Common Mistakes You May Make When You Mow the Lawn
Using the right techniques for cutting grass is key to keeping it looking its best. Ditch these bad habits from your maintenance routine now.
Deb Wiley’s goal as a writer and editor is to bring the joy of gardening to readers by cultivating their relationship to growing and planting. After 20 years as a newspaper reporter, Deb melded her lifelong passion for gardening with her writing and photography experience when she became the garden editor for Midwest Living magazine. Since starting her freelance career in 2008, she has been a highly sought-after writer, editor, and creative project manager for a wide range of magazines, books, and online garden articles. where she brings personal experience as well as deep connections to specialists in the world of horticulture.
Mowing the lawn is one of the most common—and frequently done—landscaping chores. Even if you’re more of a hands-off gardener, chances are you still have to rev up your mower regularly.
Properly caring for your lawn involves a bit more than just pulling your lawn mower out once a week and running it across your yard. There are a few common mistakes to avoid to have the healthiest grass and a beautiful lawn each time you mow.
You Mow Your Grass Too Short
It may seem like mowing the lawn shorter would mean you can get away with this task less frequently, but this can actually do more harm than good. Each blade of grass is part of a plant that gets its nutrients partially from photosynthesis. Mowing the yard too low reduces the amount of leaf surface available to soak up the rays, so you may end up damaging or even killing your grass. Short grass also makes it easier for weeds to move in and take over.
Instead of mowing the lawn super short, keep your lawn mower blade high and mow frequently. As a rule of thumb, you should never remove more than one-third of a blade of grass in a single mowing. If your grass has gotten tall, mow as high as you can, then a few days later, mow the yard again a little bit lower rather than waiting another week. Grass clippings should always be less than 1 inch long.
How short you mow your lawn also depends on the season. Yards can be cut a little lower in the spring and fall when the weather is cooler. In summer, keeping the height taller allows the blades to shade their roots and provides extra leaf surface to fuel them.
Experts have raised their recommendations in recent years for mowing heights between 2 and 3.5 inches, depending on the type of grass. Cool-season grasses—Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass—can generally be cut to 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Warm-season grasses that grow horizontally—such as zoysia and Bermuda—can be mowed down to 2 to 2.5 inches.
Lawn Tractor Buying Guide
You Collect Your Lawn Clippings
Removing grass clippings while mowing the lawn with a bagging lawn mower is tempting, but doing so will rob your lawn of valuable nutrients. Here’s why: Grass blades are primarily composed of water (about 85%) and also include nitrogen, so they break down quickly and add nutrients to the soil, allowing you to use less fertilizer. If you already have a bagging lawn mower, you don’t need to buy a new one—you can remove the attachment on most models.
Another common misconception is that grass clippings cause thatch, a layer of partially decomposed grass roots and stems that can build up between the soil surface and the growing grass. However, if your clippings stay under 1 inch in length, they won’t cause this problem. (though if your lawn already has thatch that’s more than ½ inch thick, grass clippings can contribute to the problem). If thatch is an issue for your property, you can rely on power raking, verticutting, or core aeration in the spring or fall to open up more space for the roots.
To prevent grass clippings from making a mess, keep them away from hard surfaces such as streets and driveways. when you’re mowing the lawn. If they’re sitting on concrete or another hard surface, they can be swept into storm drains and clog them or affect water quality down the line. Grass clippings contain phosphorus, a nutrient that turns lakes green with algae, and chemically treated decomposed clippings can also pose a threat to fish and other wildlife.
You Don’t Switch Directions Each Time You’re Mowing the Lawn
If you’re always mowing the lawn in the same direction, eventually, your grass will start bending that way. Changing the pattern each time you mow will eliminate this issue and decrease soil compaction. Alternating directions, either at right angles or diagonals, can also help control creeping grass runners and reduce thatch development.
You Mow Wet Grass
Here’s a golden rule of lawn care: Never mow your grass when wet. For starters, it’s a lot messier than mowing the lawn when it’s dry—nobody wants wet grass clippings sticking to everything and clogging your mower’s blades. Wet soil is softer than dry, so your mower may pull the lawn’s roots out of the ground, leaving you with patchy, dead areas. Dry grass takes less time to mow, cuts easier, won’t clog or mat, and looks better when you’re finished. It’s also safer to mow on dry grass because there’s less risk of slipping (especially on slopes) and getting injured by the mower.
You Don’t Sharpen Your Lawn Mower’s Blades
If you notice that your mower isn’t getting the job done as well as it used to, try sharpening the blades. Just like kitchen knives, mower blades can become duller with each use, resulting in grass that gets torn instead of cut. These ragged edges will look bad, and they can also invite diseases or pests in through damaged areas, so it’s worth taking the time to sharpen the blades at least twice a year. You can do it yourself with just a wrench and a medium file or a sharpening power tool.
Different Types of Lawn Mowers Explained
Lawnmowers are an essential piece of kit for yard maintenance and lawn care, and whether you merely want to keep your lawn from becoming an overgrown wild meadow or you want a neat and manicured lawn, the neighbors will envy, there are several things you will need to consider before making a purchase. To learn all about the different types of lawnmowers and which type will be best suited to your yard, your budget, and your specifications, read our comprehensive list of all of the types of lawnmowers available.
If you have a large lawn to cut, you might want to treat yourself to a ride-on mower. These make light work of mowing lawns, significantly cutting down the time it takes you to cut your grass, and usually making it an easier and more enjoyable experience. In terms of efficiency, ride-on mowers are far superior to walk-along mowers, but they have a price tag to match. There are also many different types to choose from, but most of these can be broken down into three categories. These are:
1.1. Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors will be familiar to most people, and these front-mounted engines will be what many of us visualize when we think about ride-on mowers. They are a good choice of mower for large lawns, with deck widths typically ranging from between 42 and 54 inches. A good way to work out which size lawn tractor you need is to divide its deck width by 12, and the answer will be the maximum size of lawn it can handle. For example, a 42-inch deck width will be suitable for lawns of up to 4 acres.
When it comes to engine size, lawn tractors range from 18 to 25 horsepower, with entry-level models having a single cylinder and some pricier models benefitting from twin cylinders. Basic lawn tractors will have lever-operated gear transmissions, while upgraded models may have continuously variable transmission, which is a pulley drive powered automatic transmission managed by a shift-on-the-go hand lever.
