LAWN MOWERS FOR LESS
Along with the warm weather comes the weekly lawn-mowing chore. The right mower can make the job a lot easier. For yards no larger than about half an acre, a gas-powered push mower is sufficient. Electric and reel mowers are best suited for smaller lots and eco-conscious users. Relatively flat yards stretching over an acre or so can be matched with a rear-engine rider. Larger properties with bumps and slopes are easiest to mow with a lawn tractor. Cheapism.com analyzed the results of expert tests and user reviews online to identify the best lawn mowers under $300 and the best riding mowers under $1,500.
Good Gas Lawn Mower Under $300
Price: $300 | Buy it on Amazon
- Delivers a smooth cut on all types of grass, reviewers say.
- Easy to push, with double ball-bearing wheels.
- Fuel-efficient 160cc Honda engine.
- Adjustable handle that folds for storage.
- Some quibbles about build quality.
- Scattered reports about a choppy engine.
- Mediocre mulching.
Takeaway: Support for the gas-fueled Husqvarna 7021P is a tad muted, and an extra pass in some spots may be required, but plenty of users are well satisfied with this mower's features and performance.
Best Cordless Electric Lawn Mower Under $300
Price: $195 | Buy it on Amazon
- Nimble and compact, with a 14-inch cutting deck.
- Well suited to tight spaces.
- Lightweight, at 32 pounds.
- Underpowered and too light for some users.
- Battery runs out relatively quickly (run time listed at 30 minutes).
- Plastic tires.
Takeaway: Lighter and narrower than most cordless electric mowers, the Worx WG775 is hard to resist for the right yard. Reviewers are pleasantly surprised at how well this model performs considering its size, weight, and mid-range level of power.
Best Corded Electric Lawn Mower Under $300
Price: $128 | Buy it on Amazon
- Very user-friendly, according to reviews.
- Cuts evenly and deposits finely chopped clippings.
- 7 cutting heights.
- Produces no emissions, runs quietly.
- Solid build quality, long 4-year warranty.
- Learning curve with power cord.
- Bag requires frequent emptying.
Takeaway: A boon for consumers with small to mid-size yards who don't want the hassle of a gas mower, the corded electric GreenWorks 25022 exceeds the expectations of many who use it on a regular basis.
CUB CADET SC 100
Best Gas Lawn Mower Under $300
Price: $249 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Rapid recoil start.
- Lightweight and easy to push.
- Wide deck with large wheels.
- Cuts evenly, produces fine mulch, and plows through slightly overgrown grass.
- Washout port.
- 6 cutting heights.
- Bag seems small and doesn't catch all clippings; emptying is awkward
- Scattered reports about disappointing durability
Takeaway: Users who have stepped down from heavier, pricier gas lawn mowers are well satisfied with the Cub Cadet SC 100. Time spent mowing is short, they say.
FISKARS STAYSHARP MAX
Best Reel Mower Under $200
Price: $199 | Buy it on Amazon
- Best for flat yards with grass that's not too thick.
- Minimal effort required for a smooth, clean cut.
- 8 cutting heights.
- Front discharge keeps clippings off the operator's legs and creates mulch as the mower goes over the clippings again.
- No emissions and no noise.
- Hassle-free: no cord, no gas, no battery.
- 5 blades designed to stay sharp permanently.
- Users may need to mow frequently.
- Weeds and tall grass can be a challenge.
- Weighs 52 pounds and requires elbow grease to push.
- Grass Catcher sold separately.
- Less effective on shady lawns.
- Expensive for a reel mower.
Takeaway: Anyone game for a little outdoor exercise while attending to household chores will see the value in the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower. This model from the respected scissors brand is pricier than many other manual mowers but has a lot going for it.
Budget-Friendly Self-Propelled Mower
Price: $399 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Self-propelled model with variable speed.
- Plows through overgrown yards.
- Excellent mulching, including tall grass.
- Easy pull start and plenty of power.
