Get your electric lawn mower through a lawn mower exchange

Trade in your gas model for a discounted zero-emission electric

Published: March 20, 2014 06:00 AM
These gas models at a Mow Down Pollution lawn mower exchange in Denver got recycled.
Photo: Regional Air Quality Council

If you've decided to switch from your gas mower to an electric mower this year, take advantage of lawn mower exchange. These programs, which take place in many areas around the country in spring and summer, get you a discounted price on an electric mower. Typically, you show up at the appointed time at the designated location, say your municipal public-works yard, drop off your old gas machine, and head home with a brand-new electric.

Some of the deals are pretty sweet: Through the lawn mower exchange in Polk County, Iowa, residents who sign up can get a $400 Black & Decker CM1936 for only $285.

Since the number of mowers available through an exchange is often limited—the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California has 4,000 electric mowers available this year—you'll want to sign up in advance or get there early on exchange day. In some markets, such as Denver, before the lawn mower exchange date is set, you can sign up for a notification. (The exchanged gas mowers get recycled.)

I'm considering swapping my long-serving, loyal self-propelled gas model for a cordless electric mower. (In stores and online you might see cordless models called electric battery mowers; electric corded models requires an extension cord.)

Why go electric? I'd like a mower that runs quieter, needs little maintenance (repair costs for my 13-year-old mower are adding up), and doesn't produce any emissions. Remember, the air quality where I live doesn't exactly scream Garden State. My lawn is less than a quarter acre and is mostly level, making it friendly for an electric.

Our newly updated Ratings include corded and cordless electric mowers from Black & DeckerGreen WorksHomeliteRemingtonRyobiStihl, and Toro. (The manufacturer sites might have details on lawn mower exchanges.)

Black & Decker CM1936, $400

Even if I go with a high-scoring self-propelled cordless electric mower from our tests, there are some concessions to make. With their narrower decks, electrics require you to make more passes as you mow, and they typically don't handle tall grass as well, so you can't take too many weeks off.

Unfortunately there's not a lawn mower exchange where I live. But I'll monitor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; check the DEP or the equivalent in your state. I'll also visit manufacturer sites to look for news about companies participating in a lawn mower exchange. In years past, Neuton ran a virtual exchange in which consumers recycled their machines and could then get a discounted electric mower from the manufacturer. 

After what's been a long, brutal winter, I'm looking forward to doing outdoor chores, including cutting the grass. (I might have to remind myself of that come mid-August.) Here's hoping I'll be doing the mowing with a discounted electric machine I got through a lawn mower exchange.

—Steven H. Saltzman

Ego LM2000 electric mower, $500

Corded vs. cordless electric mowers

A big advantage to a cordless model is that it isn't tethered to a power outlet, giving you greater flexibility when mowing, especially if your yard has trees and other obstacles. 

But cordless electric mowers weigh much more than corded. The Black & Decker SPCM1936, a self-propelled electric battery mower, weighs 90 pounds. Its stable mate, the corded Black & Decker MM875, a push mower, comes in at 52 pounds.

And then there's price: The CM1936 costs $400; the MM875 runs $240. The corded electrics in our Ratings range in price from $160 to $240, while the cordless models start at $300 and go as high as $690. The Ego LM2000 (shown), our top-rated cordless electric, costs $500.

If I do get an electric model, I'll probably go with a cordless version. When I tried out a couple of cordless models two years back, I was frustrated by the limited run time per charge. But according to our testers, today's cordless models run longer per charge.



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