I might as well tell you upfront, I’ve owned a Honda for years, and it’s fair to say it’s worked flawlessly. I know Toro builds great mowers and so I expect it will challenge my biased view.
Toro vs Honda, which is best? The Honda is the best mower, strong, reliable, durable, and has a long warranty, nobody regrets buying a Honda.
Hi, I’m John, qualified mower mechanic, and unqualified head groundskeeper. I repair and test lots of mowers, I know what I want in a mower, and I know what makes a good mower. If you need a great mower on hills checks out this post “Best mower on hills”.
Blue – Toro is a company that loves to innovate. The features they’re most proud of are the color code blue. The Toro Recycler (22″) 20334 is a self-propelled rear-wheel drive and features some of Toro’s smartest innovations.
- Electric Start
- Personal Pace self propel system
- 3 in 1 Bag on Demand grass handling
- Briggs & Stratton Just Check and Add
- Washout Port
- Recycler Deck
Toro has been making mowers since 1919 and has a solid reputation.
- ELECTRIC START
- PERSONAL PACE
- 3 IN 1 CLIP DIRECTOR
- 3 YEAR GUARANTEE
The Toro 20334 – It seems much more imposing than the Honda and looks like a really solid build. Toro has been making mowers since 1919. They’re global leaders in the innovation of turf maintenance equipment. And you won’t be surprised to learn that the Toro is bursting with features.
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Personal Pace – Sounds complex, but it’s not. Basically the more you push on the handlebars, the faster the mower goes, quite clever really. When I tried it I wasn’t sure I’d like it, I thought pushing on the handlebars would compromise control, but I quickly warmed to it.
The really smart thing about the personal pace – it adjusts to each individual’s stride. I frequently hear customers say they can’t find the sweet spot when it comes to speed, the Personal pace solves the problem.
I have steep hills and rough ground in areas of my lawn, the Toro had no problems. The top speed is almost five miles per hour. Toro is fitted with eight-inch wheels and good-looking tire threads. It felt solid and you felt in control.
The rear-wheel-drive is the best choice for hilly rough terrain as the center of gravity is closer to the rear axle. As a mechanic I really liked the greasing points on the rear axle, it’s a nice touch.
The Toro has a bail lever and when pulled molds into a recess in the textured handlebars, you barely notice you’re holding it. This bail lever is used to start and stop the engine, simply pull the bail lever and press the big blue electric start button, that’s it, it’s running. No choke or throttle levers to manage. To kill the engine, simply let go of the lever.
This mower comes with a battery charger, which is plugged in at the top of the handlebars, beside the start button. The charger will rarely need to be used as the battery charges from the engine.
Self Drive – Personal Pace drive is simple and before long you’ll be an expert. The bail lever pulls neatly into the handlebar recess.
Handle Bars – The length of the handlebars while adjustable took a little longer to come to grips with, I found them a little cumbersome in tight spaces.
When reversing the mower, for the first time it felt like 89 lbs. So if you have a lot of shrubs or trees to negotiate, the Toro may not be the best choice for you.
Toro Recycler has a 22 inch 3 in 1 Deck, it bags, mulches, side discharges, and conversion require no tools, just the flip of a lever. The mulching quality is good no clumping or trails when the grass is dry, when damp it’s not as good. The bag on-demand lever is simple, the bag could be a little bigger though.
3 in 1 Blade – The blade is designed to collect, mulch, and side discharge, it’s a sort of a hybrid blade.
Adjusting the deck height is done at each wheel, which for some might be labor-intensive, especially if you need to change the deck height regularly.
The deck adjusts in half-inch increments from the lowest setting of one inch to a high of four, more than enough range for most greens.
Toro has fitted a deck wash-out port, on most mowers, it’s a bit hit and miss, no substitute for turning it up and cleaning it with a wire brush.
When I used it, I found it did a reasonable job. It’s easy to use, just connect your garden hose and run the blade, but be warned it leaves a mess on the ground.
Wheels – Both Toro and Honda wheels must be individually adjusted.
The deck is made from 14 gauge pressed steel. The plastics guards, grass bag are of good quality and are well up to the task of protecting the user from flying debris.
As you know stepping away from the mower and releasing the bail lever, shuts down the engine. This protects the user from accidentally getting close to the business end of the mower.
Some mowers are fitted with a feature called spin stop, which basically keeps the blade stationary while the engines running. This means you can still self-drive, which is very useful if like me you need to move uphill across a graveled yard from one lawn to another. Sadly the spin stop isn’t fitted to this mower but it is available on other Toro models.
Toro has fitted the 163 cc Briggs & Stratton® 675 EXi OHV engine. It’s a new engine and complies with CA (CARB). Overhead valve (OHV) engines are more efficient, cleaner, and quieter too.
The auto choke system is perfect for those that find choke levers or priming bulbs a bit hit and miss. This engine is known as a ready start – No choke or throttle levers to fiddle around with here.
