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    How to Pick the Right Walk-Behind Mower

    Choose the mower that best fits your needs.

    A good lawnmower is essential to the appearance and proper maintenance of your yard. But unless you purchase the right mower, you may find yourself dreading yard work rather than looking forward to it. As you contemplate your next lawnmower purchase, keep these key points in mind to help you make a smart purchase.

    Types of Mowers

    When choosing a walk-behind mower, the size of your yard will be the biggest determining factor.

    • Reel mowers: Because they don't have an engine, reel mowers rely solely on the stamina of the operator—as you push the mower, gearing attached to the wheels spins the blades. While these mowers are environmentally friendly (because they have no engine) and produce a very clean cut, they are best suited for very small urban yards.
    • Cordless mowers: These types of mowers use batteries to power an electric motor that spins the blade. While smaller than a gasoline-powered mower, these machines (available in 24-, 36- and 48-volt models) can handle most ¼-acre lawns. They're quieter than gasoline-powered mowers and they produce no emissions, but they can bog down in heavy or tall grass.
    • Gasoline-powered mowers: By far the most common type of lawnmower, gasoline-powered models provide the most power, the most options and the largest area of cut. While smaller models are available for suburban yards, large-area mowers are also available for yards of more than an acre.

    Popular Features

    Once you've identified the type of mower you want, weigh these options also.

    • Self-propelled: As the name implies, a self-propelled mower will move forward automatically once you press a lever.
    • Variable speed: Allowing you to mow at your own pace, a variable-speed control acts as a gas pedal of sorts and limits how quickly the mower will move forward once the self-propulsion is engaged.
    • Adjustable cutting height: Through either a single lever or individual ones at each wheel, a mower outfitted with this option can be set at varying cutting heights.
    • Blade-brake clutch: An ideal feature if you have children who often leave toys in the yard, a blade-brake clutch allows you to disengage the blade from operation without shutting down the engine.
    • Electric start: With the simple push of a button, a mower with this option will instantly spring to life and save you from having to pull on a starter rope.

    Grass Dispersal Options

    When it comes to dispersing cut grass, options fall into one of four categories: side discharge, bag, mulch or combination. While side discharge and bagging mowers operate similarly (with one blowing the grass from the side and the other blowing it into a bag), a mulching mower cuts the clippings into fine particles that drop into the soil and biodegrade, thus adding nutrients to your lawn. Combination mowers can handle all three of these discharging methods.

    Whatever your needs, there's a mower that's right for you. Consider your yard size and your preferences for different features, and you'll be well on your way to picking the ideal walk-behind mower model.