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Push Mower Buying Guide

How to Choose a Walk-Behind Mower

Now that spring is upon us, grass is growing faster every day. Whether you’re a homeowner or opening your own lawn care business, cutting grass will soon be at least a weekly chore.  There is a very wide variety of lawn mowers that it might be a little overwhelming.  For anyone who can’t make up their mind, we have prepared a little guide as well as the top 11 push mowers to give some ideas about how to choose the right mower so you don’t end up hacking away with the wrong tool.

Gas or Electric Mower?

There are two type of powered mowers: gas and electric.  They are both powerful tools and have their unique strengths, but they also have many common features, so knowing the distinctive traits of each is very important to ensure that you will not have too much power or too little.

Gas Mower Features

Engine

Gas motors on lawn mowers typically fall between 140cc and 190cc of displacement.  Larger engines will be more appropriate for thick, wet, or weedy grass but cost a little more than their smaller counterparts.  There is also variety in engine type, either side-valve or overhead valve. Overhead valve engines are bigger and more powerful, while also being quieter, smoother to use, and have better fuel economy.  Side-valve engines are smaller, and as a result, they cost less and are used on more compact units.

Gas And Oil

Just like putting gas in your car, make sure you know how to add gas and oil to power the machine.  It is important not only that they are easy to use, but that they are effective at keeping debris out. Grass clippings can easily ruin a motor if they get into the gas tank.

Air Filter

Good air filters prevent unwanted dirt and debris getting into the motor and damaging it.  Make sure the cover is easy to remove since checking and maintaining the filter is a task that will need to be done with relative frequency as you own the equipment.  More expensive mowers will have larger filters, making them more ideal for dusty conditions. Less expensive mowers will typically use a foam filter, which should usually be fine for lighter-duty work.

Blade Brake and Clutch

For safety reasons, gas mowers turn off and stop the blade if the operator has to let go and step away for even just a moment.  Some newer models, however, feature blade brakes and clutch systems that stop the blade but keep the motor running if the bail is released, letting the user walk away for a moment without having to pull the starter cord all over again.  This is extremely time-saving when there are sticks, toys, or other debris in the yard that must be picked up while mowing.

Electric Mower Features

Cord or No Cord

Electric mowers can either be corded or battery-powered, and each has their own strengths.  Cordless models have more flexibility without being tethered to an outlet but are limited by battery life.  Higher voltage batteries can push through higher resistance. There is a wide variety to choose from, starting at 20, 36, 40, and even all the way up to 56 volts and beyond.  Corded models can run as long as you need them to, but require an extension cord, making them better in smaller lawns.

Minimal Maintenance and Noise

No oil changes, no new spark plugs, no spilling gas or forgetting to replace air filters.  The primary repairs will just be sharpening the blades. Without having to pay gas, oil, spark plugs and repairs, the long-term savings will more than compensate for the higher price tag up front.  

Light and Compact

Electric motors are much smaller and lighter than classic combustion engines, making them much safer to pick up and move around without getting hurt.  Many models can also fold in half and feature a second carrying handle on the front to make transporting them easier.  Since they don’t have the risk of leaking fluids either, they can be stored upright, which almost nonexistent for gas models.

Green As Grass

No fossil fuels mean heavily reduced carbon emissions and never worrying about oil changes.

Features of All Mowers

Clipping Disposal

What you plan on doing with clippings as you work?  Mulching, side-discharge, or bagging are the three options on mowers, but not all feature the three. A three-function mower has the best versatility, but might not be needed for everyone.  Mulching returns nutrients to the soil, and bagging gives a clean and polished appearance.

Washout Fitting

A washout nozzle allows you to connect a garden hose to the mower deck and wash accumulated grass clippings from under the deck.  This is a feature on some mowers that makes cleaning more convenient, but not needed.

Front Caster Wheels

Caster wheels allow you to pivot a rear-drive mower on the back wheels. While most mowers have fixed-direction wheels, these rotate and allow greater precision in trimming your grass, but they are complicated while adjusting the height because the wheels need to be moved independently rather than all at once.

Tall Rear Wheels

Taller wheels help the mower move more easily through rough lawns and taller grass, but smaller wheels will still get the job done with a few more bumps.

Drive

Bail Lever

Mowers are either pushed by force or have automated front or rear wheel drive.  Manual push designs are better for small flat lawns less than 4000 square feet. Most electric mowers are push-driven, but opens in a new windowEgo introduced self-propelled units a few years ago.  Self-propelled lawnmowers are better for medium lawns.  Rear-wheel drive mowers are the best when mowing on hills, since they have the most traction, while a front-wheel drive is ideal for flat lawns and offers more control.

Drive Control

Lever Drive

There are several methods to control the speed of self-propelled mowers.  Bail arms are a lever that gets squeezed against the main handle. Some feature a thumb lever that is pushed to activate the drive, while on others the entire handle can be pushed forward to increase or decrease speed based on the pressure being placed on it, such as the opens in a new windowToro Personal Pace series.

Drive control determines user comfort and maneuverability of the mower.  Certain handle designs might be easier to control in corners, or on hills, for example. Lever-drive is good around trees and plants, and bail drive is best for wide-open areas.  

What to Consider Before Buying a Mower

Size and Slope Of Your Yard  

This will help you select a mower with front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, or a push mower.  A larger yard might also benefit from a gas engine, which doesn’t need lengthy extension cords and can be easily refilled if fuel starts to run low in the middle of the job.  Meanwhile, smaller yards can easily be trimmed with an electric model.

Deck Material

Lawnmower decks can be made from either steel, plastic or composite materials.  Steel is the heaviest-duty and can withstand tough beatings, but is very heavy and prone to rusting.  Plastic decks will be very lightweight, making storage easy, but they can be brittle in cold weather and break the easiest.  Composites will be the strongest and lightest out of the three options, but they also have the highest price due to the materials.

Weight and Storage  

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Toro Smartstow Mower

With a few exceptions, gas mowers must always be stored flat on the floor, so they generally take up more space in the garage.  They need to be kept on the ground in case any fluids leak out and drip on anything below. Electric designs can be stored hanging up or standing vertically against a wall since they do not have oil and gas to drain out.  

Setting

The setting in which you will be using it is important.  If you are in a quiet neighborhood, an electric mower will not disturb the peace while a gas engine is very loud and will be heard from very far away.  The silence of electric mowers is also very safe, as you can hear kids or animals playing nearby, and ensure they remain at a safe distance.

In Conclusion

Now that you have a sense of which mowers are best-suited for you, take a look at the opens in a new windowmodels we liked to find the perfect one.  Whichever one you choose, it will be a long-term investment, so take the time to figure out which one will meet your needs.  Don’t let your grass take control this summer, so make sure you get the right mower for the job, and always remember to do your best work.

One Comment

  • Bethany Birchridge

    July 18, 2018 at 10:04 am

    I like how you mentioned that the type of mower you get should be compatible with the slope of your yard. I live on a hill, so I’ve been wondering which type of lawn mower would be best for my yard. These tips will really help my family and me out, so thank you for sharing them.

    Reply

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