Choosing the Right Lawn Mower

Many different kinds of mowers are on the market, and analyzing your needs thoroughly will help you find the right one for you. You can choose from among push mowers, electric mowers, riding mowers, mulching mowers, and many others.

When you select a new mower, first think about the size of your lawn. If it’s small enough and you enjoy exercise, a push mower might be what you need. A power mower will do more and thus require less work, but it’s noisy, smelly, and requires more attention. And then there’s the ultimate—a riding mower or lawn tractor.

Consider the size of the engine and the width of the cutting swath. The size of the engine generally ranges from 3 to 4 1/2 horsepower; professional models range up to 7 horsepower. The larger your lawn, the more powerful an engine you will need, particularly if you tend to wait until your grass gets fairly long before you mow it.

A wider cutting swath makes the work go faster; it also means a heavier engine to manage and maintain, as well as a higher price. If your lawn mower has a narrow swath, you can make up the extra inch or two in a couple of passes.

Also think about what type of terrain you will be mowing. If the land is hilly, you may prefer a self-propelled mower, with powered wheels and cutting mechanism, over one that requires pushing. Be sure to check for features that will prevent the mower from “scalping” (cutting too close) a hilly part of the lawn.

Another decision involves the type of starting mechanism. Most gasoline-engine power mowers have pull-recoil starters. However, if this method doesn’t appeal to you and you can afford something more expensive, consider a battery starter.

A few other things to look for are:

  • Easy-to-adjust mower wheels for changing cutting heights.
  • A deflector chute over the grass-discharge opening.
  • A cast aluminum (preferably not steel) or heavy plastic housing around the blade.
  • An automatic governor to keep the engine turning at a fairly constant speed.
  • Electronic ignition in the engine.
  • A compression release switch to make it easier to start the engine.

Other accessories—for example, for mulching, shredding, or vacuuming—are available on some models.