6 Things to Consider When Buying a Lawn Mower. Lawn mower non gas
The 5 Best Electric Lawn Mowers for 2023
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Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada’s National Observer.
Looking for a lawn mower that doesn’t contribute to climate change, and that won’t wake up your neighbor’s sleeping baby? We rate the best emission free, electric, lawn mowers on the market today, plus tips for buying the right electric lawn mower.
Gas lawn mowers degrade air quality
Think your choice of lawn mower doesn’t matter?
According to research published by Michigan State, “mowing the average lawn in the U.S. creates as much air pollution as driving the family car on a 200-mile trip,” which has many of us looking for greener options. We rated, and tested, emission free lawn mowers and listed our top picks below
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) places restrictions on emissions from lawnmowers, but there are no emission-free gas lawn mowers. Gas mowers also become less efficient and pump out ever-greater emissions the older they get.
As for electric mowers, these are tankless and instead rely on a cord or battery. Corded mowers have no mowing time restriction as they draw energy from your main electricity hookup. For battery models, battery time means how long you can use an electric mower before having to charge the battery again.
Most battery-powered lawn mowers are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are just bigger versions of the lithium batteries in our laptops and cellphones. You can store a lot of energy in a lithium battery compared to older types of batteries, which is why electric lawn mowers are now possible and, indeed, comparable in power to a gas-powered lawnmower.
Unfortunately, lithium batteries are expensive and deteriorate over several years, with their capacity decreasing as the cells in the battery die off. It’s a good idea, therefore, to have a spare battery and to replace the battery every few years to ensure good performance.
Avoid second hand electric lawn mowers
Beware second-hand electric mowers with older batteries; the mower itself may be sold cheap compared to a new model, but the included battery or batteries may be next to useless and cost more than the mower to replace.
The best electric lawn mowers
Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.
Ego LM2102SP and LM2142SP [Staff Tested]
Highlights: 56V, Cordless, huge storage bag, headlights for evening mowing. Both models fold up easily for storage, have weather-resistant construction, and have a 21-inch deck size, with 3-in-1 mulching, bagging, side discharge options. Can buy with or without battery and charger.
ARE HONDA LAWN MOWERS STILL WORTH BUYING IN 2023?
- Same torque as a gas powered mower
- Huge collector bag
- Pin drop quiet while mowing
- Easy to store
- Can mow the lawn at night
The EGO 2102SP is a 21 in. 56-Volt Lithium-ion Cordless Walk Behind Self Propelled Mower that includes a 7.5 Ah battery and charger, and offers 60 minutes of cutting time and a 60 minute charge time.
With more than 6,000 5-star reviews at Home Depot online and a reputation elsewhere for high performance and usability, the Ego is a top pick for an electric lawn mower that can easily handle larger lawns.
You can also buy the 2102SP model without battery or charger for 450 (View Price on Ace Hardware).
This mower delivers the same high torque as gas-powered mowers without the air pollution and noise, and at a lower price! If your lawn area is half an acre or more, this monster of a mower might be your new best friend. It even boasts headlights, so you can do a spot of evening mowing should you wish.
One big plus for the Ego is that huge collector bag, which means you can mow a large area of lawn without having to stop to empty the bag. The downside here, of course, is that the machine becomes quite heavy by the end of your run. Happily, this model doesn’t seem to lose traction at the front when the bag is nearing capacity, unlike some other models.
The LM2142SP (View Price on Amazon) is a 2 x 5 Ah battery model that is very similar to the LM2102SP 7.5 Ah model. The 2142SP offers a bit more flexibility in handle height, however, with 6 handlebar positions available rather than just 3. This makes it the better option if you’re a bit taller or shorter than average.
One other major difference between these two Ego mowers is that the 7.5 Ah model has a polymer composite cutting deck, while the 5 Ah model has a steel cutting deck. Both seem to perform extremely well across all kinds of grass, but the steel is, arguably, the more sustainable material.
The rear wheels on the 2 x 5 Ah model are also an inch bigger in diameter (10 inches vs. 9 inches), which may help with maneuverability in some situations and be better for sloping lawns. The 7.5 Ah model also weighs a dash more at 78.8 lbs compared to 75 lbs or the 2 x 5 Ah model.
The major difference between the two, though, is simply the run time. The 7.5 Ah gives you around 60 minutes of run time before you’ll need to charge the battery. And, of course, while you’re charging the battery, you don’t have a spare to use as a backup. With the dual battery model, you can use one 5 Ah battery for 45 minutes while charging the other battery, then switch them out to carry on mowing without having to take a break. This way, you could pretty much mow all day and, thanks to the LED headlights, all night if you wanted!
Both of these Egos have one easy-to-use shifter style handle that adjusts the height of all four wheels at the same time, which is much more convenient than having to adjust each one individually. Both models fold up easily for storage, and both have weather-resistant construction and a 21-inch deck size, with 3-in-1 mulching, bagging, side discharge options.
The Egos also offer independent self-propulsion, meaning you can turn off the mowing function but still use self-propulsion to move the mower easily from one spot to another, such as over surfaces that could damage the blades if they were moving.
Finally, both the Egos have a 5-year limited warranty and, if you buy from Home Depot, a 90-day return window in case you’re not happy with your new mower.
Oh, and the Ego Power 56 Volt battery/batteries are shipped separately and are compatible with all Ego Power products. This means you can save on the cost of the mower by buying the tool only, if you already have an Ego battery and charger. Or, consider this an investment in the future of your tool collection if you’ll also be replacing any snow blowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws or so forth in the next little while.
