Thinking about buying a robotic lawn mower to free up some time and save money?
Here are some things to consider:
There are a few automatic lawn mower choices out there with prices ranging from about $1,299 to $4,200 so you'll need to consider what features your lawn require and what features you want.
What does your lawn require?
First of all, you should evaluate your lawn. Your yard does not have to be a perfect "postage stamp" lawn in order to get good results. In fact, most robotic mowers are designed to manage odd shaped lawns and all different grass types. Robot mowers can maneuver around obstacles like pools, trees, flower beds, poles, mailboxes and even playground equipment.
How large is your lawn?
Automatic lawn mowers can be used on lawns ranging from 100 square feet to 2 acres. Some models will allow multiple units to be installed on the same lawn expanding coverage far beyond 2 acres. If your lawn is on the smaller side of the spectrum, a lower priced unit may be sufficient for your needs. Before you decide on a price range, keep in mind that special features, durability and quality also influence price.
Do you have a hilly lawn or is it relatively flat?
Another big deciding factor for which robotic mower to buy is how it can handle hills. Some robot lawn mowers are designed to mow relatively flat lawns while others can be upgraded to handle steep hills. For example, the LawnBott LB3500 robotic lawn mower can mow hills up to 30 degrees with add on spiked wheels. This particular model utilizes an on board compass to keep it on course as it navigates hilly terrains.
Performance and features
Robotic mower models differ in how long they take to recharge and how long they can mow before needing a charge. Charge times can vary from 2.5 hours to upward 24 hours depending on the model you choose. With recharge times in mind, remember that robotic lawnmowers will take longer to mow your yard than a human would. Therefore, if you have a large lawn, it could take a few consecutive runs to cover the whole area. Since the robot is doing all the work, consecutive runs are effortless on your part, but you want to choose a model that can keep your lawn looking its best without falling behind during peak growing seasons.
Run times for automatic mowers can vary from 90 minutes to 7 hours before needing to recharge. Some higher end models like the LawnBott LB3550 can mow up to 15 hours per day with a recharge period in between.
Many robotic lawn mowers completely automate lawn mowing by working on a time and day schedule. The lawnmower will automatically leave its charging station; mow the lawn, and then dock when it's done. Lower end robotic mowers will require you to bring it indoors to charge.
Other important features and points to consider:
" Higher end robot mowers can detect how quickly your lawn is growing and will adjust its schedule to according to when the lawn needs to be mowed. This feature can be useful during droughts or fast growing seasons.
" Most fully automated robotic lawn mowers utilize a rain sensor to automatically pause mowing sessions.
" Some robotic lawn mowers are big and heavy while others are small and light weight. It's important to consider weight and size of the mower in case you need to ship it for repairs or servicing. Depending on which model you choose, weight can range from 21 pounds to 85 pounds. For example the LawnBott LB3210 weighs only 21 pounds while the Robomower RL1000 weighs around 85 pounds.
Maintenance and replacement parts
Maintenance is very simple for robotic mowers. There is no need to empty bags or clean up grass clippings because they are mulchers. Most manufactures recommend replacing the blade(s) once a year. Robotic lawn mowers are electric lawn mowers, which translate into no gas, oil or spark plugs to replace.
Another thing to keep in mind is replacement part cost. Some robotic lawn mowers like claim to have a life expectancy of about 8 to 10 years before major repairs are needed. Higher end robot mowers generally have better quality, longer lasting parts, which also means higher upfront and replacement part cost. On the flip side, lower cost robotic lawnmowers use cheaper parts, which may result in more frequent repair needs that could end up costing more to upkeep than higher end models. With that said, robotic lawn mower maintenance cost will almost always fall well below the cost to upkeep and maintain traditional lawn mowers or paying a lawn service.
Most robotic lawn mowers come with a 2-year warranty with varying warranties on the battery. Some warranties include pickup and return shipping cost depending on which model you choose.
Getting your yard ready for a robotic lawn mower
Now that you have decided to purchase a robotic lawn mower, it's time to prepare the yard.
" Although most robotic lawn mower's bump sensors can detect objects over 4 inches high, you would want to remove small toys, strings, hose pipes, lightweight objects and other objects lying around on the lawn just as you would with any lawn mower
" Fill in big holes. Some robotic lawn mowers have problems with "lawn potholes."
" If your robotic lawn mower requires perimeter wire, plan your install. A good dealer will offer to illustrate a customized installation plan free of charge. Installation for most yards can be very simple while others may require special wiring tricks. Expect to set aside the most part of a day to peg down the perimeter wire.