Petrol lawnmowers review 2005

You can get a good petrol lawnmower for less than $400.
 
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  • Updated:27 Oct 2005
 

01 .Introduction

petrol lawn mowers

Test results for 11 four-stroke petrol-powered catcher lawnmowers priced from $299 to $699. 

We tested the mowers for:

  • Grass-cutting performance
  • Ease of use

For an alternative to petrol mowers see our test of electric mowers.

Please note: this information was current as of October 2005 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Findings:

  • Most of the models on test cut grass very well, but not all are easy to use.
  • Our test revealed two good models for under $400, but other models at this price point weren’t as satisfactory.

Brands tested

  • HONDA Buffalo Buck HRU 19R
  • MASPORT Lawnmarshall 983889
  • MASPORT Maxicatch 450 983915
  • MORRISON Vinaro 380 ST
  • ROVER Premier 35192
  • ROVER Easy Start 30026
  • SUPASWIFT Lawn Leader 767JB
  • TALON TOUGH TOOLS Eagle Cut & Catch AM3050
  • VICTA Bronco BRA484A
  • VICTA Lawnkeeper LKS464A
  • YARD-MAN 408A

See our lastest article on Push and petrol lawnmowers. Visit our buying guide on lawn mowers for tips on buying a lawn mower.

View all the articles at our lawn mowers and trimmers category page

 
 

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What to buy

  • HONDA Buffalo Buck HRU 19R - $699
  • MASPORT Lawnmarshall 983889 - $419
  • ROVER Premier35192 - $599
  • VICTA Bronco BRA484A (A) - $569
  • VICTA Lawnkeeper LKS464A - $344

Price and availability check September 2006.
(A) New model number BRA484B, same specs except blue in colour.

Results tables

Performance
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall
score 1
(%)
Cutting
score2
(%)
Ease of use
score 3
(%)
Noise at 7.5 m /
user position 4
(dB)
VICTA Bronco BRA484A 84 90 74 71 / 85
HONDA Buffalo Buck HRU 19R 82 90 69 74 / 87
ROVER Premier 35192 82 90 71 74 / 90
MASPORT Lawnmarshall 983889 81 88 70 73 / 86
VICTA Lawnkeeper LKS464A 81 88 71 73 / 87
MASPORT Maxicatch 450 983915 # 80 90 66 73 / 86
YARD-MAN 408A 80 92 61 76 / 89
ROVER Easy Start 30026 (A) 79 86 69 74 / 88
MORRISON Vinaro 380 ST (B) 77 88 60 74 / 86
SUPASWIFT Lawn Leader 767JB 74 86 57 76 / 89
TALON TOUGH TOOLS Eagle Cut & Catch AM3050 # 66 66 66 71 / 84

Specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Cutting positions5
Cutting height
range(mm)5
Width of cut
(mm)
Weight (kg)* Warranty (years) Origin Manufacturer/
distributor
Price
($)**
VICTA Bronco
BRA484A
10 15–70 480 24.9 2.0 Australia Victa Lawncare 569
HONDA Buffalo Buck
HRU 19R
11 15–80 475 27.5 (D) Australia Honda Motorcyle &
Power Equipment
699
ROVER Premier 35192 12 10–55 450 27.3 (E) Australia Rover Mowers 599
MASPORT Lawnmarshall 983889 9.0 15–75 460 22.6 (F) New Zealand Masport 419
VICTA Lawnkeeper LKS464A 11 10–70 455 23.1 1.0 Australia Victa Lawncare 344
MASPORT Maxicatch
450 983915 #
10 10–70 460 24.7 (G) New Zealand Masport 589
YARD-MAN 408A 9.0 10–65 455 26.2 2.0 New Zealand MTD Products 575
ROVER Easy Start
30026
(A)
9.0 10–55 455 23.4 (E) Australia Rover Mowers 398
MORRISON Vinaro
380 ST
(B)
9.0 10–75 460 22.0 (H) New Zealand Masport 358
SUPASWIFT Lawn Leader 767JB 12 10–65 455 23.6 (J) Australia Allpower Industries 539 (L)
TALON TOUGH TOOLS
Eagle Cut & Catch AM3050 #
12 35–85 (C) 480 30.6 2.0 (K) China Talon Tools 299

Table Notes

* Mower only; doesn't include catcher
**Recommended or average retail. Price and availability check September 2006.
# Discontinued: see table notes and profiles for details.
(A) Replaced in November 2005 by model 30028 with a new engine
(B) Replaced by a new version with the same model number, made in China and with a 'quickcut' blade
(C) The manufacturer says there's a new version of this model with a range of 16 —66 cm
(D) Two years for engine, one year for chassis (domestic use)
(E) Two years for engine, one year for all other parts
(F) One year for engine, four years for chassis, 'lifetime' for catcher, two years for all other parts
(G) Two years for engine, six years for chassis, 'lifetime' for catcher, two years for all other parts
(H) One year for engine, two years for all other parts
(J) Two years for engine, not stated for other parts
(K) Service recommended after first five hours. Warranty voided if not serviced after 12 months/50 hours. Of course statutory warranties still apply
(L) The price we paid in July 2005


