New Honda: is it worth $$ jump to HRX217VKA?

girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)May 5, 2013

Okay, I'm pretty much deciding the old HRM215 may need to be replaced, but would like another Honda, based on trusting the one I had to start faithfully and mulch like there's no tomorrow.

There's not much chance of getting a push-only locally, but can get self-propel in various quality levels.

Question: Is it worth about a $200 difference to jump from the HRR216K9VKA with the GCV160 engine, 3-year warranty, but has a deck which can rust, to the HRX217VKA, which gains a 5-year warranty, the GCV190 engine, a lifetime deck, and (allegedly) a leaf-shredding mode, which might be perfect for my gardening needs?

If the price margin buys intrinsic extra quality in several areas, not just the deck, please advise!!!

If the cost diff is more hype than gain, and I can keep the deck on the lower-priced HRR216K9VKA from rusting by following some extra care steps, please instruct me.

I'm willing to pay extra if it makes sense for longevity, but not if there's more to go wrong with the higher-priced HRX217.

I have learned more about mowers (and things I did wrong to not keep mine up on maintenance before this) in the last few weeks from this forum's contributors than I did in ten years of mowing on my own. Help me make a wise purchase?

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The HYA would be my choice with hydrostatic drive and blade/brake clutch. I mean as long as you're going there you may as well go all the way.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 8:43PM
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I meant the HRX217HYA

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 8:46PM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

saxman -

I've seen these features you mentioned brought up in other threads (the hydrostatic drive and B/BC) but coming from a less-experienced background, I know I don't fully "get" the way they contribute their added function or value when paying extra $$.

A non-rust deck is more obvious to me.

I understand the B/BC concept of allowing the mower to sit and run without the blade spinning (sort of like my PC on screen-saver, easily put back into action), and had looked today at a "compromise" model (HRR216K9VYA) which had the blade brake control plus a throttle for $100 over the basic HRR216. I was more interested in the throttle than the blade brake, only because I've used the former a lot with the Harmony 215.
Usually the only reason I pause with the mower is to refill the gas (my yard's not very big, and mostly flat).
I could see doing the $100 bump for those, perhaps.

To go the distance for the hydrostatic drive and nexite deck would be $300 over the basic HRR216. (Heavier, too, at nearly 100 lbs.)

Since I don't know the pros/cons, would you point out what's different between the drives on the HRR216VYA vs.the HRX217HYA?
(It might help others also tuning in on the thread.)

I'm used to pushing my mower with girl-power rather than self-propel anyway, and hesitate to put more dollars into the drive part since my yard's level. I'd be more anxious about any quality "cuts" on the fuel system (do auto-choke issues still pop up?), or if the non-Nexite steel deck would give way to rust, despite trying to clean/protect it. Wheel quality's another question (do all models have ball bearings?).

At today's visit to HD to see some Hondas "in person",
I liked:

~ Models do have a manual fuel shut-off in front of the carb.
~ Adjustable mulch to bag feature
~ Buying before May 31st gains an extra-year extension on the warranty.

Not so sure about:

~Honda's choices on the plastic clip director or other parts, which feel sort of flimsy.
~Handle length/adjustability (for folks under 5'8")
~Deck height/clearance beneath (seemed lower/different shape?)
~Going any heavier than needed, based on reviews stating even the HRR216 at 80+ pounds was hard to manuever (gotta cut around a lot of fruit trees)

If top three priority hoped-for's were:
- reliability (needs to start easily)
- high-quality mulching (don't normally bag)
- trouble-free longevity (10+ years)
would you point me anywhere else besides Honda in a residential mower at or under $500?
Or am I in the ballpark with where I'm looking, even if not able to go "all the way" to the HRX217HYA with the hydrostatic drive?

This post was edited by girlfromthegarden on Mon, May 6, 13 at 0:09

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 11:58PM
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Hydro drive means no belts - it's a fluid drive like the larger lawn equipment, with a driveshaft. Thanks for the clarification on what you're interested in. You seem to be undecided about self-propel and many other Honda features. I sure don't want to 'sell' you something you don't want or need, particularly since there's nothing in it for me :). I'd say the polymer deck, 190cc OHC engine, dual blades and ball-bearing wheels on the Honda HRX are significant features not found together on the same mower anywhere else. However, it is a 'long' heavy mower. I'm under 5'-8" myself but I don't recall having any problem with handle position when I had a HRB216TDA. I'd have to say this design is more suited to larger yards without a lot of 'cut-ins'. Maybe you just don't need a 'big' mower like the Honda. Perhaps you should expand your search to Toro products, but you give up the ball-bearing wheels unless you buy a commercial. Still, a Super Recycler with Personal Pace is very hard to beat. There is one Toro that stands out to me because I have the same thing painted a different color - it was first sold under the Lawn-Boy badge only in 2007, but Toro quickly adapted it to their line by changing paint and wheel color. Now the call it the 22156. This is an expensive mower but worth it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toro 22156

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 9:33AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

saxman -

(sorry for delay, been fighting a bug)

I took your advice and checked out Toro as much as able.

