Best lawn mower 2023: top everyday power mowers
Mowing doesn’t have to be drudgery. Think of it like a walk in the great outdoors with a piece of dangerous equipment under your control, and it becomes a much nicer experience. So here’s our guide to the best lawn mower around – also check out our guide to the best robot mowers, too.
Every mower we’ve tested is electric. And for cordless lawn mowers, improved battery tech means cordless convenience without compromising on power. These are workhorses, yet quieter and lower carbon than petrol mowers. When shopping around, be sure to get a kit including battery and charger. These can be expensive bought separately – all here include them.
Self-propelled mowers work like e-assist bikes, giving you extra welly to make light work of mowing even large lawns.
Technology can even help you pick a mower. Pull up a Google Maps satellite view of your garden, right-click to ‘measure distance’ and place markers around your lawn. It calculates area and perimeter. Area helps you choose the right mower. And if you’re going for a robot, perimeter length tells you which kit (how much wire) to get.
Mowing performance matters but so do practicalities, so an important spec is storage footprint; ow much space a mower takes up in your shed. Robotic mowers obviously have no footprint; they live next to the lawn and mow automatically on a schedule, little and often. But with manual mowers it makes a big difference if it can tip up to be stored vertically.
Even robot mower tech has advanced. The latest models still need a boundary wire but they can now mow huge gardens, adapt to weather conditions, be controlled via app and voice.
Flymo UltraStore 380R
The most compact mower on test. It isn’t self-propelling but it’s very easy to push. It can be stored upright brilliantly; the grass box clips to the handle. Or double-fold the handle and store the mower horizontally on a shed shelf. Either way, the mower is light enough to carry one-handed.
The kit we tested comes with two chargers and twin 18V 4.0Ah batteries, for 36V performance. The batteries are small and work across a wide range of Power For All Alliance tools, from brands including Bosch and Gardena. Sharing batteries between tools saves money and materials.
Is it any good?
Unboxing, we applauded the paper packaging, where single-use plastic bags are the norm. Assembly took 10 minutes, with four fiddly bolts to attach the handles and a two-part grass box to clip together. It comes with two safety keys but you only need one, so there’s a spare if you lose it.
The Flymo is great for smaller gardens. At 36V we expected it to struggle in tough patches, but it was determined to rise to any challenge. It refused to stall, even on long or damp grass and soldiered on, even when bunged up. So it’s important to notice the plastic indicator on top when the grass box is full. It sounds whiny but there’s no lack of power. And it’s nimble: you can turn easily and tackle even small patches of grass and awkward corners. Edge performance and mowing are both impressive.
Mowing ergonomics are great. There are twin hand grips and, once you’ve pressed the central safety button, you can squeeze either grip to mow. An LED in the middle indicates battery life.
There are five cutting heights, multiple handle heights and a roller for a traditional striped effect. For storage, it folds up small, fast. The vertical storage, with the grass box clipped to the handle, is genius. You can move it like a lightweight, wheely suitcase.
This Flymo is a great buy if your garden can be mowed in its 28-minute run time (approx 230m²). For a larger garden, consider a self-propelling or robotic mower to make light work of it.
Surprisingly powerful, easy to store, the perfect mower for smaller gardens.
This self-propelling mower is top of Worx’s new Nitro range. It has a variable speed and an unusual battery system: four 20V batteries team up to deliver 80V. They sit in a removeable BaseCamp charger and the whole, large thing clips in to the mower. No separate charger is needed, just a power cable.
The entire BaseCamp can be used, Ghostbusters-style, to power the Worx 80V backpack leaf blower. The individual 20V batteries work with PowerShare-compatible tools too. Interestingly, on test we found that the mower only works with all four batteries in place.
Is it any good?
Assembly is minimal: just clip the mesh grass box to its wire frame. It also comes with a side discharge chute, to clip on if you’re mulching instead of gathering clippings.
The Worx is powerful and large, but easy to store. Press a button and the handle folds forwards and locks into place. Then you can securely tip the mower to wheel it around or store it vertically. The mower is heavy but you rarely need to lift it. The same button sets the handle height for mowing, from three options.
Pushing the mower, your fingers pull a black wire handle to the main handle to mow and your thumbs push an orange wire handle to engage self-propelling. You can do one or both. A control in easy reach sets the speed, from a crawl to a brisk walk that blitzes lawns fast. There’s also a button on the dash to turn on its four LED headlights. A lever on the mower body selects from seven cutting heights and there’s a safety key too.
Mowing performance was very good but not the best on test. It didn’t stall with the grass box but did stall occasionally when mulching, and lawn edges were slightly tufty. Cornering was a bit hard but its power made mowing long lengths a breeze, even over bumpy ground. Overall, it lived up to the promise of a petrol-like performance.
A good, self-propelling, cordless electric mower with a petrol-like performance.
STIHL RMA 339 C
The mid-priced STIHL is designed for medium-sized lawns. It takes one battery at a time but this bundle comes with a charger and two batteries, each covering 250m², so 500m² total. Or buy the mower bare for £329 if you already have AK batteries – they work across a range of STIHL garden tools. Bigger batteries in the AK system can handle up to 400m²
The mower’s striking design has a mono handle which can be quickly folded for storage by pressing one lever. The STIHL is QuietMark certified. It has a pop-out safety key under the hood to prevent unwanted use. Tilt it sideways to use it as a power switch. There’s also an Eco button.
Is it any good?
The mono handle is sturdy and the entire mower feels like it will last decades. It’s ergonomic and comfortable to mow one-handed. It’s easy to use and everything clicks into place. There’s a little lever to open or close the handle, with two handle height settings and no nuts to turn. A large handle on the side makes it easy to adjust between six cutting heights (20-70mm), a wide range though six options seems like overkill. You’ll probably just have a couple of favourites, like hob rings.
The battery has a button to see the charge level and you can see this even while the mower lid is closed. A little flap on the top of the grassbox pops up to tell you when it’s full; at which point it’s easy to remove thanks to the mono handle. The back of the grassbox opens for easy emptying, so you don’t have to just shake clippings out of the front. Alternatively, buy an optional mulching kit to scatter fine grass clippings.
Mowing results are superb and it mows to 5cm away from a brick edge. It’s quiet enough (rated 90dB) and the Eco mode automatically adapts blade speed as required, saving energy and extending battery life. It also packs down well. The mono handle folds easily, then you can tip it back on end and store it upright, with the grassbox balanced on top, 116x42x51cm (HxWxD) stored.
This is the Goldilocks of mowers: not too small, not too big, just about right. Of all the machines on test, it’s the nicest to push. We didn’t want to stop.
The mono handle, sturdy build and great performance made this our favourite.
|Mowing area||2x 250m²|
Flymo EasiStore 300R Li
Small lawn and small shed? Look no further. The Flymo is by far the best mower here for storage space, with a footprint you could fit anywhere (see below). It’s generally petite, with the narrowest mowing width and smallest grassbox on test too.
Unusually it comes with two 20V batteries and you use both at once, to deliver 40V. You can charge both at once too. There’s a button on each battery to see the charge level. Beside the batteries is a removeable safety key and the Flymo comes with a spare, in case you lose it.
Is it any good?
Assembly is a total pain. It took more than 15 minutes and four swears. The experience feels less like unboxing, more like working on a production line. You even have to put together the hard, plastic grassbox from three parts. It’s a shame it couldn’t arrive assembled and folded up.
