Budget push-mowers. Is there a difference?
I'm looking at a few different mowers to get because I have a 2-in-1 Yard-Man, Model 503, with a Tecumseh LEV 90-120 engine that just cannot get the job done. It's going to die or clump badly no matter what and it takes me a good hour to 1.5 hours to do just over 5,000 sq ft. I have to take baby steps to prevent it from choking/dying. I've been religious with the recommended maintenance, cleaning, and replacing of filters, blades, spark plugs, etc.
So, I am going to upgrade to a 3-in-1 push mower. I don't need self-propelled and actually enjoy the exercise of the push. I don't have a set price range, but I think that over $350 is really going to push the budget. So, that's pretty much ruled out the Lawn-Boy, Snapper, and Toro. I've been reading here and looking around and wonder what you thought of these 3-in-1 mowers:
Troy-Bilt TB542 ($239 @ Lowes) -
PROS: 160 CC GCV Honda engine, rolled steel deck, high wheels, big 2.3 cu ft bag
CONS: MTD like Yard-Man
Cub Cadet CC500 ($229 @ Home Depot) -
PROS: rolled deck, ball-bearing wheels, cyclo-cut system, single-level height adjustment, 173 CC OHV Chinese Engine (can't figure the brand out exactly) (6.75 ft/lb torque)
CONS: 1.9 cu ft bag, small wheels, 19" cutting width!
Craftsman 38813 ($219 @ Sears) -
PROS: high wheels, 190 CC B&S Engine (6.75 ft/lb torque), 1.9 cu ft bag
CONS: side-valve engine
My main concern is that the engine is powerful enough to mulch without dying. I will bag occasionally if the lawn gets unruly. I ruled out all Tecumseh engines, but which one of the three here is most powerful? The Honda is rated lower (5.5 HP), but from what I've read B&S lies on their ratings. Is the Honda engine actually more powerful? Or is the Cub Cadet mystery engine the way to go?
Any thoughts, or a different recommendation for me? Thanks!