1 Overall score
The overall score is a combination of cutting performance and ease of use scores, weighted as follows:

  • Cutting: 60%
  • Ease of use: 40%

2 Cutting score
This is based on the following equally weighted assessments:

  • Cutting short grass
  • Appearance of short grass after mowing
  • Cutting medium-length grass
  • Appearance of medium grass after mowing
  • Cutting long grass

The appearance of long grass after mowing wasn't assessed, as it's done without the catcher fitted and all mowers tend to leave a messy finish.

3 Ease of use score
Ease of use is based on the following equally weighted assessments:

  • Vibration
  • Pushing/manoeuvring
  • Handle comfort
  • Controls
  • Cutting height adjustment
  • Starting
  • Catcher

4 Noise
We measured the noise from the user's position and at 7.5 m from the mower. They're all loud.

5 Cutting positions/cutting height range
The length the grass is cut to can be varied by adjusting the height of the blade above the ground. These columns show the number of positions available and the range of approximate lengths of grass you can cut to.

The cutting heights shown aren't the exact length of grass you'll get, as we measured the distance between the blade and the bottom of the wheels, but it does give a sense of the differences between each model. A mower with a comparatively low maximum cutting height will probably have more trouble cutting a very overgrown lawn.

This article last reviewed September 2006.

The models in the What to buy list are profiled below in rank order. Prices are recommended or average retail. Price and availability check September 2006.

Product profiles - what to buy

VICTA Bronco BRA484A

Price: $569

Good points:

  • Excellent at cutting grass.
  • Excellent controls.
  • Best ease of use.

Bad points:

  • The throttle cable gets in the way when you're removing the fuel cap.

Note: new model number is BRA484B, with the same specifications but blue in colour.

HONDA Buffalo Buck HRU 19R

Price: $699

Good points

  • Excellent at cutting grass.
  • The largest catcher capacity.

Bad points:

  • It takes some effort to move the cutting height lever.

ROVER Premier 35192

Price: $599

Good points:

  • Excellent at cutting grass.
  • Adjustable handle height.

Bad points:

  • Nothing to speak of.

MASPORT Lawnmarshall 983889

Price: $419

Good points:

  • Very good at cutting grass.
  • Excellent controls.

Bad points:

  • One of the worst for vibration.
  • It takes some effort to move the cutting height lever.

VICTA Lawnkeeper LKS464A

Price: $344

Good points:

  • Very good at cutting grass.
  • One of the best for vibration.
  • Excellent controls.

Bad points:

  • The throttle cable gets in the way when you're removing the fuel cap.
  • Hard to adjust the cutting height.

Note: also available as model number LKS464B, with same specifications but different labeling.

Product profiles - the rest

The rest of the models are profiled below in rank order. These didn't score as highly for performance and/or ease of use as the recommended models. Prices are recommended or average retail. Price and availability check September 2006.

MASPORT Maxicatch 450 983915 (discontinued)

Price: $589

Good points:

  • Excellent performer

Bad points:

  • On the sample tested the controls did not turn the motor off as the cable flexed too much. It had to be turned off manually by pushing on the linkages

Note: replaced by MASPORT 450 AL 583751.

YARD-MAN 408A

Price: $575

Good points:

  • Excellent performer

Bad points:

  • Difficult to adjust cutting height
  • Starter toggle located under handle and can result in a scratched hand from throttle mount
  • Throttle cable interferes a little with fuel cap removal
  • One of the worst for vibration

ROVER Easy Start 30026 (discontinued)

Price: $398

Good points:

  • Very good performer
  • Adjustable handle height

Bad points:

  • Throttle cable interferes with fuel cap removal
  • One of the worst for vibration

MORRISON Vinaro 380 ST

Price: $358

Good points:

  • Very good performer

Bad points:

  • Very difficult to adjust cutting height
  • Grass clippings blow out between catcher flap and body of mower
  • Catcher flap fell off once
  • One of the worst for vibration

Note: colour now changed to blue.

SUPASWIFT Lawn Leader 767JB

Price: $539 (price paid in July 2005)

Good points:

  • Very good performer

Bad points:

  • Catcher a little smaller than others
  • Controls very stiff and hard to use
  • Jumps out of lowest cutting height setting and you can jam your fingers between lever and body of mower at upper end of range
  • Starter cord mounted on upper part of handle and requires strength in shoulders to pull
  • One of the worst for vibration

Note: this model's motor has been changed since we tested it. A new model with a new motor, the ECO 750, will be launched in January 2007.

