Reel Mower vs. Rotary Mowers
But one of the most unique distinctions between lawn mowers is whether the mower uses reel or rotary blades.
And no I’m not talking about manual push reel mowers. I’m talking about the REAL, gas-powered reel mowers like the one below:
So, which is better rotary or reel? Let’s find out!
Which is better a Rotary or Reel mower?
To determine which mower is better, we have to weigh the differences of each machine. As well as the pros and cons.
First up is the rotary mower:
What is a Rotary Mower?
A rotary mower is your standard everyday lawn mower. It’s likely what you immediately think of when you hear the word “lawn mower”. Rotary mowers use a blade that rotates parallel to the lawn they are cutting.
How do rotary mowers work?
Rotary mowers work by rotating at incredibly high speeds. This high speed creates a lift, forming a vacuum, which causes the grass to be sucked upwards. Meanwhile, the blade rotates quickly around (at about 200mph or 3000 rpm) and slices the grass at the blade height.
This suction along with the quickly spinning blade or blades is what cuts grass efficiently.
The Purpose of Rotary Mowers
Rotary mowers are all-purpose mowers that can cut just about any type of lawn. They are better for cutting grass on uneven ground, or on lawns where sticks and rocks are present. Further, rotary mowers are best for cutting grass at taller grass.
Pros of Reel Mowers: Can cut tall grass easily, and the blades are cheap and easy to sharpen. Are not easily affected by sticks or even rocks. To get your lawn ready for a reel mower, use these yard clean up tips.
Cons of Reel Mowers: Can not cut grass as low as a rotary mower, and does not cut as evenly as a reel mower can. Does not cut grass as cleanly.
What is a REAL reel mower?
Look, I was shocked when I found this one out myself. Reel mowers aren’t just rinky-dink pieces of metal that serve better as a lawn decoration than actually keeping grass cut.
No, there are also commercial grade high-end top-of-the-line reel mowers that offer some unique features that the traditional rotary mower can not. We will get to those features in a moment. But first…
How do reel mowers work?
Unlike a rotary mower which uses 1, 2, or even 3 quickly rotating blades that spin parallel to the ground, a reel mower uses 4, 5, 7 or even 11 blades on a single reel.
Get this, some top-end commercial reel mowers, like the TORO 121 Reelmaster® 7000 Mower, can have as many as 5 reels. With 11 blades on each reel. That’s 55 blades!
I would hate to be the one that has to sharpen the blades on a mower like that!
So, what the heck is so special about these “reel” mowers anyhow?
The Purpose of Reel Mowers
Here’s the deal, a reel mower isn’t for your average homeowner’s lawn. No, these precision-grade machines are for those who want a PERFECT lawn. And I mean perfect.
As far as use on residential properties, about the only people that use a high-end reel mower, are hobbyist homeowners who love perfecting their lawns.
However, when it comes to commercial properties like baseball stadiums, golf courses, soccer fields, and the like. A reel mower offers a far superior cut, with sharper stripes and a tighter cut.
Pros of Reel Mowers: Reel mowers are excellent at cutting grass low and tight to the ground, best of all they can provide a nice even cut on the lawn. They also offer a sharper, cleaner cut on the grass which avoids grass discoloration.
Cons of Reel Mowers: Easily jammed up by sticks and rocks. Further, they can not cut tall grass well either. Sharpening the blades is not a DIY project. The lower cut may lead to a lawn more likely to become brown in the summer heat. Grass needs to be cut more frequently (twice a week or more).
Which is Better Reel or Rotary Mower?
Well, to be honest. Each mower has its place.
Rotary mowers will probably always be the front-runner choice for most lawn care pros and homeowners. Simply put they are more versatile and easier for the average user to operate and troubleshoot.
However, reel mowers do seem to be growing in popularity among homeowners. The thing is while they offer a superior cut, unless you frivolously maintain your lawn, or pay top dollar to have your lawn perfectly manicured by lawn care pros. You will have more issues than it’s worth to operate a reel mower.
Should I invest in a reel mower for my lawn care company?
While in theory, a reel cutting service may appeal to some residential clients, very few are going to want to pay for 2 or 3 cuts a week.
In my experience, the only practical application for reel mowers is for lawn care companies that specifically service large commercial properties that are willing to pay top dollar to have their lawns perfectly manicured.
Or if you are specifically targeting VERY wealthy clients that want a perfectly maintained lawn and are willing to fork out
Reel Mowers are practical for cutting sports fields, and especially golf courses. So unless you have large commercial clients I would not recommend investing in a reel mower for your lawn care business. The bottom line is it’s not the type of equipment you want if you are just getting started.
In the words of one lawn care pro:
Rotary vs. Reel At the End of the Day
While there are certainly some amazing advantages to using a reel mower on certain properties, overall the rotary mower will always be a more practical solution for a lawn care company.
