Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Deciding on the best self-propelled lawn mower isn’t as easy as it used to be. Do you need commercial or residential quality? Do you want to use gas or batteries for power? How much grass do you need to cut? Are you a mulcher or a bagger?
Having tested dozens of the best walk-behind lawn mowers from entry-level residential to the top professional models, we got our Pro team together to choose our top mowers in a range of scenarios.
One of the big things changing in the market is Honda’s announcement that the brand is exiting the lawn mower market. While you can still buy Honda mowers until they run out of stock, 2023 marks the end of production. We still highly recommend them, but due to the news and iffy availability, we’re not considering Honda as part of our choices this year.
Want to see more, including ride-on and robotic recommendations? Read out Best Lawn Mower Reviews main article!
Best Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
Commercial: Exmark Commercial X-Series Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
As we bid adieu to Honda this year, the HRC series still gets two thumbs up from us while you can get them. From there, we turn to Exnark and its Commercial X line that complements its Lazer Z zero-turn mowers well. Some professionals will certainly turn to the higher-capacity 30-inch model, but we expect the 21-inch model will find its way onto more trailers.
Exmark wisely uses a Honda 163cc GXV engine with a legendary reputation for reliability. It’s fed by a generous 1-gallon fuel tank and turns the blade at tip speeds up to 18,500 fpm. There’s also an option for a Kawasaki FJ180V engine if you’d like to step up to a 179cc engine.
The deck is 1/4-inch aluminum construction that keeps the weight down (112 pounds) while maintaining high durability. The deck is adjustable from 4.5 inches on the high side all the way down to 1 inch while the drive runs at speeds up to 4.2 MPH.
Residential: Toro Super Recycler Series 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Toro runs deep in the residential lawn mower sector and our favorite among them is the Super Recycler series. Getting the best of all the technology Toro has to offer, our top recommendation (model 21565) includes the Personal Pace drive system and the Smart Stow design that allows you to vertically store the mower even though it’s a gas model.
It uses a 163cc Briggs Stratton engine that produces 7.25 ft-lbs of torque and just under 17,000 fpm blade tip speed.
Toro touts a commercial-grade construction on this model and includes a lighter aluminum deck rather than steel. In addition to that, you get outstanding cut quality, especially on the mulching side (you better with the name Super Recycler!). Wrapping it up, the Personal Pace drive system adjusts to your walking pace so there are no levers or dials to adjust.
Best Self-Propelled Electric Lawn Mower
Just a few years ago, if you wanted to find the best battery-powered lawn mower, you could only find residential models. Now, there’s an emerging class of professional-grade options and we have picks for both Pros and homeowners.
Professional: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
There aren’t many true commercial self-propelled lawn mowers with lithium-ion power sources. Milwaukee launched their effort in 2022 with a monstrous 10 ft-lbs of torque that tops what you typically see from a 200cc gas engine. It’s more than just muscle, though. Its blade and deck combine to handle mulching and bagging better than most.
As you roll into fall, the mower’s high-lift mode keeps the blades at 3300 RPM to help pull those lightweight leaves and clean up your lawn. Other features include 180° LED lighting, LED battery indicators facing you, variable speed thumb bar (in addition to the speed wheel), a durable build, and much more.
Price: 1099.00 with two 12.0Ah batteries and dual-port Rapid charger
Residential: EGO Select Cut XP 21-Inch Lawn Mower with Speed IQ
The evolution of EGO’s flagship mower is interesting. It started with the dual-battery Peak Power model that raised the bar of what lithium-ion is capable of. Then, we saw the first stacked-blade SelectCut options that improved cut quality and effectiveness in tall grass. The two technologies combined in the SelectCut XP. Now EGO adds Speed IQ to the mix.
Speed IQ is a self-propelled drive system that automatically adjusts to your pace. However, it’s not a spring-loaded set of handles like Toro uses on its Personal Pace models. Instead, there’s a sensor doing some serious engineering magic… and it works like a charm from our brief time with it at Equip Expo 2022 (formerly GIE).
Price: 599.00 bare, 999.00 with a 12.0Ah battery and Turbo charger
Best Large Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 30-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Can a battery-powered commercial mower really displace gas models? Greenworks Commercial has an 82V 30-inch model that got our attention at the Equip Expo in late 2022, and it’s hard to ignore as a legitimate option. It has the power to replace a 200cc gas engine with blade speeds up to 16,000 FPM. On a full charge, it can cover up to 2 acres.
There are drive system features worth considering as well. Independent hub wheel motors engage what Greenworks calls the Easy Turn System (ETS), making the mower easier to maneuver. Another big deal is that there is a powered reverse function—something that’s incredibly helpful with the weight of mowers in this class. The controls are all up next to your hands and there’s even a display to help you keep track of your battery levels.
