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Mowers and lawn tractors: Electric models show steady improvement

Consumer Reports News: March 30, 2010 11:35 AM

The Toro 20194 self-propelled mower in action.

Thinking of saving money by doing more of your own landscaping? We’re added new ratings of some low-priced, high-performing lawn mowers and lawn tractors to the collection of money- and labor-saving gardening tips and tricks in our Lawn & Garden Guide.

While cordless electric lawn mowers are a good (and green) choice for smaller lawns, new electric self-propelled mowers and lawn tractors we tested gave mixed results. But a $700 rear-engine compact lawn mower—and a design change to zero-turn radius lawn mowers­—could prove of interest to homeowners with larger lawns. Highlights of our tests follow; ratings of all models are available to subscribers.

Electric mowers worth considering. Easy-to-use, greener and good-performing electric push mowers like the Toro 20360, $420, and Black & Decker CM1936, $420, and the corded Black & Decker MM875, $270, are a sensible option for small lawns and might also qualify for Earth Day mower-exchange programs. Other models we tested included the Black & Decker CM1836, Black & Decker CMM1200, Black & Decker MM1800, Craftsman 37048, Earthwise 50120, Earthwise 60120, Neuton CE6.4, Ryobi RY14110, Toro 20360, and Worx WG780.

New forms don’t always boost function. The first self-propelled electric mower we tested, the Ryobi RY14110, $400, trailed the electric push models in performance. And while the Ariens AMP 916002 electric lawn tractor, $3,400, is smaller, greener (and pricier) than gas-powered lawn tractors, a single charge didn’t suffice to mow an entire acre.

A retro option for midsized lawns. The rear-engine compact lawn tractor is making a comeback, with the 26-inch-wide Weed Easter One 960220009, $700, is worth a look if your lawn measures under an acre (we also tested the Ariens AMP 916002 and Craftsman 28034 in this category). Among walk-behind mowers, gas-powered push models like the Lawn Boy 10640, $240, the Cub Cadet 11A-18MCm, $240 and the Husqvarna 6012P, $200 and the  self-propelled Toro Recycler 20332, 20330 and 20333 models that range from $300 to $420 were good performers.

Other gas-powered push mowers we tested included the Bolens 11A-414A, Craftsman 38903, Craftsman 38909, Craftsman 38911, Cub Cadet 11A-18MC, Husqvarna 6021P, Lawn-Boy 10640, Troy-Bilt TB110 11A-A26M, Yard Machines 11A-414E. Tested gas-powered self-propelled models included, in alphabetical order, the Ariens BR21SP/911152, Brute BTXP22675OHW, Brute BTXPV22700E, Craftsman 37108, Craftsman 37435, Craftsman 37454, Craftsman 37624, Craftsman 37639, Craftsman 37654, Craftsman 37659, Cub Cadet 12A18MC, Cub Cadet 12AE18M, Honda HRR216K3TDA, Honda HRR216K3VXA, Honda HRR216K5VKA, Honda HRX2172HXA, Honda HRX2172VKA. Husqvarna XT721F, John Deere JS26, John Deere JS46, Lawn-Boy 10641, Snapper SPV21675E, Snapper SPV22675HW, Toro Recycler 20330, Toro Recycler 20332, Toro Recycler 20333, Toro Super Bagger 20194, Toro Super Recycler 20092, Troy-Bilt TB230 12AVB26M, Troy-Bilt TB340 XP,12AI869F, and Yard-Man 12A18M7

Top tractors and an innovative zero-turn model. We found six good performing lawn tractors (the Craftsman 28828 and 28724, the Cub Cadet LTX1045 and LTX1040, and John Deere LA115 and LA105) that provided excellent performance for under $2,000. Our top zero-turn radius mowers ranged from $2,600 to $3,000, but what really caught our eye was the Cub Cadet Z Force S 48 17AI5BHB, $4000, which adds tractor-like front wheel steering that allows for improved steering control on slopes

Other lawn tractors tested included, in alphabetical order, the Bolens 317737, Craftsman 27690, Craftsman 28033, Craftsman 28934, Craftsman 28947, Craftsman Revolution 28933, Cub Cadet LT1050 13RQ11CP, Husqvarna LS 2346XLS, Husqvarna YTH2348, Husqvarna YTH23V42LS, John Deere LA145, John Deere X300, John Deere X304, Snapper LT125, Snapper LT130, Troy-Bilt Bronco 13AX78KS, and Troy-Bilt Horse 13AX79KT. Zero-turn radius mowers included the Ariens Zoom 42 915141, Craftsman ZTS 6000 28992, Cub Cadet RZT 50 17A12ACP, Husqvarna Z4828, John Deere Z225, Snapper 150Z, Toro Z4200, Toro Z5035 74376, and Troy-Bilt Colt 17AE2ACG.

Beware these bargain-priced models. The $290 Troy-Bilt TB230 12AVB26M self-propelled lawn mower and Bolens 317737 tractor, $860, posted low ratings in our tests.

Essential information: Regular maintenance (especially mower-deck cleaning and regular blade sharpening) can boost performance and longevity of any lawn mower. You can share your own performance tips and ratings of specific models in our mowers, tractors, and lawns forum.

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