While they can be a fun hobby for your own lawn, the commercial use of a reel mower for a profitable lawn care company is strictly limited to VERY high-end residential clients and commercial clients that want a perfect lawn.
If you are looking for more great lawn care business tips, check out our lawn care pros section.
Lawn mower technology has advanced in the past few decades, but there are still many reasons to opt for a reel mower. Read on for top recommendations and tips on navigating this mower market.
By Glenda Taylor and Mark Wolfe | Updated Apr 20, 2023 12:27 PM
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Quiet in operation, simple to maintain, and largely affordable, reel lawn mowers can be Smart options for yard maintenance. Taking up about a third of the storage room needed by a traditional mower, they’re easy keepers.
Reel mowers also might be better for a lawn’s health than standard mowers. They make a sharp cut along the top of the grass blade, similar to the way scissors cut. Traditional rotary mowers have blades with a tendency to tear the grass, which causes ragged brown tips and increases the risk of disease.
While all reel mowers function similarly, there are differences among the options. We tested the following models to find out how blade width, mowing height, handle design, and other details affect performance in different settings. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for a reel mower, and find out why the following models are among the best reel mower options available.
- BEST OVERALL:Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- UPGRADE PICK:Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS:Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR TOUGH GRASS:Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT:American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower
- BEST WITH GRASS CATCHER: Greenworks RM1400 14-Inch Lawn Mower
- ALSO CONSIDER:Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower
How We Tested the Best Reel Mowers
We tested these mowers in a Georgia backyard in the middle of winter. That meant a combination of dormant warm-season grasses (some Bermuda grass and some centipede grass) along with a few areas infested with cool-season weeds like annual bluegrass, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, and wild onion. The test areas included a combination of flat, sloped, and uneven lawn.
We divided the lawn into test plots so that each mower would have a chance to prove its capability under a variety of conditions. For inclusion in this article, each mower had to effectively perform the basic function for which it was built: mowing to reduce the grass height by approximately one-third. Then, beyond basic weed-free lawn mowing, we also tested each mower on the tougher conditions of overgrown and weed-infested grass. All of the mowers included in this guide easily passed the basic functionality test and earned bonus points by tackling one or more adverse conditions, noted in the reviews.
Our Top Picks
Using a reel mower is an environmentally friendly way to mow the lawn and get a bit of fresh air and exercise at the same time. We tested these manual models on our lawn to find out which would be the best reel mowers for different users and circumstances. Learn about the performance details in the reviews.
Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
Those wanting a wide swath on a reel mower may want to consider the Great States 18-inch five-blade mower that cuts a hearty swath to reduce mowing time. This reel mower is simple in design and allows for adjusting mowing height from as low as 0.5 inch to as high as 2.75 inches. It comes with 10-inch composite wheels and back stability rollers.
The blades are made from heat-treated alloy to retain their sharpness longer, and the handle comes with nonslip cushioning to help reduce blisters and to improve grip. The loop-style handle folds down for easy storage, and the mower weighs in at 27 pounds.
In our backyard test, this mower worked quickly, quietly, and easily. It was pretty easy to push in all but the thickest grass but was abruptly stopped by twigs or debris thicker than a pencil (as were the rest of these mowers). We liked the padded wide-loop handle that gave it the familiar feel of a conventional gas mower. Sharpening the blades—a task that most users would require once or twice a season—requires disassembly of one wheel to access the blade drive mechanism. The process is typical of these mowers and was only slightly complicated.
- Wide swath cuts down mowing time; great for larger yards
- Loop handle increases user comfort and control
- 10-inch wheels roll easily over uneven terrain
- Alloy steel blades stay sharp longer; less maintenance required
- 3.5 inches from blade edge to outer edge of wheels means more edge trimming
- Sharpening, when necessary, requires disassembly of the drive wheel
- Hard plastic blade height bracket seems like it may wear out prematurely
Get the Great States 18-inch reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
For affordability and mowing ease, this five-blade reel mower is a worthy option. It features a smooth cutting operation and a cushioned T-handle that makes it easy to maneuver around corners. Its 16-inch swath width makes the mower relatively simple to push, and it features back rollers for added stability.
This reel mower’s five heat-treated alloy blades resist dulling, and blade height is adjustable from 1 inch to 2.5 inches, making it optimal for mowing short grass species, such as buffalo or zoysia. At just under 25 pounds, it’s also easy to maneuver.
We found this 16-inch mower to be a good “middle of the road” option: narrow enough to move well through thick grass but still wide enough to get the job done quickly. Its T-style handlebar grips gave it a more “articulate” feel that was comfortable and easy to maneuver. The 16-inch blade moved slightly easier through dense grass than the 18-inch model but still cut a generous swath.
