PRIME LAWN CARE season isn't too far away. Think how great it would be to have a mower that cranks every time or motors up a hill with little effort.
The right mower won't make dead grass come alive or dirt patches disappear, but it can save you time and aggravation on Saturday mornings.
For this month's savvy shopper, we offer a guide to buying the right mower for your yard. - Megan Sexton
THE RIGHT SIZE
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The size of your lawn is a good guide for figuring out the size of your mower.
* Less than one-half acre: A 20-inch to 22-inch mower.
* One-half to three-quarters of an acre: A 21- to 22-inch mower with higher horsepower.
* More than three-quarters of an acre: Consider a lawn or garden tractor.
PUSH OR ZOOM
* Push mowers are a fine choice if you want a little exercise while you mow, or if you have a small yard.
* If you have a larger yard, rough terrain, health concerns or are worried about being out in the sun too long, consider a self-propelled lawn mower. * Self-propelled machines use engine power to move the mower forward. Look for a system that is easy for you to use. Different models call for you to either move a lever or hold down a handle.
* Some mowers let you adjust the speed for your yard and pace. They make it easier to turn corners, go around trees and back up.
START YOUR ENGINES
* This is probably the most frustrating part of mowing the lawn: Pulling the mower cord repeatedly and the engine won't turn over.
* Look for engines that carry guarantees and extended warranties. That way, if anything goes wrong within the warranty period, you can get it fixed for free.
* Forget about pulling a cord, and choose a machine with an electric system. Simply turn a key to start the engine.
AN ELECTRIC CHOICE
* If you don't mind dealing with an extension cord, a corded electric mower could be a good choice, especially if you have a small yard.
* Corded mowers are light weight, which makes them easy to maneuver. They also are dependable and low maintenance.
* Battery-operated cordless mowers are powered by rechargeable batteries. They might not be suitable for yards larger than 10,000 square feet.
* The battery run time is important when buying a battery-operated mower. Run time depends on terrain and the type of grass in the lawn. A 36-volt mower might run as long as 90 minutes with a full charge on a flat yard.
DEALING WITH CLIPPINGS
* Mulching mowers. These mowers cut grass into fine pieces that can help fertilize your lawn.
* Rear baggers. These mowers collect clippings in a bag behind the mower. You can add the clippings to your compost pile. This is a good option for when you let the grass get too long to mulch. Rear baggers typically have a larger capacity than side baggers.
* Side discharge. A side-discharge chute directs the clippings out the side of the deck -- a good option if you have very tall grass.
* Convertible or 3-in-1. It can be converted from side discharge to rear bagger. It can mulch, bag or discharge clippings from the side.
TYPES OF TERRAIN
* Hills? Choose a selfpropelled mower.
* Rough terrain? A highwheel mower is easier to maneuver.
* Lots of obstacles in the yard? Choose a rear-bag mower.
A quick look at the range of lawn mower prices: * Toro Personal Pace recycler mower, $369, Home Depot
* Toro 22-inch electric start personal pace mower, $399, Home Depot
* Black and Decker 19-inch 24-volt cordless mulching mower, $369.96, Amazon.com
* Scotts 20-inch green classic reel mower, $129, Home Depot
* Craftsman 21-inch, 3-in-1 mower, $189, Sears
* MTD Yard-Man 190 cc 21-inch self-propelled mower, $349, Wal-Mart
* Yardmachines, 12 amp, 19-inch electric mower, $119, Wal-Mart
SOURCES: The Toro Co, Lowe's, Home Depot, ehow.com, Wal-Mart, Black & Decker, ACE Hardware, Sears, www.yardcare.com, cleanairgardening.com