Honda, Toro lead Consumer Reports' lawn mower tests

If last year's mower sat outside all winter, it may be time for a new one

The last bits of snow and ice have melted from lawns in most of the United States, meaning it's time to try to crank up the old lawn mower or, possibly, beat it over to the nearest big box store and pick up a new one.

Gas-powered appliances that are left outside or in an unheated garage can be pretty reluctant to start up each spring. Draining the gas and oil each fall can help but some springtime maintenance may still be needed. If you're not feeling up to that, buying a new one may save time and trouble.

Consumer Reports has taken some of the guesswork out of shopping for a new lawn mower, reviewing more than 40 models in its May 2014 issue, along iwth reviews of tractors, riding mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers and other gadgets and lawn care products. Honda and Toro get top marks from the magazine.

“A great-looking lawn is easy if you have the right tools,” said Peter Sawchuk, test program leader for home improvement at Consumer Reports. “The best mowers and riding machines can help get a lawn back into shape in time for summer.”

In the self-propelled, gas-powered mower category – the type of mower most people buy – models from Honda and Toro earned Consumer Reports’ highest scores, including the Honda HRR2169VKA, $400, and the Toro 20381, $520, which were both CR Best Buys. The Cub Cadet SC100 11A-A92J, $250, also a CR Best Buy, topped the gas push-mower category and the Ego, LM2000, $500, earned the highest scores among the electric battery mowers tested.

While most lower-scoring lawn mowers Consumer Reports tested performed passably, several left ugly clumps in their wake, including two models from Earthwise (a plug-in mower and a self-propelled cordless) and a gas-push version from Murray.

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