Best Lawn Mowers

8/9/2008 After testing hundreds of lawn mowers for Consumer Reports Peter Sawchuk says don't get caught up in a numbers game. Manufacturers tout torque and engine size, as well as horsepower. "None of these numbers really matter when it comes to lawn mower performance."

Much more important is how evenly the mower cuts the grass and how easily it handles. "A good handling mower has balance in the handle bars and it makes it easy to control. And we use a series of cones as a way to test the maneuverability of each of the mowers," says Sawchuk.

Also important, how easy the bag is to get on and off, and how much it holds. And, if you like to mulch your clippings or discharge them out to the side, how evenly the clippings are distributed.

Consumer Reports tested two types of gas mowers; push and self-propelled. If you've got slopes, a self-propelled mower will get your job done faster. And make sure you get one with rear-wheel drive, especially if you're bagging.

Sawchuk says, "Rear-wheel drive helps when you're bagging because, as the bag fills up, the front wheels lift off the ground and the traction's on the rear wheels so it continues to drive the wheels."

Although rear-wheel-drive mowers can cost as much as 800 dollars, Consumer Reports found a best buy for far less. It's this Toro recycler for 350 dollars. But if you have a small, flat lawn, a push mower is fine.

Consumer Reports named this Cub Cadet a best buy for 230 dollars. And, for 60 dollars more, you can upgrade to a self-propelled Cub Cadet mower that comes with a handy electric start.

Consumer Reports says it may be a routine task, but you have to be careful mowing your lawn. Some 77-thousand people a year are so badly injured they have to go to the emergency room.

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