Ryobi 40V lawn mower review
Finally decided to pull the trigger on an battery powered lawn mower after the old Briggs and Stratton powered machine finally bit the dust, again, for the last time.
We debated for a week on whether to pay the lawn guy one more time or just go get the new mower. So the lawn was very overgrown. The backyard had patches that were over 6″ long. The front was close to 3″.
So I unboxed it and started the battery charging. While that was happening I decided to sneak in a little three hour motorcycle ride. When I returned the battery was fully charged and ready to go.
It’s quiet. I love that. It’s light and very easy to push and maneuver. I did not get the self propelled model. I set the height to the highest setting for the backyard. It adjusts from 1.5-4″. It had no problems knocking down the overgrown yard. I was really impressed. I used the bag for the backyard only just to try it out. I had to empty it three times. Unlike the reviews I watched in YouTube I had no issues with it filling the bag.
For the front I lowered it to the next to lowest setting, probably a 2″ and installed the mulching plug. I have no plans to bag the grass I just wanted to try it out. It does a very good job mulching, much better than the old gas mower.
After it made quick and quiet work of the front yard I decided to go over the back again on the lower height. I didn’t expect the battery to last long enough to get the whole thing done again but it did. After I was done it still had one bar showing on the battery indicator. So it’s going to have plenty of capacity for my needs with the 5AH battery.
Things I like. It’s plenty powerful and has plenty of capacity for my needs. I really love how quiet it is and how easy it is to use. It’s just an easy experience. I like how small it folds up and how it can be stored upright. I’ve got a small one car garage and it’s nice how little space it takes up tucked away in the corner. The old mower had to live on the patio and it’s nice to get that space freed up.
Things I don’t particularly like about it are the charge time is a little long and the plastic deck is pretty soft. I bumped a tree with it and the blade made contact with the deck so that could be a little stronger IMO.
I guess the only thing to worry about now is how long the battery will last. But overall I’m extremely happy and consider it a major upgrade over a gas powered mower.
I bought the Lowes “kobalt” branded one two weeks ago. Now I need to wait for the grass to actually grow enough to cut it.
I have a Ryobi 40, but it sounds slightly different than yours. Either way, my only complaint is that the bag is too small. Too many trips to dump it.
I purchased the Lowes Kobalt 40V the beginning of last year. Like the Roybi above, it is very light and quiet. I mowed a few weeks before I learned it has two power settings. One week the grass was longer and it powered up to the next level automatically. The battery died about 2/3s of they way through the summer. It was covered under warranty but the three weeks I waited for the new battery were a real pain. I had to charge the bad battery 10-12 times to get the lawn mowed. The new battery worked the end of last year and for the two times I have mowed this year. One dislike is that it does not create enough “wind” to blow the grass off the sidewalk. My favorite part is how quiet it is. I can easily listen to music or the baseball game while mowing.
Glad you’re liking it! We looked at a bunch of electric mowers before finally deciding on the old school reel mower. Been happy with it so far for our tiny yard.
My mom has a self propelled ryobi 40v she got on clearance at home depot. She really likes it.
I, in my infinite wisdom(I needed a smaller charger to use at work) got an 18v string trimmer from them. So far my only issue is that it takes all 4 of my 4ah batteries to do the entire yard but it’ll go through stuff that would make the gas Husqvarna I have bog down and die with no issues so I’m not going to complain.
Probably going to pony up the cash for a 9ah battery and be happy with it.
How big is your yard(s). I’m considering a battery mower when my current gas model kicks it. which given how it was smoking and sputtering a few days ago, may be sooner than later. Plus, that would really entice me to run some electric out to my shed so I can set up a charging station for the batteries out there.
I already have an 80v Kobalt trimmer that will easily trim my yard as well as clear grass clippings (it takes common attachments and I have a blower/sweeper for it) twice on a charge. So I lean towards a mower that uses the same battery.
BTW. I’ve heard/read that these new lithium-ion batteries don’t like really cold temps and it’s a good idea to bring them inside for the winter. And definitely don’t charge them in freezing temps.
