The 6 Best Walk-Behind Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed. Reel mower 20 inch
The 6 Best Walk-Behind Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Camryn Rabideau is a freelance writer and product reviewer specializing in home, kitchen, and pet products. In her 6 years of experience as a product tester, she’s reviewed hundreds of items firsthand, and her work appears in publications such as PEOPLE, The Spruce, Homes Gardens, and more. Camryn is also the proud owner of a small homestead in Rhode Island, where she spends her spare time gardening, tending her many animals, and working through a never-ending list of home improvement projects.
In This Article
Summer is almost upon us, which means it’s time to start thinking about lawn care. There are a wide variety of lawn mowers that you can use keep your backyard looking pristine, but it’s important to find the right option to fit your yard — and your budget. If you have a small- to midsize yard, a walk-behind lawn mower generally provides the right balance of value and efficiency.
Nicole Durden, senior merchant of outdoor power at The Home Depot, says that both gas and electric mowers can make lawn care an easier chore. “Depending on your yard’s size and terrain, a walk-behind mower is ideal for a yard that’s ¾ of an acre or less,” she adds.
Today, you can find walk-behind lawn mowers that are powered by gas, batteries, or even an extension cord, and to help you select the best product for your yard, we tested nine popular models, putting them through the paces over the course of 10 hours of testing. After many hours of mowing, we evaluated each walk-behind mower on its design, performance, useability, safety, and value.
The following are the best walk-behind lawn mowers that People Tested.
Honda HRN216VKA 21-Inch Gas Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- The mower is able to cut through dense and wet grass on the first pass.
- It starts quickly and reliably with just one pull.
- Thorough mulching abilities can handle wet leaves and grass.
- Good value for a lawn mower of its size and power.
- Bag latch can become clogged with clippings and may need cleanout prior to reinserting the bag.
- Self-propelled speed doesn’t respond well to slight increases.
In terms of all-around performance, our top-recommended walk-behind mower is this model from Honda. The gas mower has a self-propelled design that’s powered by a 4-stroke 166cc engine, yet we found that it was extremely easy to start up, only ever needing one pull to get the motor going. The tool has a 21-inch cutting deck and weighs around 75 pounds, but despite its substantial weight, the self-propelled design made it easy for us to operate and navigate around obstacles in the yard.
This Honda lawn mower did a phenomenal job while cutting, and it was able to cut through dense patches of grass and weeds on a single pass. We even tested it in slightly damp conditions, and it didn’t get bogged down at all. You can choose between rear discharge, bagging, or mulching grass clippings, and we loved that the mulching setting cut debris up into fine pieces that will help feed nutrients back into the lawn. It was even able to mulch wet leaves and grass without any issues.
While we were impressed with this mower’s overall performance, there are a few small caveats worth noting. The area where the collection bag latches to the mower frequently got clogged with grass pieces, and we had to clean it out before reattaching the bag. Additionally, the self-propulsion doesn’t respond well to gradual increases in speed — it tends to go from slow to fast with no options in between.
Price at time of publish: 549
Power Source: Gas | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 74.75 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Rear discharge, bag, mulch
Sun Joe MJ401E-P2 Electric Lawn Mower
- This lawn mower is very lightweight, and it’s similar to operating a vacuum.
- Its small form is easy to maneuver and can fit into tight spaces.
- The mower is much quieter than a gas-powered mower.
- Grass collection bag fills up very quickly and may need to be emptied multiple times while mowing.
- Grass can get clogged underneath the mowing deck, which causes the mower to shut off.
If you have a small yard, chances are you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a push mower. Luckily for you, the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower is an inexpensive option that’s unbelievably easy to use and maintain. This lawn mower is half the weight of many other walk-behind models we tested, and its corded design makes it easy to mow a small yard without worrying about running out of power. In testing, we found that it requires very little effort to push — we’d compare it to pushing a vacuum cleaner across a carpet — and were impressed by how quiet it is while mowing.
This electric mower can get into tight spaces easily, thanks to its 14-inch cutting deck, but it can get stuck if you’re cutting thick grass — during testing, the mower shut off on us because the blades were clogged up. However, it was easy to clean out the cutting deck and continue mowing. The only major downside of this compact electric mower is that it solely bags grass clippings, and the collection bag is extremely small. We had to empty it two or three times while mowing a 400-square-foot area, which made the process take a little longer than expected.