If you want to really push your budget boundaries, you could choose a lawn tractor with a hydrostatic pedal transmission. Lawn tractors generally range in price from around 1000 to 3000, making them quite reasonably priced compared to other types of ride-on mowers. They are good all-rounders for large lawns, though their main drawback is limited maneuverability. They struggle to turn easily and can not tackle obstacles well, which often results in patches of grass that remain uncut when a lawn tractor has been unable to get tight enough to an edge or an obstacle.
1.2. Zero Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers, over the last few decades, have become the Ferrari’s of the lawn mowing world. They are controlled by lap bars in the front seat, which operate the dual hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels. Their design means that unlike other ride-on mowers, they offer unsurpassed maneuverability. They can pivot, make sharp turns, and give an excellent all-round cutting performance. Zero-turn mowers can get much closer to obstacles than other ride-on mowers, being able to cut tightly against landscaped edges, which will result in a better finish on most lawns. Their steering ability makes for a more efficient mowing experience, especially on lawns of irregular shapes. They typically offer the easiest mowing of all lawnmowers, with the capacity to cut the most grass in the shortest space of time.
Deck widths of zero-turn mowers generally range from 32 inches to 60 inches. They have estimated horsepower of between 12 and 25, from engine sizes ranging between 452 to 700 cc. The cost of a zero-turn mower varies depending on model and specification, with a price range of between 1000 and 6000.
1.3. Rear Engine Riding Mower
These ride-on mowers are a good choice for moderately sized lawns, which may be too small to warrant a lawn tractor, but too big to comfortably use a walk mower. These mowers, as the name suggests, hold the engine at the rear of the machine, underneath the driving seat, and the deck is under the driver’s position. They are typically controlled with a shift-on-the-go hand lever, which operates the continuously variable transmission, and has single-cylinder engines, which can range from 344 to 38 cc, with horsepower estimated to be between 10 and 11.
Deck sizes of rear engine riding mowers tend to range from 30 to 33 inches, making them most suitable for lawns, which are less than 2.5 acres in total. A lawn of this size would cause a fair amount of wear and tear to the mower over a season, so a good maintenance regime would be important, but the rear engine riding mower would be able to handle it. For a lawn much larger than 3 acres, you would need to be looking at a lawn tractor or zero turn mower.
Walk mowers encompass a range of lawnmowers that the user walks along behind. They are best suited to smaller lawns, generally anything up to half an acre in size (although a half-acre lawn might take you a good few hours to mow with a walk mower and you’d be forgiven for choosing a ride-on to tackle a lawn of this size.)Walk mowers offer the greatest variety and versatility when it comes to lawnmowers. They can vary wildly in price, quality, and offer numerous different features. Most walk mowers can be broken down into the following categories.
2.1. Cylinder Mower
Cylinder mowers, also known as reel mowers, have vertically rotating cylindrical blades at the front of the mower, which slices against a fixed blade. They trap the grass between the blades and slice it off, with action not dissimilar to scissors. The vertical blades on a cylinder mower can range in number from three to twelve, with a higher number of blades usually signaling a more precise cut. They are designed for use on flat lawns and don’t cope particularly well with uneven or rough surfaces. They give a neat cut, which works especially well for creating defined stripes on a lawn if this is a look you would like to achieve. They are best suited to soft grass types, as they don’t handle coarse grass well. They also struggle to cut long grass, so if you opt for a cylinder mower, you will need to keep on top of your mowing and cut your grass regularly, as the mower won’t perform well on grass that has become overgrown.
During the growing season, this will mean mowing your lawn at least once a week, ideally twice a week. These types of mowers have blades that are less accessible, making them more difficult to sharpen than a rotary mower, which is unfortunate because they do tend to require the most maintenance. If a cylinder mower is not serviced regularly, it’s blades will start to chew the grass, giving a very poor cut. For this reason, cylinder mowers are best suited to those who are mechanically skilled. They also tend to be less adjustable than other mowers, giving you fewer options when it comes to grass cutting height. They are also generally less common, so if they go wrong, you might struggle to find replacement parts. That being said, these mowers can be affordable and efficient when paired up with the right type of lawn and are enormously popular among those gardeners who take pride in a neat and short lawn cut. They also often come equipped with a roller on the back, offering the user a two-in-one tool. The grass box on a cylinder mower is usually at the front.
2.2. Rotary Mower
These are the most common types of walk-along mower you will find. They have a single blade that rotates at very high speed in a horizontal motion, cutting grass as it comes into contact with it, a lot like a food processor or blender. These mowers work best on medium to long grass, meaning you can leave longer in between mowing sessions without any negative impact. The cut you get from a rotary mower is less precise than a cylinder mower. It tends to bash and thrash the blades of grass around, slicing them on impact due to the high speed of rotation, which results in a less accurate and more uneven cut than you would get from a good cylinder mower. The difference of cut, however, probably wouldn’t be that noticeable to most people, especially on an average lawn with its slopes, bumps, and color and thickness variations. A more manicured lawn, however, may be able to tell the difference between the two cuts, with the cylinder mower offering the more superior cut of the two.
2.3. Push Mower
Push mowers, as the name suggests, requires the user to manually force the machine across the lawn. The motor turns the blades, but the wheel action is all you. These mowers are popular because they are usually the most inexpensive, and they are also lightweight and easy to handle. A push mower offers good maneuverability, allowing the user to direct exactly where it goes, steering around obstacles and corners, and even reversing. The fact that it is lightweight may be useful if you need to lift the mower into a trailer or truck bed, or if you need to carry it up and down steps.
These mowers take some physical exertion, which is great if you’re keen to add some extra exercise into your schedule, but may not be good for people with health complaints or anyone who doesn’t want to get a sweat on. It should be noted that push mowers work best for level lawns because having to push it up a hill can be very labor-intensive, as can chasing it down a hill! They are best suited to small yards due to their strenuous nature and are probably the most simple type of lawnmower you can get. For anyone concerned about the environmental impact of mowing their lawn, push mowers are the best option as they produce no emissions. They also don’t make noise pollution like powered lawnmowers.
2.4. Self Propelled Mower
Self-propelled lawnmowers have a transmission that propels the machine forward, so the user does not need to push it, and instead guides it. These mowers are generally simple to operate and make mowing a lawn a much easier and quicker job, even in small yards. The main advantage of a self-propelled mower is the fact that it doesn’t require any manpower, but there are other advantages too. These mowers tend to give a more consistent lawn cut compared to push mowers, as they are able to maintain a constant speed. Self-propelled mowers are more mechanically technical than push mowers, so they require more maintenance and can be more difficult to fix when things go wrong. These mowers are typically more expensive to buy than push mowers, but many people find that the extra expenditure is worth it to avoid having to manually propel a push mower.
