The Best Self Propelled Lawn Mowers of 2016

Different Types of Self Propelled Lawn Mowers

Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

Of the two basic types of drives found with self propelled lawnmowers, front wheel models are often considered a cheaper alternative to rear wheel drive models. One of the major factors behind self propelling mowers is the ability to keep up solid traction with the ground. If the drive is powered in the front, then making turns and maneuvering around certain obstacles will result in a loss of pulling power from the mower and require more muscle power from yourself (which is contrary to the point of using a self propelled over a straight push mower). Look for models that use rear wheel drive to get the most reliability and propelling power, though expect a noticeable price difference between the two setups.

Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

While more expensive than front wheel drive models, rear wheel drive models are the more popular and worthwhile investment according to most user’s reviews. In addition to providing better traction, they also allow for greater maneuverability, which means they can handle hilly terrain better than front wheel drive models.

All Wheel Drive (AWD)

There are a few models, like Husqvarna’s HU800AWD, that are all-wheel drive, but in consumer reviews, it and other all-wheel drive models did not perform significantly better than RWD models. If your lawn is large, or has hills and ditches, then look for models with atleast rear wheel drive to get the most value.

Self Propelled Lawn Mower Features To Look For

Set Speed

The most basic self propelled lawnmowers come with a simple on/off set of controls. Usually a max speed is listed for the model, but it does not reflect the actual speed it will manage over all terrain types. A major drawback to set speed controls on a self propelled lawnmower is that it dictates the pace you need to keep. It can also lead to really uneven trimming through thick grass, which will require more work and time to go back over and fix uneven patches. For some people, such as those who have small to medium yards that are straight and even, a single speed self propelled mower would likely work just fine. If your yard is sizable and has more topographical features, look for models that offer variable speeds.

Variable Speeds

Ideally a self propelled lawnmower will have at least some basic speed options. This is usually achieved using a lever or bar that can be adjusted easily while guiding the lawnmower. Basic variable speeds start with a high/low option set, with some brands considering low/medium/high as the basic speed variable options. Regardless of the degrees, being able to adjust the throttle to suite the pace you want to move, is the best feature to look for (aside from rear wheel drive) in a self propelled lawnmower. Look for models that offer more than a standard on/off speed setup, especially if you have irregular sections of growth, or a geographically diverse yard.

Recoil Starter

Recoil, or pull string as some refer to it, are motor starts that require a wound cord to be pulled to start the engine. The recoil method, which turns the engine over using manual power combined with mechanical design, is the most common method for starting up lawnmowers. Some people may find it difficult to put enough force into the pull to get the engine to turn over, and it can be physically painful on the shoulders, neck and back to keep trying, should it not start on the first try. Consider looking for models that highlight having easy to start recoils (they have special springs that make it easier to turn the engine over), which are often easy enough for just about anyone to operate.

Safety Blade Override

This is a standard element to modern self propelled lawnmowers, and it is basically a series of alarm sensors built in to help prevent injuries. When set off, the blades will stop and sometimes lock until the alarms have been reset. The government mandated safety feature that all sell propelled mowers need to have is one where you have to depress a lever or bar to engage the engine. Additional safety features that are optional include the use of sensors that stop the blades when a large object, such as ball, is detected beneath the hood. Blade overrides can be set up in a number of ways, but they all do the same thing, stop the blades from moving as quickly as possible to prevent harm. Be sure to look for additional safety overrides a model has, especially if your home has children or yards with outdoor décor.

Wheel Sizes

The basic for any self propelled lawnmower is to have the same standard (8 inch) wheels in the front and back. However, high wheel models, which have larger (9 to 12 inch) rear wheels, are noted as having better traction and pivoting ability for large turns. With rear wheel drive models, this can be especially beneficial. In front wheel drive models, the front wheels tend to either remain small, or stay uniform for the sake of being able to make sharper and fancier turns. Beyond the sizing of the wheels, be sure to look for high quality, solid wheels that will be able to handle the terrain of your lawn.

Best Self Propelled Lawn Mower Brands

Husqvarna

Like other brands of outdoor equipment, Husqvarna lawnmowers can be identified by their striking orange paint job. Though the stylish color is not the only thing they are known form. One of, if not arguably the top brand for self propelled lawnmowers, they are known for making high quality products that can last quite a bit longer than other brands. Part of their longevity is due to their use of Briggs and Stratton motor technology that is designed to be ready to start without the need to tediously prime it on some models (which can run the risk of choking and wasting fuel), and a patterned priming system on others that prevents users from pumping too much fuel into it.

Cub Cadet

Black and gold (just like a busy bee) are the brand colors for Cub Cadet. Despite the vivid colors, there is more than just flash to their brand. Cub Cadets have a moderate number of standard and professional quality lawnmowers, including self propelled, that rate highly in their classes. Their Signature Cut Series of self propelled are packed with features, not the least of which is their trademark penchant for being highly maneuverable. While they don’t rate as well in terms of being budget friendly, they do have a solid reputation for being agile and durable.

Toro

There are two fairly popular, yet easy to mistake at a glance, brands for self propelled lawnmowers. Toro and Honda both model their products in black and red, which can lead to some confusion. While both are known for making high quality, professional grade lawnmowers, Toro is known more for two specific features; Recyclers and Personal Pace. Featured in their signature lines, “Recyclers” are a blade style that provide instant mulching action and the “Personal Pace” is a throttle control system that automatically adjusts to your walking speed. They also make use of Briggs and Stratton no-choke and no-prime motors.