Price at time of publish: 108
Power Source: Plug-in | Cutting Width: 14 inches | Weight: 29 pounds | Self-Propelled: No | Clipping Options: Bag
Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch 3-in-1 Corded Lawn Mower
- Good value for a larger corded mower.
- The mower performs well on both dry and damp grass, as well as tall weeds.
- It has no problem driving over uneven ground.
- The mower is easy to push with one hand, even though it’s not self-propelled.
- It can be a bit bulky to turn or maneuver around obstacles.
- Clippings often fall out when emptying the collection bag, even if it’s not full.
The Greenworks Corded Lawn Mower is a great value if you don’t mind working around an extension cord as you mow. This electric model has a fairly large 20-inch cutting deck, and it offers side discharge, bagging, and mulching abilities, unlike other corded models we tested. We used it on both dry and damp grass, and it had no problems cutting either one, breezing right through tall weeds. It also did a good job capturing grass clippings in the included collection bag, though some do spill out when you remove the bag for emptying.
We tested this mower on a fairly uneven lawn, and thanks to its large rear wheels, it didn’t have any problem driving over divots that have posed a problem for other mowers. We were able to push the mower around with just one hand, holding the power cord with the other, but it does require two hands to turn the mower around, as it’s a bit bulky (and not self-propelled). Bottom line? With its affordable price and reliable performance, this mower is a good option for anyone with a smaller yard who wants a corded lawn mower with features.
Price at time of publish: 229
Power Source: Plug-in | Cutting Width: 20 inches | Weight: 56 pounds | Self-Propelled: No | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
EGO Power Select Cut 56-Volt 21-Inch Self-Propelled Cordless Lawn Mower
- The battery still had power left after 50 minutes of use.
- The handle can be adjusted to different heights and angles for maximum comfort.
- The self-propelled design is easy to maneuver and takes strain off your body.
- The mower did get bogged down on a wet patch of grass and ferns.
- The process to start the mower is a bit complicated and hard to understand based on the directions.
There are several benefits to battery-powered mowers like the EGO Power Self-Propelled Lawn Mower, including its lack of emissions, quiet operation, and minimal maintenance. This 21-inch lawn mower only comes with one 56-volt battery, but it was able to mow for 50 minutes with power to spare, making it a great option even for larger yards. On first use, we struggled to figure out how to start the mower — it’s not as simple as just pushing a single button — but once we conquered that hurdle, it was smooth sailing.
The self-propelled design was easy to maneuver around the yard, and we loved that it requires minimal effort, so it won’t strain your back. The mower delivered a clean, even cut, even when the grass was damp, and it’s easy and intuitive to adjust settings like the cutting height and mower speed. We did find that the mower would occasionally get bogged down in thicker, wet areas (for instance, it had trouble cutting through a patch of ferns), but this is the case with many mowers, so we don’t think it’s a dealbreaker.
Price at time of publish: 549 (orig. 576.45)
Power Source: Battery | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 54.5 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
Honda HRX217VKA 21-Inch Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
- The mower is easy to start without priming or worrying about flooding the motor.
- Self-propelled function locks into your desired speed, saving you from having to hold down a lever.
- There’s a setting that allows you to half bag and half mulch the grass clippings.
If you have a lot of ground to cover, we recommend this Honda HRX Lawn Mower. It’s powered by a 201cc engine that easily cuts through thick and dense grass, yet it’s incredibly easy to start up — we were able to get the mower going with a single pull, no priming needed. The Honda mower also has 4-in-1 functionality, meaning you can side discharge, bag, mulch, or shred grass clippings, and we like that there’s even an option to bag half and mulch half. This setting would definitely come in handy if you’re cutting longer grass.
This mower also stood out thanks to its convenient self-propelled design. The control bar has a knob that lets you select the speed you want, essentially locking the mower at that pace so you don’t have to worry about holding the lever down at the right pressure. It can also go quite fast — we found that a medium speed was comfortable for walking, but you could dial it up for faster mowing, if desired.
