Best Gas Lawn Mowers
Even the best gas lawn mowers require some maintenance, and they are loud. But considering you will get 10 years more use out of it than any electric lawn mower – it is worth it.
Quick Look: Best Gas Lawn Mowers
- Best gas mower on the market.
- Unbeatable Honda GCV200 engine.
- The only mower trusted by rental companies and professionals.
- Trusted Briggs and Stratton engine.
- Half the price of the best Honda.
- From the original lawn mower company of the USA.
- Top Honda quality without self propel feature.
- Built for homeowners who don’t need self propel.
Jump To Full Reviews:
- Best self propelled: Honda HRX217HYA
- Runner-up self propelled: Honda HRN216VKA
- Budget option: Toro Recycler (Variable Speed)
- Best push mower: Honda HRN216PKA
- Runner-up push mower: Toro Recycler (Push)
Who Is A Gas Lawn Mower Best For?
Do you have a small tennis court sized lawn in a crowded suburb?
You probably don’t need the best lawn mower we recommend below. You can get an EGO or Makita electric – which are also good – just not as rugged.
But if you have a bigger lawn (0.25 – 1.5 acres), with tough grass, tough terrain and you prefer the smell of regular gasoline in the morning…
…Then you’ll love the Honda’s and Toro’s we recommend below.
What Does “The Best” vs. Popular vs. Value Mean When It Come To Lawn Mowers?
Here’s the thing: Nearly all the bestselling lawn mowers are battery powered or corded electric.
Only 3 of the top 20 are self propelled gas mowers.
And, it makes sense for most people.
As the price of fuel increases. And as we move into suburban sprawls with smaller lawns… Electric mowers are sometimes better suited for the job.
- The best gas mower has the best of all worlds. Best value for money because it is a good price for what you get. Yes, it may be expensive but it will last you 20 years and mow your lawn like a golf fairway every mow.
- You will always see the more affordable gas mowers be more popular. Simply put: Budget is usually the top buying criteria. These mowers are usually decent but an entry level model.
- The perfect example of a gas lawn mower with high value for money is “The Best” mower but used or refurbished. We feel “The Best” gas mower is the best value as well. But to some it means bang-for-buck. So maybe it could be any off brand lawn mower with a Honda small engine.
With all that out of the way let’s take a look at the actual best mowers.
We own, regularly use and constantly update this list with our thoughts on these mowers.
We have used and abused all these models and are extremely confident they are the best of the gas lawn mower world. We only recommend Honda and Toro for the reason mower rental shops only hire out Honda and Toro: They have the least downtime no matter the abuse they receive.
Best Self Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
If you click and buy from some of the links below we earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Honda HRX Model: HYA
Our Honda HRX-217-HYA has been a trustworthy mower for 3 years.
Hands-down the best mower we have used that is still considered affordable for homeowners is the 999 Honda HRX217HYA.
Instead of just regurgitating features let’s talk about the specific reasons this mower will make you enjoy mowing like no other mower can.
What’s Great About This Mower?
- Stupid simple bag and mulch adjustment knob. With the pull and push of a knob behind the engine you can quickly go from mulch, to bag, to leaf shred, to discharge. Literally in seconds this adjustment slides a door above the blades to allow full mulching, bagging or whatever combination in between – there are 10 positions to choose from.
- Completely adjustable self propel speed. This model of Honda HRX is the second best model they make and 1 of 2 with a hydrostatic transmission control. This means you can adjust the self propel speed with a knob and the mower will keep that speed. Lower model mowers only allow you to choose fast, medium and slow. This HRX Honda transmission control is great for helping you control the mower going up or down hills and through thick, wet grass.
- Never rust NeXite mower deck. We have a 20 year old Honda lawn mower in the shop. It works great. But the mower deck is rusty with a few rust holes. Since Honda small engines last so long – you want a deck material to match it. And that’s what Honda has delivered with the lifetime warranty NeXite deck. Not bad!
