Lawn mowing may rank as one of the most mundane of household tasks, but the mechanized grass cutters are gaining elite status in neighborhoods across the U.S.
Manual push mowers can still be found, but they pale in comparison to the luxurious X758 Signature Series riding mower that John Deere is hawking for a mere $13,400.
Too rich even for your picture-perfect lawn tastes? Honda has walk-behind mowers that run for $850, while Black & Decker and Toro sport cordless-battery mowers at $449 and $399, respectively. And if you’re a bit of a racecar nut, “zero-turn” riding mowers may be right up your front lawn.
“Think about it more as an investment and not a purchase,” says Lou Manfredini, nationally known home improvement expert and host of the TV show House Smarts. Tip-top maintenance can squeeze 10 years out of a mower. “And if you really maintain it well, you can have it for 20 years,” Manfredini insists.
Before shelling out the big bucks, consider these tips.
With a walk-behind mower, it’s the wheels that matter. Their material and spin are their bread and butter, says Robb Wenz, owner of Robb’s Lawn Care. “Better models will have steel wheels with rubber tires and a bearing to help the wheels spin,” he says.
For smaller yards, the cordless-battery mowers have come a long way, says Manfredini. The Black & Decker and Toro models are self-propelled and cordless, with 36-volt, rechargeable batteries. For gas-powered mowers, the engine is key. Honda makes its own mowers, but its engines are found in other brands, too. Wenz also looks at horsepower and opts for more for lawns that have thicker grass or owners who don’t cut it often.
Deciding between a walk-behind or riding mower? If you have more than 10,000 square feet of grass—that’s about a quarter of an acre—do yourself a favor and trade up to a riding lawn mower.
And it’s worth forking over extra for a hydrostatic-drive system. “It [offers] much more even control and problem-free operation long-term,” Manfredini says.
Four-wheel steering, which is usually available in the higher-end John Deere and Cub Cadet brands, is also a nifty feature, he says. When looking at the cutting deck, pick rust-free anodized aluminum, rather than steel, which is apt to corrode.
Manfredini is also a fan of the zero-turn riding mowers. They “are literally like a bumper car,” he says, where the driver can turn the mower 360 degrees. That’s good for large spaces with lots of obstacles, but can be dangerous if not driven properly. Manfredini says Exmark, Scag, and Toro make good units.
Want to get your lawn looking like a baseball diamond? John Deere’s got a $119 grass groomer striping kit that attaches to a zero-turn mower for your own field of dreams. (Baseball team not included.)
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