Help me pick a lawnmower

I am a first time homeowner, and my property has almost 3 acres of lawn. This is a huge change for me. I grew up in NYC with a postage stamp-sized lawn; my dad’s mower had an electric cord that he plugged into the house, that’s how little he had to mow. Once I left home, I lived either in the dorm or a rental, and never had to deal with a lawn.

Now I’m in a quandary, because my lawn is outta control. I’ve had the front lawn mowed once, but the other lawns are now meadows, I’d say. I need to get a lawnmower to deal with this situation. I cannot afford a riding mower (they apparently cost around $1,000) but could get a self-propelled push mower. I also have an arthritic back, so I can’t use a mower that’s tough to use. I couldn’t mow the whole thing in one shot anyway, so as long as I can do a parcel at a time, I’ll be OK.

Does anyone have a mower they love? Recommendations? Should I just break down and pay someone to do it? Money is quite tight now because I have to buy two new boilers this summer (to the tune of $6,300 :frowning: ).

Thanks for any advice.

Given that budget, I’d recommend paying someone to come in with a brush hog a few times a year to knock down the bulk of the property, and then buying a push-mower to mow a small area immediately around the house.

I consider myself to be pretty anal when it comes to making large purchases and I do a lot of research on them.
When it came to getting a lawnmower it came down to two brands, John Deere or Honda. They are both excellent mulching mowers (no bagging) and both will last a loooong time.
I ended up with a John Deere. If had it for 3 years now and even after sitting in the shed over winter it will start on the second pull.

If you can’t afford a rider I think the best option would be to hire it out. That’s a huge area to try to mow and would quickly wear out a self propelled 22" mower (not to mention yourself). I’ve only got about 1/3 of an acre and it’s about as big as you want to use a non-rider for. It takes me about 1 1/2 hours to do that much, you’d be at it all day. The only way I see you getting away with a walk behind mower is if your climate is quite dry and the grass grows very slowly.

Three acres of lawn? Dang.

BobLibDem is right – that’s way too much for a non-rider.

I don’t know what the acreage was at our last place, but it was 4 lots, and it took hubby 3-4 hours to mow it, and that was on a rider with a 42-inch cut. And it wasn’t a once a week job. Late April through September, he’d have to mow twice a week to keep it looking decent.

As for hiring it done, I don’t know what the cost is in your area, but here, you could easily spend $1,000 in one cutting season.

If you’re mechanically inclined, maybe you could buy a used rider? We’ve bought used and had good luck. Hubby knows small engines and he knows about maintenance and stuff.

As for brands, hubby just bought a new Cub Cadet and he likes it. The one before that was a Husqvarna, and he liked that too. He’s also had a Snapper, and a YardMan.

(That sounds like we go through a lot of mowers, but this guy I married has a thing for toys with motors, and every couple of years he trades off. Once we had two riders and three push mowers.)

And even then, only if the area she’ll be mowing is an actual bona-fide lawn, free of rocks and nice and level.

If it’s an old pasture or field, and not an actual lawn, chances are it’ll beat the snot out of a push mower (and even a riding mower)…

There are BIG POWERFUL walk-behinds.

When I worked for a lawn-mower company, we used Ferris, and had one of these. A 36-inch walk-behind. We also had some with 52 inch decks, and maybe even a 60 inch.

Now, I’m not sure if that one in particular has the option, but some of them have a little “ski” you can stand on. The power of the mower pulls you along. You’d have to see your dealer. I don’t think these wak behinds are going to cause much stress to your back. Given their manouverability, you’ll probably spend less effort pulling it, and turning it than you would a normal push mower.

Another similar brand is SCAG.

Both Ferris and Scag are widley used commerically, and you probably can’t get them at Home Depot. There are still a lot of places that specialize in lawn mowers, and given that you’ll probably need some service (blade sharpening, small engine work, etc.) I’d recommend going through such a dealer instead of having to deal with some tool at Home Depot when your Cub Cadet goes down.

Look, you’re going to have to spend a few hundred dollars on a small walk behind that’s going to make your life a living hell for a yard your size.

Or, you’re going to have to spend a few hundred dollars per year to pay someone to do it.

Or, you can bite the bullet and buy a mower with some balls. I guarantee it’s worth it.

Trunk, are those machines pretty much lawn-only or can they also handle brush/some rocks/uneven fields?

I was in a similiar position to the OP (moving from an apartment to a place with acres to mow) and ended up getting an (old and cheap) tractor with a 6’ brush hog. But my budget was over $1000 and I had/have a bunch of other landscaping tasks to do…

They have rotating blades, so really brush and rocks are a no-no. But, if you find a dealer, I’d still check with him.

They can handle pretty heavy growth, though, as long it isn’t big sticks, or rocks.

I’ve seen one of them shear off the top of a rock, but it damages the blades. They also move pretty fast.

I really can’t “ballpark” a price on them though. IIRC, the big ones with the 50"+ decks were in the $2500-$3000 range.

