Price is the most important consideration for consumers when they choose a walk-behind lawn mower, according to a new report from the marketing firm J.D. Power and Associates. Brand was next on the list of selection criteria but the brands cited as most satisfying by J.D. Power respondents didn't fare especially well in Consumer Reports reliability surveys.
John Deere walk-behind mowers ranked highest in J.D. Power's so-called "power circle" ratings of walk-behind mowers followed by Toro and Troy-Bilt. But in Consumer Reports reliability survey, John Deere, Husqvarna, and Troy-Bilt were the most repair-prone brands among self-propelled mowers and Toro was in the middle of the pack of both self-propelled and push mowers. Troy-Bilt push mowers were considered more reliable.
Consumer Reports reliability ratings are based on the experiences of readers who bought 9,008 push and 31,371 self-propelled mowers from 2007 through the first half of 2011. J.D. Power's 2012 Walk-Behind Lawn Mower Satisfaction Report are based on responses from more than 800 owners who purchased a new lawn mower within the past 12 months.
J.D. Power's survey has some interesting insights into shopping behavior. Only 16 percent of those considering a walk-behind lawn mower visited the manufacturer's website and 14 percent viewed the retailer's website before making their purchase. In addition, only 18 percent used advertising as a resource in their shopping process. Instead, more than half of shoppers relied on their own past experience with a brand.
"Heavy reliance on past experience and recommendations shows that, in most cases, customers start the shopping process with a small number of brands in mind," said Sara Wong Hilton, a director at J.D. Power. "However, when actually making the purchase, price is what ultimately sways their decision on which brand and model they select."
We found some excellent performers at a good price in Consumer Reports tests of push and self-propelled mowers. Of the 37 that made the list of top picks, three push mower CR Best Buys range in price from $180 to $200 and five self-propelled mower CR Best Buys range in price from $280 to $400. Four of the self-propelled CR Best Buys are from Toro but the top-rated self-propelled mower, by a blade of grass, was a Honda and the top-rated push mower is a Cub Cadet.
With summer waning, now's a good time to buy a mower for next season as retailers start discounting them to clear the selling floor for snow blowers and other winter gear. In addition to checking how each mower performed in our tests, look at the reliability scores. That way you're more likely to find a machine that stands that test of time.
—Mary H.J. Farrell