And yet the Flymo gets top marks because you only have to assemble it once, after which the design is very impressive. Its signature move is that it’s the best on test for storage space. Fold the handle forwards by opening two clips. Then tip the whole thing backwards to stand on its backside. Finally, clip the grassbox at the top. The whole thing takes up 102x38x31cm (HxWxD) so it has the smallest footprint here. What’s more, it’s sat back on its wheels, so you can roll it like a wheelie carry-on suitcase. It will fit in even the smallest shed. As mentioned, the grassbox is all plastic. There’s a flap on it to indicate when it’s full.
It’s designed for small lawns and is subjectively a bit whiney (it’s rated 90dB). It mows well enough for small lawns, with five height settings (25-65mm) and mows up to 5cm away from a brick edge. It’s compact and not a workhorse, so it struggled to cut over-long grass short, but cut at a higher height first and it’s fine.
The best small mower if you’re short of storage space, thanks to a clever, space-saving design.
|Weight||11.3kg incl battery|
|Battery||2x 20V 2.6Ah|
Honda HRX476 XB
If you’ve got a large lawn, you have options. A mains-powered mower won’t cut it, the socket’s too far away. Consider robotic mowers and even a ride-on. Otherwise, a heavy-duty rechargeable like this is a good alternative to petrol. The big, heavy Honda is self-propelling, travelling at up to 1.3m/s. Which is brilliant for big lawns but also feels like more tech to go wrong.
Choose from seven cutting heights (25-79mm), which is more than you’ll ever need. Another lever lets you decide what proportion of the grass to collect and what proportion to finely shred and mulch, to naturally fertilise the lawn.
Is it any good?
The Honda is heavy. At 36.5kg, this weighs almost four times as much as the Bosch. It’s not a one-person lift so you’ll need a shed or garage with level access. But mowing isn’t hard work, thanks to the self-propelling function. There’s a dial on the dashboard that selects its speed, from nothing (you push it) up to a fast walk. You still have two-stage safety controls, so if you let go of the handle it stops. There’s also an isolator key on the side that comes out for safety and is turned as a power switch.
The self-propelling is welcome: it would be tiring to push the heavy Honda all the time. It makes me wonder why double buggies don’t have power assist. But you need to dial it down to turn, otherwise you’re fighting the mower. So again it’s best for large lawns.
The fabric grassbox pops off and has an open front that makes it easy to empty. Mowing results are neat and it mows to 5cm away from a brick edge. It seems a bit loud but there’s a Quiet Mode button on the dashboard to dial down the noise (rated 87dB instead of 92dB). As well as this and the speed controls, there’s a set of lights on the dashboard to indicate battery level.
The Honda’s handle folds over for storage and then you can put the fabric grassbox on top. It’s not small at 57x50x105cm (HxWxD) stored.
We liked the Honda for large lawns… but at this price you could get the Honda Miimo robot instead.
This Honda is a self-propelling workhorse, but at this price you could have a robot mow the lawn.
|Weight||36.5kg incl battery|
Kärcher LMO 18-33
One of the most affordable and compact mowers on test. It has a 33cm cutting width but there’s also a 36cm model. The price includes battery and fast charger, but if you already have these with another rechargeable Kärcher tool, you can buy it battery-free for just £179.99. The battery has an LCD display of battery life in percent.
There’s a removable safety key to prevent small people deciding to ‘play’ lawn mowing unattended. There are four cutting heights (35-65mm) and you can swap the grassbox for a mulching plug (supplied) that reroutes clippings to the lawn.
Is it any good?
Handle assembly is like the Bosch, but instead of two screws to attach it to the mower body, the handle clips to the body. Then you use a pair of bolts with wing nuts to add the folding part. There are three handle height settings and it has foam padding but we didn’t find it especially comfortable and there’s only one position to hold it in.
The fact the handle can unclip makes the storage footprint smaller. It’s not designed to store on end though, so it takes up 39x38x70cm (HxWxD). Good, solid handles mean it’s easy to lift the folded mower one-handed.
The grassbox is fabric with a hard, plastic lid: the best of both worlds as it’s rugged, easy to carry and empty, but squashes flat to store. A flap indicates when the grassbox is full. Lowering the cutting height is easy but it’s a bit harder to raise as you need to lift the mower weight with one hand while adjusting the control (next to the front wheel) with the other.
Mowing leaves a good finish (and gets to 5cm away from a brick edge) but it lacks power: the mower sometimes stalls on over-long grass, especially when trying to cut short. It’s better to cut high first, then shorter. It was also subjectively loud (rated 92dB).
The Kärcher is lightweight, manoeuvrable and good value but lacks oomph. We preferred it to the Bosch for small lawns and it packs down smaller.
Great for small lawns and good value, but not the most powerful on test.
|Weight||12.4kg incl battery|
This folds up well and offers seven cutting heights (25-75mm) which is more than you’ll ever need. The shortest seems too short unless you’re tending a bowling green.
If you happen to have a compatible Husqvarna 36V battery, you can save money and buy the mower bare for £288.99, without battery and charger.
Is it any good?
The Husqvarna requires a small amount of assembly, after which you’re left with a mower with a handle that folds twice: forwards, then back on itself. The fabric grassbox flattens well too. This makes it compact for storage (48x45x76cm HxWxD) but it isn’t designed to be stood on end. Folding and unfolding is quick and easy, you just undo two knobs.
The handle’s safety catch is unusual: you flick a plastic lever on the left to the side, then close the two handles together to make it move. It’s ergonomic enough to push but the safety catch doesn’t come as naturally as pushing a button.
The grassbox is good: it’s easy to lift and empty one-handed. But design-wise, a major niggle is that there’s a thin wire that gets easily caught where the mower handle folds. No matter how you reroute the cable guides, it’s too exposed.
Under the bonnet is much like the STIHL. Press a button to see how much battery life is left. Turn the removeable Security Key for power. Flick the savE button to save energy and extend battery life.
At 88dB rated, it’s pretty quiet and lacks the whiney sound that plagues some smaller mowers. It’s comfortable to push and feels very light and manoeuvrable. It mows well, even on longer grass, but it only mows up to 7cm away from a brick edge.
The Husqvarna folds up well, mows well and is a good all-rounder.
|Weight||17.6kg incl battery|
Bosch CityMower 18V-32-300
An affordable mower and the lightest on test. The Bosch’s biggest selling point isn’t its mowing performance, it’s its versatile battery system. The same 18V batteries work across all Power for All machines, an alliance of home and garden brands, including power tools and vacuum cleaners as well as garden tools. This saves money and materials, because you can buy some of your tools battery-free.
The mower comes with a 4Ah battery which mows up to 200m² but you can also buy higher capacity 5Ah (250m²) and 6Ah (300m²) batteries for it. It has three cutting heights (30-60mm) and, thanks to a special leaf collect blade, the top height setting can also be used to collect and shred autumn leaves from the lawn.
Is it any good?
Assembly took nearly ten minutes and a screwdriver. You’re left with a compact mower that feels lightweight but plasticky. It’s annoying that the handles are screwed on to the body and can’t pop out like the Kärcher,as this would have let it pack down smaller. As it is, it takes up 70x38x90cm (HxWxD) stored with the handle folded in half, using two plastic wingnuts.
