Consumer Reports has done the homework and can pinpoint some of the best on the market. Peter Sawchuk, senior project leader in testing recreation and home improvement products for Consumer Reports, joins The Early Show with the lowdown.
Consumer Reports has 175,000 square feet of lawn in Florida, where all mowers and trimmers are tested. Peter is the man behind all of these tests, and he's spent multiple hours pushing mowers and evaluating trimmers. His big discovery about the newest crop of machines: You no longer have to spend $700 to get a top-performing lawn mower. It's also possible to buy some great trimmers for significantly less money than in the past. How often you replace your mower and trimmer varies by how much you use the machines and how well you maintain them. In general, expect to replace them every five to eight years.
For some time, a $700 Honda mower has been Consumer Reports' top-ranked model. It is No. 1 again this year. However, the No. 2-ranked model is an almost-identical Honda mower — and it costs $120 less. This is a significant difference. The less-costly Honda has very similar "cutting characteristics" and is equally easy to handle. So why does one cost less than the other? In the expensive model, some parts of the mower are made with a high-tech plastic. In the cheaper model, those same parts are made of steel. This is nothing that the average consumer would really notice, and it doesn't affect performance.
Toro Recycler 20070
At $400, this is a Consumer Reports "Best Buy." This means you receive above-average performance for a reasonable price. Sawchuk says the mower tested well in all three cutting categories: bagging, mulching and side discharge. It also has a good self-propel mechanism and good speed control. The Toro has an electric start. You simply turn a key, just like you do with your car.
How cheap is too cheap?
It's great to have less-expensive options, but Sawchuk points out that some models on the market simply are not worth your money. For example, the Yard-man 12A-26MB. This mower is sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and is priced at only $215. It's Consumer Reports' lowest-ranked self-propelled mower. The engine is made by a Chinese motorcycle company that's unknown in the United States. This is the first mower on the market with this engine, so there's no way to gauge its dependability. It doesn't have a bagging option, and the side discharge leaves a row of clippings behind, forcing you to rake after you mow.
Three essential features when buying a lawn mower:
After mowing, most people go back and trim around driveways, flowerbeds or garden walls. This provides the finishing touch that sets manicured lawns apart. The usual assumption has been that gas-powered trimmers were superior to electric trimmers. But they also cost more — at least $100. However, Sawchuk discovered that many plug-in electric models now on the market perform as well as their gas-powered counterparts — and are priced at only about $60. Prices have also come down on quality gas trimmers.
RYOBI EL15 RY41002
This corded electric trimmer, priced at $60, is a Consumer Reports Best Buy. Although the obvious downside to electric trimmers is that you are limited by a cord, electric models are much easier to maintain.
This $70 gas-powered trimmer is another Consumer Reports Best Buy. It does not have as many features as the more expensive models, but it will get the job done effectively.