I have a large grassy weedy area that needs regular mowing. I went by
Sears last night and was floored with all the choices of mowers. Please
answer a few questions for me:
1. I am attracted to the self-propelled gas-powered models. What is
the advantage of a variable speed model over a single speed? The area
to mow is relatively flat with a couple of sizeable dips/depressions.
2. Most of them had Briggs-Stratton motors. One had a Honda motor.
The ones I am interested in are 5 to 7 hp with most being 6.5 hp. Any
thoughts on make and motor size?
3. Most had 21 inch cuts but a couple were 22 inches. It seems that
the 22 inch would do the work a little faster but may be less maneuverable.
4. Most had regular size wheels but a couple had large back wheels.
Would the bumpy terrain benefit much from the larger back wheels? Any
5. One had a push-button starter while most started by pulling a
rope-starter. A couple said that they started faster and easier because
of a some kind of "hotter engine" technology.
Guess those are my questions for now. They are all in the $250-400
price range. Thanks for your advice/suggestions.
The single speed is just about right for most people. It's also a little
simpler in design making problems less likely.
5 HP is usually more than you need for a walk behind self propelled mower.
I don't think the average person would notice the difference.
I don't like the plastic rear wheels and on some models at different height
adjustment the 'tires' actually rubbed againt the bolts on the frame.
They start easy but engines are rarely hot when you start them :-)
I have a 21" cut 6.25HP model with rear discharge. Bag or mulch. It is a
nice mower except for the plastic rear wheels. They rub at lower height
settings. I use it in places where the rider mower won't go.
More speed, more cutting/discharge power, but I haven't seen much
difference on the variable speed mowers I've owned which have only
been two speeds, but YMMV. I don't care for self-propelled mowers.
It's not very difficult and it's little enough exercise to push a
mower around a lawn once or a couple times a week, and self-propelled
is just something else to break, though it may be justified if one is
sickly or weak or the area to mow is exceedingly large. Again, YMMV.
Maneuverability would depend more on design than 1 inch difference in
cut. The 22 inch would obviously cut a larger swath than the 21, but
by only 1 inch, so not worth paying more for.
Manufacturers tout large back wheels as making the mower easier to
push and more maneuverable, but it ain't so according to Consumer
Reports (you may want to look up a recent mower review) and as far as
I'm concerned having had small and large rear wheel models. I find
large rear wheels a nuisance as they get in the way adjusting height.
Large wheels do nothing with bumpy terrain. Don't pay extra for them,
and I would avoid them.
You didn't ask, but I prefer a mulching mower, with available side
discharge. Mulching is good for the lawn, saves landfill space, and
saves the work of pushing around the weight of a bag of cut grass and
of constantly emptying the bag. Also, I find a mulching/side discharge
mower easier to maneuver.
Suggest that for anything equal or less in area than the approximately one
quarter acre area of grass that we cut, that a $130 (US dollars) Wal Mart
3.5 HP Briggs and Stratton or Tecumseh engined mower with zero extra
features is your best bet. I'm in my 70s and find that normal mowing on our
slightly rough and uneven half acre which includes the house-garage
footprint, fairly easy, using the normal precautions of steel toed foot wear
and eye protection.
Simple, reliable (despite being left out under the snow one winter!), easy
to maintain, lightweight and therefore easy to store, because of the lack
'extras', no grass clipping bags to drag or wear out, no complicated drives
to the wheels etc.
Lighter weight is also an asset making it easier to lift into the trunk of a
car or pickup if you DO need to take it somewhere for maintenance by others
or to the summer place. You can, if you wish, easily fit a leaf mulching
blade. such a light weight machine. Fairly light but the motors are pretty
rugged; even if you hit a stone/rock and stall the motor I've never yet bent
a crankshaft or ever broken the hub that the mounts the blade.
The only thing simpler (and perhaps not much cheaper?) is a mechanical
'push-mower' but I think they work well on flatter surfaces such as a golf
Typical 3.5 HP gas mowers are cheap to replace, their cost, here, has gone
up by only about $20, during the last six to eight or so years. Our mowers
tend to last at least 15-20 years anyway. I think our present one of the
approximately three others we've owned since 1960 (the others were all
second hand!) is the first ever we bought new. It's about ten years old and
the only maintenance has been a couple of spark plugs, a change of oil,
sharpening the blade a few times and once a new pull starter rope. (Oh yes
and I painted the engine cowling once after the left in the snow incident!)
probably a total maintenance cost of less than $20?
Originally came with non adjustable height wheels; last year somebody
scrapped a mower and gave me the adjustable type wheels which I've fitted.
Adjustment useful this year to attack the increasing prevalence of
dandelions in this region using a temporarily lower setting.
Recommendation. KISS = Keep it something simple.
PS. And watch out for those toes. A work buddy of mine lost 2.5 of them
wearing rubber boots!
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