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Before you buy, consider these helpful terms and tips for getting a new lawn mower.

by John

LAWN MOWERS — In the world of lawn mowers, if it costs more it is probably better, but you may not actually need the additional features. Read below to find out which features your yard will actually need.

For a yard that is half an acre or less, a walk or walk-behind mower (see self-propelled vs push) will be perfect. If your yard is larger than half an acre, you may want to get a riding lawn mower.

Engine

Horsepower – For most lawns the difference between a 5.5 and a 6.5 horsepower engine is negligible. If you are bagging your clippings (which adds a lot of extra weight) or your yard is sloped, hilly, or your grass is regularly tall then extra horsepower will help a little.

Cycle - There are two types of lawn mower engines, two cycle and four cycle. Both work great on a lawn mower. Two cycle engines mix the oil and gasoline together, are less expensive and start better in cold temperatures, but give off more exhaust. Four-cycle engines have separate gas and oil (like a car), give off cleaner exhaust and can be a lot larger. If your yard needs a powerful engine then a four cycle will be better.

  
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Buying a New Lawn Mower

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To Bag or not to Bag

Mowers can do three things with grass after they cut it: bag, mulch or side discharge. Bagging is best for wet weather climates and fertile ground because the buildup of mulch will harm grass if it gets too thick.

Mulching is best for arid or poor soil conditions because the mulch will help retain moisture and replenish nutrients. Your location and how often you water and fertilize determine your climate.

Avoid lawn mowers that have bags on the side. Side-bagging mowers cannot hold as many clippings and make the lawn mower unnecessarily wide (and less maneuverable). Also, side discharging is not a feature (you can tell the salesman that). It is a thing of the past and is rarely needed. Either you bag or you mulch. If you are discharging then you will have to spend the rest of the day raking up clippings.

Self-propelled or Push

Self-propelled. Period. And most showrooms only carry one push mower just to make all of their self-propelled mowers look better. Push mowers are rarely purchased even though they are a bit cheaper.

Okay, I’ll give you one exception. If your lawn is very small (less than a quarter acre), flat and you need the exercise then a push mower might work for you. Also, remember that a bag full of clippings will add an extra 20 pounds.

Recoil or Electric Start

Electric start was cool 10 years ago when it was harder to pull-start an engine. Today, recoil systems are smooth as butter and will make you feel really cool when you pull your mower to life.

If button start makes you feel cooler then I guess it's okay. The electric starter is only barely more convenient and just one more part that will eventually break and cost you money to repair. I say it’s just not worth the extra bulge on the price tag.

Wheels

Wheels are usually the first thing to break on a lawn mower because they get banged and bashed. Look for lawn mowers that have a sturdy connection between the wheel and the deck.

Other Features

Remember “blade-brake clutch system” if you will be doing a lot of mowing. The blade-brake clutch system allows you to stop the blade and leave the engine running.

Lawn mower decks are made of steel, aluminum and now plastic and all of them work great. Don’t worry too much about the blade or carburetor because they have few differences.

Warranties

The standard warranty is 2 years on a new lawn mower. Toro has a five-year warranty if you can prove that you have been taking care of your mower, but in reality, every mower could last indefinitely if you are taking care of it.

Popular and Recommended Brands

The two best lawn mower manufacturers are Honda and Toro and it’s a tie. They both make fantastic mowers. The third best manufacturer is Murray, and the average/good quality manufacturers are Snapper, John Deere, and Craftsman.

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