Commercial Lawn Care 101: Riding Mower Vs. Push Mower
There is a range of commercial-grade mowing equipment that professional landscapers use to care for grass, and you might be wondering if the mowers your landscape company use on your Northeast Ohio property are doing the best job.
When comparing a riding mower vs. push mower, there are benefits to both and experienced contractors have a fleet that includes both types of mowers. The mower choice can depend on your property’s size, the terrain (slopes, tight spaces), the environment (noise allowances) and budget.
Both riding and walk-behind mowers provide benefits in terms of time, money and results.
Here’s a breakdown of when a riding mower makes sense for your commercial property, and what conditions call for a push mower.
When To Choose A Riding Mower
Most commercial landscape companies use zero-turn riding mowers, which are fast (mowing up 36 HP), offer wide cutting paths (up to 72 inches) and can turn on a dime (thus the name, zero-turn).
You’ll also see some riding lawn tractors out there, but those are mostly used by homeowners or in large, municipal applications where you’ll see batwing mowers cutting fields of grass.
Zero-turn riding mowers have evolved a lot in the last decade. They’re more comfortable for crews because of features like independent suspension, and they provide a high-quality cut.
Here’s when a riding mower is a must on a property:
Wide, Open Spaces
Riding mowers can cover ground faster than a person can push a walk-behind mower, and their cutting widths are greater so you’re cutting more grass, faster.
Walk-behinds are typically 21-inch mowers while riding mowers are available with cutting decks more than three times as wide.
When mowing lots of grass, efficiency matters from a time and budget standpoint. You just don’t want to pay someone to spend an entire day walking a mower across your commercial property when a riding mower could complete the project in a couple of hours—or less.
Flat Land Or Gentle Slopes
Riding mowers are best used on flat land, or gentle slopes that will not pose a rollover risk to the mower operator. Professional landscape contractors know how to safely mow all sorts of terrain, including steep slopes. And when using riding mowers, they always mow across a hillside to avoid slipping.
However, on grassy, steep hills, a walk-behind mower will provide more stability.
Thick, Damp Grass
Riding mowers are rugged machines that can cut very thick grass, even if it is wet from morning dew or recent rainfall. While a responsible commercial landscaper will avoid mowing wet grass because that can damage the turf. mowing damp grass is just fine and best accomplished with a riding mower.
Walk-behind mowers tend to get clogged by the damp turf, and bag attachments can become too heavy to push.
Want more landscaping tips?
When To Choose A Push Mower
Push or walk-behind mowers used on commercial properties are self-propelled and offer a landscape team mowing flexibility. That’s because they can fit through gates, when some openings are not wide enough for riding mowers.
Walk-behind mowers are also easy to maneuver and convenient when a property has lots of landscape beds that interrupt grassy areas.
Here’s when a walk-behind mower is the best bet for your commercial property:
Walk-behind mowers can squeeze through openings and in between closely laid landscape beds when riding mowers are simply too large. A walk-behind mower can also provide a precise cut on lawn areas in between hardscape and walkways.
Twists And Turns
Push mowers provide more mowing control when a landscape includes beds with curved edges and other borders against walkways, patios, driveways, etc.
A landscape crew gains more control on steep slopes with a walk-behind mower that is used across the hillside (in a horizontal mowing pattern). While riding mowers can be used on gentle slopes, very sharp inclines might call for a walk-behind mower instead. (In extreme cases, you’ll probably want to consider groundcover as an alternative to grass to avoid mowing altogether.)
Commercial Lawn Care, Customized
An experienced landscape contractor spends time evaluating your commercial property so the mowing crew is properly equipped to care for the grounds.
Sometimes that means using only riding mowers on a property, or just using walk-behind mowers. Other times, we choose to use both types of mowers. That way, we can manage large, open spaces efficiently and deliver attention to detail in tight, curved grass areas.
Let’s talk more about what type of mower is best for your commercial property, and how to request that the proper commercial lawn mower be used when you interview a landscape contractor. Ask about our fleet of propane-powered mowers — its the largest of any commercial grounds management company in Northern Ohio.
And if you’re interested in lawn mower financing, be sure to check out this list of lenders.
Call us any time at 440.327.3030, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.
Exmark Walk Behind Lawn Mower
Exmark Commercial 21 S-Series
Exmark Commercial 21 X-Series
Exmark 30″ Walk Mower
Exmark Metro 36″
Exmark Turf Tracer 48″
Exmark Turf Tracer 52″
Exmark Turf Tracer 60″
Commercial 21 Series
Get work done faster with a walk-behind mower delivering unmatched quality of cut and time-tested durability. With innovations including a patented front height adjustment system, a 3-in-1 cutting system that offers versatility and a signature quality of cut.
With innovations including a patented front height adjustment system, twin-blade efficiency and simplified maintenance the Commercial 30 walk-behind mower reaches new heights in productivity.
Combining cut, quality and price into one fixed-deck, gear-drive mower. The Metro delivers the quality and features you’re looking for.