2.5. Hover Mower
These lawnmowers hover a few inches above the ground, sitting on a cushion of air. Due to their reduced contact with the ground, and therefore reduced friction, they are very easy to guide around the lawn. They are able to move in any direction, including sideways, which makes them particularly useful for yards, which are awkward shapes, or for maneuvering around obstacles such as planters, trees, and garden features. They also give the user more control when it comes to edges of the lawn. Hover mowers tend to be fairly inexpensive, which is another factor that makes them quite popular. Though these types of mowers do have their advantages, they also have drawbacks. The main problem with hover mowers is that they lack power, presenting an issue for anyone with a larger sized lawn. They are most often electric-powered, and they are best suited to small lawns.
The type of power source most appropriate for your mower will depend on the size of your lawn, your strength, and your own personal preferences. The options to choose from when it comes to lawnmower power types are:
3.1. Manual Powered Mower
Manual powered mowers essentially push mowers. Though they may have an engine, this only operates the blades and doesn’t provide any momentum. The user is the source of momentum with muscle power, as opposed to an electric, battery, or gas-powered mower, where the momentum is supplied by the engine, and the user just provides directional guidance. These mowers are the quietest, most environmentally friendly, and the most inexpensive. They are also the hardest to use, requiring a good amount of strength and energy to operate. They are best suited to small lawns.
3.2. Electric Powered Mower
These corded mowers are powered by electricity through a cable attached to the mower. They are enormously popular and account for the majority of lawnmowers purchased each year, being especially common in small to medium-sized yards. Their popularity is due to their many advantages. They are lightweight, therefore easy to handle and maneuver. They are smaller than gas-powered mowers, making them easier to store when not in use. They never have to be charged like battery-powered mowers, and they won’t run out of gas. This means that so long as you have electric power, you can run these mowers whenever you like, giving the user ultimate convenience. Electric mowers are simple to use and give good, consistent results. They are also very affordable, typically ranging from around 100 to 250.
The biggest disadvantage of electric mowers is the fact that they are tethered to an electrical outlet. This presents a few problems. The main problem is that if you have a yard that is longer than your cable, then the furthest part of your lawn is not going to cut. It’s vital you measure your lawn and compare it with the cable length of a mower before you buy it to avoid this issue. The second problem, which can be worked around, is having a cable trailing behind you everywhere you mow. You’ll need to be careful not to bring your mower blades into contact with the cable, and take care not to get tangled along the way. This is a minor inconvenience that can be worked around with a bit of practice, but many people find corded mowers too restrictive.
3.3. Gas-Powered Mower
There are a few drawbacks of gas-powered mowers. Firstly, they have engines which, much like vehicle engines, are a cause of pollution. They also need to be regularly maintained and serviced to prevent them from going wrong. You will also need to keep on top of oil and fuel levels. Gas mowers are also very noisy and are typically the most expensive type of walk mower you can get. They generally range in price between 200 and 800.
3.4. Battery-Powered Mower
Battery-powered mowers run off a battery, usually, a lithium-ion battery, which is lightweight and long-lasting. These mowers give the user all the benefits of an electric mower, without the restriction of cable length. As these mowers are not tied down to a power source, they are well suited to gardens of any size. They tend to be slightly heavier than an electric mower, but much lighter than a gas-powered mower. These mowers offer excellent convenience, but this comes at a cost. They are more expensive than electric mowers, usually costing in excess of 500 for a good quality model.
The main drawback of a battery-powered mower is its run time. Many of these mowers will run for about an hour before they need to be re-charged, which could prove quite frustrating if you’re only halfway through mowing your lawn when the battery runs out. Batteries also do not last forever and will need to be replaced every few years.
The drive of your mower is an important consideration that can impact performance, depending on your terrain. Mowers will either be rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD), with each having pros and cons.
4.1. Rear Wheel Drive
These mowers are pushed forwards by the motion of the back wheels. They work well for wide-open spaces as they can be difficult to maneuver, and therefore you may struggle in small or awkwardly shaped gardens. They can be difficult to turn in order to change direction, and particularly struggle to reverse. However, they are excellent on rough or unsteady terrain, as they will push forward across any bumps or steep inclines.
4.2. Front-Wheel Drive
FWD mowers are propelled by the front wheels, which pull the mower along with their turning motion. These types of mowers work best for level lawns that don’t feature slopes or hills, as they don’t perform well on inclines. Front-wheel drive mowers are easy to steer, and they can be maneuvered well around obstacles or irregularly shaped lawns.
4.3. All Wheel Drive
These mowers have all four wheels connected to their source of power and are all propelled equally, moving together in unison. The main benefits of an all-wheel-drive mover are its speed and power, though it does lack the maneuverability of front-wheel drive mowers.
Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Tired of spending the best part of your Saturday walking behind a lawn mower? You’re not alone and our team has pulled together our recommendations for the best riding lawn mower in 2023. Whether you’re a homeowner or commercial Pro, or you’re on the hunt for a lawn tractor or zero-turn mower, we have you covered. Thinking about making the switch to battery power? We have thoughts on electric riding lawnmowers as well.
Considering walk-behind mowers? Check out our Best Lawn Mower main page.
- Best Commercial Riding Mower (Find a Dealer)
- Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Acme Tools)
- Best Lawn Tractor (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Consumer Electric Riding Lawn Mower (available at Lowes or Home Depot)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns (Buy at Lowes)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
- Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Best Commercial Riding Lawn Mower
Hustler Hyperdrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Professional lawn care crews who FOCUS on residential lawns (affectionately known aa “mow and blow” crews) have to hit a lot of lawns every day during the mowing season and they’re tough on their equipment. Exmark, Hustler, and Scag all come up frequently in conversations about the best commercial mower, and our top choice is the Hustler Hyperdrive series.
While the Super Z series is likely more popular, the Hyperdrive series adds additional durability to the transmission system, keeping your downtime to a minimum.
Deck sizes range from 60 to 72 inches and there are 35 to 40 HP engine options from Kawasaki and Vanguard. For those of you who like to mow at speed, you can run up to 16 MPH on this model. No matter what your mowing style is, Hustler has a 3,000-hour warranty on the hydraulic system and a 5-year/1200-hour warranty on the full mower.
Price: Contact your local dealer
Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower
Toro Timecutter Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
For residential use, we recommend Toro’s TimeCutter as the best residential riding lawn mower for a variety of reasons. What it boils down to is that you get an excellent balance of performance, comfort, and reliability for the price.
