Buying a lawn mower for the first time

zelenkabachSeptember 9, 2012

For the past 8 years I have had my lawn cut by a lawn service and I foolishly sold a lawn mower that I inherited with my previous house.

The lawn service does an excellent job but they tend to come when they want to and consequently right now the grass is tall enough to braid. I think it is time for me to purchase my own mower and I have never done so in my life. Can anyone make some recommendations?

I have probably a 1/4 acre lot, not large enough for a riding mower. Also, I have installed several raised beds and plan on diminishing the lawn for various garden installations over the next years so the mower needs to be get in an out of small spaces.

I hate dealing with gas engines and I am "mature" and getting "maturer!" so I don't want to fight with the darn thing to get it started nor to push it. However, I don't want to buy a piece of junk either. I am willing to pay for a quality gas machine if I feel it is worth it.

I looked at electric machines, but they don't seem to hold the charge long enough to finish the job. Any recommendations? Will lawn mowers be going on sale soon? Is this a good time to purchase a mower?

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I suggest going to your local not-a-big-box and shop for a mower there. The staff will be much better able to help you pick out the right mower for you. They will also be the place you go to for service -- and you do want to get yours serviced & blade sharpened every year if you don't do it yourself.

It sounds like you want electric start (that's an ignition key, like your car) and are thinking about a self-propelled mower. Self-propelled mowers are *much* heavier and if you have slopes they may not be able to make it up by themselves, and then you are stuck pushing and even heavier mower. They are a good match for a flat lawn, though. If you go that route, I suggest picking one where you can set the speed or at least have some options. A lot of them just crawl along at a glacial pace.

What mowers don't do is get right up to the edges of things, hence the need for weed whackers. So keep in mind you will probably also need something to do your edges. Some people use Roundup to do their edges but you don't want to use that around your garden areas of course!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 8:11AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

lynn'sdaughter, I'm going to suggest the obvious...why not simply hire another lawn service? Or, ask for a sit down meeting with the owner of the one you've been working with and insist on better service? You might write up a brief, simple contract that lists the frequency of mowing visits, depending upon the time of year and type of grass. Do you do your own trimming, or does the lawn service do that?

It is very hard on grass to be cut so infrequently that you can practically make hay. It's also hard on the equipment and the people pushing the mowers!

So, are you prepared to deal with all of the maintenance required to keep a lawn mower in good shape? Changing the oil, cleaning the air filter, replacing and adjusting the blades, etc. are all necessary for the continued operation of the mower.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 3:51PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I kind of agree with Rhizo, mowing sucks! And a lawnmower takes up a lot of premium space, assuming you'll want to keep it in a garage or shed.

If you do decide to buy a non-riding mower, two things can save the job from being something you'd rather get a root canal than do. Double votes for the already-mentioned electric start and self-propelled. Pulling that cord to start the mower has sent me to the chiropractor before. Excellent points on the self-propelled, Nicole. Our yard is flat, that slope stuff never occurred to me unless it gets stuck on an anthill.

Also a great point about needing a trimmer. I've tried gas, the kind that needs to stay plugged into a cord, and the kind that charges up when not in use. I prefer the last kind by a TON! The gas ones are hard to start, too loud, and STINK. The ones that need to stay plugged in, well, I probably don't need to explain how much of a pain that is. Imagine trying to carry your blender around the yard, dragging enough cord to keep it going. Sitting here chuckling, thinking about the one I bought. It was only $20 just a few years ago, but I realized I needed about $100 in outdoor extension cords to reach where I need to use it.

Of only slightly secondary importance to those things is to get one (I'm back to the mower) with a handle that adjusts to the correct height. As a vertically challenged person, the mower I got will not adjust short enough to be comfortable. The handle is about chest-high on me, compromising most of my leverage over this machine.

As a gardener, you should also get one with a bag attachment, so you can put all of those wonderful trimmings wherever you want, whenever you want. Also great for cleaning up leaves in the fall, and it shreds them for you, so they make great mulch or decompose much more quickly in a compost pile.

If you can afford it, I would seriously recommend a riding mower though, if you decide a service is no longer for you.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Haha... my experience with a battery operated electric trimmer was that it was like trying to cut your steak with a baby spoon. Awful. And not cheap, either.

My self-propelled mower that took me 2+ hours to mow and was an onerous chore. Instead, I got a small Snapper 28" riding mower that takes me 45 minutes and I rather enjoy mowing now. I love that thing; it's about perfect for the 1/2 acre that I mow. The only thing I would change is to put the gas tank lower down; it's a bit high for those of us of average height, especially with the new style gas can spouts. Considering the lawn services wanted $350 per month (ack!) to mow, the mower has more than paid for itself.

Plus Snappers are still made in the USA.

Here is a link that might be useful: Snapper RE mower

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Have you thought about using various ground covers, or expanding the coverage of the ones you already have? You mentioned reducing the size of the lawn with planned installations, so why not make them larger or plan more of them?

I walk through yards for a living (checking natural gas services), so I've seen quite a few solutions in the last 36 years. Some yards have virtually no grass to cut and are a mixture of wooded areas with moss underneath, flower beds, walking trails, fish ponds, ornamental grasses, ground covers, fountains, patios, decks, etc. -- anything to make for less lawn to maintain.

I have always joked about paving my yard with concrete and painting it green. Never seen that done, but I have seen a few that were turned into a desert-like habitat with sand and stone and cactus. Absolutely no grass, and very different from the neighbors' yards.

And, if you have money to burn, there's always artificial grass. :)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Fall and winter might be good times to get mowers on sale.
I am small woman 55 yr old. I bought an electric key start mower in january from sears.
I can't find the book for it to give the exact model but it is a Craftsman Ez walk Platinum with front wheel drive. First I bought rear wheel drive and couldnt' really make that work so returned it. This one plugs in to charge the battery and I get many many starts before I have to charge again. I think only charged one time this season, overnight. I love love love the key start. I mostly use it w/o the bag, letting it mulch the clippings which it does very well. Sometimes I will use the bagger to put on my compost and it is easier than other mowers to get the bag on/off. If I recall, the price was around $350.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 9:16AM
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Blanket(7b, 9b)

If you only have a quarter acre, you're right, putting money into a riding mower might be a waste of time if you are fit enough to push a mower. I have a Honda riding mower I'd sell you for $100 if you want to try one out, but it has a flat right tire hence the ridiculous price (Honda 3013 hydrostatic, several thousand brand new). If you can find a deal like that nearby, take it for the cost of a couple of cuttings to see if indeed a riding mower MIGHT be better (less work for older folks). Taking care of a gas engine is simple if you just get the process in your head and follow it. If you can bake cornbread, you can take care of a gas engine.

What kind of grass do you have? Do you know? If you have a summer grass like centipede or bermuda, you should cut it low so that it will mat over and inhibit weeds. If you have fescue or bluegrass, you don't have to do that, though with some of the elite fescues you can cut just as low. If you don't care about grass variety, just cut it around 3-inches to reduce weeding. The lawnmower for you is the LIGHTEST weight lawn mower. Don't worry about power drives or other gizmos. Go for light weight with a sturdy engine. And take care of it like you would baby that cornbread batter. You'll have perfect results everytime with a little TLC.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:52PM
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