5 On Your Side

Get the best mower for your green

Posted August 7, 2008 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2008 10:16 a.m. EDT

Homeowners buy some 6 million lawn mowers a year. Consumer Reports and 5 on Your Side help you find the best mow for your green.

Lawn-mower manufacturers tout their products' torque and engine size, as well as horsepower. However, those numbers aren't that significant, Consumer Reports cautions.

"None of those numbers really matter when it comes to lawn mower performance," Consumer Reports tester Peter Sawchuck said.

Much more important is how evenly the mower cuts the grass and how easily it handles.

"A good handling mower has balance in the handle bars, and it makes it easy to control," Sawchuck said. "And we use a series of cones as a way to test the maneuverability of each of the mowers."

If you bag your clippings, you want to make sure the mower's bag holds a lot and is easy to remove and attach.

Those who mulch their clippings or discharge them to the side should look for a mower that discharges the clippings evenly.

Consumer Reports tested push and self-propelled gas mowers. Self-propelled models proved to be great on slopes and got the job done faster.

Testers said getting a mower with rear-wheel drive is critical – especially if you're bagging clippings.

"Rear-wheel drive helps when you're bagging, because as the bag fills up, the front wheels lift off the ground, and the traction's on the rear wheels, so it continues to drive the wheels," Sawchuck said.

Although rear-wheel-drive mowers can cost as much as $850, Consumer Reports found a Best Buy for far less: a $350 Toro Recycler.

Push mowers work fined for small, flat lawns, testers found.

Consumer Reports named the $230 Cub Cadet a Best Buy. For $60 more, you can upgrade to a self-propelled model that comes with a handy electric start.

Be careful, though, when doing your routine lawn mowing: Annually, 77,000 people go to the emergency room after mower accidents.