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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Better buy that mower before grass gets too long

Alan J. Heavens Knight Ridder

Spring weather is on its way. Which means that in about a month, the grass should be long enough for cutting. For a good aerobic workout, there’s nothing like a push mower. But if a power mower is more your speed, now’s the time to decide which one is best for you.

Not all mowers are created equal. To decide between a gasoline-powered and an electric model, factor in your lawn’s terrain and size, the cut desired, and fuel costs, among other issues.

For example, lawns larger than 10,000 square feet are best handled by gasoline-powered mowers, which are more powerful. But gas mowers are also noisier, cost more to run and pollute the air.

For smaller lawns, electric mowers are fine. They’re less expensive to run, but they’re also less powerful, so you may have to mow more often. They are quieter and better for the air. But power supply can be an issue; outdoor-rated extension cords run only up to 100 feet, so you might want to consider a battery-operated mower.

Choose a more powerful mower – one with more horsepower if it’s a gas mower, more amps if it’s electric – if your grass is thick and grows quickly. Also, the larger the lawn, the greater the cutting width you’ll want. Electric mowers offer 14- to 18-inch-wide cuts; gasoline mowers range from 18 inches to 22 inches.

If your yard is sloping, hilly or very large, don’t buy a power mower you have to push unless you’re ready for some strenuous exercise. Buy a self-propelled mower that provides power to the wheels.

For safety, choose a mower with a blade shut-off switch. If you want to bag cut grass, a rear-discharge bagger is best; it will hold more and won’t get in the way as you mow.

Gasoline engines range from 3.5 to 7 horsepower. Electric mower power is measured in amps; the typical range is 6 to 12. OHV stands for overhead valve design; these engines are more fuel-efficient.

Mowers cost from $120 to $700. The greater the power, the more expensive the mower. The self-propelled feature usually adds $100 to the price. Cast-aluminum housings, known as decks, won’t rust and are more expensive than stamped-steel decks. Premium engine brands can add as much as $200 to the price.

Be sure to ask where the mower will be serviced, what is the warranty (most come with one-year warranties on the machine, two years on the engine) and can the mower be returned, and within what time?

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