The line currently includes 17 models (including CARB-friendly options). Deck sizes start at 34 inches for small lawns and run up to 60 inches for those of you with acreage to maintain. The base-level models are an excellent value for most people, but if comfort is a high priority, step up to the MyDrive models to get an upgraded suspension and easier ride.
Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX6 Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
While Toro earns our pick as the best overall riding mower for residential use, Cub Cadet’s Ultima ZTX6 series is the creme de la creme for those of you with a bigger budget. Earning our choice as the best residential zero-turn riding lawn mower, the ZTX6 is at the top of Cub Cadet’s residential-focuses Ultima line.
These mowers bridge the gap between residential and Pro needs, giving you a ride and performance that feels more professional while keeping the overall price down from premium professional mowers. The ZTX6 comes with a 25HP Kawasaki commercial-grade engine and either a 54 or 60-inch deck size. If you prefer a steering wheel over lap bars, there’s now a ZTXS6 option that has you covered.
Price: 8999.00 – 9299.00 (10299.00 for the 60-inch ZTXS6)
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro FAB Series Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet lawn tractors are very popular and consistently earn high ratings from owners. If you’re looking for the best lawn tractor among them, we recommend the XT1 Enduro FAB series. They’re a bit more expensive than others in the XT1 line, but they upgrade from a 13-gauge stamped steel deck to an 11-gauge fabricated steel one, improving the long-term durability.
Available with a 50 or 54-inch deck, these mowers are suitable for covering larger lawns than lawn tractors in the 30 – 48-inch range. Thanks to a Kohler 24HP engine, they have better overall performance than most of its competition as well. While they don’t turn as tight as a zero-turn, they do have a 16-inch turning radius that gives them a tighter turn than others.
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower
Try as we may, we couldn’t pick just one electric ride-on lawn mower as the best. However, we do have three that stand out from the rest.
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 82V OptimusZ Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
Greenworks was one of the first to push into the commercial electric zero-turn lawn mower market and they have learned a lot over the years. The culmination of that experience and the best of today’s technology come together in the Greenworks OptimusZ zero-turn and earns our recommendation as the best electric commercial riding lawn mower.
The line includes both ride-on and stand-on models, and we even got to see an operational prototype of a fully-autonomous version. Focusing on the ride-on models, there are 48 – 60-inch deck sizes with either 18KWh or 24KWh battery packages. On the 60-inch mower, the larger battery bank can run up to 8 hours on a charge.
The top speed is impressive, reaching up to 16 MPH with the blades on. Security is already onboard thanks to the combination of 4G and GPS connections. If all that sounds great, but you’re still not sure it can hold up, keep in mind that Greenworks backs these mowers with a 5-year/2,000-hour warranty.
Residential: EGO 56V E-Steer Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
EGO is making it easier to transition from gas to battery power and into the zero-turn market with the 56V E-Steer riding lawn mower. It takes the lap bars and exchanges them for a steering wheel, making for a much more approachable mower if you’re not used to traditional ZT steering. Beyond that, the design team shifted the controls/info screen onto the steering wheel where they’re easy to keep an eye on while you’re mowing.
The mower sports a 42-inch deck with cutting speeds between 4 and 8 MPH and matches the power of a 22HP gas engine. For the power source, EGO uses the same 556V batteries that power its other mowers and handheld tools. With a full load of six 12.0Ah batteries, expect to cut nearly four acres on a charge. With the four batteries that come with the mower, there’s enough juice to cover 2.5 acres.
Price: 5999.00 with four 12.0Ah batteries and onboard charger (scheduled for May 2023 launch)
Residential: Ryobi 80V iDrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Ryobi’s iDrive zero-turn lawn mowers break the mold of lap bars, but not with a steering wheel. It uses joystick controls, making you feel a bit more like a lawn-cutting fighter pilot (without the missiles, of course). While it certainly breaks the norm, our crew was able to adjust to the steering quickly.
There are three deck sizes covering 30 to 54 inches and they primarily use 80V suitcase-style batteries for power. These mowers also have slots to use Ryobi’s 40V batteries if you need to extend your runtime beyond what the 80V packs offer.
The power ranges from a 28HP – 42HP gas equivalent with runtime covering 1 – 4 acres, depending on which model you go with. Plus, this mower uses the CrossCut stacked blade system to give you better cut quality than you’d get with single blades.
Price: 5999.00 – 7999.00 ready to mow
Take a look through our full list of Best Electric Lawn Mower recommendations!
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns
John Deere S130 Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors are great for small to medium-sized lawns and the John Deere S130 lawn tractor is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for small lawns. The S100 comes in at a lower price, but moving up to the S130 is worth it in our opinion.
Both feature a 42-inch mowing deck, but the S130 has a significantly stronger 22HP V-twin engine and it has John Deere’s super-easy 30-Second Oil Change system. The S130 also upgrades with cruise control and an electronic PTO system. Overall, it balances ease of ownership and performance well while keeping a safe distance away from the price of zero-turn mowers.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns 1 Acre to 5 Acres
Husqvarna Xcite Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
The best riding lawn mower for medium-sized lawns is the Husqvarna Xcite. There are two models available featuring a 54-inch 10-gauge deck that’s a great size for those 1 – 5–acre properties.
What’s exciting about the Xcite is a combination of innovative features and a design that feels more Pro even though these target residential users. Starting from the top, your start/stop and blade engagement controls are on the lap bar ends where you can easily reach them with your thumbs. Then there’s the suspension system. 4 bar links and 10 adjustment settings let you customize the setup based on your size, weight, and preferences to dial in a comfortable ride.
Depending on the model, you get either a 24HP or 26HP Kohler engine with a top speed of either 7 or 9 MPH. On the business end, Husqvarna puts stock blades that can go up to 5 years without needing to be sharpened. Husqvarna targeted a Pro feel with the convenience and ease of ownership homeowners crave with the Xcite and they nailed it.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
Exmark Lazer Z Series Deisel Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
When it comes to maintaining large areas where you need a cleaner cut than a bush hog leaves behind, there are a few large-deck options. Leading the pack in size and with a robust professional resume’, the Exmark Lazer Z Deisel is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for large properties.
When we say large, we mean it. The Lazer Z diesel line includes 60, 72, and 96-inch options along with a monstrous 144-inch model. Ang get this—Exmark rates the largest mower’s cutting rate at up to 11.5 acres per hour! In terms of productivity, that’s going to be tough to beat.
These mowers aren’t cheap, though. They start at just over 27,000 and the 144-inch model is over 35,000.
