If you want a cheap mower, buy second-hand.
Many local or suburban lawnmower shops do a steady business in turning over second-hand machines, and they should back them with good service.
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We’ve tested electric- and battery-powered mowers, petrol mowers and eco-friendly push mowers.
Snapshot: The Ryobi RLM36X46L50HI is a battery-powered mulch & catch mower that weighs 15.1kg and has a cutting width of 46cm. But is it the sharpest tool in the shed?
Snapshot: The Supaswift 777KMC is a mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 29.7kg and has a cutting width of 45cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Masport 800 AL S21 3'n'1 SPV IC 564897 is a self-propelled mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 42kg and has a cutting width of 54cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Rover Challenger Self-propelled MnC (with Rover OHV 880 engine) 12A-H1LE333 is a self-propelled mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 34.4kg and has a cutting width of 45cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Ryobi Cordless 36V 4.0AH RLM36X40H40 is a catcher-only petrol mower that weighs 16kg and has a cutting width of 40cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Makita DLM431 is a catcher-only petrol mower that weighs 15.6kg and has a cutting width of 43cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Victa Easy Walker 19" Self-propelled Mulch or Catch VMD486 is a mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 30kg and has a cutting width of 48cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Exclusive H40 is a push mower that weighs 7.6kg and has a cutting width of 40cm. Is it worth a nudge?
Snapshot: The Hand Mower LMP-301 is a push mower that weighs 6.4kg and has a cutting width of 30cm. Is it worth a nudge?
Snapshot: The Honda HRU196M1 Buffalo Classic is a mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 37.2kg and has a cutting width of 48cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The HRU197M1 Bull is a mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 34kg and has a cutting width of 47cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The HRU19K1 Buck is a catcher-only petrol mower that weighs 33kg and has a cutting width of 47cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Sanli LazerCut LCS400 is a catcher-only petrol mower that weights 28kg and has a cutting width of 42cm. But is it a smooth operator?
Snapshot: The Electric ESP360A is a mains-electric mower that weighs 11.2kg and has a cutting width of 36cm. But is it the sharpest tool in the shed?
Snapshot: The Husqvarna LC 18 is a mulch & catch petrol mower that weighs 26.8kg and has a cutting width of 46cm. But is it a smooth operator?
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Hand (push) mowers are a cheap form of exercise and you're not burning fossil fuels. But they're not that practical for large or sloping lawns.
To get a consistent cut with a push mower you need to keep the blades sharp and properly adjusted. Resharpening the blades means a visit to your local mower shop.
Our recommended battery-electric lawnmowers now offer cutting and mulching performance on par with the best petrol models thanks to powerful, high-torque, lightweight ‘brushless’ electric motors.
Their lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are also able to pack far more energy into a smaller package than earlier battery technology, giving you 30-45 minutes’ quality cutting on a single charge, before recharging to full capacity in around 2 hours.
Other advantages of cordless mowers include:
Battery mowers should be your first choice if you can finish your lawns in 45 minutes or less.
When it comes to performance, mains-electric (corded) lawnmowers have been left in the dust by battery-electric models, since they’re limited by the amount of power that can be supplied by a mains power point. But they remain considerably cheaper than battery models and are worth considering if you’ve only got a small area of lawn that’s all within reach of an extension cord.
Petrol mowers are powerful, have a wide cut and can handle long or wet grass. If your mowing takes an hour or more, or you want a self-propelling mower, then petrol-power remains your best bet.
But they are heavy and harder to manoeuvre than electric models, and starting can be a hassle. They’re also more expensive to run and maintain than electric mowers as you have to regularly service the engine and pay for petrol and oil.
We test lawnmowers on a large turf farm in early spring, which allows us to compare each mower on the same type of grass at a consistent length. Our overall scores comprise performance (50%) and ease of use (50%). Performance scores are based on the following:
We run the short and medium-length grass tests with the mower in both catcher and mulching modes where applicable. Neither the catcher nor the mulcher is used for the long grass test.
High performance scores are awarded for a clean and even lawn surface with a uniform grass height. Penalties apply for any uncut grass or grass left in clumps. Points are also deducted when mulching mowers fail to blow the small clippings back evenly onto the lawn, or where the engine slows or stalls while cutting.
Ease of use is assessed on:
In dry spells, set your mower to cut a notch or two higher to avoid scalping your lawn and discourage weeds. It’s also a good idea to leave your catcher off and use your lawnmower’s mulching plug (if it’s got one), as mulched clippings are great for the health of your lawn.
Give your lawn a deep watering once a week – if water restrictions permit. The best time to water is early morning when it’s not too windy or hot, so it won’t evaporate before it can soak in.
For lawns with clay soil, it’s best to lightly water over a long period, as they take a while to absorb moisture. Sandy soils quickly drain, so need more frequent but shorter watering periods.
If water doesn’t easily drain and your lawn has a thatch of spongy, fibrous-looking grass, then the soil is probably compacted and could use aeration. To achieve this, get a garden fork and make holes of about 7.5cm to 10cm every 15cm or so – if this sounds a bit tedious you could buy or rent an aerating machine. Ensure the soil is damp when you aerate.
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