The other big one that seems to straddle the “big yard homeowner/commercial use” is the grasshopper. All of these are going to better mowers, IMHO, than anything that’s a tractor/mower combo. But, all they’re good for is mowing, not hauling, or brush-cutting.

I have about a cleared acre to mow and I ended up picking up a 20 year old Bunton 48" deck mower for $300.00. Needed some work, but cuts down my mowing time by a factor of three or four. So you might check out used machines that are too beat for full-time landscaping work but still have a few years of life left in them for non-commercial mowing.

I am not convinced that I would go with a mulching mower for a lawn that size unless you get a very powerful machine. Even with 5 or 6 HP, my little Honda mulching mower bogs down terribly if the grass is long or wet.

Have you considered rasing a goat, or offering some of your land to a farmer with a grazing animal?

3 acres is a pretty big area to keep mowed, perhaps letting some of it go to meadows and eventually into forested land would not be a bad idea.

It seems too much for a self propelled mower.

Nearly everybody is trying to talk Rubystreak into buying a rider, even though advice was asked for on walk-behinds.

Law requires that the mower blade stops when you let go. Many mowers do that by killing the motor. Don’t get one of those. Restarting every time you have to pick up a stick gets to be a real pain after a while. Get one with a blade brake clutch; the blade stops, but the engine keeps going.

Does it have enough speeds to go at the rate of your own walking?

If you get a two-stroke mower, you’ll have to mix oil with the gasoline at a particular ratio. You can buy the oil in little bottles, just right for a 2 1/2 gallon can, but if you buy less than a full can, you’ll have to calculate how much oil to add. Go for the four-stroke.

Deck mowers are walk-behinds (unless you get the ones with the little platforms you can ride on). But even with a 48" or 60" deck mower, 3 acres is a * lot * of mowing, especially for someone with a dicey back. We’re just sayin’, is all…

I do second the advice about the blade brake clutch, although mowers that have them are more expensive.
I think two cycle engines are pretty much obsolete as far as lawn mowers go – the EPA is not very keen on them. I doubt you can find a new one for sale, even if you wanted one.

Because you have a very limited budget and a bad back, I’d let most of it go wild, and only mow up to 1/4 acre adjacent to the house. There really is no cheap solution.

Here’s the situation: the front lawn and parts immediately adjacent to the house total about an acre. It’s all grass, no brush, few if any rocks. I really can’t afford a $1000 mower right now-- I have more urgent house-related expenses to cover. I also live in an agriculturally zoned area, so the lawn can grow out pretty long, and no one will say anything. It’s all up to me what needs to be mowed and when. I’m off all summer and can mow in parts, not all at once.

Knowing that, what do you recommend? I might just have to hire out, you’re right, but before I accept that, I want to investigate mowers.

Knowing that, read my first post in this thread. :wink:

Seriously–paying someone to come out with a tractor and brush hog the bulk of your acreage a few times a year is not going to be that much money at all. Figure roughly $150 a pop; have it done a couple times during the growing season and once at the end. Total cost: $450. Look in the classifieds or visit a lawnmower repair shop and pick up a cheap used push mower, and use that to keep an area immediately around the house (has big as you want–lorinda’s 1/4 acre figure is decent) at “lawn” length. Total cost is gonna be $700 or less, and of course it’ll be spread out over the year.

Since you are zoned agricultural, I second the biological solution.
Grazing milk cows seems to be having a renaissance - yields are less than grain fed , but costs are a lot cheaper. Offer your yard to a nearby farmer for free - the farmer gets free food, you get “mowing” (and fertilization): win-win.

Are you in a place that used to be prarie? maybe you could plant some native stuff and do the prarie restoration thing.


Round here, “landscaping” businesses (read: mowing) are as numerous as flies. They go out of business at a fairly steep pace too. So I pick up all my yard machinery at the local pawn shops. Good, high dollar stuff (Deere, Homelite, Cub-cadet) at fire-sale prices.

Just a thought if you decide to do it yourself.

It’s zoned agricultural, but it’s right on the highway, and I have no fencing. I did think about goats, but I can’t afford to put up the fencing either.

I do have to keep the front acre mowed-- it’s too exposed to let go. Also, that’s where the dog goes for her walks. I let about an acre that’s not visible to the road go to meadow. It’s actually not that tall yet-- only about knee high.

That said, I will look into getting someone with a tractor in here. Things have gotten too shaggy for my comfort. Also, I’ve been told “vermin” would take up residence in my yard, though no one can be very specific with me as to what exactly those vermin are.

So what’s the best push-mower? I can’t really push that hard, as I’ve said.

Rabbits, mice, rats, skunks, possums, armadillos, insects, etc., plus the things that feed on, live on or live in the aforementioned vermin.

You say you’ve got a dog that walks in the area–think of things like ticks, chiggers, etc., plus whatever bugs live on or in the local fauna.

In fact, unless you’ve lived there a while and know it isn’t going to be a problem, you should seriously consider having a pest control guy come out to spray around your house once a quarter or so.