cub cadet gas lawn mower
Photo: Mark Weiss
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What to Look For in a Gas Mower

Versatile 3-in-1s that mulch, bag, or shoot clippings out the side are the new standard. Here are the features that make lawn care less of a chore.

Handle: Folding ones like this take up less space in the garage.

Starter: A pull cord (shown) is most common, but push-button and turn-key electric starters are gaining popularity.

Power: It's measured by foot-pounds of torque or cubic centimeters (cc) of cylinder size, depending on the maker. The higher the number, the better. Torque ranges from 5 to 7½ foot-pounds, cylinder cc from 125 to 190 (shown: 139 cc).

Engine: An overhead-valve engine (shown) is more fuel efficient and powerful than an L-head one. An autochoke starting mechanism opens and closes the choke for you.

Deck: Unlike a flat deck, a domed "donut-shaped" one (shown) provides room above the blade to chop clippings into fine bits for mulching.

Side Discharge: If bagging is too much work and the grass is too tall to mulch, open the chute's cover and deposit clippings to one side. Also a good way to round up leaves in the fall.

Wheels: Most maneuvering is done by pushing down on the handle and turning the mower on its rear wheels. Twelve-inch wheels make it easier to pivot the mower than the typical 8-inch wheels (shown).

Bag: Use it only when cutting seedlings or after a rainy spell, when clippings are too long for a mulching blade to properly dice them into small bits.

Bail Bar: Squeeze this and pull the starter cord to turn the engine on; let go to kill it. This safety feature is standard on all rotary mowers. Some high-end models have a blade-brake clutch instead; it stops the blade but not the engine, saving time and engine wear.

Height Adjustment: 
A single lever alters the blades' cutting height—you don't have to raise or lower each wheel individually.

Blade: The winged edges on a mulching blade (shown) lift cut grass up inside the deck, where it's diced again before tiny, imperceptible bits are blown back onto the lawn.

Shown: Cub Cadet CC 500, $300; cubcadet.com
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