Turf Tracer Series
Exmark wide-area walk-behind mowers are an investment in the long run. From the fixed-deck, gear-drive Metro to the industry-leading Turf Tracer X-Series, Exmark walk-behinds are engineered for speed, efficiency, durability and a quality of cut that are second to none.
The 5 Best Riding Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Rachel has written for Dotdash Meredith’s Ecommerce team since 2020, covering home goods, tech, fashion, beauty, and more. She’s interviewed dozens of experts and is always on top of the latest trends and product releases.
In This Article
Keeping your home’s lawn looking neat and tidy takes a whole lot of hard work, especially if you have a traditional lawn mower that requires you to spend serious time and effort pushing it across the grass. But with a riding lawn mower, you can achieve the same great results with far less hassle, provided you have the right yard for one.
“A riding lawn mower is a great option for those who have yards that are 3/4-acre or larger,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “In contrast, a push mower or a robotic mower would be more suited for a smaller lawn of an acre or less.”
If a riding mower sounds right for you, good news—we tested out many of the best options on the market, evaluating them on performance, design, value, and more factors. We also received expert advice from McCoy on what to look for when shopping for riding mowers and tips on how to maintain them.
Best Electric Riding Mower
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42 in. Battery Electric Cordless Zero Turn Riding Mower
For a top-quality electric riding mower that you’ll use year after year, look no further than this option from Ryobi. It’s a battery-operated, zero-turn mower with serious power, and it comes with four brushless mowers, a sensitive steering system, a helpful LCD screen, and much more.
Setup was simple, and although it took a bit of time to get comfortable using the joystick, it wasn’t long before we were operating it smoothly (and sitting comfortably in the seat). As far as performance goes, this mower cut even paths through damp grass effortlessly (and quietly!), and overall felt extremely intuitive and easy to operate. The LCD screen kept us aware of the mower’s battery life and run time, and we could pick both the machine’s speed and cutting height from a wide variety of options. We also liked that the mower comes with headlights that illuminate the path when you start to lose daylight.
Additionally, the mower has a long-lasting battery life, so you don’t have to waste time constantly recharging it before every mow. Plus, it comes with fun features like USB ports, storage compartments, and Bluetooth, so you can monitor the mower via an app. On the downside, it’s quite pricey, and the amount of torque means that you have to accelerate carefully, at least until you get a better feel for the joystick. Still, there’s a lot to love about this excellent mower.
Price at time of publish: 5,999
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Battery | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Gas Riding Mower
Toro TimeCutter 50 inch 24.5 HP Zero-Turn Riding Mower
If you prefer a gas mower to an electric one, make sure to consider this fantastic pick from Toro. It’s a zero-turn mower with consistent speed and a strong suspension system, among other features, so you can take the mower over rough terrain without worry.
Getting used to this mower can take a bit of time, as there are no pedals like you might expect, just a joystick that lets you control speed, braking, and direction. But once you’ve settled in, you’ll be in for a great ride. We found the mower easy to control, especially when it came to adjusting the speed, cutting height, and the seat’s firmness (you can choose how bouncy you want it to be). It cut grass evenly and neatly, and discharged the clippings far away from the mowing area, which was quite helpful.
Maneuvering the mower around the lawn was easy, no matter the terrain or number of turns, and even when it was going fast, the mower didn’t feel like it was unstable. As far as negatives go, we wish the mower came with a bagging option, as well as headlights for nighttime work, but really, those are small quibbles considering how solid an option this mower is overall.
Price at time of publish: 4,599
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 50 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Best Zero-Turn Riding Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima Series ZT1 42 in. 22HP Zero-Turn Mower
Zero-turn mowers can be great options as they can maneuver more quickly and smoothly than many other types of mowers, and we love this pick from Cub Cadet. It’s a powerful machine that runs on a twin-cylinder gas engine, and features an ultra-comfortable seat with adjustable lap bars, hand grips, a rubber mat, and plenty of legroom.
This mower did take some time to set up, but once we got it ready, it started up quickly and moved smoothly. It mows and makes turns faster than many other models we’ve tried, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the different speeds and start feeling in control as you go. Additionally, you can adjust the mower’s seat and arms to make sure it’s a comfortable fit, and we also liked that the side discharge leaves the grass clippings far away from the mower itself. It also features headlights, as a helpful bonus, and you can choose from several cutting heights and other settings.
We would’ve liked it if the mower’s handles were able to be lined up equally, as it can be a bit tricky to ensure that you’re turning at the same speed on both sides. All in all, though, we had few complaints about this zero-turn mower.
Price at time of publish: 3,499
Type: Zero turn | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4.5 inches
Easiest to Maneuver
John Deere S100 42 Inch 17.5 HP Gas Hydrostatic Riding Lawn Tractor
We can’t say enough good things about this gas-operated riding mower from John Deere, especially in terms of how well it maneuvers. When we tested it out, we were amazed by how effortlessly it made its way around trees and other impediments, thanks to the responsive pedal and above-average turning radius (as well as the mower’s notably small size).
