Lawn Mower Buyers Guide: Finding A Cheap Lawn Mower That Will Last Years

Finding a cheap but dependable lawnmower isn't hard. With many options available, you can find a great low priced lawnmower, irregardless of the size of your lawn.

Most people want a lawnmower that won't cost them a lot of money. Keeping costs low on a quality lawnmower depends on several factors, not the least of which is the size of your yard. But whether you have a tiny patch of grass or a couple of acres worth of greenery, you can keep value in mind and still land an excellent mower.

If you're like me, you live in a city and only have a couple of hundred square feet to mow. If that's the case, you really should look into a reel mower; these old-fashioned but ultra-dependable blade push mowers are coming back into vogue, because they save energy costs and are less expensive than traditional gas-powered mowers. One of the leading makers of reel blade mowers these days is the American Lawnmower company, which manufacturers reel mowers that are lightweight (anywhere from 16 to 32 pounds, according to their website), and are made with a combination of high-quality spring loads and ball bearings that will last for decades. The most basic reel mowers are available at places like Lowe's and Home Depot for a low price, while ones with more options (don't laugh; options for these low-tech lawn cutters include grass catchers and four-wheeled models) cost just a bit more.

Another option is to simply buy an older reel mower, then have the blade sharpened. You can sharpen the blade yourself with a lost cost device. Available from a variety of companies like American, EZ-Grip, and Scotts, these are inexpensive, and will greatly extend the life of your reel mower. Best of all, these devices are multi-purpose, so you can also use them to sharpen a variety of other garden tools, like spades, clippers or shears. Throw in a can of WD-40 - you'll need that to oil up the wheels, ball bearings and blades - and you could be set to mow a small lawn at bargain-basement price. Figure in that the small initial investment is all you'll likely need for many years, and the reel mower option becomes an attractive one - especially if you like to use landscaping as an alternative form of exercise anyway!

What if you have an acre or more to mow? Using a reel mower for big or hilly lawns may not be feasible. If this is your situation, you really need a powered mower. Gas can be expensive, however. If you are looking for alternatives to filling up at the gas pump every week or so, you should really consider an electric or even a cordless model.

For argument's sake (not to mention due to unpredictable fluctuations in the price of gasoline in the U.S.), we'll say that cordless or electric models are almost always more price efficient over a long haul. Though they can cost more at first than their traditional gas-powered counterparts, a dependable electric or cordless mower should save you money within a couple of years, and the maintenance, as we'll see, is much less costly as well.

Electric mowers and their close cousins, the cordless electric mowers, are quite different in respect to price. Electric mowers use a minimum of power; the amount of electricity required to mow an acre-size yard for a year is only a few dollars, total. Because electric mowers require a cord, however, they can be somewhat of a hassle to use, although with well-place outdoor outlets (think newer homes, which tend to have these), you may want to choose a corded mower. On their website, Black and Decker, a leading maker of electric mowers, suggests that the average property will need not more 100 feet of cord accessibility to use their basic model. Since most very basic gas-powered mower models then require gas to feed them, the corded electric model becomes a very inexpensive option for those who have the required outlets outside and available, and you can shortly recoup your investment within a couple of years.

What if you don't like messing with an electric cord while you're cutting the grass? Cordless models can be a bit steeper in terms of price. There are a limited number of manufacturers, like Neuton and ELF. Wait, you're probably thinking: cordless technologies can't be a low budget option! But if you're lawn is bigger (an acre or two), and you don't have the capacity for a corded electric, then a cordless mower, which recharges itself overnight by use of a battery pack that plugs into the wall, might work for you. Figuring in the cost of the cheapest gas-powered mower, plus the cost of gas and maintenance over the first five years or so, you may find that a cordless model still saves you money in the long run. The key is to calculate savings over a long-term period, figuring the price of gasoline at an average rate. (If you live in a rural area where you must drive several miles or more to reach a gas pump, you may want to figure in travel costs as well when doing a benefit comparison.)

Finally, yards over a couple of acres can be mowed with a push mower, but you may want to invest in a riding mower, because it will save you time - not to mention being less work. Low cost, high value riding mowers are a little trickier to find then their pushier, upright cousins. Yet, there are value priced riding mowers available, if you know where to look.

What is important in a riding mower depends upon how your yard is shaped. If there are a lot of obstacles, according to top riding mower maker John Deere, then this affects the type of mower you will need. Turning capacity, for our discussion here, becomes an expense in a riding mower. For our purposes, if you have many objects around which to maneuver, a cheaper riding mower just may not be an option for you. Likewise, especially hilly yards will require higher horsepower mowers, also a consideration and potential cost elevator.

But what if you have a relatively open, flat yard? Then the cost of your potential grass cutting ride just dropped considerably. In a riding mower, the radius turn is everything; the tighter the turning capacity, the more expensive the mower is likely to become. Suffice it to say that a big but open lawn with very few obstacles will require only the most basic riding mower. While John Deere is the most trusted name, Troy-Bilt offers a basic (17.5 horsepower) model, while bargain-brand Bolens makes a 15.5 horsepower model. Since lower horsepower is adequate for flatter-grader yards, these basic riders may work for you. Relatively speaking, of course, riding mowers are more expensive than other types of mowers, require large amounts of gasoline, and will need periodic maintenance. Still, if your lawn is a good sized one, riding mowers may be the only option - other than paying the local industrial teen to do the job with his uncle's ancient Husquavarna, or buying a pack of grass-eating goats, of course.

Keeping costs low on a mower is possible, if you examine many brands, distributors, and options, and if you keep in mind the specific needs of your lawn. The more you're willing to sweat yourself - in both the researching and the mowing itself - the more you can save. However, as we have seen there are low cost options available in all categories of lawn mowers, so looking for a low-priced mower doesn't have to be as boring as watching grass grow!

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