Price: 1999.99 bare, 2999.99 with three 8Ah batteries and a dual-port charger
Residential: Toro TimeMaster 30-inch Personal Pace Mower
With 10 ft-lbs of torque delivered from its Briggs Stratton 223cc engine, the 30-inch Toro TimeMaster is our pick as the best large walk-behind lawn mower. Not only does it deliver big power to turn its time-saving 30-inch blade, but it also features Toro’s Personal Pace self-propelled drive and Spin-Stop that lets you stop the blade without shutting off the mower.
It all adds up to big-time savings on larger lawns. Grab model 21200 if you want an electric start or the 21199 if you don’t mind a recoil start and want to save 100.
Price: 1599.00 (21199), 1499.99 (20200)
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money
Toro’s 21-inch Recycler (21352) offers an excellent value for budget-minded homeowners. It’s a Made in the USA rear-wheel drive system powered by a Briggs Stratton 140cc engine. It comes ready to mulch, bag, or side discharge and you don’t have to worry about changing the oil. Just check the levels and add more when it’s necessary.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Brand
No one in the self-propelled lawn mower market dominates like Honda. Their engines enjoy a reputation for quality and durability every other manufacturer is shooting for, and their mowers are simply outstanding.
They typically run at a premium, though. Both Honda mowers and Honda-powered mowers are more expensive than similar designs from other brands. The big kick in the pants is Honda leaving the market, though.
That opens the door for Toro. There are a lot of Toro models we recommend for good reason and hit a wide range from budget-friendly homeowner mowers to commercial zero turns. It’s one of the best-selling brands of walk-behind mowers.
Getting hard sales figures is tough to come by, and it’s always possible we missed the mark. However, we see more Honda and Toro walk-behind mowers on commercial trailers and residential lawns than any other brand.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Bagging
You don’t have to ditch your current self-propelled lawn mower and buy a whole new one to improve your bagging efficiency. In most cases, adding a high-lift blade to your current mower will make a significant difference. With the exception of electric mowers, you don’t need to worry too much about matching the brand making the blade, but you do need to match the arbor style and the length. The package should tell you which brands it is compatible with.
If you’re still in the market for a new mower, higher RPMs make for better airflow and bagging. Check mowers with a 160cc or higher engine and compare the top blade speeds. You can always swap blades, but you can’t change the speed.
Pro Tip: If you have a 2-point or 4-point deck height adjustment, set the front wheels of your mower one notch higher than the rear to improve bagging.
Best Self-Propelled Mulching Lawn Mower
Similar to a high-lift blade for bagging, you can improve your mulching efficiency with a mulching-specific blade. These usually have additional cutting edges that cut the clippings more times before they drop back into the grass. Keeping the blade sharp ensures you get the best mulching results every time you mow.
If you’re in the market for a new mower, look for a 160cc or higher engine to give you the torque you need to keep your blade speed high in thicker grass. Remember, you can always add a mulching blade, but you can’t make up for an underpowered engine.
Pro Tip: You get the best mulching results if you’re only taking an inch or two off the top of your grass, so make sure you stay on top of lawn maintenance during the peak cutting season.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Priorities
Best Rear-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Hills: YBravo Gen II 25-inch Commercial Mower
After running into issues with other commercial walk-behind mowers, we turned to YBravo 25-inch commercial mower to take care of a 3-acre soggy field that our ZTs only bogged down in. Its Kawasaki 180cc engine kept the blade turning where others simply stalled.
When it’s time to move out of the radio station swamp and you’re going for a more professional look, its cut quality is excellent as well. Available in a 21-inch and the 25-inch model we tested, Ybravo is worth serious consideration.
If you have a Bad Boy dealer closer to you, check out the same model sold under the Bad Boy brand name.
Price: 1299.00 (25-inch model)
Best All-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower: Toro 22-inch Personal Pace All-Wheel Drive Mower 21472
AWD mowers are what you turn to for work on slopes and uneven terrain where it’s possible to have a wheel or two lose traction. For the best all-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower, we like the Toro 21472 Personal Pace model.
Its 22-inch deck is on the larger size of standard mowers and the Personal Pace system is easy to work with once you get used to it. If you switch between mulching and bagging, the mower’s lever system is super simple.
Packing plenty of power with its 163cc Briggs Stratton engine, it’s not so much that it destroys the competition. It’s that its performance is excellent and the innovations are genuinely helpful while keeping its price in check.
Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Recommendations
Not every mower earns an award, but there are several other models we recommend that didn’t find a place earlier in the article. Check these options out if one of the others doesn’t fit your needs.
Best Lawn Mower Buying Guide – What We Look For
Gas vs Battery
Gas power still wins the day when you’re highest priorities are keeping your purchase price down and your power level high. With advancements in battery and motor technology, the OPE world is shifting towards battery power, though. It’s cleaner and quieter to run and requires less maintenance.
