Spring is coming fast, and that means it is time to start thinking about your lawn. For some, that means it’s time to start shopping for a new lawn mower. If you are one of us looking for a new grass chopper, you probably want a mower that will make the task of mowing your lawn enjoyable, and to accomplish that without breaking the bank.
“Out with the old and in with the new!” My Father exclaimed the year he bought a brand new lawn mower to replace the old, rusty “hunk of junk” as dad so eloquently referred to it. As we waited for the salesman, He attempted to educate me on buying tools and equipment.
“Buy proper quality tools from the right people, and you won’t get junk that will burn all your money.” It took me years to understand what he meant. The salesman came over and He and my Father talked and laughed for what seemed like an eternity. They talked about different lawn mowers and what each mower did better than the other ones. I could have sworn they talked about every little part on every mower in the store. Eventually, my dad handed over money and I watched him argue with the rope as He secured his brand new shiny red lawn mower in the trunk of his car. The entire ride home, I wondered why it took so long for my Father to buy a new mower once we arrived at the store.
Today, I am a much older man with a home and a lawn of my own. Thinking back to that day and remembering all the times I didn’t take my Father’s advice and all the money my junk mowers burned through; I understand what he meant. Buy quality, don’t be cheap and buy from a professional that specializes in what he sells.
As a home owner, I want the best I can get if it makes my hectic schedule and chores a little easier and adds value to my life. As an outdoor power and lawn equipment professional passionate about the industry, I want the best YOU can get, and for the very same reasons I want this for myself. Quality is important, and so is buying from the right place. As my dad used to say “You wouldn’t buy a car at the grocers, so why would you buy tools at the Five and Dime?”
For us home owners, There are three basic types of walk power lawn mowers: Reel mowers, Gas powered push mowers and Electric push mowers. Let’s examine these three types of mowers more closely.
► Reel Mowers
Reel Mowers are commonly referred to as “old fashioned” mowers. This type of mower employs several blades permanently attached to the ‘reel’, which spins in a similar fashion to an old style paddle-boat. As the Reel spins, the grass gets pulled into the mower, and the blade reel clips the grass.
Reel mowers are also able to be adjusted to a very low cutting height, making it possible to get the same low cut as a well manicured golf course or baseball field. While you can still find engine-less reel mowers, the most popular brands are fitted with well known power plants manufactured by companies such as Honda and Briggs & Stratton. If you are in the market for a Reel mower, you will have to decide on the number of blades in the reel, and the width of the reel, also referred to as the cutting path.
The most popular configurations include 5 and 7 blade reels with a 20 or 27 inch wide cutting path. Keep in mind that not only do reel mower engines require regular annual maintenance just like a gas powered push mower, the blades on the reel will need to be serviced and sharpened regularly. The sharpening is more involved than with the standard blades of a rotary push mower, and therefore will require more time, expertise and, if you fancy letting a pro handle the difficult job, will also cost more for the annual tune up and blade sharpening service. Reel mower owners find the trade off in a well manicured lawn, a more precise, lower cut resulting in a great looking yard. There are also several accessories to suit your needs and tastes such as a grass catcher, and some manufacturers offer additional options such as front swivel casters, drive drum and wide/double rear drive wheels.
► Gas Powered Push Mowers
By a large margin, gas powered walk mowers are the most popular lawn mower option today. These mowers are designed to do the job handling your grass cutting needs, as well as offer features to make the job of tending to your lawn a littler easier. These features include Self propel, grass bagging, mulching, and leaf shredding to name a few.
There are essentially two sub-types of walk power mowers, Push and self propelled.
- Push Mower
Push mowers are exactly as their moniker suggests. These lawn mowers require personal effort to move – you must push them along, and they only move as fast as you walk. Just like their self propelled kin, they are designed to handle cutting your lawn with out expending a lot of effort, but push mowers do not help the operator by propelling the mower forward.
- Self Propelled Mower
Next, we have self propelled walk power mowers. This type of walk power mower is easier to operate. You do not have to provide the power to move them forward, only to steer them around your yard. These mowers work very well if your yard has any hills or inclines because you won’t have to provide the power to move them.
Self propelled lawn mowers also make maneuvering around objects such as trees easier and ‘less jerky’. Both types of walk power mowers offer a multitude of different features and options, and each manufacturer has their own take on these features. However, when shopping for a new walk power mower, the options are relatively similar in design and function.
- What About The Bag?
When it comes to disposing of the clippings, you will have to decide between bagging the clippings mulching them or simply discharging them back on to your lawn. It is true that the clippings will provide much needed nutrients back into your lawn, depending on your personal preference (and possibly local guidelines or laws) you may choose to bag the clippings. Bagging the clippings provides the cleanest look for a freshly cut lawn, but you will have to figure out how to properly dispose of the clippings.