Overall, we had very few complaints about this self-propelled mower. It did take a little trial and error to find the right deck height and speed setting, but once that was done, the mower delivered a nice even cut every time.
Price at time of publish: 799 (orig. 989.99)
Power Source: Gas | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 91 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch, leaf shred
Ryobi 40V HP Brushless 21-Inch Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Mower
- Unbelievably quiet during operation — it almost sounds like a white noise machine.
- The battery-powered mower offers comparable power to a gas mower.
- The batteries lasted for more than three mowings (42 minutes total) without needing to be recharged.
- Self-propelled design makes it effortless to mow hilly areas.
The Ryobi Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Lawn Mower is our top pick for anyone with a hilly yard, as its self-propulsion abilities outperformed the competition in our testing. This electric mower has a standard 21-inch deck, and we found that it performs just as well as gas mowers thanks to its two powerful 40-volt batteries. It offers variable speed self-propulsion that lets you match the mower to your pace, and it had no problems tackling hills during testing. In fact, the feature can be too fast on straightaways if you turn it to max speed — we had to jog to keep up with it!
Because this mower is battery-powered, it’s much quieter than a gas mower, almost sounding like a white noise machine. It also impressed us with its runtime — we were able to mow a 2,000-square-foot yard three times without needing to recharge the batteries. While we loved the convenience and easy operation of this mower, it wasn’t totally perfect. The main negatives we discovered were that the grass collection bag is quite small and needed to be emptied frequently while mowing, and the mulching setting left behind quite a few dry leaves on the lawn.
Price at time of publish: 919
Power Source: Battery | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 75 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
Things to Consider Before Buying a Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
There are three main styles of walk-behind lawn mowers: gas, battery, and electric, also called corded. Gas mowers are usually the most powerful option, boasting large motors that can power through thick grass and weeds, but they’re also loud and require frequent maintenance, including oil and spark plug changes.
For these reasons, battery-powered models are becoming more popular: “Homeowners have been gravitating to battery power for a few years, and we’ll be seeing even more of that in 2023 with various laws and regulations and even HOA restrictions aiming to limit the use of gas,” explains Durden. “Advancements in technology are making it possible and practical for everyone to make the switch — we have several battery mowers that offer the same (or better) power than gas mowers today.” Battery-powered mowers are also quieter and don’t give off any harmful emissions, but they do have a limited runtime. Our top pick for a battery-powered mower is the EGO Power Lawn Mower.
Finally, there are corded walk-behind mowers, which tend to be the most affordable. These use an extension cord to plug into an electrical outlet, giving them an unlimited runtime, but you have to navigate around the cord as you mow, which is why they’re recommended for small yards.
The size of your yard will dictate which type of walk-behind mower is best for your needs. If you have a small yard that’s less than ¼ acre, a corded push mower will generally meet your needs. These are usually lightweight and have smaller decks, and they’re easy to operate and store.
For larger yards, you may want to upgrade to a self-propelled mower, such as the Ryobi Dual-Blade Mower, which moves forwards on its own using power from the motor. This means you don’t have to physically push the mower to move it around your yard, making the process less strenuous.
In terms of a gas vs. battery powered model, battery mowers do have a limited runtime — typically less than an hour, but it will vary by product — which may not be enough for yards that are an acre or more. However, keep in mind that you can always buy backup batteries, if needed.
The terrain of your yard is another factor to consider as you shop for a lawn mower. “If your yard is flat, a push mower will be the most affordable choice,” recommends Durden. “If your yard has hills, you may want to invest in a self-propelled mower that takes less manual effort.”
Walk-behind mowers with larger rear wheels — like the Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch 3-in-1 Corded Lawn Mower — tend to handle better on uneven ground, so you may want to look for this feature if your yard has a lot of divots or ruts.
There are three main options for handling grass clippings while you’re mowing: discharging them out the side or back, bagging them up, or mulching them into fine pieces that will decay back into your lawn. Some lawn mowers, such as the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower only offer one option, while other models like the Honda Hrx 21-in Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower offer all three.
If you want a bagging mower, pay careful attention to the size of the collection bag in comparison to your yard. If the bag is too small, you may find yourself stopping to empty it frequently — a problem we ran into when testing the Ryobi Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Mower.