The 22156 does look really top-notch - but definitely out of my price-league!
Researched some of the less-expensive Toro models, also Lawn Boy (since boyfriend wanted me to go that route), and debated again on the Honda push model, as I agree with you on not "over-doing" with a big mower.

Mobile service came out this morning to look at the old Harmony 215. The tech was super-nice and quite familiar with the mower. He told me up front it was better quality than the new 216 models I'd been checking out at HD and urged me not to give up on it yet. We reviewed the oil leak issue (gasket replacement) and carb problem, the chronically-balky self-propel (he thought it might be missing a spring), and his labor. End deal, he took it back to shop, said it should be fixed within two weeks and for a modest cost compared to getting a new mower. I'm going to stay hopeful that it does "resurrect"!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:03PM
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The things I miss about my old HRT216TDA are it's relatively low weight and its fuel economy.

I replaced it with a HRX217HXA and am currently using this mower.

I decided to get the HRX because,

1) my HRT was over 10 years old at the time and though running perfectly and requiring nothing more than normal maintenance, I wanted something newer (read:shinier!).
2) I sell cars for a living which doesn't afford me the leisure of cutting my lawn whenever I please this means that if it had just rained but i have the time, guess what, the lawns getting cut. I also employ a lawn care co that fertilizes/treats for weeds and because of this, in spring it's common for my lawn to grow 6"-8" in a week. The HRT just wasn't able to cut it, literally. It would bog down and require stoppage with cutting even 1/2 swaths. The clippings left behind were also quite unsightly as well. (All of these complaints I understood were caused from the extreme situations I was cutting in, I never blamed the mower and honestly still don't believe any other mower in its class would have done any better).
3)the 190cc motor, this was the main reason I think. Because of the above mentioned demands I needed the bigger motor. Because of this the extra weight and increased fuel use was completely expected and just something that was unavoidable.
4) I loved my HRT, it never took more than a single pull to start and when the grass was dry and not 12" tall the cut was amazing, all while mulching, bags are for the birds! I knew I was getting another Honda.
5) hydrostatic transmission, it's just awesome. I can go from 1/2mph crawl in the lowest setting to a jog at the top. Never needs service either!
6)BBC, I am always stopping to move things (two pick nick tables, children's play house, twigs, etc) so being able to let go of the handle without having to restart the mower sounded awesome (one if the main reasons I think I use more gas too).

I could go on about the ball bearing wheels, Nexite deck, ease of starting, versamow system, part availability, wide heigh adjustment range but only if someone wants to know more details or to expand on the other reasons I have a HRX in my garage.

All I can say is that I can now cut my lawn even if its wet and 12" tall with very little negative aesthetic consequence and to me that's what it's all about.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 12:54AM
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Ill also add that I'm 6'1", 190 and relatively fit. It's not a chore Manu wring the HRX personally. I one hand it frequently while cutting my lawn. But this may not be the case for others, you know your abilities better than me for sure.

I'd say if you don't need to cut the grass whim it could be wet or use a LCO to feed your lawn/fertilize yourself the GCV 160 will be all the engine you could ever need plus afford you a lighter machine and lower cost.

Again, I'd NEVER go back on my HRX but my needs are extreme and physically it's no chore for me to mow with this 101lb machine.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 1:01AM
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rosemallow(z7 Md)

My preference is the HRX217HXA.
I feel it cuts the best and is a excellent mulching mower. It can mulch and bag just by moving a lever.
I recommend to stay away from any Honda 3 speed which is and still is a lousy transmission.
If you had a Honda 215 series mower and you purchase the 217 you will see a better mucher because you have a lot more horsepower.
The only problem I have seen with the newer Hondas is carb problems. So, always use stabile.
Yes, I fix Hondas and I use the HRX217HXA on my lawn.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 7:49AM
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Ill go one further on rosemallows comment and not only recommend Sta-bil but if your going to use Sta-bil exclusively, make sure you use their Ethanol treatment.

