“a helpful & lucid review site for all things budget” — the new yorker
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Lawn Mowers
  2. Reel Mowers, Electric Mowers
  3. Gas Mowers, Self-Propelled Mowers
  4. Lawn Mower Reviews, Mulching Lawn Mowers
  5. Lawn Mower Deals
  6. Discount Lawn Mowers Features Comparison Table

Cheap Lawn Mowers Buying Guide

If you're in the market for a cheap lawn mower, you've got a variety of different options under $300, from unmotorized reel mowers to gas-powered models.

The first thing experts recommend is to match a lawn mower to your lawn. For smaller yards -- less than half an acre -- a riding mower or lawn tractor would probably be overkill.

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Unmotorized reel mowers and cheap electric mowers are best suited for relatively flat areas no larger than about a quarter of an acre (approximately 11,000 square feet). Noisier and more powerful (but still cheap) gas lawn mowers work well for larger yards, especially those with some ups and downs. A related consideration is what kind of effort you want to expend. A reel mower requires 100 percent manual power, for example, but you donít have to store any gas or deal with a maintenance-hungry engine.

Our list of top picks includes the electric Black & Decker MM275 (starting at $166) and the gas-powered Toro 20371 (starting at $299), followed by the Scotts 2000-20 Classic Reel Mower (starting at $120) and the Craftsman 37041, another gas-powered model (starting at $275).

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Cheap lawn mowers cost less than pricier models because they're smaller and offer fewer frills (e.g., no discharge bag or, on gas-powered models, no key start). On some, the components simply fall apart and the unit doesn't hold up. An annual check-up at the start of every mowing season is vital to maintaining an inexpensive mower. Wheels, bolts, belts, and bearings that can come loose from the vibration of everyday use should always be checked before you start to mow, and make sure to keep the blades sharp. Lawn mowers cost more when they produce finer mulch, include an electric start, and have a more robust engine that can cut tall, heavy grass. Thrifty homeowners can make do with less and still find a lawn mower that meets their needs.

A 2012 survey by J.D. Power and Associates shows that John Deere mowers top the chart in consumer satisfaction, but not when it comes to competitive pricing. Toro -- which makes one of our picks for best cheap lawn mower, the Toro 20371 -- comes in second by only one point on the strength of high ratings for its performance. Craftsman and Black & Decker finish below the industry average overall, but based on our analysis of expert and user reviews of individual models, these brands make two of the best cheap lawn mowers: the Black & Decker MM275 and the Craftsman 37041.

Each category of budget mowers, from cheap reel mowers to cheap gas mowers, has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to power, blade width, ability to handle a slope, cutting performance under certain conditions, and ongoing maintenance. We discuss all this and more on the following pages. (Residents of California have to consider required carbon emissions laws when making a purchase and generally find a different selection of models to choose from.)

Review continues below

by Kara Reinhardt (Google+ Profile)

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Best Cheap Lawn Mowers

Black & Decker MM275
Gold Medal

Black & Decker MM275

For a small yard, this corded electric mower receives overwhelmingly positive reviews for its lightweight 38 pounds and easy storage, start-up, and stopping. Some users take issue with having to manage the cord, but most reviewers prefer that to replacing a battery or dealing with gasoline. Six cutting heights, from 1 to 3.5 inches, can be adjusted for all wheels at once with one lever. The side bag attachment is sold separately. A 6.5 amp version is lighter and cheaper.

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Toro 20371
Gold Medal

Toro 20371

The Toro brand lives up to its name with this gas-powered mower, which boasts a standard 22-inch cutting blade, a variable speed self-propelled drive system, 11-inch rear wheels, and a washout port for attaching a hose to clean underneath the decking. Users like the price, ease of use, and front-wheel drive.

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Good Cheap Lawn Mowers

Scotts 2000-20 Reel Mower
Gold Medal

Scotts 2000-20 Reel Mower

This noiseless reel mower provides a classic low-tech (as in, person-power) grass-cutting solution. It's easy to maintain and store, and cuts without tearing the grass. Like other reel mowers, the Scotts 2000-20 has a cutting gap (the space between the wheels and blade), so you may need to make more passes. This 20-inch model doesn't work as well on tall grass, but users find it sufficient and even desirable for small yards.

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Craftsman 37041
Gold Medal

Craftsman 37041

The Craftsman 37041 includes welcome features such as a 22-inch deck; a 190 cc Briggs & Stratton engine; and a design that mulches, bags, or discharges grass clippings. The self-propelled front-wheel drive makes for easy maneuvering.

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Don't Bother

Ariens 2-in-1

The Ariens 2-in-1 mower receives mixed reviews for its heavy Kohler engine, poor traction from 8-inch plastic wheels, bolts-to-plastic outer cover, and difficult pull-start. There is no side discharge on this model but it does come with a grass collection bag.

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Husqvarna 38450

Despite having all the makings of a good mower, with its Honda engine and Husqvarna name, this one misses the mark. Several users report front springs flying off and others complain that the blade cuts into the outer decking when the handle is lifted to shift weight to the front wheels for pivoting.

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