Electric vs. Gas Lawn Mowers
Buying a new lawn mower is no longer a simple endeavor. Your first question may be, “Should I buy a battery-powered, corded, or gas mower?” Before you make the big cut, you’ll want to consider things like reliability, storage, maintenance, and noise level.
We’ll help you navigate this wide-open field to decide which type of mower is best for your lawn.
Three different type of mowers
If you like choices, today’s mower market is for you. Choose from a battery-powered, corded electric, or gas lawn mower to find one that is a match for your lawn, mowing style, and budget.
Battery-powered lawn mower
Battery-powered lawn mowers are the first of two types of electric lawn mowers. (Caveat: We won’t address battery-powered robotic mowers in this article, since they are a category unto themselves.)
If you don’t like gas, fumes, or oil changes, battery-powered mowers are a viable option for smaller lawns. If electric lawn tools are appealing to you, find a brand you like and stick with it. You’ll be able to power their entire line of lawn equipment with one brand of battery.
Corded electric lawn mower
Corded electric lawn mowers are the other kid on the electric lawn mower block. These mowers use an electric cord instead of a battery and are great for small, flat lawns. If you don’t like dealing with a vacuum cleaner’s electrical cord, these may not be for you. If toting a cord doesn’t phase you, these are an inexpensive option that can fit almost any budget.
Gas lawn mower
Gas lawn mowers need no introduction. They’ve been around for decades, and until recently, “lawn mower” didn’t need an adjective in front to describe its power source. Power comes at a cost, though. Be prepared to tote a gas can instead of a cord and know that you’ll need to do a little winterization once the season is over.
Pros and cons of battery-powered lawn mowers
Battery-powered lawn mowers (AKA cordless electric mowers) were once weaklings in the face of the mighty gas mower, but now they are new, improved, and ready to go head-to-head (or wheel-to-wheel) with the competition.
Over the years, battery life and power have improved, and these cordless electric lawn mowers are now a viable option for small to average-sized lawns. Homeowners appreciate their quieter, emission-free operation and low maintenance. (Look, Dad, no oil!)
But compared to gas-powered mowers, battery-powered mowers don’t always measure up. Homeowners complain that many battery-powered models slow down or stop in thicker grass. With gas mowers, this isn’t a problem.
Mowing time is also an issue. Some battery-powered machines can’t mow an average-sized, somewhat dense or weedy lawn on one battery charge. This can be frustrating for people who don’t want to do more than one mowing session on an average-sized lawn.
If you’re interested in a battery-powered mower, all is not lost. Here are a few ways to work around these common problems.
Problems and solutions for battery-powered mowers
|Buy more than one battery
|Thick grass, dense vegetation
|Mow slower, tilt the mower back, or raise the mowing height
|Find a local service dealer before you buy
If you have a larger yard to mow, or you have thick grass or lots of fall leaves, look for more battery power. Most battery-powered mowers use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and you’ll see the battery power listed in volts (18V, 20V, 80V). The higher the voltage, the longer run time you’ll have.
Another concern is maintenance. In most areas of the country, it will be more difficult to find a service center that will repair a battery-powered or corded lawn mower. (California may be an exception.) In addition, centers that repair battery-powered (or corded) mowers often work only on specific brands.
Before you buy a particular brand, go on their website to see if there is a service center near you. If so, call and ask about typical repair costs, longevity, and warranty coverage. If there’s not a service center near you, you may want to consider a different brand, or call around to see if any independent shops work with that brand.
If your lawn is one-quarter to one-third of an acre and your grass isn’t too dense, many battery-powered machines will mow the lawn on a single charge. If you plan to mulch leaves in the fall, or if your lawn starts to grow denser from all of that fall fertilizer, you may want to invest in at least one backup battery.
