Buying a Used Lawn Mower

A used lawn mower can be a real deal or... a real headache.  Here are some tips to consider when purchasing a used mower:

General

  • Before you go: Ask the seller if the mower starts / runs and if there are any known problems. (TIP: Don't buy broke lawn equipment - repairs can easily exceed the value of the item)
  • Before you go: Use good sense when meeting a stranger, take a friend for safety.
  • Start and operate the mower yourself, preferably to cut grass. (TIP: Mower should start with 2-3 pulls - hard to start mower could soon require expensive repair) 
  • Check for any usual vibrations or rattles.
  • Check the oil. If the oil level is low and/or really black and icky, the owner probably did not perform regular maintenance. The oil should not smell of gasoline.
  • Listen for any unusual unevenness, surging, or sputtering. If there is more than one speed, see how smoothly the engine switches between speeds.
  • Faded (oxidized) paint can be a sign the mower has been kept outside which accelerates the wear on many mower components
  • Always buy in-person (vs. online) unless the item comes with a full refund policy (including shipping).

Push Mowers

  • Push the mower for 20-30 yards and turn around to make sure it is a comfortable fit. 
  • Check the bag for holes or worn spots.
  • Make sure the wheels can be adjusted.

Riding Mowers

  • Check all the forward gears and reverse (if applicable).
  • Engage the PTO to make sure blades engage normally.
  • Check the battery - a new battery will run about $50. 
  • Examine the seat for tearing, cracking or rot - new seat can run $60-100.
  • Check the tires for dry rot.  Ask the seller if any of the tires require routine re-inflation.

A fair price for a mower in good condition is 50-70% retail for a comparable model.  Buyer beware of fire sale prices which could indicate the mower is stolen or in need of major repair.