How to Choose the Right Walk-Behind Mower

Spring is here, and with it comes that necessary task of mowing the lawn. In most cases, the homeowner already has a lawnmower that merely needs servicing to get it ready for the next two seasons, but many will be looking to replace worn out equipment. Or those in their first homes will be trying to decide what the right walk-behind mower is for their needs.

Types of Walk-Behind Mowers

Walk-behind mowers come in three different power-source configurations, each suitable for different yard sizes and terrain types.

Manual reel mowers are without a doubt the most economical of walk-behind mowers. These mowers have no engines at all, relying on the effort of the individual pushing them to make the cutting blades rotate. They are the ultimate in quiet operation, and require little maintenance beyond sharpening the blades and greasing the axles each season. However, they are only suitable for small yards, no more than a quarter acre in size, with flat terrain. Other disadvantages to them are that they cut small widths at a time and are not effective on grass over about two inches high.

Electric mowers are excellent choices for homeowners with yards up to one-third of an acre in size. With no emissions, and quiet operations, these lawn mowers are perfect for neighborhoods with noise ordinances or in areas that have air quality problems. They feature easy start-up, and come in both cordless and corded varieties. Buyers should be aware that electric mowers have narrow cutting decks requiring more trips across the lawn, and are unsuitable for uneven terrain. Something to watch for with corded models is objects that will snag the cord or unplug the mower during operation, while with cordless models battery life is a major concern.

Gas push mowers can handle all yard sizes up to half an acre, and terrains that are either flat or uneven. Gas mowers are also excellent when dealing with thick grass; the higher powered engines push through where other models will bog down or stall altogether. With wider cutting decks, a gas mower takes less time to complete the job. However, the wider decks may have difficulty in small areas. These mowers will also require regular oil and filter changes.

Grass Disposal Options

As with power sources, several ways exist for walk-behind mowers to dispose of grass clippings. Which one the owner chooses is a matter of individual preference, and may have as much to do with the yard it is used in as any other reason.

Bagging mowers are extremely common, and come in all three power source configurations. Rear discharge mowers vent grass clippings from the back of the mower deck into a waiting bag. The advantage to this is that the owner is not walking into clippings, nor does the bag get caught on obstacles in the yard; however, the owner must stop and empty the bag at regular intervals.

Side discharge mowers shoot grass clippings out a side vent, either into a waiting bag, or straight onto the lawn. The advantage to using a side vent with a bag is that the grass clippings are contained, but there is the problem of the bag getting caught on trees or other such things. They also need to be emptied frequently. Allowing the grass to fall directly on the yard can avoid that need, but the owner will find himself walking through clippings, and they do tend to clump. Side discharge mowers are available on both gas and electric models.

Mulching Mowers are perfect for the homeowner who does not want to have to stop and empty a bag, or who does not want large clumps of grass clippings to walk through that require raking afterward. These mowers chop clippings into extremely small particles that fall back to the grass, fertilizing as the lawn is mowed. They are available in both electric and gas configurations.

Optional Features

With the basics in mind, the buyer can move on to optional features. While manual reel mowers feature very few options, gas and electric models can have a variety. From self propelled models that do much of the work themselves to blade-brake clutch systems that let the owner move obstacles without stopping the motor, to electric starting systems for gas-powered models, it is a matter of what the buyer wants—and what he is willing to pay for.

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