Whether you have a full-blown garden, backyard or prefer more simplistic landscaping, you’ve probably got a lawn mower on hand to keep the grass from getting unruly. A lawn mower is a pretty significant investment. When it starts to act funny, you might be wondering if it’s time to get a replacement or work on repairs, and knowing how long they typically last will help you make that decision.
On average, most lawn mowers last about ten years. Many manufacturers measure the service life of a lawn mower by hours of use. However, the average life of a lawn mower depends on many factors, including maintenance, usage, and size.
Lawn mowers endure more wear and tear than many of the appliances in our homes. After a while, you may notice that your lawn mower isn’t working as well as it used to. This guide will cover everything you need to know about replacing your lawn mower, whether it’s better to repair or replace it, and how to get the most out of these lawn care machines.
When is it Time to Replace Your Lawn Mower
Even if you have noticed your lawn mower isn’t cutting the way it used to, you may have decided to ride it out for the time being. After all, lawn mowers aren’t a small investment, and holding back on replacing your lawn mower can effectively reduce short-term costs. However, keeping the equipment too long can lead to costly downtime and reduce the potential trade-in value.
You should consider replacing your lawn mower when you have extensive damage to the engine or transmission. You may also want to start looking for a new lawn mower when your lawn mower continually need repairs outside of the mower’s warranty period.
If the price of repair outweighs the cost of purchasing a new lawn mower, then replacement is probably your best bet.
Maximize the Trade-In Value of Your Lawn Mower
If you’re looking to trade in your lawn mower, you can do so at your local lawn mower dealership or farm equipment dealer.
To trade-in, you will typically need to have your equipment appraised by the dealership that will be buying the lawn mower before you receive an offer. Keep in mind, most companies will only accept equipment that is operational.
The dealership will look at the deck for damages or wear including belts, pulleys, and blades. Mechanical functions and safety features will be inspected. Dealerships will also look at the engine and hydraulic pumps to make sure it is in good condition and without leaks.
The dealership will offer you a trade-in price less any repairs that the dealership will need to put into the mower to repair and prepare for resale.
You can maximize the trade-in value of your lawn mower by making sure your lawn mower is in clean condition, the engine runs, and there are no oil leaks.
Trading in your equipment every few years will save you from high repair costs and excessive downtime.
How Long Should a Lawn Mower Last?
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine exactly how long a lawn mower will last. While many manufacturers will list a life expectancy on their product brochures measured by hours of use, there are many other factors that go into how long a lawn mower will run.
On average, most residential lawn mowers last between 7 and 10 years with proper maintenance. The service life expectancy can vary from 200 hours to 1000 hours. Therefore, how long your lawn mower lasts is really based on how often it is used and how long it is running during each use.
Maintenance and care also play a large factor in how long you can expect your lawn mower to work. While poor maintenance can cut down a lawn mower’s life expectancy by half, taking good care of your machine could keep it running long past the manufacturer’s warranty.
What is the Estimated Engine Life of a Lawn Mower?
The biggest determining factor in how long a lawn mower lasts is probably the engine. Push mowers typically have a single-cylinder engine that has a life expectancy of 500 to 700 hours. Larger engines, like those used on riding mowers, have a longer life expectancy and will usually last up to 1000 hours. Commercial engines often last 2000 hours and beyond.
Again, these estimations typically depend on the recommended maintenance and usage being followed and can vary between users. However, this should give you a rough idea of how long your engine should last.
Engine damage is usually expensive to repair, so if you suspect that your engine might have hit its peak, you may want to look into replacing your lawn mower.
How Long Does a Lawn Mower Battery Last?
If you have an electric lawn mower, the battery is going to be more of a concern than the engine. Basically, without the battery, the motor will not run. But the battery plays an important role in gas mowers also, so it’s a good idea to make sure yours is functioning properly.
As a general rule, the battery in a lawn mower should be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
The best way to help a battery last longer is to keep everything dry and clean of corrosion and give it a regular charge so that it doesn’t start to crystallize.
Is it Worth Repairing Your Lawn Mower?
Whether or not your lawn mower is worth repairing is going to come down to the price of repairs and the age of the equipment. While there are occasions where a lawn mower that is only a few years old may need to be replaced, most issues can usually be repaired in younger mowers.