Pro Tip: Check the specs sheet before you buy. Battery run time, lawn size, cutting height and all of the other specs for that mower are listed in the product description or online owner’s manual.
|Pros of battery-powered lawn mowers
|Cons of battery-powered lawn mowers
|✓ Quieter✓ No gas, oil changes, or fuel filters✓ Best for small, ¼ to ½ acre lots✓ Brushless motor option✓ Many offer foldable storage✓ Most offer a push-button start✓ High marks for ease of use✓ Some offer the same features as gas models: adjustable cutting height, variable speed, mulching option, self-propelled, and steel deck
|✗ Not ideal for larger lawns (½ acre or more)✗ Dense, weedy lawns may run down the battery faster, giving you less run time✗ Less power than a gas machine✗ Battery and/or charger may not be included✗ Some models aren’t recommended for uneven terrain (check the specs)✗ Harder to repair
Popular brands of battery-powered lawn mowers
- Cub Cadet
- Sun Joe
Pros and cons of corded electric lawn mowers
If you have a very small yard, a corded electric mower may be just what you need. You’ll get the eco-friendliness and low noise of a battery-powered mower without ever running out of juice. Many homeowners with simply-shaped lawns find that corded models provide an easy, affordable mowing experience that suits their lawn and budget.
Most manufacturers recommend corded mowers for lawns up to one quarter of an acre. Some models say they’ll work on up to half an acre. But would you want to tote an extension cord across even a quarter of an acre? For some homeowners, a corded mower is ideal even for a larger lawn. It depends on personal preference and the layout of your lawn (hills, flat, outlet location).
To run a corded mower, you’ll need a conveniently placed garage or outdoor outlet and pay close attention to where your cord is at all times. (Standard grounded outlets work fine.)
Corded electric mowers don’t currently (no pun intended) have a self-propelled option, but they are very lightweight. The smallest models with plastic (poly) decks are especially lightweight, even compared with battery-powered machines. The more moderate and larger sizes weigh about the same as a midsize battery-powered model.
Corded models are tethered to an outlet, so their power is measured in amps (amperes). Most models range from 9 to 13 amps for 14- to 21-inch cutting widths. The higher the amps, the more power you have to mow tough areas and long grass.
Some homeowners have a difficult time powering through thick or tall grass with a corded mower. Follow the tips we suggested in the “Battery-Powered Workaround” section above to help your mower get through the tough sections.
The main takeaway? Corded electric mowers are an affordable, powerful-enough option for homeowners with smaller lawns. If you don’t mind learning how to manage the cord, these machines are effective for small suburban lawns.
|Pros of corded electric lawn mowers
|Cons of corded electric lawn mowers
|✓ Lightweight✓ Most affordable of the three mower types✓ Never run out of power — no fading battery or empty gas tank✓ Push-button or lever start — no pull cords✓ Mow forward or backward (watch the cord!)✓ Easy to use✓ Quiet operation✓ Ideal for small yards✓ Steel or poly deck material✓ Low environmental impact — no gas or emissions✓ Most come with the option to mulch and bag; some come with a side discharge option
|✗ No option for self-propelled✗ Not ideal for lawns over ¼ of an acre✗ Extension cord not included✗ Cord can be a hassle✗ Mower may bog down in tall or thick grass✗ May be difficult to find a repair dealer for your brand. Some machines are seen as disposable.
Popular brands of corded electric lawn mowers
- Sun Joe
Pros and cons of gas lawn mowers
(Note: Since lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers are a category unto themselves, we’ll FOCUS only on gas-powered push mowers and gas-powered self-propelled mowers in this section.)
If old gas and high decibels get your goat, a gas lawn mower is not for you. If you appreciate power and performance, you’ve met your perfect mower match.
Gas lawn mowers are the defending champions of American mowing. They have a multi-decade history of helping homeowners keep their lawns manicured and neat without the aid of a family cow or scythe. These workhorses are a key component in a DIYer’s toolkit and have many advantages:
- Gas mowers are reliable and tough — just keep them clean and oiled
- When a gas mower breaks down, you can probably fix it yourself
- Most will mow through any vegetation with no problem: leaves, grass, and weeds
- Can mow almost any size suburban lawn
Today, gas mowers have more bells and whistles and are easier to operate than older models. Here are a few of the newer features you can find on some modern gas mowers:
- Push-button electric start or spring-assist pull start
- Compact storage feature (fold up and store)
- Self-propelled or standard push mower
- Your choice of mulching, side discharge, bag, or a combination
If you’re interested in the power gas mowers provide, look at the number next to “cc” (cubic centimeters) in the product description. The higher the number, the more power you’ve got to mow tough areas.