We discovered that this mower operates smoothly on rocky terrain, too, and its size makes it easier than many other mowers to store in a shed or garage when not in use. Setting it up is a quick, simple process, and you can change the cutting heights via a helpful lever, while you can switch up the speeds through a pedal.
We also love this mower’s side discharge, which is strong enough to blow leaves out of the way (almost doubling as a leaf blower), as well as its convenient headlights. Plus, it comes with a large and easy-to-empty bagger, and we found that the mower’s seat is both comfortable and adjustable.
It would be nice if this mower had a wider deck, as John Deere only recommends it for yards up to 1 acre, but if you’re looking for a small yet highly effective mower, you’ll surely be happy with this top-tier choice–especially considering that it’s the least expensive mower on our list.
Price at time of publish: 2,399
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 42 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
Best for Thick Grass
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT 46-Inch Hydrostatic Drive Gas Riding Lawn Tractor
If you want a riding mower that can easily handle even the thickest grass, then take a look at this powerful option from Cub Cadet. It’s a gas-operated mower that cuts evenly through areas with long, thick grass without any issue and in a much quicker time period than other mowers we’ve tried.
This mower takes a good amount of time to set up and get started, due to an unfortunate lack of user-friendly instructions. But once you figure it out the first time, you’ll be good for all future mows, and the actual controls, such as for changing the cutting height, are much more intuitive. Additionally, we’re big fans of this mower’s adjustable, comfortable, and shock-absorbing seat, as well as the big, thick tires that make for a smooth ride.
The maneuverability of this mower is top-notch, too, allowing it to move easily around trees and other objects, and we were impressed by how fast the mower goes at its top speed. The discharge chute spread the grass clippings far enough away, and the mower’s headlights are a helpful added bonus.
Although this mower’s turning abilities don’t quite compare to zero-turn mowers, and it doesn’t come with fancier features like an LED screen or Bluetooth, we were still highly satisfied with its performance and think you will be, too.
Price at time of publish: 2,574
Type: Lawn tractor | Deck Width: 46 inches | Fuel Type: Gas | Max Cutting Height: 4 inches
If you’re looking for a great electric mower, the Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Lithium Electric Zero-Turn Riding Mower is our top pick. It’s fast, effective, quiet, and has multiple handy features. For an equally strong gas-powered option, we recommend the Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRIDE Zero-Turn Mower, due to its consistent speed, smooth ride, and easy maneuverability.
Our Testing Process
To determine the best riding lawn mowers, we tested models from reputable brands in our own yards (spanning four cities and two states) over three weeks. To begin, we timed how long it took to unbox and assemble each lawn mower (for battery-powered models, we took note of how long it took to charge, but we did not include this in our setup time). During the testing period, we used each lawn mower a minimum of three times, taking into account weather conditions, how much grass was cut off, and how much surface area was being mowed. While mowing, we considered things like comfortability, adjustability, battery life (when applicable) maneuverability, how evenly the mower cuts, and more. We also tested any additional features, including side discharge, bagging, mulching, various cutting height options, headlights, various speeds, and cup holders. We are still testing riding mowers and will continue to update this piece with the fresh insights as we have them.
How to Shop for Riding Mowers Like a Pro
There are multiple types of riding mowers, including zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine mowers.
Zero-turn mowers have a zero-inch turning radius and a mowing deck in front, rather than underneath, the machine. This causes them to turn quickly and easily, and have greater maneuverability and speed than other types of mowers. They tend to be pricey, though, and relatively small.
Lawn tractors, meanwhile, have their cutting decks in the middle, rather than underneath the front, and tend to be pretty large. They’re less maneuverable than other types of riding mowers due to their size, but they’re quite powerful and particularly good for large lawns.
Then there are rear-engine mowers, which are usually very small and less powerful than other options. They’re best used on tiny lawns, and they aren’t great at going up hills and rocky terrain. Still, they’re often less expensive than the other types.
Deck width refers to the amount of acreage the mower can cut in one go, and it ranges from about 30 to 60 inches. “A mower’s cutting deck determines how many passes it’ll take to mow the grass, so you should match the deck size to your acreage for a speedier cut,” says Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s. “If you’re working with smaller yards up to two acres, look for options in the 30-inch to 52-inch deck range,” he adds. “Two to four-acre yards will benefit from 50-inch decks to 54-inch decks, and anything over five acres will need 60 inches or more.”
Riding mowers run on either gasoline or electricity. Gas-powered mowers “feature the traditional riding design we’re familiar with and operate similarly to a car, using a steering wheel and foot pedal,” says McCoy. If you opt for a gas mower, make sure to “check the level of ethanol your equipment can safely use, and never buy more than you can use in 30 days, as older gasoline can lead to corrosion in your engine,” he adds.
Electric riding mowers, on the other hand, “are battery-powered machines that offer a similar performance to gas models without the fuel requirements,” says McCoy. “They run a bit quieter than gas mowers with less vibration.” They do require some time to charge up before use, which can be frustrating, but they get rid of the smell and hassle of gasoline.
When determining which riding mower is right for you, it’s important to think about the size of your yard. Yards on the very small size, under 3/4 of an acre, might be better off with traditional push mowers, says McCoy. Otherwise, follow this guide from Lowe’s:
- 3/4- to 1-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 30-42-inch cut width.
