What to Know About Buying a Lawn Mower in 2023
How to pick the perfect lawn mower match for your property and your comfort level.
For most people, the dream of homeownership includes swathes of a lush green grass lawn to entertain friends and family. To get there, however, there’s a regular schedule of lawn maintenance required for keeping that verdant paradise that is your yard. Perhaps the most important task is mowing the lawn, and to do that, you need to have the right lawn mower, since you’ll be using it regularly.
So which type of lawn mower should you have?
Types of Lawn Mowers
Lawn mowers are generally classified by how the user interacts with them and what kind of fuel (if any) they use.
Push lawn mowers are exactly what you think: The operator walks behind the mower and pushes it forward.
There are manual push mowers, also known as reel mowers because they feature a double helix of blades called a reel. They’re powered entirely by the forward motion of the user. There’s no need for gasoline, an electrical cord or battery and repairs are minimal. But the blades dull quickly. These work best for small yards.
The most common walk-behind mowers are powered by gas engines or electric motors, with either a battery or a powered cord that plugs into an outlet, that turn the blade. Self-propelled mowers are an increasingly popular subset of powered push mowers because they use the engines power to help drive the wheels, meaning the user doesn’t have to push as hard. It’s a nice feature for hilly terrain.
On riding mowers, the operator sits on top or slightly behind the blade deck and steers it from there. Riding mowers include lawn tractors, zero turn radius (ZTR) mowers and stand-on mowers.
Lawn tractors are probably what you think of when it comes to riding mowers. It’s got the engine in front, and you drive it like a car, with a steering wheel, gas pedal, a brake and variable speeds. These usually have a bigger deck that allows you to cover more ground in less time.
Rear-engine mowers are exactly what the name says: the engine behind the seat. They’re lighter with a smaller deck, which makes it easier for storage. They’re idea for smaller yards of an acre or less.
To control a zero-turn mower, the driver uses a pair of levers to control speed, braking and direction. You get precision steering and full 36-degree turns. They allow a user to cover more ground and save time by eliminating most of the turning and maneuvering otherwise required by traditional riding mowers.
Stand-on mowers are typically zero-turn mowers that save wear and tear on your back by allowing you to stand up while you mow. They’re great for larger yards, with the same speed and maneuverability advantages of zero-turn mowers.
Push mowers are powered purely by the operator’s force; the rest are available with gas or electric lawn mower motors.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Lawn Mower
When it comes to buying a lawn mower, the main consideration should be the nature of your yard and what features matter most to you.
Yards that are more than a half acre generally benefit from the speed and ease of riding mowers. A mower’s deck size, or width of the cutting area, determines how fast it will cut a given lawn.
But bigger isn’t always better. Consider how much of the yard is uneven, uphill or interrupted by obstructions such as bushes or landscaping. Lawns with narrow walkways or many small obstructions can benefit from mowers with a smaller footprint or may require a two-step mow, with a push mower or string trimmer to take care of the edging.
Then, consider the features. Some riding mowers are more comfortable and less prone to vibration. Some push mowers sport a propulsion system, so you expend less effort pushing and more on directing the mower. And some mowers are built with easier access to the blades, the underside of the deck and the engine, which can be useful when it’s time to clean or perform maintenance.
Popular Lawn Mower Brands
Lawn mower brands tend to be established names in lawn maintenance, or specialize in small motors. Some of the most popular and highest-quality products available include:
Lawn Mower Accessories
Most lawn mowers accept accessory items to make yard work easier. The most common is a bagging system, which makes the collection of lawn debris much easier. Other popular accessories are more about the user’s comfort, such as the sunshades for riding mowers that offer protection from UV rays.
If there is a specific accessory you’d like to use, check how it attaches to the mower you’re considering and whether that mower has the appropriate hitch or connector. Riding mowers can accommodate more accessories, with some even tackling heavy-duty tasks such as snow-plowing or tilling.
Lawn Mower Maintenance
You need to sharpen mower blades every year, right before the season starts. It’s important to clean the frame and deck regularly to prevent grass clippings from clogging the works. In addition, gas-powered mowers need air filters, spark plugs and other tuneup items consistent with gas engines. Electric mowers also need to be cleaned, but are lower maintenance overall.
This maintenance can be DIY or by a pro. Most lawn mower service centers offer reasonably priced annual maintenance plans. Some even offer pick up and delivery service, which makes seasonal maintenance about as hassle-free as it gets.
Lawn Mower Costs
Considering the wide variety of lawn mower types and models available, it’s no surprise that their price range is equally broad. A manual push mower can be purchased for as little as $75, while high-end professional-grade mowers can cost as much as a new car. Luckily, the typical homeowner will want a mower that’s much more affordable.
Most base-model push mowers will cost $150 to $300, while riding mowers will run $1,500 for a lawn tractor and $3,000 for a zero turn radius mower. Accessories, cordless electric options and construction quality can impact the cost, and top-line models may as much as double those base prices. Lawnmowers at the top end of the price categories are often sold with some kind of financing.