Mowing performance is good enough for a small lawn. It’s lightweight, easy to push and not too loud (rated 89dB). There’s a removable safety key with two positions, so you can use it as a power switch. It even comes with a spare safety key, in case you lose it.
Ergonomics are good. You can’t adjust handle height but there are two types of grip: a horizontal bar and vertical handles rising from it, like bike handlebars. The Bosch is so lightweight, you can even push it one-handed, anywhere on the handles.
A red lever beside the front wheel lets you easily adjust between three cutting heights and that’s plenty. And its edge performance is impressive, mowing to 4cm away from a brick edge. There’s no visual indicator that the plastic grassbox is full, but when it is you can carry and tip it out one-handed. You can even carry the folded mower in one hand and the grassbox in the other, to put them away. It’s that light.
Lightweight and good for small lawns, but the design could be better.
Best Lawn Mowers: Top 5 Grass Cutters Most Recommended By Experts
When warm weather returns, it is time for BBQ, swimming pools, and outdoor gardening. Lawn care for a home can be a major endeavor, depending on the size and layout of the lawn itself. In the search to find the right tool for the job, the best lawn mowers come in handy to keep your yard manicured.
According to a recent study, more than two-thirds of Americans find themselves spending more time at home now than two years ago – and the economy may be to blame. That’s according to a new survey of 2,000 Americans, where 69 percent of respondents remain home due to external factors such as inflation and a looming recession. With all that time on their hands, respondents have been staying busy by upgrading their homes. Over the last year, Americans have prioritized maintaining their yards and lawns (36%), followed by their kitchens (30%) and living rooms (29%). On top of that, they spend 50 hours maintaining their lawn, 42 hours caring for their kitchen, 27 hours keeping up their dining room, and 33 hours on their home gym each year.
Spending time on lawn care and gardening can be good for your health. In fact, a new study reports that gardening could help reduce the risk of cancer, boost mental health and bring communities together. Scientists say it leads to eating more fibrous fruits and vegetables, exercising more and building social connections. These positive elements of gardening can ease stress and anxiety and lower the risk of various illnesses, according to researchers from The University of Colorado Boulder.
With so many choices from gas to electric to remote controlled and more, there are many lawncare products to choose from. StudyFinds did the research for you by turning to the experts to find the best lawn mowers available for your today. Let us know your opinion in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below!
The List: Best Lawn Mowers, According to Experts
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
As always, it is unusual for our sources to agree on which product is the best. However when it comes to Lawn Mowers, our sources agree: Honda is top of the line. “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,” writes Bob Vila.
The wow factor of this mower comes from the quality and power of the engine. “In terms of cut quality and the ability to maintain turf health, it’s one of the best self-propelled mowers available, due mostly to a pair of features—a two-blade cutting system that offers golf-course-like results, and a unique way to dial in a precise mulching-to-bagging ratio to compensate for various grass conditions. Combine all of that with this mower’s other strong details, like a large 200 cc engine and rear-wheel drive to help traverse tall grass or hills, and you’re getting enough to justify the steep price,” says the NY Times.
This mower is especially well-suited for larger lawns: “It is not designed for small yards, and you won’t be darting in and out of flower beds and shrubbery. It is a pleasure to use. We had tested Honda mowers before and were familiar with their operation and overall product quality. The HRX217VKA did not disappoint. Easy to assemble and set up right out of the box, it started on the first pull of the cord. Right away you can feel the heft of this mower with its innovative NeXite deck and powerful motor. It’s heavier than most mowers, but it feels planted on the lawn and tracks perfectly,” adds USA Today.
Ego Power Select Cut Mower
Battery powered mowers have finally become a match for gas-powered competitors. “Advanced battery technology has finally arrived and the benefits can readily be seen in the Ego Power LM2135SP, a 21-inch self-propelled electric mower. This cordless mower with a cutting width of 21 inches utilizes a 56-volt lithium ion battery to power through up to 60 minutes of lawn cutting. The Ego Power is powerful, comfortable, and a joy to use. Even though the battery only lasted about an hour, the mower performed extremely well mulching and driving itself uphill. It has plenty of torque and is capable of doing anything a gasoline-powered mower can do,” says USA Today.
This model boasts powerful specifications as well as a compact size it could be a great choice for smaller lawns. “The battery is compatible with all Ego power tools, so you can swap batteries around and always have a spare ready to hot-swap if needed. The drive is controlled using a typical lever control, and delivers excellent fine-speed control over the range of the mower’s performance. The mower’s multi-blade system gives a professional, clean cut to your lawn that a single-blade mower can’t achieve. Need to mow late in the day? No problem: There are LED headlights to illuminate your path. The Ego lets you quickly switch between mulching, bagging and discharge with a single lever, and the collection bag holds 2 bushels of clippings. You can vary the deck height from 1.25 inches to 4 inches using a single handy lever—you don’t need to adjust each wheel or front and rear individually,” mentions Forbes.
For the average suburban home this model could easily be a go-to purchase for lawn care. “The Ego Power Cordless Mower is the best bang for your buck. With its Rapid charger, this battery-powered push mower contains lots of helpful features, such as LED lights that keep you on track if your mowing time spans into the night. Create the cut of your dreams with one of six height positions, so the stripes on your grass are always up to snuff. When you’re ready to store your mower, take advantage of its foldable technology to be compact and out of sight. Oh, and don’t forget about the lawn mower cover, too,” writes Family Handyman.
Husqvarna AUTOMOWER Robotic Lawn Mower
Robot lawn care has not only arrived but are now becoming more readily available. “Robot lawn mowers are for those of us who don’t want to mow the lawn ever again. They’re still relatively new, meaning are still relatively high, but if you’ve got the cash to spend, they’re a fantastic investment for the time-tight gardener. The 315X has built-in Bluetooth and cellular, meaning you can use the companion app and check in on your lawnmower’s progress wherever you are in the world, as well as stop and start it manually if you prefer. Set a schedule, and you’ll never need to worry about mowing the lawn ever again or use voice commands to bark instructions at it via Amazon Alexa or Google Home instead,” explains Homes Gardens.
For those who want to take the plunge and go robotic, “This Husqvarna Automower Robotic pick mows the yard for you! It can complete large yards, too, thanks to its 145 minutes of running time and fast-charge battery. Its adjustable cut height system can be set between 0.8 to 2.4 inches, and you never have to worry about it being stolen thanks to its GPS tracker and PIN code. The weatherproof technology allows this mower to be caught in the rain without damaging its system, and it’s also capable of mowing slopes up to 24 degrees,” says Family Handyman.
This particular model is pricey, but with the larger price tag comes all the exciting features one might want from a lawn care robot. “This futuristic-looking machine is specifically designed to be able to handle hills up to 35°. This Automower works great for yards up to roughly 0.9 acres and the battery keeps it mowing for an hour and 40 minutes. Charging takes just 30 minutes before it’s off and running again. Like most robotic mowers, the cut height is limited. Ranging from 1.2 to 2.8 inches, it’s not the best option for all grass species. Smartphone connectivity and GPS assistance are built into the system. It’s not completely wire-free just yet, though Husqvarna is working on that,” mentions Pro Tool Reviews.
