Buying the right mower for your needs

How to Buy a Lawnmower for Less

by Debra Karplus

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That rebuilt mulching mower you bought years ago for $125 has served you well. You've prudently performed the recommended maintenance. But now the rear wheels wobble and the motor's burning oil. You've crunched the numbers and discover that a new mower's probably the best option. So how can you buy a lawnmower for less?

A less expensive lawnmower is appropriate for the lawn size.

Husbands sitting atop riding mowers look like they're enjoying themselves, but for your average lawn, you need less lawnmower, not a big toy for a big boy. Riding mowers cost over $1000. If your age or health makes mowing challenging, hiring the neighbor kid to mow might still be a cheaper option long term than buying a riding mower.

By contrast, in terms of price, size and capacity exists the old-fashioned hand mower, push mower, or reel mower. If you grew up in the 1950s, your dad may have used one of these easy-to-operate mowers. Adequate for small flat lawns, push mowers are still around for under $200.

Gas or electric mowers are least expensive for most lawns.

Gas mowers have been popular for many years. Though gasoline prices keep rising, the amount of gas you'll use during the average six month mowing season is relatively nominal. Self-propelled gas models cost about $500.

Most people find push gas mowers, those not self-propelled, have enough oomph for mowing and cost about $250. Mulching mowers cost closer to $300, but may be worth it. A good mulching mower can do magic with a yard covered with autumn leaves, making them quickly "disappear."

Electric mowers tend to be the mower of choice for people with environmental concerns about using gasoline to mow a lawn. Electric mowers of the past had to be plugged in using a long extension cord. The biggest problem with these mowers was the risk of mowing over the power cord. You can still purchase corded electric mowers for under $200.

Cordless electric mowers have become increasingly popular in recent year, due in part to the combination of expensive gas prices and concern about pollution. These mowers cost about $300 and have a battery that must be charged before each mowing. For about $400, you can buy one that is self-propelled.

Mower shop versus big box store: which is less expensive?

Walk into any home improvement center or big box store and you'll find an assortment of mowers for sale with a range of prices. The home improvement centers are likely to sell the cheapest mowers, but be wary of brand names that you've never heard of. Online customer reviews might be useful to peruse before you even set foot into a store to purchase a lawn mower. Many of the name brands tend to get the best ratings, despite their higher price.

The people working at the neighborhood mower shop are likely to be very knowledgeable about what they sell and can steer you towards features that are most appropriate for you and your lawn. One shop, for example, sold a self-propelled gas mulching mower to a petite middle-aged female who commented that because her arms were shorter than those of a man, the string to start the mower was difficult to operate. The mower shop was able to move the string, easing her ability to start the mower.

Additionally, the mower shop delivered her mower to her house, completely assembled and filled with gas and oil. They also gave her a $25 trade-in on her old mower. This sort of customer service may be lacking in the bigger shops. And if you don't have a large enough vehicle to transport home the new mower or are feeling challenged by the idea of assembling your new mower, a mower specialty store may be right for you.

There's no particular time of year that's best for buying a mower. Some places run year-end deals to clear out inventory. Others have sales at the start of the season. Sometimes there are coupons or rebates available.

A well-maintained mower is less expensive.

Want your new mower to last a long time? Do absolutely everything that the owner's manual suggests you to do in terms of what type of oil to use, changing the oil yearly, using gas that's not been sitting in your garage too long, sharpening the blades regularly, and changing the spark plugs as needed. If you take good care of your new lawn mower, you're unlikely to be buying another mower for a long time.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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