- 1- to 2-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 42-52-inch cut width.
- 2- to 3-Acre Lawns: Look for a mower with a 50-54-inch cut width.
- 3- to 5-Acre Lawn:s Look for a mower with a 54-62-inch cut width.
- 5-Acre Lawns or Larger: Look for a mower with a 60-inch or greater cut width.
Riding mowers can come with some seriously helpful features, including:
- Zero-turn radius: This can “allow the mower to pivot at sharper angles than lawn or garden tractors,” says McCoy.
- Cruise control: So you can “lock in on one speed and mow long, straight stretches more easily,” he notes.
- Mulch kits, dump carts, and lawn sweepers to “help you maintain your landscape not only during mowing season but year-round,” McCoy says.
Other less essential, but still beneficial, features include cup holders, USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, armrests, headlights, and extended leg room. The more features a mower has, the more expensive it’ll likely be, though, so be sure you’re prioritizing your top picks.
Riding Mowers to Consider
Ryobi 80V HP Brushless 42-Inch Cordless Electric Riding Lawn Tractor: This battery-operated mower is a quiet, fast-charging machine that cuts grass evenly, and has a helpful digital display menu so you can adjust the speed easily. Still, it has some frustrating features, like a beep every time you back up or get off the seat, as well as a jerky accelerator pedal.
Questions You Might Ask
Are stand-up or sit-down riding mowers better?
That depends on your specific needs, says McCoy. “Stand-up mowers work well in smaller yards and on uneven terrain, whereas riding mowers can handle larger surface areas and are generally more powerful,” he explains. Additionally, stand-up mowers can be better for your back (albeit less comfortable to use). Stand-up mowers also offer better visibility than sit-down riding mowers, but on the downside, they usually don’t have bagging systems.
How much should you expect to spend on a riding mower?
The price of a riding mower can “range from 2,000 up to 8,000, depending on the type of mower and attachments included,” says McCoy. If you’re looking to save costs, opt for basic models that don’t have features like LED screens, Bluetooth capability, zero-turn radius, and more. But if those features and others matter greatly to you, then prepare to shell out a pretty penny.
What kind of maintenance does a riding mower need?
The type of maintenance a riding mower needs depends on the specific model, says McCoy. However, for most mowers, he suggests that you regularly “inspect the mower’s shield and deflectors, check its tire pressure, remove dirt from the machine, check the oil and fuel, and reconnect the battery or spark plug” for day-to-day maintenance.
Throughout the mowing season McCoy suggests lubricating the mower, checking the air filter and mower blades, and changing the engine oil and filter. “At the end of the season, you’ll want to prepare your mower for the next spring. That entails doing a general inspection of the machine, replacing the fuel filter, and maintaining the mower blades,” says McCoy.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Rachel Simon, a writer for Real Simple, Better Homes Gardens, The New York Times, and many other publications. To write this article, we tested riding mowers over a span of several weeks and evaluated them on performance, value, design, and more. For expert insight, we spoke to Gary McCoy, store manager at a Charlotte-area Lowe’s.
What Is Real Simple Selects?
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.
Make your yard the envy of your neighbors with one of these top lawn mowers.
By Tony Carrick and Mark Wolfe and Glenda Taylor | Updated May 18, 2023 4:59 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
A good lawn mower is crucial for maintaining a lush, well-manicured lawn. With so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower that is appropriate for your yard can be challenging. To this task easier for you, we got our hands on some of the most popular options and put them to the test on our own lawns.
Whether you’re replacing an old mower for your current lawn or buying one to maintain a new property, it’s important to choose one that fits the size and terrain of the property. This guide explores the features and factors that are important to consider when shopping for the best lawn mower while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
We tested the following lawn mowers to find out how they would perform in terms of cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort. Read on to learn more about the criteria we used to select our picks. Then check out our lawn mower reviews to learn why we consider these models to be some of the best lawn mowers available.
- BEST OVERALL:Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST3-IN-1:DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED:Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER:John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- BEST CORDED LAWN MOWER:American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC:Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY:Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
All of the mowers included in our list exceeded quality standards established in our shopping criteria and proved worthy through testing. We selected each of the above mowers based on our previously mentioned shopping considerations. After sourcing the mowers and assembling the mowers according to the manufacturer’s instructions, we tested them in an average yard in order to gauge capabilities in several key areas. The most critical aspects we observed included general quality and durability, mowing power and cut quality, and operator comfort and convenience.
We also tested each according to its claimed abilities. Riding mowers were used for larger and sometimes rougher areas and were assessed for power, speed, and comfort. Walk-behind and push mowers were mostly restricted to testing on well-established and well-maintained lawn spaces and closely monitored for cut quality and user convenience. We actually pre-mowed the grass ahead of testing the robot mower since it is intended to maintain rather than reduce grass height.
Our Top Picks
We tested mowers that range from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled gas lawn mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. Read on to learn more about these mowers, how they performed during our grass tests, and why we think they are some of the best.