Greenworks 3-in-1 Lawn Mower
Suburban homeowners are certainly the target audience for many lawn mower manufacturers. “If you have a small lawn that’s no more than 0.25 acre (a typical size for a suburban lawn in many parts of the US), we recommend the Greenworks 3-in-1 Lawn Mower, a mower that impressed us when we tested it in the past. During our latest round of testing, we tested this model again in one of our own backyards on three separate days and found it simple to assemble. It only took around 10 minutes to be up and running), easy to turn on, and comfortable to use. We also had no trouble folding down the handle when it was time to store the mower and appreciated its small size. Overall, we continue to be impressed with this push mower’s features, performance on flat lawns or gently sloped terrain, and value,” explains The Spruce.
The benefits of a corded lawnmower outweigh the hassle of an extension cord, particularly for smaller lawns. “If you’re on a budget, you’ll get a lot of performance for your money. The deck is on the smaller side at 20 inches, meaning you might want to leave this one if you have a larger yard. It is better for nipping around smaller areas and getting into smaller corners easily instead. Noise levels are low, and an easy push-to-start button will get it up and running without any hassle. It’s well-made and reliable, so you have no worries about running out of fuel or battery at any stage. Features are pretty functional here, but there’s enough. You can choose between seven mow levels and between bagging, side discharge, and mulching for the cuttings,” points out Homes Gardens.
It’s all about choosing the right tool for the right job. “If you have a small yard, there’s no need to spend big bucks for a large or expensive machine. This Greenworks option is corded, so you don’t need to think about recharging a battery or making sure the fuel tank is full. The mower’s 20-inch deck allows you to cover plenty of ground in one pass, while seven position height adjustment lets you get the perfect mow every time. Clippings can go right into the included bag. Since this is a plug-in model, it’s nice to know it has a cord retainer to keep the extension cord from accidentally unplugging during the job. Once you’re finished, fold down the handle for easy and compact storage,” mentions Forbes.
Toro Smart Stow
Toro is a trusted American brand for lawn care. “Toro touts a commercial-grade construction on this model and includes a lighter aluminum deck rather than steel. In addition to that, you get outstanding cut quality, especially on the mulching side (you better with the name Super Recycler!). Wrapping it up, the Personal Pace drive system adjusts to your walking pace so there are no levers or dials to adjust,” says Pro Tool Reviews.
The Toro Smart Stow could be a great choice for larger lawns or lawns that are not level. “The Toro SmartStow is another top-rated mower that our experts like for homeowners who are short on space in their garage or shed because it folds down for vertical storage. It’s extremely versatile, too: the self-propelled engine lets you customize its speed to match your pace, plus the mower has nine cutting height options and 10-inch rear wheels that make it easy to maneuver over all lawn types. Thanks to its flex handle suspension, physical fatigue is reduced when mowing larger or sloped lawns. It also features a robust Briggs and Stratton engine for easy riding and powerful mowing — and easy maintenance with no oil changes required. The all-terrain workhorse allows for versatility with its three-in-one cutting offerings — rear bagging collection, side discharge or recycler mulching,” notes Good Housekeeping.
The Toro Smart Stow touts several great functional advantages: “The Toro 20340’s storage feature is called the SmartStow system, which is made possible by the Briggs Stratton engine’s unique design. It’s a simple process: You fold the handle over the body of the mower and lock it in place. Then (with the bag removed), you set the mower upright or wheel it around like a piece of luggage, much like you would a cordless model. It makes storage easy, not to mention cleaning the underside of the mowing deck or inspecting the blade,” claims the NY Times.
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.
The Best Lawn Mowers
A fter spending a whole season mowing a 4,300 square-foot lawn with self-propelled gas, electric and manual lawn mowers, we’ve selected the Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA as the best lawn mower. With a 160cc engine, the Honda’s cord-free, self-propelled operation gives you plenty of power to get through weeds and overgrowth. If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you don’t want to deal with gasoline and engine maintenance, the Greenworks – 22502 electric is a great option.
A fter spending a whole season mowing a 4,300 square-foot lawn with self-propelled gas, electric and manual lawn mowers, we’ve selected the Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA as the best lawn mower. With a 160cc engine, the Honda’s cord-free, self-propelled operation gives you plenty of power to get through weeds and overgrowth. If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you don’t want to deal with gasoline and engine maintenance, the Greenworks – 22502 electric is a great option.
The 6 lawn mowers we tested
Best self-propelled gas mower: Honda – 21″
Honda seems to have discontinued our winning pick but has released a new model that seems almost identical in features. The changes seem to be a different engine, adding 1 more height option, and a darker paint on the body. We have adjusted all the links to point towards the newer item.
Both models of self-propelled gas mower that we tested are well-built machines. This was a very close call, but Honda – 21″ has included design and ergonomic considerations that make it a better mower.
Honda has models in the 500 and 600 range which add features and functions you may be interested in: electric starting or the option to stop the blade and idle down the engine rather than shutting off and re-starting every time you need to stop, for example. We stuck to our 400 budget and feel confident that most will be happy with the performance of this machine on an average lawn like ours.
Top Pick: Honda. HRR216K9VKA 21
Honda’s small engines are rock-solid and reliable. Plenty of power and great design considerations — even the pull start was easy to use. If you need the power and speed of a self-propelled mower, this is your best bet for under 400.
Honda engines have a reputation for easy starting and this one is no exception. Even with just a pull-start (and needing to re-start every time we stopped to pick up a piece of debris), we never had any trouble getting this mower going.
Self-propelled mowers are heavy and can cause damage in wet soil when making a tight turn. Turning while in motion was very manageable on the Honda, but avoiding lawn damage with a heavy mower requires getting to know the wet spots on your lawn and developing a feel for the balance of the mower.
We tested the mowers in wet grass to see how they’d fare, and the Honda did stall on the wettest grass we tested — probably because the chute clogged up with the wet clippings we were bagging. Other reviewers claim their machine didn’t stall with wet grass, but very wet grass is definitely not something any mower is designed for.
After running electric mowers and manual mowers, the Honda was definitely louder, but it’s not like a straight-pipe Harley or a chainsaw.
Adjusting cutter height requires individual settings on each wheel — this is a bit annoying, but most people won’t have to adjust often.
Since the mower is pulling itself forward whenever the engine is going, variable speed control helps for working slowly around turns or near edges of a curb. Honda’s thumb-controlled walk-speed setting was easy to use and felt more natural than the “personal pace” adjuster on the Toro, which was another mower we tested.
Honda’s switch controlling the bagging/mulching flap is also nicer than the Toro’s lever, with a solid engagement that clicks reassuringly in place. Honda claims that their blade system cuts better with two blades, but with a yard the size of the one we tested it was difficult to tell the difference. Suffice it to say, the Honda and Toro both cut well.
The foldable handle has quick-release locks for folding and storing the handle, whereas the Toro uses spin-off fasteners that take more time. Honda also includes padding on the handles of their machine, where Toro leaves you with plastic.
We stored our mowers in a raised shed in the backyard. The shed isn’t super roomy, so storage size and maneuverability were something we noticed. At 84 pounds the Honda is still light enough to lift on its back wheels to roll in, but lifting it to move around in a tight space is noticeably more difficult than with the non-gas models.
- The Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA gave us trouble-free performance the first time and every time. No trouble with the pull-starter, the bagging system, or the blade adjustment.
- This mower is powerful enough to take on wet grass and mulches whatever twigs and leaves are on your lawn.