Many lawn mower repairs are fairly easy to perform and often inexpensive as well. However, there are occasional issues that could cost hundreds of dollars to repair. This is when you’ll want to start weighing your options.
It may not be worth an extensive repair on your lawn mower when the cost of repair is near the cost of a new replacement mower or the mower has a short life expectancy. For example, you may need to do expensive mower deck work, but the engine may not only last another couple of years.
How Much Should Lawn Mower Repairs Cost?
The cost of repairing a lawn mower depends on what kind of mower you have and how extensive the problem is. Hourly labor rates can vary greatly between small repair shops and lawn mower dealerships where the mechanics are factory trained. The lawn mower repair labor rate can vary between $40/hour to $150/hour depending on your location, type of repair shop, and type of mower.
Do your research before you get started on repairs. A new lawn mower could cost you anywhere from $180 to $4000, depending on the type of mower. If the price of repairs is higher than the cost of purchasing a new lawn mower, then it’s the best idea to replace the equipment altogether.
Common Lawn Mower Issues That Could Mean It Needs Replacing
While most of us probably don’t enjoy mowing the lawn, it’s even less enjoyable if the lawn mower isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Many of the issues with lawn mowers are simple fixes, such as cleaning out debris or checking the oil. Some, however, can be extensive and lead to even bigger problems if not addressed.
Understanding the most common problems mowers face and how to fix them will give you a better idea of whether your lawn mower can be repaired or if it’s time to replace it.
Your Lawn Mower Will Not Start
The first thing you’ll want to check if your lawn mower isn’t starting is the fuel tank, as this is the most common reason. If you’re diligent about filling up your mower with gas, check the tank itself for any leaks or cracks.
If you have an electric mower, make sure to check the battery for damage or lack of charge, especially if your lawn mower isn’t starting after sitting all winter. Replacement battery price varies depending on the brand and model of your lawn mower but typically starts at around $40.
The spark plugs could be another culprit for your lawn mower not starting. Make sure that they aren’t loose or dirty. If they are old, they should be replaced with new ones. You can find spark plugs for as little as $2 at most home improvement stores.
Your Lawn Mower Starts Smoking
The first thing to do if your lawn mower starts smoking is to check that the oil tank isn’t too full. Blue or white smoke coming from the engine usually indicates that oil is burning. This could also be caused by incorrect oil grades, an obstruction in the breather tube, a blown head gasket, or simply tilting the mower to one side and causing the oil to leak out.
Checking and changing the oil is the easiest troubleshooting step for diagnosing this problem. If the oil is past the full line or you’re using the wrong grade, simply drain the oil and replace it with the right type or amount.
In rarer cases, you may need to take the machine to a professional repair company to make sure it’s not a more serious issue.
The Engine of Your Lawn Mower is Overheating
The most common reason an engine overheats is because the mower is low on oil. It is the oil’s job to keep the engine part lubricated and running smoothly. Lack of oil can cause unlubricated friction and heat up the parts in the engine. Checking your oil regularly is an easy fix and can prevent serious damage to the engine.
Debris can also cause the engine to overheat. Built-up grass can prevent air from circulating, so be sure to keep the mower clean to prevent any clogging.
Learn more with “7 Things That Can Cause a Lawn Mower to Overheat“.
The Lawn Mower is Slowing Down
A lawn mower that loses speed is usually caused by a loose or damaged belt. If the belt is loose, all you need to do is reattach it, and the problem should be fixed.
If there is any damage or wear to the belt, it’s time to replace it. The cost of a new belt is roughly $20 to $60 and should take less than an hour to replace yourself.
The Starter Rope is Hard to Pull or Stuck
The cause of a stuck starter rope could be as simple as built-up debris, or there could be a larger underlying issue. Since the blade is connected to the crankshaft, if the blade can’t turn, the starter won’t turn either. The simplest fix is to look underneath and clean out any old grass and debris from the blade and underside of the housing.
If the underside is clear, you may have an issue with your recoil starter. To check this, remove the mower housing and look at the recoil starter. If the spring in the starter is bound or broken, it needs to be replaced.
The Lawn Mower Loses Power While In Use
If your lawn mower loses power while cutting, dirt is most likely the cause. If grass or dirt clogs up the air filter or blocks the cooling fins, this keeps the air from coming in, overheating the engine and causing the machine to lose power. Once the debris is cleared, power should come back to the machine.