Honda

Black and red with hints of silver make up the design scheme for Honda lawnmowers (which is close to Toro’s red and black scheme). Despite the visual similarities to Toro, there are some key features that distinguish Honda mowers. They offer four main lines of self propelled lawnmowers that feature commercial grade features, such as 3-in-1 clipping blades, easy-crank recoil ignition, and rear-wheel drive trains. One element that differentiates them from their similarly colored competitor, is the fact that most of their models rely on bags for collective clippings, versus instant mulching action.

GreenWorks

As green as the name implies, GreenWorks produces several budget friendly and popular self propelled lawnmowers, which work to keep more green in your pockets. They have a trademark bright green and black scheme and extremely streamlined appearances. In addition to their customer popularity and low pricing, they are also known for specializing in gas alternative lawnmowers, which means they come in either corded or cordless models with push button starts and require less chemicals to keep up with.

Features of Professional & Commercial Self Propelled Lawn Mowers

Swivel Wheels

A defining point that separates standard from professional quality self propelled lawnmowers is the inclusion of swivel front wheels. It is a design concept that can be seen in many brands, such as Husqvarna, Honda, Cub Cadet, Toro and more. Swivel front wheels are the key to getting the best level of maneuverability possible. While each company puts a different spin, such as sizing and mounting, on the idea, the principle remains the same. It is also one feature you can expect to make a noticeable difference in pricing, even if it is the only difference between two models from the same company. If you need to be able to move around a lot of structures or trees, it would be a good idea to look for models with swiveling front wheels.

Electric Starter

Outside of standard electrical lawnmowers (such as GreenWorks), push button electrical starters are available on professional grade self propelled gas lawnmowers. As an alternative to a recoil starting engine, electric starters typically employ the use of a button or turnkey to start the engine. For those who have difficulty with recoil starters, it is a good idea to look for this popular alternative.

Hydrostatic Drive With Cruise Control

Easily classifiable as some of the top of the line features for any self propelled lawnmower, models that make use of hydrostatic drive systems and cruise control offer the smoothest operating experience aside from a riding lawnmower. Hydrostatic motors rely on hydraulic based mechanics over belts and gears, which makes for a powerful and smooth output. The cruise control function allows the user to set the pace they want to keep at, without having to constantly provide input via a lever or other control that can get tiresome to hold in position. While Honda’s commercial grade lawnmowers are well known for using this feature, other high quality brands, such as Husqvarna, are also known for using it in professional grade models. If luxury is what you prefer, look for models that have this feature, just be ready to pay commercial pricing.

Washing Port

As minor as it may seem, there are several standard grade self propelled lawnmowers that do not have a washing port for the underside. This simple addition of a covered access point to the undercarriage and blade area can make cleaning and maintenance safer and easier. While standard lawnmowers tend to overlook this feature, almost every professional or commercial quality lawnmower will have a simple washing port. Sometimes they will even include a more elaborate system to help keep hands away from the blades during cleaning. For safety and convenience, look for models that feature a washing port, or comparable system for cleaning the underside.

Mulching Blades

While not strictly a professional scale feature, mulching blades are often included with, or available for many models of standard and commercial self propelled lawnmowers. Mulching blades are often a specialty set of blades that can be used with, or without, a deck modification. The advantage to using them is that it creates a convenient mulch you can either leave in place, or relocate for other landscaping projects. It is always a good idea to look at the mulching options available for a particular model of lawnmower, especially if you don’t like fiddling with bags.

Self Propelled Lawn Mower Tips

Electric Versus Gas

The desire to move away from fossil fuels has become more evident in the past decade or so. When it comes to choosing the best self propelled lawnmower to fit your needs and lifestyle, consider these points: Electric lawnmowers can reduce the number of harsh chemicals and fuel required to directly operate them. They are available in corded and non corded models with long lasting batteries (some as long as 10 years). However, gas powered models tend to perform better in regards to large yards and thicker growth, mainly due to the limited power that an electrical battery can produce in comparison to a full gas engine. Overall, for those with smaller yards who want to be a bit “greener”, electric lawnmowers tend to work just fine. It is important to always consider your yard’s needs, and the fact that an underpowered lawnmower trying to cut a large yard ends up requiring more fossil expenditure, via the power plant that supplies its recharging.

Push Versus Self Propelled

There is a general phrase, “walk behind mowers”, which is used to describe a broad category of lawnmowers (typically anything not a riding mower). Within this category there are two more general subcategories: push and self propelled, both of with break down further into specific versions (gas, electric, reel, etc.). The big point to not get confused on is regarding push versus self propelled. Push lawnmowers tend to be significantly cheaper than self propelled, which is due to the fact they are much simpler in design. You have to exert a much larger amount of force to manually move the mower. Self propelled lawnmowers, while more expensive, offer greater ease of use and performance. They are designed to propel themselves forward, relying on your input to guide them and adjust the throttle as is needed. Don’t be mislead by the label “walk behind”, always clarify if it is push or self propelled.

Size Up Your Lawn’s Need

It can never be stated enough that the temptation to buy more than you need when it comes to a lawnmower is all to easy to fall into. As an example, flat terrain yards up to 1.5 acres big don’t need more than a front wheel drive self propelled to get properly taken care of. While yards larger than 1.5 acres that have a mix of terrain would benefit more from a rear wheel drive model. The big difference is that front wheel drives tend to be a little less expensive to their rear wheel counterparts to the versatility difference. So, if all you have is a small bit of flat land, you don’t need the most expensive or fancy lawnmower to get the job done.

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