Memorial Day weekend has arrived and it's time to set summer in motion. ...
Gas Mowers, Reel Mowers
Gas Mowers, Self-Propelled Mowers
Most low-cost gas mowers are bigger and heavier than electric and reel mowers, and new models feature a 4-cycle engine that runs on straight 87-octane gas, which is a big advance over the old 2-cycle engines that require a gas-oil mixture. Gas mowers come in two configurations: push mowers and self-propelled mowers.
A walk-behind push mower, such as the Husqvarna 38450 (starting at $500), requires the operator to power it forward while the engine turns the blade. How Stuff Works notes that cheap walk-behind push mowers are best suited to relatively flat yards that are smaller than half an acre. For yards with an incline or more square footage, a self-propelled gas mower, such as the Craftsman 37041 (starting at $266) or the Toro 20371 (starting at $299, Amazon), may be preferred. This technology turns the wheels in addition to the blades, so you don't have to push hard; it kind of pulls you along. The Toro 20371 also boasts 11-inch high rear wheels designed for uneven terrain.
Cheap self-propelled mowers usually sport front-wheel drive. Pricier self-propelled mowers are rear-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive pulls the mower forward from the front, provides better traction on flat terrain, and easily makes 180-degree turns. On the other hand, bagging is harder with front-wheel drive because the weight of the bag in the back of the mower interferes with the traction on the front wheels. Rear-wheel drive works better on hilly ground and for negotiating around obstacles like trees and rocks. Each system has its partisans, and a lively discussion about the pros and cons plays out in postings on a Garden Web forum.
Lawn Mower Operation.Starting a low-cost mower is least complicated with a reel mower like the Scotts 2000-20: With no motor to start, just stand behind and push. Cheap electric mowers, like the Black & Decker MM275, feature an effortless hand-lever start. Cheap gas mowers of the past were notorious for difficult pull-starts, but the models on our list minimize the effort required: the Toro 20371 and Craftsman 37041 feature a quick-start technology that incorporates an automatic choke and eliminates the need to prime the engine. Some upscale models incorporate a key start for the ultimate in easy-on functionality.
Speed is the next consideration. If you're using anything other than a reel mower, you'll want a model that doesn't outrun your walking pace. The speed on electric and gas mowers is usually controlled by a handle lever or push bar. According to How Stuff Works self-propelled mowers with just one speed average about 2.5 mph. Some new self-propelled gas mowers, including the Toro 20371, have variable speed control that lets you set your own pace, be it a leisurely stroll or more of a workout; the speed on these models usually ranges between 0 and 5 mph. The ultimate speed control freak might be interested in the pricier Toro 20332 (starting at $349, Amazon), which responds to your walking speed by speeding up or slowing down as you do.
Your mowing efficiency is affected by your speed, of course, but also by the width of the cutting path and the height of the blades. The cutting width on cheap reel mowers ranges from 12 inches to 20 inches; cheap electric mowers are usually 18 or 19 inches; and cheap gas mowers range from 19 to 22 inches, with the larger cutting swath found on self-propelled mowers. Remember, the larger the blade, the more difficult it is to push so it's no surprise that self-propelled gas mowers cut the widest path.
Because experts recommend that you cut no more than one-third of the lawn's height in a single mowing, you'll want a lawn mower with multiple height settings. According to AllAboutLawns, grass that's too short may not withstand drought or excessive heat, and grass that's too long can accumulate thatch that gets in the way of water and fertilizer. The Scotts 2000-20 features nine cutting heights ranging from one to three inches; the Black & Decker MM275 features six heights that max out at 3.5 inches; the Toro 20371 and Craftsman 37041 offer nine cutting positions (up to 4 inches on the Toro and Craftsman doesn't specify); and the Husqvarna 38450 features five cutting heights that max out at 3.5 inches.
Don't Bother Cheap Lawn Mowers
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.
Ariens 2-in-1 Review
Husqvarna 38450 Review
Scotts 2000-20 Reel Mower Review
Craftsman 37041 Review
Black & Decker MM275 Review
Toro 20371 Review
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