense to get a model with a decent size bag so that you minimize the amount of times you have to empty it.
Some lawn mowers give you the option of all 3 discharge methods (3 in 1), some give you 1 or 2 options.
The HRX Series of Honda mowers even have a system, called the ‘Versimow’ system, that allows you mix bagging and mulching at the same time- i.e. you mulch some of your clippings and bag the rest.
You should note that most mowers are not good at every method. Therefore try to identify which option you are likely to want to use most and find a mower that is most proficient in that mode.
Most consumer lawn mowers have cutting widths falling between 14 and 22 inches.
Clearly, the wider the cutting deck, the more grass you cut in one go and the more quickly you’ll get the mowing job done.
However, if you have limited storage space, narrow access ways or lots of narrow twists and turns to mow around, you may need to settle for a mower with a smaller deck.
Summing up lawn mower comparison
These are the main features to be aware of on most mowers that you might contemplate buying.
Once you have decided whether you are likely to go for a gas mower, an electric mower or a cordless mower, you can give some thought to the other important features that are specific to each of those lawn mower types. The following pages will help you:
- How to buy the best gas powered lawn mower
- How to buy the best electric lawn mower
- How to buy the best cordless electric lawn mower
- Cordless lawn mower comparison
- Top gas powered lawn mowers compared side by side
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