How We Tested
We researched today’s most popular walk-behind lawn mowers, and we selected nine top-rated models for testing, including three battery-operated, two corded, and four gas options. We sent each model to the homes of our testers, who are located in seven different cities across three states, and they tested each lawn mower over the period of several days.
We used each lawn mower three times, evaluating them on their ease of use, performance, power, safety features, and more. Each product was then scored on its setup, design, performance, usability, safety, and value, and the highest-scoring products were selected for this round-up.
If you have a larger yard or a lot of hilly terrain, a self-propelled lawn mower will take a lot of the manual effort out of mowing your grass. “Self-propelled mowers are designed to automatically move forward from 1 to 3.5 miles per hour,” explains Durden. “They‘re recommended for yards of more than half an acre, especially those that are hilly or sloped. Some mowers offer variable speeds that come in handy when working near trees and garden beds.”
In general, you can expect to pay between 400 and 1,000 for a self-propelled lawn mower, and the more you’re willing to spend, the more power and features your mower will have. However, some of our top-rated models are only around 500, so don’t feel like you have to splurge to get a great tool.
If your lawn is only a few hundred square feet, you can probably get by with a reel-style lawn mower, but if it’s over ¼ of an acre, a walk-behind mower will make weekly maintenance much easier. The great thing about walk-behind lawn mowers is that there’s an option for every lawn size and budget. If you have a small yard, an inexpensive option like the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower will make quick work of your grass without breaking the bank.
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Camryn Rabideau has been a professional product tester for six years, and she’s previously tested ride-on lawn mowers from popular brands like Ryobi and Husqvarna. While writing this article, she relied on firsthand insights from the People Tested team, who used these lawn mowers for a total of 10 hours. She also spoke with Nicole Durden, senior merchant of outdoor power at The Home Depot, for tips on selecting the right lawn mower for your home based on factors like your yard size, terrain, and budget.
What Is People Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
Lawn mower technology has advanced in the past few decades, but there are still many reasons to opt for a reel mower. Read on for top recommendations and tips on navigating this mower market.
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Quiet in operation, simple to maintain, and largely affordable, reel lawn mowers can be Smart options for yard maintenance. Taking up about a third of the storage room needed by a traditional mower, they’re easy keepers.
Reel mowers also might be better for a lawn’s health than standard mowers. They make a sharp cut along the top of the grass blade, similar to the way scissors cut. Traditional rotary mowers have blades with a tendency to tear the grass, which causes ragged brown tips and increases the risk of disease.
While all reel mowers function similarly, there are differences among the options. We tested the following models to find out how blade width, mowing height, handle design, and other details affect performance in different settings. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for a reel mower, and find out why the following models are among the best reel mower options available.
- BEST OVERALL:Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- UPGRADE PICK:Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS:Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR TOUGH GRASS:Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT:American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower
- BEST WITH GRASS CATCHER: Greenworks RM1400 14-Inch Lawn Mower
- ALSO CONSIDER:Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower
How We Tested the Best Reel Mowers
We tested these mowers in a Georgia backyard in the middle of winter. That meant a combination of dormant warm-season grasses (some Bermuda grass and some centipede grass) along with a few areas infested with cool-season weeds like annual bluegrass, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, and wild onion. The test areas included a combination of flat, sloped, and uneven lawn.
We divided the lawn into test plots so that each mower would have a chance to prove its capability under a variety of conditions. For inclusion in this article, each mower had to effectively perform the basic function for which it was built: mowing to reduce the grass height by approximately one-third. Then, beyond basic weed-free lawn mowing, we also tested each mower on the tougher conditions of overgrown and weed-infested grass. All of the mowers included in this guide easily passed the basic functionality test and earned bonus points by tackling one or more adverse conditions, noted in the reviews.
Our Top Picks
Using a reel mower is an environmentally friendly way to mow the lawn and get a bit of fresh air and exercise at the same time. We tested these manual models on our lawn to find out which would be the best reel mowers for different users and circumstances. Learn about the performance details in the reviews.
Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
Those wanting a wide swath on a reel mower may want to consider the Great States 18-inch five-blade mower that cuts a hearty swath to reduce mowing time. This reel mower is simple in design and allows for adjusting mowing height from as low as 0.5 inch to as high as 2.75 inches. It comes with 10-inch composite wheels and back stability rollers.