One other reason Ego make my list of eco-friendly lawn mowers is their adoption of green power sources for their research and development facilities and industrial park. In 2004, the company installed a 7,500 square foot Green Roof system on their RD facility, with savings of around 1.5 gallons of gas per square foot each year. The roof of their Green Power Industrial Park also features a 2-megawatt photovoltaic power station.
This ‘Blue Roof’ generates, year-on-year, the equivalent power from burning 755 tons of coal. This cuts sulfur dioxide emissions by 50 tons and carbon dioxide emissions by 1677 tons annually.
In addition, the Ego Green Power Industrial Park utilizes ground-source heating, air-conditioning and water-storage technologies. They estimate that their ground source heating system alone saves 1 million kWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of 378 tons of coal. It also cuts sulfur dioxide emissions by around 25 tons and carbon dioxide emissions by 839 tons each year.
Ego hasn’t been in business quite as long as Black Decker, but they’re an innovative company with global reach. Established in 1993, they have long been invested in cordless electric technology and are now one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tools.
Our experience after one year of using the Ego electric lawn mower
After a year of hands-on use, here’s what a member of our team, Taylor, has to say about his experience with the Ego mower:
I’m not the type of person who really enjoys and looks forward to mowing their yard, unlike many of my neighbors; it’s a chore that needs to get done just like any of the others that are part of owning a home. With that being said, the Ego mower is hands-down my favorite mower that I’ve used to date.
It’s quiet enough that I have no problems listening to a podcast or audiobook while mowing, which definitely couldn’t be said about my older gas mowers. The battery life is commendable, and assuming it hasn’t been too long between mowings, one large battery easily gets me through both my front and back yards without issue.
One of my favorite features is its ability to neatly fold up with a few quick releases of a lever or two. If you’re short on storage space for yard tools like I am (the growing arsenal of Ego products isn’t helping) this space-saving feature is super welcomed.
A surprise feature I found myself thankful for just recently was the LED lights. In Pennsylvania fall, there isn’t much time between the end of the workday and it being too dark to mow. I had half of my front yard left to mow while the sun was quickly setting, but the headlights on the mower made it a total non-issue.
Greenworks PRO 21-Inch 80V Cordless Lawn Mower
Highlights: Boasts a powerful 80 V motor and a wide steel cutting deck, so you’ll probably be able to mow a half acre lawn in one charge.
|Mower||Greenworks PRO 21-Inch 80V Cordless Lawn Mower|
|Price||240-700 (depending on batteries and self-propulsion)|
|Battery type||Lithium ion 4 Ah (or 2 x 2 Ah)|
|Cutting width||21 inches|
|Self-propelling||Self-propelling option available|
|Run time||60 mins|
|Product link||View Price on Amazon|
The Greenworks PRO 21-Inch 80V Cordless Lawn Mower GLM801602 (View Price on Amazon) is a top pick for those looking to be convinced of the merits of electric mowers versus gas mowers. Providing the equivalent of around a 160 cc gas mower, the Greenworks 80 V models mean business and costs just 550 for the PRO 21-Inch 80 V with a 4.0 Ah battery and charger.
Both sets of batteries offer up to 60 minutes of run time with a full charge, and because there are two, you could just adopt a policy of one out one charging, for continual operation. Greenworks also make the Self-Propelled 80 V 21 Inch Cordless Lawn Mower (without batteries or charger) (View Price on Amazon) with all the same great features plus self-propulsion courtesy of the back wheels. This model is compatible with the 2 Ah and 4 Ah batteries and can also be bought as a self-propelled model with a 5 Ah battery and Rapid charger (View Price on Amazon), providing 70 minutes of run time and charging fully in just 75 minutes. Compared to the almost four hours needed to charge a single 2.5 Ah Black Decker battery, this charger and battery combo is much more efficient and user friendly.
The variable speed control on the handle of these self-propelled models can be set between 0.5-1.5 m/s, which is super helpful if you struggle to push a mower around, especially as it gathers grass clippings. The self-propelled Greenworks 80 V lawn mower may also be a good option if you have hillier terrain.
Both the self-propelled and push versions of the Greenworks 80 V 21-inch Cordless Lawn Mower have lovely large rear wheels measuring 10″ (24.4 cm), with smaller 8″ (20.3 cm) front wheels for maneuverability. Greenworks brushless motor provides for a longer run-time, more torque and more power, meaning less wear and tear, extending the life of the mower.
The minimum cutting height on this model is a little higher than on some other mowers, but there are seven possible settings, easily toggled using the large lever on the handle. This means it’s likely you’ll find a setting to suit your grass. The lowest setting is 1 ¼”, the second is 1 ⅔”, the third is 2”, the fourth is 2 ⅓”, the fifth 2 ¾”, the sixth is 3 1/7”, and the seventh setting is 3 ⅝”.
Smart Cut Load sensing technology may help extend battery time, and you can definitely tell when the motor is revving up to deal with tougher spots. If you’re using the push mower, you’ll want to slow down just before hitting denser grass, to give the mower a chance to adjust. With the self-propelled model, consider switching to the slower (snail!) setting if you’re in the faster (hare!) setting.
One small issue with the Greenworks Pro is the relatively low suction compared to the Snapper XD. This can mean that grass clippings don’t always get sucked into the collector on the first pass, necessitating a bit of back and forth. With the Snapper, the greater suction means you rarely need a second pass.