- Fast dual blades provide suction to lift the grass and give a superior cut. You know how when you go to the barber and the put your hair between their fingers and pull it tight so they can get an even cut? That’s what this dual blade Honda is doing with its superior suction. It is pulling the grass leaves tights so it cuts even and smooth to get your lawn that golf fairway look.
- Peace of mind with 5 year engine warranty. And just for good measure Honda gives you a 5 year engine warranty. And they have one of the largest dealer networks in the world. So no matter where you bought it and where you are now you can get your engine repaired if something goes wrong.
Anything Not Good With This Honda HRX Mower?
As with anything you have used for extended periods – no matter how much you love it – there will always be things that annoy you.
Here’s what we think could be improved (minor things):
- Better bag handle. We understand they designed the new grass catcher to be light. It’s obvious the engineers were simply told: Make it as light as possible. But we feel somewhere between the solid old grass catchers and the new fabric skin with wire frames could be ideal. When emptying the grass into the bin we often think about the solid old handles which made it easier. All good though it’s not even close to a deal breaker.
- Shift (self propel speed) lever location. This is really nit-picky. And maybe you wouldn’t even agree. But we feel the throttle lever and shift lever should switch.
- Currently, both these levers are in the same control box at the top left of the mower handlebar. The throttle lever – which you never touch (it always stay in fast mode) is on the outside. The shift lever – which you use to change the speed of the self propel feature – is on the inside. Since most people are right handed and not left handed we feel it should make more sense to have the more used lever closer to the handle bar so when using your left hand to adjust – your palm can be supported. This is something you won’t even notice but we thought was a weird design decision worth mentioning.
Even on special you won’t find this lawn mower for less than 900 brand new.
It is the second highest model Honda and is designed for pro users.
It is truly the best-of-the-best so you can decide if you want the mower that will last you 20 years and cost you 1,000 now. Or you can choose a lower model Honda or Toro (Picks below) that will last you 12-15 years and cost you 550 – 750 today.
- Pros: Quick delivery. Easy returns. Cheapest price. Can select from different sellers. Can choose a refurbished option. Very trustworthy. You probably already have an account.
- Cons: Can’t touch it and wheel it around before buying.
Your Local Mower Dealer
- Pros: In-person expert advice. Local relationship for service repair.
- Cons: Most expensive. You may not have local dealer within a 1-2 hour drive.
The Bottom Line:
If you want the best performing and longest lasting self propelled gas lawn mower on the market then you want the Honda HRX217 Model: HYA.
It gives you the best mow. And that’s what you want the best lawn mower for, right?
Honda HRN Model: VKA
Our Honda HRN-216-VKA is a great mower and budget friendly.
This is a model down from the #1 pick HRX. And it is our pick for the second best gas lawn mower.
There’s a bunch of differences between it and the Honda HRX – here are the main 4:
- It has a 16 gauge steel deck instead of the lifetime guarantee NeXite deck
- It has a smaller Honda GCV170 engine (instead of GCV200)
- It has a smaller bag for grass
- It has 3 year instead of 5 year warranty.
But it does have one main benefit:
There’s not much more to say about Honda lawn mowers – they are the best. Honda’s make the best small engine and the engine is the heart of the mower. They have also been improving their lawn mower designs since they released their first in 1971.
If you want to save the money and get the second best Honda mower for most people then check it out here:
Toro Recycler 21″ Self Propelled
The Toro Recycler is always a joy to use and offer great mulching.
If you want a really good self propelled mower without the cost of a Honda then this model from Toro will be for you.
It is half the price of the above Honda’s and you’re still get a self propelled lawn mower from a premium brand – well-known in the industry.
Toro goes with the Briggs Stratton 140cc which provide 18% less torque than #2 pick and 28% less torque than #1 pick. But that’s why you’re saving so much money – maybe you don’t need the beastly power.
Best Push Style (Not Self Propelled) Gas Lawn Mower
Honda HRN Model: PKA
The best push mower on the market is the Honda HRN216PKA.
