If you're in the market for a new push mower and haven't shopped for a decade or so, the landscape has changed.
About the time you're celebrating that most of your perennials survived the winter, you discover that your lawn mower wasn't as lucky. If you're in the market for a new push mower and haven't shopped for a decade or so, the landscape has changed.
Gas-powered mowers pollute much less than they did 10 years ago, said Rob Little, marketing manager for Toro walk mowers, but more buyers are choosing electric or battery-powered mowers. While about 83 percent of all mowers sold this year will be gas-powered, Little said, 17 percent will be electric — up from 8 percent in 2000.
This year Toro introduced a battery-powered mower, the e-Cycler (Model 20360).
"With the spike in gas prices, more people are looking to get rid of oil and gas machines," he said. "In 2012, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] will have new emissions regulations that could increase the cost of gas mowers."
With more buyers switching, small-engine repair shop owners are nervous. "My manager says that every time we sell a battery or electric mower, it's another nail in the coffin of our jobs," said Derrick Wood at Cedar Small Engine in Minneapolis. With battery and electric models, there is little to maintain except keeping the mower clean and the blade sharpened.
Pros and cons of electric
If you're considering a battery-powered mower, the advantages include a quieter engine, better cutting than a reel mower (but not as good as a gas-powered mower), fewer parts to replace and low maintenance.
Battery-powered models cost about $100 more than a gas-powered push mower but about the same as many self-propelled gas models.
Owners will save a lot in maintenance costs, but they need to figure in the cost of a battery replacement ($60 to $150) after four to six years. Most batteries charge overnight and the charge lasts about an hour. If mowing time takes longer, some people cut half the lawn, recharge the battery overnight and finish the job the next day.
Toro's new e-Cycler ($419) was top-rated by Consumer Reports in its May issue and is getting five-star customer reviews at Amazon.com. It's giving the popular Neuton model some competition in the cordless category. (Neuton lowered the price of its 19-inch cordless model from $479 to $399, possibly in response to Toro's new model.)
Online nits about the e-Cycler have concerned its weight (77 pounds) for a mower that's not self-propelled, its hard-to-remove battery and its small grass catcher.