Tips on buying a lawnmower.

A sputtering start followed by a puff of smoke and a constant whine push visions of perfect, evenly cut, turf-like blades of grass out of your head.

Instead, tension builds in your neck as a bead of sweat rolls down your face.

You recognize the sound; you heard it just before you bought your current lawnmower.

But armed with the right tools, the mower-purchasing process ahead doesn't have to drive you crazy.

Approach the major purchase having taken issues like budget, reputation of the manufacturer, size of the lawn and the weight of the lawnmower into consideration, according to Lou Manfredini -- the Ace Hardwares Helpful Hardware Man. Manfredini has plenty of experience when it comes to lawnmowers: He hosts the "Mr. Fix It Show" on WGN Radio and "Housesmarts" on NBC Channel 5 in Chicago.

Manfredini said the biggest mistake people make when purchasing a new mower is they tend to underbuy.

A lawnmower is similar to a car in that there are different models within a certain brand, such as the limited edition and sport edition, he said. A lot of times there are features that people can add on.

Most major lawnmower manufacturers have Web sites where consumers are able to compare mowers and features they are considering.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you want to be environmentally conscious. Lawnmowers produce several types of pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ozone precursors and carbon dioxide, Manfredini said.

"Cleaner" options are the reel mower, electric corded mower or a cordless, battery-powered mower, Manfredini said.

Mike Ballou, product manager with John Deere, said people know what they want to do with their lawns, so they should make sure they communicate that to the salesperson.

Ballou also said friends and neighbors are a great resource because they will be able to tell you their likes and dislikes of their own mowers.

Besides the size and weight of the lawnmower, Manfredini said people should keep in mind how much they are physically capable of doing when it comes to mowing.

A lot of the more-expensive units are self-propelled, and that offsets the added weight, he said.

Buyers should beware of the off brands of lawnmowers that are on the market.

Manfredini said people should keep to the brands they trust if they are concerned about manufacturer reliability.

"I've seen people that have Toro motors that last as long as 10 or 15 years with proper maintenance," he said.

Manfredini added that the key to making a lawnmower last is to keep up with the routine maintenance. Regular tune-ups help reduce fuel consumption and emission levels and help to increase mower life and reliability.

There are plenty of places to take a lawnmower to get maintenance done, Lou said. A regular tune-up on a mower will run around $100.

To keep a lawn mower running in tip-top shape, it is recommended to get a tune-up each spring.

John Deere offers the Ready To Mow Mobile Maintenance Service, which brings a specially designed trailer to the consumers home for a 14-point inspection on the mower.

If you dont have a pickup truck, you still have a way to get the service done at your home, Ballou said.