Dirt in the fuel system can also cause power loss by creating a build-up in the carburetor. To fix this, you’ll need to drain the fuel system and replace it with fresh fuel. A fuel additive will also assist with cleaning the fuel system.
Another thing to consider if your lawn mower suddenly loses power is that you might be asking too much of your mower. Trying to cut grass that is too thick or riding up a steep hill could bog down the engine and cause it to shut down.
Your Lawn Mower is Consuming Too Much Fuel
A lawn mower that is consuming excess fuel is another symptom of a dirty air filter. If you notice that your lawn mower is running out of gas a lot quicker than it used to, a clogged air filter may be your culprit. Simply replace or clean the air filter, and you should be good to go.
Alternatively, your lawn mower could not be using the extra fuel at all. If there is a crack or leak in the fuel tank, it may seem like your mower is eating through fuel quickly when it’s really not. Check the outside of your fuel tank for any cracks or leaks to make sure this isn’t the case.
Other areas you may be losing fuel is discussed more with, “10 Reasons Your Lawn Mower Could Be Leaking Gas“.
The Lawn Mower is Cutting Unevenly
A lawn mower that is cutting unevenly doesn’t typically call for the replacement of the entire machine. Uneven cutting can be caused by a damaged wheel or a dull blade, which can be easily fixed by repairing or replacing the parts. Read this for tips on inspecting your mower deck.
Make sure all of the wheels are positioned at the same height. If there are and your machine still cuts unevenly, you may need to replace one of your wheels.
If the blade is the cause, you can sharpen it using a metallic file. Blades that are chipped or broken will need to be replaced. Read more about inspecting your blades and sharpening options in “Inspecting Your Lawn Mower Blades Saves You Time & Money“
How to Make Your Lawn Mower Last Longer
Regular maintenance of your lawn mower can extend how long the mower actually works. While some things only need to be done every so often, many tasks should be done annually and some after using the lawn mower.
Doing these tasks at home will not only save you money but also give your more experience and confidence in dealing with your lawn mower so you are prepared for any complications you may come across in the future.
Don’t Let Gasoline Sit in the Machine
Fuel stales as it sits, so be sure to use your gasoline within 30 days and don’t let it sit in your machine. As gasoline breaks down, sediments and other deposits can build up in the carburetor and fuel line. This can choke out the engine, making the mower harder to start, and if the build-up continues, it can prevent it from starting at all.
If build-up happens, all of the residues will have to be removed, and the gas tank drained to get your lawn mower to start again. You can use Sea Foam as both a fuel cleaner and a fuel stabilizer. Read more about the advantages of Sea Foam in “Why Use Sea Foam Fuel Additive in a Lawn Mower?“
Check the Oil in Your Lawn Mower Regularly
Just like a car, the oil in your lawn mower needs to be checked and changed regularly. As a rule of thumb, your mower’s oil should be changed at least once every mowing season. Be sure to use the oil that is recommended by the manufacturer so that you don’t cause damage to the engine.
If you are mowing more than the average homeowner and are on a more frequent mowing schedule or have a fairly large lawn, you may want to change your oil a couple of times per year.
Keep the Filters Clean
The air filter and oil filter are essential for the health of your lawn mower and should be check regularly. The air filter prevents dirt, dust, and debris from reaching the carburetor, which could harm the engine and keep the lawn mower from running properly or even starting at all. Check the air filter regularly to make sure it isn’t clogged and clean or replace it if need be.
The oil filter should also be checked frequently to keep gunk and fine particles from reaching the engine. Make sure you are replacing your oil filter, not cleaning it.
Keep Up with Tire Maintenance
Loose or flat tires can hamper the performance of your lawn mower and cause problems down the road. Make sure to regularly check the tire pressure and state of the treads. The maximum pressure will be listed on the sidewall of the tire, and you can use the same gauge you would use for your care.
When checking the treads, look for any overly worn-down spots or signs of dry rot. If you see any excessive wear and tear, it’s probably time to replace the tires.
Tire replacements cost between $20 and $80, depending on the type you need for your particular mower. This can be done at home in about an hour, but you should be aware this is a more extensive job and requires a few extra tools.