As far as I’ve ever known no batteries like really cold temps. It kills the charge in anything much faster than heat.
I love my Ryobi 40V “Expand-it” trimmer and the blower attachment. No more pre-mix and pull-starting the engines just to blow off some leaves or pollen. You squeeze the trigger, it spins. That simple. Looks like it uses the same battery as the mower.
Ryobi Self Propelled Electric Lawn Mower Review
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When we bought our house a few years ago, we didn’t have any outdoor tools. My first purchase was a cheap, tiny, battery powered lawn mower to cut our dandelion-filled yard (the house had been sitting empty for months).
It struggled with thick grass, and the battery conked out before I finished our small yard. Neighbors said it looked like I was pushing a toy lawn mower around because it was so tiny! But it was quiet, and it got the job done (eventually).
So I was really excited when Ryobi reached out and asked if I’d like to review their 20 inch battery powered lawn mower! It’s quite the upgrade over the tiny 13 inch model I was using before!
How to Set Up the Ryobi Electric Lawn Mower
Ryobi’s self propelled electric lawn mower impressed me from the minute I opened the box. There’s no assembly required, because the mower is folded up and ready to mow! Just turn the knobs, extend the handle, and you’re good to go!
Watch the video below to see how quick and easy the Ryobi battery powered lawn mower is to use!
Insert the 40V Battery
The 40V battery is included, and slips into the slot easily. There’s also a spot to store an additional battery so you can switch them out on the fly, but one is enough for our small yard with charge to spare.
Unlock and Extend the Handle
My husband and I are both tall, and the old mower’s handle was too low to push comfortably. The telescoping handle of the Ryobi lawn mower is high enough for both of us to use without getting a sore back!
To take the handle out of the folded position, pull out the knobs on either side and rotate them 90 degrees. Swivel the handle so it’s behind the mower, then rotate the knobs back so they snap around the bars.
Extend the handle to full height by unlocking the green flaps on either side. Then you can pull it out to the desired height and lock it into place.
Adjust the Blade Height
You can adjust the height of the blade with a simple shift of a knob, from 1 ½” all the way to 4″ long grass. You should only cut your grass down by ⅓ each time you mow, so this adjustment makes it easy to keep your lawn looking healthy!
How to Start the Ryobi Lawn Mower
Unlike a gas-powered lawn mower with that dreaded pull cord, the Ryobi battery-powered lawn mower is super easy to start! Make sure you follow the steps in order if you’re having trouble getting it to start.
Insert the Safety Key
After setting it up, insert the safety key. If your Ryobi lawn mower won’t start, check to see if the start key is in place. The mower won’t turn on without the key, which is an important safety feature when you have curious kids around!
Pull Down the Bar and Press the Button
This diagram shows you the steps to start the Ryobi push mower. Once you do it a few times, it’ll become second nature!
Pull down the bar and hold it in place against the handlebars. When you let go, the mower automatically shuts off.
With the bar held down with one hand, push the button in the middle to start up the motor. You may need to hold down the button for a few seconds until it kicks on.
Adjust the Speed
The self propelling feature is pretty powerful, so you’ll want to start off at the lowest setting. Leave it on the lower setting for flat ground, and ramp up the speed when you’re going uphill. It really does make mowing your lawn less of a workout!
Unless you plan to jog behind your lawn mower (not recommended!), you’ll only need to use the highest setting if you have a really steep hill. You can adjust the speed as you mow, so you can crank up the power when you encounter an incline and not break a sweat!
Clean Up and Storage
You can choose to bag up your lawn clippings or let the blade mulch them up and spit them back out. I was impressed by how well the bag collects everything. I had to empty it a few times while mowing the backyard since it’s been so long since it was last done.
When you’re done, collapse the handle and fold it down on top of the mower. It stores vertically, so you can keep it in the corner of your garage or shed without taking up a ton of space!
Ryobi Battery Powered Lawn Mower Review
As you can see from the photos above, our lawn isn’t exactly a lush, green carpet of grass right now. Despite the rumors you may have heard about Seattle being rainy, we actually have a drought period every summer! Our grass goes dormant and brown until the rain faucet turns back on in the fall. This was the first time I’ve mowed the lawn in over a month, other than cutting down the dandelions!
