It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the shiny new mowers available at mower sales centers. Different brands and models have different engines, capabilities, convenience features and add-on accessories. However, you do have to take a critical look at the area you are mowing, and decide what would be the most effective mower for your situation. Here are fundamental tips for choosing the best mower for your lawn.
Riding vs Walk-Behind Mowers
If your lawn is mostly flat with minimal obstacles, then a riding mower may help you get finished mowing much faster. A typical riding mower cuts twice the width of a push mower on one pass. However, if you have hills or many obstacles to maneuver around, a push or self-propelled walk-behind mower may be your best option. Riding mowers require more maintenance, take up more space in storage, use more fuel, and have a tipping risk on inclines. Their good points are that they mow an area faster, can power through tall grass, tow lawn carts and lawn sweepers, and may power snow blowers and other attachments. Even a small yard may benefit from use of a smaller riding mower if you do not have the stamina to use a walk-behind mower.
Though reel mowers powered only by the forward motion of the user are still available, this is about walk-behind mowers that are powered by an engine or electric motor. Most walk-behind mowers are powered by a gasoline engine, though electric or even battery-powered mowers may be suitable if you have a very small yard. Something to consider for the gas mowers is whether or not you can benefit from a self-propelled feature or if your lawn is flat enough to not get fatigued pushing the weight of the mower along. Also, be aware that self-propelled models vary in capability. One feature that may be a great benefit for this type of mower is variable speed mowing, which senses how fast you are walking and adjusts. Other self-propelled mowers set the pace that you must keep up with.
Standard models of walk-behind mowers, whether they be the push type or self-propelled, usually come with all four wheels being the same size. High-wheel mowers have two larger diameter wheels on the back of the mower. They help with stability when mowing an incline back and forth instead of up and down. Higher wheels also help when rolling the mower deck over uneven yard surfaces. If you have a lot of bumps and dips in your yard, a high-wheel mower may help you get it done easier and with less scalping of the lawn surface.
Zero-Turn Riding Mowers
These mowers are driven with two handles instead of a steering wheel. There is a position to hold the sticks to be able to spread them open. Then, you sit on the seat and close the sticks together over your lap. You go forward, backward and turn by coordinating the pushing and pulling of the sticks. Zero-turn refers to the mowers not needing a curved turning radius like other mowers. In a regular rider you are moving forward and turn right and left on an arc. Zero-turn mowers can spin completely around left and right without needing to be moving forward. They have large rear wheel and tiny front wheels, allowing for precision maneuverability around obstacles such as trees, planting beds and water features. However, zero-turn mowers are not designed for use on hills. They are made for relatively flat mowing areas.
The Feel of Bigger vs Smaller Riding Mowers
You need to pick a riding mower based on the size of lawn you will be mowing. Mowers are often designed to mow a certain amount of lawn each week. Mowers that have bigger mowing decks and can do things such as moving snow in the winter often have bigger engines. This results in a bigger chassis to support the engine, rider and equipment. Some models are rated as lawn tractors rather than just riding mowers. If you have a flat area to mow, you can use any size riding mower or tractor that can effectively maneuver around your yard’s obstacles. However, be aware that larger riding mowers or lawn tractors feel much less stable when mowing even slight inclines laterally. User’s manuals highly recommend that all inclines be mowed up and down. User’s manuals also have a set degree of angle to not exceed when mowing. Larger riding mowers or lawn tractors put you higher in the seat and are heavier. Smaller mowers often have a lower center of gravity and may feel more stable when mowing an angle of incline that the user’s manual considers appropriate.
If you cannot swing your leg up and over the seat as you would when getting on a motorcycle, you want a step-through riding mower. Zero-turn models have a platform you step up on and then turn around on to sit down on the seat. However, this mower type is only suited for mostly flat lawn areas. Step-through models do not have anything blocking the area between each foot rest—you can step right through. Other mowers may have the area blocked by the chassis design between the foot rest areas, requiring you to step on one foot rest with one foot and then swing your leg up and over the seat to get on and off the mower.
“Take your time considering what you want out of your next lawn mower purchase,” said Bradley Mowers. Consider everything from fuel economy to maintenance and even comfort features. Riding mowers have canopy options to keep you out of the sun, luxury seats for a comfortable ride, and even beverage holders for keeping an ice cold bottle of water at the ready on a hot summer day. The bells and whistles of mower models are great, but make sure the one you pick meets the fundamental needs for mowing your property type quickly, effectively and safely.