Although there are pluses to gas mowers, many homeowners are starting to vote with their dollars and choose electric or battery-powered mowers. Homeowners cite the following reasons for going gas-free:
- High noise levels
- Messy gas and oil
- Harmful emissions
- Difficult to start (older models)
- Engine maintenance and winterization
Whether you’re gung ho for gas or an electric mower maven, it’s hard to deny that gas mowers offer a reliable history, a variety of features, and the ability to mow through whatever vegetation stands in your way.
|Pros of gas lawn mowers
|Cons of gas lawn mowers
|✓ Has the most cutting power✓ Works on larger lawns✓ Makes quick work of tall or thick grass✓ No cord to tether you or battery to limit mow time✓ Residential or commercial use✓ If it needs maintenance, small engine repair shops are equipped and knowledgeable ✓ Wide range of price points✓ Pull start, push-button electric start, or spring-assist pull start✓ Many features to choose from: Variable speed, compact storage, push or self-propelled, multiple cutting heights, and mulching, side discharge, or bag options
|✗ Heavier than most battery and corded models✗ Louder than most battery and corded models✗ Pull starts may be difficult✗ Require gas, oil, spark plugs, air filters, etc.✗ Emissions may be harmful
Popular brands of gas lawn mowers
- Briggs and Stratton
- Yard Machines
FAQ on electric vs. gas lawn mowers
How long do electric lawn mowers last?
Mower companies, like cars, put out long-lasting models and lemons. It’s hard to generalize because some people say they’ve had theirs for a decade, while other mowers go belly up in a few years.
The best way to figure out a mower’s lifespan? Call your local small engine repair shop. Ask which models are reliable and which are duds. Ask what they can fix or are willing to fix. By asking experts who have experience repairing all types of mowers, you will get great advice.
Here are a few other questions to consider:
— Do you have an engine shop that is willing or able to repair your model? (Call them and ask.) — How long will you be able to get parts for the machine? Are there generic parts available, or does your mower only accept parts from that company? — How expensive are basic repairs? If repairs cost more than buying a new machine (or almost as much), will you repair your mower, or would you rather upgrade and buy a new machine? — Can you do the repairs yourself, or would you send the mower to the shop?
Is it safe to cut wet grass with an electric lawn mower?
Remember the adage, “Electricity and water don’t mix?” Your corded electric mower manual agrees.
Can electric mowers cut long grass?
The short answer is they prefer not to. Electric mowers are like the electric hair trimmer the barber uses as he’s putting the finishing touches on your summer haircut. The scissors do the heavy cutting first. The electric clippers come in at the end and finish out the shorter hair.
Electric mowers are more of a supplemental maintenance tool. They like to cut regularly mowed lawns and take off the extra one-third of the blade that has grown since your last mow. There are ways to help your electric mower along if the grass has grown a little high: Raise the mower height, tilt the mower on the back wheels, or take those sections at a slower speed.
Betting on a new Champion or sticking with an old reliable
Whether you’re ready to get inventive and eco-friendly with electric mowers or stick with the tried-and-true gas mower, your local small engine repair shop and home improvement store are great spots to get the dirt on top-notch mower models.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge and buy your own electric or gas lawn mower just yet, don’t sweat it. Let one of our local lawn care professionals mow and edge the lawn with their time-tested, professional-grade (gas-powered) lawn care equipment.
Main Photo Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians | Pixabay
Making the Switch to an Electric Lawn Mower
With the onset of spring, many of us have been pulling out our lawnmowers and beginning to get them prepped for the mowing season. Traditional gas mowers require routine maintenance, from changing spark plugs and oil to regular trips to the gas station before you can begin mowing. There’s a new solution that requires significantly less maintenance, is quieter, more eco friendly, and significantly cheaper over time. Electric cordless lawn mowers come in a plethora of styles and cover a wide range of needs making them accessible to almost anyone. If you’ve been thinking about making the switch, now is the time.