When tested from cold, two pulls max and it started every time. When cutting I found the engine had plenty of power, it’s a fixed throttle, set at 3100 rpm. The fuel cap is tethered, oil dipstick and air filter are easy to use.
Briggs Engine – Briggs makes great engines, not as smooth as the Honda unit but very dependable.
It produces 7.25 ft. lbs. of torque from its 163 cc, and is the lightest in its class. B&S offers a starting promise – Starts in 2 attempts – or we’ll fix it for free.
The electric start is a lovely feature, it’s simple and you don’t have choke or throttle levers to concern yourself with.
Toro Maintenance Tips
A little care goes a long way, show your love by checking the oil at every refuel, clean the air filter every 50 hours. Remember e85 gas is bad for small engines and will void your Toro warranty. Put a gas stabilizer in your mower before winterizing. Check out “How to winterize your mower”.
Keeping your blade sharp is good for your lawn and your mower, light sharpening can be done with the blade on the mower, however, if it requires heavy filing – you’ll need to remove it and balance after sharpening.
This is a mower you could easily DIY service, especially as B&S claims the oil never needs to be changed. B&S call it – Just check and add. Personally, I’d just change the oil to be on the safe side.
This is a four-stroke engine and Briggs and Stratton engines like 10W30 oil. I like to change the oil on a new mower engine after just 5 hours of use, and then every fifty hours of operation or once before the new season starts.
Check and clean the air filter every twenty-five hours. Replace the spark plug once per season or every one hundred hours.
If you need to turn your mower over, turn off the fuel at the fuel tap and always with the carburetor side up. Check out “Lawn mower maintenance”.
Toro offers a 3-Year Guaranteed to start warranty (GTS), and a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Toro & Briggs
Briggs offers a 3-year guarantee to start and Toro offers a 2-year defect guarantee. Briggs won’t cover stale gas in the carburetor, so use a gas stabilizer over the winter months.
Good & Bad
I liked the Toro Recycler but I didn’t love it. The best bit for me is the Personal Pace, I got comfortable with it pretty quickly – I never felt like it was going too fast or slow. It does a good job mulching and collecting, the controls are simple and clear. The individual adjusters work just fine, I wish they’d use a single adjuster, I change the cut height often.
The Briggs engine is plenty strong and didn’t feel lacking, but the mower felt a little heavy backing up. The choke less easy start system does its job well, and if you use a gas stabilizer, it’ll be as reliable as corduroy trousers.
Toro build innovative products and this Recycler won’t disappoint on that front, it’s best for yards up to 3/4 acre and without too many obstacles. Design and build quality are not up to the Honda standard, but I think it deserves consideration, it’s not a Honda, but then it isn’t Honda money either.
Catchy! Honda has a name for quality design and build.
Features on the mower include – Roto stop, 4 in 1 grass handling, variable speed control, twin blade micro-cut, Nexite deck, and electric start.
The Honda is intelligent, thoughtful, and built to last. Honda thinks so too, they offer a 5-year warranty and a deck lifetime guarantee.
- VARIABLE SPEED CONTROL
- 4 IN 1 CLIP DIRECTOR
- 5 YEAR GUARANTEE
- NEXITE DECK LIFETIME WARRANTY
- ELECTRIC START
Honda HRX217VLA – Looks sleek and ultra-modern. Honda has a name for quality design and build. They have been making mowers since 1953, leaders in the development of low-emission, fuel-efficient, eco-friendly 4-stroke engines.
Although the Deck is made from a lightweight strong polymer material, the mower weighs in at 90lbs, that’s 5lbs heavier than the Toro. Honda has packed a lot into this machine.
Honda’s Select Drive® self propel – I really wanted to like this Select Drive system. When I used it, I found the dial a little fiddly, and not very responsive, I liked it more after using it for a while. The molded handle is a nice touch and feels comfortable in the hands.
Drive – The Toro drive system for me was more user-friendly. With a top speed of four miles per hour, it really does travel beautifully. Reversing, felt a little heavy.
Both mowers are closely matched in weight, the Honda just 1 lb. heavier. I had no issue with hills, rough terrain, or obstacles around my garden.
The nine-inch wheels have extra deep rubber thread and ball bearings in the axles, certainly noticed its smoothness – just glides along.
The length of the handlebars while adjustable took a little longer to come to grips with, I found them a little cumbersome in tight spaces. When reversing the mower, for the first time it felt like 89 lbs. So if you have a lot of shrubs or trees to negotiate, the Toro may not be the best choice for you.
Fold – Honda has quick-release tool-less folding handlebars.
The 21″ NeXite deck is lightweight, dent-resistant, rust-resistant, durable, and cleverly engineered to increase grass flow back to the blades for smaller clippings. The grass won’t stick to it as easily as a metal deck and it’s easier to clean. The best bit, it’s covered by a lifetime warranty.