Price: Starting at 27,099.00
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
If you have hills, you need both power and traction to mow effectively. In our team’s opinion, the best riding lawn mower for hills is the Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 series SD/SDL models. What sets these mowers apart is a combination of their dually rear wheel and steering wheel designs.
Four rear wheels help prevent the back end from slipping, even in wet conditions. The steering wheel makes it easier to manage on slopes and there’s an option for a pivoting seat that keeps you more upright on those hills. As part of Cub Cadet’s commercial mower lineup, you can expect a commercial-level build and high-end comfort features as part of the package.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money
Toro Timecutter 42-Inch Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
What’s the best riding lawn mower for the money? For that, we return to the Toro TimeCutter series. Specifically, it’s the 42-inch 75746. This isn’t the least expensive 42-inch in the line, and it’s not the most expensive, either. By upgrading from the entry-level version (3299), you’re moving from a 15.5 HP Briggs Stratton engine to a much stronger 22HP Kohler engine. up to a more durable 10-gauge fabricated steel deck.
If your lawn is 2 acres or less, this model offers the best balance of performance, durability, comfort, and price. But what if you have more then 2 acres? Stick with the Toro TimeCutter and move up in deck size to match your lawn.
What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
Lawn Tractor or Zero Turn?
When you’re choosing the best riding lawn mower for your lawn, the first thing to decide is which style you want.
Lawn tractors have several advantages. They tend to be a smaller overall size, are less expensive, and are easy to use with their steering wheel/pedal control systems. The downsides are that they tend to be slower and don’t reach larger deck sizes. They also aren’t as efficient in your mowing pattern because they require a larger turning radius.
Zero-turn lawn mowers make it easier to efficiently mow straight lines. While they’re more expensive, larger, and can take some time to get used to lap bar controls, you can get larger deck sizes, they have higher speeds, and they’re better for large properties. If comfort is a high priority for you, you’ll find better options with ZTs and lawn tractors.
Gas or Battery?
Now that battery-powered riding lawn mowers are at a point where they really can replace gas, the conversation is shifting away from just power and runtime.
Gas mowers tend to be less expensive and you can usually find someone to service/repair them within a reasonable drive of your home. The trade-off is the noise, emissions, managing fuel and oil, and more required maintenance.
Battery-powered mowers have a push-button start system that’s ready when you are, assuming you charged the batteries. They’re remarkably quiet compared to gas, have no emissions, and your HOA isn’t going to suddenly rewrite the rules to eliminate them. Maintenance primarily boils down to blowing off the deck and maybe rinsing under the deck. The primary downsides at this stage are that you don’t have as wide of a selection as gas, they’re more expensive, the batteries need replacing every 3 – 5 years, and there aren’t nearly as many service centers close by.
Durability and Reliability
As you go up in price from entry-level riding lawn mowers to mid-range and high-end models, there are significant changes. A more powerful engine is only part of it. The design of the engine and its quality typically improves as you move up the line, giving you a more reliable engine to go along with the higher performance of more horsepower.
You also see the strength of the build improve. Some of it is the thickness of the metal or moving from stamped steel to fabricated steel on the deck. Other components come into play as well, with higher quality transmissions and electronics packages improving.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking at an entry-level model, see if your budget has room to move up into the middle or even high end of the line. The durability and reliability you gain are worth it in the long run.
The deck size you need depends on the property you’re mowing. 42-inch riding lawn mowers are a good starting point for lawns up to an acre or where you need to squeeze through a narrow gate. If you have more than an acre, go ahead and look at models up to 60 inches.
Realistically, it’s a matter of finding the right balance between how much lawn you have to cut, how much storage space you have available, and what your budget is.
Speed is primarily a concern for professional lawn crews who need to move from one property to the next quickly or on campuses with significant travel distance between the shop and where they’re mowing. They usually want a mower with a top speed over 10 MPH.
Even homeowners can make their mowing chores more efficient with some decent top-end speed, though. 7 MPH or more is a good benchmark for those models. If you tend to take your mowing more casually, 5 – 6 MPH is just fine.
The larger your lawn, the more time you need to spend in the driver’s seat of your riding lawn mower, and the more comfort comes into play. Entry-level mowers are going to bounce you around more than mid-range and high-end models. Look for a seat with plenty of cushioning, an adjustable tension knob, and enough travel for you to sit without having to scrunch up.
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Make your yard the envy of your neighbors with one of these top lawn mowers.
By Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe and Glenda Taylor | Updated May 18, 2023 4:59 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
A good lawn mower is crucial for maintaining a lush, well-manicured lawn. With so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower that is appropriate for your yard can be challenging. To this task easier for you, we got our hands on some of the most popular options and put them to the test on our own lawns.
Whether you’re replacing an old mower for your current lawn or buying one to maintain a new property, it’s important to choose one that fits the size and terrain of the property. This guide explores the features and factors that are important to consider when shopping for the best lawn mower while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
We tested the following lawn mowers to find out how they would perform in terms of cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort. Read on to learn more about the criteria we used to select our picks. Then check out our lawn mower reviews to learn why we consider these models to be some of the best lawn mowers available.
- BEST OVERALL:Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST3-IN-1:DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED:Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER:John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- BEST CORDED LAWN MOWER:American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC:Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY:Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
All of the mowers included in our list exceeded quality standards established in our shopping criteria and proved worthy through testing. We selected each of the above mowers based on our previously mentioned shopping considerations. After sourcing the mowers and assembling the mowers according to the manufacturer’s instructions, we tested them in an average yard in order to gauge capabilities in several key areas. The most critical aspects we observed included general quality and durability, mowing power and cut quality, and operator comfort and convenience.
We also tested each according to its claimed abilities. Riding mowers were used for larger and sometimes rougher areas and were assessed for power, speed, and comfort. Walk-behind and push mowers were mostly restricted to testing on well-established and well-maintained lawn spaces and closely monitored for cut quality and user convenience. We actually pre-mowed the grass ahead of testing the robot mower since it is intended to maintain rather than reduce grass height.
Our Top Picks
We tested mowers that range from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled gas lawn mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. Read on to learn more about these mowers, how they performed during our grass tests, and why we think they are some of the best.
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
Whether it’s a car, generator, or lawn mower, it’s tough to beat the reliability and durability of Honda engines—and such is the case with this self-propelled gas lawn mower. Its powerful GCV170 engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a cleaner, more precise cut over most other gas-powered lawn mowers that have just a single blade.
