It matters not how much maintenance you do to your lawns if the machinery that you are using to cut the grass is not capable of doing the job.
What should you look for? I have compiled a little check list of do's and dont's.
- Budget - The very first criteria that should be addresses is budget. Spend as much as you are able to afford. The old adage ' buy cheap, buy twice' is very true, especially when you are dealing with lawn mowers.
- Size - If you have an acre of grass to cut then do not think that a 2.5hp mower with 17" cut will do the job. First of all the time it will take you to cut the grass will seriously diminish what time you have left over a weekend to do those other gardening jobs but also the lifespan of the machine will be reduced greatly by overuse.
- Manufacturer - There are a bunch of quality names that dominate the mower industr Honda Lawnflite, Hayter, Toro, Yamaha, John Deere, Atco, Ransomes and Snapper to name a few. They have not become poplar household names because they have spent vast sums on advertising but because they have consistently delivered a great product.
There is a mower out there that suits your needs. Make sure the brand is a good one.
Horses for courses - I mentioned the suitability 17" 2.5hp rotary on an acre of grass but there are other things to bear in mind when buying a mower.
- An electric mower is just not appropriate on large scale lawns. Save them for the 20' square patches of grass. You do not want to be trailing 150 feet of extension cables and also you will not want the hassle of setting all this up every weekend. Buy a petrol mower, pay that little bit extra and be safe in the knowledge that it can come out of the shed or garage and be cutting in seconds as far away from the house as you need without getting tangled or worrying about a shower of rain tripping the electric.
- If you have anything bigger than about 500 square yards then consider a ride on. A ride on can be small and compact and need not cost the earth and will make your job so much easier. A ride on mower is also useful for towing a trailer or leaf collector too.
- Two Stoke or Four Stroke - Many four stroke engines contain an oil pump these days which is important if you are working on sloped ground continuously. If your mower is a four stroke but relies on a paddle dipping into a sump to distribute oil you may find the oil flow is reduced when all of the oil falls to one side. This can result in excessive wear to the engine parts thus reducing it's lifespan and it might be wise to consider a two stroke.
A two stroke is more expensive to run because you need to add oil to the mixture but it will handle slopes because it relies on the oil in the mixture to lubricate the bore unlike a four stroke. Although there is a four stroke hover mower available I would always go for two stroke for severely sloping ground of banks where you may need to suspend the mower on a rope.
- Spare parts - Chinese imports (just like Japan in the 80's) are becoming popular. However, always research the availability of spare parts. It is no use to you if a specific belt, chain, blade, spark plug has to be shipped from China because your machinery centre does not stock the parts.
The models above will have very good support logistics with most common parts in stock or by a 24 courier.
- Peer review - probably one of the best ways of making a good decision is reading peer reviews. If you do a search on a particular machine and the contributions on the site are telling of major problems then should tell you something. Likewise, if the stories tell of consistent and economical use then this should tell you that you might not go far wrong.