Shopping for a lawn mower might seem like a simple task, but when confronted with the dizzying array of products displayed at your local home improvement store, how do you determine which size, model, features, and price represent the best choice for your needs?

Bear in mind that lawn mowers range dramatically in price, and it is possible to buy more mower than you need. For this post we’ll focus on walk behind models, recommended for yards of half an acre or less.

Manual Mowers
Before we explore gas-powered mowers, we can’t fail to overlook the old-fashioned contraption many old-timers may remember—the manual reel mower. They’ve been around since the late 1800s, and are still sold today.

Features:Manual push mowers are environmentally friendly, requiring no gas and causing no emissions, plus they are inexpensive and quiet. Bonus: you can skip the gym for the day if you use a manual mower. Mowing even a small lawn manually will give you quite a workout.

Drawbacks:Manual reel mowers typically can’t cut closer than 3″ from obstructions. The cutting width of the mower is narrow at 14″ to 18″, and you’ll have to rake the clippings.

Gas-powered push mowers
The common gas-powered push mower provides significant advantages over reel mowers, of course. There are many available options and features, so costs can vary widely.

Features:Look for models with an adjustable height deck so you can mow to the optimal height for your grass type. And if the budget allows, a mulching mower will break up the clippings small enough to leave on your grass and actually help feed your lawn, no raking or bagging required. The key-start option is a great convenience feature for anyone who might struggle with a pull start.

Drawbacks:The only serious negatives associated with gas-powered mowers are the emissions and noise.

Gas-powered self-propelled mowers
Self-propelled mowers are a step up and can be helpful, especially if you have a sloping yard or a larger yard. The motor propels the wheels as well as the blades, requiring less exertion and resulting in a faster mowing time.

Features:Models are available in all-wheel, front-wheel, and rear-wheel drives. All-wheel and rear-wheel mowers are best for sloping areas, and the standard front-wheel mower is ideal for flat. Front-wheel drive mowers are also very maneuverable.

Drawbacks:The higher price tag is really the only additional drawback for the self-propelled mower as compared to a basic gas-powered mower.

Do Your Homework
Before you buy, assess the area that is to be mowed. The larger the area, the greater need for a larger, more powerful mower. Lawns beyond half an acre or sloping yards may warrant a riding mower. If you are looking to find out more regarding the best lawn mower for your gardening needs, it may be beneficial to learn more, as this could come in handy soon enough. It might also be worth a subscription to Consumer Reports to verify the reliability of the brand you’re considering before you spend your hard earned cash.

As cautioned earlier, determine the features you want and don’t buy more mower than you need. A basic gas mower with nothing but an adjustable height deck may be all you need to help keep your lawn green and healthy.