A survey by the National Gardening Association finds Americans are tightening their belts when it comes to lawn maintenance -- and doing the mowing themselves.
There are plenty of inexpensive mowers out there, but Consumer Reports says you have to be careful with how low you go.
Consumer Reports put more than 100 mowers through their paces, mowing more than 18 acres this year alone at its Florida test site. Testers spent six sweaty weeks -- mowing, mulching, side-discharging, weighing bagged clippings, and even getting down on their hands and knees to judge how evenly a mower cuts.
When it was all over, Consumer Reports found the least expensive mowers didn't always make the cut. Among them, a $130 mower from Murray. It has an engine that lacks oomph, only discharges from the side - no bagging or mulching - and worse yet -- you have to assemble it yourself!
"And keep your wrenches handy. To change the cutting height, you're going to have to take off each wheel. Most mowers allow you to simply do that by adjusting a lever," according to Consumer Reports' Peter Sawchuk.
While a $240 Brute comes assembled - as the least expensive, self-propelled mower tested - its mediocre performance makes it no bargain. Plus it began rusting after a few weeks of routine cleaning.
"If you don't mind using a little muscle, we rated two push mowers that cost even less "Best Buys."
They are the $195 dollar Murray 11A-A23K and the $200 Troy Bilt TB-110. Both of these top performers have premium engines and let you easily adjust cutting height.