A friend said to me the other day ‘why are lawn mowers so expensive’?
And it got me thinking, are they?
I guess it all depends on how we define expensive.
But one thing I think we can say is the design and functionality of lawn mowers have increased over the past couple of decades.
But are they expensive? And if so why?
We take a closer look.
Why Are Lawn Mowers So Expensive?
Mowers have actually significantly decreased in price in real-time terms compared to 30 years ago. Lawn mowers are becoming increasingly safer and more efficient, and these advancements are accounted for in their price tags. Engines and drive systems have improved and then of course there are rising costs and profit margins.
Reason #1: The Technology
There is absolutely no doubt that technology has advanced rapidly in the last 30 or 40 years.
Many of these advancements have been incorporated into the items that play a part in our household life: refrigerators, TVs and radios, lawn mowers and more.
Including these technological advancements does come at a price to the consumer though.
Let’s consider some of them:
Lawn mowers now have stringent safety systems built in to immediately apply the brakes and stall the engine when they sense an ‘emergency’.
This might be when the mower is running through very thick, long grass, or when it encounters something it doesn’t expect to (ie rocks, tree branches etc).
It prevents damage to the blades and the engine, so you don’t have to dip into your pocket to repair them.
In fact, it is now a federal requirement that all push mowers have an Operator Presence Control (OPC) system in place.
These must stop the blade within three seconds of the control being released.
Riding mowers have a similar safety switch to automatically cut off the engine when the operator is not in the seat.
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In years gone by engaging the deck on a riding mower was a real art.
It was done by pushing a lever forward slowly, but if you did it too quickly you risked stalling the engine or jumping a belt off the pulley.
Now it is much easier and safer.
Pulling up on a knob simply activates the electric clutch and engages the belt to power the deck.
Whilst I am sure we still all curse our lawn mowers from time to time when they don’t immediately start, I think we will all agree that they are generally much more reliable these days than in years gone by.
Electric starting systems have eliminated the sometimes erratic nature of the pull start.
There are primer starting systems, automatic choke starting systems and many more, which generally have made getting your lawn mower running much less of a hassle.
Reason #2: Improved Engines
In line with environmental concerns, engines are being made more efficient and cleaner running.
On top of that, the wear factor on engines is lower today, thanks to their increased efficiency, better build quality and less harmful oils being used.
A better engine might push the price up somewhat, but it will mean a more reliable performance and less outlay in the future on maintenance.
Reason #3: New Drive Systems
There was a time when push mowers were just that. They were often hefty and unwieldy.
Now many lawn mowers are self-propelled. The drive systems utilize belts and transmissions that do all the work for you!
More expensive mowers often have a range of drive speeds too.
Pushing it up a notch and the drive system on riding mowers has increased considerably too.
Zero-turn mowers are more expensive, but their drive systems come with a host of benefits.
Hydrostatic and transaxle drive systems are commonly used and they reduce wear, increase the lifespan and performance and make servicing and maintenance much easier.
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Reason #4: Build Quality
The more expensive mowers are generally better built, will hold their value well and serve you much longer.
The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ comes into play here.
Pay close attention to the quality of the steel, bearings, transmissions and wheels when buying a mower.
Most mowers today are not made from heavy welded metal that would be rendered useless and unrepairable by damage.
Instead the mower frames now are made lighter and stronger, but if they do get damaged and need replacing it does not sound the death knell for your mower, which it might have done previously.
Reason #5: Luxury Extras
If you really want them you can now pay for luxury upgrades to your mower which previously would not have been an option.
Riding mowers are a prime example of this.
You can get high back seats with armrests, foot-controlled deck height adjustments, cruise control, lights and drink holders.
But even push mowers can come with multiple drive speeds, different battery options and mulching accessories.
Reason #6: Rising Costs
Unfortunately, all lawn mower manufacturers are affected by the price of things out of their control.
Namely rising energy costs and fuel costs.
These outside influences also add to the cost of buying a lawn mower.
Reason #7: Profit!
The manufacturer will build the mower, a distributor often sells them to a retailer and the retailer sells them to the consumer.
Everyone in the chain needs to make a profit (except the consumer unfortunately!) so that accounts for a markup in cost as well.
Reason #8: They Aren’t Actually That Expensive
When I was researching this article I wanted to find out the cost of lawn mowers in years gone by.
It proved a little difficult, but then I found this post on a lawn mower forum.
He is the costs of some mowers back in 1989 with the 2022 cost in brackets (worked out thanks to the very handy inflation tool website).
- Lawnboy M21BMR: $538 ($1,299)
- Honda HR215HXA: $712 ($1,719)
- John Deere 14SB: $640 ($1,545)
- Husqvarna R53S2: $610 ($1,472)
- Snapper P21509B: $616 ($1,487)
- Cub Cadet 848E: $529 ($1,277)
Now here are some comparable mowers today and how much they cost:
- Lawnboy 17734: $379
- Honda HRX217HYA: $1,099
- Snapper Hi Vac: $599
So as you can see, taking into account inflation, lawn mowers generally aren’t that expensive these days.
They have actually come down in price, despite all the technological advancements we have seen.
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In all reality lawn mowers really aren’t that expensive.
In fact they have come down considerably in price over the past few decades, and for the reduced cost you are getting some genuine technological advancements that make them safer and more efficient. There are a few other factors outlined in our infographic above.
It is the technological advancements mentioned that do account for a large proportion of the price of a mower and it is worth bearing in mind they do make mowing the lawn an easier and quicker job nowadays.
Finally the old adage of ‘you pay for what you get’, generally holds true with anything.
Your initial outlay on a mower might be a bit more, but in the long run it will pay you back!