TALON TOUGH TOOLS Eagle Cut & Catch AM3050 (discontinued)

Price: $299

Good points:

  • One of the best models for vibration

Bad points:

  • Heavy and tiring to push
  • The worst model for closeness of cut to a vertical edge, particularly at the front
  • Lowest cutting height may not be low enough for some people
  • Catcher not very effective. It leaves a row of grass clippings behind on surface of the lawn
  • Poorest performer
  • Effort required to pull starter cord

Note: replaced by AMD 3040, but might still be available in some stores.

This article last reviewed September 2006.

What to look for

  • The handle should be comfortable to hold and preferably height-adustable (as on the two tested ROVER's). A turned-up handle is easier on your wrists and gives better control over the mower. All the tested mowers except the ROVER Easy Start and the SUPASWIFT have one
  • Four-stroke or two-stroke? See Different strokes for more
  • The engine control lever should be on the handlebar for easy access, and should be easy to operate
  • Check the starter cord is easy to pull. It's generally easier to operate when the cord is located on the engine, but a handle-mounted cord can be handy if you can’t easily bend over; just make sure it’s not mounted too high, as this can require a lot of shoulder strength to pull. The SUPASWIFT's starter cord is mounted quite high on the handle and our testers didn’t find it as easy to pull as the others
  • Look for a large number of cutting positions spread over a useful range of cutting heights. The TALON doesn’t have as useful a range of heights as the other models
  • Make sure the cutting height is easily adjustable, using one lever that acts on all four wheels. The MORRISON, SUPASWIFT and YARD-MAN are the hardest to adjust
  • A rigid plastic catcher is better than a bag, which is more likely to let dust and clippings escape. It should have two handles: one on top for carrying, and one on the back for easy emptying. Look for a catcher with a good capacity so you’re not forever having to empty it; all the mowers on test have a good-sized rigid plastic catcher, though the SUPASWIFT’s is a little smaller than the others
  • The mower should be easy to push and manoeuvre across all the conditions you'll use it in. Big wheels improve handling on rough ground, and light weight generally makes the mower easier to push and turn. All the tested models handled well, except the TALON: it’s heavy and hard to manoeuvre, particularly around corners
  • If you can, try starting the mower to check whether it's too noisy or vibrates more than is comfortable. All the mowers tested have noticeable vibration — the MASPORT Lawnmarshall, MORRISON, ROVER Easy Start, SUPASWIFT and YARD-MAN are the worst, while the VICTA Lawnkeeper and the TALON rated best in this respect. All the models have similar noise levels
  • A wash port or nozzle on top of the housing makes it easy to clean underneath the mower, including the blades
  • Is the mower easy to maintain: can you easily change the oil, air filter and spark plugs?

Different strokes

Four stroke

Nearly all current petrol mowers are four-stroke. They’re popular for two main reasons:

  • They use standard unleaded petrol
  • They’re much less polluting than two-strokes.

A four-stroke motor typically emits half the carbon monoxide and one-tenth the hydrocarbons that a two-stroke produces. Four-strokes have an oil sump that should be checked and the oil changed regularly, just like the oil in a car engine.

Two stroke

Two-strokes emit more pollution because they burn a mixture of petrol and oil rather than straight petrol. Some people still prefer them because

  • Their motors are simpler and very reliable
  • Also, because they don’t have an oil sump as four-strokes do, two-strokes tend to be better suited to mowing steep slopes. On a steep angle, the oil in a four-stroke’s sump can drain to one end and stop lubricating the engine — very bad for its moving parts. However, manufacturers advised us that four-strokes can generally cope with slopes of at least 15°

Petrol, electric or manual?

The average lawnmower doesn’t use a lot of fuel, but with the price of petrol soaring ever higher, you might be considering an electric mower instead. They compare well with petrol mowers in many ways: they’re generally lighter, quieter, much less polluting and often cheaper.

On the downside, some models aren’t as powerful, so may not be as suitable if you let your grass grow long. They’re also limited by battery life or their extension cord, and many have a smaller width of cut than petrol mowers, so they’re best suited to small or medium-sized lawns.

CHOICE tested electric mowers (mains-powered and battery) in November 2009 and found most of them very capable of mowing typical suburban lawns.

Or, if you don’t mind the exercise, there’s always the old-style push mower, especially worth considering if you only have a small lawn. They’re also the most environmentally friendly of mowers: they use no fuel, create no pollution, are very quiet and their scissor-like cutting action (as opposed to the tearing action of motor mowers) not only gives a neater look but is better for the grass.