Robotic lawn mowers are undeniably appealing. In fact, many owners actually give their robots a name, and say how awesome it is to sit on the deck and watch "Billy" or "Ramon" wandering around the yard mowing the lawn.

However, robotic mowers just haven't seemed to catch on. First off, they're very expensive, starting at about $1,000. And especially for the entry-level models, they can't handle sloping lawns, they get stuck in ditches or get confused and end up mowing in circles. Even owners who love their mowers say they are time consuming to set up and are far from maintenance free. We read the same sort of durability and maintenance concerns for robotic mowers as for regular lawn mowers. If you're mulling over investing in one, here are some things to think about:

  • Choose a mower capable of handling the size and slope of your lawn. Some owners say it's possible to exceed manufacturers' recommendations, but experts say this can lead to repair problems. Experts say it is better to buy a robotic mower with a bit more range than you actually need, to minimize wear and maximize the mower's life.
  • Make sure the cutting height fits your lawn. Lawn experts recommend cutting grass fairly high (at least 3 inches) in hot weather to avoid sun damage, but robotic mowers vary in maximum cutting height.
  • Knobby or spiked wheels add traction. Unless your lawn is pretty flat, the extra traction will help keep the mower from sliding instead of rolling.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are preferable to lead-acid batteries. These minimize the weight of the robotic mower and last up to five years thanks to smart chips. Li-ion batteries also retain their charge well during the off-season. Experts say, however, that the extra weight provided by lead-acid batteries can help a mower handle thick, tough grass like St. Augustine. Most of the less expensive robotic mowers stick with lead-acid.
  • You may need to fill in some holes. Robotic mowers can get stuck in yard potholes and depressions, so you might want to fill in these irregular spots.
  • Budget for a surge protector too. Not surprisingly, owners report that lightning and power surges can damage a robotic lawn mower. So consider plugging it into a surge protector.
  • Plan to do some trimming. As with most lawn mowers, robotic mowers leave some spots along the edge of the lawn that need trimming.

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