The blades are made from heat-treated alloy to retain their sharpness longer, and the handle comes with nonslip cushioning to help reduce blisters and to improve grip. The loop-style handle folds down for easy storage, and the mower weighs in at 27 pounds.
In our backyard test, this mower worked quickly, quietly, and easily. It was pretty easy to push in all but the thickest grass but was abruptly stopped by twigs or debris thicker than a pencil (as were the rest of these mowers). We liked the padded wide-loop handle that gave it the familiar feel of a conventional gas mower. Sharpening the blades—a task that most users would require once or twice a season—requires disassembly of one wheel to access the blade drive mechanism. The process is typical of these mowers and was only slightly complicated.
- Wide swath cuts down mowing time; great for larger yards
- Loop handle increases user comfort and control
- 10-inch wheels roll easily over uneven terrain
- Alloy steel blades stay sharp longer; less maintenance required
- 3.5 inches from blade edge to outer edge of wheels means more edge trimming
- Sharpening, when necessary, requires disassembly of the drive wheel
- Hard plastic blade height bracket seems like it may wear out prematurely
Get the Great States 18-inch reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
For affordability and mowing ease, this five-blade reel mower is a worthy option. It features a smooth cutting operation and a cushioned T-handle that makes it easy to maneuver around corners. Its 16-inch swath width makes the mower relatively simple to push, and it features back rollers for added stability.
This reel mower’s five heat-treated alloy blades resist dulling, and blade height is adjustable from 1 inch to 2.5 inches, making it optimal for mowing short grass species, such as buffalo or zoysia. At just under 25 pounds, it’s also easy to maneuver.
We found this 16-inch mower to be a good “middle of the road” option: narrow enough to move well through thick grass but still wide enough to get the job done quickly. Its T-style handlebar grips gave it a more “articulate” feel that was comfortable and easy to maneuver. The 16-inch blade moved slightly easier through dense grass than the 18-inch model but still cut a generous swath.
- Lower profile for easy storage; great for busy gardeners with lots of tools to store
- Comfortable handlebar style grips; ideal for prolonged use
- Easy to use screw-knob-style height adjustment
- Cuts too low for taller grasses like fescue
- Sticks, acorns, and pine cones stop the blades abruptly
- Does not cut to the edge; may need a trimmer tool
Get the Great States 16-inch reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower
The saying “You get what you pay for” rings true with this reel mower from Fiskars. Boasting high-quality StaySharp blades that reduce the need for resharpening, this model also includes two small front rollers to help balance and stabilize the mower. It also features InertiaDrive, a design that allows the mower to power through thicker grasses.
At around twice the price of the others we tested, the Fiskars Stay Sharp Max mower delivered performance to justify it. Weighing in at a hefty 52 pounds, the build feels heavy duty but works smoothly and efficiently. The ergonomic handle was extremely comfortable, and the machine moved almost effortlessly over all but the roughest ground. The only criticism we had was that the 8.5-inch drive wheels felt somewhat undersized. Unlike other reel mowers, the wheels are offset in a way that prevents them from flattening the grass before it is mowed and allows the mower to cut within an inch of the edge rather than 3.5 inches from the edge like other reel mowers. The toolless lever height adjustment worked with one hand, in seconds. It was a pleasure to mow with this tool, and the completed cut was clean and even.
Cutting height is adjustable from 1 to 4 inches, and there’s an adjustable chute so the clippings can be directed to fall in front of the mower or behind it. The Fiskars mower cuts a generous 18-inch swath, making it well suited to mowing small and medium-size yards. An optional grass catcher can be purchased separately.
- Heavy-duty construction can last for several years
- Ergonomic design feel comfortable to use
- Easy to adjust and maneuver with oversized wheels
- Cuts closest to the edges so users can skip the trimmer
- Twice the price of other reel mowers
- than twice the weight of other reel mowers
- Bulky design takes up slightly more storage space
Get the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
With just a 14-inch swath width and a ball-bearing reel, this little mower is just right for a small lawn and more petite users. This narrower-than-most reel mower is easy to maneuver around trees and corners, and it comes with a back roller for added stability. The blades are made from a heat-treated alloy to help reduce dulling, and it comes with a low adjustable cutting height from 1 to 1.75 inches, making it best suited to short grass species.