However, you have to look at premium models to get true gas power, and runtime can be a limiting factor. It’s also less likely you have a service center nearby that can get you back up and running quickly if there’s a problem.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, there are a lot of battery-powered options available. Once you get beyond that size, you need to consider how many batteries you’ll need and legitimate options really start to thin out once you hit 1/2 an acre. With larger lawns, newer battery-powered zero turn mowers are a legitimate option.
Take a deeper look at the comparison between gas and battery power in this article.
Commercial vs Residential
This might be better titled “professional vs homeowner” considering there are both commercial and residential professional crews. Regardless, commercial mowers are built with better components and commercial engines, creating a machine that is built to last for years of high-hour daily use.
If you’re a homeowner mowing once a week or so, a good residential mower can still last for 5 or 10 years (or more) if you take care of it. It just uses components and engine designs better fit for occasional use.
Engine Size and Cutting Power
If you stay on top of your mowing and cut quality isn’t a high priority, an engine as small as 140cc is likely fine.
Move up to the 160cc–180cc class for better performance when the grass is thicker and taller, or when you want to make sure you get excellent mulching, bagging, and/or clean cuts. The greater power improves lift and is less likely to bog down in thick patches.
When you’re looking at deck sizes beyond 22 inches, you should start looking for engines in the 180cc–200cc range (or higher) to ensure it can keep the RPMs high while it’s cutting such a large swath.
We look for three major components of cut quality: evenness, mulching size, and bagging efficiency.
Evenness is pretty straightforward. When we’re testing, we look for grass blades that weren’t cut and indications that there wasn’t enough lift to clip all of the blades at the same level.
When mulching, smaller clippings are better since they drop down closer to the base of the remaining grass. We also look to see if a mower is prone to leaving trails and clumps.
For bagging, it’s all about how much grass is collected, if the chute tends to clog while we’re cutting, and how much grass is deposited back to the ground.
One of the major benefits of battery-powered mowers is the lower noise levels compared to gas, but that doesn’t mean gas mowers have to be obnoxious. We expect higher levels than battery-powered models and that is typically the case.
When we test noise levels, we measure from our operator’s ear to get an idea of what the person using the mower should expect. Even though some mowers are quieter than others, we still recommend hearing protection when you’re using a gas model.
How efficient gas mowers use fuel has a very direct effect on your wallet, especially when you’re mowing every day as a Pro.
Fuel efficiency testing is more than just a runtime calculation. The cutting swath of a mower comes into play, especially on those 25 and 30-inch models. With larger lawns, it’s possible to get more cutting done per gallon of gas with an engine that uses more gas per hour.
21 or 22 inches is pretty standard for most mowers. Jumping up to a 25-inch or 30-inch mower may seem tempting, but it’s not for everyone.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, the time you gain with a larger deck might not mean a whole lot of time savings. Where you really gain some time is on lawns that are a 1/2-acre or more.
Keep in mind, larger deck-size mowers are heavier. When you have to mow wet or soggy areas, the weight can work against you.
Steel vs Plastic (Poly) Deck
The vast majority of gas mowers have steel decks while battery-powered models have a much higher percentage of plastic poly decks.
Those poly plastic decks are tougher than they look, but they probably won’t hold up as well as steel in the long run. It’s still highly unlikely that you’ll wear through one before it’s time to replace the mower, though.
However, there’s a whole lot more design flexibility that comes with poly decks, and engineers can do some amazing things to help with airflow that directly affects cut quality along with bagging and mulching efficiency.
Here in Florida, we have a lot of St. Augustine grass that we cut at 3 1/2 inches, so we prefer a mower that has at least a 4-inch maximum deck height.
Depending on what species of grass you have, you might be able to get away with a lower height, but 4 inches is a good all-around benchmark.
On the low end, most of us aren’t cutting golf course greens (you’d use a reel mower for that, anyway), so the minimum deck height usually isn’t an issue.
However, if you use a blade that dethatches or scalps for maintenance or re-seeding, you might want to make sure the deck height gets low enough—typically 1 1/2 inches or less.
Single-point height adjustments are the easiest since you can raise or lower the deck with just one lever. It’s common on battery-powered lawn mowers, but not so much on their heavier gas counterparts.
Part of that is because the single-point mechanisms tend to introduce additional flex into the system and the weight of a gas mower puts more strain on the mechanism. So while we generally prefer single-point, we understand why gas mowers may opt away from them.
Pro Tip: Set the front wheels one notch higher than the rear wheels to improve bagging efficiency on 4-point or 2-point adjustable mowers.
If you’re really OCD, more height adjustments mean more precise cutting. Realistically, most of us are going to find a good height on any mower as long as it hits the maximum and minimum heights we mow at.
Setting the Speed
The type of speed adjustment your self-propelled lawn mower has can make or break your experience. There are pull levers, thumb push levers, full push bars (Toro’s Personal Pace), and iterations on those.
