The best and worst walk-behind mowers

Cutting champs and clumping chumps from Consumer Reports' tests

Last updated: March 28, 2016 01:00 PM

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Every year Consumer Reports tests a new batch of mowers at its test lawn in Fort Myers, Florida. This year we bagged more than 1,500 pounds of grass clippings and found out that not every mower measures up to our cutting, mulching, and bagging tests. While even the lowest-rated tractors and riders we tested performed passably, several walk-behind mowers left ugly clumps in their wake and scored just 40 or lower. Here are the best and worst walk-behind mowers from our tests.

Toro Recycler 20353

Best self-propelled mowers

Self-propelled mowers require less effort on your part, especially on graded areas of your lawn. Paying more for the Honda HRR2169VLA, $500, buys superb mulching and bagging, no-prime starting, and an electric-start feature whose battery gets charged while you mow. Among the other multispeed mowers, choose the Toro Super Recycler 20381, $500, for its bagging; Toro Recycler 20333, $400, for its blade-brake clutch; and Troy-Bilt TB-280ES 12AGA26G, $340, for its low price and electric start.

The Toro Recycler 20339, $380, tops our single-speed picks and offers unique stand-up storage. Also consider the all-wheel-drive Toro Recycler 20353, $400, for steep slopes—as well as the quiet Craftsman 37545, $340, which just missed making our picks—if you mostly mulch and would rather not wear ear protection.

Craftsman 37432

Best push mowers

Among push gas mowers, choose Cub Cadet SC100, $250, for its impressive mowing in all three modes, easy handling, and premium engine. The Craftsman 37432, $220 offers fine performance overall for an especially affordable price and the Yard Machines 11A-B9A9, $240, is the  only push mower with superlative evenness in side-discharge mode and was also impressive at mulching and bagging. The Husqvarna LC121P, $250, mulched impressively, producing fine clippings without leaving clumps.

For battery mowers, pick the EGO LM2101, $500, which handled superbly and was very good in all three mowing modes. For $100 less, consider its brandmate, the EGO LM2000, whose phenomenal ergonomic design makes for effortless handling and easy operation. Also $400 is the Black+DeckerCM 2040, which left behind a few clumps but is still worth a look.

Earthwise 60318

Worst walk-behind mowers

Earthwise 60318, $300. Most self-propelled cordless mowers cost more, and for good reason. This one clogged and left clippings when bagging, and we found it hard to maneuver.

Murray M22500, $170. This gas push mower wasn’t designed to bag, was mediocre in the side-discharge mode, and left visible clippings when mulching. Many push mowers adjust cutting height with one lever per wheel, but for this one you’ll need to remove and reattach each wheel.

Earthwise 50120, $160. It’s the least expensive of the plug-in mowers we tested, but it’s no bargain. Mulching and bagging were subpar, and—with many leftover clippings—side-discharging was so-so.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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