A narrow overall body width of just 20 inches, 8.5-inch rubber tires, and a traditional handlebar with padded grips makes this mower easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and it takes up minimal storage space. At just under 20 pounds, it is even light enough to hang on a wall hook. It is essentially a scaled-down version of our 16-inch Best Bang for the Buck pick, with similar height and blade adjustments. Unfortunately, this smaller model requires a wrench to adjust the height instead of using screw-knobs. However, the narrow body was even easier to push in dense grass but took almost twice as long to mow the same amount of space when the imperfections of walking a straight line, additional turnaround times, and overlapping edges are factored in. This could be a good pick for mowing a small grass patch around a townhouse or condo.
- Compact size makes this easy to maneuver in small spaces
- Lightweight and low profile for easy storage
- No frills gardening tool makes for low maintenance
- Does not cut close to the edges (3.5 inches from blade edge to outer wheel)
- Too lightweight for mowing sloped areas
- Height adjustment requires a wrench
Get the Great States 14-inch reel mower at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Northern Tool Equipment.
Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
The Earthwise Reel Lawn Mower comes with seven blades—two more than most reel mowers—giving it extra oomph for powering through dense grass. The Earthwise mower cuts a 16-inch swath with its steel alloy blades that are designed to stay sharp longer. The grass-cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, suitable for a range of grasses, including St. Augustine, buffalo, and Bermuda.
Weighing in at 26 pounds, this reel mower comes with a T-handle that makes it easier to maneuver around the corners of houses and trees, and the handgrips feature nonslip cushioning to reduce hand fatigue and blistering.
In our tests, this seven-blade mower gave the cleanest, most consistent cut. We even used it to scalp a section of dormant centipede grass, where it left a smooth, even finish. Unfortunately, the additional blades offered more resistance, making it a little harder to push than five-blade models. Because it has height adjustments ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, a good strategy would be to mow regularly at 1 or 1.5 inches and leave a little room to move higher if the grass gets ahead of you.
- 7 alloy steel blades are great for mowing coarse grasses
- Easy-to-use height adjustment screw-knobs
- Cleanly maintain dense grasses at low height
- Harder to push than 5-blade models
- Does not work as well if grass grows extra long between cuts
- Not suitable for taller grasses like fescue
Get the Earthwise reel mower at Amazon.
American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower
With a total weight of just 20 pounds, this 14-inch American Lawn Mower is the lightest reel mower in the lineup. It features four cutting blades made from heat-treated steel alloy to reduce dulling and has 8.5-inch polymer wheels and rear rollers to increase stability.
This smaller American Lawn Mower is well suited to mowing a small lawn, and its light weight makes it simpler for more petite users to operate. It comes with a T-handle and cushioned nonslip grips for comfortable mowing. The handle on this lightweight, low-maintenance reel mower folds down for storage, and it is light enough to be hung on wall hooks in the garage if desired. Cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 1.5 inches.
With only four 14-inch blades slicing against the bedknife, this mower offered the least resistance of all the mowers we tested, making it the easiest mower to push. However, fewer blades meant a less consistent finish in dense or overgrown grass. Overall the ALMC 14-inch four-blade reel mower felt strong and durable and was easy to use, but it required a second pass to clean up some of the more difficult areas. It’s probably a good choice for keeping up with pathways in the veggie garden or other secondary grassy areas.
- Very budget-friendly compared to similar options
- Easy to push, even in overgrown or dense grass
- Durable construction yet still a lightweight and maneuverable design
- Fewer blades produce a less thorough cut
- Requires a wrench for height adjustments
- 8.5-inch wheels do not roll as well over rough ground
Get the American Lawn Mower Company reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Greenworks RM1400 14-Inch Lawn Mower
Bagging grass clippings is a cinch with the Greenworks Reel Mower. The mower cuts a 14-inch swath, and the mowing height adjusts from 1.06 to 2 inches, making it well suited to most low-growing lawn grass species. It comes with a T-handle that makes it easy to mow around tree trunks, and it features nonslip cushioned grips for comfort. The handle folds down for convenient storage.