- While it’s hefty compared to electric or manual-powered mowers, Honda designed a handle-folding system that makes it relatively easy to store.
Best electric mower: Greenworks – 22502
Compared to the heavy gas mowers the Greenworks – 22502 electric powered mower feels incredibly light: at 56 lb, it’s about 30 lb lighter than the Honda. This makes it far easier to turn without skidding, not to mention easier to handle when you’re putting it away. There’s a lot of plastic involved in keeping that weight down, of course, but the Greenworks still feels more like a serious lawn mower than the other electric model we tested. It’s a simple machine and doesn’t need unnecessary bulk.
Best Electric Mower: Greenworks. 22502
With a wide cutting path and easy-to use features, the Greenworks makes quick work of a lawn without the extra noise and smell of gasoline power.
The Greenworks mower has a 20-inch mowing width and height can be adjusted from 1.5 inches to 3.75 inches with seven height settings total. In the price range we tested, most electric mowers cut a much narrower track (the Sun Joe is a 14-inch and a comparable Black and Decker model is 15 inches) which means you’ll finish 20-30 percent more quickly with the Greenworks.
The Greenworks came ready to go for bagging, side discharge, and mulching, where the Sun Joe only lets you bag unless you buy extra accessories. Setup was a piece of cake, though we should note that the box it came in was not taped shut — the outer shipping box was secure and nothing was missing, but it was a possible sign of lax shipping quality control.
Greenworks made height adjustment very easy: adjusting one lever controls cutting height on the entire mower. On the other hand, the Sun Joe required individual wheel adjustments, as did the gas-powered models we tested.)
This mower has a side discharge chute, but it requires an attachment to keep open. You have to insert a plug in the back of the mower and add the chute on the side to spread clippings to the side.
One of the disappointing things we noted was that clipping shreds occasionally spray out from the catch basket around the perimeter of the deck. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s not something that happened with other mowers.
Dumping the clippings can be slightly awkward since there’s a crossbar that supports the handles. This is an issue on both electric models we tested, but not on the gas models (which have larger, more robust handlebars that don’t use a cross-brace.) This doesn’t stop you from removing the bag, but you have to be aware of where your hands are and bend in awkward ways.
Mowing with an attached power cord is not fun. You’re chained to the plug, dancing a tango with the mower to avoid the cable getting clipped. It’s manageable if you start near the plug and work going away from the cord, but annoying to say the least. Water in pools or puddles is also an electricity-related hazard you’ll have to pay attention to with a long cord.
Note that the Greenworks mower doesn’t come with an extension cord; you’ll need to buy a fairly heavy cord, at least 14 gauge if you’re going longer than 50 feet. 16GA is okay at 50 feet, but you’ll want something longer than that unless you have electrical outlets on every corner of your lawn. You’ll also have to coil the cable carefully after you use it, either a careful straight coil or over-under, unless you want to spend time every week untying a bunch of knots and dealing with a spiral-shaped cord after a year of twisting and untwisting it from sloppy coils.
We felt this mower was ideally sized for our lawn and having no exhaust fumes was great, but it still made a lot of noise relative to manual mowers. Plus, we really missed being cord-free after our time with the gas mowers.
- Like any electric mower, the Greenworks – 22502 20″ mower is lighter and easier to maneuver, but you’re tied to an electrical cord.
- Greenworks gives you a lot of mower for your money; it’s much more efficient and better built than the other electric mower we tested.
- It’s not as quiet as the manual mowers, but not having to deal with the noise and smell of a gasoline engine is a huge plus.
Best manual mower: Fiskars – Staysharp Max
The Fiskars – Staysharp Max is wonderfully simple. It’s solid and precise. Plus, with an 18-inch wide reel it covers ground more quickly than even the Sun Joe electric mower we tested (the Fiskars also costs more though.) Manual mowers use a scissor-like blade system that usually makes a grinding or swishing noise, but Fiskars takes pride in their carefully aligned blades and resulting lack of noise.
Before starting we knew we were going to be in love with manual mowers for the eco-friendly aspect, quiet operation, and lack of gas exhaust. The Fiskars mower was indeed very enjoyable to cut with.
Best Manual Mower: Fiskars. Staysharp Max
Quiet and smooth, this is a machine made to clip a smaller lawn that’s already in top condition.
A quiet mower means you don’t feel guilty bugging your neighbors if mowing early in the day or late in the evening. A great perk is that you can talk on the phone or listen to music with non-sealing earbuds while mowing with this machine.
We wore gloves while mowing (since you need to be even more diligent about clearing debris with a manual mower) but were surprised at how comfortable the padded handles are on the Fiskars.
Fiskars went for a very wide cutting area, two inches wider than the Great States mower. This lessens cutting time, but all that width makes it more cumbersome to maneuver in the shed. We feel that it’s well worth the tradeoff and had no issues maneuvering on the turf.
Out of the box, setup was pretty simple, requiring a few screws to connect the handles to the body. The handles fold up (without locking), which saves space, making storage easy compared to non-folding handles.
Adjusting height on this mower is even easier than on the gas-powered models — it’s just one lever in the front instead of adjusting four wheels individually. It’s also marked at 1 inch (shortest) to 4 inches cutting height. On other models you kind of just have to know the height range and wing it, so this was a nice touch on the Fiskars.
To give this manual mower a workout, we used the 1.5-inch setting on overgrowth at first. It was easy in some parts, but extremely difficult towards the end, in patches that weren’t even super tall. On subsequent mowings, it was a breeze. Unlike with gas or electric mowers, you definitely have to spend more time clearing the lawn of twigs and debris before mowing so you don’t jam up the mower.
The adjustable chute can let you direct clippings forward or backward as needed. There’s no included bagging option and even with the optional clipping-catcher this mower can’t suck up and pulverize leaves and small twigs like the powered mowers can.
With extra lawn-clearing time and smaller cutting width, a manual mower can be more work and will take longer than powered lawn mowers. However, if you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint and don’t ever let your grass get overgrown, this may be the mower for you.
- Heavier than most manual mowers, the Fiskars Staysharp Max‘s 18-inch cutting width makes quick work of small lawns.
- Most manual mowers are somewhat quiet, but Fiskars has made a reel that’s almost noiseless.
- Great build quality, fit and finish; this mower is more expensive than a cheap plug-in mower and it shows.
Other products we tested
Toro – 22″ Recycler 20334
Immediately, we noticed the Toro 22″ Recycler’s excellent packaging: high-quality plastic wrap on all the parts and the engine keeps everything tidy during shipping.
While we appreciated the padding and a few control details on the Honda just a bit more, Toro really knows their stuff too. The handle and connectors on this mower are excellent.
One setup detail that lost Toro some points is how hard it is to add oil to the BS engine and check the level. Waiting for the oil to drip down into the crankcase so you can read the dipstick accurately is a tedious process and the min/max markings on the dipstick are not present as depicted in the manual. Instead, there are only dots. There’s very little room for error, so setting up the mower for the first time involved a lot of waiting/re-dipping to make sure we got the right amount of oil.
We had trouble with the electric starting system, too. We charged the starter battery as directed, but it didn’t work. The instructions for initial startup weren’t especially clear, either. The starter button didn’t work in an intuitive way and the manual talks about a key-start that our mower doesn’t have. So for our review, the tester started the mower manually, just like the Honda. The Toro we tested does include the electric starter at the same price as the Honda with pull-start only.