The Ryobi lawn mower handled the combination of dry and new grass like a champ. The motor has load-sensing technology, which allows it to detect and deliver the power needed to maintain an optimal cutting speed. Dry, brown grass. less power. New, thicker grass. more power.
One tip if you’ve never used a self-propelled lawn mower before: when you want to turn the mower around, let go of the green handles. This will disable the self-propelling feature and allow you to turn it around manually. It took me a bit to get used to this, and I almost chopped down a garden bed before I figured it out!
Two Years Later
After testing out this cordless mower extensively over the last two years, I can still wholeheartedly recommend it! Here are the things I’ve learned:
- It handles fresh spring grass easily, but it runs down the battery more quickly. I need to swap out the battery when the grass is wet, because it takes more power to cut.
- I thought the headlights were a silly feature at first, but it’s helpful when mowing under bushes and shrubs.
- You can use the self-propelled feature without the blade turned on! We have to push the mower up a small hill to go from the back yard to the front yard, and it’s nice to get a little boost from the motor without kicking up rocks.
- It does a great job gathering up the clippings in the bag, but it will leave a trail once the bag is full. Keep an eye on the bag if you don’t want freshly cut grass sticking to your shoes!
- If the bag is really full, it can be tricky to empty it without leaving a pile of clippings on the sidewalk. I try to empty it before it gets too full, so I don’t have to clean up as much afterwards.
Overall, I’m really impressed by all the features of the Ryobi self propelled electric lawn mower. It’s certainly an upgrade from my old mower, which found itself on the curb with a “FREE” sign on it as soon as I took the Ryobi out for a spin!
Check out these other landscaping tutorials!
Ryobi’s self-propelled Electric Lawn Mower drops to 369 (Reg. 599), more
Looking for a new electric lawn mower? Home Depot has the Ryobi 21-inch 40V Smart Trek Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for 369 shipped. It typically goes for over 500. This top-of-the-line electric lawn mower is designed to make those summer chores a breeze. Thanks to its electric motor, you’ll be able to kiss gas and oil goodbye forever. Rated 4.2/5 stars. Green Deals below.
Amazon offers a two-pack of ecobee Room Sensors for 59 shipped. That’s a 20 savings from the regular going rate and the best we can currently find by 12. Adding ecobee room sensors to your home is a great way to ensure that you have balanced temperatures throughout. You’ll of course need an ecobee3 or 4 Smart thermostat to take advantage of these features. I recently added a few to my home, and it’s made a notable difference throughout the winter. Rated 4.3/5 stars.
Amazon offers the WORX WG629 20V Electric Pressure Washer for 74.99 shipped. Also at Walmart. As a comparison, Home Depot is currently charging 119. Today’s deal is a new Amazon all-time low. If you’re not ready to invest in a full-on electric pressure washer, this is a solid option for light cleanup around the house. You’ll need to connect it with a hose but otherwise it’s a fully cordless design powered by a 20V battery. Ships with various tips which range from 0 to 40-degrees, along with a shower head. Perfect for car washes at home. Rated 3.9/5 stars.
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Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch 3-in-1 Corded Lawn Mower
- Good value for a larger corded mower.
- The mower performs well on both dry and damp grass, as well as tall weeds.
- It has no problem driving over uneven ground.
- The mower is easy to push with one hand, even though it’s not self-propelled.
- It can be a bit bulky to turn or maneuver around obstacles.
- Clippings often fall out when emptying the collection bag, even if it’s not full.
The Greenworks Corded Lawn Mower is a great value if you don’t mind working around an extension cord as you mow. This electric model has a fairly large 20-inch cutting deck, and it offers side discharge, bagging, and mulching abilities, unlike other corded models we tested. We used it on both dry and damp grass, and it had no problems cutting either one, breezing right through tall weeds. It also did a good job capturing grass clippings in the included collection bag, though some do spill out when you remove the bag for emptying.