It is the exact same lawn mower as the #2 pick self propelled Honda – without the self propel – and a tiny bit cheaper.
It does include a grass catch bag, we just haven’t included it installed in the photo.
It has everything you need in a push mower and outperforms all the budget push mowers by a mile.
- Honda engine.
- Easy oil fill and change.
- 16 gauge steel deck.
- 3 in 1 mulch / bag and discharge system.
The bottom line: You can get a premium Honda lawn mower for a little cheaper by not getting the self propelled feature. You decide.
Toro Recycler (Push)
The next best push mower is of course the standard push model from Toro.
As mentioned above: Toro and Honda stand above the rest when it comes to residential use mowers.
This mower is exactly the same as the self propelled model – just without that feature.
How to Choose Between Self Propelled and Push
Self propelled lawn mowers are better in every way except cost. We recommend them over push mowers every day of the week.
Help In Tough Grass
If you are consistently mowing tough grass then the self propelled feature will save you. Literally, it could prevent an injury. You walk-behind the mower and let the mower do the work. It’s great.
A Enjoyable Mow
Having used many old and new pus and self propelled mower it is clear the self propeller is more fun, easier, more relaxing and better for people that may not be super fit and healthy. Even taking into account a heavier mower the self propelled mower will be easier to move around than a push mower.
The only reason to get push over self propelled is if your lawn is flat, you want the most affordable option and you are fit and actually enjoy the extra colories burned (to really earn that after mow beer).
Lawn Mowing Daily
Maybe you have a landscaping or garden business and don’t need a riding mower cause your jobs are suburban residential. If that’s you then you’ll probably want to get the self propelled mower. At the end of a long hot day you’ll be thankful you did.
Hills and Slopes
This is a tricky one. Because you can always go side-to-side along the slope thereby never needing to actually go direct up it. But if your slope is a tight squeeze and it’s hard to do the side-to-side technique you can get a self propelled mower to help you go straight up it.
Other Walk-behind Gas Lawn Mower Brands We Looked At For This Review
Lawn Boy is owned by The Toro Company. All Lawn Boy mowers are made in the same factory as Toro and are the exact same mower but in green.
We included Toro instead of Lawn Boy because the name recognition is better.
Snapper is under the Briggs Stratton umbrella of brands.
They only make 3 models of walk behind mower but they are great and just missed our list.
Snapper makes an amazing low end commercial duty walk behind mower with a Honda GXV160 engine and 14 gauge steel deck. But it’s not fair to compare a proper commercial duty mower to one intended for residential use.
Their more affordable entry model uses a Briggs engine and even has a cup holder. But for what you get Toro beats it to make the list.
Troy-Bilt was bought by MTD Products, which now sits under the Stanley Black Decker umbrella of brands.
All Troy-Bilt’s are made/assembled by MTD Products with most of them using a Briggs Stratton engine. They do have one model of mower using a Honda GCV160 engine.
Troy-Bilt walk behind mowers feel more cheaply built than Honda, Toro and didn’t make our list of the top 5 gas mowers.
Cub Cadet is better known for their riding mowers but they also make a 1 model with a Kohler engine. We couldn’t find where to buy this mower as it is out of stock and most likely discontinued.
Husqvarna is a Swedish company and they make great power equipment. It looks like they make a single model – a self propelled model powered by Kawasaki. However, the price is outrageous and we couldn’t find it available anywhere. They do have the most popular robot mower so that should be fun to test.
STIHL makes 8 walk behind mowers with various STIHL and Kawasaki engines. We haven’t tested these yet but with research of the reviews they are not touching Honda or Toro gas mower quality anytime soon.
ExMark is owned by Toro and offers mostly commercial-duty walk-behind hydro lawn mowers and zero turn mowers. They are 1 of the most trusted lawn mower brands among professional landscapers. Since our ranking above is regards to “most people” it doesn’t make the list because of high cost and too much mower for most peoples needs.
Frequently Asked Questions: Answered
What type of gasoline does a lawn mower use?
