Choosing the right lawn mower is an important decision for any homeowner. With proper planning, buying the right machine is nearly foolproof. Before swiping your credit card, you need to consider a few questions like how big is your lawn? Is your property flat or are you on a hill? What type of grass do you have? Is your grass thick or sparse? How environmentally friendly do you want to be? Do you want to work hard or harder? And, perhaps the most important question of all, how much do you want to spend for your mower? Let’s examine the types of mowers and see how they answer these questions.

The most basic, least-expensive, army issue lawn mower is the reel or manual mower. It has a series of blades on a reel that slice the grass, like rolling shears. Grass lovers believe it is best for the look and fell of the lawn, since the tips are sheared as opposed to be whacked, as with a rotary mower. It is human-powered, meaning your effort not only moves the mower, it cuts the grass at the same time. This type of mowing sounds romantic, but it is tough, especially if your lawn is big and your grass is thick. If you have a small, sparse lawn that requires infrequent mowing, this might be the solution. The cut grass is discharged to the rear and can be caught or left on the lawn. There are reel mowers that are powered by gas engines, but they are expensive and very heavy, causing excessive gas use and inconvenience. Professional yard keepers use these for very picky customers.

The most common lawn mower is the gas powered, medium priced rotary mower. This isn’t the family mower that you struggled around the yard as a teenager. Today’s rotary mower has built-in safety devices. These include a safety handle that keeps the blade from moving until both handles are held together; a starter that requires two buttons to be pressed simultaneously, to avoid accidental starting by children; and a blade that stops moving within 5 seconds of engine shut-off.

Rotary mowers are great for lawns that are less than 20,000 square feet. They can have anywhere from a 3 to 7 horsepower engine. If your grass is thick, buy the larger size. Mowers of all types have attachments to catch grass. Some rotary mowers mulch the grass as it is cut and discharge it back to the lawn.

Be sure to buy a 4 stroke engine rather than 2 stroke so you don’t have to mix oil with the gas. It’s also more environmentally friendly. Self-propelled rotary mowers cut as quickly as you can walk behind them. They have a wide swath and can handle most hills.

If you don’t want to burn gas at all, check into electric mowers. They’re slightly less expensive than gas-powered. Some connect to an electric outlet; some are battery-powered. Electric mowers are light and quiet, but they’re limited by length of electric cable. Electric mowers are usually narrower than gas-powered mowers, meaning you need to make more passes to cut the lawn.

Battery-powered mowers are heavy, so if you plan to buy one, get it with the self-propel feature, so you don’t have to push it. One battery charge can cut about 5000 square feet. Extra batteries are expensive, so if you want to be green, try the outlet type with a long, long extension cable.

If your property is large or if you don’t want to work too hard, get a riding mower. The swath is wider and they’re fun to ride, almost like a big Tonka toy. They can cut a large task down to size. After using a riding mower, you’ll need to cut in the areas around trees and gardens with a smaller mower, like an electric rotary.

Some riding mowers have innumerable attachments, like a small truck. In fact, some riding mowers are tractors with smaller engines. You can buy plow blades, headlights, CD players, drink holders, windshields and a more powerful engine. Obviously, these are the most costly mowers to purchase and maintain.

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