The Greenworks mower comes with a handy grass catcher that connects to the rear of the mower for collecting grass clippings, and the mowing reel has five heat-treated steel alloy blades designed to remain sharp longer. The mower weighs 24 pounds.
In our trials, the Greenworks RM1400 was easy to push and maneuver, thanks to its lightweight frame, narrow wheel base, and T-style handlebar. The mowing height is easy to adjust with spring pins but only varies within a narrow 1-inch range. The sharpening process is similar to other reel mowers, with the exception of the bedknife mounting system. Where most manufacturers use pairs of set screws on both ends to adjust and hold the angle, Greenworks uses single spring-loaded bolts at the ends to hold the proper angle. The system seems less complicated but could offer less durability—only time and extended use will tell.
- Grass catcher included; no mess left behind after use
- Lightweight and easy to push; great for larger yards
- Provides a clean, consistent finish
- Full grass catcher makes the mower difficult to maneuver
- Components feel less durable than other models
- Wheel assembly is more difficult to disassemble for sharpening
Get the Greenworks 14-inch reel mower at Amazon or Greenworks.
Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower
With a slightly wider swath than the other Greenworks mower in the lineup, this 16-inch reel mower deserves a look. The wider swath means fewer passes when mowing, and the 10-inch front wheels make the mower easier to push. This Greenworks model also comes with two rear wheels for stability, and it features a detachable grass catcher for collecting clippings when desired.
This Greenworks reel mower offers an adjustable mow height from 1.125 to 2.25 inches, and it comes with a cushioned ergonomic loop handle that folds to take up less storage space. The mower weighs 26 pounds.
Built on the same platform as its 14-inch sibling, this Greenworks 16-inch reel mower boasts a wider range of cutting heights and a comfortable ergonomic loop-style handle. In our tests the loop handle made it much easier to push and maneuver the mower, especially as the grass catcher filled. The swath size and five-blade configuration hit the sweet spot, balancing the ability to mow tall and dense grass without causing user fatigue. However, a few design features appear less durable, including lightweight plastic rollers and a two-bolt adjustment system for the bedknife. This one would make a good pick for regular use on an otherwise well-maintained lawn.
- Handle folds down for compact storage
- Easy-to-use spring-pin height adjustment
- Comfortable ergonomic handle is ideal for prolonged use
- Lightweight bedknife-adjustment system
- Grass catcher may be somewhat undersize
- Construction feels less durable than the competition
Get the Greenworks 16-inch reel mower at Amazon.
What to Consider When Choosing a Reel Mower
For any home with a lawn, mowing is a fact of life that is required in most neighborhoods. To cultivate a lush green expanse, regular mowing is essential. When mowing is done correctly—frequently enough to remove no more than one-third the height of the grass—it promotes dense, uniform growth.
Manual vs. Powered
Unlike standard mowers, the majority of reel mowers are manual, although consumers can find a handful of gas-powered and battery-powered models.
- Manual: Everything old is new again—or so it seems with more of these old-fashioned mowers popping up in home improvement centers and online stores. One of the drivers of the manual mower’s resurgence is its eco-friendliness. No fuel to store, no fumes, and no pull cord that can cause a struggle. The downside to mowing with a manual lawn mower is the near impossibility of cutting the grass if it’s allowed to grow too tall before mowing, especially if the lawn is dense. The thickness and coarseness of the grass helps dictate if it is too tall, but if the grass is twice as tall as its recommended cutting height, it usually can pose a problem for a manual reel mower. For the best results with a manual reel mower, cut the grass more often during fast-growth periods, such as in early spring and the rainy season.
- Powered: Like traditional rotary mowers, reel mowers may be powered by either gas or a battery, which makes it immeasurably easier to mow dense or tall grass. Some gas and electric reel mowers also include self-propulsion, which virtually eliminates the need to push the mower—the user needs only to guide it. While gas reel mowers are just as noisy as their traditional counterparts, electric mowers are not as noisy as gas mowers. However, they still have a motor and will produce more noise than a manual reel mower. Opting for either a manual or powered reel mower is mostly a matter of personal choice. For those with large lawns, a gas reel mower or an electric reel mower might make better sense.