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
Whether it’s a car, generator, or lawn mower, it’s tough to beat the reliability and durability of Honda engines—and such is the case with this self-propelled gas lawn mower. Its powerful GCV170 engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a cleaner, more precise cut over most other gas-powered lawn mowers that have just a single blade.
With its rear-wheel drive, this mower is ideal to contend with yards that have slopes and more-rugged terrain. Its engine is formidable, and so are its features. An easy-to-use clip system makes it simple to switch between its three grass-clipping options—mulching, side discharge, and bagging—and the well-designed speed controls add to the quality of this premium self-propelled walk-behind mower.
In our tests, this Honda walk-behind mower’s high-quality components and thoughtful design really stood out. The engine layout and oversize gas gap made fueling up and adding oil easy and can simplify oil and filter changes. After a quick 5-minute assembly of the handle and bagger and adding fuel and oil, the mower started on the first pull. The engine ran smoothly and surprisingly quietly.
The variable-speed controller at first felt awkward until we realized that we could adjust the angle to any of five positions. The mower had plenty of power for mowing and driving the wheels, even in dense, tall grass, and on steep slopes. If the goal is to find a top-quality walk-behind mower that is easy to use and leaves a great-looking finish, this would make an excellent choice.
- Power source: Honda GCV170 gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Twin-blade mowing system for finer mulching
- Auto choke for fast, easy starting
- Variable speed, 0 to 4 miles per hour
- Clip system makes changing cutting modes easy
Get the Honda lawn mower at Amazon or Lowe’s.
Craftsman M220 150-cc 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mow
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 140-cc engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it ideal for yards up to ¾ of an acre.
Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easy to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag. And while this mower may lack the power assist of other walk-behind mowers, it is significantly cheaper, making it a good choice for those with level yards who may not need a self-propelled mower.
We liked the Craftsman mower’s affordability and simplicity. It only required about 20 minutes of easy assembly. The completed handle configuration was a bit less refined in appearance, the grip area is unpadded metal, and the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties.
After adding oil and gas, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and pulling uphill, but it bogged down ever so slightly in tall, overgrown grass. The front-wheel-drive feature made turning easy, but a fully loaded bagger could weigh down the rear and cause it to lose traction (we did not experience this). The fuel tank size is adequate to mow about a half acre per fill-up. This could be an excellent value pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150 cc Briggs Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing; prevents strain while in use
- Easy to start, no priming or choke required
- Side-discharge, mulch, or bag for ease of cleanup after mowing
- Self-propelled feature is not adjustable; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
- Non-padded grip could lead to hand fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman lawn mower at Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, or Blain’s Farm Fleet.
DeWALT 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
With mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities, the DeWALT 2X20V MAX self-propelled cordless lawn mower has a better-than-average build quality and thoughtful design. Its heavy-duty 21.5-inch, 15-gauge stamped-steel deck adjusts to six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. Running on two batteries and offering up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge, this mower is ideal for small to medium yards up to a half acre.
We set up a test area for the DeWALT mower in our yard, with about 10,000 square feet of lawn that included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed the test plot three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. The DeWALT covered about 5,000 square feet per charge when adjusted to 2.5 inches high with the grass catcher in place. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime. The controls were well laid out for easy operation, and the cushioned handle felt comfortable while we mowed. Also, this mower is a space saver. With its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability, it only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage floor space.
The DeWALT 3-in-1 lawn mower features a security-key-enabled push-button start. Its adjustable font-wheel-drive self-propulsion eliminates half the work of mowing, lets you choose your own pace, and works on all kinds of terrain. The motor is equipped with auto-sensing technology that seamlessly increases torque when encountering tougher mowing conditions. In our tests, it was easier to turn than rear-wheel drive mowers. A removable discharge chute, grass catcher, and integrated mulch plug allow for quick conversion to your preferred method of grass-clipping disposal. Overall, the quality of the DeWALT 3-in-1 mower is better than most and is a solid choice for quarter- to half-acre lots.
- Power source: Two 20-volt, 10-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 21.5 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Heavy-duty steel mower deck with 3-way grass-clipping management
- Front-wheel drive self-propel system supports safe operation and smooth turns
- Powered by 2 rechargeable DeWALT XR 20-volt (V) lithium-ion batteries
- 2-stage brushless motor preserves battery life and automatically increases power for tougher mowing conditions
- Ergonomic cushioned hand grip are comfortable to use and reduce operator fatigue
- Heavy and cumbersome to maneuver manually without the self-propel feature engaged
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
- The mower’s battery compartment has an awkward design
Get the DeWALT cordless lawn mower at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot (with 3 batteries), Tractor Supply Co., or Acme Tools.
Ego Power 21-Inch Mower
The Ego Power comes ready to mow, including a battery and Rapid charger. The advancements Ego has made with its battery-powered mower sets it atop the cordless models. It boasts 45 minutes of runtime, thanks to its brushless motor and large 56-volt, 5-Ah battery. With its 21-inch deck, the Ego is suitable for yards up to half an acre. The Ego Power also includes other features that make it an attractive buy, including speed controls that the user operates with an intuitive dial and bagging, mulching, or side-discharge capability.