Wheel height adjustment on the Toro isn’t as easy as other mowers. You have to adjust each wheel individually. Plus, the front wheel height adjustment tab was bent on the machine we received.
Eventually, the first Toro we got had to be exchanged, since the metal tab on a wire that looks up to the blade control lever was broken. This rendered the machine unable to start. Home Depot swapped this out for us without a problem.
Toro’s “personal pace” drive speed feature works just fine, but we preferred the thumb control of the Honda. On the Toro, you have to hold the fixed handle in one hand and control speed with another handle that slides up and down. It’s not difficult to use, but it’s not as easy as Honda’s system.
Great States – 16″ 415-16
Unpacking the Great States – 16″ 415-16 mower was definitely a low point. Terrible setup instructions meant we had to undo the assembly we’d already done to fit the handles into the lower mower part. The plastic twist knobs that hold the handle fasteners together are poor quality, to say the least. In fact, you could cut yourself while tightening them. That being said, it’s a tool-free setup process.
At 16 inches of cutting width, (two inches less than the Fiskars, but much lighter overall), this machine is definitely more maneuverable. The quality of build feels lower than Fiskars, but not too bad considering it’s less than half the cost.
The cutting height on the Great States ranges from 0.5 inch to 2.5 inches compared to the Fiskars’ 1-4 inches. You really don’t need the 4-inch range unless you are cutting down overgrowth, but this might matter in a few cases.
The lack of motor noise and exhaust is still a great reason for choosing this manual model, but the cutting blade makes a grinding sound that’s louder than the Fiskars precisely adjusted cutter. The Great States is also slightly harder to push than the Fiskars.
This is a tool that gets the job done for less than 100 and will likely last for many years (with a design that’s been around longer than you probably have.) There are even folks with yards larger than ½ acre who happily use this machine to mow. When it comes down to details, though, the Fiskars is a much nicer mower.
Sun Joe – 14″ MJ401E
Setting up the Sun Joe 14″ MJ401E was drama-free, with a good (non-folding) attachment design for the surprisingly comfortable padded handles, but the budget price shows through: This mower looks and feels like a toy. While it is more agile than most of the other mowers, it is very plastic, very light, and very basic. At about 40 less than our winning electric model, this should be treated as a basic mower.
Sun Joe doesn’t even include the parts needed for mulching at this price point; If you only ever bag and need to stay within a low budget, this will get the job done. The relatively smaller clippings compartment fills up fast, though. We had to dump out 5-6 times on a small lawn, though that’s partly on account of some overgrowth we were chopping through.
Another disappointment was the very flimsy-feeling height adjuster, which uses a spring-loaded adjuster on each wheel axle and makes you turn the mower on its side to adjust. With three settings, it’s adequate for basic lawn care.
Is Lawn Mowing a Good Side Hustle?
How we selected
For our lineup, we selected an assortment of manual, electric, and gas-powered mowers. As always, we tried to avoid products with consistently negative reviews that mention the same problems. We narrowed our selection to mowers from top brands with good reputations for warranty, reliability, and quality.
Lawn sizes have been shrinking. Recent census data shows that 95-percent of new houses sold have a lot smaller than ¼ acre (and the houses on those lots are getting bigger, leaving even less space for turf). So, we excluded riding mowers from our review and focused on the benefits of powered mowers relative to calorie-powered manual push mowers on a moderately-sized lawn.
We capped the price of the gas models at 400 since there were lots of good options. There are many other features to be had beyond that price range, but unless your lawn is bigger than 1/2 acre, it probably won’t make sense for you to spend much more.
How we tested
Our test lawns (front and back) total to around 4,300 square feet. We cut at the recommended height of 2.5 inches multiple times with each mower. Some mowers got a bit of an extra workout at the beginning of the season due to overgrowth, but we made sure to mow with them again once they reached normal heights to be fair.
Initial setup was one of the big differentiators for the mowers. Some had great instructions, while others were misleading and confusing. Each of these machines required some setup time since they come disassembled. The Great States mower stood out as most frustrating to set up.
We tested the bagging feature on all the mowers that included it. We also compared all of the features used for normal lawn mowing including setup of the cutter height and ease of storage.
Weight and size were some of the most important factors that we noticed. A bulky mower is more difficult to store and transport and extra weight also requires some practice to get clean turns and avoid damaging lawns.
Important features to consider
Mower type – This is typically recommended by lawn size, but there are plenty of options; even within the broader gas/electric/manual categories there’s much to consider.
Bagging and mulching options – Some people will want to bag their clippings. We found that while all of these mowers are capable of bagging, you’d have to buy a separate attachment for the manual mowers. Overall, the design of the bigger self-propelled mowers made removing and emptying the clipping bag easier than the electric models.
Self-propel or push-assist – This makes the work much easier, but it comes with noise, smell, maintenance concerns, and a CO2 footprint. On the flip side, people-powered mowers are quiet and pollution-free, but they’re only efficient if you’re mowing on a rigid schedule to minimize the amount you’re cutting with each pass.
Electric-powered mowers – Electric motors offer great performance, but until battery technology can improve, these models require power cords which introduces a set of compromises compared to other style mowers.
Cutting-height adjustment – This is something most people won’t be adjusting frequently, but it’s still something you’ll have to deal with at least once on all mowers.
Cleaning and storage – This is another big usability consideration. Each mower has its own set of folding-handle quirks, plus nooks and crannies that need to be brushed out or washed off.
How to properly mow a lawn
Mowing a lawn often includes other maintenance aspects like perimeter cleaning with a string trimmer and clearing clippings or debris with a leaf blower which we cover on those respective articles Below we’ll stick to strictly mowing tips.
The “stripe” pattern clearly visible on most sporting fields comes from the fact that mowers push the grass over slightly while they trim and alternating directions when mowing will create contrast in the way those ‘rows’ of clipped grass reflect sunlight.
Generally, the back-and-forth stripe pattern is also the most efficient way for you to mow at home. If you start by mowing around the perimeter a few times, you’ll have some “headland” room to turn around at the end of each long row without fussing about grass you might miss when you turn.
Cutting in a concentric spiral pattern from the outside perimeter is also viable if you’re looking to minimize the stripe effect; Some also find the right-angle corners easier than 180° turns.
(If you really want to get fancy, reel mowers or powered mowers with a roller attachment push the grass flat enough to create the contrast needed for the intricate patterns you sometimes see on ball diamond outfields. David Mellor, groundskeeper for Fenway Park, even wrote a book on the subject.)
The best practice is to rotate your mowing pattern 90 degrees (start at a right angle to your previous pattern) every few mowings to keep grass from being pushed down too much in one direction.
Types of grass
There are basically two “regions” of grass-growing in the United States: “warm-season” grasses in the South, “cool-season” grasses in the North, and a narrow “transitional zone” where it’s common to cross-seed types from both regions.
Seed producers like Pennington and Scotts have lots of great info about the different varieties you might have in your yard. It’s a good idea to get to talk with a lawn-care professional in your area who can help you understand the quirks of growing locally (especially weeds and disease).
The biggest difference between these regions and the varieties you’ll find there is in the timing of peak growth: warm-season grasses grow the most during the summer, then go dormant and turn brown during the cooler winter months; cool-season grasses grow the most in spring, slow down when it gets hot, then have another growth spurt in the fall before winter dormancy.
