Consumer Reports has updated its "Lawn Mower & Tractor Buying Guide" for the 2012 season. You can find full details by visiting their website here.

Here's a summary of some of the key points from the report. First, the overview:

"Our latest tests confirm that more horsepower doesn't necessarily mean higher-quality mowing. Mower manufacturers have swapped horsepower numbers for engine-size and torque specifications, but even those don't guarantee better results. Our advice: Check our Ratings (available to Consumer Reports subscribers) for top performers.

"Even if you don't plan to shop for a mower, you could end up doing so if you own an older model and it breaks. The latest data from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that push mowers usually aren't worth fixing after four years and self-propelled mowers after five years. Older tractors might be worth repairing, but getting them to and from the shop can add expense."

Consumer Reports' tests of 116 tractors, mowers and riders showed:

"John Deere’s X310, $4,000, and Cub Cadet’s LGTX1050, $2,700, are part of a new breed of lawn tractors with power steering and cushy seats. Smooth mulching and bagging helped both score well, although a poor showing in our brand-reliability surveys kept the capable Cub Cadet off the magazine’s list of winners.

"A better value: Husqvarna’s new YTH21K46, $1,600. A 46-inch deck speeds mowing over narrower models without requiring three blades, which compromise cut quality.

"Consumer Reports also found some bargains among self-propelled gas mowers. The best Honda and Toro models are now priced about the same, and include Honda’s new HRR216VKA, $400. But Toro has the edge when it comes to features; its Recycler 20333 costs the same but adds a blade-brake clutch that stops the blade rather than the engine if you step away to clear a rock or branch from its path."