Overall, the Ego Power cordless mower was easy and comfortable to operate in our tests. The preset self-propelled pace felt comfortably moderate but not leisurely. The mower had no difficulty cutting normal grass and did not bog down noticeably in thick, tall grass. Finish quality was good to excellent.
We did notice that mowing in “push” mode (without the self-propelled motor running) extended battery life by about 20 minutes to as much as 65 minutes per charge. Buying a second battery for extended runtime, or as backup for tougher mowing, may be a wise investment. This mower would be a good choice for small and midsize lawns up to about a half acre and for owners who want to reduce noise, exhaust, and fuel handling.
- Power source: 56-volt, 5-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- 45 minutes of runtime per charge; suitable for small- to large-sized yards
- Battery charges in less than an hour; suitable for multiple uses or yards
- Battery works with many other Ego Power tools
- Emits power similar to a gasoline mower
- Higher cost than gas mower with similar power
- Poor traction on slopes; may not be ideal for hilly yards
- Noisy drive system; may not be ideal for nighttime mowing
Get the Ego lawn mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Lowe’s.
John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
Larger yards from ½ to 2 acres call for a bigger machine for mowing. The John Deere S130, with its 22-horsepower V-twin engine and 42-inch deck, offers excellent mowing ability plus performance and comfort features that extend its range of use. The 20 by 10-8 rear tires and wide stance provide excellent stability and help to cushion the ride. It features hydrostatic operation, single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, ergonomic deck-height adjustment lever, dash-mounted digital fuel gauge, LED headlights, and John Deere’s Easy Change 30-second oil change system. The included drop-pin towing hitch and PTO make it compatible with a wide range of John Deere branded and non-branded yard implements such as utility carts, spreaders, sweepers, snow blowers, and more.
In our extensive test, the S130 lawn tractor proved to be a comfortable, capable riding mower with good maneuverability in a wide range of conditions. It easily handled grassy slopes up to 13 degrees (4.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet), which is the limit recommended by the manufacturer. Measured against leading competitors, it offered a tighter real-life turning radius thanks to superior weight balance, and a seat base that is 3 inches higher to provide a better operator vantage point.
The high, open-back seat was well cushioned and supportive while allowing excellent ventilation. The deck height, blade engagement, and throttle controls were well positioned for convenience and safe operation. Even with the slightly elevated price tag, this mower offers tons of value, making it an excellent choice for most larger yards.
- Power source: 22-horsepower V-twin gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- High vantage point for optimal viewing of the yard and machine while mowing
- Tight turning radius allows for clean and even cutting paths
- Comfortable seat and controls make it easy for the user to mow the lawn
- Should not require much maintenance to keep running for years
Get the John Deere riding lawn mower at Lowe’s or a local John Deere dealer.
American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
Corded lawn mowers make an easy, affordable choice for smaller yards where a gas-powered mower would be a hassle. This mower from American Lawn Mower Company can keep the yard looking great at a low price point, without worrying about the mess or expense of gasoline or batteries.
Its 14-inch deck suits smaller yards and smaller storage areas. At about 20 pounds, this mower is easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a heavier model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing one to bag or mulch clippings (though it oddly has no side-discharge option). It also offers a convenient single lever for height control, eliminating the need to make height adjustments for each wheel individually.
In our tests, this model delivered a rock-solid performance. Assembly, which entailed installation of the handle and cord retainers, took about 10 minutes to complete. It mowed well, even in dense, weedy grass, and the bagger worked well. The small size and lightweight build limit this mower’s practicality more than its corded motor does.
By starting close to the electrical outlet and mowing progressively farther away, we easily minimized the risk of cord damage or entanglement. As an affordable mower for small yards, with arguably the least environmental impact, this quiet, capable corded electric model could be the best choice.
- Durable, maintenance-free electric motor; eco-friendly compared to similar options
- Lightweight and easy to use; offers excellent maneuverability
- Offers bagging and mulching options for easy clean-up after mowing
- Not ideal for large-sized yards; suitable for only the smallest yards
- No side-discharge option; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
Get the American Lawn Mower electric lawn mower at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.
Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero Turn Mower
If spending an entire afternoon mowing the lawn isn’t a problem, those with yards that could house a couple of football fields require a mowing deck that can level large swaths of green in a single pass. With its massive 50-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is ready for a big job. This large mower, which boasts a 24.5-horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 7 miles per hour, making it capable of handling yards of 3 acres or more.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its adjustable MyRIDE suspension system that absorbs bumps in the lawn as well as vibrations from the engine. Plush seating provides support and comfort for longer mowing sessions. Toro also includes other useful features, including a foot-lever-assisted deck-height adjustment, toolless oil-change system, and a cupholder.