The Greenworks self-propelled cordless mower is arguably one of the best electric mowers for medium to large gardens and is made by a company with a reputation for excellent build quality and cutting efficiency. This mower is also quite attractive, as mowers go, but the foam handle jiggles a bit and could be a tad more robust.
The Greenworks boasts a powerful 80 V motor and a wide steel cutting deck, so you’ll probably be able to mow a half acre lawn in one charge. However, if your grass is long, dense, wet, or all of the above, chances are you’ll need to switch out the battery (and empty the collector) at least once to cover this area of lawn though. On the slowest self-propulsion setting, two 2 Ah batteries can provide for around 60 minutes of continuous operation, with around the same run time for a single 4 or 5 Ah battery.
The Greenworks may be too large for very small lawns, with its wide cutting deck and large wheels. That said, it can easily be used by smaller people for larger lawns, thanks to an adjustable handle with three different height positions, including one suitable for folks under five feet tall.
What we Like About the Greenworks Cordless Lawn Mower
One thing I really like about Greenworks is that you could buy this mower with a battery or pair of batteries and use those batteries for around 20 other power tools from the company, including their snowblower, chainsaw, hedge trimmer, and polesaw. This not only saves you money and time, it also keeps resource use to a minimum, saving you from having to purchase, store, charge, and recycle numerous batteries for your power tool collection.
The Greenworks PRO charger takes just 30 minutes to fully charge a 2 Ah battery and around 75 minutes to charge a fully discharged 4 Ah battery. It has a useful diagnostic LED fuel indicator so you can see the current charge in the battery. This Rapid charger was Energy Star rated (the program has now been discontinued), has a compact design, and can be stored on a shelf or mounted on the wall. It is compatible with battery models GBA80200 and GBA400, but, and this is a big annoyance across the industry, this charger only works with Greenworks PRO 80 V batteries. It won’t work with other brands’ 80 V batteries. The same is true of the Ego Power batteries, though, so this isn’t an annoyance unique to Greenworks.
If you buy a Greenworks PRO lawn mower or other tool without the battery and charger, you can purchase their PRO 80V Lithium Ion Single Port Rapid Battery Charger GCH8040 for less than 100 (View Price on Amazon). This charger has a built-in fan to enable Rapid charge time without overheating.
Greenworks was founded in 2007 and quickly became an industry leader for electric power tools. So much so that they are now partly owned by tool giant STIHL. They opened an American headquarters in North Carolina in 2016, but their main office is in Sweden. As for their approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR), I can’t find any information on this side of the business. Instead, the FOCUS seems to be on making high quality electric power tools that are durable and energy efficient. I’ve reached out to the company for comment and will provide updates if/when I hear back from Greenworks.
Electric battery vs. gas, environmental impact and ease of use make the list
En español | It is important to have the right lawn mower. The average American spends about 17 minutes a day, or about 103 hours a year, caring for their lawn or garden, according to the “American Time Use Survey” by the U.S. Department of Labor. In recent years battery-powered mowers have become increasingly popular. Research and Markets, an online platform that provides market data, expects the global electric lawn mower market size to surpass revenues of 8 billion by 2025.
Lightweight, and with less fueling and maintenance hassle, models that run on electricity may benefit older Americans. “I like battery-powered over gas-powered for older people because of a few reasons,” says Alex Kuritz, owner of Lawn Liberty, a service that connects homeowners with lawn-maintenance workers. “First is that they are much lighter weight and are easier to handle and navigate around your yard. Second is they are easier to start and maintain, as well. With a battery-powered mower, you just need to remember to charge the batteries and do some basic cleaning, where with a gas mower, you will have more upkeep to keep it working optimally, such as yearly oil changes, making sure you have fresh gas and belt changes.”
A battery-powered mower is the lightest option. “For maneuverability, battery-powered mowers are by far the easiest. Especially on hills and slopes,” says Kuritz. “The lighter weight and self-propelled option on newer models make these a breeze to handle.”
While battery-powered mowers are lighter, they are frequently less powerful than gas options. “If you have a large lawn, one third of an acre or more, then you should consider using a gas-powered lawn mower,” advises David Hillock, Oklahoma State University extension consumer horticulturist.
Battery: 40-volt models work well for small yards without thick grass; 80-volt models are similar in power to gas mowers.
Gas: Any good mower should be able to cut through longer grass or weeds.
Battery-powered mowers are quieter, in the same way that electric cars run with a hum and not a roar.
Battery: Roughly 70 decibels, about the same as a vacuum cleaner
Gas: About 80 to 85 decibels, similar to a blender
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If you go with a battery-operated mower, you will probably have to charge it in between uses, says Hillock. Some people will buy two batteries, so they can charge one while the other is in use. For a gas mower, you can probably get two mows before needing to fill up.
Battery: A charge can last from 30 to 90 minutes.
This is just the initial cost. You will probably save money with the battery-powered option. “You might spend 20 to 30 a year on gasoline, depending, of course, on how big your lawn is and what the gas are,” says Hillock. “Versus maybe 15 to 20 a year on electricity recharging your batteries.”
Lawn maintenance can be harmful to the earth. Battery-powered mowers help mitigate the impact.
Battery: Electric mowers could cut down on the amount of gas burned in the United States. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Americans burn about 800 million gallons of gas caring for their lawns.
Gas: According to the same report, a new gas mower emits the same amount of atmospheric pollutants as driving 11 new cars for one hour.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Deciding on the best self-propelled lawn mower isn’t as easy as it used to be. Do you need commercial or residential quality? Do you want to use gas or batteries for power? How much grass do you need to cut? Are you a mulcher or a bagger?