Grass height and mowing frequency
When you’re deciding how tall you want your grass, the most important thing to remember is that if your grass is too short, it can’t absorb sunlight. Photosynthesis doesn’t happen without leaf area, and all of the other qualities of good turf are dependent on that energy. Basically, longer is better for the health of the grass.
This is especially important in non-growing seasons: the grass will be stressed and needs plenty of leaf and root area (with stored energy from the growing season) to continue thriving. Mow when the air is cool and avoid mowing right before hot weather is in the forecast.
Some warm-climate species, like Bermudagrass, are cut as low as a half-inch on sporting fields. This requires daily mowing in quick-growth seasons, though. (And plenty of water to keep it healthy.) See our in-depth review we did on garden hoses too.
There’s another benefit to keeping lawn grass on the longer side. While the grass is soaking up all the sunlight with lush, long leaves, it’s keeping that sunlight away from any weeds that might be trying to start underneath.
As a rule of thumb, never remove more than a third of the leaf area in one mowing. So if you’re mowing down to two inches, mow again before the grass hits three inches. Pennington provides a handy chart of mowing height for common grass types.
Mulching grass vs. bagging
In very sandy soil mulching can cause some problems since there aren’t as many organisms to consume clippings, but in most cases mulching regular clippings back into the turf is highly recommended by grass experts and municipalities alike.
Earthworms, fungi, and other primary consumers in your lawn’s ecosystem thrive on the clippings and turn the mulch back into available nitrogen for your lawn. (So it’s not just easier than disposing of bags: it means less fertilizer!)
So long as you aren’t trimming off more than an inch of grass, and you aren’t mowing when it’s wet, the clippings should easily scatter down to soil level and form a helpful layer of worm-food. You can even mulch the leaves that fall off your trees!
All of the mowers we tested are mulch-ready except for the Sun Joe 401E, which requires an optional attachment to safely funnel the clippings (and any debris you may accidentally find in your grass) to the side. The other powered mowers will require a quick conversion from bag-mode with an included plug or a moveable flap.
Because bagging is occasionally beneficial (if you have to wait for your lawn to dry in the spring and the grass gets really long, for example) we also tested the bagging features of all the powered mowers. (Manual-power reel mowers aren’t very good at cutting tall grass, but you can get leaf-catcher attachments if you really don’t want to mulch.)
Mowing wet grass
While it’s good to mow when the air is cool, avoid mowing grass that is wet from watering or rainfall. When fibers in the leaves get wet they get tougher, so the cut takes more work and can leave a ragged edge on the leaf. It requires you to sharpen your blades more frequently, too.
Plus, if you’re mulching your clippings, wet mulch all over your lawn is just as bad as it sounds — clumpy and prone to get musty. If you don’t have a way to dispose of them within a few days, having bags of wet mulch sitting in your garage is even worse.
Mowing wet grass is just a bad idea. A little dew in the morning generally won’t slow you down much, but if the grass is soaked it’s best to wait for the sun to come out.
Mowers are tools and tools need to be taken care of if you want them to keep doing a job well. Storage in a clean, dry place should be a given, but there are a few specific tasks that you’ll have to get used to if you want a mower that will keep your lawn looking its best:
All cutting edges require routine sharpening, even mower blades. Plan on sharpening at least once a season if you don’t want to bruise or tear your grass. Checking the blades for uneven wear and other problems is Smart, but checking the grass to see how well you’re cutting is the surest way to determine the condition of your mower blades.
Sharpening more than once a season should only be necessary if you’re cutting heavier material like a lot of twigs (or the bane of every mower, hidden gravel/sand leftover from winter snow piles.)
Fiskars claims that the steel and tight-tolerance design used in their reel mower will cut cleanly for the life of the mower, but they still sell a sharpening kit and it works like all the other reel-mower sharpening kits. An abrasive compound wears away high spots and leaves a keen edge when you spread it on the blades and run the reel backward against the stationary cutting bar. (If dismounting drive chains or spinning mower reels with a hand drill aren’t your idea of fun, you can usually find a local handyman or landscaper who will do the job for you.)
Powered mower blades have edges more like axes and you can sharpen them in nearly the same way. A vise or other clamp to hold the blade steady and a carbide scraper or good steel file are all you really need to bring the edge back to a chisel-shaped apex that will be able to slice paper and keep your lawn looking crisp and green.
Winterizing gas mowers and oil changes
If your lawn is covered in snow (or simply not growing) for more than a month every year, there are storage tasks you’ll need to remember for gas engines. Old gasoline can go stale or dry out and create a layer of varnish inside your engine. You need to either add a stabilizer to your mower’s gas tank and fill it before storage (pretty easy, but the mower will be heavy) or get all of the gas out of the system.
Like your car, a mower’s four-cycle gasoline engine uses oil for lubrication, but unlike your car, it doesn’t run the oil through a filter to clean out debris. Nearly everyone will recommend annual oil changes before storage as part of a winter routine.
Spark plugs in a mower should last for a long time, but you should check them annually or as directed in your owner’s manual. People fool themselves into replacing electrical components arbitrarily if mowers won’t start, but it’s well worth learning how to spot signs of failure as a part of annual maintenance.
Gas vs. electric vs. manual mowers
All the mowers we tested will cut well enough once the blades hit the grass. The biggest differences come down to how much effort is required from a homeowner to get there and cover ground efficiently.
Manual reel mowers
These are the greenest of mowers, powered by whatever you’ve had for breakfast. They’re relatively simple tools that do one job: they cut grass quietly and efficiently for as long as you can push them. Beyond the sustainability and simplicity, they’re lighter and easier to store: no cord, no gas, no worries. If you like the idea of augmenting your lawn-mowing cardio with a bit more resistance, you should consider a reel mower.
The biggest weakness to the reel mower is that it’s not effective with thick or tall grass. This is a tool that will make you regret every time you forget to mow by making you work much harder. Have a lot of overgrown weeds? You’ll want to look elsewhere.
If your lawn is big enough that just thinking about pushing a reel mower is exhausting, an electric-powered mower is one way to ease your burden without the weight, noise, smell, and maintenance concerns of a gasoline engine.
Even compared to the Fiskars Max, the electric mowers we tested were light and easy to maneuver. They’re still louder than the manual mowers, since there’s a 14-inch or 20-inch steel blade swinging around under the deck. However, your neighbors and family will still have less reason to complain about your Saturday-morning routine.
There’s not nearly as much to maintain on an electric mower as on a gasoline-powered mower, but keeping the deck clean and inspecting the cord for wear are still important tasks you’ll need to perform.
Managing the cord on an electric mower is similar to the annoyances of working with a household vacuum cleaner but on a larger scale. Running over the cord with the mower is, obviously, something you must never do. You also don’t want to trip on it, drop it in a pool, accidentally unplug it or plug it into a socket that can’t provide the 12 Amps of AC power needed by these engines.
Gas-powered self-propelled mowers
The bigger your lawn, the more you’ll appreciate the self-propelled mower: these machines are designed to help you cover a lot of ground quickly by pulling themselves along at up to four MPH. So, all you really need to do is steer.
The gas mowers we tested have engines that provide around five horsepower to get through thick or long grass. (These are very similar to the engines you’ll find on a small Go-Kart.) Naturally, having all of that internal combustion power at your fingertips also brings noise and smells that other kinds of mowers won’t have.