When we tested the 50-inch Toro TimeCutter, we timed its performance on a 1-acre area of an old field converted to lawn. The MyRIDE suspension system smoothed out the ruts and bumps for a comfortable ride at near top speed. It mowed the acre in 20 minutes, a blistering 3-acres-per-hour pace. The finish quality was excellent, and it used less than 3 quarts of gasoline. As a point of comparison, a 22-HP, 46-inch lawn tractor that has been used to mow the same area takes nearly an hour and uses more than 1.25 gallons of gas.
Even before factoring in the amazingly comfortable ride, we appreciated the prospect of mowing in one-third the time and reducing fuel and maintenance expenses by half on this large lot. For large grassy areas, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a zero turn mower, and the TimeCutter makes an excellent pick.
- Huge mowing deck makes this model ideal for medium- to large-sized yards
- Shock-absorbing suspension system integrated; can tackle tough jobs without causing strain to the user
- Large engine is capable of cutting thicker grass varieties
Get the Toro TimeCutter lawn mower at The Home Depot or a local Toro dealer.
Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
Pushing the edge of lawn mower technology further is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a quarter acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a set area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front caster and two large rear-drive wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Worx Landroid M can also connect to a Smart device, through which the user can program daily schedules or direct the mower to stop or start. It runs off the same 20-volt Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
Testing the Landroid M required a detailed setup process, but then the operation was almost completely hands-off. After installing the Landroid mobile app, the base station, boundary wire, and establishing the mower’s Wi-Fi connection, we programmed the robot for a daily mowing schedule. Setup and programming were straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions and tutorial videos on the Landroid app. The whole process took about 2.5 hours, including time taken to watch videos. The covered area included a sloped section, a narrow corridor, a broad contiguous area, and an off-limits landscape bed.
Landroid mowed on time every time and stayed inbounds without a problem. On an evening when rain moved in during the mowing cycle, Landroid’s rain sensor picked it up and sent the unit back to its base station to wait it out. The only challenge we encountered was that the mower initially did not dock properly after mowing because the base station was not sitting level. After fixing that issue, it simply worked.
A week after we installed the Landroid, the grass it cut still looked freshly mowed with the exception of the edges, while the adjacent lawn outside Landroid’s coverage needed to be cut. Those looking to infuse the time-, fuel-, and labor-saving benefits of robotics into their lawn care routine would do well to consider Landroid.
- Mows up to ¼ of an acre with ease
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Brushless motor extends battery life; suitable for small to large yards
- Onboard rain sensor protects the mower from potential damage
Get the Worx robotic lawn mower at Amazon.
Makita 36V XML03 Electric Lawn Mower
The Makita XML03, an 18-inch, battery-powered lawn mower, comes with four included batteries, and the claim that it will mow up to 1/3 acre on a single charge, so we tested that claim. We marked out a 1/3-acre area on our lawn and mowed with the Makita XML03 six times over three weeks.
During testing, the Makita mower completed all but one mowing session without battery depletion—with a small battery charge remaining. However, when we tested the mower on damp grass, we depleted all four batteries before we could finish the session. Keep in mind that the Makita mower is not self-propelled, so ultimately, the mowing area will depend on user speed and grass thickness.
Operating at 3,300 rpm, its single blade matches the speed of gas-powered mowers, but dense grass resistance can hinder spinning speed. The trick to overcoming this issue is to mow more frequently—while the grass height is low enough, you’re not removing any more than 1/3 of the grass leaf.
The height adjustment (a single lever on the back right wheel) is convenient; the mower’s deck height range of 13/16 inch to 3 inches could have been improved. This limitation may impact those with specific grass types or desired cutting heights. Although a typical range of 2-1/2 to 3 inches covers many grass varieties, species such as tall fescue are often mowed at 3-1/2 inches high.
The Makita’s detachable grass-catching bag holds 1.7 bushels (16 gallons), which is on the small side, and we had to empty the clippings frequently. But overall, the Makita XML03 meets its mowing claims with reliable battery performance. It starts at the press of a button and is much quieter than gas-powered mowers, so you won’t upset the neighbors if you mow early on a Saturday morning.
- Power source: Two 18-volt, 4-Ah lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Environmentally friendly battery power eliminates the necessity for carbon-emitting gas and oil
- Produces less noise than gas-powered mowers, ensuring peaceful early morning mowing without disturbing neighbors
- Comes with 4 batteries upon purchase, allowing for convenient swapping of charged sets when 1 set runs out
- Simple push-button start eliminates the need for tugging cords or priming pumps
- The relatively narrow 18-inch swath width may result in time-consuming mowing for larger yards
- The Makita XML03 lacks self-propulsion, making it challenging to push on inclines
- The grass-clipping bag has a small capacity, so frequent emptying may be necessary
Get the Makita Lawn Mower at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Mower
In addition to mower type, it’s vital to consider other factors like deck size and fuel requirements when shopping for a lawn mower. Ahead, learn more about these and other important characteristics of lawn mowers.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to decide which type of mower best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers have power wheels that pull the mower forward. Some self-propelled mowers have an adjustment feature to increase or decrease the travel speed for improved operator comfort and convenience. Manual mowers have no power-assisted wheels and must be pushed manually by the user.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers, the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, have a motor that sits behind the operator and are controlled using two levers. The mowers get their name from their ability to pivot 360 degrees in place. Zero-turn mowers also have very broad mowing decks. Their size and maneuverability make them ideal for cutting large lawns with obstacles the user must drive around.