- Proven durability.
- Small bag.
- Some users struggle to control the speed.
- Balky restart when the engine is warm.
- Hard to pull backward, especially on an incline.
- Costs more than a standard push mower.
Takeaway: There's something of a learning curve with the self-propelled, gas-powered Honda HRR216K9VKA, but once you get the hang of it, users say, mowing almost seems like fun.
POULAN PRO PP19A42
Good Riding Mower Under $1,500
Price: $1,199 | Buy it from Home Depot
- 19-horsepower engine.
- Powers through very tall grass and leaves a smooth cut.
- Deftly manages hilly yards.
- Excellent speed control with automatic transmission.
- 16-inch turning radius; feels solid and stable.
- Adjustable seat and washout port.
- Some parts don't seem durable.
- Dual pedal setup takes getting used to.
- Hood could use a latch.
Takeaway: The powerful engine and narrow turning radius on the Poulan Pro PP19A42 are strong selling points, according to reviewers, along with ease of use and riding comfort. Buyers who have upgraded or switched from other brands are pleased with their choice.
JOHN DEERE D105
Good Lawn Tractor Under $1,500
Price: $1,499 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Uniform cut; 13 cutting heights.
- Easy to handle, even on slopes and turns, and mows in reverse.
- Smooth, comfortable ride.
- Automatic "shift-on-the-go" transmission.
- Can be delivered, set up, and tested by specialists for free.
- Some griping about build quality, including composite plastic hood and parts that break after minimal use.
Takeaway: An automatic transmission makes for smooth handling, the engine has plenty of zest, and the cut is uniform. Reviewers have a few qualms about the front-engine John Deere D105, but many bought it for the John Deere name and most don't seem disappointed in the slightest.
TROY-BILT TB30 R
Best Riding Mower Under $1,500
Price: $999 | Buy it from Lowe's
- Sturdy and compact.
- Makes regular mowing easy and quick; mows in reverse.
- Pivoting frame and responsive steering deliver even cuts and deft maneuvering around obstacles.
- Six-speed "on-the-go" manual transmission.
- Optional mulching kit and bagger.
- 18-inch turning radius is a bit wide.
- Inconvenient location for shift lever.
- Scattered reports of rough and jumpy starts.
Takeaway: The Troy-Bilt TB30 R is a good, no-frills rear-engine model that wins points for value and spot-on pricing. Easy to ride and a cinch to navigate around trees and shrubs, it appeals to shoppers who want to step up from a traditional walk-behind mower.
CUB CADET XT1 LT42
Best Lawn Tractor Under $1,500
Price: $1,499 | Buy it at Home Depot
- Consistent, level cut, even on wet grass; clippings don't clump.
- Manages inclines.
- Relatively tight 16-inch turning radius.
- Hydrostatic transmission with cruise control.
- Features include a comfortable seat, LED headlights, and 12 cutting heights.
- Easy to maintain.
- Efficient use of fuel and time.
- Initial setup can be a challenge.
- Scattered reports about vibrations and noise.
Takeaway: A strong, 18-horsepower engine coupled with excellent function and value make the Cub Cadet XT1 LT42 a winner. Accolades for this front-engine model far outweigh the minor critiques.
TORO TIMECUTTER SS4225
Entry-level ZTR Riding Mower
Price: $2,499 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Zero turn radius mower at good price point.
- Powerful 22-horsepower twin-cylinder engine.
- Specific speed ranges for mowing, trimming, and towing.
- Generally gives a professional-looking cut.
- Easy to use and comfortable to ride, with an extra-tall seat.
- Rear-drive tires can't grasp wet grass.
- Doesn't meet challenge of inclines or bumpy terrain.
- Scattered reports of failed parts.
Takeaway: Frugal shoppers looking for a ZTR riding mower should check out the Toro TimeCutter SS4225. This entry-level model offers plenty of oomph and appealing features, and proves easy for novices to master.