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Consumer Reports finds the best values in lawn gear

Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009

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Five mowers and three tractors rated CR Best Buys
 

Yonkers, NY — Shoppers don’t have to spend thousands to get the best mowers and tractors, according to the latest Ratings in the May issue of Consumer Reports. Nearly 80 models of mowers and tractors went through comprehensive testing to determine the best values.

 

Four gas-powered and self-propelled mowers were designated CR Best Buys, including the new Toro Recycler 20330, $320, with front wheel drive, and the Craftsman 37435, $300, along with the Toro Recycler 20332, $390, and the Toro Recycler 20333, $420, which offers a blade-brake clutch that stops only the blade when the handlebar is released—a work-saving feature typically found on much pricier mowers. The Black & Decker MM875, $240, was designated a CR Best Buy in the electric-push category, saving both money and the usual engine maintenance and fueling.

The latest lawn poll from Consumer Reports National Research Center found that more than a third of adults (37%) use a self-propelled gas mower. The poll also showed that almost a quarter of adults (24%) with lawn responsibilities own both a mower and a tractor, but when asked which they use most, 73 percent turned to their tractor.

Consumer Reports identified three CR Best Buy tractors with two available for as low as $1,500. The Craftsman 28724, $1,500 takes a wide, 46-inch bite with each pass, while the Cub Cadet LTX1040, $1,500, is also a top performer that takes a bit less storage space. The John Deere LA115, $1,850, offers even easier handling for little more money.

Less Can Really Be Less

Low prices can be enticing but Consumer Reports warns shoppers of budget-friendly mowers and tractors that do not live up to their value promise. The new Brute line of walk-behind mowers, available exclusively at Walmart, are attractively priced, but couldn’t match similarly priced Craftsman, Lawn-Boy, and Toro models from Home Depot and Sears. For tractors, the Craftsman 28033, $1,600, is priced right but cannot mulch or discharge to the side—the most-used mode for tractors. A smaller 34-inch deck helps make the Ariens 915131 among the lowest-priced zero-turn riders at just $2,000. But testing found it mediocre at mulching and bagging, which brought this model down near the bottom of the ratings.

“We found that it is possible to purchase a top mower for as little as $300 and an impressive tractor priced well below $1,800,” said Peter Sawchuk, program leader at Consumer Reports. “By simply choosing the right mower or tractor to meet the needs of the lawn and by keeping up with maintenance, people can easily save $1,000 or more a year compared with hiring a pro to mow.”

Choosing the Best Gear to Create the Best Lawn

For shoppers looking for a new mower or replacing their old one, Consumer Reports recommends these tips:

Choose the right kind. For a small, level lawn, a push mower will do, but if there are hills, opt for a self-propelled model. Consider a tractor and zero-turn radius rider if the lawn is a half acre or more for properties with steeper slopes. Consumer Reports recommends choosing a lawn tractor and its more-intuitive controls over a zero-turn rider, which makes tighter turns by steering with its rear wheels, for properties with steeper slopes.

Know what you’re getting. Different brand names can be more alike than they seem. Lawn-Boy mowers are made by Toro, a reliable brand in past Consumer Reports surveys. Husqvarna, which has had average reliability among tractors, now makes Ariens tractors sold at Home Depot. John Deere and Snapper mowers share the same maker.

Treat engine specs lightly. More power does not guarantee better mowing. Manufacturers now rate gas-mower engines based on size, in cubic centimeters, and torque, in foot pounds. But as with volts or amps for electric mowers or horsepower for tractors, more cc’s or torque does not mean a better job.

Play it safe. Almost twenty-five percent of those polled in the lawn poll have been injured at some time while mowing. Take precautionary measures by wearing long pants, sturdy shoes, and hearing protection. Make sure to only add fuel when the engine is cool and check for rocks and other hazards before mowing.

Can this mower be saved?

Consumer Reports’ poll found that 10% of mower owners never even changed the oil. Here’s other basic mower and tractor maintenance some respondents sidestepped and why it’s critical:

GAS MOWERS - TRACTORS MAINTENANCE

53% - 37% Never added fuel preservative

32% - 14% Never changed the air filter

27% - 9% Never sharpened the blades

13% - 6% Never cleaned the mower deck

11% - 8% Never changed the oil

0% - 9% - Never checked the tire air pressure

The full report on mowers and tractors is available in the May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, which is available wherever magazines are sold. The full story is also available online at www.ConsumerReports.org along with expanded buying advice and Ratings to help consumers make a smart purchase decision.

 
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Consumer Reports finds the best values in lawn gear
Four gas-powered and self-propelled mowers were designated CR Best Buys, including the new Toro Recycler 20330, $320, with front wheel drive, and the Craftsman 37435, $300, along with the Toro Recycler 20332, $390, and the Toro Recycler 20333, $420.
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