A lawn tractor looks similar to a farm tractor with its motor in the front of the mower. The user operates the tractor from a driver’s seat using a steering wheel. Lawn tractors have broad mowing decks but do not have the small turning radius of a zero-turn tractor. Because of their balance and traction, lawn tractors are well suited for mowing hilly terrain and may be used for other property management tasks like towing a utility cart or plowing snow.
Rear-engine lawn mowers are similar to lawn tractors but have their engines in the rear. Rear-engine lawn tractors typically have smaller decks, though they allow for greater visibility and nimbler handling for the operator.
The newest type of lawn mower, robotic mowers look similar to robotic vacuum cleaners, only they are larger and have bigger wheels that enable them to move through grass. Robotic lawn mowers can mow a yard automatically while being controlled via a Smart device.
These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at programmed times and intervals. Robotic mowers require the user to set up wires in the yard that create boundaries for the mower so it doesn’t wander away. They also use laser-eye technology that spots obstacles in the yard so the mower can evade them.
Self-propelled mowers come in different drive wheel options including front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drive mowers are easier to turn by allowing the operator to raise the front wheels and use the back wheels to pivot.
- Rear-wheel drive mowers place the bulk of the mower’s weight over the drive wheels, creating better traction for climbing inclines and slopes.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
Cutting Width and Yard Size
A mower’s deck size determines the width of the swath of grass it can cut with each pass and hence how quickly it can mow the lawn. A wider deck also makes a mower less nimble, which can make it awkward to mow small lawns with flower beds, trees, and gardens to navigate.
A walk-behind mower with a deck up to 22 inches is usually a good size for a smaller yard of up to about half an acre. Riding mowers with decks that range between 30 and 46 inches are a good choice for lawns up to 1 acre. Zero turn mowers and lawn tractors with 48- to 60-inch decks can be efficient choices for larger properties.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: corded electricity, gas, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Electric mowers supply a constant source of power; however, they are limited by a cord that connects to a standard wall outlet. This makes corded lawn mowers somewhat awkward to use. However, they are extremely durable, have no batteries to recharge or replace, and are almost entirely maintenance free.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the greatest amount of power, run a long time on a single tank, and have no recharge time to worry about. However, gas mowers are loud, require more maintenance to keep in top condition than electric mowers, and produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run on lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and create no exhaust fumes; however, they are less powerful and are limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive to purchase than gas mowers, and the batteries typically need to be replaced every 5 years.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the cylinder blade. Rotary blades are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, cross-cutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades, which can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it, have historically been confined to use on sports fields and golf courses. They consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. The blades cut the grass using a shearing action that creates a cleaner cut than rotary blades, which can tear grass and leave a ragged edge.
While cylinder mowers (also known as reel mowers) make more precise cuts, they are not capable of cutting through taller grass. In fact, their cutting ability ranges from a height of about 1/16 of an inch to 1 inch. This limits this type of mower to varieties of grass that can survive being cut to a low height, such as Bermuda grass.
Mowers offer different grass-disposal options including side discharge, mulching, and bagging. Side discharge ejects the grass clippings out of the side of the mower onto the lawn. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a fine mulch that quickly incorporates into the soil. Mowers that support baggers collect the clippings in a bag at the rear of the mower.
Mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate and maintain. Deck height adjustment allows the user to increase or decrease the mowing height for optimal lawn health. These useful add-ons include mowing decks with built-in wash-out ports that make them easier to clean, switches that make it easy to change between cutting options, and easy-to-operate variable-speed controls for self-propelled mowers.
Many riding mowers have LED headlights for nighttime mowing, drink holders, adjustable plush ergonomic seating, and many other convenient features.
For those who have concerns about maintaining a lawn mower or are wondering how big an engine the mower needs, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q. How long should a lawn mower last?
Most mowers can last about 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained.
Q. How powerful of a lawn mower do I need?
Engine sizes for walk-behind mowers range from 140 cc to 190 cc. For tough terrain with thick grass, a larger engine is usually a better choice.
Q. Can I replace the pull cord on a lawn mower?
Yes. In fact, replacing the pull cord on a mower is a fairly simple repair, requiring just a screwdriver and wrench.
Q. How long does a lawn mower’s battery last?
As a general rule of thumb, a riding lawn mower’s battery can last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower can last about 5 years.
Q. How do I clean my lawn mower?
To clean a mower, tip the mower over to access the deck. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may be wrapped around the blade or stuck to the bottom of the deck. Wet the deck with a garden hose, then spray the underside with an all-purpose cleaner. Scrub the deck with a brush, then rinse thoroughly. Turn the mower back upright and use a damp rag or paper towel to wipe down the housing.
Q. How often do I need to change spark plugs in my lawn mower?
Change the spark plugs in the spring at the beginning of the mowing season or after 100 hours of use.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick and Glenda Taylor.