Having tested dozens of the best walk-behind lawn mowers from entry-level residential to the top professional models, we got our Pro team together to choose our top mowers in a range of scenarios.
One of the big things changing in the market is Honda’s announcement that the brand is exiting the lawn mower market. While you can still buy Honda mowers until they run out of stock, 2023 marks the end of production. We still highly recommend them, but due to the news and iffy availability, we’re not considering Honda as part of our choices this year.
Want to see more, including ride-on and robotic recommendations? Read out Best Lawn Mower Reviews main article!
Best Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
Commercial: Exmark Commercial X-Series Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
As we bid adieu to Honda this year, the HRC series still gets two thumbs up from us while you can get them. From there, we turn to Exnark and its Commercial X line that complements its Lazer Z zero-turn mowers well. Some professionals will certainly turn to the higher-capacity 30-inch model, but we expect the 21-inch model will find its way onto more trailers.
Exmark wisely uses a Honda 163cc GXV engine with a legendary reputation for reliability. It’s fed by a generous 1-gallon fuel tank and turns the blade at tip speeds up to 18,500 fpm. There’s also an option for a Kawasaki FJ180V engine if you’d like to step up to a 179cc engine.
The deck is 1/4-inch aluminum construction that keeps the weight down (112 pounds) while maintaining high durability. The deck is adjustable from 4.5 inches on the high side all the way down to 1 inch while the drive runs at speeds up to 4.2 MPH.
Residential: Toro Super Recycler Series 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Toro runs deep in the residential lawn mower sector and our favorite among them is the Super Recycler series. Getting the best of all the technology Toro has to offer, our top recommendation (model 21565) includes the Personal Pace drive system and the Smart Stow design that allows you to vertically store the mower even though it’s a gas model.
It uses a 163cc Briggs Stratton engine that produces 7.25 ft-lbs of torque and just under 17,000 fpm blade tip speed.
Toro touts a commercial-grade construction on this model and includes a lighter aluminum deck rather than steel. In addition to that, you get outstanding cut quality, especially on the mulching side (you better with the name Super Recycler!). Wrapping it up, the Personal Pace drive system adjusts to your walking pace so there are no levers or dials to adjust.
Best Self-Propelled Electric Lawn Mower
Just a few years ago, if you wanted to find the best battery-powered lawn mower, you could only find residential models. Now, there’s an emerging class of professional-grade options and we have picks for both Pros and homeowners.
Professional: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
There aren’t many true commercial self-propelled lawn mowers with lithium-ion power sources. Milwaukee launched their effort in 2022 with a monstrous 10 ft-lbs of torque that tops what you typically see from a 200cc gas engine. It’s more than just muscle, though. Its blade and deck combine to handle mulching and bagging better than most.
As you roll into fall, the mower’s high-lift mode keeps the blades at 3300 RPM to help pull those lightweight leaves and clean up your lawn. Other features include 180° LED lighting, LED battery indicators facing you, variable speed thumb bar (in addition to the speed wheel), a durable build, and much more.
Price: 1099.00 with two 12.0Ah batteries and dual-port Rapid charger
Residential: EGO Select Cut XP 21-Inch Lawn Mower with Speed IQ
The evolution of EGO’s flagship mower is interesting. It started with the dual-battery Peak Power model that raised the bar of what lithium-ion is capable of. Then, we saw the first stacked-blade SelectCut options that improved cut quality and effectiveness in tall grass. The two technologies combined in the SelectCut XP. Now EGO adds Speed IQ to the mix.
Speed IQ is a self-propelled drive system that automatically adjusts to your pace. However, it’s not a spring-loaded set of handles like Toro uses on its Personal Pace models. Instead, there’s a sensor doing some serious engineering magic… and it works like a charm from our brief time with it at Equip Expo 2022 (formerly GIE).
Price: 599.00 bare, 999.00 with a 12.0Ah battery and Turbo charger
Best Large Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 30-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Can a battery-powered commercial mower really displace gas models? Greenworks Commercial has an 82V 30-inch model that got our attention at the Equip Expo in late 2022, and it’s hard to ignore as a legitimate option. It has the power to replace a 200cc gas engine with blade speeds up to 16,000 FPM. On a full charge, it can cover up to 2 acres.
There are drive system features worth considering as well. Independent hub wheel motors engage what Greenworks calls the Easy Turn System (ETS), making the mower easier to maneuver. Another big deal is that there is a powered reverse function—something that’s incredibly helpful with the weight of mowers in this class. The controls are all up next to your hands and there’s even a display to help you keep track of your battery levels.
Price: 1999.99 bare, 2999.99 with three 8Ah batteries and a dual-port charger
Residential: Toro TimeMaster 30-inch Personal Pace Mower
With 10 ft-lbs of torque delivered from its Briggs Stratton 223cc engine, the 30-inch Toro TimeMaster is our pick as the best large walk-behind lawn mower. Not only does it deliver big power to turn its time-saving 30-inch blade, but it also features Toro’s Personal Pace self-propelled drive and Spin-Stop that lets you stop the blade without shutting off the mower.
It all adds up to big-time savings on larger lawns. Grab model 21200 if you want an electric start or the 21199 if you don’t mind a recoil start and want to save 100.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money
Toro’s 21-inch Recycler (21352) offers an excellent value for budget-minded homeowners. It’s a Made in the USA rear-wheel drive system powered by a Briggs Stratton 140cc engine. It comes ready to mulch, bag, or side discharge and you don’t have to worry about changing the oil. Just check the levels and add more when it’s necessary.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Brand
No one in the self-propelled lawn mower market dominates like Honda. Their engines enjoy a reputation for quality and durability every other manufacturer is shooting for, and their mowers are simply outstanding.