With its rear-wheel drive, this mower is ideal to contend with yards that have slopes and more-rugged terrain. Its engine is formidable, and so are its features. An easy-to-use clip system makes it simple to switch between its three grass-clipping options—mulching, side discharge, and bagging—and the well-designed speed controls add to the quality of this premium self-propelled walk-behind mower.
In our tests, this Honda walk-behind mower’s high-quality components and thoughtful design really stood out. The engine layout and oversize gas gap made fueling up and adding oil easy and can simplify oil and filter changes. After a quick 5-minute assembly of the handle and bagger and adding fuel and oil, the mower started on the first pull. The engine ran smoothly and surprisingly quietly.
The variable-speed controller at first felt awkward until we realized that we could adjust the angle to any of five positions. The mower had plenty of power for mowing and driving the wheels, even in dense, tall grass, and on steep slopes. If the goal is to find a top-quality walk-behind mower that is easy to use and leaves a great-looking finish, this would make an excellent choice.
- Power source: Honda GCV170 gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Twin-blade mowing system for finer mulching
- Auto choke for fast, easy starting
- Variable speed, 0 to 4 miles per hour
- Clip system makes changing cutting modes easy
Get the Honda lawn mower at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mow
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 140-cc engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it ideal for yards up to ¾ of an acre.
Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easy to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag. And while this mower may lack the power assist of other walk-behind mowers, it is significantly cheaper, making it a good choice for those with level yards who may not need a self-propelled mower.
We liked the Craftsman mower’s affordability and simplicity. It only required about 20 minutes of easy assembly. The completed handle configuration was a bit less refined in appearance, the grip area is unpadded metal, and the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties.
After adding oil and gas, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and pulling uphill, but it bogged down ever so slightly in tall, overgrown grass. The front-wheel-drive feature made turning easy, but a fully loaded bagger could weigh down the rear and cause it to lose traction (we did not experience this). The fuel tank size is adequate to mow about a half acre per fill-up. This could be an excellent value pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150 cc Briggs Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing; prevents strain while in use
- Easy to start, no priming or choke required
- Side-discharge, mulch, or bag for ease of cleanup after mowing
- Self-propelled feature is not adjustable; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
- Non-padded grip could lead to hand fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman lawn mower at Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, or Blain’s Farm Fleet.
DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
With mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities, the DeWALT 2X20V MAX self-propelled cordless lawn mower has a better-than-average build quality and thoughtful design. Its heavy-duty 21.5-inch, 15-gauge stamped-steel deck adjusts to six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. Running on two batteries and offering up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge, this mower is ideal for small to medium yards up to a half acre.
We set up a test area for the DeWALT mower in our yard, with about 10,000 square feet of lawn that included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed the test plot three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. The DeWALT covered about 5,000 square feet per charge when adjusted to 2.5 inches high with the grass catcher in place. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime. The controls were well laid out for easy operation, and the cushioned handle felt comfortable while we mowed. Also, this mower is a space saver. With its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability, it only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage floor space.
The DeWALT 3-in-1 lawn mower features a security-key-enabled push-button start. Its adjustable font-wheel-drive self-propulsion eliminates half the work of mowing, lets you choose your own pace, and works on all kinds of terrain. The motor is equipped with auto-sensing technology that seamlessly increases torque when encountering tougher mowing conditions. In our tests, it was easier to turn than rear-wheel drive mowers. A removable discharge chute, grass catcher, and integrated mulch plug allow for quick conversion to your preferred method of grass-clipping disposal. Overall, the quality of the DeWALT 3-in-1 mower is better than most and is a solid choice for quarter- to half-acre lots.
- Power source: Two 20-volt, 10-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 21.5 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Heavy-duty steel mower deck with 3-way grass-clipping management
- Front-wheel drive self-propel system supports safe operation and smooth turns
- Powered by 2 rechargeable DeWALT XR 20-volt (V) lithium-ion batteries
- 2-stage brushless motor preserves battery life and automatically increases power for tougher mowing conditions
- Ergonomic cushioned hand grip are comfortable to use and reduce operator fatigue
- Heavy and cumbersome to maneuver manually without the self-propel feature engaged
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
- The mower’s battery compartment has an awkward design
Get the DeWALT cordless lawn mower at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot (with 3 batteries), Tractor Supply Co., or Acme Tools.
Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
The Ego Power comes ready to mow, including a battery and Rapid charger. The advancements Ego has made with its battery-powered mower sets it atop the cordless models. It boasts 45 minutes of runtime, thanks to its brushless motor and large 56-volt, 5-Ah battery. With its 21-inch deck, the Ego is suitable for yards up to half an acre. The Ego Power also includes other features that make it an attractive buy, including speed controls that the user operates with an intuitive dial and bagging, mulching, or side-discharge capability.
Overall, the Ego Power cordless mower was easy and comfortable to operate in our tests. The preset self-propelled pace felt comfortably moderate but not leisurely. The mower had no difficulty cutting normal grass and did not bog down noticeably in thick, tall grass. Finish quality was good to excellent.
We did notice that mowing in “push” mode (without the self-propelled motor running) extended battery life by about 20 minutes to as much as 65 minutes per charge. Buying a second battery for extended runtime, or as backup for tougher mowing, may be a wise investment. This mower would be a good choice for small and midsize lawns up to about a half acre and for owners who want to reduce noise, exhaust, and fuel handling.
- Power source: 56-volt, 5-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- 45 minutes of runtime per charge; suitable for small- to large-sized yards
- Battery charges in less than an hour; suitable for multiple uses or yards
- Battery works with many other Ego Power tools
- Emits power similar to a gasoline mower
- Higher cost than gas mower with similar power
- Poor traction on slopes; may not be ideal for hilly yards
- Noisy drive system; may not be ideal for nighttime mowing
Get the Ego lawn mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s.
John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
Larger yards from ½ to 2 acres call for a bigger machine for mowing. The John Deere S130, with its 22-horsepower V-twin engine and 42-inch deck, offers excellent mowing ability plus performance and comfort features that extend its range of use. The 20 by 10-8 rear tires and wide stance provide excellent stability and help to cushion the ride. It features hydrostatic operation, single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, ergonomic deck-height adjustment lever, dash-mounted digital fuel gauge, LED headlights, and John Deere’s Easy Change 30-second oil change system. The included drop-pin towing hitch and PTO make it compatible with a wide range of John Deere branded and non-branded yard implements such as utility carts, spreaders, sweepers, snow blowers, and more.
