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Wednesday, April 13 2011

Just in time for the warm weather and green grass, the latest issue of Consumer Reports features ratings of more than 100 mowers and tractors.

Consumer Reports testers mowed 19.2 acres and identified more than 30 top-scoring models, including three models from Honda and Toro that retail for $400 or less.

Among the top performers is the Black & Decker SPCM1936, $450, one of the few cordless electric mowers with self-propelling wheels, a feature more typically found on gas models.

Tests also found more lawn tractors that can maneuver around trees and posts nearly as well as zero-turn-radius riders. The new Craftsman 28856, a CR Best Buy at $1,600, offers added agility plus impressive mowing for about $1,000 less than many zero-turn riders and $2,000 less than the four-wheel-steer John Deere X304 tractor. At $500 each, the Toro Super Recycler 20092 and Honda HRR216K7VXA cost $200 less than the top Honda self-propelled gas model and mow comparably.

On some models, features trumped performance. Lawn Boy’s 10605 one-speed mower includes a work-saving clutch for just $300, but it was only mediocre at bagging and side-discharging clippings. The Cub Cadet’s Z Force S 46 17AF5BHH is tops among zero-turn-radius riders and noteworthy for its tractor-like steering wheel and steerable front wheels for better control down slopes, but it was among the more repair-prone tractor brands and was repair-prone among zero-turn riders.

“Shoppers will find feature-laden mowers for less and tractors that cost about the same as smaller riding mowers,” said Peter Sawchuk, Project Leader at Consumer Reports. “But our tests of more than 100 models show that some models put features before performance and could leave many consumers stuck in the weeds.”

How to choose

Consider a self-propelled mower for hills and save cordless models for small lawns that can be mowed within 30- to 45-minutes. For larger lawns with slopes, choose a tractor with front-steering wheels over a lever-steer, zero-turn-radius rider, which is harder to control on hills. Here are additional tips Consumer Reports recommends keeping in mind:

  • Choose the right mode. All tractors and riders can side-discharge clippings, essential when grass is too high to mulch or bag. Choose a model that did well in the mode preferred. For riders, expect to pay about $50 extra for a mulch kit and $500 for the bagging system.
  • Know what you’re getting. Many brands are made by more than one manufacturer, so know the mower’s model number when replacing blades and other parts, rather than just the make and blade size.
  • Think twice about high wheels. For walk-behind mowers, engines mounted farther up front make most of those mowers harder to tilt back when making U-turns at the end of a row.
  • Play it safe. Check for rocks and other debris before mowing. Keep people and pets away from the area. Always wear long pants, sturdy shoes, and hearing protection. And look behind whenever backing up a riding machine.

How Americans really feel about mowing

Purchasing the right mower is only half the battle, mowing the lawn is the other. According to the latest nationwide lawn care poll from Consumer Reports, some 32% of respondents found mowing relaxing, good exercise, or nice private time. But most would trade part of their lawn for something else, including fake grass (12%), with only 5% actually wanting to enlarge their lawn. And distracted driving isn’t limited to the car, texting and talking on the phone (4%), in addition to boozing (8%) are a few activities that come into play while mowing.

Lawn care is an activity that one must dress for, but according to poll results, many were dressed to kill, or at least injure themselves. Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) didn’t wear hearing protection, and over half (54%) wore shorts. Having close-toed shoes are also not a concern for 14% of Americans.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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