Who wouldn’t love a shiny new mower? Problem is many of the more capable models are seriously spendy, and at the end of the day, it is just a mower, right? Yep, to get our hands on a half-decent mower at a reasonable price, we’ll need to be creative and work to find a good used model.
There are a ton of mowers for sale out there; unfortunately, many of them are complete lemons with little to no serviceable life remaining.
But if you know what you are looking for, you can, without a doubt, get a cracking deal. I’m a mechanic, and I will guide you through the process.
A used mower is worth buying so long as the mower deck is rust-free, the deck level adjusters work without binding, the self-drive system works without issue, the blade assembly is sound, and the engine runs well without smoking.
In this post, you’ll learn the pros and cons of a used mower, where to locate great used mowers, how to check over a potential purchase, and how to care for your new mower.
What Type Mower to Buy
Not all mowers are equal. A mower that doesn’t suit your yard or your ability won’t represent a wise purchase, no matter how good the mower is or how reasonable the price is.
Mowers come in a few different flavors. In this section, we’ll look at the common mower types, their main features, and the type of yard work and users they are best suited to.
Electric Mower (corded)
The corded mower is a great solution for those with small-level yards. The great thing about the electric mower is its ease of use. No gas or oil to check. It is literately plugged into the long power cable and mow. Other advantages include being easy to push, store clean, and requiring little maintenance.
Ideal for – Small yards and elderly users.
The downside – Ok, now for the downside. I can’t tell you how many cables I’ve replaced in the workshop. Cutting the cable is a common own-goal occurrence. Replacing the cable isn’t expensive, apart from feeling a little silly. There’s no actual harm done.
Battery Powered (cordless)
The natural progression of the corded mower is the cordless or battery-powered mower, and it is a great success. There is a lot to love about the battery-powered mower, including ease of use, no maintenance, no gas, oil, etc., to store.
My father was elderly and last season. I replaced his gas mower with a battery model. Sure, he complained at first, who liked change, but I could see pulling on the cord was becoming a real strain.
One season on, he loves it.
Battery-powered mowers are great for small to medium size lawns; various-size batteries and additional batteries are available, quick to swap out, and interchangeable with other home power tools.
Ideal for – small to medium yards and elderly users.
The downside – Not much. Batteries are the latest tech lithium-ion. They won’t last forever and are expensive to replace.
Gas Powered Walk Behind – Push Mower
The walk-behind gas-powered push mower is an entry-level gas-powered mower. Gas power brings some significant advantages and, of course, the ability to cut grass all day. The entry-level mower typically has small engines and is not driven, meaning they only move if the user pushes it along.
Ideal for – Medium size flat yards with heavier grass types.
Downside – Gas engines require maintenance and careful winter storage, storing gas and oil on-site, and can be heavy to push.
Gas Powered Walk Behind – Self-Propelled Mower
As you’ve guessed, this is a gas-powered mower with a powered drive system (a self-propelled or self-drive mower), making them the most desirable and ubiquitous model. The great advantage is, of course, the ease of use. The self-drive means the operator needs only to guide and turn the mower. As you can imagine, it is excellent for more extensive laws with many open spaces.
Self-propelled (rear-drive) – Rear-drive is excellent for hilly yards.
Self-propelled (front-drive) – Front-drive is excellent for yards with many obstacles.
A mulching mower is designed to clip the grass finely and disperse those clippings evenly on the lawn. The advantages include a well-fed lawn, saves on bagging and collecting labor, and is environmentally friendly.
A true mulching mower doesn’t have a bag or throwing chute; it was once a specialized type of mower, but modern mid-level and upward regular mowers (for about the last ten years) are equipped with mulching technology. The mulching mower blade evolved into the 3 in 1 blade, which, as said, is fitted to lots of mowers.
True mulching mowers are generally only bought by landscaping contractors. And for that reason, you won’t find too many mulching, only type mowers for sale.
Ideal for – large lawns that are unused
Downside – A mulched lawn initially appears a bit brown until clippings decompose. Walking on a mulched lawn leaves clippings on your footwear and so not ideal for young families.
The 3 in 1 mower does it all. It mulches, throws, and collects (bags). This technology is used in mid and top-end mowers and usually requires either fitting a plastic plug to the deck or sliding a lever to engage the mulching feature.
I say technology; we are talking about a blade and a plastic deck plug here; the plug is placed in the grass shoot and helps contain the grass so that the hybrid curved mulching blade can get a few more cuts to the grass blades before the finely chopped grass drop to the lawn.
By throwing, we mean the blade will throw grass out the side shute if allowed (open the side shute); great for heavy grass you want to cut quickly and maybe collect in a day or two when it dries a little. Collects refers to the actual bagging of the grass and Mulching we have already covered. It’s the finely chopping of grass and dropping it back on the lawn.
Honda does a close-to-perfect job of all 3.
Ideal for – Great for extensive laws with all types of terrain.
Downside – It’s a more complex mower, and they are more expensive to maintain.