- Lower profile for easy storage; great for busy gardeners with lots of tools to store
- Comfortable handlebar style grips; ideal for prolonged use
- Easy to use screw-knob-style height adjustment
- Cuts too low for taller grasses like fescue
- Sticks, acorns, and pine cones stop the blades abruptly
- Does not cut to the edge; may need a trimmer tool
Get the Great States 16-inch reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower
The saying “You get what you pay for” rings true with this reel mower from Fiskars. Boasting high-quality StaySharp blades that reduce the need for resharpening, this model also includes two small front rollers to help balance and stabilize the mower. It also features InertiaDrive, a design that allows the mower to power through thicker grasses.
At around twice the price of the others we tested, the Fiskars Stay Sharp Max mower delivered performance to justify it. Weighing in at a hefty 52 pounds, the build feels heavy duty but works smoothly and efficiently. The ergonomic handle was extremely comfortable, and the machine moved almost effortlessly over all but the roughest ground. The only criticism we had was that the 8.5-inch drive wheels felt somewhat undersized. Unlike other reel mowers, the wheels are offset in a way that prevents them from flattening the grass before it is mowed and allows the mower to cut within an inch of the edge rather than 3.5 inches from the edge like other reel mowers. The toolless lever height adjustment worked with one hand, in seconds. It was a pleasure to mow with this tool, and the completed cut was clean and even.
Cutting height is adjustable from 1 to 4 inches, and there’s an adjustable chute so the clippings can be directed to fall in front of the mower or behind it. The Fiskars mower cuts a generous 18-inch swath, making it well suited to mowing small and medium-size yards. An optional grass catcher can be purchased separately.
- Heavy-duty construction can last for several years
- Ergonomic design feel comfortable to use
- Easy to adjust and maneuver with oversized wheels
- Cuts closest to the edges so users can skip the trimmer
- Twice the price of other reel mowers
- than twice the weight of other reel mowers
- Bulky design takes up slightly more storage space
Get the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
With just a 14-inch swath width and a ball-bearing reel, this little mower is just right for a small lawn and more petite users. This narrower-than-most reel mower is easy to maneuver around trees and corners, and it comes with a back roller for added stability. The blades are made from a heat-treated alloy to help reduce dulling, and it comes with a low adjustable cutting height from 1 to 1.75 inches, making it best suited to short grass species.
A narrow overall body width of just 20 inches, 8.5-inch rubber tires, and a traditional handlebar with padded grips makes this mower easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and it takes up minimal storage space. At just under 20 pounds, it is even light enough to hang on a wall hook. It is essentially a scaled-down version of our 16-inch Best Bang for the Buck pick, with similar height and blade adjustments. Unfortunately, this smaller model requires a wrench to adjust the height instead of using screw-knobs. However, the narrow body was even easier to push in dense grass but took almost twice as long to mow the same amount of space when the imperfections of walking a straight line, additional turnaround times, and overlapping edges are factored in. This could be a good pick for mowing a small grass patch around a townhouse or condo.
- Compact size makes this easy to maneuver in small spaces
- Lightweight and low profile for easy storage
- No frills gardening tool makes for low maintenance
- Does not cut close to the edges (3.5 inches from blade edge to outer wheel)
- Too lightweight for mowing sloped areas
- Height adjustment requires a wrench
Get the Great States 14-inch reel mower at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Northern Tool Equipment.
Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
The Earthwise Reel Lawn Mower comes with seven blades—two more than most reel mowers—giving it extra oomph for powering through dense grass. The Earthwise mower cuts a 16-inch swath with its steel alloy blades that are designed to stay sharp longer. The grass-cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, suitable for a range of grasses, including St. Augustine, buffalo, and Bermuda.
Weighing in at 26 pounds, this reel mower comes with a T-handle that makes it easier to maneuver around the corners of houses and trees, and the handgrips feature nonslip cushioning to reduce hand fatigue and blistering.
In our tests, this seven-blade mower gave the cleanest, most consistent cut. We even used it to scalp a section of dormant centipede grass, where it left a smooth, even finish. Unfortunately, the additional blades offered more resistance, making it a little harder to push than five-blade models. Because it has height adjustments ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, a good strategy would be to mow regularly at 1 or 1.5 inches and leave a little room to move higher if the grass gets ahead of you.
- 7 alloy steel blades are great for mowing coarse grasses
- Easy-to-use height adjustment screw-knobs
- Cleanly maintain dense grasses at low height
- Harder to push than 5-blade models
- Does not work as well if grass grows extra long between cuts
- Not suitable for taller grasses like fescue
Get the Earthwise reel mower at Amazon.
American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower
With a total weight of just 20 pounds, this 14-inch American Lawn Mower is the lightest reel mower in the lineup. It features four cutting blades made from heat-treated steel alloy to reduce dulling and has 8.5-inch polymer wheels and rear rollers to increase stability.