Try it at the dealer before you buy it. If you hate working the mechanism for a couple of minutes, imagine what it’s going to feel like after 30 minutes or an hour.
Front-Wheel Drive, Rear-Wheel Drive, or All-Wheel Drive?
Front-wheel drive lawn mowers are typically the least expensive and work well for even terrain. They also help you turn the easiest since you lift up the drive wheels as you make your turns.
Rear-wheel drive mowers add some cost but create better traction on hills and slopes. They’re particularly good at pushing the mower’s weight uphill where front-wheel drives start to lose traction as they try to pull the weight.
All-wheel drive mowers are the most expensive and generally do the best job on hills, slopes, and uneven terrain. On particularly bumpy areas where it’s likely one or more wheels will lose traction, it’s the best bet.
Larger wheels tend to handle bumps and uneven terrain better than smaller wheels according to manufacturers. However, it’s a claim that Consumer Reports says isn’t really the case.
If you’ve used a gas engine, there’s a good chance you’ve worn out your arm pulling the cord to start it. There’s no doubt that having an electric start on your mower can take away a lot of the frustration.
It won’t make up for poor maintenance, though. A well-maintained mower starts easily on the first or second pull. That begs the question as to whether the electric start is worth an extra hundred dollars.
It’s totally up to you, but if it’s in the budget, we want it.
Mulch, Bag, or Side/Rear Discharge?
Most quality mowers are 3-in-1, meaning you can bag, mulch, or side/rear discharge. Less expensive models often only provide options for bagging and mulching. Which one you choose depends on what type of grass you have, how fast it grows, and your personal preference.
In central Florida where St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bahia dominate our landscapes, the summer heat and rains make our grass grow incredibly fast. Most of us mulch out of necessity since we almost need a dumpster for the volume of clippings we create.
Most lawn mowers have 3 handle positions you can set. For tall guys like me or average-height guys like Clint, it helps you find a more comfortable grip. Some mowers opt for 2, or sometimes just 1 handle position.
Value is more than just price. We take a broad look at the performance and features compared to the price to determine the value of each mower.
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The Honda H4518 is a lawn tractor with Honda GX640 two-cylinder water-cooled gasoline engine 0.64 l (635 cc, 38.7 cu-in). The Honda H4518H used hydrostatic transmission and 965 mm (38 in.), 1190 mm (42 in.) or 1,168 mm (46 in) mower deck. The mower deck is adjustable in seven increments for cutting heights between 25 mm (1 in.) and 100 mm (4 in). The Honda H4518 lawn tractor was produced from 1991 to 1998.
The GX640 engine produced 18.0 HP (13.2 kW) at 3,600 rpm of maximum output power and 46.1 Nm (4.7 kg·m, 34.0 ft·lb) at 2,500 rpm of maximum torque. The GX640 is a liquid-cooling engine with a 76.0 mm (3.0 in) of the cylinder bore and a 70.0 mm (2.8 in) of the piston stroke, and 8.0:1 compression ratio rating.
The H4518 is equepped with hydrostatic transmission. This transmission has three approximate ground speeds: “Reverse” to 3.4 km/h (2.1 mph), “Mowing” to 5.1 km/h (3.2 mph) and “Transport” to 7.6 km/h (4.7 mph)
ATTENTION! Dear visitors, this is an informational database of technical specifications, we are not a parts supplier or a marketplace.
We try to use official documentation and verify the published data, but errors may occur. In addition, specifications of machinery and equipment may vary depending on markets and modifications. We do not recommend the use of this data for spare parts or repairs. Use official service manuals or parts catalogs for your product.
Honda HRN216 Lawn Mower Series
Honda Power Equipment celebrated its 35 th anniversary with plenty of fanfare and with the launch of the all-new Honda HRN216 lawn mower series. This lawn mower is built new from the ground up as a replacement for their most popular line of consumer mowers.
Honda HRN216: Replacing the Honda HRR216 Lineup
When you sell 300,000 lawn mowers a year from just one line, normal thinking says to keep crankin’ ’em out. But Honda Power Equipment isn’t satisfied to sit still and they’re replacing the HRR216 series with the Honda HRN216 line.
To put that into perspective, it’s like Honda replacing the Civic with an all-new model. They sell 300,000 Civics and HRR216’s every year.
The biggest difference for the Honda HRN216 is the engine – a completely rebuilt GCV170 engine. It moves from 106 parts down to just 39. It’s easier to service, has better fuel efficiency, 9% higher power, and 18% more torque than the GCV160 it replaces.
It also features an all-metal transmission, something that’s uncommon for this class of lawn mower. Because Honda manufacturers both the engine and the transmission, it’s a perfectly designed fit. Other options often pair an engine and transmission from different manufacturers that they have to make fit.
