Today you’re going to learn how to know which used lawn mower is the one to buy.
You want the truth?
Buying a used lawn mower is the best value for your money. You will get close to 50% discount:
- A new $550 Honda HRN residential walk-behind lawn mower will become $300 used.
- A new $650 Ryobi battery powered lawn mower will become $350 used.
But here’s the catch: It’s only a bargain if those lawn mowers have been maintained and looked after according to the User Manual maintenance schedule.
How do you know that? How do you know what to look for when buying a used lawn mower?
These 7 steps are here to guide you:
Your 7 Step Guide For Buying a Used Lawn Mower
The majority of the tips below are for gas powered lawn mowers. Some apply to battery powered ones but most are for gas powered because most used mowers for sale on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are gas.
Tip 1: Make sure you are cold starting the mower when you go and see it.
Call ahead and ask the current owner to not run the mower for a few hours before you arrive to inspect.
This will ensure you see the real mower ability to start from cold.
A small lawn mower engine needs oxygen, fuel and heat to start up. If the mower has been running for 30 minutes just before you arrive it will already have heat in the combustion chamber. It will start easy for you making you believe the engine is in good working order. It’s a better quality test for the engine health to see it from a cold start.
How to make sure it’s a cold start?
- When you arrive and before starting ask the owner if it has been running in the last hour. Use you gut to tell if they are lying. Most people will tell you the truth since they often won’t know why you are asking the question.
- Touch the engine block to feel the temperature. Touch the top and sides of the used mower’s engine – if you feel any warmth then let it sit longer before starting.
- If you have one of those laser temperature guns bring it with you and see if the engine is room temp or way hotter.
Tip 2: Research the used lawn mower model online, in forums and chat to current owners.
Let’s look at a real life example how to research a used lawn mower for sale.
Here’s one for sale in Houston, Texas on Facebook Marketplace for $350.
It’s a Honda HRN model – take a look:
What do you think?
Would you buy it?
Let’s do some research on this good looking mower.
From the pics we can tell it’s a Honda HRN 216 model with a Honda GCV170 engine. It has an adjustable 4-height mower deck and a smart drive control on the handle.
How to find an old lawn mower manual:
- Search Google for “Honda HRN 216 lawn mower manual”. That should be enough to find a generic User Manual for Honda HRN models. The year of the mower doesn’t really matter since the general advice in the manual will be nearly identical.
Results of the search:
The top 3 results will lead you to the Honda HRN 216 mower manual PDF file. Open the file and read the manual.
Why even bother reading the User Manual?
- Vital info – The User Manual has everything you need to know about the used lawn mower. The parts, the maintenance schedule, how to start it, the safety aspects, things to look out for and more. You want to know this information when you show up to ask questions and test out the mower.
- Questions for the owner – With knowledge of the mower maintenance schedule and parts you can have questions ready for the current owner. You can ask them how often they changed the oil/filters and you’ll know what the manual says. You can ask them when they last changed the air filter, spark plug or when the carburetor was last cleaned – and you’ll know what the correct answer should be.
- Model age – Some companies stick with a model for a few years before changing anything up. Look at the Copyright date on the User Manual to know when the model first was introduced. If the manual says Copyright 2015 and you are looking at the same exact model mower in 2018 then you know it has been in production for 3 years. There is nothing wrong with this it is just extra information in your brain.
How to learn more from current owners in online lawn mower forums:
Type “Honda HRN 216 lawn mower + forum” and you’ll get a list of forum threads talking about the lawn mower.
Go into the forum and signup for an account so you can post and respond to current owners.
Good questions to ask:
- What has gone wrong with your mower?
- Would you buy it again?
- How’s the customer service and warranty program?
Tip 3: Inspect the engine, deck and blades.
Your research is done and you’re ready to go and check out the used lawn mower. Call the owner to schedule a view time and be sure to mention about the cold start.
6 things to pay attention to:
- Does it start first try? For a true test let the owner start the mower from cold and see how many pulls of the recoil rope are needed. Gauge their reaction as well. Did they start the used mower first pull and seem surprised? Did it take 5 tries and they don’t even mention this is weird?
- Does the engine sound smooth or clunky? If they have taken care of the mower and changed the oil regular and air filter and spark plug as required by the maintenance schedule then the engine when running in idle will sound smooth not clunky and rattling. If it doesn’t sound smooth walk away.
- Ask the owner if/how they winterized it. You really want to know if the mower has been winterized each year before storing over winter. Did they change oil? Did they use the correct oil? Add fuel stabilizer? Properly clean the deck handles and blades? Simply ask them how they winterized it? You will be surprised how many don’t do it. You should at least be able to get a good discount if you catch them on this one.
- What color is the exhaust? Kind of a trick question because the exhaust should be invisible after leaving the mower running for 1 minute. If it is a thick white or even blue smoke you could have certain issues like blown seals or o-rings, too much oil in the reservoir etc.
- Is there any damage/corrosion to the deck, blades or engine exterior? Flip the mower on its side (air filter side up) and check for rust underneath the deck and see the condition of the blades – are they sharp? Blades are cheap so it’s not a deal breaker but if the mower deck is rusting it is a deal breaker.
