You saved up enough money to make a down payment on a house and you’re now able to move out of that tiny little apartment. Or maybe crazy ol’ Uncle Hector died and left all his money to you because you’re the only one who would talk to him at family gatherings. Anyway, you’re in the money now and finally on your way into something you’ve always dreamed of—a home of your own.
As you’re unloading furniture from the U-Haul, your pal, Andy, who’s helping you maneuver that big couch through the front door, comments on how nice the lawn looks and asks if you plan to maintain it yourself. Almost in the same breath, he says he can give you the number of the lawn service company he uses; they charge $50 per cutting and stop by his place every week to 10 days to work their magic. Figuring that your lawn is about the same size as Andy’s, you quickly realize that another door is opening for you as you enter into this amazing world called home ownership. You are about to step into the mysterious land of lawnmowers.
Why pay someone all that money to cut your grass, you ask yourself, when you can invest your dollars in a lawnmower and have all the fun of maintaining the lawn yourself? The sweat trickles down your nose as you and your helper are setting the couch down in the middle of the living room. Just then it occurs to you that you don’t know a thing about lawnmowers!
Sit down on that big couch and relax for a few minutes while we take a look at the various products on the market, evaluate their pros and cons, and help you make a wise decision in choosing the lawnmower that best suits your needs.
The first possibility is the classic old-fashioned reel-type push mower—no internal combustion engine, no batteries, no electric motor or extension cord; just one healthy strong environmentalist pushing and puffing his way back and forth across his pristine landscape. Truly, these machines are the ultimate in non-polluting, fitness inducing grass clippers. I have used these mowers back in the days of my hale and hardy youth, and I respect and admire their Spartan and noble utilitarian dignity, but unless you are mowing only about 2,000—3,000 square feet on a flat plane, I don’t recommend these mowers; no need to get so worn out that you don’t get to enjoy grilling some chicken or charring some steaks on that nice deck at the back of your new home.
Next, we can look at the battery powered or electric type lawnmowers. These might be OK for you if, again, you’re not mowing a very large area. These mowers are not very powerful and don’t work well in large, open areas of tough, thick grass, but may be suitable for a smaller, shadier lawn. Check the manufacturers specs for battery life, motor horsepower rating, etc., and talk with the sales personnel about the suitability of these machines for your applications.
Now, we come to one of the most popular selections in the large family of lawnmowers—the 21” cutting width, walk-behind mower. Within this class, there are actually a lot of options available: horsepower ratings from 3 to 5 horsepower (sometimes more), self-propelled or push, grass clippings catcher or not (see my article entitled Grass Clippings: To Bag or Not to Bag
), and adjustable wheel height and cutting height. This same basic type of mower is also available in 18”, 19”, 20”, and sometimes 22” cutting width. This is the most commonly used lawnmower if you are cutting ¼ acre of grass or less. (Note: ¼ acre equals about 11,000 square feet.)
Moving on and moving up, we come to the riding mowers. These are generally equipped with cutting decks from 36”—54” and more. As with the smaller walk-behinds, a number of options are available on the riders, including the Z-turn feature. This stands for zero turning radius and basically means the mower turns in a circle within its own length, thus providing super maneuverability and ease of mowing around trees and other objects. Any number of good quality riding lawnmowers are on the market now, including: Toro, John Deere, Craftsman, Husqvarna, Troy-Bilt, Honda, Murray, and many others.
What about the actual purchase of your mower and the all important service after the sale? One consideration, aside from pricing, in choosing where you do business, is that if you buy from a lawnmower specialty shop, they most likely will have their own service department to repair and maintain any equipment you get from them. If you buy your mower from a “big-box” discount store or from a general home improvement store, you probably will have to take your mower to a specialty shop, anyway, for service and repairs.
In summary, a primary consideration in choosing a mower for home use is the size of the area you will be cutting; ¼ acre or less, you can probably walk; above ¼ up to ½ acre and larger, you will need a riding lawnmower.
Now get up off that couch and enjoy the excitement of your new home, and enjoy the adventure of maintaining your lawn as you journey through the mysterious (but now hopefully not so intimidating) land of lawnmowers!