A gas or electric push mower is fine for a small lawn. But you'll probably prefer a self-propelled gas model for slopes and a lawn tractor for a lawn one-half acre or larger. While an old-fashioned manual reel mower without an engine or motor is the greenest choice for small areas, it might require more effort than you bargained for while delivering less-than-stellar mowing. You'll also find a rising number of robotic mowers that rove on their own within an electric perimeter wire. For help with your selection, use this lawn mower and tractor guide.
Forget about numbers
Our latest tests confirm that more horsepower doesn't necessarily mean higher-quality mowing. Mower manufacturers have swapped horsepower numbers for engine-size and torque specifications, but even those don't guarantee better results. Our advice: Check our Ratings (available to subscribers) for top performers.
Even if you don't plan to shop for a mower, you could end up doing so if you own an older model and it breaks. The latest data from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that push mowers usually aren't worth fixing after four years and self-propelled mowers after five years. Older tractors might be worth repairing, but getting them to and from the shop can add expense.
And no matter which mower you buy, use common sense when operating it. Wear ear plugs or other ear protection; all of the gas-powered machines we tested emitted more than the 85 decibels at which we recommend hearing protection. Don't mow on grades steeper than 15 percent. Look behind you when you mow in reverse. Some respondents to our recent lawn survey drank, listened to music, and even texted as they mowed. We suggest saving those and other distractions until after you're done.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.