If you’re looking for a lawnmower, perhaps the prices of new models are a bit overwhelming. If so, you could consider buying a used lawn mower. But when you purchase any kind of used equipment, there’s always the danger that you’ll end up with a dud. Today I’ll walk you through what you need to look for when buying a used mower and highlight warning signs that you should watch out for so you don’t waste your money.
There are used lawnmowers available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and at many different price points.
The type of mower that will work best for you will depend upon your property size, your strength and physical condition, and your lawn goals.
In this article
- I’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used lawnmower,
- Share with you some tips for choosing the right mower for your property, and
- I’ll also discuss what to watch for – the warning signs of a potential lemon.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Used Lawnmower
There are certainly a few potential advantages to buying your lawnmower used.
- You can buy a larger and more powerful lawnmower for a lower price than you’d pay for a new mower.
- You can get first-hand knowledge from the previous owner about how well it runs. This can be better than just relying on product descriptions and assurances from the manufacturer. Keep in mind, though, that how honest (or dishonest) the seller is will play a big part in whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage. This is why it’s so important to do your research. Find out all you can about a seller before making a deal.
- The possibility that the previous owner improperly used the mower and caused damage (and withholds this information).
- The owner might have used the lawnmower longer or more often than they communicate.
- If you don’t check the parts when buying a used lawn mower, you could end up with a mower that seems to work well but has a part that is about to wear out and will need to be replaced. If you cannot replace the part, you’ll have to buy another used lawnmower. And even if you can replace a part, they could be expensive and that cost could negate the financial benefits of buying a pre-owned lawnmower in the first place.
- If you end up with a lemon of a mower, you’ll waste all of the money you saved by maintaining it. It may be worth the time and energy to buy a new lawnmower.
- A used mower won’t come with the full guarantees and warranties that accompany most new models. This means that you might save money on the mower when buying it, but you could end up having to repair or replace it very soon after your purchase.
It’s also very risky to buy a used mower online if you don’t give the mower a rigorous inspection and test run when you pick it up.
It is important to closely look at and try out a used mower before handing over any money. You should not implicitly trust any descriptions provided online.
What Type of Lawn Mower Should You Buy?
There are a few things you should keep in mind when buying a lawn mower (used or new).
I recommend you consider the following five points before shopping for your mower:
- How big is your lawn? Large lawns require larger mowers with wider mowing decks unless you want to be mowing all day.
- How hilly is your lawn? If you have a flat yard you have more options. Hilly properties aren’t great for some riding mowers and push mowers without self-propelled capacity.
- What is your garage like? If you don’t have space to store a large mower, you can’t realistically get one.
- What is your physical condition? If you can’t (or don’t want to) physically push a mower around the yard, you’ll want a self-propelled or riding mower.
- Gas or Electric? There are some amazing electric lawn mower models on the market now, but older used models may not be as reliable as used gas mowers.
I have an article comparing different types of riding mowers, and another article comparing different types of walk-behind mowers to help you choose the best type of used lawn mower to buy.
How to Avoid Buying a Bad Used Lawnmower
If you want to buy a used lawnmower, you probably worry that you’ll end up with a useless or worn out piece of equipment. There are certain things that you can do to avoid this.
In order to get a high-quality used mower that you’ll be able to get use out of for years to come, you will have to invest more time in the shopping process than you would spend on finding a new model.
What to Do When Buying a Used Mower
Here are the steps you can take to make sure you’re not taken in by a dishonest seller:
- Ensure that you see the used mower in person and are given the time and access to take a close look at it and try it. This is crucial regardless of what kind of mower you want to get, whether it be a riding mower, a gas mower, or an electric or push model. Make sure that you ask the seller very specific questions. Find out the age of the mower. Ask the reason why it’s being sold. Ask if there is any paperwork on the machine, including such things as instructions, warranties, and guarantees). Make an arrangement with the seller so you know what will be done if the mower breaks down after you buy it. Ideally, there should be a written agreement on this.
- When you test out the mower (you should do this prior to purchase), listen to what it sounds like as it runs and try cutting grass with it. See how well it does its job. Remember that a lawnmower’s blades should always be sharp enough that the grass is cut with the first pass.
- Don’t be pushed into agreeing to anything too quickly. If the seller seems strangely rushed to get the mower off his or her hands, there could very well be something wrong with it. If it seems like it’s been available for sale for an inordinately long period of time, that could be another red flag.
General Tips for Used Lawnmower Shopping
There are many other tips you should keep in mind when you’re shopping for a lawnmower, whether new or used.
It Can Be Tough to Buy a Used Lawnmower Online
If you have the opportunity to closely inspect and try out a lawnmower, you can find good deals on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and elsewhere. But the key is that you have to have the time in-person to evaluate the machine.
Buying a used lawnmower online and having it shipped to you is asking for trouble in my view.
There’s really no substitute for being able to see something, touch it, and try it in real life. If you decide to return a mower that you bought online, it may be an enormous hassle.
Inspect All Parts of the Mower
Make sure to check out the mower’s parts, taking note of the condition of the blade, engine, mowing deck, and mower body.
Fire up the mower, and run it for at least five minutes. If the mower sounds like it’s running as it should and does an efficient and clean cut on grass, you still cannot necessarily assume that it’s in good condition.
When the seller is standing there, it can be easy to feel pressured to make a quick decision and assume the mower works well after a quick demo. But it’s necessary to check the parts.
If any of the parts look very worn, the mower isn’t likely to last you very long after purchase. Also look out for oil leaks and check the spark plug cable. It’s cheap and easy to buy a new plug (about $8), but replacing the cable can be more expensive.
Electric lawn mowers should have batteries that will hold their charge.
Bring an Expert With You
Are you inexperienced with mechanical equipment? A lot of us are, and a lot of us also know someone who is savvy on this subject and knows how to work with small engines.
If you have a friend who knows engines and has owned and maintained lawnmowers for years, try to bring them with you.
This could be a family member, a friend, or your spouse.
Buy the Mower You Need, Not the Mower You Want
Base your decision on how big of a mower to buy on the area you need to mow.
If you have a very large yard or property, you will probably want a larger and more efficient lawn mower. Extremely large properties will need a ride-on mower that has a gas or diesel-powered engine.
Small lawns are usually fine with a small electric or gas model, and homeowners who have a small, flat lot are probably best off buying a new reel mower like this one on Amazon.
Research the Lawn Mower Brand Before You Buy
Even if you buy used, make sure that you do online research on the model you plan to buy.
You want to make sure that there isn’t anything faulty about the model in general that you’ll end up having to deal with later. You also want to be aware of the longevity of mowers from that manufacturer.
Look for reviews from previous purchasers, and check out my article on lawn mower brands to avoid (and what to buy instead).
Buy in the Fall, Not in the Spring
The best time to buy a used lawn mower is when people aren’t buying used lawn mowers.
You’ll get the best price, and you’ll have your pick of the models that are available.
Give yourself as much time as possible to shop around and find the best possible deal on the highest quality mower you can afford.
If you wait until the grass is growing, you’ll have a smaller selection, you’ll pay more, and you’ll be competing with other buyers.
Final Thoughts About Buying a Used Lawn Mower
Remember, a lawn mower is an investment, and when buying a used lawn mower you need to:
- Do your homework,
- Give it a test drive,
- Shop around, and
- Buy the mower you need (not the mower you want).
When you do buy a mower, I recommend that you read my spring mower maintenance checklist and my tips for preparing your mower for winter storage to maintain your new machine for years to come.