This smaller American Lawn Mower is well suited to mowing a small lawn, and its light weight makes it simpler for more petite users to operate. It comes with a T-handle and cushioned nonslip grips for comfortable mowing. The handle on this lightweight, low-maintenance reel mower folds down for storage, and it is light enough to be hung on wall hooks in the garage if desired. Cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 1.5 inches.
With only four 14-inch blades slicing against the bedknife, this mower offered the least resistance of all the mowers we tested, making it the easiest mower to push. However, fewer blades meant a less consistent finish in dense or overgrown grass. Overall the ALMC 14-inch four-blade reel mower felt strong and durable and was easy to use, but it required a second pass to clean up some of the more difficult areas. It’s probably a good choice for keeping up with pathways in the veggie garden or other secondary grassy areas.
- Very budget-friendly compared to similar options
- Easy to push, even in overgrown or dense grass
- Durable construction yet still a lightweight and maneuverable design
- Fewer blades produce a less thorough cut
- Requires a wrench for height adjustments
- 8.5-inch wheels do not roll as well over rough ground
Get the American Lawn Mower Company reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Greenworks RM1400 14-Inch Lawn Mower
Bagging grass clippings is a cinch with the Greenworks Reel Mower. The mower cuts a 14-inch swath, and the mowing height adjusts from 1.06 to 2 inches, making it well suited to most low-growing lawn grass species. It comes with a T-handle that makes it easy to mow around tree trunks, and it features nonslip cushioned grips for comfort. The handle folds down for convenient storage.
The Greenworks mower comes with a handy grass catcher that connects to the rear of the mower for collecting grass clippings, and the mowing reel has five heat-treated steel alloy blades designed to remain sharp longer. The mower weighs 24 pounds.
In our trials, the Greenworks RM1400 was easy to push and maneuver, thanks to its lightweight frame, narrow wheel base, and T-style handlebar. The mowing height is easy to adjust with spring pins but only varies within a narrow 1-inch range. The sharpening process is similar to other reel mowers, with the exception of the bedknife mounting system. Where most manufacturers use pairs of set screws on both ends to adjust and hold the angle, Greenworks uses single spring-loaded bolts at the ends to hold the proper angle. The system seems less complicated but could offer less durability—only time and extended use will tell.
- Grass catcher included; no mess left behind after use
- Lightweight and easy to push; great for larger yards
- Provides a clean, consistent finish
- Full grass catcher makes the mower difficult to maneuver
- Components feel less durable than other models
- Wheel assembly is more difficult to disassemble for sharpening
Get the Greenworks 14-inch reel mower at Amazon or Greenworks.
Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower
With a slightly wider swath than the other Greenworks mower in the lineup, this 16-inch reel mower deserves a look. The wider swath means fewer passes when mowing, and the 10-inch front wheels make the mower easier to push. This Greenworks model also comes with two rear wheels for stability, and it features a detachable grass catcher for collecting clippings when desired.
This Greenworks reel mower offers an adjustable mow height from 1.125 to 2.25 inches, and it comes with a cushioned ergonomic loop handle that folds to take up less storage space. The mower weighs 26 pounds.
Built on the same platform as its 14-inch sibling, this Greenworks 16-inch reel mower boasts a wider range of cutting heights and a comfortable ergonomic loop-style handle. In our tests the loop handle made it much easier to push and maneuver the mower, especially as the grass catcher filled. The swath size and five-blade configuration hit the sweet spot, balancing the ability to mow tall and dense grass without causing user fatigue. However, a few design features appear less durable, including lightweight plastic rollers and a two-bolt adjustment system for the bedknife. This one would make a good pick for regular use on an otherwise well-maintained lawn.
- Handle folds down for compact storage
- Easy-to-use spring-pin height adjustment
- Comfortable ergonomic handle is ideal for prolonged use
- Lightweight bedknife-adjustment system
- Grass catcher may be somewhat undersize
- Construction feels less durable than the competition
Get the Greenworks 16-inch reel mower at Amazon.
What to Consider When Choosing a Reel Mower
For any home with a lawn, mowing is a fact of life that is required in most neighborhoods. To cultivate a lush green expanse, regular mowing is essential. When mowing is done correctly—frequently enough to remove no more than one-third the height of the grass—it promotes dense, uniform growth.
Manual vs. Powered
Unlike standard mowers, the majority of reel mowers are manual, although consumers can find a handful of gas-powered and battery-powered models.
- Manual: Everything old is new again—or so it seems with more of these old-fashioned mowers popping up in home improvement centers and online stores. One of the drivers of the manual mower’s resurgence is its eco-friendliness. No fuel to store, no fumes, and no pull cord that can cause a struggle. The downside to mowing with a manual lawn mower is the near impossibility of cutting the grass if it’s allowed to grow too tall before mowing, especially if the lawn is dense. The thickness and coarseness of the grass helps dictate if it is too tall, but if the grass is twice as tall as its recommended cutting height, it usually can pose a problem for a manual reel mower. For the best results with a manual reel mower, cut the grass more often during fast-growth periods, such as in early spring and the rainy season.
