Friday, September 05, 2008

Should you buy a new mower now?

So, how long will that "perfectly good" lawn mower you've been thinking of replacing for the past 3 summers last you? I've been thinking about that more in the last month or so, because my 12-year-old lawn mower "has issues" but I'm a notorious cheapskate. My first power mower (the same one with "issues") was the cheapest rear-bagger I could find, back when the cheap mowers were under $100 on sale. In recent years, the weird little spring-loaded carburetor can't keep a consistent RPM, but it runs well enough to mow the lawn without stalling (it just sounds like a prop from a 3 Stooges film.) If I buy something new, I'd like it to have a Honda engine and keep it until I'm a grumpy old man paying the neighbor kids to mow the lawn, and you can't get a mower with a Honda engine for $100.

So now I'm torn between spending more than I want for a proven product now, or probably spending WAY more than I want for new tech in a few years. EPA regulations will require cleaner engines on walk-behind mowers in 2011 (the regs tighten for 25+ horsepower equipment in 2010.) So, what do I really need?

For Texas, I have a fairly small lot. I'm not into the big house thing, quality space and location means more to me than square footage. So, electric is an option. I'm not sure what I think of that... the overall technology isn't new (one of my crazy aunts had an electric mower in the early '70s) but some of the new ones are battery-powered. Green tendencies tell me this is a good idea... lower emissions (both total and of course in my neighborhood), quieter, theoretically fewer problems. I've read lots of poor reviews, and don't really know where to find "reliable" lawn equipment reviews. Cords that get in the way, batteries that wear out... but no gas required. The cheap electric string trimmer I bought 15 years ago still works fine, as does the electric blower I bought a year or two after that.

I could buy a new gasoline mower in the next couple of seasons. Now my inner cheapskate is arguing with my inner environmentalist... it would probably run cleaner than my old one but not as clean as one with a catalytic converter after 2011, but it would cost less and if the first few years of lawn equipment with catalytic converters suck as much as the first decade of cars that had them, waiting for a "clean" gas mower might not be a good option.

I have to wonder if I'm subconsciously not deciding because doing nothing is the cheapest option....


Howard said...

Welcome back.

I've never had a mower. Dad had an old human powered rotary blade mower, but I never saw him use it. We had gardeners come. Now I hate gardeners coming during the day, because they are so damn loud. I'd go for electric just for the noise. Convenience would also be a factor, who wants to schlep gas for a mower? And I have no idea how much gas is used for a lawn. Is it a gallon? Much less?

DKB said...

Depending on the mower, a gallon would probably mow several acres. A gallon gas can with a few drops of fuel stabilizer lasts me the entire season. So, it's very slightly less convenient than a battery electric (assuming one always remembers to recharge the battery after use) and probably slightly more convenient than a corded electric, for which you have to schlep the extension cord out AND back (rolling it neatly in the process or your next use will be extra frustrating) for each use.

Natalie & Jessica's Dad said...

I grew up using a corded electric. It actually wasn't a big deal. The handle flopped over from one side to the other, instead of turning the mower. That way as long was you mowed away from your electrical outlet you never had a problem with running over the cord. If my yard was smaller I would have considered that when we bought our house.

I had a Honda for 7 years. It was a lower end one (if they have such a thing) and I hated it cuz it was a side bagger that always clogged. And it rusted to it's death (I guess that's my fault). I bought a Lawn Boy last year and so far like it very much.

Not sure what your grass is like there but in Pittsburgh during the spring and early summer the grass is usually thick, and takes some oomph to get through. I can't see an electric being up to that.

Richard said...

I mow with my second electric mower here in Delaware. It works fine, and is much quieter than an electric blower (for a sound comparison). You mow away from where it is plugged in and the cord follows you and you never cross it. I had one where the handle flipped over and the current one where you just mow back and forth stepping over the cord to turn around. I never noticed any issue with the power to mow the lawn. They both could bag or mulch as needed. I am leery of rechargables, because I am slow and steady when mowing the lawn as opposed to a race. I can mow a pretty large lawn with the 100ft electric cord.

DKB said...

To get thick enough grass in north Texas to seriously challenge a mower, I'd have to plant something that needs more water than I like to put on the lawn. It's one of my greenie obsessions to avoid being one of those homeowners who's watering the grass every other day. My lawn is a mix of essentially native prairie grasses, so it doesn't take much water but never develops mower-bogging thickness unless I just let it get crazy tall.

Re: a Honda rusting... I've heard of old mowers getting rusty, but I've had no first-hand experience with it. Perhaps it *IS* your fault? One of the mowers I used growing up was around my age... a Craftsman from the mid to late '60s with a clockwork spring starting mechanism. The last time I used it I was 18, so it was probably nearly that and the structure of it was still quite solid. It was just stored in a shed with 2 open sides, so it wasn't pampered. My current el cheapo is from the mid '90s and shows no signs of rust.