I have been thinking about this after watching a YouTube video where the guy was saying that he feels that Sta-bil is not a good product and provides no measurable safety. He also said he performed side by side comparos with other brands too. Then I started thinking about it like this... Why do they offer a specific Ethanol treatment product when their original formula is supposed to stabilize fuels itself...

Just something to think about, or not.

I know that I have had surging issues with my Honda's even using Sta-bil. I just always chalked it up to the carbs being junk. Now I'm not too sure about that.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 8:46AM
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This thread has been immensely helpful. I'm currently debating between the HRR216K9VYA and the HRX217HYA. I liked the old 216VKA's but the updated "K9" versions seem a bit downgraded.

Can someone tell me a little more about the Versamow system in practice? $700 is a huge chunk of change for me (so is the $500, to be honest), but I'd rather spend money now and have something quality that will last me a while. I live in NC, and, like Bsmith717, I am prone to having to cut the lawn when it is damp, and sometimes when it's gotten too tall. I live in an urban area, so my back yard is a decent size, mostly level except for where the dog insists on digging holes, but my front yard is a postage stamp on a hill, probably a good 35-40 degrees up from the street and tight to turn in.

The things I know I like and that are important to me for a mower are the Blade Stop system (moving dog toys and sticks out from in front of the mower), good bagging, good mulching, able to handle both overgrown tall grass (back yard) and the low-trim height needs of zoysia grass (front yard), and heavy enough to stay on the hill and still cut efficiently. I had a Toro Personal Pace Recycler last and... never again, LOL. I know it is supposed to be highly rated but it was too light on my tiny hill (front wheel drive didn't help that cause since it would rock back onto the rear wheels), and I could never fill the bag more than 1/3 full without having to clean out the rear discharge port to the bag (more than 1/3 full and the clippings would just fall back into the port) as well as under the deck. After 4 years, I was frankly glad the engine started leaking oil all over the deck last week- an excuse to get a better mower! :) Prior to that I had a hand-me-down Craftsman that I loved; it went through two other family members before me and it mowed like a champ on my tiny hill.

Any added thoughts on the Nexite deck, Versamow, ball bearing wheels, and further thoughts on how the hydrostatic drive will ultimately play a part in the need (or lack thereof) to make repairs (fewer repairs? more costly if repairs are needed?). Also, like girlfromthegarden, is the 5 year warranty worth it over the 3 year? (I can't remember how much Home Depot would charge to extend the 3 year warranty, but I suspect it may be close to the price difference between the two). If I went with the HRX, would you even bother getting an extended warranty?

Thank you so much!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 11:55AM
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I bought my HRX217HXA in 2005 and it's been a great mower. It surges a bit at part throttle but otherwise runs great. The only money I've spent on it repair-wise was a cable replacement 3-4 years ago. No problems at all with the hydro drive or the deck. The bag fills to capacity.

I mulch most of the time but the Versamow system comes in handy when I've let the grass get to tall to mulch 100%. I'll put it in the middle and mulch half and bag half. It's also handy for mowing over leaves.

It is somewhat of a beast of a mower, however...I can assure you it's not too light for your tiny hill! Unless you have a pretty good sized yard, a HRX might be overkill. But I love mine and would buy another one in a heartbeat.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 1:48PM
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I just purchased a 2013 Honda HRX217HZA a couple of weeks ago. It supplants a 2003 Toro 20033 SR push mower here, which still is in mint condition. After recent spine surgery, I decided to finally purchase a self-propelled mower! Here are my thoughts on the HRX217HZA which cost me $849, plus tax (high here in IL (9%) - at a local mower shop.

- Versamow System... So far, I exclusively use it in the mulch position, as I always mulch here. This fall I will try it out in the partial mulch and partial discharge when the leaves begin to fall. I never bag, as I have no way to get rid of the clippings. The mower mulches very well on par with the Toro SR.

- The 190cc engine starts immediately with either the recoil or electric start. NOTE: With the 2013 HRX217HZA, Honda eliminated the "wall wart" charger for the battery. The battery is now charged from the engine's electrical system when the mower is running. No engine surging is noted, either at partial or full throttle. However, I am using non-Ethanol gasoline provided by the selling dealer. I will see if any surging begins when I start using the 10% Ethanol gas sold at all gas stations in this area. I do use an additive called Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment - I find it superior to Sta-Bil.

- Blade Brake... the blade brake feature is very nice, especially when you need to pick up something from the yard which was overlooked prior to mowing. I know this adds to the complexity of the mower, but it's a big plus for me. When the blade brake bail is pushed in which engages the blade, or more specifically, the blades, the mower's dBA noise level increases significantly. The HRX217 is definitely a louder mower than my Toro SR 20033 with the flat-head B&S 6.5HP Quantum engine.