They typically run at a premium, though. Both Honda mowers and Honda-powered mowers are more expensive than similar designs from other brands. The big kick in the pants is Honda leaving the market, though.
That opens the door for Toro. There are a lot of Toro models we recommend for good reason and hit a wide range from budget-friendly homeowner mowers to commercial zero turns. It’s one of the best-selling brands of walk-behind mowers.
Getting hard sales figures is tough to come by, and it’s always possible we missed the mark. However, we see more Honda and Toro walk-behind mowers on commercial trailers and residential lawns than any other brand.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Bagging
You don’t have to ditch your current self-propelled lawn mower and buy a whole new one to improve your bagging efficiency. In most cases, adding a high-lift blade to your current mower will make a significant difference. With the exception of electric mowers, you don’t need to worry too much about matching the brand making the blade, but you do need to match the arbor style and the length. The package should tell you which brands it is compatible with.
If you’re still in the market for a new mower, higher RPMs make for better airflow and bagging. Check mowers with a 160cc or higher engine and compare the top blade speeds. You can always swap blades, but you can’t change the speed.
Pro Tip: If you have a 2-point or 4-point deck height adjustment, set the front wheels of your mower one notch higher than the rear to improve bagging.
Best Self-Propelled Mulching Lawn Mower
Similar to a high-lift blade for bagging, you can improve your mulching efficiency with a mulching-specific blade. These usually have additional cutting edges that cut the clippings more times before they drop back into the grass. Keeping the blade sharp ensures you get the best mulching results every time you mow.
If you’re in the market for a new mower, look for a 160cc or higher engine to give you the torque you need to keep your blade speed high in thicker grass. Remember, you can always add a mulching blade, but you can’t make up for an underpowered engine.
Pro Tip: You get the best mulching results if you’re only taking an inch or two off the top of your grass, so make sure you stay on top of lawn maintenance during the peak cutting season.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Priorities
Best Rear-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Hills: YBravo Gen II 25-inch Commercial Mower
After running into issues with other commercial walk-behind mowers, we turned to YBravo 25-inch commercial mower to take care of a 3-acre soggy field that our ZTs only bogged down in. Its Kawasaki 180cc engine kept the blade turning where others simply stalled.
When it’s time to move out of the radio station swamp and you’re going for a more professional look, its cut quality is excellent as well. Available in a 21-inch and the 25-inch model we tested, Ybravo is worth serious consideration.
If you have a Bad Boy dealer closer to you, check out the same model sold under the Bad Boy brand name.
Best All-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower: Toro 22-inch Personal Pace All-Wheel Drive Mower 21472
AWD mowers are what you turn to for work on slopes and uneven terrain where it’s possible to have a wheel or two lose traction. For the best all-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower, we like the Toro 21472 Personal Pace model.
Its 22-inch deck is on the larger size of standard mowers and the Personal Pace system is easy to work with once you get used to it. If you switch between mulching and bagging, the mower’s lever system is super simple.
Packing plenty of power with its 163cc Briggs Stratton engine, it’s not so much that it destroys the competition. It’s that its performance is excellent and the innovations are genuinely helpful while keeping its price in check.
Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Recommendations
Not every mower earns an award, but there are several other models we recommend that didn’t find a place earlier in the article. Check these options out if one of the others doesn’t fit your needs.
Best Lawn Mower Buying Guide – What We Look For
Gas vs Battery
Gas power still wins the day when you’re highest priorities are keeping your purchase price down and your power level high. With advancements in battery and motor technology, the OPE world is shifting towards battery power, though. It’s cleaner and quieter to run and requires less maintenance.
However, you have to look at premium models to get true gas power, and runtime can be a limiting factor. It’s also less likely you have a service center nearby that can get you back up and running quickly if there’s a problem.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, there are a lot of battery-powered options available. Once you get beyond that size, you need to consider how many batteries you’ll need and legitimate options really start to thin out once you hit 1/2 an acre. With larger lawns, newer battery-powered zero turn mowers are a legitimate option.
Take a deeper look at the comparison between gas and battery power in this article.
Commercial vs Residential
This might be better titled “professional vs homeowner” considering there are both commercial and residential professional crews. Regardless, commercial mowers are built with better components and commercial engines, creating a machine that is built to last for years of high-hour daily use.
If you’re a homeowner mowing once a week or so, a good residential mower can still last for 5 or 10 years (or more) if you take care of it. It just uses components and engine designs better fit for occasional use.
Engine Size and Cutting Power
If you stay on top of your mowing and cut quality isn’t a high priority, an engine as small as 140cc is likely fine.
Move up to the 160cc–180cc class for better performance when the grass is thicker and taller, or when you want to make sure you get excellent mulching, bagging, and/or clean cuts. The greater power improves lift and is less likely to bog down in thick patches.
When you’re looking at deck sizes beyond 22 inches, you should start looking for engines in the 180cc–200cc range (or higher) to ensure it can keep the RPMs high while it’s cutting such a large swath.
We look for three major components of cut quality: evenness, mulching size, and bagging efficiency.
Evenness is pretty straightforward. When we’re testing, we look for grass blades that weren’t cut and indications that there wasn’t enough lift to clip all of the blades at the same level.
