Buying a lawn mower is not a small purchase. Whether you buy a high end riding mower or the simplest push mower, it is still going to set you back a significant amount of money. Push mowers can top out at well over $500 and riding mowers cost thousands of dollars depending on the brand and model. Within each brand there are many sizes and styles to choose from and at first glance there seems to be little variation other than price.
So what’s the difference?
Sometimes there is very little difference.
For example, Husqvarna is the parent company of Poulan, Weedeater, Dixon, Klippo, Flymo, Bluebird, and McCulloch. The difference between some of these brands is just that, the brand name, or color, maybe a slightly different body. Often, the engine and other mowing aspects of the machine are identical but some people prefer a Poulan over a Dixon for various reasons. The choice can be as subtle as “that’s the brand my father used” and the marketing department is well aware of that choice and try to deliver by using similar products with different brands.
Beyond loyalty and familiarity, the differences can be striking when it comes to craftsmanship, durability, and parts. Lawn mower manufacturers usually market their products to two distinct user groups – the homeowner and the landscaper. Within these two groups there are still multiple choices based on price points that the companies have determined through market research.
For example, a company can determine that a landscaper is comfortable paying $499 for a decent quality push mower but not $599, or a homeowner is more likely to pay $299 for a mower than $399. Of course there are exceptions to the market research and most companies generally offer a wide range of mowers in multiple price ranges.
What's your price point?
To get their machines to fit these price points manufacturers control costs through engine brand, engine horsepower, and the quality of parts and construction. Engine brands can have an impact on overall price whether it’s Honda, Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki or another brand. Certain engines have a better reputation, better track record, higher quality components, or again it can be as simple as a personal preference. The real price differences are due to horsepower which is ultimately controlled by the owner’s budget and need. Homeowners tend to spend less than landscapers and their needs are not as intense so smaller engines help keep the prices down while still delivering a quality product. High use commercial mowers that might work every day of the week are equipped with more powerful engines that can put up with the kind of abuse only a full time landscaper can deliver.
The quality of the mower itself is a dictator of price as well. Riding mower decks can consist of welded parts or from a single stamped piece of steel. Lower-end homeowner and landscaper models tend to be made with stamped decks which are easier and cheaper to manufacture while higher end mower decks are made with welded joints for a more durable, longer lasting mower.
Homeowner mowers tend to be made with lower quality parts than their commercial counter-parts and often the models sold at garden centers bear little resemblance in quality to mowers purchased from a dedicated lawn mower retailer. This is not necessarily a bad thing when the amount of use between a commercial model and homeowner model are taken into account. A well maintained homeowner lawn mower should provide many years of use, provided it is used like a homeowner mower – once a week for an hour or so of mowing. It’s a world of difference compared to a mower that is used up to seven days a week, many hours a day. If you do not need that much mower, why pay all that money for one?
Another cost factor is the numerous accessories that a lawn mower can be equipped with . A grass collection system or bagger will be more expensive than a mulching system which will be more expensive than just using a side discharge chute.
Other bells and whistles on the machine may also be useful and luxurious but must be taken into consideration when analyzing the cost and needs of the mower.
It is important to identify your needs as well as your budget to try and end up at the mower that is right for you. Providing the appropriate maintenance and upkeep for your mower will extend the life of the machine to it’s maximum possible.