We tested this mower on a fairly uneven lawn, and thanks to its large rear wheels, it didn’t have any problem driving over divots that have posed a problem for other mowers. We were able to push the mower around with just one hand, holding the power cord with the other, but it does require two hands to turn the mower around, as it’s a bit bulky (and not self-propelled). Bottom line? With its affordable price and reliable performance, this mower is a good option for anyone with a smaller yard who wants a corded lawn mower with features.
Price at time of publish: 229
Power Source: Plug-in | Cutting Width: 20 inches | Weight: 56 pounds | Self-Propelled: No | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
EGO Power Select Cut 56-Volt 21-Inch Self-Propelled Cordless Lawn Mower
- The battery still had power left after 50 minutes of use.
- The handle can be adjusted to different heights and angles for maximum comfort.
- The self-propelled design is easy to maneuver and takes strain off your body.
- The mower did get bogged down on a wet patch of grass and ferns.
- The process to start the mower is a bit complicated and hard to understand based on the directions.
There are several benefits to battery-powered mowers like the EGO Power Self-Propelled Lawn Mower, including its lack of emissions, quiet operation, and minimal maintenance. This 21-inch lawn mower only comes with one 56-volt battery, but it was able to mow for 50 minutes with power to spare, making it a great option even for larger yards. On first use, we struggled to figure out how to start the mower — it’s not as simple as just pushing a single button — but once we conquered that hurdle, it was smooth sailing.
The self-propelled design was easy to maneuver around the yard, and we loved that it requires minimal effort, so it won’t strain your back. The mower delivered a clean, even cut, even when the grass was damp, and it’s easy and intuitive to adjust settings like the cutting height and mower speed. We did find that the mower would occasionally get bogged down in thicker, wet areas (for instance, it had trouble cutting through a patch of ferns), but this is the case with many mowers, so we don’t think it’s a dealbreaker.
Price at time of publish: 549 (orig. 576.45)
Power Source: Battery | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 54.5 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
Honda HRX217VKA 21-Inch Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
- The mower is easy to start without priming or worrying about flooding the motor.
- Self-propelled function locks into your desired speed, saving you from having to hold down a lever.
- There’s a setting that allows you to half bag and half mulch the grass clippings.
If you have a lot of ground to cover, we recommend this Honda HRX Lawn Mower. It’s powered by a 201cc engine that easily cuts through thick and dense grass, yet it’s incredibly easy to start up — we were able to get the mower going with a single pull, no priming needed. The Honda mower also has 4-in-1 functionality, meaning you can side discharge, bag, mulch, or shred grass clippings, and we like that there’s even an option to bag half and mulch half. This setting would definitely come in handy if you’re cutting longer grass.
This mower also stood out thanks to its convenient self-propelled design. The control bar has a knob that lets you select the speed you want, essentially locking the mower at that pace so you don’t have to worry about holding the lever down at the right pressure. It can also go quite fast — we found that a medium speed was comfortable for walking, but you could dial it up for faster mowing, if desired.
Overall, we had very few complaints about this self-propelled mower. It did take a little trial and error to find the right deck height and speed setting, but once that was done, the mower delivered a nice even cut every time.
Price at time of publish: 799 (orig. 989.99)
Power Source: Gas | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 91 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch, leaf shred
Ryobi 40V HP Brushless 21-Inch Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Mower
- Unbelievably quiet during operation — it almost sounds like a white noise machine.
- The battery-powered mower offers comparable power to a gas mower.
- The batteries lasted for more than three mowings (42 minutes total) without needing to be recharged.
- Self-propelled design makes it effortless to mow hilly areas.
The Ryobi Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Lawn Mower is our top pick for anyone with a hilly yard, as its self-propulsion abilities outperformed the competition in our testing. This electric mower has a standard 21-inch deck, and we found that it performs just as well as gas mowers thanks to its two powerful 40-volt batteries. It offers variable speed self-propulsion that lets you match the mower to your pace, and it had no problems tackling hills during testing. In fact, the feature can be too fast on straightaways if you turn it to max speed — we had to jog to keep up with it!
