Friday, March 30, 2007

I just sent this letter to Honda corporate. It wont really accomplish anything, other than maybe take my blood pressure down a few points...

March 30, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam

I purchased a Honda lawnmower (HR215HXA model) almost 4 years ago. The reason I bought a high end lawnmower was based on the immaculate reputation that Honda has for its mowers and small engines. The reputation (and the sales pitch at the store) is that they are bullet proof. I really did not like the “no published price” policy – much like that of buying a new car – but it was worth it to get my hands on a mower that I could possibly be still using 20 years later. I was sold.

All my previous lawnmowers were either bought used for nearly nothing or were purchased from one of the big department stores. There was never anything notable about them – good or bad. They ran. They lasted about 7-8 years and then the chassis would wear out. But when amortized over their lifetime, they cost me $20 a year. Not bad, really.

Now back to the bullet proof Honda. I spent over $1000 for this mower. Wow. I have had cars (plural) that cost me less than that. But it is worth it for that bullet proof mower, right? Well, as mowing goes, you do come upon unexpected objects. It has happened with every mower I have ever owned. You get into tall grass and hit something lurking beneath it. In the case of the Honda, I hit a stump. It started right back up, but there was a noticeable vibration and upon inspection, it appears I bent the blade. This, too, has happened with every mower I have ever owned: you hit a stump or a large rock or some other immutable object and it costs you a mower blade. I didn't think about it...

...Until the next time I ran the mower. The engine ran fine at first. Then it started losing power and RPMs. I put it on the driveway to listen to it. Then I heard the distinctive crack of a rod breaking. I looked at the oil and it was filled to capacity, but smoking hot and burned to a crisp. My conclusion: the crankshaft was bent by hitting a stump, causing it to drag hard on the bearings and snap the connecting rod. That doesn't sound bullet proof to me. Amortizing this lawnmower over its lifetime gives me a $250 yearly cost. For that money, I could have someone mow my yard for me.

I took the mower to my local Honda dealership and they verified my suspicions. They rough guessed that this was about a $500 engine replacement. They also assured me that any lawnmower would do the same thing and they all would require an engine transplant. From my experience, that is just not so. I have always had the chassis fail well before the engine, irregardless of the number of immovable objects I hit with the mower. But, for the sake of argument, lets assume this is true. As a manufacturer of high end lawn equipment, would it not make sense to put a fusible link between the engine and a high carbon steel blade spinning at 2100 RPM? Think of how great a sales pitch that would be. Think of how many $38 fusible links you could sell – each with a $50 installation fee.

This whole story leaves me with a decision and a really bad taste in my mouth:

  1. Buy a Honda replacement engine for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 4 years.

  2. Buy 4 cheap lawnmowers for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 28 years.

  3. Buy 25 garage sale lawnmowers for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 25 years.

I assure you I will not choose option 1. Based on my experience with Honda, I will also not be purchasing any other small engines produced by Honda. Ever.

Your former customer


What really pisses me off here is that I fell for it: the idea that expensive is better. I rant and rant about people that fall for this... And I admit that SOMETIMES you can pay more for tools and get a better return out of them. But not in this case.

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