How to buy the best lawn mower: the definitive guide

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in Lawn Mowers

Best lawn mower honda HRX217

I remember when I first bought a lawn mower.

I had my own garden for the first time but I wasn’t really interested in gardening and I knew nothing about lawn mowers.

All I knew was that I now had some grass and that it needed to be cut.

And I can still remember the feeling of being overwhelmed and utterly confused when I started looking at all the different lawn mower options.

How did I know which lawn mower I should buy? Did I need a cylinder mower, a rotary mower, gas powered, electric, push or self-propelled?

What size did I need?

What features should it have? What features could I do without?

Of course that was a long time ago, when lawn mowers were less feature-rich than they are now – and before the advent of the internet and resources like Outdoorpowerbuddy.com.

But now, if anything, the potential for confusion and overwhelm is probably even greater.

So, if you are looking to buy your first mower or upgrading to a new model, it’s more important than ever to go through a systematic thought process to work out what you need.

That’s what I aim to help you do in this and the related pages on the site.

Did I go through such a systematic process when I bought my first mower?

Of course I didn’t. I was young, impatient and ill-informed.

It took me three attempts to get a lawn mower worth having. Perhaps I can help spare you from a similar waste of time and money.

The essential lawn mower buyers’ questions (the EBQs)

If you’ve read any other parts of this website, you’ll see that I propose that there are certain questions you need to ask yourself before you buy any piece of outdoor power equipment.

I call then the “Essential Buyer’s Questions” or EBQs. Of course they differ for each tool you buy, but these are what I consider to be the lawn mower EBQs.

1. How big is your lawn?

This will help determine a few things.

First, if your lawn is bigger than can comfortably be reached by an extension cord, you can rule out a corded electric lawn mower.

Second, if your lawn is likely to take more than about an hour of mowing time, you can rule out a cordless electric model. The batteries on these things are getting better all the time, and I actually rate them pretty highly, but for now, most won’t last much more than an hour.

Third, the size of your lawn will have a bearing on whether you’ll want to buy a push mower or a self-propelled mower. If you’ve got a lot a lawn to cut, you might lean towards a self-propelled model. That is, unless you particularly want the exercise of pushing.

2. What is your terrain like?

I know, terrain is pretty fancy word to use in this context, but what I’m getting at are the characteristics of your lawn, other than its size.

So – is it uneven? Do you have slopes and inclines? Is the ground boggy? Do you have lots of obstacles like trees, shrubs and flower beds to mow around. As you’ll see, these characteristics will all affect the type of mower you should buy and the features that you’ll need on that mower.

Best lawn mower for lush grass

Lush grass requires a more powerful lawn mower with side discharge capablity

3. What is your grass like?

Is your grass lush and thick? Is it often quite long when you cut it? If so, these factors will have an impact on the amount of power you need and also on the discharge capability.

You’ll need more power for lush and long grass and you’ll need a side discharge option for grass that has been left long.

4. Do you have any environmental restrictions?

Gas powered mowers are obviously noisier that electric models and also produce exhaust emissions. If you have any noise restraints where you are then you may have to go with an electric model.

If you have large lawn that may take longer than an hour to cut, it will be more complex. It that case, you’d need to get a cordless model, of the kind where the battery can be removed, and keep at least one spare battery on charge that you can slot in when needed.

5. Do you have any physical limitations?

Some mowers are simply bigger and heavier than others and therefore harder to maneuver around. Even a self propelled mower needs to be gotten out of the shed or garage. So, if you are not especially physically strong, look carefully at the weight and dimensions of any mower you are considering buying.

Electric models tend to be lighter weight than gas models, but don’t take that as a given. Weight will be affected by materials used (steel decks are heavier than plastic ones, for example) and the presence of certain components. Some batteries on cordless models can really add to the overall weight of the machine.

6. Do you have any interest in or aversion to lawn mower maintenance?

Modern gas powered mowers usually start easily enough. But they still have more complex moving and user serviceable parts than electric models. With a gas model, you will need to top up or change oil, you will need to mix gas and oil on a two stroke (two cycle) model and you may have some starting issues when your mower is unused for some time.

With an electric lawn mower, for the most part, you just need to plug it in. If it’s cordless, you’ll need to make sure the battery is charged.

7. What is your budget?

There are lawn mowers within the different categories to suit most budgets nowadays. But there are a couple of points to consider.