Because this mower is battery-powered, it’s much quieter than a gas mower, almost sounding like a white noise machine. It also impressed us with its runtime — we were able to mow a 2,000-square-foot yard three times without needing to recharge the batteries. While we loved the convenience and easy operation of this mower, it wasn’t totally perfect. The main negatives we discovered were that the grass collection bag is quite small and needed to be emptied frequently while mowing, and the mulching setting left behind quite a few dry leaves on the lawn.
Price at time of publish: 919
Power Source: Battery | Cutting Width: 21 inches | Weight: 75 pounds | Self-Propelled: Yes | Clipping Options: Side discharge, bag, mulch
Things to Consider Before Buying a Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
There are three main styles of walk-behind lawn mowers: gas, battery, and electric, also called corded. Gas mowers are usually the most powerful option, boasting large motors that can power through thick grass and weeds, but they’re also loud and require frequent maintenance, including oil and spark plug changes.
For these reasons, battery-powered models are becoming more popular: “Homeowners have been gravitating to battery power for a few years, and we’ll be seeing even more of that in 2023 with various laws and regulations and even HOA restrictions aiming to limit the use of gas,” explains Durden. “Advancements in technology are making it possible and practical for everyone to make the switch — we have several battery mowers that offer the same (or better) power than gas mowers today.” Battery-powered mowers are also quieter and don’t give off any harmful emissions, but they do have a limited runtime. Our top pick for a battery-powered mower is the EGO Power Lawn Mower.
Finally, there are corded walk-behind mowers, which tend to be the most affordable. These use an extension cord to plug into an electrical outlet, giving them an unlimited runtime, but you have to navigate around the cord as you mow, which is why they’re recommended for small yards.
The size of your yard will dictate which type of walk-behind mower is best for your needs. If you have a small yard that’s less than ¼ acre, a corded push mower will generally meet your needs. These are usually lightweight and have smaller decks, and they’re easy to operate and store.
For larger yards, you may want to upgrade to a self-propelled mower, such as the Ryobi Dual-Blade Mower, which moves forwards on its own using power from the motor. This means you don’t have to physically push the mower to move it around your yard, making the process less strenuous.
In terms of a gas vs. battery powered model, battery mowers do have a limited runtime — typically less than an hour, but it will vary by product — which may not be enough for yards that are an acre or more. However, keep in mind that you can always buy backup batteries, if needed.
The terrain of your yard is another factor to consider as you shop for a lawn mower. “If your yard is flat, a push mower will be the most affordable choice,” recommends Durden. “If your yard has hills, you may want to invest in a self-propelled mower that takes less manual effort.”
Walk-behind mowers with larger rear wheels — like the Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch 3-in-1 Corded Lawn Mower — tend to handle better on uneven ground, so you may want to look for this feature if your yard has a lot of divots or ruts.
There are three main options for handling grass clippings while you’re mowing: discharging them out the side or back, bagging them up, or mulching them into fine pieces that will decay back into your lawn. Some lawn mowers, such as the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower only offer one option, while other models like the Honda Hrx 21-in Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower offer all three.
If you want a bagging mower, pay careful attention to the size of the collection bag in comparison to your yard. If the bag is too small, you may find yourself stopping to empty it frequently — a problem we ran into when testing the Ryobi Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Mower.
How We Tested
We researched today’s most popular walk-behind lawn mowers, and we selected nine top-rated models for testing, including three battery-operated, two corded, and four gas options. We sent each model to the homes of our testers, who are located in seven different cities across three states, and they tested each lawn mower over the period of several days.
We used each lawn mower three times, evaluating them on their ease of use, performance, power, safety features, and more. Each product was then scored on its setup, design, performance, usability, safety, and value, and the highest-scoring products were selected for this round-up.
If you have a larger yard or a lot of hilly terrain, a self-propelled lawn mower will take a lot of the manual effort out of mowing your grass. “Self-propelled mowers are designed to automatically move forward from 1 to 3.5 miles per hour,” explains Durden. “They‘re recommended for yards of more than half an acre, especially those that are hilly or sloped. Some mowers offer variable speeds that come in handy when working near trees and garden beds.”
