While the 20333 Recycler doesn’t quite hold up to our #1 choice- the Honda HRX (see article here)- it does share some features of importance, performs like a champ, while the Honda costs far more.
If you don’t want to miss out on all the features recommended for their convenience in your next mower, including the washout port and brake blade system, I would recommend the Toro Recycler 20333. A Honda HRX is about $100 more (our top mower choice), and is a mower that’s worthy by the accounts of most, getting good grades from both Berendsohn (of Popular Mechanics) and Consumer Reports.
What it really comes down to, the Honda has a level of finesse that the Toro doesn’t have (or the feature of the Versamow).
Also, the feedback from users of the Honda number more in overwhelming praise than the Toro, upholding the old saying “you get what you pay for”.
One of the Toro’s main advantages from a seller’s POV is its ‘Personal Pace’, the name they put for its unique control system. Basically, because the mower is variable-speed it adjusts to the speed of your walk based on how the control bar is tilted. If you’re going fast walking the mower, you’ll slightly be pressing it naturally forward, and if you’re slower with your walk, it’ll be pulled back. It’s something to get a knack for, but looking at its feedback from customers, users who weren’t totally satisfied with its functionality were of the minority.
It got a high rating from Consumer Reports who praised the mower’s value, a mulcher they commented as excellent, and the side discharge and bagging were impressive despite being a notch away from the best.
The Toro is also a utility for leaves, but one key difference from the HRX Honda, you’ll either always be in full mulch or full bag mode, which limits flexibility in a bed of thicker leaves.
The Toro 20322, reviewed by Berendsohn (just like the 20333 Toro, but doesn’t have the blade brake), included in his write-up that the engineers of Toro designed a model that suits a diverse set of users and a variety of conditions for mowing. He also thought of it as a product packed with value and the selection of features as extensive.
The side valve, 190 cc engine in the Toro is branded under Briggs & Stratton and a warranty of 2 years comes with it. Everything is fully covered under maintenance and normal use. So, to make the most of the warranty, the manual is going to be very important to follow closely, particularly for its service instructions. The Toro also has a “guarantee to start” warranty of 3 years, which mentions not having to pay a fee if you can’t get it to start pulling it more than once.
The feedback from Home Depot users is solid, with the Toro 20333 getting a 4.1 star average from more than 1,700 reviews with only 16 percent not recommending it.
The Few Downers
Seeing positive comments from Home Depot users is quite the norm, but the Toro fares poorly in comparison at Amazon (average of 2.4 stars with 80+ reviews) or the almost 170 reviews at Consumer Reports averaging 2.9 stars. These not-so-positive impressions highlight a list of problems with warranty and mechanical failures. One of these you’d come across more than once: oil gets guzzled by the engine, and by the time it goes empty, it seizes up. You’ll know from the manual not to check the oil during mowing, but prior to each run, so Toro apparently didn’t include it as part of what the warranty covers.
But its worth to consider one thing that might decipher Amazon’s underwhelming number of positive comments- they don’t sell the Toro model (realistically) and obviously neither does Consumer Reports.
A seller from a third-party used to offer the Toro on Amazon for the stupidly unrealistic and bizarre $800 price, but it’s unavailable now (July 2016: a seller is offering the 20333 model on Amazon and nowhere near as much as the above price).
Knowing that, the minority of reviewers likely purchased the mower at Amazon, but the rest probably did not. Their experience was bad, and wanted to vent somewhere, whether or not that’s fair (but can you really blame them for a mower that under performs?).
At Home Depot
On the flip side, the mower is actually sold by Home Depot (an email is sent after submitting the order requesting for feedback), so it likely seems that the representation would be better at Home Depot of the customer’s overall experience with the Toro (both negatives and positives). There, the Toro 20332 is about $360 (everything the 20333 is but without the blade brake clutch), has a rating average of 3.9 stars with reviews topping 1,800.
Yes to the Toro?
It is imperfect, and the points brought up at Consumer Reports or Amazon are valid in many cases (like being sure your oil is checked). But Home Depot’s breakdown of ratings is a more thorough sampling and the mower is likely represented more realistically.
Also, this interpretation holds true with the Consumer Reports’ graph for manufacturer reliability, which you can conclude that out of every 100 self-propelled Toro mowers, 83 did not need a repair of some kind or had a problem considered serious (Honda has the highest score with 89).