When mulching, smaller clippings are better since they drop down closer to the base of the remaining grass. We also look to see if a mower is prone to leaving trails and clumps.
For bagging, it’s all about how much grass is collected, if the chute tends to clog while we’re cutting, and how much grass is deposited back to the ground.
One of the major benefits of battery-powered mowers is the lower noise levels compared to gas, but that doesn’t mean gas mowers have to be obnoxious. We expect higher levels than battery-powered models and that is typically the case.
When we test noise levels, we measure from our operator’s ear to get an idea of what the person using the mower should expect. Even though some mowers are quieter than others, we still recommend hearing protection when you’re using a gas model.
How efficient gas mowers use fuel has a very direct effect on your wallet, especially when you’re mowing every day as a Pro.
Fuel efficiency testing is more than just a runtime calculation. The cutting swath of a mower comes into play, especially on those 25 and 30-inch models. With larger lawns, it’s possible to get more cutting done per gallon of gas with an engine that uses more gas per hour.
21 or 22 inches is pretty standard for most mowers. Jumping up to a 25-inch or 30-inch mower may seem tempting, but it’s not for everyone.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, the time you gain with a larger deck might not mean a whole lot of time savings. Where you really gain some time is on lawns that are a 1/2-acre or more.
Keep in mind, larger deck-size mowers are heavier. When you have to mow wet or soggy areas, the weight can work against you.
Steel vs Plastic (Poly) Deck
The vast majority of gas mowers have steel decks while battery-powered models have a much higher percentage of plastic poly decks.
Those poly plastic decks are tougher than they look, but they probably won’t hold up as well as steel in the long run. It’s still highly unlikely that you’ll wear through one before it’s time to replace the mower, though.
However, there’s a whole lot more design flexibility that comes with poly decks, and engineers can do some amazing things to help with airflow that directly affects cut quality along with bagging and mulching efficiency.
Here in Florida, we have a lot of St. Augustine grass that we cut at 3 1/2 inches, so we prefer a mower that has at least a 4-inch maximum deck height.
Depending on what species of grass you have, you might be able to get away with a lower height, but 4 inches is a good all-around benchmark.
On the low end, most of us aren’t cutting golf course greens (you’d use a reel mower for that, anyway), so the minimum deck height usually isn’t an issue.
However, if you use a blade that dethatches or scalps for maintenance or re-seeding, you might want to make sure the deck height gets low enough—typically 1 1/2 inches or less.
Single-point height adjustments are the easiest since you can raise or lower the deck with just one lever. It’s common on battery-powered lawn mowers, but not so much on their heavier gas counterparts.
Part of that is because the single-point mechanisms tend to introduce additional flex into the system and the weight of a gas mower puts more strain on the mechanism. So while we generally prefer single-point, we understand why gas mowers may opt away from them.
Pro Tip: Set the front wheels one notch higher than the rear wheels to improve bagging efficiency on 4-point or 2-point adjustable mowers.
If you’re really OCD, more height adjustments mean more precise cutting. Realistically, most of us are going to find a good height on any mower as long as it hits the maximum and minimum heights we mow at.
Setting the Speed
The type of speed adjustment your self-propelled lawn mower has can make or break your experience. There are pull levers, thumb push levers, full push bars (Toro’s Personal Pace), and iterations on those.
Try it at the dealer before you buy it. If you hate working the mechanism for a couple of minutes, imagine what it’s going to feel like after 30 minutes or an hour.
Front-Wheel Drive, Rear-Wheel Drive, or All-Wheel Drive?
Front-wheel drive lawn mowers are typically the least expensive and work well for even terrain. They also help you turn the easiest since you lift up the drive wheels as you make your turns.
Rear-wheel drive mowers add some cost but create better traction on hills and slopes. They’re particularly good at pushing the mower’s weight uphill where front-wheel drives start to lose traction as they try to pull the weight.
All-wheel drive mowers are the most expensive and generally do the best job on hills, slopes, and uneven terrain. On particularly bumpy areas where it’s likely one or more wheels will lose traction, it’s the best bet.
Larger wheels tend to handle bumps and uneven terrain better than smaller wheels according to manufacturers. However, it’s a claim that Consumer Reports says isn’t really the case.
How to Choose the Best Mower and Avoid the Worst! Lowes/Walmart/Tractor Supply Push Mower Review
If you’ve used a gas engine, there’s a good chance you’ve worn out your arm pulling the cord to start it. There’s no doubt that having an electric start on your mower can take away a lot of the frustration.
It won’t make up for poor maintenance, though. A well-maintained mower starts easily on the first or second pull. That begs the question as to whether the electric start is worth an extra hundred dollars.
It’s totally up to you, but if it’s in the budget, we want it.
Mulch, Bag, or Side/Rear Discharge?
Most quality mowers are 3-in-1, meaning you can bag, mulch, or side/rear discharge. Less expensive models often only provide options for bagging and mulching. Which one you choose depends on what type of grass you have, how fast it grows, and your personal preference.
In central Florida where St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bahia dominate our landscapes, the summer heat and rains make our grass grow incredibly fast. Most of us mulch out of necessity since we almost need a dumpster for the volume of clippings we create.
Most lawn mowers have 3 handle positions you can set. For tall guys like me or average-height guys like Clint, it helps you find a more comfortable grip. Some mowers opt for 2, or sometimes just 1 handle position.
Value is more than just price. We take a broad look at the performance and features compared to the price to determine the value of each mower.
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We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction, automotive, and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.
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The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.
