Lawn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Type
It’s no fun having a nice sunny day if your lawnmower doesn’t work. There is also a bright side to this situation. The right type of lawn mower will make cutting your lawn enjoyable. If you know you need a new lawn mower but aren’t sure how much or what features you want, don’t worry. I’ve got you. This guide will help you choose the right mower.
Step 1: Walk or Ride?
The first step is to choose between two types of lawn mowers: riding mowers and walk-behinds. If you have to cover more than a quarter acre, you’ll want to ride if for no other reason than to finish your lawn faster.
The first thing you need to do is estimate how big your lawn is. Simply walk off areas of your lawn, counting your steps as you go. Count up the sizes of your rectangles. This doesn’t have to be precise. The average stride of a man is 30 inches and the average stride of a woman is 26 inches. You can also measure your own stride for the most accurate measurement.
A quarter of an acre is approximately 10,890 square feet, or 43,560 square feet. If you’re above that threshold, you’ll probably want a riding mower. Most people wouldn’t dream of mowing 14 acres of grass with a 22-inch walk mower, but we have to start somewhere. Think realistically about how much time you have to mow your lawn on a busy weekend and choose your equipment accordingly.
Step 2: Selecting Your Features
Whether you ride or walk, your purchase will be influenced by two factors: your budget and your comfort. The more money you spend on a mower, the more durable, versatile, intuitive, and likely the faster it will be. This also works the other way around.
If your yard is small and simple, it doesn’t make as much difference. But if your yard is large and complex, you need to give more consideration to the mower’s features.
We will begin with walk mowers, one of the most versatile cutting machines. There are many options that are available for walk mowers, which increase the cost and complexity. To determine whether the product’s features are useful to you, carefully read the hangtag and speak to the sales staff.
Let’s look at all the major components and how lawnmowers use them:
Think of it this way: You can push a mower, or the mower can push itself, and in either case, it’s a front-drive or rear-drive mower (we’ll discuss all-wheel drive later). A self-propelled mower makes your life a lot easier when you’re mowing hills or when you’re mowing and bagging. The only way to appreciate a self-propelled machine is to push a fully loaded mower up a hill.
Front-wheel drive is most suitable for level terrain with plenty of obstacles. This makes it possible for you to reduce traction on the front wheels and pivot into and out of corners by pushing down on the handle.
Rear-wheel drive works well for mowing uphill and sidehill mowing. This is where rear wheel drive is better because, when you push down on the handle going up a hill, the front tires will not lose traction.
A few mowers are all-wheel drive, designed for homeowners who mow over washboard surfaces, slopes, steep uphills and downhills that make good use of AWD. Several years ago, we were dubious about these mowers, but after cutting some very rough ground, we were amazed at how much easier AWD made the cutting process.
In this section, we’ll discuss what the machines actually do to the grass. The mower can mulch clippings (repeatedly cut and recut them), discharge them to the side or rear, or bag them.
Two-function is a mower that mulches and bags. Mulching is healthier for the lawn because it returns nitrogen-rich grass clippings to the soil, but it does not work well for tall-grass situations in the spring or early summer when they are recovering from summer stress.
A three-function device that can bag, mulch, and side discharge. The side discharge is useful for utility mowing (mowing areas with tall weeds and non-turf grasses). It also helps if the lawn gets away from you and you need to set the mower deck to its full height and cut the grass in stages.
We have barely covered all the features of a mower. Here are some of the most common specs for your average mower:
Deck levers come in sets of one, two, or four. One lever is the most convenient, but it’s got a lot of linkage, so it’s heavy and you have to keep it lubricated. Two levers are a good compromise between one and four. It’s true that these mowers have more links than a four-lever mower, but it’s easier to adjust the height. Four levers is the standard.
The only way you’ll know if you’ll like the ground speed control is to test it out at the dealership, hardware store, or home center. The control may be integrated into the handle. The harder you push the drive control in the handle, the faster the mower goes. This may be a separate lever, or it may be a bail (a metal rod). If you have a fixed-speed mower, you can squeeze the lever to increase ground speed.
Self-propelled mowers come with three kinds of transmissions. Hydrostatic is the most expensive, but also the smoothest. It drives hydraulic fluid through an impeller that spins an output shaft to control ground speed. The smoothest and most reliable transmission, but it’s also the most expensive.
A typical front or rear drive walk mower has a belt-and-pulley arrangement that directs power from the engine’s output shaft to a gearbox on the front or rear axle (or a wheel gear). There are several variations to this design, but all of them function well and can generally be maintained and repaired.
Gas engines range in size from 140 cc to 190 cc. In the beginning and end of the cutting season, larger engines produce more torque and are less likely to stall in tall grass. It is also more effective for self-propelled mowers to drive uphill with a larger engine.
Mower engines can range in price from the least expensive to the most costly. They can be traditional side valves, overhead valves, or overhead cams. More expensive engines offer greater durability, reduced noise, and reduced oil consumption.
The rear wheel size of walk mowers may be larger than the front wheels. The wheels’ increased diameter makes them more capable of navigating ruts and rough terrain.
A ball bearing wheel is easier to push than those with bushing-type wheels. Obviously, the bigger your yard, the harder the terrain, or if you’re hauling around a bag of clippings mixed with leaves, the more you’ll want this option.