In our extensive test, the S130 lawn tractor proved to be a comfortable, capable riding mower with good maneuverability in a wide range of conditions. It easily handled grassy slopes up to 13 degrees (4.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet), which is the limit recommended by the manufacturer. Measured against leading competitors, it offered a tighter real-life turning radius thanks to superior weight balance, and a seat base that is 3 inches higher to provide a better operator vantage point.
The high, open-back seat was well cushioned and supportive while allowing excellent ventilation. The deck height, blade engagement, and throttle controls were well positioned for convenience and safe operation. Even with the slightly elevated price tag, this mower offers tons of value, making it an excellent choice for most larger yards.
- Power source: 22-horsepower V-twin gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- High vantage point for optimal viewing of the yard and machine while mowing
- Tight turning radius allows for clean and even cutting paths
- Comfortable seat and controls make it easy for the user to mow the lawn
- Should not require much maintenance to keep running for years
Get the John Deere riding lawn mower at Lowe’s or a local John Deere dealer.
American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
Corded lawn mowers make an easy, affordable choice for smaller yards where a gas-powered mower would be a hassle. This mower from American Lawn Mower Company can keep the yard looking great at a low price point, without worrying about the mess or expense of gasoline or batteries.
Its 14-inch deck suits smaller yards and smaller storage areas. At about 20 pounds, this mower is easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a heavier model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing one to bag or mulch clippings (though it oddly has no side-discharge option). It also offers a convenient single lever for height control, eliminating the need to make height adjustments for each wheel individually.
In our tests, this model delivered a rock-solid performance. Assembly, which entailed installation of the handle and cord retainers, took about 10 minutes to complete. It mowed well, even in dense, weedy grass, and the bagger worked well. The small size and lightweight build limit this mower’s practicality more than its corded motor does.
By starting close to the electrical outlet and mowing progressively farther away, we easily minimized the risk of cord damage or entanglement. As an affordable mower for small yards, with arguably the least environmental impact, this quiet, capable corded electric model could be the best choice.
- Durable, maintenance-free electric motor; eco-friendly compared to similar options
- Lightweight and easy to use; offers excellent maneuverability
- Offers bagging and mulching options for easy clean-up after mowing
- Not ideal for large-sized yards; suitable for only the smallest yards
- No side-discharge option; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
Get the American Lawn Mower electric lawn mower at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.
Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
If spending an entire afternoon mowing the lawn isn’t a problem, those with yards that could house a couple of football fields require a mowing deck that can level large swaths of green in a single pass. With its massive 50-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is ready for a big job. This large mower, which boasts a 24.5-horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 7 miles per hour, making it capable of handling yards of 3 acres or more.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its adjustable MyRIDE suspension system that absorbs bumps in the lawn as well as vibrations from the engine. Plush seating provides support and comfort for longer mowing sessions. Toro also includes other useful features, including a foot-lever-assisted deck-height adjustment, toolless oil-change system, and a cupholder.
When we tested the 50-inch Toro TimeCutter, we timed its performance on a 1-acre area of an old field converted to lawn. The MyRIDE suspension system smoothed out the ruts and bumps for a comfortable ride at near top speed. It mowed the acre in 20 minutes, a blistering 3-acres-per-hour pace. The finish quality was excellent, and it used less than 3 quarts of gasoline. As a point of comparison, a 22-HP, 46-inch lawn tractor that has been used to mow the same area takes nearly an hour and uses more than 1.25 gallons of gas.
Even before factoring in the amazingly comfortable ride, we appreciated the prospect of mowing in one-third the time and reducing fuel and maintenance expenses by half on this large lot. For large grassy areas, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a zero turn mower, and the TimeCutter makes an excellent pick.
- Huge mowing deck makes this model ideal for medium- to large-sized yards
- Shock-absorbing suspension system integrated; can tackle tough jobs without causing strain to the user
- Large engine is capable of cutting thicker grass varieties
Get the Toro TimeCutter lawn mower at The Home Depot or a local Toro dealer.
Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
Pushing the edge of lawn mower technology further is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a quarter acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a set area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front caster and two large rear-drive wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Difference Between a Lawn Mower and Lawn TRACTOR!
The Worx Landroid M can also connect to a Smart device, through which the user can program daily schedules or direct the mower to stop or start. It runs off the same 20-volt Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
Testing the Landroid M required a detailed setup process, but then the operation was almost completely hands-off. After installing the Landroid mobile app, the base station, boundary wire, and establishing the mower’s Wi-Fi connection, we programmed the robot for a daily mowing schedule. Setup and programming were straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions and tutorial videos on the Landroid app. The whole process took about 2.5 hours, including time taken to watch videos. The covered area included a sloped section, a narrow corridor, a broad contiguous area, and an off-limits landscape bed.
Landroid mowed on time every time and stayed inbounds without a problem. On an evening when rain moved in during the mowing cycle, Landroid’s rain sensor picked it up and sent the unit back to its base station to wait it out. The only challenge we encountered was that the mower initially did not dock properly after mowing because the base station was not sitting level. After fixing that issue, it simply worked.
A week after we installed the Landroid, the grass it cut still looked freshly mowed with the exception of the edges, while the adjacent lawn outside Landroid’s coverage needed to be cut. Those looking to infuse the time-, fuel-, and labor-saving benefits of robotics into their lawn care routine would do well to consider Landroid.
- Mows up to ¼ of an acre with ease
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Brushless motor extends battery life; suitable for small to large yards
- Onboard rain sensor protects the mower from potential damage
Get the Worx robotic lawn mower at Amazon.
Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
The Makita XML03, an 18-inch, battery-powered lawn mower, comes with four included batteries, and the claim that it will mow up to 1/3 acre on a single charge, so we tested that claim. We marked out a 1/3-acre area on our lawn and mowed with the Makita XML03 six times over three weeks.
During testing, the Makita mower completed all but one mowing session without battery depletion—with a small battery charge remaining. However, when we tested the mower on damp grass, we depleted all four batteries before we could finish the session. Keep in mind that the Makita mower is not self-propelled, so ultimately, the mowing area will depend on user speed and grass thickness.
Operating at 3,300 rpm, its single blade matches the speed of gas-powered mowers, but dense grass resistance can hinder spinning speed. The trick to overcoming this issue is to mow more frequently—while the grass height is low enough, you’re not removing any more than 1/3 of the grass leaf.
The height adjustment (a single lever on the back right wheel) is convenient; the mower’s deck height range of 13/16 inch to 3 inches could have been improved. This limitation may impact those with specific grass types or desired cutting heights. Although a typical range of 2-1/2 to 3 inches covers many grass varieties, species such as tall fescue are often mowed at 3-1/2 inches high.
