Self-propelled lawn mowers are equipped with a transmission to drive the lawn mower to make it easier to skim across your lawn. With outstanding mulching and cutting, reviews say the Honda HRX217VKA (Est. $600) is at the top of its class. This mower is sold under a few different model numbers, including the Honda HRX217K5VKA (Est. $600) and the Honda HRX2175VKA (Est. $600); all have identical performance, features and pricing.
Among this Honda mower's premium features is Versamow, which lets users decide how much grass to mulch while bagging the rest. The deck-mounted Clip Director knob sets the bagging/mulching mix. You can also set the mower for side or rear discharge. The end result is a pristine looking lawn every time, regardless of the mowing conditions. "It's great when you're mowing tall or wet grass, because you can bag enough grass to keep the mulch from being too thick and clumpy," says Doug Mahoney at TheSweethome.com, which names the Honda HRX217K5VKA as the best lawn mower overall.
Ease of use is excellent as well. With an effortless pull cord and automatic choke, owners say the HRX217VKA starts on the first try almost every time. Its powerful four-stroke engine can tackle unruly yards with thick or wet grass. The automatic transmission lets you set your own pace -- up to 4 mph. We spotted a few reviews that say the paddle controls can be awkward to use, making for uneven acceleration, but those comments might now be dated because, as Mahoney reports, Honda updated the drive control system for 2015. "With the new system, called the Select Drive, you no longer have to apply constant pressure to the control paddles to maintain a speed—it's more like cruise control," he says.
The HRX217VKA is also durable and reliable and that is backed up by one of the best warranties on the market: a lifetime deck warranty and a five-year mower warranty.
If your budget is a little smaller, we saw some solid recommendations for the step-down Honda HRR216VLA (Est. $500), which is also sold as the Honda HRR216K9VLA (Est. $500). Though you need to be a paid subscriber to read the full review, in a free article, ConsumerReports.org's Ed Perratore calls out this Honda mower as one of the best mowers for 2016. He notes that for your $500, you get "superb mulching and bagging, no-prime starting, and an electric-start feature whose battery gets charged while you mow." It has the same Smart Drive feature as the HRX217VKA mowers as well. Versamow and its adjustable mulching/bagging mix is not part of the package, but the Clip Director control that allows for no-tools conversion between mulching, bagging or discharging is present.
Toro self-propelled lawn mowers also score highly in testing. Among those, we saw some strong recommendations for the Toro Recycler 20333 as another excellent choice that's packed with features many owners love. It also gets respect from most expert reviewers, with special kudos for its SpinStop blade-break clutch system, which stops the blades from spinning but keeps the engine running. That makes it possible to stop the blade but not the mower if you need to get ahead of it to clear an obstacle in your path, improving efficiency without compromising safety. The Personal Pace Self-Propel system, which matches the mower's speed to the user's walking pace (up to 4.8 miles per hour), is another significant plus, according to owners. Some love that they can practically trot, others like to set a more leisurely pace.
The Toro Recycler 20332 (Est. $340) is very similar to the 20333 but it lacks the popular SpinStop system. It does well enough in one professional review to earn Best Buy status, but user satisfaction at sites like HomeDepot.com seems to be just a touch lower. The Toro Recycler mowers have only a two-year warranty, but Toro includes a three-year, guaranteed-to-start warranty that promises the mower will start with only one or two pulls.