Mower and trimmer features that cut both ways

Consumer Reports News: April 08, 2011 02:12 PM

A propane-powered lawn mower, self-propelling cordless mowers and string trimmers that take a cue from Transformers were just three of the feature-laden machines in Consumer Reports tests of lawn gear. But sometimes simpler is better. Said project leader Peter Sawchuk: “Our tests show that some models put features before performance and could leave many consumers stuck in the weeds.”

Self-propelling wheels are a feature more typically found on gas models and not many electrics. We tested two self-propelled electrics. The 19-inch, battery-powered Black & Decker SPM1936, $450, was a top performer. But while the 19-inch Worx WG789, which cost $50 more, handled well it was only fair at mulching.

We also tested a self-propelled mower that uses propane instead of gas. The Lehr LM139SP, $350, runs for an hour on a $3 canister of propane, which burns cleaner than gas. But being green will cost you roughly $60 a season, more than you’ll pay at the pump even at today’s high prices. And the mower was only fair at mulching, bagging and handling.

Is it a string trimmer or an edger? Two cordless trimmers we tested, the cordless Ryobi P2002, $120, and the Craftsman 74381, $135, let you angle the head for slopes, swivel it for edging, and stretch or shorten the shaft to suit your height. They run 30 minutes per charge and can share their cells with other tools in their line. But they were mediocre at trimming and edging and poor in tall grass. If you have the companion cordless tool sets—the Ryobi 18-volt lithium-ion or Craftsman 19.5-volt nickel-cadmium—they might be worth considering.

For full Ratings read our latest reports on mowers and string trimmers.

Gian Trotta

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