In Praise of the Push Reel Mower
I recently became a homeowner and along with my first house came another first: my very own little piece of land to tend. And since Kate and I had been living in apartments for all our married life, I needed to buy a mower to take care of our lawn. Like most Americans, I grew up using and being surrounded by gas-powered mowers. The sound of two-stroke engines firing up around the neighborhood was the unofficial soundtrack of my boyhood summers.
But despite my immersion in the cult of Lawn Boy, I’ve always been intrigued by old-fashioned manual/push reel mowers. Maybe my curiosity about them came from flipping through old magazines depicting a happy 1950s suburban dad mowing his small patch of green heaven. Or maybe it was from watching groundskeepers use giant reel mowers to mow the infield at baseball stadiums.
Whatever the reason for my lifelong pull towards the manual reel mower, when I was in the market for my own mower, I decided to look into whether the old-fashioned push reel mower was a viable option for my lawn mowing needs. To my great surprise, I discovered that the reel mower isn’t just a viable option, but is in some instances superior to its gas-powered cousins.
How a Push Reel Mower Works
Your typical power rotary mower has a spinning blade that chops off the top of the grass as it rotates like a helicopter, resulting in torn and shredded turf. Instead of tearing and chopping your grass, a reel mower cuts your grass just like a pair of scissors. It’s easier to understand how this works when you can see the mower, rather than just describing it, so check out the video below for a full explanation:
Oh, and it goes without saying, but unlike a power mower that requires gas or electricity to work, you provide the power to your manual reel mower.
Choosing a Push Reel Mower
The basic construction of a reel mower is pretty much the same across brands. They mainly vary in characteristics like:
- Weight. How heavy will it be when you’re pushing it?
- Cutting width. The longer and bigger the mower is, the heavier it will be, but the less passes you’ll have to make back and forth on your lawn, and thus the faster you’ll get the job done.
- Cutting heights. What’s the range of heights you can adjust the blades up and down?
- Direction of grass spray. Does the grass spray behind the mower or out in front? Obviously the latter has an advantage in not covering your feet with clippings.
When I was looking for a reel mower, I did a lot of research and finally brought home the Fiskars Staysharp Max Push Reel Lawn Mower. This thing isn’t your grandpa’s heavy old contraption. The folks at Fiskars have taken the old manual reel mower design and updated it for the 21st century: it’s 60% easier to push than other manual mowers, boasts twice the cutting power of competitors, sprays the grass out in front of you, and the blades only need sharpening every 5-10 years (that’s the “StaySharp” bit). It’s fast, powerful, and maneuverable. Not to mention kind of fun to use. After mowing with my Fiskars for nearly two months, I can confidently say that it’s given me the best mowing experience I’ve ever had. Kate and I even fight over who gets to mow the lawn now (the compromise: I mow the front; she mows the back). I can’t sing the mower’s praises highly enough ( and I don’t have any affiliation with the company whatsoever, by the way–just a very happy customer ).
Look at that beautiful cascade of grass.
If your only experience with a push reel mower was using a heavy clunker in your youth, I highly recommend giving the Fiskars a try. It will change your mind about manual mowers.
The Benefits of a Push Reel Mower
Push reel mowers are better for your grass’ health. This was my biggest motivating factor for purchasing a push reel mower as opposed to a power rotary mower. As mentioned above, power rotary mowers cut the grass by chopping and tearing your grass, while reel mowers cut the grass by snipping it cleanly like a pair of scissors. Torn and shredded grass leaves your lawn vulnerable to disease and insect attacks; grass that is cleanly cut with a reel mower heals faster and is less vulnerable to those maladies.
Push reel mowers make your lawn look nicer. Not only are reel mowers better for your grass’ health, they leave your lawn looking professionally manicured. Again, it all goes back to the scissor-like way the reel mower cuts the grass. Clean and even cuts make for a clean and even-looking lawn. The reel mower’s superior cut is the reason why groundskeepers at professional baseball stadiums and golf courses use large reel mowers pulled by tractors. The reel cut makes the grass look purty.
Push reel mowers are quiet. One of the things I hated the most about the old gas-powered Lawn Boy of my youth was the noise. First, it’s just grating to have to listen to a loud and obnoxious two-stroke engine for extended periods of time. Second, because the thing was so stinking loud, I couldn’t mow the grass too early or too late in the evening, lest I disturb the neighbors. That’s not a problem if you live in, say, Vermont, where summer days are pleasantly warm and idyllic (if it’s not raining). When you live in hot and humid Oklahoma, however, mowing your yard during the day with the sun beating down on you is downright miserable.
The push reel mower solves both of those noise-related problems. The only sound it makes is a satisfyingly quiet “snip-snip-snip” as the mower cuts the grass. I love hearing that sound. It’s actually rather soothing. And because my manual reel mower is so darn quiet, I can mow my lawn early in the morning without waking up the neighbors. Goodbye 107-degrees-with-a-heat-index-of-a-115 lawn mowing sessions!
Push reel mowers don’t emit pollution. Don’t let the smallness of your power lawn mower engine deceive you. That sucker spits out a crap load of air pollution. If you let a typical gas-powered lawn mower run for an hour, it will produce as much air pollution as a sedan running for two hundred miles. Jeez-um!
The amount of pollution a push reel mower produces? Zilch. Unless of course you count the relaxing farts you rip as you cut the grass.
If you’re an environmentally-conscious guy, the choice is clear between power and manual. You gotta go manual.