In general, you can expect to pay between 400 and 450,000 for a self-propelled lawn mower, and the more you’re willing to spend, the more power and features your mower will have. However, some of our top-rated models are only around 500, so don’t feel like you have to splurge to get a great tool.
If your lawn is only a few hundred square feet, you can probably get by with a reel-style lawn mower, but if it’s over ¼ of an acre, a walk-behind mower will make weekly maintenance much easier. The great thing about walk-behind lawn mowers is that there’s an option for every lawn size and budget. If you have a small yard, an inexpensive option like the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Mower will make quick work of your grass without breaking the bank.
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Camryn Rabideau has been a professional product tester for six years, and she’s previously tested ride-on lawn mowers from popular brands like Ryobi and Husqvarna. While writing this article, she relied on firsthand insights from the People Tested team, who used these lawn mowers for a total of 10 hours. She also spoke with Nicole Durden, senior merchant of outdoor power at The Home Depot, for tips on selecting the right lawn mower for your home based on factors like your yard size, terrain, and budget.
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
Over the past nine mowing seasons, we’ve spent more than 120 hours researching nearly 250 mowers, interviewing experts, and extensively testing some of our top picks.
An invaluable source has been Roy Berendsohn, a Popular Mechanics lawn mower guru who has more than 20 years of experience testing and writing about mowers. If Berendsohn isn’t writing about mowers, he’s often being interviewed about them (see here and here).
We’ve interviewed landscapers, including Chad Crosby of West Michigan Lawn Services and Paul Koehler of Koehler Landscape Construction Services. We’ve called people at lawn mower retail/service outlets, like Nick Ortiz at Kellam Lawn Mower in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and Boston Lawnmower Company’s David (who asked that his last name be withheld). We’ve talked to product managers at Honda, Toro, Troy-Bilt, Ego, Cub Cadet, and other manufacturers.
Personally, I maintain a rural property in New Hampshire that is far too large for a push mower to cover but that does provide ample room to test our recommendations. This guide’s editor, Harry Sawyers, assists with testing mowers on his LA property and draws from his previous experience as a professional landscaper.
Who this is for
If you want to be able to stand the sight of your yard this summer, you’re going to need a lawn mower. Anything larger than a half-acre gets into riding-mower territory, but a self-propelled push mower is perfect for a half-acre or less. Going at a pace of about 3 mph (roughly average walking speed), it will take about an hour to cut this amount of grass. (If you have a particularly small lawn, a reel mower is an option—but it’s quite hard work.)
If you already own a gas mower that’s less than a decade old, you will probably not notice a tremendous difference by upgrading to a newer gas mower. Upgrading to a cordless model is a more noticeable change you could immediately appreciate.
The Best Reel Mower for Your (Small) Lawn
After 30 hours researching and testing reel mowers, we think the Scotts 2000-20 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower is the best pick for manual lawncare.
How we picked and tested
As a result of our years of lawn mower evaluation, we’re sure that most people will be happiest with a self-propelled, electric cordless option. Honestly, it all comes down to convenience. Every single element of a gas mower that is considered a nuisance—from the fiddly start-up to the annual maintenance schedule—is gone. Cordless mowers start with the push of a button, are easier to maneuver, and don’t need oil changes, gas, spark plugs, or air filters. They’re much quieter, they don’t smell, they don’t produce emissions, and they’re easier to store in the off-season. The run time has limitations, and charge times can be slow, but the latest models close the performance gaps between cordless and gas.
All that said, there are many capable—and several excellent—gas mowers available. Whatever type of mower you need, here are the criteria we feel matter most in making a selection:
Rear-Wheel Self-propulsion: Self-propelled mowers make life easier. With the mower moving itself across the lawn, all you have to do is throttle and steer, rather than forcing the mower’s full weight up every incline and over every bump. Self-propelled cordless mowers are all rear-wheel drive (RWD), which is preferred over front-wheel drive (FWD), because the mower’s traction improves as the grass bag fills and adds weight over the rear wheels. A self-propulsion feature adds to a mower’s price, but it’s a feature we feel is well worth it, and this requirement doesn’t narrow the field by a whole lot. It does, however, weed out the most bare-bones machines.
