When we moved from New York City to a beach town in Southern, DE, we suddenly went from having zero lawn to caring for a full half acre. We were incredibly grateful to have a good lawn mower passed down to us from my parents. It’s a walk-behind model, so we imagined we’d get our workouts in on the weekends using it. And we did! I actually enjoy mowing the grass, but it took us three hours to do it. We decided a riding mower was in order, and the sooner the better. But it wasn’t exactly in our summer budget. So we began researching used riding mowers.
You can save a good deal, as used riding mowers are typically worth about half of their retail price. But you need to be careful. The life expectancy on a residential riding mower is about seven years. If you’re still thinking you might like to buy a used riding mower, keep the following in mind:
1. Buy something you can see in person and test drive. And preferably buy it from someone you know. That way, you get a better sense of how well the mower has been cared for. Be sure to ask:
- When was the mower purchased?
- How often was it used?
- Why is it being sold?
- Have the purchase/maintenance receipts and user manuals been kept?
2. Don’t be put off by a mower that has a lot of hours on the engine. Typically the engines on mowers have great longevity; it’s the other stuff that ends up going kaput. Make sure to check:
- Age of belts, battery, and wiring
- Condition of tires (be wary of cracks and dry rot)
- The blades’ condition and the level of the blade deck
- Fluid levels (if low, watch out for any leaks)
3. Take it for a test drive. While you’re at the wheel, make sure:
- The engine starts within a few seconds on the first try.
- It idles smoothly.
- The brakes are working.
- It doesn’t smoke or stall.
- It cuts evenly.
We ended up with a 2006 Cub Cadet with a 46-inch mowing deck and less than 100 hours on it. We purchased it from the gentleman who sold us our house, so we already had a good professional relationship with him and knew he was someone we could trust. He had taken impeccably good care of the machine and had all of the purchase/maintenance receipts, user manuals, and maintenance logs to give us.
The last time we mowed the lawn, my husband and I accomplished all of the mowing, weed whacking, and clip blowing in 1 hour and 15 minutes! That’s way less time than it took just to mow the lawn with our walk-behind model. If you multiply that by the number of mowings per year we expect to do, that’s 50 hours of summer we get back! Woo-hoo, let’s hit the beach!
For more on mowers and lawn care, consider: