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Oh chute, my '3-in-1' mower came without one

Consumer Reports News: March 27, 2012 12:20 PM

People with walk-behind lawn mowers prefer to mulch or bag the clippings, respondents to a lawn-mowing poll conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center have said. But manufacturers apparently knew that already, or so it seems, as some are leaving the side-discharge chute out of the deal—even in mowers billed as "3-in-1" products that supposedly come equipped to mulch, bag and side-discharge.

If you never side-discharge clippings, you might like this strategy, which manufacturers say lowers the price of the mower. Why, goes the argument, should they charge extra for a part customers aren't likely to use?

We have no problem with that strategy, as long as customers know up front what they're getting—and, preferably, what the chute costs. Here's what we discovered about 13 self-propelled and push models from our latest mower and tractor tests. The updated Ratings list prices for mowers as sold.

Both the Honda HRR216VYA and HRR216VKA self-propelled mowers we tested are listed on the company's website as having "3 in 1 capability: Mulch, bag, and discharge with no tools needed." But the discharge chute, which attaches in place of the bag, costs $40 more. The very latest versions of these models, sold in Home Depot, do include everything you need to discharge clippings.

Lawn-Boy includes a card with several of the walk-behind mowers we've tested. Send it in, and you'll get the side-discharge chute free of charge. But Lawn-Boy doesn't include that information for several models that promise "3-in-1 Ready: Versatile cutting system is ready for mulching, bagging, or side discharge." They are:
Lawn-Boy 10607 (self-propelled, multi-speed);
Lawn-Boy 10606 and 10605 (self-propelled, single-speed); and
Lawn-Boy 10603 (push).

Husqvarna generally describes its line of mowers as sporting a "3-in-1 mulch/rear bag/side discharge," but the side-discharge chute for at least the self-propelled, multi-speed HD700L we tested costs $30.

Black & Decker's line of electric mowers was a mixed bag. Its cordless mowers—the self-propelled SPCM1936 and push CM1936, CMM1200, and CM1836—typically claimed "3-in-1 versatile cutting options" but invariably said nothing about the side-discharge chute's being optional—and $20.

The good news? While the two corded Black & Decker push mowers we tested also leave out the $20 chute, the web pages for both the MM875 and MM1800 specifically list mulching and bagging as available modes. The web page for the MM1800 doesn't mention side-discharge as an option, but the MM875's was refreshingly clear even if awkwardly worded: "Mulches and rear bags plus optional discharge chute." Now, was that so hard?

Ed Perratore

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