- Powered: Like traditional rotary mowers, reel mowers may be powered by either gas or a battery, which makes it immeasurably easier to mow dense or tall grass. Some gas and electric reel mowers also include self-propulsion, which virtually eliminates the need to push the mower—the user needs only to guide it. While gas reel mowers are just as noisy as their traditional counterparts, electric mowers are not as noisy as gas mowers. However, they still have a motor and will produce more noise than a manual reel mower. Opting for either a manual or powered reel mower is mostly a matter of personal choice. For those with large lawns, a gas reel mower or an electric reel mower might make better sense.
Blades and Cutting Height
Reel mowers feature between four and seven steel blades. On some models, the blades are treated with a nonstick coating for easier mowing. blades lead to a cleaner cut because the grass blade doesn’t bend as far before it’s severed. For most lawns, mowers with four or five blades work well. A few reel mowers have six or seven blades, which makes them ideal for getting a uniform cut on dense grass. Reel mowers also are suitable for lawn striping, a mowing technique that leaves an attractive alternating pattern in the grass.
The blade cutting height is preset on a few reel mowers, often at around 1.5 to 2 inches, which is well suited to short grasses but not tall-growing varieties, such as fescue. Other models offer adjustable cutting heights. Consider your grass type and its optimal growing height. If yours is a tall variety of grass, opt for a reel mower that will adjust to the best mowing height for the grass.
Swath Width and Grass Type
North American lawns feature a multitude of grass varieties. Easy-to-cut grass types include perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass, and fescue, and these are suitable for cutting with wider mowers. On the other hand, thick grasses, such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, and zoysia, are better suited to mowing in narrower cutting widths (swaths). In either case, mowing frequently will make using a manual mower easier.
The swath width of a reel mower and the type of grass the yard contains influence usability. Standard swath widths on reel mowers range from 14 to 20 inches. While a wider swath means you won’t have to mow as many passes, it also makes the mower more challenging to push because more grass means more resistance.
Reel mowers don’t come with many bells and whistles, but a few added features can enhance the mowing experience.
- Grass catcher: Some prefer to allow grass clippings to settle back on the lawns. The clippings act as a mulch that biodegrades to offer organic nutrients to the soil. For those who prefer bagging grass clippings, look for models that feature a rear-mount grass catcher.
- Padded handles: Nonslip, padded foam handles make it easier to grip the mower handles and reduce the risk of blisters.
- Rollers: Reel mowers have two sizable front wheels, but some come with additional back rollers or front rollers that add stability to the mower and help the user maneuver the mower near borders and edges for clean cutting.
The Advantages of Using a Reel Mower
Reel mowers are almost always powered manually. The physical pushing of the mower turns the blade cylinder, which in turn cuts the grass. Since they’re push-powered, reel mowers excel when cutting fine, straight-growing grasses but can bog down in coarse, wiry grass. The following are some of the advantages of using a reel mower.
- Avoid diseases. A clean cut helps grass avoid diseases such as “brown patch,” which can leave a lawn pockmarked with areas of dead grass.
- Affordable mowers. While pricing varies based on quality and design, expect to pay about half the cost of a powered push mower.
- Low maintenance requirements. Manual reel mowers only require occasional cleaning and blade sharpening. A gas reel mower requires the addition of oil, draining fuel over winter, and other maintenance tasks.
- Relatively compact and lightweight. Many reel mowers weigh around 20 to 30 pounds, and they often feature fold-down handles for easy storage.
- Free of exhaust and fumes. Breathe the aroma of freshly cut grass rather than toxic exhaust fumes.
With no toxic fumes, no need to store fuel or charge batteries, and quiet operation, the reel mower is making a comeback. This eco-friendly mower will reduce your carbon footprint while offering some physical exercise. For those thinking of investing in a reel mower, a few questions are to be expected.
Q. Is it hard to push a reel mower?
Manual reel mowers are easy to push in thin sparse grass, but it takes more force to move one through tall, dense, or coarse grass.
Q. Can you mow wet grass with a reel mower?
Although a manual reel mower can easily cut through wet grass, doing so frequently is not advisable. As with other mowers, clippings will clump and look unsightly. Wet clippings that stick to the mower increase rust formation, dulling the blades prematurely.
Q. How often should you mow with a reel mower?
Mow as often as is necessary to keep from removing more than one-third of the grass’s blade. This may mean mowing two or more times in a week during the fast-growing grass season.