The best gas powered lawn mowers are generally more expensive than the best electric models and the best cordless models are generally more expensive than the best corded electric lawn mowers.

Types of lawn mower

Leaving aside lawn tractors and riding lawn mowers, which I cover in detail on my lawn tractor reviews website Lawn Tractor Buyers Guide, there are 5 basic types of lawn mower.

You’ll find a full run down on buying each particular type of mower, including the key features that you should look out for, if you click on the appropriate red link below.

The first is the reel or cylinder mower. These are usually found as the traditional push along hand mower with spinning blades, although powered reel mowers are available. Reel mowers produce a fine finish but can be easily jammed by sticks and debris.

Next up is the hover mower. These are less common than they were, but are still used for cutting steep slopes, waterfronts or heavily weeded areas.

Third is the gas powered lawn mower. These are the work horses. They give you freedom of movement, power and speed of operation.

Cordless lawn mower from Greenworks

Cordless lawn mower from Greenworks


Fourth is the electric lawn mower. By this, I mean the corded models requiring an extension cord. These are quiet, efficient and easy to use, but keep you firmly tied to your electricity supply.

Finally, there is the cordless lawn mower. As the quality of batteries improve, I’m becoming increasingly impressed with cordless outdoor power equipment. In the right conditions, these are a great tool.

In my view, Greenworks and Black and Decker are the leading brands in this space.

Propulsion

Within the various categories of lawn mower, there is a further sub-division.

This relates to whether the mower is self-propelled or ‘you-propelled’. If your mower is you-propelled (or is a push mower, as it they are more commonly called), then you provide the power for moving the mower around your lawn by pushing it.

With self-propelled mowers, the power source (the engine or electric motor) not only provides the power to turn the cutting blade(s) but also drives the front or rear wheels, relieving you of the effort.

If you have a relatively small, flat lawn then a push mower makes some sense. But, I have to say, your mowing job is made a whole lot easier with a self-propelled lawn mower.

Summing Up

I expect, that if you’ve read this far, you’ll be getting an idea of which kind of mower might suit you best.

Next, to help you firm up your views, I suggest you take a look at the following pages in which I detail the pros cons and key features of each of the different kinds of mowers and compare some of the leading models:

And don’t forget, that you’ll probably need a string trimmer or lawn edger to really finish your lawn beautifully when you’ve mown it.

But, back to matter in hand, if you are looking for a couple of rules of thumb when it comes to buying lawn mowers, try these:

  1. It is generally better to over-buy, than under-buy. What I mean is that a more powerful mower can usually still do the jobs that a less powerful one can do, but the opposite is not true;
  2. Always buy the very best model you can afford. If you have to spend a bit more than you were originally prepared to spend, it may well pay off. The biggest mistake people make (I know, I’ve made it) is to put price before quality. If you get that wrong, you may find it’s not long before you are coming back for the better or more powerful model anyway.

Quick recommendations

If you want some quick recommendations, then here they are.

Gas powered lawn mowers

If you are looking for the best gas lawn mower on the market then you may well find it amongst the Honda mowers range.

The best of the best when it come to consumer level gas powered mowers is probably the Honda HRX217K3HYA. Follow this link for our detailed Honda HRX217K3HYA review.

Another self-propelled mower, but much more keenly priced than the Honda HRX217 is the Lawn Boy mowers 10606 model. This is a pretty high spec machine for a reasonable price. Our full review of this model with a few words on related Lawn Boy mowers is here.

If you are looking for a push mower, again at a lower price than the Honda HRX or the Lawn Boy, then the Husqvarna 7021P lawn mower may be what you need. Check out our full review of this Husqvarna mower here.

Otherwise, look at some of the models featured in the images below. These are all top-rated machines from well-respected brands, most of which are reasonably priced.

Electric lawn mowers

Our top corded electric lawn mower pick is the Black and Decker MM875 Lawn Hog. This model features a 12 amp motor and a 19 inch cutting deck and is perfect for most suburban lawns.

Our top cordless mower pick is also a Black and Decker model, the Black and Decker SPCM1936 cordless mower. This quiet and efficient mower also has a 19 inch deck and is powered by a 36 Volt removable battery.

Follow the links above for full reviews of these models and also check out our comparison of leading cordless lawn mowers.

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About the Author

Martin Cole is editor and publisher of outdoorpowerbuddy.com, as well as a couple of other related websites. At heart he is a gardener, but appreciates the value of using the best power equipment.

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