The NeXite deck is made from polymer and shares its DNA with football helmets, it’s tough stuff. The pictures don’t do it justice, you see plastic and you think how strong can it be. In Honda’s promo material they drive a car over it. The guards are made from tough durable rubber which does their job very well and the bag is as you expect – top-shelf.
Lifetime Warranty – Deck is tough stuff, won’t dent, crack or corrode.
Adjusting the deck height like the Toro is done at each wheel. The seven-position levers are easy to move and well defined. Adjustments from three-quarters of an inch all the way up to four inches. As with the Toro, if you do a lot of height changes, it could get old pretty quickly.
Adjusters – Levers feel solid, but do get stiff if neglected, a quick spray of wd40 does the job.
Twin Blade Cut
Honda employs the twin blade micro-cut set up to great effect. The stacked, offset pair of blades have four cutting surfaces. Each blade of grass gets cut twice on the first pass, the leading blade cuts higher up and the offset trailing blade makes a second cut. The blades recirculate the clippings and repeat the process, leaving a very fine mulch.
Twin Cut – The best blades in the business.
This is a fantastic feature, especially as this is a manual start engine. Roto stop for those that don’t know, simply means you can have the engine running without having the blade spin. I found this useful when I wanted to self-propel across a graveled area.
But its most useful feature is when you need to step away from the mower, say to empty the bag, releasing the bail lever stops the blade but the engine is still running. The Honda engine is not hard to start, but starting it over and over is such a waste of your energy.
4-in-1 Versamow System™ with Clip Director. This system mulches, bags, discharges, and leaf shreds. The technology is exclusive to Honda and requires no tools or attachments.
The Clip Director, a lever at the rear of the engine has ten possible combinations, this allows you to choose how many clippings you want to collect and how much to mulch. To collect leaves, set the lever two positions back from the full mulch position. You won’t miss raking leaves.
When bagging, it really stuffed it to capacity thanks to the four cutting surfaces of the twin blade. Finer clippings equal less work and a cleaner cut lawn.
Bag or Mulch – The clip director is very effective, you can even set the ratio of bagging to mulching, great at leaf shredding or collecting – no more raking.
The engine fitted is the 190 GCV, it’s a 4 stroke overhead cam set up with an electric start, Nice!. Overhead cam engines are more efficient and powerful. The engine produces 5.1HP (3.8 kW) @3600 rpm and 8.3 lb-ft (11.3 Nm) @ 2500 rpm. It’s super smooth, just purrs when idling.
I’m a big fan, I know they care by the way they designed the engine. Little details like the fuel tap, and the little slot in the air filter housing, to restrain the plug wire when removed – do you feel the love?
When tested, it never missed a beat, the auto choke feature makes starting a breeze. The extra power of the 190 GCV is nice, but it will use more gas than the Briggs unit fitted to the Toro.
Smooth & Powerful
Engine – I’m a big fan of the GCV engines, they are nicely designed and built.
Love to DIY? This is the mower for you, with a large accessible dipstick, easy-clean air filter, accessible plug, and on/off fuel tap. From a mechanics point of view – Nice!
To dip the oil on a Honda, remove the dipstick clean it but don’t screw it back in to check. This is a four-stroke engine and Honda engines like 10W30 oil, change once per season or every fifty hours of operation. When the engine is new I like to change it after the first 5 hours of operation.
Check and clean the air filter every twenty-five hours. Replace the spark plug once per season or every one hundred hours.
If you need to turn your mower over, turn off the fuel at the fuel tap and always with the carburetor side up. Sharpen blades once per season or more often if dull, tighten blade bolt to 43 ft. lb. (59Nm). Check out “Lawn mower maintenance”.
Warranty – Comes with a manufacturer 5-year warranty, You’ll hardly need it.
The Good and Bad
This is the best of the best, I work on lots of Honda GCV 160 and 190s. They’re close to bulletproof, they just keep going. It’s rare that I have a Honda in my shop that needs anything more than routine maintenance.
They aren’t immune to dirty gas or carburetor gumming, but we can’t blame the mower for a lack of winterizing. Also, I’ve replaced a few crankshafts – all caused by operator error.
The crankshafts tend to bend when the blade hits a curb or tree stump. This won’t happen on mowers with the Roto-stop function. Yes, they are expensive but if you’re playing the long game it’s most definitely the smartest choice. I love lots about the Honda, speaking as a mechanic and a customer.
Would I buy one? Yes, I’ve owned one for years, and I’m very attached to it.
About the Reviewer
Hi, I’m John, I run my own repair workshop and I service a lot of lawn care equipment of all kinds – two strokes, four-stroke, gas, diesel and electric. I see a wide variety of makes and models, young and old. I think by now I’ve met them all – good and bad.
I like kit that last and kit you can get parts for easily is an important consideration before investing in equipment. I use my knowledge and experience to only review equipment that will go the distance, I promise I won’t waste your time or money reviewing a cheap throwaway kit.
Throughout this site you’ll find links to products, I do earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links, but it doesn’t cost you an extra cent.
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- About the Author
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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.