Electric Lawn Mowers are Essentially Maintenance Free
Electric mowers require significantly less maintenance in comparison with gas mowers. Gas mowers need spark plugs, oil changes, fresh gas, and have a pull start that can be tricky to get going. Mowing your yard can go from being a quick endeavor to a day’s project. Electric mowers, in comparison, are much easier to operate. Cordless mowers require a charge before you can get going, and depending on the size of your lawn and the battery, may require more than one charge to complete the job. Corded mowers, however, don’t need a charge — just plug and go! Both electric and gas mowers require the blades be sharpened once or twice a season so that they don’t harm your grass as you’re mowing.
Gone are the days of fighting with your mower to get it to turn on. Electric mowers turn on with a button, making them much more manageable than gas mowers with their pull-cord starts. Many electric mowers come equipped with rear-wheel drive and make it easier to maneuver your lawn as you mow. Electric mowers are also significantly lighter than gas mowers, which can eliminate the stress and strain that comes from pushing a heavy mower around your lawn.
Easier storage and cleaning
Traditional mowers can be bulky, taking up lots of room in your garage, especially with all the equipment required to maintain them. We love electric mowers because they fold up in their charging docks and take up significantly less room. They are also easier to clean. All they require is sharpening the blade, removing caked-on debris, and a quick vacuum around the motor. This can be done once a year at the beginning of the mowing season.
Electric Lawn Mowers are significantly quieter.
Nothing is more disruptive to a peaceful morning or evening than the roar of a mower. Gas mowers can be quite disturbing, especially in the summer when it’s much better to mow in the morning or late evening to beat the heat. Another huge perk to electric mowers is that they are virtually silent. By eradicating the need for an engine, electric mowers cut way down on the sound they produce. This means mowing on a Sunday morning is no longer a nuisance to your neighbors! It’s also a big perk for golf courses or parks because it doesn’t disrupt the quiet serenity of the setting.
Electric Lawn Mowers are more Cost-Effective.
Corded electric lawn mowers are the most inexpensive choice and cost less than a gas mower would upfront. Cordless mowers can be a bit more expensive but are significantly cheaper over time. As we discussed earlier, gas mowers require gas, oil, and repairs from time to time. Over the lifetime of the mower, that can add up. Electric mowers save hundreds of dollars over their lifetime in comparison to gas mowers.
Electric Lawn Mowers are better for the environment!
Going electric is better for the environment, plain and simple. While lawns can be criticized for not being eco friendly, a big part of that critique often points to the maintenance they require — specifically the gas intake and emissions from mowing. While we’ve debunked this idea that grass is bad for the environment, read more, switching to an electric mower is a huge part of making lawns greener! Anything we can do to reduce our emissions is significant for the earth. In many areas, you also have the option to source your electricity from a more sustainable option. If you haven’t yet, call your electricity provider and ask about using renewable energy to power your home.
While gas mowers do have some advantages, like being a bit more durable and being able to go for much longer than a cordless mower, electric mowers are great for the homeowner. They have plenty of power to keep your yard in tip-top shape. They are much easier to operate and maintain, save you money, and are much better for the environment. There’s never been a better time to switch to an electric mower!
Petrol Electric Lawn Mowers Compared: Which is Better?
Mowing the lawn on a Sunday is a sacred tradition, but while suburban lots have become tighter and houses bigger, mowing is still a necessary chore among many Australians. If your trusty old mower has carked it and you’re looking for a new lawn mower, you’ve probably debated the pros and cons of an electric mower, as well as how it stacks up against the traditional petrol mower. But which one should you really be kickstarting? Canstar Blue breaks down the key differences between the two to help you find out which one will make the cut.
Petrol Vs. Electric Lawn Mowers
While a petrol and electric lawn mower both give you the same end result, are there enough differences to warrant a closer look? The short answer is yes, although the overarching influence will be the size of your lawn and what your mowing habits are. The main areas to consider between electric and petrol lawn mowers include:
- Power output
- Pollutant output
How much power your lawn mower has will directly influence how it gets through the lawn. If you have more power at your fingertips, the more unruly the lawn you can tackle (within reason of course). Petrol mowers are traditionally the more powerful option, with most petrol mowers equipped with engine sizes of around 200cc, which are generally capable of 7nm of torque, meaning you can usually give your suburban lawn a pretty good haircut.
