Lawn Mowers: 6 Things to Know Before You Buy

June 23, 2014 1

Lawn Mowers: 6 Things to Know Before You Buy

You want to mow your lawn as effortlessly as possible so before you buy a lawn mower, consider the size of your lawn, the terrain and if there are any obstacles on your property. Anyone who has tried to cut grass knows it’s no fun mowing an acre of property with trees and bushes with a small push mower. However, you won’t want to spend loads of cash on a riding mower when you have a small piece of property. Keep the following tips in mind and you will be lounging in your backyard in no time!  

1. Make Sure Your Mower and Lawn are Compatible

Smaller Lawns:

Thinking about a walk-behind mower? Make sure you have a small piece of property, since this type of mower depends on your leg power. Push mowers come in both electric and gas-powered. Electric models have a cutting width about 18” to 20” wide, while a gas mower can cut about 21” or 22” widths. Gas walk-behind mowers also tackle long thick grass as well as those tough weeds.

Lawn mowers with no engines still exist. Manual or reel lawn mowers rely completely on human power, so only invest in this type if you have a small lawn. When you push this mower, it turns a series of curved blades. It’s nice and quiet and basically needs blade adjustments and sharpening to keep it working properly (the blade adjustment can be a little difficult). It cuts 14” to 16” wide; the cutting tends to be uneven, and can’t cut grass taller than 1 ½” or cut closer than 3” around objects.

Larger Lawns:

If you have a medium to large-sized lawn (half an acre or more), consider a gas-powered riding/tractor lawn mower. You can find models in a traditional lawn tractor or garden style and zero turn mowers with a variety of seat heights, blade widths and start mechanisms to make mowing even easier. Lawn tractors cut between 42” to 48” wide, and front-engine models and four-wheel steering options handle tight turns beautifully. Keep in mind that a lawn tractor will need an average of 4 by 6 feet of storage space, and will need tune-ups and oil changes.   

2. There Are Two Types of Riding Mowers

When it comes to riding mowers, they fall into two categories: 1) traditional lawn tractors or garden style or 2) zero turn mowers. While traditional lawn tractors take care of everything you need for your lawn, garden style lawn tractors offer more options e.g., two hitches for hauling and accessories to till the soil or dig furrows.

Zero turn riding mowers are rear wheel driven with differential power controls for greater maneuverability. This type of mower is ideal to cut grass around garden beds or trees; however, if your property is hilly, look for a model with steerable front wheels and a steering wheel instead of a lever.

3. Go Cordless If Considering an Electric Model

When it comes to electric models, cordless is the way to go, because you don’t have to stay close to an electric source. There are other pluses to electric models, too. They produce less noise than gas mowers, and these models release fewer emissions.

Most lawn motors can be started either with a one-touch push button electric start or with a traditional pull rope. As for push-behind motors, they are either pushed or self-propelled. A self-propelled mower means less effort on your part.  

4. Bigger and Extras May Be Better

A bigger the engine size offers speed and variability. Rear-wheel drive provides for exceptional traction control and maneuverability. If you have steep hills on your property, you will appreciate this feature.

A mower with infinite drive speeds uses a lever or handlebar control to vary speed without having to shift. A mower with a blade-brake clutch feature makes things easier too. When you let go of the handlebar, it stops the blade; but the engine keeps running. This comes in handy when you need to stop to move an item or empty clippings.  

Make sure you check out the deck size of a lawn mower before you buy it. This is the measurement of the width of the cutting swath that the mower provides. The larger the deck size of the lawn mower the wider it will cut, and that means you’ll cut your lawn with fewer passes. Just keep in mind that a mower with a very wide deck size may be less maneuverable than smaller lawn mowers and have a harder time getting around obstacles on your property.

Another nice feature is swivel front wheels that allow for easy 180-degree turns. The downside is these wheels prevent the front of the deck of your lawn mower from cutting close to things like foundations and walls, and they can be tricky on hills.

5. Don’t Forget Those Clippings

No one wants to clean up clippings after just mowing the lawn. Unfortunately if you have a reel mower that’s what you’ll be doing. As for other mowers, you’ll find they come with either side or rear bags that bag, mulch and side-discharge clippings. The end result is clippings that are cut finely and will decompose as well as fertilize your lawn. A rear bag can hold more than a side one; however they can also be more expensive.

6. Don’t Cut Your Grass Too Short

Here is why a lawn mower with a variety of blade height options is the way to go—you don’t want to cut your grass too short. Cutting grass shorter than 1/3 its current height can cause damage. Your lawn becomes more susceptible to disease, and during heat waves and droughts, brown patches. And no one wants that!

So get that lemonade and hammock ready. After doing a little research on a new lawn mower, you’ll be spending less time mowing and more time relaxing.

Comments (1)

  1. I really like one of the first pieces of advice you give in this article here and that is to make sure that the lawn mower you want to buy and your actual lawn will be able to work with each other. Riding lawn mowers should really only be saved for larger lawns that might need to be taken care of only every once in a while, a push mower just isn’t going to cut it on a lawn that size. On a side note, I wasn’t actually aware that manual lawn mowers were still available; that’s very intriguing, but I can’t imagine how much use it could get nowadays.

    - Simon Brooks

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