Performance as a mower: We researched which mowers could perform the best from a lawn-care perspective—which could make cleaner cuts in grass or promote turf health. We’ve measured this performance firsthand over years of long-term testing and in tests of new contenders against our established recommendations.
User interface and features: In years of tests, we’ve found most midrange mowers perform at a comparable level; most can cut the grass just fine. That led us to place an emphasis on user interface features—how difficult is it to adjust the push-bar height, or to raise and lower the mowing deck? Can you intuitively control and adjust the self-propulsion? Is the bag a pain to put on and take off? Are there other design details that make startup smoother, reduce engine maintenance, or make storage easier?
Cost: We looked at cost in terms of long-term value. Gas mowers are cheaper up-front, generally, but they carry long-term costs that cordless mowers avoid. Those include supplies (like gas, oil, stabilizers, air filters, and spark plugs) and the time and labor of caring for one: getting gas, changing the oil, and emptying the tank at the end of the season. With cordless mowers, a large percentage of the price tag is the battery. Most companies offer a series of outdoor tools (leaf blowers, string trimmers, hedge trimmers, etc.), all compatible with the same battery. And they cost less if you buy them without a battery. So for a high cost up-front, a cordless investment may open the door for an affordable expansion into that manufacturer’s other tools.
Charge time and run time: For cordless candidates, we looked at these two primary factors, which determine whether a battery will be adequate or frustrating. Because these two elements are so important, we looked only at mowers that used at least a 40-volt battery.
and reputation: The best mowers out there have proved satisfying for the most number of people for the longest amount of time. That led us to closely consider the differences among a smaller group of about 50 established, well-regarded models from major brands, often covered by comparable warranties of about three to five years.
Best overall lawn mower
The best lawn mower
The self-propelled Ego LM2135SP’s battery runs for an hour and easily mows down overgrown grass—and it spares you the noise, emissions, and maintenance of a typical gas mower.
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For the best in convenience, battery run time, cut quality, and value, we recommend the Ego Power Select Cut Mower LM2135SP. Compared with a gas mower, it’s quieter, doesn’t create exhaust, and requires almost no maintenance. Among other cordless models, the Ego LM2135SP has among the longest run time and shortest charge time. This Ego has a redesigned control interface that allows you to control the propulsion with either hand. It also cuts with two blades, making for a finer cut and better mulching. Rounding out the features are two forward-facing LED lights, an easy-to-use cutting-height adjustment, and a battery port that faces the battery gauge toward the operator. The battery, which is good for a solid hour of mowing, is compatible with Ego’s other lawn tools, such as the company’s leaf blower, chainsaw, and string trimmer.
Most people report getting roughly 60 minutes of run time from a full charge of the Ego’s 56-volt, 7.5 Ah battery, which is included with the purchase. We confirmed the run-time figures in tests of this pick and our runner-up in March 2019 and in 2020. In several hour-long sessions of strenuous cutting on tough grass in Los Angeles, running this mower across hills (some of which were steeper than its recommended 15-degree max), the battery never died before we expected it to. If anything, it exceeded the hour-long window by about 10 to 15 minutes. An added bonus: Once the battery was too low to power the mower blades, it still had enough juice to operate the self-propulsion function, letting us drive the mower back to the charger. Compared to older Ego batteries, this one has a ring of lights that give you an approximate gauge of the remaining charge (the previous generation communicated with a red light only when the battery got critically low). The battery regularly recharges in 60 minutes or less. (Recharge time is another advantage for Ego, as competitors’ charge times range from an hour and a half up to almost five and a half hours.)
In the mowing tests, the two-bladed Ego showed a superior cut-quality compared with our runner-up, and this is the primary reason we’d choose this model over the older version. We’ve put the mowers on some rough tufts of knotty crabgrass, knee-height rye grass, and thick purple stalks of weeds, and although the runner-up never bogged down, the LM2135SP did a better job of lifting overgrown grasses as it cut, mincing up fine mulch and effectively cutting through tall growth without pushing the grass flat. This second blade elevates the Ego into some territory that was formerly exclusive to mowers like the highly regarded Honda HRX series, making the case for cordless that much stronger.