You can also take it to a lawn mower repair shop if you aren’t comfortable changing the tires yourself but expect extra costs for labor to dismount and mount the tires on your rims.
Remember to Check the Lawn Mower Blade
For the lawn mower to work at optimum efficiency, the blades need to be sharp. While this may differ between mowers, a good rule of thumb is to sharpen or replace the blades once a year.
Changing the blade is an easy job, but it can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. Before starting, make sure to remove the spark plugs to avoid an accidental kick start.
If you are replacing the blades instead of sharpening them, the best way to find the type you need is with the OEM number. This is the number assigned to the blade by the manufacturer and can typically be found in the mower’s manual.
Prepare Your Mower for the Off-Season
To get the most out of your machine and have it ready to use in the spring, you should winterize your lawn mower as you move into the colder months. This will make sure that mechanical parts like the engine and carburetor stay protected and extend the life of your lawn mower.
- Add fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank. Add fuel stabilizer like Sea Foam to a fresh tank of gas. Run the mower and allow the fuel additive to be ran through the system.
- Remove the battery from the mower. To get the most out of your battery, remove it from the mower and charge it a couple of times throughout the winter. Batteries will not freeze if they are fully charged, but to be completely safe you may want to remove it and store in a cool dry place away from any flammables.
- Clean the filters. Check the air and fuel filters and make sure they are clean so that you don’t have to worry about them in the spring. Replace them if they are very dirty.
- Sharpen or replace the blades. Since these need to be checked annually, it’s a good idea to do it during the off-season so that you have fresh blades come spring.
- Store in a dry place. This may go without saying, but make sure your lawn mower is stored indoors, away from any rain or snow. You may also want to set traps for rodents to keep them from chewing through the wires.
How to Find a Lawn Mower Replacement
Lawn mowers can be found pretty much anywhere these days (even some grocery stores set them out for display in the summer), so it can be difficult to know if you’re shopping at the right place.
When shopping for a lawn mower, here are a few things to consider:
- Selection: The place you are shopping should have at least a few different brands for you to choose from and compare.
- Pricing: Do your research before committing to your shopping place. While it’s good to look for a deal, purchasing a mower well below the market price could indicate that there is something wrong with it. You also want to avoid getting scammed and overpaying.
- Customer experience: Reviews are easy to come by online. It’s a good idea to read mower reviews and look at customer ratings of the place you are buying from as well.
- Knowledgeable employees: Have someone who can answer your questions while shopping is extremely useful and can make the experience and decision-making so much easier.
Visit Your Local Dealer
While it is natural for many of us to head to the big department store or home improvement center in our area, purchasing a lawn mower from your local servicing dealer may save you a bit of money. On top of that, if you run into issues down the road, you already have a place to go to have it serviced.
What to Look for in a Lawn Mower
Because a lawn mower can be somewhat of a large investment, you want to ensure you find one that you can use for a long time. The thing you most want to look out for when searching for a lawn mower is the quality of the machine.
Consumer Reports scores lawn mowers based on performance data predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings. They found that the best push mowers start as low as $170, so if you want a quality mower, it’s recommended not to go below that price.
A few things to consider while you shop:
- Yard size: The size of your yard is really going to determine the type of mower you need. Most electric mowers are best for yards less than one-third of an acre while riding mowers are better for yards larger than half an acre.
- Storage: If you are concerned about where to store your lawn mower, consider looking for a mower with a folding handle or upright storage capability.
- Landscape needs: Some mowers don’t do well with large slopes or hills.
- Electric start: Having an electric start trades in yanking a pull cord for an easy push-start button. All electric mowers start this way, so this is really only something to look out for on gas lawn mowers.
- Engine Size and Air Filtration System
- Accessories available: Bagger, mulch kit, lights, jack, suspension seat.
- Mower Deck Size
Final Thoughts on Lawn Mower Replacement
While you may feel confident in your ability to repair your lawn mower (and many of these issues are often simple to diagnose and easy to repair), there are times when expensive repairs just aren’t worth the trouble.
Lawn mowers are complex pieces of machinery that take on a lot of wear and tear. While some issues are preventable with regular maintenance and upkeep, others are inevitable. At some point, you are going to have to ask yourself, “is the cost of repairing my lawn mower more than the cost of replacement?” or “do I want to throw 50% of the cost of a replacement into a mower that may only last a couple more years?”