Push reel mowers are hassle-free. Push reel mowers are simple machines. You push it and blades spin around and cut your grass. That’s it. No pulling starter cords or priming the engine before you can mow. Just start walking and–bam!–you’re cutting the grass. Also, you’ll never have to buy gas, oil, or spark plugs ever again. About the only maintenance you’ll have with your manual reel mower is blade sharpening, and some folks think that’s more of an enjoyable, mind-settling task than a chore. And again, with the Fiskars, you’ll only have to sharpen the blades every half decade or so.
Push reel mowers are cheaper. Even a “top-of-the-line” reel mower like the Fiskars costs less than most power mowers. And if you get one of the smaller, classic models, they can run you less than 100. Plus, there are no maintenance costs. With gas as high as they are, why waste a single drop tooling around your backyard?
Push reel mowers exercise your body. There’s no autodrive on a push reel mower. These bad boys are man-powered. The Fiskars is particularly heavy for a reel mower (52 lbs), but is designed in a way that makes it easier to push, and it gives me a nice bout of exercise; hard enough to work up a satisfying sweat, but not so hard it leaves me feeling exhausted. It’s kind of like pushing a Prowler Sled around your yard, except for that when you’re done, you’re in better shape and your lawn has been mowed.
Push reel mowers are safer than power mowers. In a careless moment a power mower can turn into a rolling death trap, or at least an appendage mauler. than 75,000 Americans, 10,000 of which are children, are injured in lawn mowing accidents annually, and, get this, 75 people die from lawn mowing accidents every year. Mowing over a grass-hidden rock can turn it into a projectile capable of traveling 200 mph and taking out someone’s eye, and the power mower’s fast-whirling blades have eaten up children’s toes and hands. And even if your power mower isn’t running, you’re still at risk for an accident. I burnt my hand on a hot lawn mower engine as a boy and still have the scar to prove it.
While some dangers still exist when using a reel mower, they’re much, much safer than power mowers. Unless I ran the thing right over someone Tom and Jerry-style, there’s little risk of it chewing up a limb. If you run over a rock, instead of shooting it out like a bullet, your mower just jams. Also, no hot engines to burn yourself on.
Push reel mowers make mowing a pleasure. As a young man, I saw lawn mowing as a chore that you had to do every week. I didn’t look forward to it. I just did it because I had to. Since I’ve started mowing with my Fiskars push reel mower, mowing the grass has turned from a chore into a pleasure. I actually look forward to lawn mowing day. Really! I love pushing it in the cool of the early morning as birds chirp at the day’s start. I love listening to the quiet “snip-snip-snip” of grass cutting. I love the physicality of it–how it feels a little like pushing a plow. I love watching tiny blades of cut grass spit out in front of my mower in a green cascade. Most of all, I love the satisfying feeling I get as I look over my cleanly cut lawn.
Is a Push Reel Mower Right For You?
In Gran Torino, Korean War vet Walt Kowalski calms his mind before confronting a violent gang by mowing his yard with a manual reel mower. Manly.
Now before you head to the home improvement store to pick up a push reel mower, you need to know that it’s not for everybody. Sometimes power or riding mowers are actually better, depending on a variety of factors. Below I highlight a few of these factors you should consider before switching to a push reel mower.
Your yard is a half-acre or smaller. Manual reel mowers are suited for small to medium-sized yards. Most experts agree that if you have to mow more than 8,000 square feet, you’re better off using a power push or riding mower. Although I will say that my yard is on the large end of a medium-sized yard, and it only takes me 45 minutes to mow with my manual mower. And if your yard is the size of most yards in suburban developments, there really isn’t any reason you shouldn’t use a push reel mower.
You can’t bag clippings. If you’re one of those folks who prefer to bag your clippings, then a push reel mower probably isn’t for you. While some push reel mowers have a basket that will catch your clippings, they don’t work very well, and many don’t offer any clipping catcher at all.
However, if you’re a devoted-bagger, you might reconsider your stance. Most lawn care experts agree that you shouldn’t bag your clippings and should just leave them in your grass. Grass clippings are fertilizer for your lawn. They provide the same beneficial nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium nutrients that are in commercial fertilizers, except they’re free.
Not great for excessively bumpy and overgrown yards. I’ve noticed that on areas of my lawn that have a lot of bumps, the reel mower doesn’t do a good job of cutting, mainly because the wheels can’t get good traction to move the blade. I’ll usually have to come back and trim that with my weed-wacker. It’s not a problem because there’s only one part in my lawn that gives me trouble.
Also, push reel mowers work best on yards that are already well-maintained. They don’t cut really long grass too well, so if you always let your grass get pretty long before you cut it, you’re better off using a power mower.
What sort of grass do you have? Manual reel mowers work better on some types of grass than others. Most reel mowers have a hard time handling extra thick grasses like Zoysia, St. Augustine, and Bermuda. Never fear. If you have a lawn that’s made completely of one of these grasses, you’re not necessarily relegated to just gas-powered mowers. Heavier, more powerful manual reel mowers like the Fiskars don’t have a problem with these types of grasses. Adjusting the height of the reel mower’s blades can also prevent the mower from getting bogged down in thick grass.
Shave Like Your Grandpa, Mow Like Your Grandpa
After a couple of months of using my push reel mower, I really don’t know why the manual mower isn’t more popular or why most folks get the gas-powered variety. It seems quite analogous to shaving. There are a few things where the classic turns out to do just as good a job (sometimes an even better one), and provides a more enjoyable and satisfying experience to boot. The safety razor is one of those things. And so is the push reel mower. Give it a try!