Blade-brake clutches are found on high-end walk mowers. They allow the operator to completely release the control handle without stopping the engine.Thus, you can pause your mowing, move whatever obstacle is in your way, and continue mowing without having to restart the engine.
In the last several years, a variety of unusual features have been introduced to make mowing either easier or more enjoyable.
Some engines don’t require an oil change, such as those made by Briggs & Stratton. The feature is called “Just Check and Add.” You simply add oil periodically to replace the small amount that is vaporized in the combustion process.
Turo has developed mowers that have power-assisted reversing and a vertical-storage design that allows you to fold the handle down, tip the mower back, and store it vertically.
Front caster wheels are ideal for elaborately-landscaped yards that require a lot of pivoting. The front caster wheels don’t track well on bumpy ground or when mowing sidehills. The most maneuverable form of mower you can get is the MOWOX, which has replaced dual front casters with a single front caster wheel. But cub Cadet was among the first mower manufacturers to use front caster wheels.
The wash-out fittings allow you to connect a garden hose to wash grass clippings accumulated under the deck. Clean decks last longer because accumulated grass retains moisture and chemical residue that causes corrosion. These fittings help considerably, but the deck still needs to be scraped with a putty knife.
Wide-cut mowers with decks ranging from 28 to 33 inches provide an alternative to a 22-inch mower. These models are still relatively rare, particularly those made by Cub Cadet, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and Craftsman.
Last of all, electric walk mowers are perfect for smaller lawns (under 5,000 square feet of mowing surface) and those that are well-kept. But there are three things you need to keep in mind:
- A cordless electric mower typically has a smaller deck (19 and 20-inch are the most common, but a few have 21-inch). This means that mowing takes longer.
- They are typically not as powerful as gas engine mowers. It can be difficult for them to move through tall, wet, or leafy grass. However, cordless mowers can handle intermediate mowing conditions without any problems.
- If your lawn is large, you will need more batteries. The manufacturers make recommendations regarding run time, but it’s very difficult to do accurately. It depends on how you mow and how thick or tall the grass is. To avoid rushing the procedure, we recommend that you buy extra batteries.
The best mower to buy is a riding mower if you can afford it. Please don’t get us wrong, we love walk mowers (believe me, we’ve used them enough here over the years). There’s simply no comparison with a riding mower when it comes to speed and efficiency on a large lawn.
There are three types of riding mowers you can find – lawn tractors, rear-engine riding mowers, and zero-turn mowers. Let’s take a look at them one by one:
Most people start out with a lawn tractor. They look and feel familiar with their steering wheel and front-mounted engine. The engines range in size from 18-25 hp, with most having a single cylinder and step-up models having two cylinders. Some fancier models feature electronic fuel injection as well.
In terms of transmissions, lever-operated gear transmissions tend to be the least expensive. However, a step up from that is pedal hydrostatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) operated by a hand lever.
A CVT is an automatic transmission with pulley drive to a sealed and lubricated gear case. With a tractor that has a heavy-duty foot pedal hydraulic transmission, you know you’re spending serious money.
Lastly, how much can it cut? A lot more than a push mower. The deck size ranges from 42 inches to 54 inches. For an approximate idea of how much land the mower can handle, divide the deck size by 12. Using a 54-inch deck on a residential-duty mower, you can mow up to 4.5 acres.
The amount of grass would result in significant wear and tear on a residential-grade mower throughout the season. However, it could still be done. Mowers of this kind can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000.
Rear-Engine Riding Mower
Many people with larger lawns that are too large for a walk mower but not big enough for a tractor or a zero turn mower should opt for a rear-engine riding mower. The specifications below apply to rear-engine residential/commercial mowers with a deck in front of the operator, not those with a deck in front of the operator.
A rear-engine lawn mower usually has a single-cylinder engine of between 344 and 38 cc, rated at 10 to 11 horsepower. Transmissions are usually CVTs controlled by hand levers that shift the transmission on the fly. Snapper’s famous rear-engine riding mower utilizes the company’s time-tested disc-drive transmission, but a few rear-engine riders are available with a hydrostatic transmission.
The deck size ranges from 30 to 33 inches, and operators use a manual lever to adjust and engage the deck. A smaller cutting size also means a smaller price tag, ranging from $1,200 to $2,400.
Over the past twenty years or so, zero-turn mowers have proven their worth to homeowners and landscape contractors alike. Their design provides forward speed and steering through dual hydrostatic transmissions in the rear wheels, each controlled by a lap bar in front of the seat.
A pulley off the engine spins the impellers of the dual hydrostatic transmissions powering the rear wheels. If you move one of the lap bars farther forward than its neighbor, it acts as a throttle. This allows more hydraulic fluid to flow to the transmission at that wheel. The wheel will turn faster than the opposite wheel, enabling you to turn corners or pivot.
Engine sizes can range from 452 cc to 700 or more, with power estimates ranging from 12 hp to 25 hp. This is powered by either a single cylinder or a commercial-duty V twin, and the transmission is either hydrostatic or commercial-duty hydrostatic.
These mowers can cut the most grass in the least amount of time with deck sizes ranging from 32 inches to 60 inches. The decks are either stamped or heavy-duty fabricated, the deck adjustment is done with a hand lever or foot pedal, and the deck engagement is accomplished with either a manual hand lever or an electric PTO.
All that grass-cutting power comes at a price, usually between $1,200 and $6,000.