On the other hand, electric lawn mowers aren’t slouches when it comes to power, but aren’t as powerful as petrol mowers. Suitable for smaller blocks, electric lawn mowers will have a smaller output, but can still pack enough of a punch to help you get the job done.
- Verdict: Petrol mowers are the heftier option of the two, but you’ll only be able to really take advantage of the additional muscle if you’ve got a but of lawn to cut.
You may love the smell of burning petrol in the morning, but your neighbours might not, particularly if you’re rip the cord early Saturday morning. Due to the engine, petrol mowers operate louder to electric models, with a noise output of around 90Db – compared to an electric model’s output of around 75Db – as well as produce more emissions, meaning petrol models aren’t as good for the environment either.
However, Australia introduced new legislation and emissions standards in 2019, meaning that while not as bad as they once were, petrol mowers will likely have a higher emissions output than an electric model, meaning if you’re a bit more environmentally conscious (or are just a considerate neighbour), an electric model may be your best fit.
- Verdict: Electric models are the better option if you’re looking for a quieter operation, and generally don’t have as much as an environmental impact as petrol models.
How useable a mower is relies on a lot of factors, from the physical size of the mower, the size of the wheels attached, if you’re operating with a catcher attached, and the terrain you’re working with. As mentioned, petrol mowers are generally more powerful, but the useability of your mower generally comes down to the individual model in question, rather than what powers your motor. Several things you will have to consider with an electric mower are:
- Is it corded or cordless? Corded mowers obviously provide endless run time, but you are limited by how far the extension cord goes, and how many outdoor power points you have.
- Cordless mowers are obviously unbound by cords, but may feature limited run times of an hour or less, making a second battery necessary if tackling anything more than a small lawn. Charging these batteries can also take some time, meaning you’ll have to plan ahead to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders.
Aside from that, deck size also has a hand in useability. Deck size simply refers to how wide the lawn mower cuts, with electric models generally smaller. Electric mowers are also generally lighter than petrol ones, for the simple fact they don’t have a mechanical engine on-board, making them more manoeuvrable and usable.
- Verdict: While how manoeuvrable your mower needs to be will depend on the terrain and how many obstacles you have in your garden, electric models are traditionally smaller and lighter, making them easy to take up and down the lawn.
No matter your mower, they all require some degree of maintenance, but a petrol mower with its mechanical engine may require more maintenance than an electric one. Both electric and petrol mowers require maintaining, sharpening and oiling the blades, but petrol mowers – like cars – also require extra servicing in the form of spark plugs, oil, air and fuel filters.
- Verdict: While all mowers will need a bit of maintenance and servicing every few years, as an electric model has less engine parts, it does make for an easier mower to maintain, provided you take care of it!
Like a car, you’ll have to ensure that you’ve got something in the tank before you set off, as you don’t want to be running out of juice before the job is done. Petrol models are (surprisingly) fuelled by petrol, with 4-stroke engines generally taking unleaded petrol, although you’ll have to read your mower’s manual to ensure you’re putting in the right fuel. The downside of this is that you’ll have to fill up at the petrol station, and with petrol fluctuating seemingly every week, cutting the grass can quickly rack up a decent amount of fuel costs.
Electric mowers on the other hand simply use electricity to get moving, and as either the mower itself is plugged into a power point, or you plug in the battery unit to be charged, you’ll be using your house’s electricity to power your mower. As a result, electric mowers are a bit easier to power, provided you’ve charged the battery!
- Verdict: Electric mowers may get the point for convenience, but filling up a jerry can the next time you fill up the car isn’t exactly a hard slog. However, you may also want to keep an eye on your electricity bill, particular if you’re mowing regular, as you may find a surprise on your next energy bill.
Once again this more comes down to the individual model in question, but electric mowers generally have a cheaper entry price than petrol variants. However, as a general rule, electric mowers are more suited to suburban lawns with their smaller cutting widths and less powerful motors, and as such tend to be a bit cheaper than petrol variants. As a result, it may be worth shelling out more for a more powerful model if you’ve got plenty of lawn to get through.
- Verdict: Electric models are generally cheaper, but you may be wishing you purchased a more expensive mower if you’re setting aside a whole day to get the lawn looking good.
Should I get an electric or petrol lawn mower?
