Cheap mowers that don't cut it

FRESNO, Calif.

Consumer Reports put more than 100 mowers through their paces, mowing more than 18 acres this year alone, at its Florida test site. Testers spent six sweaty weeks mowing, mulching, side-discharging, weighing bagged clippings, and even getting down on their hands and knees to judge how evenly each mower cuts.

When it was all over, Consumer Reports found the least expensive mowers didn't always make the cut. Among them, the $130 Murray M20300. It has an engine that lacks oomph, only discharges from the side—no bagging or mulching—and worse yet, you have to assemble it yourself! And keep your wrenches handy. To change the cutting height, you're going to have to take off each wheel. Most mowers allow you to simply do that by adjusting a lever.

The $140 Weed Eater 961120115 is another one you have to build!

And although the $240 Brute BTPD22625 comes assembled, its mediocre performance makes it no bargain. Plus it began rusting after a few weeks of routine cleaning.

If you don't mind using a little muscle, Consumer Reports rated two push mowers that cost even less Best Buys. They are the $195 Murray 11AA23K and the $200 Troy-Bilt TB110. Both of those top-performers have premium engines and let you easily adjust cutting height.

Want to use less muscle mowing your lawn? Consider a single-speed, self-propelled mower. Consumer Reports found several good options from Toro for around $300, including the top-rated Toro 20370.

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