- Nexite Deck... The Nexite deck is very nice, and rugged, but it may be more sensitive to spilled gas, fluids, etc. than a cast aluminum or steel deck. This is not confirmed, but it is noted in the HXA's owner's manual.

- Ball Bearing Wheels... This mower is heavy (102 lbs.), but I honestly can't tell much of a difference between this mower with the ball bearing wheels and the Toro with sleeve bearing wheels. Granted, the Toro is only 69 lbs., but when I drop the Clutch Bail on the Honda to either trim or go back and forth around obstacles, the Honda is not necessarily easy to maneuver - ball bearing wheels or not. Not that it's hard to maneuver per se, but simply more so than my Toro push mower.

- Hydrostatic Drive... The Hydrostatic drive is wonderful in operation. I can set it to its lowest setting, and it will simply crawl at a snail's pace. I will never use it at its highest speed setting, as I don't enjoy jogging when I mow the lawn! It's very nice to be able to change the speed on the go, and when you want to disengage the drive, you simply drop the Clutch Bail. You can also "feather" the drive system by partially dropping the Clutch Bail similar to a single drive or variable drive system. As to potential cost-of-repair, yes, I expect the Hydrostatic drive to be most costly to maintain, and certainly to repair than other systems. I've heard stories here on this site of high repair bills on the Hydrostatic drive, so I am a bit concerned about this myself. I understand the Toro's Personal Pace (originally designed by Lawn-Boy), and the Snapper Disc design is more simple, and thus, less-costly to repair.

- Honda Warranty... The HRX comes with a 5 year warranty, but since I purchased the mower on or before May 31, Honda added a Bonus 1 year, so it has a 6 year warranty. I've also read on this site where Honda can be quite picky about some warranty claims, thus this also concerns me a bit. I never had the need to test the Toro 5 year warranty on my 20033 SR, as it never had one single problem in the 10 years I've owned it.

The only negatives I've discovered so far are as follows:

- When mowing laterally across a slight rise or hill, the mower wants to slide sideways down the incline a bit. This is due to its weight. It's not a significant problem, but it does occur.

- The HRX217 is a complex walk-behind mower... from its OHC 190cc engine with a belt-driven cam drive to its Hydrostatic drive, it's likely the most complex walk-behind mower available for residential use. Unlike the Toro 20033 SR with the "old" B&S flat head engine which has only required annual oil changes, annual air filter replacements, and annual spark plug replacements, plus a thorough cleaning after each use, the Honda's maintenance schedule "reads more like an automobile maintenance schedule." The dealer strongly urged me to consider annual check-ups at $69+ per service, and the owner's manual directly addresses this, such as checking the valve clearance on the OHC system, as well as checking the Hydrostatic drive. Thus, this mower will certainly be more costly to maintain than the Toro I own. During the 6 year warranty period, the dealer will pick up the mower and deliver it back to my house for no charge - other than the service fee of course. Just a thought to consider, as I doubt HD would do this for you. One of the benefits of buying from a locally-owned dealer is that they generally provide excellent service.

redballoon - I hope this answers some of your questions. I know this is not the exact model you are considering, but I have tried to cover most questions on the mower's features.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 10:35AM
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My HRX is 9 years old (First year for the HRX a HRX217HXA) and I have yet to adjust the valve clearance. Perhaps commercial users need to pay closer attention since they put many more hours of use on their mowers compared to a homeowner like me. Though at 1.5-2 hours of operation weekly for 9 months of the year thats 60-80 hours per season still...

I have only replaced the throttle cable and (just today actually) my original blade/s.

I adjust the hydro propel cable every season along with the snugging up of all accessible nuts/bolts too.

Oil change at the end of the season and beginning of season.

Also the Hydro system can be purchased for ~$140, not too bad IMO.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Honda hrx lawn mowers are garbage. I pick up from my fathers mower shop a toppeling truckload of 10 - 13 broken HRX217 lawn mowers about once a month for $10 a piece,I put it on everything. Most have a bent blade shaft or cranks and are jumping jackin around off the wheels , the shafts on these are made out of a japenese metal that is that is easier to bend than plastic. I would never pay over $10 for an hrx in my life, and I have a whole garagefull of them, just looked and I have 23 of them currently, all hrx217 models, some with smart drive , most are blade clutch style. I fix them and off they go to the next unlucky buyer for top dollar.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2014 at 12:51AM
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