It’s still a residential engine, just a more powerful one. It still fits the same footprint from the GCV 160, allowing it to mate to the same equipment. Here are a few of the smaller changes that make a difference:
- 60% larger diameter fuel spout for easier refueling
- Oil fill moved higher and closer to the crankcase
- Tool-free air filter access
- Easy access to the spark plug on the upper front of the engine
- Easier to assemble carb stud bolts
- One-way strip down that doesn’t require removing the entire engine to access and replace the crank
- Improvement in the auto-choke system
- CycloFlow – a compact combustion chamber with a longer stroke and stable combustion across a wider operating range
- Exhaust noise tuned to a lower frequency that isn’t as irritating
Honda GCV170 Specifications
- Engine Type: Air-cooled, 4-stroke
- Displacement: 167 cc
- Choke System: Automatic and manual
- Oil Capacity: 0.4 L
- Fuel Capacity: 0.9 L
- Fuel: Automotive grade unleaded
- Efficiency: 1.4 L/hr at 3600 RPM
- Dry Weight: 22.3 pounds
- Dimensions: 16.34″ x 12.99″ x 14.14″
Honda HRN216 Performance Features
The Honda HRN216 series comes with Honda’s twin-blade design, making it more effective at mulching. When you bag, the clippings are smaller and you get more grass in the bag so you’re stopping to empty less often.
They also increased the chute diameter, making it tougher to clog. In Honda’s internal testing, the new design made a fast 5” cut 131′ – more than double the distance the HRR 216 made before clogging (62′).
We were all set to do some high-quality cutting in Honda Power Equipment’s backyard when a thunderstorm interrupted us. I did get to cut for about 15 minutes and it’s pretty impressive in wet grass on a regular maintenance cut. We’ll do some more thorough testing, including in taller grass when it arrives at our world headquarters.
If you’re familiar with Honda’s HRX mowers on the commercial side, the 3-in-1 Clip Director makes its way over to the new line. This is a lever that closes off exit airflow for mulching. If you want to bag or use the rear discharge, flip it over to the bag setting and roll. There’s no plug to worry about.
Here are a few minor fixes compared to the HRR216
- Optimized the deck dome for better grass movement when mulching
- Closed off a couple of small grass escape points
- Eliminated a bagging obstacle in the rear deck
A side-by-side look at the HRR and the HRN216 shows that Honda is going after a sleeker, sexier design is an improvement over the previous utilitarian look.
The design team goes with a 2-point height adjustment system – one lever on the front axle and a second on the rear. Using a rivet to connect the solid rod to the wheels, it creates a rigid construction that resists the torsion you often see from a 2-point or 1-point design.
As an added bonus, you can tilt the front end up a notch and bag more effectively than when all 4 wheels are level.
Combined with its heavy-duty 21” steel deck, it’s a solid, durable machine.
Rise and Drive
There are 7 height adjustment levels covering 1” to 4” cutting heights (1.06″ to 3.93″). Conveniently, each height marking corresponds to the height and it’s a high-contrast white on black so you can see it easier.
For the self-propelled models, there’s a big change in the drive operation. The Smart Drive push bar under the main handle lets you feather your speed from 0 – 4 MPH. It’s broad enough to easily use with your thumbs so your other fingers can keep the presence bar engaged.
A slide in the middle of the thumb bar allows you to adjust it into 5 positions moving up the bar. Chances are, you’ll find a comfortable position to settle on. Once you do, adjusting your speed comes very naturally as you work your way around the yard.
The goal was to reduce thumb fatigue with better ergonomics. In the short period of time that I got to use it, it seems to work. We’ll test it for a longer period once we get one in for a full review.
One upgrade that was immediately apparent was the 2-way ratchet system on the drive. When you release the drive bar, a key in the drive allows the rear wheels to freewheel in forward and reverse. The HRR only had forward freewheeling. When you’re working around landscaping or corners where you need to pivot frequently, it’s really noticeable.
- 2-position handle height
- All adjustments and fuel spout are on the left side of the mower, keeping everything on one side except the oil spout
Born in the USA
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Honda’s USA-based manufacturing. While not every component comes from the US, most of the engine and mower parts are manufactured in the Swepsonville, NC facility we visited. The entire mower is assembled at that plant and it was the same facility that the product team conceived and designed it.
Looking more broadly at Honda’s American facilities, there’s an impressive commitment to manufacturing in the US and North America in general. Many of the cars and products they make have more USA in their DNA than American companies that source a lot of the work elsewhere.
Expect the Honda HRN216 line to see limited distribution starting in September 2019, with a bigger push to retailers this winter.
Honda HRN 216 Lawn Mower Models
- Completely redesigned Honda GCV170 engine (167 cc)
- Auto choke system
- 0.237-gallon fuel tank (0.9L)
- 8″ tires
- 21″ Steel/resin deck
- 7-position, 2-point deck height adjustment
- 1.06″ to 3.93″ cutting height range
- Mulch/bag/rear discharge with Chip Director
- 17-gallon bag
- 2 handle positions
- Twin blade cutting system
Honda HRN216 PKA
To get the benefits of the HRN216’s redesign without the self-propelled drive, go with the PKA version.
