A visual inspection helps you assess the mower.

Tips on Buying Used Riding Mowers

by Shelley Frost

Buying a brand new riding mower may not be in your budget. A used mower is a tempting option, but the money you save on a secondhand mower can quickly disappear on repairs if the machine isn't mechanically sound. A little research ahead of time helps you give a used mower a thorough inspection before you hand over the cash.

1. Know What You Need

Limiting your used mower search helps you find a machine that will work best for your yard. Residential mowers are usually either lawn tractors or garden tractors. A lawn tractor is best for a small yard, while a higher-powered garden tractor is best for a large yard or for heavy-duty tasks like cultivating your garden or pulling loads. You'll find both manual and automatic lawn mowers, as well as varying horsepower options and different cutting widths.

2. Do a Visual Inspection

The first test for a used mower is a visual inspection and questions about the mower. The exterior gives you an idea of how well the owner has taken care of the mower. Cracked tires or mower deck may indicate the previous owner didn't maintain the machine well. A look under the hood allows you to inspect the battery, connections, motor and belts. Look for visible signs of wear, rust, cracking or other damage that might affect the machine's operation. Questions to ask about the mower include when it was purchased, if regular maintenance was performed, if any parts have been replaced and when the blades were last sharpened. Ask about any potential problems you spot during your inspection.

3. Take a Test Drive

The inspections help you spot obvious problems, but a test drive gives you a better idea of how the mower runs. Starting the mower is the first thing to note during the test drive. The motor should start right away without a lot of attempts. Drive the mower around the yard without cutting to make sure it steers well and the brakes work. If you like the way it drives, test out the cutting mechanism. Try adjusting the cutting levels and watch for even cuts on each pass.

4. Get a Second Opinion

Input from another party is a simple way to protect your interests when buying a used lawn mower. A friend who knows a lot about mowers is one option for a second opinion. She may notice a problem you overlooked when inspecting the mower. Choose a friend who also knows how to negotiate so you can get the best possible deal on the mower. Another option is to have the mower inspected by a lawn mower repair shop. Ask the seller if he will allow you to get the mower checked out or sell it contingent on a clean report from the shop.

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