Q. When should I sharpen my reel mower?
In general, it’s a good idea to sharpen the blades on a reel mower after 20 to 25 hours of use. For some users, this may be once a year; others may need to sharpen blades two or more times in a season.
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UTV and ATV Mower Guide.
A UTV or ATV mower can inject some fun into a chore that’s more closely associated with drudgery. Whether you need to knock down a field full of waist high weeds or trim a manicured lawn, doing it with your favorite four wheeler will have you looking forward to it.
This guide will hopefully give you some info about the different types and styles of mowers for ATVs and UTVs. Let’s take a look.
Rough Cut Mowers
Rough cut mowers are for taller grass, brush, stalks, etc. Cosmetics aren’t as important as the ability to knock the offending material down. Mowers for rough cutting tend to be heavier duty and have more power. There are several types so let’s look at more details.
Tow behind flail mower in action.
Flail mowers are designed to handle thicker foliage and rougher terrain. They have multiple cutting blades mounted on a horizontal bar or roller. Centrifugal force from the rotating roller causes the blades to sling out and provide the cutting action.
This design allows for closer cutting to the ground with less risk of damage to the blades. Each individual blade has it’s own pivot so that it can kick back if it strikes the ground or other obstacle.
Different style blades can be fitted for different cutting needs. Anything from heavier blades for rougher or thicker foliage, to blades that can give a near finish mower type cut.
Front Mount. Flail type ATV mowers can be front mounted for a pusher style. Many have options to connect to a front winch so they can be raised when needed.
Several front mounted flail mowers have an option to offset the mower so it sits outside the track width of the ATV. This allows for closer edge trimming but it can make the four wheeler harder to steer.
Other pros for the front mount is being able to see what you’ll be cutting. You can also get a cleaner cut since the wheels of the ATV or UTV won’t mash the grass or weeds down before being cut like they would with a pull behind style mower.
Cons for the front mount flail mowers are that they usually are narrower for better handling. Wider front mount mowers tend to adversely affect turning of the ATV.
Pull Behind Mount. The simplest and most popular way to use a flail mower. Most can be pulled directly behind the UTV or ATV with options to offset the mower to either side.
Pull behinds can be wider without causing handling problems. They are favored for larger foliage or vegetation that can leave larger and stiffer stalks. Those stalks can cause tire punctures if you run over them after cutting as would happen with a front mount mower.
The Best Manual Reel Mower PERIOD!
Cutting blades on the flail type mower.
The shredder style ATV mowers are based on the flail mower. They’re intended to have more of a mulching action. Many come with more and different style blades.
An extra stationary cutting bar can be added for more complete cutting. Most have some sort of flaps added to the deck to keep the cut material in the mower longer to promote more shredding action.
Like the flail mowers, they come in front and pull behind styles. The pull behind is by far the most popular for the shredder style.
Rough cut rotary mower at work.
The rotary style mowers are the more conventional type with deck mounted blades or blade that are mounted horizontally and rotate parallel to the ground.
Those designed for rough cutting tend to have heaver duty parts starting with the deck thickness, and continuing to the spindles that hold the blades, and the blades themselves.
Engines are usually more powerful to handle the increased load of cutting thicker and coarser material.
Rear mounted trimmer mower.
Trimmer mowers work on the same principle as lawn trimmers. Everything is just much heavier duty for the rough trimming they are expected to do.
Instead of a single piece of cutting line, the ATV trimmer mowers use larger cutting line with individual pieces that are inserted into the head of the trimmer.
Most models are pull behind style with an offset to one side. They usually have a swinging action that allows them to contact objects like trees or posts and kick back to keep the trimmer close to the object.
Finish Mowers. Lawn Mowers
Rotary finish mower with deck height adjustable anti-scalping caster wheels.
The rotary blade finish mower, or ATV lawn mower, is designed for more accurate cutting than the rough cut mower. The main difference are much finer adjustment methods to accurately maintain grass cutting heights.
Almost all finish ATV mowers are deck style pull behind with some sort of anti-scalping feature and deck height adjusters.
Reel type ATV mowers mounted in a gang style.
Reel mowers are based on the classic style manual mower. They use several horizontal curved blades mounted directly to the wheels to provide the rotating cutting action.
The reel mower is intended for fine grass trimming to produce a manicured look. They’re the only type of mower that doesn’t need an onboard engine.
Since reel mowers tend to be smaller, most rigs for ATVs will use several mowers gang mounted together for more coverage.
Mounting Types for ATV Mowers
Flail type mower shown with an offset front mount.
Though not as popular as the pull behind models, front mount or pusher style mowers are offered by several manufacturers. Most have their own support frame that mounts to the ATV frame. The mower is then mounted to that support frame.
Flail style mowers are the most commonly seen front mount type. There are front mount deck type mowers, but their larger size has a few more disadvantages.
- Better visibility for what the mower will be cutting.