The VKA version is the most basic of the self-propelled versions. It uses a recoil start with the rear-wheel drive Smart Drive system.
The VLA has a keyed electric start that is mounted on the handle where you see many self-propelled speed adjusters on other mowers. As you might expect, Honda gives you a recoil backup in case the battery dies.
The VYA joins the VLA at the top of the Honda HRN216 line. It includes Roto-Stop—a feature we see on the HRX that lets stops the blades without stopping the engine. It’s helpful for times that you need to move a stick out of the way, empty the bag, or prod a stubborn alligator back into the lake. The big deal is it saves you from having to restart the mower after every interruption.
Pricing on the Honda HRN Series mowers ranges from 459 (push model) to 569 (self-propelled and electric start or Roto-Stop). You can find them at Acme Tools and other authorized Honda dealers.
Lawn Mower Development: Global Expansion for Honda Power Products
Following the development of Honda’s 1953 Type H engine, the company steadily expanded its line of general-purpose engines by launching the Type T and VN models. The field of complete products saw considerable activity also, with market expansion significantly aided by the F150 tiller (released in 1959) and E40 generator (1964), along with several pumps and outboard marine engines.
The high-quality, high-performance HR21 walk-behind lawn mower, developed in order to expand Honda’s power product market worldwide.
Honda began the full-scale exportation of tiller products to France in 1963 as part of an aggressive strategy to cultivate the market for power products overseas. Yet, despite the recognition of their high quality and superior durability, Honda power products lacked the cost advantage they needed to compete in a price-driven market. As a result, Honda could not yet expand its power product operations globally.
The ME engine (G150/200) introduced in 1977 represented Honda’s effort to develop a new family of powerplants that could maintain the high quality associated with Honda products yet be affordable enough to compete in the global market. Named ME (Million Engine) as an expression of the company’s high sales expectations, the product was given a challenging mission: to help sell one million units and build the foundation on which Honda could establish Power Products as a third major operation.
Worldwide annual sales of power products were around 20 million units during the 1970s, with the so-called green market (lawn mowers) accounting for 8.5 million units. Therefore, to any industry player lawn mowers represented a very appealing and potentially profitable market.
Honda’s power-products operations during that period were limited to sales of complete machines in Japan and France. over, the company had few sales bases in the U.S. Therefore, to increase the sales of its power products from less than 300,000 units to over one million, Honda would have to establish a worldwide sales network covering these untapped regions. Accordingly, as the principal category with which to build this vast network, Honda chose the commandingly large market of lawn mowers.
The First Step: Know the Grass
It was the summer of 1975, and Takeo Ogano had recently completed a key phase of an R-research project in which he was developing a new technology for the ME engine. It was then that he was ordered to create a lawn mower. This was a baffling request to Ogano, since Honda. a manufacturer in a country with very little grass to mow. should wish to enter a market filled with dedicated, expert makers of lawn mowers. Despite his confusion, however, Ogano began working on the project. He decided to go back to the basics, that of course being research. His objective was to understand the lawn mower and define what Honda should look for in such a machine.
Ogano was convinced that he would invariably hit a wall if he focused exclusively on the engineering of hardware. He knew he would not come up with a workable product concept without answers to several questions. These he would obtain by understanding the key elements required of a lawn mower.
Ogano began by studying the grass itself, learning about its histories and geographical distributions around the world. over, he studied the engineering aspects of lawn mowers based on models and catalogues from other companies. Still, he was unable to identify the quality he sought; the quality that would connect the machine and the user and thus create product appeal. It was then that Ogano was instructed by Honda RD Director Kiichi Momota to visit the markets, where he could experience local environments and understand the tool’s real-world applications. He immediately left for the U.S. and Europe, hoping to verify with his own eyes the things he could not see on paper. It was February 1976.
Samples of grass were brought back from various countries (The photographs depict samples taken in France.)
Pulling out Grass to Collect Samples around the World
Ogano toured most of the countries that represented a significant lawn mower market, including England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the U.S., studying the local manufacturers and retailers as well as maintenance practices. He also visited local trade shows to collect information regarding existing models.
A drawing used to identify product requirements for a new lawn mower
At each location, Ogano studied the average number of hours the owners would use their machines, factoring that against the average lawn area, user profile and specific style of use. over, he became absorbed in the study of plant characteristics, using samples from each particular region. In suburban Paris and Los Angeles, he pulled up grass in the gardens and cottages of customers introduced by local retailers. and sometimes even grass growing by the roadside. Through these efforts he was able to identify the requirements for Honda’s new lawn mower, incorporating his data and broad new perspective.
