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Which Honda Self-Propelled Push Mower Should I Buy?
Old 05-20-2014, 10:37 AM   #1
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Which Honda Self-Propelled Push Mower Should I Buy?

Of course I've read several opinions online already, but you never know who the sources (and possible agenda) are. And it never ceases to amaze me the breadth of topics/knowledge here, so no harm in asking?

Our lot is about 1/3 acre, but the mowing area is probably about half that (house footprint, landscaping and trees/brush). Some slopes, but nothing serious at all.

Deciding between a $400 (HRR216VKA) and a $700 (HRX217HYA) model - admittedly the $400 model is probably more than adequate. The $700 model has a larger engine (190cc vs 160cc), larger wheels with better bearings (9" ball bearing all four vs 8" ball bearing rear only), a hydrostatic vs belt (self-propelled) transmission and brake blade stop and lifetime warranty on the deck on the $700 only. Longevity/reliability and operability/user-friendliness are very high on my list of wants.

My uneducated view, in order:
  1. The cheaper Smart Drive on the $400 model looks less user friendly than the hydrostatic Cruise Control (what's mostly driving my questioning the $400 model)
  2. Bigger better wheels & bearings seem appealing given my past experience.
  3. Kind of indifferent on blade brake clutch as I don't have kids, pets around and don't bag clippings.
  4. Bigger engines are better, but I am sure the 160cc is undoubtedly more than adequate.
  5. I couldn't care less about the lifetime warranty composite deck on the $700 model vs the steel deck on the cheaper model. Both models weigh a lot!
Sold on Honda, period. I know there are cheaper mowers than Hondas, no thanks. If you want to reply to convince others to buy another brand, be my guest.

My current John Deere 14SB is 23 years old, I care for and keep mowers for a long, long time (like most anything I buy). The engine is still OK, but the transmission is failing for a second time and the wheels/bearings are badly worn, also replaced earlier. I sunk $150 in it a few years ago, and it's been an outstanding mower, but I'm not interested in putting more money in a 23 yo mower. JD doesn't make anything like it any more.
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:42 AM   #2
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If you get the $700 one you'll probably be dead before it is.
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:42 AM   #3
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If you get the $700 one you'll probably be dead before it is.
That's the plan!
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:51 AM   #4
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I've come to appreciate caster front wheels on walk-behind mowers like the ones on this Deere model. They save you the hassle of tipping the mower every time you have to turn or maneuver around a tree or shrub. That said, I have a large yard, so little extra movements add up.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:01 AM   #5
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I know on my big mowers, the hydro drive is worth every cent.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:05 AM   #6
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This is my 3rd season with the $400 VKA. I have about the same size yard as yours with a hill in the back and I don't bag either. The VKA is more than capable of handling the yard and I couldn't be any more satisfied. Just a heads up, mowing with the self propel fully engaged requires you to walk at a very brisk pace.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:32 AM   #7
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I know it's not on your list but I bought a craftsman with a honda 160cc engine about 6 yrs. ago. self propelled and the big wheels in back. Cost around $330. Been bullet proof so far.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:34 AM   #8
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I own the HRR216VKA ($400 one). It does want to go faster than my wife does when she uses it.

My only complaint with the mower is the auto choke system which has been a bit of trouble. It keeps your emissions down, but it can be fussier than a simple choke system used on cheaper mowers. I bought the shop manual for the mower to assist with diagnosis on this issue.

My yard is about .4 acres and it handles it easily. I bought it mid-summer 2011 when my yard became too thick for my old Toro to handle.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:42 AM   #9
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If you get the $700 one you'll probably be dead before it is.
I bought the expensive Honda back in 2002. I don't remember the model number, but it had the variable transmission and variable speeds, and was the more expensive of the 2-3 models of Honda lawnmower at Home Depot at that time. On the Honda website it looked like the most deluxe one they had. I knew I would hate mowing and thought this might make it better.

It was great. The only thing was, well, I have a very small yard, y'know? My lot is only 50'x100'. Those mowers are designed for huge expanses of grass. I would have done better with a mower that turned more easily instead of one that was heavy and self propelled. It was completely reliable and extremely easy to start; I think it had a push button starter IIRC but it has been a while.

Also, it only took me about three years of mowing before I decided to hire someone to do it for me. Eventually I sold my Honda lawnmower to my lawn guy in exchange for some free mowing for a while.