- To Propel or not to Propel
When it comes to shopping for a mower that offers self propel, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of self propel, and choose the option that best fits your needs and your budget. Some of the main options for self propel include front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive and speed options such as set speed and variable speed. Keep in mind that you may not need self propel. If you have a very small lawn (often referred to as a ‘postage stamp’ lawn), you may not need the self propel feature. Granted, Self propel is a nice feature, but if not needed, you could save some money by eliminating any features that are unnecessary.
- Options, Options, Options
In addition to the above mentioned options, there are also options to choose from such as Pull start vs electric start, Wash out ports to help you keep the under side of you mowing deck clean, Blade over ride (also referred to as a blade stop feature) which will disengage the blade without shutting off the engine, and even swivel front wheels, which make it possible to make alternating passes across your yard without having to lift the front wheels off the ground to turn.
► Electric Push Mowers
Rising gas prices and increased environmental responsibility, electric walk power mowers are becoming more and more popular, especially now that battery technology is improving both power and charge capacity. Electric mowers are much quieter than their gas powered cousins, and do not produce emissions. Electric mowers are also cost effective to operate. There are two main types of electric walk power mowers: Corded and Cordless – both of which do have their limitations.
- Corded Electric Mower
Corded electric mowers are limited in range to the length of the extension cord, and can become a safety hazard if you lose sight of the extension cord. You could accidentally run over the cord with the mower, potentially causing damage to the mower, destroying the extension cord, and even possibly causing injury to the operator. Also, if your yard has alot of obstacles such as retaining walls, trees, etc, a corded mower can cause frustration.
- Cordless Electric Mower
Cordless mowers are provided their power to run either by a rechargeable battery or battery pack. Your range and run time are dependent on the battery, how long of a charge the battery holds and how long it take to discharge the battery, requiring a recharge before the mower can be used again. Typically, today’s cordless electric lawn mowers are powered by a 24-48 volt battery. this translates to about an hour of mowing time on a single full charge. The typical charge time of these mowers vary brand to brand and are also largely dependent on the type of battery, so be sure to do your research and choose the one that will meet your needs. A final note on cordless mowers – Just as it is with cordless equipment such as drills, cut off saw, and the like – the higher the volts, the more torque is produced. This is especially important if you have particularly thick grass to mow.
- Torque and Power
Another important thing to note when shopping electric mowers is to keep in mind that electric powered lawn mowers typically do not produce as much torque and power as gas engine powered mowers, and if you are mowing larger areas, or the grass is particularly thick, the length of time the battery will maintain a usable charge will be shortened. This issue is being addressed as manufacturers of electric powered lawn equipment continue to develop and improve the technology. As the technology improves, so does torque and power that electric powered mowers will produce.
- Consider Your Property
Simply put, if you have a small yard or do not need a long run time, then an electric mower may be right for you. If you must mow far away from an outlet, have a large lawn to mow, or have particularly thick grass in your yard, then a gas powered mower is a better option.
- Added Benefits – It’s Electric!
Digging deeper into electric mowers, let’s examine the pro’s of electric mower ownership. You can bid farewell to the costs of owning and operating a gas powered lawn mower. Oil changes, tune ups, replacing the spark plug, remembering to change out the filters – all those hassles are no longer a concern. Annual maintenance for electric mowers consists of having the blade sharpened or replaced on a regular basis.
For the Eco-friendly folks, Electric mowers provide benefits such as a much reduced carbon foot print, as electric mowers do not produce harmful emissions. In addition, the average cost of operating an electric mower is significantly less than that of a gas powered mower. Electric mowers typically offer a cutting path of 14 to 20 inches. Keep in mind that the wider your cutting path, the less time you will have to spend mowing.
In the end, The type of mower you purchase and the options you choose should be a direct reflection of your needs, your wants and your budget. Do your research, ask questions, and be sure to visit your local outdoor power equipment dealer and check out the different brands and types of mowers available.
Remember that your local OPE dealer is staffed with factory trained professionals who are passionate about the industry and the products they sell and service. The information and first rate knowledge these professionals can provide you will serve you well when the time comes to purchase that new grass chopper. Keep in mind that the smaller, local OPE dealers focus and specialize in just one thing – Outdoor power equipment. This usually means that you will get the best service, the most accurate information, and the best possible service and support after the sale.
It is possible to save a little money by purchasing your mower from a big box store, but you do so at the expense of good customer service, answers and even help down the road when it comes time for service, or possibly even repairs or warranty work. My father posed the question best; “You wouldn’t buy a car at the grocers, so why would you buy tools at the Five and Dime?”