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Things to consider before you buy a lawn mower
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Author Topic: Things to consider before you buy a lawn mower  (Read 4576 times)
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« on: June 13, 2009, 13:11:04 »


First, know that there are many congigurations. Here are some of the more common configurations:
1-  Small, self powered (no engine or motor) reel type
2-  Small electric push mowers
3-  Push type small engine mowers
4-  Walk behind, self propelled mowers
5-  Small rear engine riding mower
6-  Regular manual shift lawn tractor
7-  Hydrostatic drive lawn tractor
8-  Multi-purpose Garden tractor (some have available attachments like blades, loaders, etc.)
9-  ZTR residential mowers
10-  ZTR commercial mowers
11-  Mid mount ZTR mowers
12-  Front Mount ZTR mowers
13-  “Stander” ZTR mowers
14-  Walk behind ZTR mowers (with stand-on or sit-on sulkies available)

A)  How much grass will you be mowing?  

If you mow a large area, consider a wide deck mower.  On the other hand, if you only mow a small front and back yard, you may want to consider a push mower.  

B)  Will you be mowing more than just your own yard?  

Will you mow only your yard or are you using it in a lawn care business?  This affects the type of mower you should buy.  For example, if you are using it in a lawn care business, you should invest in a commercial quality mower, whether it is a commercial walk behind, commercial lawn tractor, commercial stander, or a commercial ZTR, the commercial mowers are designed for the day in and day out use.  

C)  What type of grass will you be mowing?  

The type of grass you are mowing may affect the type of mower you need.  For example, if you are mowing a small yard with grass that mows easily, perhaps you are interested in a push type reel mower.  

D)  Is it thick?  Or thin?  

This affects what type of mower you need.  It also affects how big your engine needs to be for the deck size.  Typically your local servicing dealer will have a good idea what type of grass and how heavy the grass is locally.  With this information they should be able to provide you with a idea of which mower you need to buy.

E)  Will you be mowing in the mornings?  Or will you be mowing in the afternoon or evenings?

Once again, this affects what type or configuration of mower that may work the best for you.  In the mornings the grass would tend to be wet with due and need more horsepower to discharge the grass.

F)  What type of terrain are you mowing?

Is your yard flat, or hilly?  If hilly, how steep are the hills?  If you intend to purchase a zero turn radius mower, and your hills are really steep, this affects the type of ZTR that you need.  A front mount mower (the type with casters on the back, 2 drive wheels, and another set of casters on the front of the deck) is better for mowing along the sides of slopes.  Just remember, to never mow steep sloops or hills with any mower.  Mid mount mowers (with no rear caster wheels but otherwise similar to front mount mowers) maneuver much more quickly and easily.  

G)  Do you want to walk, ride, stand, or sit?

This is a big deciding factor when deciding whether to buy a push mower or a riding mower (tractor type or Zero turn).  If you decide to buy a ZTR mower, you need to decide whether you want to stand or sit.  Another option is buying a commercial walk behind and then adding a “sulky” to it.  Sulkies can be purchased in "stand-on" and "seated" models.  

H)  How much space do you have to store it?

This is a big factor, especially if you choose to store your mower inside.  On the other hand, if you plan to store it outside (not recommended), this is not that big of a factor.  

I)  Will you do the maintenance yourself or will you have it serviced professionally?

If you have mechanical knowledge you may choose to service your own machines.  Simple things like an oil change, replacing the spark plug(s), replace the air filter and fuel filter can easily be done by anyone with minimal mechanical experience.  However, more difficult tasks and in depth issues should be performed by experienced and properly trained power equipment mechanics.  

J)  Do you want to bag the clippings, throw them in the grass (normal side discharge) or, mulch them?

This is more about your yard than anything else.  Typically, it is healthier for your lawn to at least discharge the grass onto the yard or mulch it.  Grass clippings that have been “mulched” will compost much quicker than ordinary grass clippings.  The composted clippings in crease your soil quality.  Decide this before you buy your mower so you can buy whatever attachments you need when you buy the mower.  

K)  Do you have a brand that you are loyal to?