Extensive study was implemented in order to learn about grass, including its history and worldwide geographical distributions.
Ogano immersed himself in research immediately upon his return from the worldwide study tour, building a prototype and conducting several performance tests. Ogano flew to Europe again in June 1977 to see whether his prototype machine would prove functional in the actual market, and to observe how it was received by local users. The series of local-adaptability verifications he conducted in various locations helped Ogano gain much of the knowledge he would need to complete the product.
In Europe, other manufacturers’ models were studied in order to gather critical information.
Honda Brand Expectations: A Renewal of Commitment
What most impressed Ogano during his travels through Europe and the U.S. was the strong recognition of the Honda brand. Whenever he and the local office staff entered a retail store, they would be welcomed by the store personnel, who were excited about having visitors from Honda. He was even introduced to lawn mower users by personnel at Honda motorcycle specialty stores, which had nothing to do with lawn mower sales.
These experiences left Ogano thoroughly convinced that he would never do anything to tarnish Honda’s brilliant image among the consuming public; an image that was built through years of success in motorcycles and cars. He was determined to develop a lawn mower that could serve faithfully for ten, or even twenty years.
Unlike motorcycles and automobiles, which are sold at specialty stores and dealerships, lawn mowers are commonly sold in the U.S. and Europe in the gardening departments of general hardware stores, where products from several manufacturers are displayed. Many of these stores give priority to price, providing no after-sales service.
However, in order to give lawn mower users the level of satisfaction they would receive from a Honda motorcycle or automobile, it was desirable that the machines be sold at specialty stores with sufficient resources to provide quality after-sales service. Ogano therefore believed that Honda could maintain the high-quality image of its power products only by building and selling lawn mowers through a network of specialty stores capable of providing an equal measure of service. These would be the kinds of stores selling products that were not simply inexpensive but durable enough to withstand the rigors of extended use. From this idea, Ogano gradually came to a powerful realization.
The Makeshift Backyard: Encounters with Challenging Problems
Ogano, knowing that Honda had never before developed a lawn mower, began to feel pressure from within the company and outside. Among the influences were several flawed propositions and critical Комментарии и мнения владельцев concerning the possible drawbacks. Therefore, Ogano had to work on his drawing in order to prove that each of these difficult problems had been resolved. For example, in response to a group of people who said the machine should have a seat so that the user could mow more comfortably, he attached an office chair to a prototype machine and demonstrated how its lack of stability would compromise safety. It was, after all, a lawn mower equipped with large blades.
As a solution to the limited capacity of the bag attachment, which would of course quickly fill with mowed grass, Ogano was instructed to add a function allowing the machine to store more grass by burning or drying the cut grass using heat from the muffler. To prove that idea wrong, he explained that grass is more than 90 percent water and presented the results of a calculation showing the amount of energy required simply to evaporate the water.
One particular opinion held that progress in biotechnology would soon create lawns having very limited growth, making lawn mowers obsolete. To counter the opinion, Ogano planted a lawn in a small space in his backyard in order to observe its growth. As the seasons progressed, the grass began to grow rapidly. As he mowed his lawn, he experienced a sense of satisfaction. a pleasantly refreshing feeling. that he was communing with nature. He was convinced the need for lawn mowers would never diminish as long as people continued to experience the joys they could not get from maintenance-free biolawns. Through the experience he not only found a convincing counter-argument but gained considerable confidence in the product he was developing.
A user testing the prototype in his own yard
To address various opinions and demonstrate the validity of our product development, Ogano recalled, I made many field trips and studied relevant subjects so that I could convince them with total confidence. These efforts eventually led to the final result.
It was nearly the end of 1975, some time after Ogano had begun studying the machine’s design, that he was told by Mr. Honda, then the company president, that resin should be used for the housing. Ogano rejected such an idea. In order to start a lawn mower, he explained, the owner will often place his foot on the housing to prevent the machine from being lifted as he cranks the motor. That’s why using resin for the housing would be dangerous. If it were dented due to pressure, it might contact the blades beneath. So, even though it would be cheaper, resin shouldn’t be used for reasons of safety. I just can’t accept that suggestion.
Improvements were added to the prototype through repeated local-adaptability verifications conducted in several countries. (The photograph shows a test conducted in France.)
Sixteen years later, in 1991, the U.S. corporation GE Plastics developed a resin having a level of strength equivalent to aluminum. With that, Honda became first in the lawn mower industry to employ resin in the manufacture of parts.
