5 ON YOUR SIDE: Lawn care goes electric

5OYS: Electric lawn mowers

Consumer reports tested electric mowers and lawn tools, and now have a look at this year's top performers.

Fresh from their lawn mower testing field in Florida, CR’s testers are ready to share this year’s top performers. They are happy to announce that battery-powered mowers and other lawn tools have been getting better when it comes to performance.

For years, CR has seen battery mowers’ performance improve, and this year was no exception. But they’re not just strong performers; they’re also better for the earth, and your neighbors will thank you since they tend to be quieter, too.

Every winter, CR’s lawn mower testing team heads to Florida, where they walk, push, mow, and ride on acres of grass to get a feel for how well each machine runs, handles and performs.

Testers check for cutting evenness, mulching, and, of course, battery power. You want a battery mower with a run time of at least 30 minutes because that’s enough to cut a quarter-acre yard on a single charge. You can also buy additional tools like a string trimmer, hedge trimmer, or leaf blower from the brand and use the battery interchangeably.

As performance improves, prices are more in line with gasoline mowers. The recommended Ryobi RY401140US, for $500, offers nearly the same cutting performance as the top-performing gasoline model and costs hundreds less.

You can get the most value from your mower if you’re willing to do the pushing. The Skil PM4910-10 push mower for $250 is a budget-friendly choice and offers excellent mulching, evenness and handling, and a very good run time.

If you have lots of ground to cover, ride-on mowers are ideal. The recommended Cub Cadet LT42e, which costs $4,000, didn’t run as long as the top performers in CR’s tests. However, it offers excellent mulching, very good handling, and evenness — and for thousands less, it’s a great value.

For larger lawns, CR says you may want to consider a zero-turn-radius mower or ZTR like the John Deere Z370R-42 for $6,400, the Ego ZT4205S for $5,500 or the Ryobi RYRM8060 for $5,000. They come with a learning curve because you operate and steer with levers instead of a steering wheel, but they are faster and can maneuver around obstacles like trees on your property.

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