Robot mowers are the latest advancement in mowers. Although they have been on the market for many years, the latest models are becoming less expensive and offer an ever-increasing number of features as standard.
Ideal for – Great for those who dislike cutting grass and love the idea of automating the whole process,
Downside – Although reliable, they are expensive to maintain when they fall over. They are tech-heavy, and you’ll dislike the robotic mower if you don’t like technology.
Riding Mowers aka Tractor Mowers
I don’t cover riding mowers here as I covered it previously, and you can check out my tractor buying post here – Should I buy a used Riding mower?
Advantages of Buying Used Mower
- Usually strike a great deal with the owner
- Talk directly to previous owner
- Test mower before buying
- Get to see the environment in which the mower lived and worked
Disadvantages of Buying Used Mower
Here’s a helpful list of the downside of buying a used mower. Not all of these apply to all mowers.
- Selecting and buying a suitable used mower is time-consuming
- Buying a mower is risky
- Transporting the mower is a pain
- Used mower don’t come with warranty
Where to Buy a Used Mower
The very best place to buy a used mower is a garage sale. That way, you get to talk to the owner directly, and most owners are honest and are only too happy to tell you anything you want to know about their mower.
Local online marts, Facebook market, etc., but bear in mind mowers are likely not worth driving too far to collect; besides, mowers are so ubiquitous you won’t have trouble finding a suitable example locally.
Check out our used mower classifieds coming soon.
What to Look For and How to Check a Used Mower
Folks sell mowers for all types of reasons, usually because the mower doesn’t start and has a few years on it. The owner wages it’s better to cut their losses and buy a new one. These mowers usually offer the best value, as most nonstarting mowers require little more than a carburetor cleaning and fresh gas: no parts, just some elbow grease, and a tune-up.
Anyhow here’s my used mower pre-purchase checklist:
- Check engine brand (see below)
- Check the engine oil level and quality – low oil level, very black, thin, or grey oil is a bad sign
- Check for leaks – engine oil or gas leaks will leave obvious witness marks
- Open gas cap and check gas – old gas turns yellow and smells stale; it’s the most common cause of no starts
- Check deck corrosion – some rust is ok, but holes aren’t
Turn mower over on its side carburetor side up
- Check blade – a bent or badly damaged blade is a warning sign all may not be well
- Check blade adaptor – blade adaptor commonly shear with blade strikes
- Check oil leak – leaking crank seals are a common issue
- Check belt – check self drive belt is in place and in fair condition
- Check drive cable – the self drive cable is attached to the transmission
Place the mower back on its wheels again
- Check pull start by attempting to start the engine – pull cord should pull the mover over without recoiling sharply. If it does, it’s a sure sign of a damaged engine
- Check drive – apply the drive bail lever and pull the mower rearwards; the rear wheels should lock. Freewheeling suggests drive needs adjusting or is faulty
If the engine starts, check the following:
- Idling – does the engine surge? Surging is a sign of carburetor issues
- Hard starting and noisy engine – Sound like a valve lash issue
- Blue/white smoke – does the engine blow blue or white smoke? It’s a sign of engine wear, too much oil, or a carburetor issue
- Black smoke – commonly caused by dirty air filter, faulty carburetor, ignition system fault
- Engine starts then stops – common cause of dirty carburetor
- Engage drive and check drive system
- Check grass bag for damage
If a used mower passes most of these tests, it’s a good mower and worth buying.
Best Mower Brands
Here are my favorite mower brands; while none are perfect, they are honest mowers, and parts aren’t expensive.
- Honda mowers
- Cub Cadet
- John Deere
Mower Engine Makers
Most mowers makers don’t build their engines. Instead, they fit a third-party engine. When considering a used mower, ensure one of the following engine brands is fitted. The reason is simple; these engines are all tried and tested.
In addition, parts are readily available, and repair shops are familiar with them.
- Briggs & Stratton
- Kohler engines
- Kawasaki engines
- Honda engines
Briggs & Stratton engine
How Much to Pay For a Used Mower?
A used mower that requires little in the way of repairs is likely worth up to half the price of its brand-new equivalent. You can move that price lower the older the mower is.
Will a Used Mower Fit in a Trunk?
Most medium-size mowers will fit in the trunk of a family-size car. A hatchback will be your best option, save maybe a pickup.
Most modern mowers are equipped with a toolless handlebar release which allows the operator to fold the handlebars flat across the mower’s body.
This is usually all that’s required to fit a mower into the average family hatchback or sedan. That said, here are a few additional transportation tips:
- Lower the deck to its lowest position
- Turn gas valve off if fitted
- Place plastic sheet over the gas tank
- Remove spark plug wire
- Avoid turning mower on its side
Check out the video repair section for more details on these and many other repair tips.
You may find the following posts helpful:
- Mower blowing white smoke
- Turn gas tap off
- How long will an electric mower last?
- How long does the Toro mower last?
- Should I buy a used lawn tractor?
- Should I buy a used power washer?
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.