It all comes down to your yard and your preferences. For most modern suburban blocks with a small yard, an electric mower is probably ‘good enough’. Electric mowers benefit from quieter operation and having no emissions, and are also commonly found for cheaper than petrol mowers. However, where petrol mowers win out is their sheer ability to just get the job done. They often feature more powerful motors, with leading torque figures and cutting widths. For those living on older, bigger blocks or semi-rurally, a petrol lawn mower is probably still king. In any case, one isn’t necessarily ‘better’ than the other, but they each have their strengths and weaknesses and suit different needs and lawns, meaning it’s best to do your research before cutting into your bank account.
Original Author: Harrison Astbury
A smoking lawn mower is never a good sign. Whether the smoke is blue, white, or black, here’s how to identity and address the issue without the help of a professional.
By Glenda Taylor and Bob Vila | Updated Sep 24, 2020 1:40 PM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
Q: Recently, my mower started billowing smoke when I powered it up, so I shut it off immediately. Why is my lawn mower smoking? And is it a fire hazard? I want to know how to proceed so I don’t harm the machine.
A: Your lawn mower can emit smoke for numerous reasons—many of which don’t require the services of an expert. A homeowner can usually identify the reason for a smoking lawn mower by gauging the color of the Cloud coming around the engine, then fix it accordingly before lasting damage occurs. Keep in mind that all mowers with internal combustion engines contain the same basic parts, but the configuration of those parts varies widely, depending on manufacturer and model. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure how to access a specific part of your lawn mower’s engine.
White or blue smoke may indicate an oil spill on the engine.
If you’ve recently changed the oil in your mower and the engine is emitting white or blue smoke, it’s possible that some of the oil spilled onto the engine. Similarly, you could’ve spilled oil on the engine by mowing on a slope greater than 15 degrees or tipping the mower on its side. The smoke may look disconcerting, but it’s completely harmless. Solve the problem by restarting the mower and allowing the spilled oil to burn off. If you tip the mower often for cleaning or maintenance, check your owner’s manual to determine the best way to reduce the risk of oil leaks.
An overfull oil reservoir may also cause white or blue smoke.
Ensure you didn’t overfill the mower by checking the oil level with the dipstick located on the reservoir. To do this, remove the dipstick cap, wipe off the stick with a rag, and reinsert it into the reservoir. Then remove the dipstick once again and determine the oil level in comparison to the recommended “fill” line on the stick. If the level is too high, drain the oil (consult your owner’s manual for instructions), then refill the reservoir with it. Start checking the oil level with the dipstick after you’ve added about ¾ of the amount recommended in the manual. Continue to add small amounts of oil until the level matches the recommended “fill” line. Also note that using the wrong grade of engine oil may cause blue or white smoke. Consult the owner’s manual for the exact type of oil recommended for your mower.
Black smoke may indicate that the mower is “running rich,” or burning too much gasoline.
Your lawn mower’s carburetor regulates the ratio of gasoline to air mixture. If the carburetor isn’t getting enough air, the mixture has a higher percentage of gasoline, which can create black exhaust smoke. It’s possible that a dirty or clogged air filter is preventing sufficient airflow into the carburetor. Try replacing the air filter. (Note: air filters vary by mower model; view example air filter on Amazon.) Next, run your lawn mower for a few minutes. If the black smoke still appears, the carburetor might need to be adjusted in order to increase airflow. Either take the mower to a professional or adjust the carburetor yourself with instructions in your owner’s manual.
Take your mower to a repair shop if necessary.
If the previous steps don’t correct blue or white smoke, your mower could have a more serious problem, such as an air leak in the crankshaft (the cast iron or cast aluminum case that protects the moving parts of a mower’s engine). Continuing blue or white smoke could also indicate that some of the engine’s components or seals are worn out and need replacement. Similarly, if black smoking still persists after you’ve replaced the air filter and adjusted the carburetor, you could be facing a more serious mechanical issue. All of these problems require the help of a professional. If your mower is still under warranty, check with the manufacturer for the location of the nearest servicing dealer; problems stemming from a factory defect or poor workmanship may garner free repairs. If your mower is not covered under warranty, a reputable small-engine repair shop should also be sufficient to get the job done.