- Electric vs. gas. How big is the area that you want to cut? Electric lawn mowers are a good fit for small areas, but nothing can match the power of a classic gas mower (although Mother Nature isn’t so enthusiastic).
- Plug-in vs. rechargeable. Your cell phone might not be able to get through the day, but batteries have actually improved; rechargeable lawn mowers can now operate at peak levels for about 35 minutes.
- Mulching vs. bagging. Many less expensive units offer only mulching and side discharge. More advanced models offer mulching, side and rear discharge, and bagging.
- Single blade vs. dual blade. Mulching systems include dual blades, deck-mounted kicker blocks, deck contouring, high-lift blades, serrated blades and accelerator plates. Each attempts to maximize mulching and perfect the quality of the cut.
- Self-propelled vs. push. Self-propelled lawn mowers are more expensive, but your back will thank you later. Be sure to choose a variable speed self-propulsion system so that different operators can easily use the mower.
- Steel vs. aluminum vs. polymer. Steel decks are less expensive, but can rust. Aluminum decks don’t rust, but will eventually corrode; both can be minimized by keeping the underside of the mower clear of grass clippings, which produce corrosive acids when they rot. Polymer decks won’t degrade but aren’t as durable.
- Electric start vs. manual recoil. Electric start mowers make the job easier, as anyone who has uttered unspeakable threats at their classic recoil mower can attest. The batteries need to be recharged and protected from freezing for optimal life span.
- Blade brake systems. This option allows you to instantly stop the blade in an emergency. The engine keeps operating while the blade is stopped. Aside from potentially saving life and limb, this option is useful if you need to stop and move obstacles or cross pathways.
- Wide deck vs. narrow deck. Walk-behind mowers typically offer deck widths anywhere between 21 and 30 inches. Larger deck sizes can also be found on riding mowers, both traditional and zero-turn units.
Maintenance is important to ensure the mower will start easily and operate properly when needed. Change the oil and spark plug annually, use fresh gas (less than three months old), and sharpen blades annually. If the season is very dry or you have sandy soil, the blades will dull more quickly.