Are you a fan of brands like John Deere, Kubota, Cub Cadet, or similar brands?  If so, check with the local servicing dealer for that brand.  For example, if you are a John Deere fan, Don't buy your mower from Home Depot, Lowes, or a similar store since they do not service them.  The only care to sell you a machine.  The servicing dealer (meaning they service in-house what they sell) cares about you after the sale since they will probably be, or at least hope to be, the place where you take your machine for any necessary service.

L)  Is your terrain flat or hilly, smooth or uneven terrain, clear or full of trees, etc?

All this affects the type of mower you would need.  Hilly terrain would indicate a need for a different machine than flat terrain due to stability issues and due to the fact that some ZTR mowers do not do well on hills.  Smooth vs. rough/uneven terrain may cause you to make sure you buy a mower with good anti-scalping wheels.  If your yard has many obstacles like trees, plants, flower beds, etc., you may choose to go with a zero turn mower, even if you otherwise planned on a tractor type mower.  Consider how close your mowing obstacles are when planning your purchase.  For example, when you need to mow between trees, will your mower be able to get between them?  Or do you plan to just use a trimmer or push mower to mow these areas?  If you have a lot of trees a ZTR mower is much faster once you learn how to use it.

M)  What is your purchase budget?  What is you yearly maintenance budget?

This is one of the biggest deciding factors when purchasing a mower.  Literally your budget options vary from about $100 for a cheap box store push mower (Absolutely not a recommended buy) to well over $10,000 for a quality commercial ZTR or tractor type mower.  Budget limitations need to be decided before you set your heart on any particular type, brand, size, or other criteria of mower.  

N)  Will you be interested in purchasing a used mower to help easy the budget pains?

This is an important decision as well.  You may be able to pick up a used mower, possibly even one that is still under warranty, for much less than a brand new mower.  Just like a new vehicle, when you buy a new mower and leave the store with it, you just lost some money!!  You can take it home, mow with it for 30 minutes, take it back and try to sell it out right and receive less for it than you paid.  The only exception may be if there is a “money back guarantee”.

O)  Are you a "hayfield" cutter, or do you like a manicured looking lawn? How much do you hate clumping?

Some brands are designed to give a fine manicured cut while others are designed more for a “quick cut”.  For example, Dixie Chopper is advertised as the fastest mower.  Many users report the mower may be fast, but it does not provide a manicured cut, at least not at those speeds.  For the best cut, consider a reel type mower.  Yes they are available in a ride on mower, but they are far more expensive.  The reel type mower does not “tear” the grass off at a high speed, but rather, cuts it like a scissors cuts a piece of paper: while grass is holding still the blades approach the grass and cut it off in a scissor motion.

O) Will there be users who have physical limitations?

This is a deciding factor on whether or not to purchase a riding mower or a walk behind because some types of mowers are much easier to get onto and off of than others.  For example, some riding mowers have an “open” center floor board while others have a big “hump” in the center.  

P)  Do you already have a relationship with a local servicing outdoor power equipment dealer that you trust and are loyal to?

Are you loyal to a certain local servicing outdoor power equipment dealer?  If so, see what brands they carry and discuss your mowing needs with the dealer or salesperson there.  They have a great idea what type of grass and mowing conditions are typical for your area.  

Q)  Are there any features that you really want, like key start, back-up recoil start even on your favorite electric start mower, three way bag/mulch/side discharge, self propelled, blade brake/clutch, rust free deck, cup holders, gauges, Gator mulching blades, easy height adjusting, high back seat, etc.?

When you have decided on the type of mower you will be buying, start looking at options.  Some of these features may be available as factory options or even options the dealer can install after the purchase.  Examples of  “after the sale add-ons” include Gator mulching blades and high back seats (for additional comfort).

R)  Do you plan to use it for other duties such as lawn rolling, aerating, pulling a pull behind tiller, or other yard work?  Or is it strictly for mowing the yard.  

If you will be doing any amount of “tractor type” work with your mower, consider something with a transmission designed to do it.  I have seen some of the cheap residential transmissions hold up fairly well under the abuse of pulling a pull behind mower, lawn rollers, etc. but I would consider this the exception rather than the rule.  

And finally, this is by far not an exhaustive list. Hopefully we have given you something to think about. The right mower could last you years, and cost a good deal of money.  It is important to give your purchase some forethought. We are here to help.......feel free to ask us any questions about any aspect of lawn mowers and any other outdoor power equipment.

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