Blades and Cutting Height
Reel mowers feature between four and seven steel blades. On some models, the blades are treated with a nonstick coating for easier mowing. blades lead to a cleaner cut because the grass blade doesn’t bend as far before it’s severed. For most lawns, mowers with four or five blades work well. A few reel mowers have six or seven blades, which makes them ideal for getting a uniform cut on dense grass. Reel mowers also are suitable for lawn striping, a mowing technique that leaves an attractive alternating pattern in the grass.
The blade cutting height is preset on a few reel mowers, often at around 1.5 to 2 inches, which is well suited to short grasses but not tall-growing varieties, such as fescue. Other models offer adjustable cutting heights. Consider your grass type and its optimal growing height. If yours is a tall variety of grass, opt for a reel mower that will adjust to the best mowing height for the grass.
Swath Width and Grass Type
North American lawns feature a multitude of grass varieties. Easy-to-cut grass types include perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass, and fescue, and these are suitable for cutting with wider mowers. On the other hand, thick grasses, such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, and zoysia, are better suited to mowing in narrower cutting widths (swaths). In either case, mowing frequently will make using a manual mower easier.
The swath width of a reel mower and the type of grass the yard contains influence usability. Standard swath widths on reel mowers range from 14 to 20 inches. While a wider swath means you won’t have to mow as many passes, it also makes the mower more challenging to push because more grass means more resistance.
Reel mowers don’t come with many bells and whistles, but a few added features can enhance the mowing experience.
- Grass catcher: Some prefer to allow grass clippings to settle back on the lawns. The clippings act as a mulch that biodegrades to offer organic nutrients to the soil. For those who prefer bagging grass clippings, look for models that feature a rear-mount grass catcher.
- Padded handles: Nonslip, padded foam handles make it easier to grip the mower handles and reduce the risk of blisters.
- Rollers: Reel mowers have two sizable front wheels, but some come with additional back rollers or front rollers that add stability to the mower and help the user maneuver the mower near borders and edges for clean cutting.
The Advantages of Using a Reel Mower
Reel mowers are almost always powered manually. The physical pushing of the mower turns the blade cylinder, which in turn cuts the grass. Since they’re push-powered, reel mowers excel when cutting fine, straight-growing grasses but can bog down in coarse, wiry grass. The following are some of the advantages of using a reel mower.
- Avoid diseases. A clean cut helps grass avoid diseases such as “brown patch,” which can leave a lawn pockmarked with areas of dead grass.
- Affordable mowers. While pricing varies based on quality and design, expect to pay about half the cost of a powered push mower.
- Low maintenance requirements. Manual reel mowers only require occasional cleaning and blade sharpening. A gas reel mower requires the addition of oil, draining fuel over winter, and other maintenance tasks.
- Relatively compact and lightweight. Many reel mowers weigh around 20 to 30 pounds, and they often feature fold-down handles for easy storage.
- Free of exhaust and fumes. Breathe the aroma of freshly cut grass rather than toxic exhaust fumes.
With no toxic fumes, no need to store fuel or charge batteries, and quiet operation, the reel mower is making a comeback. This eco-friendly mower will reduce your carbon footprint while offering some physical exercise. For those thinking of investing in a reel mower, a few questions are to be expected.
Q. Is it hard to push a reel mower?
Manual reel mowers are easy to push in thin sparse grass, but it takes more force to move one through tall, dense, or coarse grass.
Q. Can you mow wet grass with a reel mower?
Although a manual reel mower can easily cut through wet grass, doing so frequently is not advisable. As with other mowers, clippings will clump and look unsightly. Wet clippings that stick to the mower increase rust formation, dulling the blades prematurely.
Q. How often should you mow with a reel mower?
Mow as often as is necessary to keep from removing more than one-third of the grass’s blade. This may mean mowing two or more times in a week during the fast-growing grass season.
Q. When should I sharpen my reel mower?
In general, it’s a good idea to sharpen the blades on a reel mower after 20 to 25 hours of use. For some users, this may be once a year; others may need to sharpen blades two or more times in a season.
Why Trust Bob Vila
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