The self-propelled Black & Decker SPCM1936 is a champion at mulching and side-discharging. It's also capable of bagging, though not quite as well. The 36-amp battery has an Energy Star rating and is capable of mowing about half an acre of lawn on one battery charge. The propulsion system can be engaged without the blades turning to easily drive the mower around.
Superior mulching. The Black & Decker SPCM1936's excellent mulching performance is a reviewer favorite. Both expert testers and owners say it finely minces grass into near-invisible pieces that blend into the lawn. In addition to mulching, the SPCM1936 is very good at side-discharging, but doesn't handle bagging as well. "Half the time the clippings fill the bag correctly. The other half, the clippings are clumped together," explains one owner at Lowes.com.
The SPCM1936 uses a 36-volt lead-acid battery with an estimated run time of 45 minutes. This is long enough to mow about half an acre. Many owners extend battery life by turning off the self-propelling system, saying the mower is easy to push without it. You can remove the battery to charge it away from the mower; a full charge takes about 12 hours, but you can get a 60-percent charge in only four hours.
One Amazon owner says this Black & Decker mower is powerful enough to push through tall, winter grass. Others add that it can bog down on wet grass and leaves; "It does bog down some on leaves or when the grass is too tall."
Powers up hills. The two-speed self-propel feature is handy for many owners, though getting used to it takes a little time. "The lowest self-propelled setting seems to be a good, comfortable mowing speed and there's no sudden surge forward when you engage it as with all the gas-powered mowers we've had. It moves smoothly to a nice walking speed," writes an owner at Amazon.com. A few reviews say the slower speed can be too fast for turning or mulching. At 90 pounds, the SPCM1936 may feel heavy for some when pushed manually.
Setting the cutting height from 1.5 to 3.5 inches is quick with a one-lever adjustment. "Starting the mower is painless as well," explains another reviewer on Amazon.com, "You just plug the safety key in, hold a push button in and pull the blade engagement lever on the handle."
Overall, owners say the Black & Decker SPCM1936 is well built. It does not suffer from a short lifespan as the Black & Decker corded mowers in our report allegedly do, but there are still quite a few complaints about the manufacturer's customer service. Black & Decker has low customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power and Associates surveys.
The SPCM1936 has a two-year warranty on the mower, and Black & Decker covers the polymer deck with a limited lifetime warranty. Most users say they replace the batteries every year to two years.
Well thought out. The SPCM1936 requires a safety key to start and run the mower. The motor and blades turn off within seconds if the key is removed. To run the blades, the user has to hold a safety switch as well. Releasing the blade control bar while still engaging the propulsion bar will only stop the blades. "… the mower will propel itself from wherever you finished back to the garage or shed," explains one Amazon reviewer.
To prevent the mower from rolling, the front wheels automatically lock anytime the self-propel is turned off and the mower is stopped. When you want to mow in reverse, you must roll the SPCM1936 forward to unlock the wheels first. "If you push the mower right up to an obstacle straight on and forget to disengage the drive before pulling it back, the wheels lock and you can't push the mower forward anymore," complains a reviewer, "Then you have to drag the mower back enough so that you can push it forward an inch or two to release the lock." Users at Black & Decker's website as well as Amazon.com say this is an awkward process.
Music friendly. We could not find any experts who measure the noise output of the SPCM1936, but plenty of owners say it's pretty quiet. Amazon users equate the noise level to that of a vacuum or big fan, and the editor at Mowing-Cow.com says the SPCM1936 is quiet enough to "listen to music … or talk on the phone" while mowing.
In their large comparison of 80 lawn mowers, editors test 45 different self-propelled models, only two of which are powered with an electric battery. Each model is evaluated on its ability to cut evenly, mulch, bag and side-discharge grass, among other categories.
Review: Lawn Mowers & Tractors, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
2. J.D. Power & Associates
In their fourth year of analyzing customer satisfaction of walk-behind mowers, J.D. Power and Associates lists only six brands. The smaller listing of brands may also correlate with the smaller number of surveys received, less than half from the year before. Black & Decker again ranks below the industry average and is at the bottom of the chart.
Review: 2012 Walk-Behind Lawn Mower Satisfaction Report, Editors of J. D. Power and Associates, Aug. 30, 2012
3. J.D. Power & Associates
For their 2011 study on how happy owners are with their walk-behind lawn mowers, editors compiled feedback from more than 2,000 consumers. Black & Decker ranks about average; Honda, John Deere and Husqvarna place in the top three spots.
Review: Although Ease of Use Is of Primary Importance in Satisfaction with Lawn Mowers, Fewer than One in 10 Owners Factor It into Their Purchase Decision, Editors of J. D. Power and Associates, April 27, 2011
About 80 percent of the more than 380 owners that review the SPCM1936 on Amazon.com rate it 4 stars or more. The mower's ability to mulch well, its gasoline-free operation and the self-propelling option are some of the most praised features. A few say it's not strong enough for thick or wet grass, and a number of users say the battery needs replacing after about two years.
Review: Black & Decker SPCM1936 19-Inch 36-Volt Cordless Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mower With Removable Battery, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of June 2013
The SPCM1936 receives praise for being high quality and durable at Lowes.com with about 50 owners giving it 4.3 (out of 5) stars. A number of users say the self-propel feature has enough kick to easily cruise up slopes, but the lower speed can be too fast (especially around corners). Even meticulous property owners find the cut quality fantastic.
Review: Black & Decker 36-Volt 19-in Cordless Electric Self-Propelled Push Lawn Mower, Contributors to Lowes.com, As of June 2013
The editor of Mowing-Cow.com does hands-on testing of many of the lawn mowers reviewed here and says he always checks information with the manufacturer to ensure accuracy. He likes the easy-start setup and its ability to power up hills but says the "self-propulsion function takes time to get used to." He finds the Black & Decker SPCM1936 a little overpriced and gives it 4 out of 5 stars.
Review: Black & Decker SPCM1936 Self-Propelled Cordless Mower Review, Editor of Mowing-Cow.com, Not dated
Users here agree the speed controls take a little time to get used to. About 25 owners have reviewed the SPCM1936, awarding it 3.7 stars.
Review: Black & Decker 19 in. 36-Volt Self-Propelled Cordless Electric Mower with Removable Battery, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of June 2013
About a dozen owners rate the SPCM1936 on the manufacturer website, and as of the date of our report, no new comments have been left in nine months. Owners are pretty happy with the lawn mower, rating it 4 stars.
Review: 36V 19" Self-Propelled Rechargeable Mower with Removable Battery, Contributors to BlackandDecker.com, As of June 2013