- Are there any modifications to the engine or lawn mower in general? Are there any aftermarket welds on the engine or aftermarket looking parts on the mower? Probably best to avoid these ones as the warranty is voided.
Tip 4: Start it and mow for 5 minutes.
This is when you want to test the features.
Engage the self propel feature and see how it works. Is the mower jerky with its movements? Do you hear and different and weird noises?
Adjustable Deck Heights
Adjust the deck height and see how the mower performs.
If it has these features then check if they work. Many times used mowers will have something not working properly on bagging option.
Tip 5: Decide if you are happy and prepared to make an offer.
If everything above meets your standard then you are almost ready make an offer.
But before you do:
Evaluate the owner, not just the lawn mower.
- Make sure you listen to your gut.
- Does the owner have junk lying all around the yard and you think they found this mower on the side of the road?
- Is the house well taken care of and so they would have taken care of the mower.
- Also, take a look at their own lawn. Is the lawn in good shape?
Be prepared to walk away even if you think the mower is awesome but something else isn’t sitting right about the purchase.
Tip 6: Know the max price you are willing to pay and be prepared to walk away.
With the Honda HRN 216 example above from Facebook Marketplace for $350. Let’s say you show up to see it and it passes all the tests above. You could straight up give the owner $350 or you could make $320 your max price and commit yourself to walking away for anything more.
Okay but how are you going to move forward with this negotiation?
Let’s look at some negotiation hacks.
Tip 7: How to negotiate the best price for you
Most people selling a used lawn mower are willing to move on their price. But they have priced it at $350 so you need to think in terms of whats fair for both of you.
Maybe you have some small concerns. Did the mower take 4 pulls to start? Say that. Tell the owner you are concerned about the 4 pulls to start. Start to anchor your position why you are offering a lower price.
Without being rude offer $300 and state the reasons why. You need to be straight forward and ‘matter-of-fact’ about it.
“I can give you $300 for the Honda because I am concerned it took 4 times to pull and I noticed the blades looked dull so I will need to immediately buy new blades.”
The owner will either come back with $330 or say no.
Either counter with your final offer of $320 or walk away.
The 7 Steps In Summary
Do this when you go check out the mower:
- Cold start the mower. This gives a better picture of engine health than a hot start.
- Research the lawn mower online. Become familiar with mower specs online and talk to current owners.
- Inspect the mower. Listen to the engine. Look for corrosion. Use common sense.
- Use the mower to mow. Test the features and listen to your gut.
- Evaluate and decide if the mower is worth an offer. Are you will to pay asking or you want to make an offer?
- Be prepared to walk away if you want to negotiate a lower price. Look at the owners house and yard – did they take of the mower like that?
- Negotiate a fair price by listing your concerns.
3 Other Used Lawn Mower Buying Tips
Tier List: What are the best brands to buy used?
Here’s the thing with making this tier list: You’ll find different models using different engines and a lawn mower’s most important component is the engine.
The small engines used on lawn mowers are Honda, Briggs & Stratton, Kawasaki and Kohler. So many used Toro mowers will have a Honda engine. Anything used with a Honda engine is good. Kawasaki also makes engines for riding mowers. If you find a riding mower with a Honda or Kawasaki engine it is a good bet they are going to last you.
But in general – here is a tier list of the best brands to buy used:
- Honda at the top no surprise.
- Toro makes great mowers – especially the ones with Honda engines.
- EGO makes battery powered mowers and electric mowers require very little maintenance so buying a used one is low risk. And EGO makes the best electric ones.
- John Deere is known for good big tractors and riding mower. However, they have recently taken a no repair approach and try to make their mowers hard to self repair – you must take them to a certified repair shop.
- Greenworks is like EGO but a step below.
- Husqvarna is a decent mower brand.
- Troy Bilt seems to have gone a bit down hill over the years.
- Same with Cub Cadet.
- Craftsman has become near junk since being acquired by Stanley Black and Decker as their consumer brand of tools.
Where is the best place online to find used lawn mowers for sale?
- Facebook Marketplace – The shear amount of people that use Facebook Marketplace will dwarf any of the other places you can buy local used lawn mowers. Look up your local city and you’ll find 100s of mowers for sale.
- The good: The most on offer.
- The bad: Lots of junk to sift through.
- eBay – eBay will be the best spot to buy commercial used lawn mowers. Think riding mowers and more expensive used goods.
- The good: You can see seller ratings and reviews from past sales. Lots of refurbished mowers for sale.
- The bad: Mower will need to be shipped to you. You can’t inspect the mower before buying.
- Your Local Lawn Mower Repairs Shop – Your local mower repair shop is a great spot to look. There you can talk to an expert. In addition, it is unlikely they would buy a used lawn mower to repair and sell if they didn’t already do the due diligence.
- The good: Due diligence has been done. They can offer a warranty.
- The bad: Very little selection. Will often pay higher price.
Buy from a friend
You can skip a lot of steps if you buy used from a friend. You already know them and how they operate so the trust is already there. Just come to a fair price and be done with it.
That’s it. Good luck in your used mower search.