While your time mowing will be much easier, the biggest drawback to gas-powered mowers is in maintenance. Like a gas-powered car, these mowers need fuel, oil changes, and air filter and spark-plug checkups. Maintaining a small engine is very simple: you can do a mower oil change in minutes and even teach your kids how to do it. However, it’s not for everyone. Naturally, there are mechanics who will do all of these services for you, for a fee.
The bottom line
Mowing your own lawn is one of those rites of passage for do-it-yourself home ownership. Like other jobs you do around your house, it will save you money compared to professional care, but it may take you more time and involve more cursing than you expected. We hope one of these mowers will help make your weekly lawn chores more enjoyable and less frustrating.
If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you’re excited about the idea of a brisk walk back and forth across it every Saturday morning, the Fiskars is probably an ideal machine for you. Smooth, quiet and precise, like the scissors the company is famous for, the Staysharp Max reel mower can help you keep your lawn looking its best without the noise and complications powered mowers bring.
If you’ve got a few weeds that are invading your lawn or if you anticipate dealing with overgrowth after a wet spring, a powered mower will mean less straining — not to mention the time it’ll save. The Greenworks 22502 has a 20-inch cutting blade that lessen the number of rows you’ll need to walk. Plus, it’ll make quick work of just about any foliage found in an urban lawn-care setting. It’s ready to go for bagging out of the box, too.
And if you’ve got a lawn bigger than ¼ acre or if you think you’ll appreciate the one-switch conversion between mulching and bagging, the Honda HRR216K9VKA cuts a wide swath quickly and efficiently through leaves, twigs and tall weeds. A self-propelled machine takes a bit more maintenance than an electric, but annual oil changes might seem a small price to pay compared to the headache of dancing around a cord on a larger lawn.
Top Pick: Honda. HRR216K9VKA 21
Whether bagging or mulching, the Honda keeps up with your needs. It’s solid and simple to make the most of your mowing time.
The Best Zero-Turn Mowers of 2023
These achieve the rare feat of making lawn mowing fun.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: Mar 1, 2023
When it comes to yard work, zero turn mowers do the impossible. They make lawn mowing fun. They accomplish this by putting unprecedented speed, control and maneuverability at the disposal of the person mowing the lawn. The so-called “zero turn” feature of these mowers converts a grass cutting machine into something akin to an amusement park ride. You steer the machine with two levers—the left lever controls the left wheel, the right lever the right wheel. With that steering setup, you can zoom over the landscape cutting straight lines, curves, or pivot the mower into and out of a corner. What’s not to like?
Read on to understand how these agile grass cutters work, how we go about testing them, and see some candidates that we’ve recently tested as well as some that we haven’t but that we think look particularly promising.
How Zero-Turn Mowers Work
A zero-turn riding mower consists of an operator platform, a frame and wheels, an engine (or battery bank), transmissions (or motors), and a pair of control levers commonly known as lap bars. In gas mowers, the engine powers a pulley system. One group of pulleys drives the blades, another group powers a pair of transmissions–one at each rear wheel. When you move the lap bar forward or back, you are directing the transmission to go faster, slower, or even turn the opposite way. When one drive wheel turns clockwise and the other counter clockwise, the mower pivots. When the wheels rotate at different rates, the mower turns in an arc-shaped path. When the lap bars are in the neutral position, the mower stops. Aside from a parking brake, there’s no other braking mechanism. Battery-powered zero-turn mowers work the same way, but have separate motors to drive the rear wheels and one for each blade inside the mower deck.
When it comes to transmission, most mowers have a Hydrogear EZT—a well-known and cost-effective residential-grade transaxle with a reputation for durability.
Some mowers use a deck stamped from one piece of steel, others use a deck fabricated from multiple pieces and welded together. A fabricated deck can be built from thicker steel at a lower cost than it would be able to be built otherwise. Once you’re talking about stamping metal as thick as 10 gauge (about 1⁄8 inch thick), the cost of stamping such a deck would push up the mower’s price beyond what most people are willing to pay. The decks in the mowers below range from 42 to 52 inches, a typical size in this class of product. When powered by these engines and the Hydrogear, these mowers will deliver a decent cut quality at their rated top speed of 7 mph. Note, however, that cut quality declines steeply if you maintain that speed in very thick grass or on uneven terrain.
As to the electric mowers, they represent the leading edge of the technology in this category. These are remarkable and expensive mowers powered by large-voltage lithium-ion batteries. If you’re interested in reducing mowing noise and simplifying your maintenance routine by eliminating gas and oil, they’re worth a look.
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Selecting a Zero-Turn Mower
Everyone would like to select the biggest possible zero-turn mower with the hope of whittling a big grass cutting job down to size as quickly as possible. Reality usually intercedes because these machines are expensive and the wide range of options available today quickly drive up the cost. Roughly speaking, you start somewhere in the range of a mower with a 42-inch deck costing in the vicinity of 3200 to 3500 and move up in increments of 1000 to 1500 until you reach entry-level commercial-grade equipment that costs 7000 to 8000.
Again, speaking in terms of approximation, a mower with a 42-inch deck will cut a two-acre lot (that takes into account that the house, driveway, outbuildings and various landscape features are taking up some of that space). Use a mower with a larger deck to cut anything over two acres. But here’s the caveat. That entry-level ZTR mower (3200, say) with a 42-inch deck will wear out faster and need more maintenance than a mower with a 50-inch deck, a heavier frame, larger engine and higher quality transmissions, and thicker deck with more robust blade spindles, costing 4500.
In the simplest possible terms, you can cut a smaller area with a larger mower and expect more longevity out of the machine (not to mention a nicer mowing experience) or you can cut a larger area with a smaller machine and encounter more maintenance and a mowing experience that will be, we might say, a bit more rugged.
But there are still other factors to consider, in selecting a mower other than deck size and your budget. Larger mowers take more space in a garage or outbuilding. And a mower with a 50-inch or even 60-inch deck, as useful as it might be in getting the job done more quickly, may not fit through a fence’s gate, and it might be more difficult to maneuver in tight spots without creating scalp marks on the lawn from a lot of close-quarter pivoting.
Carefully consider all these factors when shopping for a mower: your budget, maintenance and whether you will perform that work yourself, mowing speed and time, maneuverability and trimming in tight areas, the importance that you place on your comfort while mowing, cut quality, longevity, storage, and access to the landscape.
How We Select and Test
There’s only one way to test a mower, and that’s to cut grass with it. But we also do more than mow.
We raise and lower the deck and adjust the seat. We look at service point access (the air filter, the spark plug, and the oil filter) and how easy it is to remove the deck. We mow approximately an acre with each mower, considering cut and mulching quality while running uphill, downhill, across washboard, and along sidehills. (On sidehills, we’ll mow surfaces pitched up to approximately 20 degrees; manufacturers generally recommend not going steeper than 10 degrees, but we like to be thorough.) We evaluate power and speed relative to cut quality—we investigate whether the mower delivers a decent cut mowing at full speed. When mowing in damp conditions, we look at whether the mower’s tires accumulate grass and how effectively it discharges moist clippings. Finally, we test maneuverability (these machines are, generally, very nimble) and how readily they come to a stop when you back off the lap bar control levers.