The Makita’s detachable grass-catching bag holds 1.7 bushels (16 gallons), which is on the small side, and we had to empty the clippings frequently. But overall, the Makita XML03 meets its mowing claims with reliable battery performance. It starts at the press of a button and is much quieter than gas-powered mowers, so you won’t upset the neighbors if you mow early on a Saturday morning.
- Power source: Two 18-volt, 4-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Environmentally friendly battery power eliminates the necessity for carbon-emitting gas and oil
- Produces less noise than gas-powered mowers, ensuring peaceful early morning mowing without disturbing neighbors
- Comes with 4 batteries upon purchase, allowing for convenient swapping of charged sets when 1 set runs out
- Simple push-button start eliminates the need for tugging cords or priming pumps
- The relatively narrow 18-inch swath width may result in time-consuming mowing for larger yards
- The Makita XML03 lacks self-propulsion, making it challenging to push on inclines
- The grass-clipping bag has a small capacity, so frequent emptying may be necessary
Get the Makita Lawn Mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Mower
In addition to mower type, it’s vital to consider other factors like deck size and fuel requirements when shopping for a lawn mower. Ahead, learn more about these and other important characteristics of lawn mowers.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to decide which type of mower best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers have power wheels that pull the mower forward. Some self-propelled mowers have an adjustment feature to increase or decrease the travel speed for improved operator comfort and convenience. Manual mowers have no power-assisted wheels and must be pushed manually by the user.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers, the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, have a motor that sits behind the operator and are controlled using two levers. The mowers get their name from their ability to pivot 360 degrees in place. Zero-turn mowers also have very broad mowing decks. Their size and maneuverability make them ideal for cutting large lawns with obstacles the user must drive around.
A lawn tractor looks similar to a farm tractor with its motor in the front of the mower. The user operates the tractor from a driver’s seat using a steering wheel. Lawn tractors have broad mowing decks but do not have the small turning radius of a zero-turn tractor. Because of their balance and traction, lawn tractors are well suited for mowing hilly terrain and may be used for other property management tasks like towing a utility cart or plowing snow.
Rear-engine lawn mowers are similar to lawn tractors but have their engines in the rear. Rear-engine lawn tractors typically have smaller decks, though they allow for greater visibility and nimbler handling for the operator.
The newest type of lawn mower, robotic mowers look similar to robotic vacuum cleaners, only they are larger and have bigger wheels that enable them to move through grass. Robotic lawn mowers can mow a yard automatically while being controlled via a Smart device.
These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at programmed times and intervals. Robotic mowers require the user to set up wires in the yard that create boundaries for the mower so it doesn’t wander away. They also use laser-eye technology that spots obstacles in the yard so the mower can evade them.
Self-propelled mowers come in different drive wheel options including front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drive mowers are easier to turn by allowing the operator to raise the front wheels and use the back wheels to pivot.
- Rear-wheel drive mowers place the bulk of the mower’s weight over the drive wheels, creating better traction for climbing inclines and slopes.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
Cutting Width and Yard Size
A mower’s deck size determines the width of the swath of grass it can cut with each pass and hence how quickly it can mow the lawn. A wider deck also makes a mower less nimble, which can make it awkward to mow small lawns with flower beds, trees, and gardens to navigate.
A walk-behind mower with a deck up to 22 inches is usually a good size for a smaller yard of up to about half an acre. Riding mowers with decks that range between 30 and 46 inches are a good choice for lawns up to 1 acre. Zero turn mowers and lawn tractors with 48- to 60-inch decks can be efficient choices for larger properties.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: corded electricity, gas, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Electric mowers supply a constant source of power; however, they are limited by a cord that connects to a standard wall outlet. This makes corded lawn mowers somewhat awkward to use. However, they are extremely durable, have no batteries to recharge or replace, and are almost entirely maintenance free.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the greatest amount of power, run a long time on a single tank, and have no recharge time to worry about. However, gas mowers are loud, require more maintenance to keep in top condition than electric mowers, and produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run on lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and create no exhaust fumes; however, they are less powerful and are limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive to purchase than gas mowers, and the batteries typically need to be replaced every 5 years.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the cylinder blade. Rotary blades are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, cross-cutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades, which can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it, have historically been confined to use on sports fields and golf courses. They consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. The blades cut the grass using a shearing action that creates a cleaner cut than rotary blades, which can tear grass and leave a ragged edge.
While cylinder mowers (also known as reel mowers) make more precise cuts, they are not capable of cutting through taller grass. In fact, their cutting ability ranges from a height of about 1/16 of an inch to 1 inch. This limits this type of mower to varieties of grass that can survive being cut to a low height, such as Bermuda grass.
Mowers offer different grass-disposal options including side discharge, mulching, and bagging. Side discharge ejects the grass clippings out of the side of the mower onto the lawn. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a fine mulch that quickly incorporates into the soil. Mowers that support baggers collect the clippings in a bag at the rear of the mower.
Mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate and maintain. Deck height adjustment allows the user to increase or decrease the mowing height for optimal lawn health. These useful add-ons include mowing decks with built-in wash-out ports that make them easier to clean, switches that make it easy to change between cutting options, and easy-to-operate variable-speed controls for self-propelled mowers.
Many riding mowers have LED headlights for nighttime mowing, drink holders, adjustable plush ergonomic seating, and many other convenient features.
For those who have concerns about maintaining a lawn mower or are wondering how big an engine the mower needs, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q. How long should a lawn mower last?
Most mowers can last about 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained.
Q. How powerful of a lawn mower do I need?
Engine sizes for walk-behind mowers range from 140 cc to 190 cc. For tough terrain with thick grass, a larger engine is usually a better choice.
Q. Can I replace the pull cord on a lawn mower?
Yes. In fact, replacing the pull cord on a mower is a fairly simple repair, requiring just a screwdriver and wrench.
Q. How long does a lawn mower’s battery last?
As a general rule of thumb, a riding lawn mower’s battery can last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower can last about 5 years.
Q. How do I clean my lawn mower?
To clean a mower, tip the mower over to access the deck. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may be wrapped around the blade or stuck to the bottom of the deck. Wet the deck with a garden hose, then spray the underside with an all-purpose cleaner. Scrub the deck with a brush, then rinse thoroughly. Turn the mower back upright and use a damp rag or paper towel to wipe down the housing.
Q. How often do I need to change spark plugs in my lawn mower?
Change the spark plugs in the spring at the beginning of the mowing season or after 100 hours of use.
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Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick and Glenda Taylor.