When that happened, Ogano recalled, I was impressed once again by the visionary thinking of Mr. Honda
The basic structure’s overall design thus having been completed, Ogano turned to the various functions his machine would need in order to outperform the competition. He was convinced that his new lawn mower would succeed in the market if it offered solutions to the problems that manufacturers in America and Europe had failed to address. Therefore, Ogano chose to design the lawnmower as a high-class machine having several key features:
 Quiet operation, allowing the user to mow without disturbing the neighbors  Safety embodying the concept of active safety  Easy operation so that even a woman could easily handle it
The process of trial and error was used to test various ideas and ensure that Ogano’s goals would be met. For instance, a structure having the muffler tucked under the deck was examined in order to reduce engine noise. That idea was discarded, though, when it was found that trapped heat would kill the grass directly beneath the mower if the machine was allowed to run in a stationary position. Additionally, many hours were spent designing a mechanism to protect the user’s legs against debris thrown up by the rotating blades. In order to guide the cut grass more smoothly into the bag, ways to improve the machine’s vacuum efficiency were examined.
Safety was a primary concern, of course, so the machine was furnished with the world’s first BBC (Blade Brake Clutch) mechanism. The system would automatically stop the blade rotation within three seconds if the user released his or her hands from the handlebar, meaning that the Honda’s lawn mower could offer a degree of safety that no other manufacturer had even considered possible. In fact, the BBC mechanism played a role in the U.S. Government’s enactment of a relevant CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) regulatory safety standard. This technology gave Honda a dramatic lead over its competitors in the area of safety.
Honda To Stop Manufacturing All Gas Powered Lawn Mowers
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Those red walk-behinds are going the way of the brontosaurus. What does that mean for your lawn care routine?
Honda announced in early October that it will no longer manufacture new gas-powered lawn mowers, signaling the end of an era in lawn care. As battery technology rapidly advances, electric-powered lawn care is trending up in a major way— and its gas-powered counterparts might be on their way out.
“The trend away from gas is very clear where I am,” says Jeff Cordulack, who runs the all-electric lawn care service Organic Ways and Means in Stamford, Connecticut. “I get phone calls every week from people who want to switch away from gas and toxins. Half the clients are nature-oriented, and the other half just can’t handle the noise of the ubiquitous gas blowers, especially with the working-from-home trend of late.”
Cordaluck’s clients are not the only ones concerned with lawn mower noise levels and environmental concerns. Those same factors are also some of the driving forces behind Honda’s decision to exit the U.S. gas-powered lawn mower market. The company officially plans to cease all production of gas models by the end of September 2023, selling off its remaining inventory through 2024.
Why is Honda Ditching Gas-Powered Lawn Mower Motors?
A Honda spokesperson told Family Handyman that the decision was “driven by market forces such as stricter environmental regulations, shifting customer preferences and our FOCUS on growing profitable products in our portfolio.”
Is This Going to Affect Any Other Honda Products?
It doesn’t appear so. Honda has stated it “will continue to sell the remainder of its lawn and garden product line and industrial-type power products such as GX engines, generators, and water pumps, and continue to support its service and parts operations in the U.S. market.”
The company declined to comment on any other aspects of this decision, such as whether any remaining stock of gas-powered lawn mowers will be discounted or what their plans are for electric models.
What Will Happen to Honda’s Lawn Mower Manufacturing Plant?
Honda’s gas-powered lawn mowers are currently being produced at the Honda Power Equipment facility in Swepsonville, North Carolina. Next year that facility will instead begin making all-terrain vehicles, which are currently being produced at its plant in Timmonsville, South Carolina. The Timmonsville plant will shift to FOCUS solely on Honda side-by-side production.
Will Other Manufacturers Stop Making Gas-Powered Lawn Mower Motors?
No other manufacturers have made official announcements, but it does appear that the market for gas-powered mowers is shrinking. In 2021, California announced that it would ban the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment by 2024. than 100 municipalities have also banned gas-powered equipment, with many more cities considering similar legislation.
“There’s a lot of activity on this front from local people wanting to make changes in their towns,” says Cordulack. “I spend a lot of time on calls speaking with town committees about my company and my all-electric equipment.”
Are Gas-Powered Mowers Harmful?
Besides being audibly annoying, gas-powered mowers generate between 90 to 105 decibels, which can cause permanent hearing damage to humans, as well as disrupt wildlife communication and nesting birds. One hour of running a gas mower emits as much carbon dioxide as driving a car 300 miles, and together all of that adds up to 5% of our country’s air pollution. Garden and lawn equipment burn up around 3 billion gallons of gasoline annually in the U.S., roughly equivalent to the energy use of 3 million homes.
A freelance writer and indie film producer, Karuna Eberl covers the outdoors and nature side of DIY, exploring wildlife, green living, travel and gardening for Family Handyman. She also writes FH’s Eleven Percent column, about dynamic women in the construction workforce. Some of her other credits include the March cover of Readers Digest, National Parks, National Geographic Channel and Atlas Obscura. Karuna and her husband are also on the final stretch of renovating an abandoned house in a near-ghost town in rural Colorado. When they’re not working, you can find them hiking and traveling the backroads, camping in their self-converted van.