- Can be attached to a winch so the mower can be lifted to avoid obstacles, for transport to another work area, and to make maneuvering easier.
- When used with a flail mower, much less overall length than pull behind styles.
- Easier to transport ATV with mower mounted in place.
- Added weight of the support frame.
- Adverse effect on steering and handling in some situations.
- Limits the size of the mower that can be used.
- Mower can’t be offset to the side as far as tow behind.
Pull behind mower with drawbar adjusted for side offset.
The pull behind style UTV and ATV mowers are basically what the name says. Most have a trailer type drawbar connected to the mower and a hitch that connects to the four wheeler.
- Wider range of sizes than front mount. Common widths available from 40 to 66 inch wide decks.
- left or right offset range by adjusting drawbar.
- No extra support frame necessary.
- Can perform same functions as zero turn mowers.
- Quicker to attach and detach than other types of mowers.
- Can mow more uneven terrain with addition of rotating hitch.
- Greater overall length can make maneuvering in tight spaces more difficult.
- Most models can’t be lifted, making it harder to transport or get around obstacles.
- Control cables and wiring are longer and usually have to be mounted to rear of ATV or UTV.
Belly or Center Mount
Belly mount ATV mowers are the most compact systems.
The more traditional lawn tractor style belly mount is relatively rare for ATVs. Unlike the flail or deck type mowers that have their engines mounted directly on the mower, the belly mount requires a rear engine mount.
A separate support frame mounts the engine at the rear of the ATV and extends to the center of the machine to provide a mount for the mower deck.
- Operates much like a conventional lawn tractor mower.
- Most compact of all systems for ATV mowers.
- Easier to transport with mower mounted in place.
- Weight of engine, mower, and mounting frame are added directly to the ATV.
- Mower size limited by wheel base of ATV.
- Can’t be offset to the side.
- Limited space mower can be lifted.
- complex mounting system.
- Harder to access for maintenance.
Options for UTV and ATV Mowers
Deck size. The deck width for most ATV mowers ranges from 40 to 66 inches. Width will vary with the number of blades and power of the engine.
Number of blades. The number of blades used usually depends on the width of the deck. Smaller deck widths many only use a single blade while the wider decks use up to 3 blades in either an offset or inline configuration.
Height adjustment. We’re talking about mowing deck height here. Adjustment options include setting the height at the caster wheels, a manual screw jack that can set the deck height, and some larger models have an optional electrically operated linear actuator.
Offset blade configuration with heavy duty spindles and vertical deck supports.
Engine size. Engine size and power ratings normally range from smaller engines with around 19hp to the larger models with up to about 27hp. Finish mowers may use slightly less powerful engines since they generally cut lighter material.
Pull start. Traditional pull cord style starter. Comes standard on most of the smaller engines.
Electric start. Needed on larger engines which can be difficult to start manually. You may also just want an electric start for the extra convenience.
Drive engagement. There are three main types of drive engagement used on most UTV and ATV mowers. The type used depends somewhat on the size of the mower, engine power, and type of use.
Manual lever. Standard on most smaller mowers. Operates by moving a lever that engages an idler pulley with the drive belt. Similar to the way most lawn tractors operate.
Manual lever drive engagement moves an idler pulley against the drive belt which turns the blade shaft on a flail mower.
- Anti-scalping wheels or roller. Prevents deck from contacting ground and digging in or allowing blades to hit the ground.
- Rotating hitch. Allows the mower to move more freely over uneven terrain. Useful for mowing slopes by allowing mower to operate at steeper angles.
- Flotation wheels. Deck wheels added to provide more support for deck so it can float over uneven ground without digging in.
Mower deck with anti-scalping caster wheels and center mounted rollers.
We hope our guide for the most popular UTV and ATV mowers was helpful. If you any questions or Комментарии и мнения владельцев, let us know in the section below.
What Is a Reel Mower and How to Use It
David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience.
Mary has been a Master Gardener for 30 years and a commercial and residential gardener for 50 years. She is a former Clemson University Extension Agent.
Reel Mowing Tall Grass?
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Reel mowers appeal to environmentalists, money-savers, exercise-fanatics, noise-haters, and safety-lovers. Simple to operate, a reel mower works well for small areas.
However, with this type of lawn mower, there are some downsides. You must be committed to mowing when the grass is ready, not whenever you get around to it. Sharpening the blades is a hassle. And unless you don’t mind the extra work of raking up twigs beforehand, reel mowers are not practical for large areas with lots of trees, since you can’t ride roughshod over twigs as you can with standard mowers.
What Is a Reel Mower?
A reel mower is a push mower that does not use fuel, electricity, or oil and is powered by the person pushing it. Most have two primary wheels and several sharp blades in a cylinder that spin around to cut the grass.
