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All of these self-propelled and push mowers scored at least good overall. The best in this test cut evenly and proved easy to start, maneuver, and control. They also bagged thoroughly, courtesy of rear-mounted collection bags, which tend to fill more completely than the side-mounted bags they've displaced on most models.
High performance doesn't necessarily mean the highest price. Five of our top 10 self-propelled gasoline-powered mowers cost $500 or less, compared with $700 for the top-scoring Honda. You'll also find low-priced corded electrics, though you'll still pay a premium for cordless models without getting premium performance.
Big-name engines like those from Honda are another selling point that can boost a mower's appeal. But many models with other engines performed at least as well. What's more, the newer-design Honda engines used on many Honda and non-Honda mowers have different components than the commercial-grade engine on the Honda (7) and other pricier Honda mowers sold only at independent dealers.
The Ratings rank models by overall score. See Quick Picks for models that match the kind of mowing you do.
Guide to the Ratings
Overall score is based mainly on cutting performance, handling, and ease of use. Evenness shows average cutting performance for all available modes. Mulching is how evenly mulched clippings were spread over the lawn surface. Bagging denotes how many clippings the bag held before it filled or the chute clogged. Side discharging is how evenly clippings were dispersed in that mode. Handling includes ease of using the drive controls (for self-propelled), pushing, pulling, making U-turns, and maneuvering. Ease of use is ease of starting, using blade-stopping controls, changing speeds (for self-propelled), and adjusting cut height. Price is approximate retail and includes attachments for all applicable mowing modes.
Best for most; versatile mowing:
1 Honda $700
2 Toro $420, CR Best Buy
5 Deere $590
8 Craftsman $400, CR Best Buy
20 Craftsman $280
Superb mulching and bagging with the ability to adjust both for tall or wet grass make the top-scoring Honda (1) versatile. But the high-value Toro (2) and the Deere (5) work nearly as well and distribute clippings more evenly when side-discharging. The Toro (2) has variable drive speeds that involve pushing the handlebar, which may take some getting used to. Its similar model lacks electric starting and costs $40 less. Also consider the high-value Craftsman (8) for its easy cut-height adjustment and the single-speed Craftsman (20) for its low price. Note that while Lawn-Boy has been among the more repair-prone brands in our surveys, it now shares its design with Toro. We'll see whether that affects its reliability.
For small, relatively flat properties:
35 Yard-Man $200, CR Best Buy
36 MTD Pro $200, CR Best Buy
45 Bolens $190
47 Black & Decker $465
The gas-powered Yard-Man (35) and MTD Pro (36) perform equally well, though the MTD is sold only at Sam's Club and may be harder to find. Consider the Bolens (37) if you don't side-discharge clippings and the Honda (38) if side-discharging is the mode you use most. Also consider the corded-electric Bolens (45) if entangling shrubs aren't a problem and the Black & Decker (47) if a cordless mower is worth the higher price and limited run time.
1 HONDA HRX217HXA Excellent. Highest scoring model. The only model with a hydrostatic transmission, which gives smooth engagement and variable speed. "Versamow System" allows partial bagging and mulching simultaneously. Has blade brake clutch. Mulching and bagging attachments included. Choke and throttle at handle bar. Similar: Honda HRX217TDA.
2 TORO Personal Pace 20031 A CR Best Buy Very good. Has Tecumseh engine with battery electric start. Mulching and bagging attachments included. "Personal Pace" variable speed system adjusts ground speed by pressure on the handlebar. Handlebar can swing up for easier bag removal and storage, but scratches the paint at the base of the handlebars. Similar: Toro Recycler 20017.
3 LAWN-BOY Gold Series 10655 Very good. Mulching and bagging attachments included. Has Honda engine. "Personal Pace" variable speed system adjusts ground speed by …