So yeah, I may not have been dead before it was, but it lasted until I was no longer mowing.
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Old 05-20-2014, 12:54 PM   #10
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I wouldn't be caught dead using a crappie $400 mower.

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Old 05-20-2014, 01:00 PM   #11
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I was wondering for a minute why buy self propelled expensive lawn mowers at all until I read "huge expanses of grass" in an earlier post. We have always had very small expanses of grass so the low price manually pushed Honda from Costco has been fine.
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Old 05-20-2014, 01:02 PM   #12
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This is my 3rd season with the $400 VKA. I have about the same size yard as yours with a hill in the back and I don't bag either. The VKA is more than capable of handling the yard and I couldn't be any more satisfied. Just a heads up, mowing with the self propel fully engaged requires you to walk at a very brisk pace.
Holding down the Smart Drive paddle with my thumbs for an hour (pic below), and having mower speed rely on how hard I press the paddle is my primary issue with the $400 mower. It appears I could adjust the paddle and use my palms to hold it down fully, but just having a speed selector like the $700 hydrostatic drive model and a full width drive "bail" like the blade stop bail seems highly preferable. But I'm asking as I have no first hand experience with either model.
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Old 05-20-2014, 01:33 PM   #13
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Yes you can adjust the paddle and use your palms to work it effectively. I use my thumbs just like the picture above. I should state that it only takes me 25 -30 minutes to mow my yard so my thumbs don't get tired but this might be a problem with someone with a bigger yard. Also, I go at two speeds when mowing the yard, full throttle and stop. I think it might be a pain to try to keep the mower to a slower speed for an extended period of time but have never tried.
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Old 05-20-2014, 02:17 PM   #14
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Amortized over 20 years, it is $20/yr vs $35/yr.
Fuel/oil cost will probably be greater over the life of the mower. Anyway, that is the logic I use when considering long life tools.
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Old 05-20-2014, 03:39 PM   #15
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We bought the Honda HRX217HZA last fall when the rear drive axle on the old Honda mower broke and I figured it wasn't worth fixing since the mower was 26 years old, and we (I, mostly) mow a fairly large area.

Why spring for the one with electric start? Once in a while DW gets a bug to do the mowing and even as easy as the old mower was to start she just doesn't have the shoulder strength to spin the engine fast enough. This will save me the trip to the back yard to start it. And, yes, I did choke at the price but figured amortizing it over the expected life of the mower it isn't that much.

While I hope not, the odds are good that the mower will last longer than me.
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Old 05-21-2014, 01:05 AM   #16
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I own the more expensive Honda mower for which you are considering. I can tell you it is one of the best purchases I have made in awhile. We have .55 acres and it must be mowed year round which works to 40 times a year. When you include edging it takes me an hour each time, but the ease and reliability of this mower actually makes the job a pleasure. That's got to be saying something because few people, me for sure, find doing lawn work a pleasure. It starts on the first pull, mulches great and is easy to adjust. If I had half the lawn and only mowed it half the year then I would say the less expensive model would work fine. Good Luck!
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:50 AM   #17
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When you include edging it takes me an hour each time, but the ease and reliability of this mower actually makes the job a pleasure. That's got to be saying something because few people, me for sure, find doing lawn work a pleasure.
That's a factor for me, otherwise I wouldn't be seriously considering paying an extra $300 mostly for the better transmission and an occasional blade stop. For me the best part of mowing is finishing each time...
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:00 AM   #18
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Well, if you were in Texas, you could forego buying the mower and hire a service to do it. Not sure what a lawn mowing service charges up your way, but your mowing season is also a lot shorter
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:03 AM   #19
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Well, if you were in Texas, you could forego buying the mower and hire a service to do it. Not sure what a lawn mowing service charges up your way, but your mowing season is also a lot shorter
Lots of people here use lawn services. But even the $700 mower will easily pay for itself in one season/year, and I enjoy the exercise even if I'm not wild about mowing. I am pretty sure this will be the last mower I ever buy, I probably won't be physically able when this one expires.

LBYM and all too...I won't pay for any service I can (learn) do for myself and am physically able, cost is secondary. YMMV
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:58 AM   #20
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I am pretty sure this will be the last mower I ever buy, I probably won't be physically able when this one expires.
Weren't you planning on relocating at some point, or has that changed? Are you sure this new mower can cut it at your new location?
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