The best gas lawn mower
If you've got anything other than the smallest of lawns, a gas lawn mower is a serious consideration. There's no annoying extension cord to manage, no waiting for batteries to recharge, and many make your life even easier with self-propelled drive. You've still got to walk behind it, but there's not much pushing involved.
For all the information you need to make an informed choice, keep reading our quick, comprehensive guide. It features our top pick from Husqvarna, which underlines all the benefits of these machines and is perfect for medium to large yards.
Considerations when choosing gas lawn mowers
Power and size
The cutting width (swath) of a gas lawn mower is an important consideration. Yet while machines as big as 33 inches exist, the overwhelming majority are 21 inches. Why? Because it provides a good balance between cutting efficiency and maneuverability.
Likewise, you can find motors of up to 400cc on some gas lawn mowers, yet most are between 125cc and 165cc. They provide sufficient power for a 21-inch model while remaining quieter and more fuel efficient.
We can definitely look at 160cc as the best choice for a self-propelled model. The drive mechanisms sap power, and while smaller engines work, they might hesitate on thick grass or uneven terrain. Also look at the motor manufacturer. You pay a modest premium for Honda or Briggs & Stratton, but they have almost legendary reliability that we think is worth investing in.
When it comes to self-propelled gas mowers you have three choices: front-, rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD).
Front-wheel drive is great for level lawns but can scramble uphill, particularly as the bag fills and weighs down the rear.
Rear-wheel drive is good uphill, but can churn on uneven surfaces.
All-wheel drive gives the best performance in any conditions, but these machines are more expensive.
Grass management is an important issue. Traditionally gas lawn mowers eject into a bag, which you then empty onto the compost heap or into a lawn and leaf bag. No matter your lawn size, that can soon get tiring and frustrating. Side ejection is another option, but then you've got to rake up all the clippings. Mulching chops the clippings into much smaller pieces that don't need to be picked up, so it's a very popular choice. Having a mower that offers all three leaves the choice up to you.
Safety and speed
All mowers should have a 'dead man's handle' -- if you let go, the engine continues to run, but the blade doesn't turn. Speed control is usually by a single lever which is set before you start. More advanced machines offer variable speed while you mow and left- or right-handed control.
Grass height adjustment
A greater range of height adjustment allows you to cut your lawn exactly how you prefer it. Less expensive gas mowers may only adjust at the rear, but on others you can set all four wheels.
Modern gas lawn mowers seldom have starting problems if the manufacturer's procedure is followed properly. A few high-end models offer push-button rather than pull-cord starting.
Gas lawn mower prices
If you're searching for an inexpensive walk-behind lawn mower for a very small yard, an electric model is a competitive option. An entry-level gas-powered lawn mower is going to cost at least $150. But look at paying between $220 and $250 for a quality model. If you want self-propelled, you pay upwards of $300 for front- or rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive starting at $400. Prices rise considerably if you go beyond the standard 21-inch deck, and you can pay as much as $1,400 for 30-inch-plus machines.
Q. Is it difficult to maintain a gas lawn mower?
A. No. You periodically need to replace the fuel and air filters and the spark plug -- probably once a season. When you add gas, check the oil level. Some vibrate a little, so before you start mowing, check that the handlebar connections are tight.
Q. Is a self-propelled model worth the expense?
A. If you've got a large yard, particularly if it's uneven or sloping, all-wheel drive saves a lot of effort and time. If you have a modest, level area then a small, lightweight push model should handle it.
Gas lawn mowers we recommend
Best of the best: Husqvarna LC221AH Gas Lawn Mower
Our take: Powerful machine for those with larger, uneven, and sloping lawns.
What we like: All-wheel drive, variable speed, and superb 163cc Briggs & Stratton motor provides consistent cut over just about any surface. Super-smooth ball-bearing wheels. Clever oil system reduces maintenance.
What we dislike: No side discharge. Mulching requires blade change (extra cost).
Best bang for the buck: Craftsman M115 Gas Lawn Mower
Our take: Trusted brand provides the ideal solution for the average urban garden.
What we like: Dependable 140cc Briggs & Stratton motor. 21-inch cutting deck. Grass can be bagged, side ejected, or mulched. Large rear wheels for improved handling. Six height settings.
What we dislike: Inconsistent build quality.
Choice 3: PowerSmart DB2321S Gas Lawn Mower
Our take: Feature-packed self-propelled mower for the price of most push models.
What we like: Light and maneuverable. Easy-to-use controls. Robust 161cc motor. Usual 21-inch cut width and 3-in-1 grass handling options. Five height adjustments.
What we dislike: Drive is faster than is comfortable for some. Newish brand, so durability is unknown.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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