A new-for-2020 speed-control system can be operated with your thumbs on either hand—a more versatile setup than the single, oversize, right-handed trigger on the 2019 version. Photo: Rozette Rago
With its onboard indicators displaying battery life and other troubleshooting diagnostics, the Ego is quite intuitive for anyone new to cordless mowers. Photo: Rozette Rago
A new-for-2020 speed-control system can be operated with your thumbs on either hand—a more versatile setup than the single, oversize, right-handed trigger on the 2019 version. Photo: Rozette Rago
Controlling the Ego is easy and intuitive. As with many mowers, the Ego has a metal bar (called a bail) that’s held against the handle to activate the blades. To activate the RWD self-propulsion, you press one of two buttons in the upper corners of the handle, and a central dial controls the mower’s speed. A couple of subtle changes set this mower apart from other models: The speed-control system can be operated with your thumbs on either hand—a more versatile setup than the single, oversize, right-handed trigger on the runner-up. Second, although the mower can move at a brisk pace if you want it to, the slowest speed setting available is unusually slow. This is quite handy if you’re backing in and out under a tree or in another tricky area, if you’re mowing across a hill and taking care not to let the mower slide or roll away, or if you just need to take it slow to make sure you’re not about to mow over an obstruction.
Random aside: Without the stink of gas engine exhaust in your face, the smell of mowing the grass while using Ego is entirely different and much more pleasant; unfortunately, the allergens are exactly the same.
The Ego has a number of other convenience features. The headlight, something not found on gas mowers, gives some illumination as the day starts to end. The single-adjust height control, a rarity on gas mowers, allows you to set the cutting height with a single lever. On most gas mowers, cutting height has to be adjusted at each individual wheel. The Ego has seven cutting heights, between 1½ to 4 inches—a wider range than on most cordless mowers, which top out at around 3½ to 3¾ inches.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although the two-handed self-propulsion control is a more convenient setup than the one-handed paddle design seen on competitors, it does make accidentally engaging the self-propulsion a little too easy. Usually this isn’t an issue, but often the moments when you’re grasping to get a better grip on the handle are the times you least want to engage the self-propulsion. For example, if you are mowing across a hill, there’s a brief moment during a turnaround when the mower is pointing up or down the hill. When adjusting your grip to make those turns, you may inadvertently tap the throttle, destabilizing your stance or your grip on the mower. If anyone from Ego’s reading this, they’ll probably say we’re mowing on too steep a hill, but hey, sometimes life throws a steep hill at you.
We think that the hour or so of run time is going to be enough for anyone keeping to about a half-acre, but if that’s not enough, additional batteries are available to extend run time infinitely. But batteries are costly. Depending on the Ah, they currently range in price from about 140 (2.5 Ah) to about 250 (5.0 Ah), and up to about 450 for a 7.5 Ah battery. They all fit, and with a second one on the charger while one is on the mower, you can really minimize or eliminate downtime.
Because the Ego is cordless and loaded with electrical components, the company does not recommend using a hose to wash out the underside of the mowing dome. Instead, the mower needs to be put on its side and the dome wiped off or scraped clean, using a plastic scraper. Because there is no gas or oil to leak out, this process is much easier than with a gas mower.
Finally, Wirecutter writer Kit Dillon, who loves his Ego mower, uncovered an issue with an older version of our pick, where the wires for the self-propulsion function run up the handle to the operating switch. “The wiring is super thin and where the arm bends over itself over time this wire breaks,” he explained. “The annoying thing is the wire is so thin it will sometimes break inside the sheath, which makes it difficult to diagnose or even find what section to repair.” Because of the large number of YouTube videos devoted to the problem, it’s clear that this isn’t an isolated incident. We’re not sure if this problem happens with this current version of the mower, but looking through the customer feedback at Lowe’s, we found a number of people saying that their mower won’t start, which makes us think the issue persists in newer models.