Reel vs. Rotary Mowers
As with most things, reel mowers are excellent for some situations and users and troublesome for others. Reel mowers lack many of the common annoyances that come with other types of mowers—the smell and noise, the potential risks, and the price—but they also have drawbacks. Reel mowers don’t work as well on tall grass or grass sprinkled with twigs and leaves.
The blades of a rotary lawn mower spin on a plane parallel to the ground. Reel mower blades spin at an angle perpendicular to the ground. While you may be able to get by for years without sharpening the blades on a regular mower, it’s critical to keep the blades of a reel mower razor-sharp.
- Environmentally friendly
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lightweight and safer to use
- efficient at mowing grass
- Easier to mow larger areas
- Mulches up debris
- Handles cutting grass better on uneven ground
Parts of a Reel Mower
Manual or push reel mowers don’t have engines, so they don’t use gas and emit no pollutants. The lack of an engine also means reel mowers are virtually noiseless. No engine also means no tune-ups, and less maintenance: no oil to check, no filter to clean, no spark plugs, saving time and money.
Reel mowers have blades that turn as the mower is pushed. Today’s models have a protective guard to prevent the grass from being blown back on the person pushing the mower. And some models come with a grass-collecting bag. Most models allow you to adjust the blades to cut the grass at a certain height.
Modern models of reel mowers are lightweight and easy to push. Reel mowers are ideal for small lawns with no trees, although pushing one across any sized lawn will still be a strenuous chore, lightweight or not.
Why Should You Use a Reel Mower?
When you think of mowing your lawn, the mental image that comes to mind for most of us is that of a rotary machine, because this type of grass-cutting device has become the standard. Unlike the rotary models that you’re used to, reel mowers don’t have an engine.
Instead, this 19th-century device, invented by Edwin Budding, cuts the grass using sharp blades that move as you push the device along. This isn’t merely a question of the machine being self-propelled vs not self-propelled, it is entirely human-powered. Still, despite the decidedly unmodern functionality, there are good reasons you might want to consider buying a reel mower.
Environmentalists tout reel mowers as a clean alternative to polluting gas-powered rotary models. Reel mowers also reduce noise pollution. A reel mower is safer to use because the blades stop when you stop pushing, They are less expensive to purchase and maintain than gas or electric mowers. Modern versions are easier to use than older models because lightweight plastics and alloys incorporated into their framework have made them more maneuverable.
But reel mowers come with some disadvantages, too. They can’t chop up twigs and the twigs get lodged in the blades, requiring manual removal. Raking up twigs before mowing is advisable, adding time and effort to the task. Reel mowers cannot be used in fall as makeshift leaf-shredders. Rotary models are also better at mowing grass that’s grown too high, an important consideration for those who don’t mow the grass religiously.
Reel lawn mowers are well-suited only to those who tend to small urban lots and enjoy exercise. But if you do have just a small lawn to mow, the reel mower can be ideal. Dealing with all the gas, oil, and noise associated with regular mowers seems like overkill for such a small space.
Another choice other than reel mowers for those who have a small lawn is a rechargeable battery-powered mower. This type keeps mower maintenance to a bare minimum.
Buying vs. Renting
Reel mowers are inexpensive, costing around 100 on average to purchase. Since mowing the lawn is a weekly chore, especially in the spring and summer months, it only makes sense to buy one rather than go through the constant expense and hassle of renting one.
Although reel mowers are relatively cheap, you shouldn’t necessarily buy the very cheapest option. You want to make sure your mower is well-made, and that blade sharpening kits for the brand you select are easy to find because you’ll need to sharpen the blade regularly.
How to Maintain Reel Mowers
There is one regular mower-maintenance chore necessary with reel mowers: sharpening the blades. This needs to be done once or twice every year. You can buy sharpening kits, or you can grab these three basic items: grinding stone, grinding paste, and newspaper. The blades can remain on the mower, and with a little bit of manual effort, you can complete the sharpening process.
- Grinding stone: Use the stone first to smooth out any nicks or burrs you feel on the blades.
- Grinding paste: Apply the paste to the blades and cutter bar. Then turn the reel backward. The grinding paste and running it backward will sharpen the blades and cutter bar’s edges. Do this for a few minutes, and you will see the paste going away and shiny edges appearing. If there’s any excess paste, simply wipe it off.
- Newspaper: Test the sharpness of the blades on the newspaper. If it’s not sharp enough, repeat the sharpening process.
After each use, make sure to wipe/wash off any grass clippings that have built up on the mower. Store the reel mower in a dry place to help keep it from rusting.
When to Replace Your Reel Mower
Reel mowers will last for many years if you keep them clean and sharpen the blades periodically. If you find yourself not having the time to mow often with a reel mower, or you’ve gotten a larger yard, then you should consider replacing it with a powered mower. If your yard is considerably bigger, then a riding lawn mower will save you time and effort.