Gas engine powered lawn mowers use regular unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of at least 86 and an ethane level no more than 10%. Most lawn mower manufacturers recommend you use fresh gas not stored for more than 30 days. Check your mower User Manual for more information.
Do any lawn mowers use diesel fuel?
There are many zero-turn and garden tractor variety lawn mowers that use diesel fuel to power their engines.
For example, all John Deere commercial riding mowers use diesel engines.
Can I buy a gas lawn mower online or do I need to pick it up?
Yes, you can buy your gas lawn mower online and it will be delivered without gasoline or oil in the engine. You will need to add gas and oil on arrival.
About your guide: Jamey Kramar is a certified Lawn Care Manager (NALP) and a Mechanical Engineer by trade. He has been writing about outdoor power equipment for 11 years and has been quoted in NYTimes, Popular Mechanics, HowStuffWorks, iFixit, Realtor.com, and more. He spends his spare time disassembling things and also building an off-grid cabin at his 200-acre property.
Best Riding Lawn Mower Reviews 2023
Tired of spending the best part of your Saturday walking behind a lawn mower? You’re not alone and our team has pulled together our recommendations for the best riding lawn mower in 2023. Whether you’re a homeowner or commercial Pro, or you’re on the hunt for a lawn tractor or zero-turn mower, we have you covered. Thinking about making the switch to battery power? We have thoughts on electric riding lawnmowers as well.
Considering walk-behind mowers? Check out our Best Lawn Mower main page.
- Best Commercial Riding Mower (Find a Dealer)
- Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower (Buy at Acme Tools)
- Best Lawn Tractor (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- Best Consumer Electric Riding Lawn Mower (available at Lowes or Home Depot)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns (Buy at Lowes)
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
- Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money (Buy at Tractor Supply)
- What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
- Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Best Commercial Riding Lawn Mower
Hustler Hyperdrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Professional lawn care crews who FOCUS on residential lawns (affectionately known aa “mow and blow” crews) have to hit a lot of lawns every day during the mowing season and they’re tough on their equipment. Exmark, Hustler, and Scag all come up frequently in conversations about the best commercial mower, and our top choice is the Hustler Hyperdrive series.
While the Super Z series is likely more popular, the Hyperdrive series adds additional durability to the transmission system, keeping your downtime to a minimum.
Deck sizes range from 60 to 72 inches and there are 35 to 40 HP engine options from Kawasaki and Vanguard. For those of you who like to mow at speed, you can run up to 16 MPH on this model. No matter what your mowing style is, Hustler has a 3,000-hour warranty on the hydraulic system and a 5-year/1200-hour warranty on the full mower.
Price: Contact your local dealer
Best Residential Riding Lawn Mower
Toro Timecutter Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
For residential use, we recommend Toro’s TimeCutter as the best residential riding lawn mower for a variety of reasons. What it boils down to is that you get an excellent balance of performance, comfort, and reliability for the price.
The line currently includes 17 models (including CARB-friendly options). Deck sizes start at 34 inches for small lawns and run up to 60 inches for those of you with acreage to maintain. The base-level models are an excellent value for most people, but if comfort is a high priority, step up to the MyDrive models to get an upgraded suspension and easier ride.
Best Zero-Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX6 Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
While Toro earns our pick as the best overall riding mower for residential use, Cub Cadet’s Ultima ZTX6 series is the creme de la creme for those of you with a bigger budget. Earning our choice as the best residential zero-turn riding lawn mower, the ZTX6 is at the top of Cub Cadet’s residential-focuses Ultima line.
These mowers bridge the gap between residential and Pro needs, giving you a ride and performance that feels more professional while keeping the overall price down from premium professional mowers. The ZTX6 comes with a 25HP Kawasaki commercial-grade engine and either a 54 or 60-inch deck size. If you prefer a steering wheel over lap bars, there’s now a ZTXS6 option that has you covered.
Price: 8999.00 – 9299.00 (10299.00 for the 60-inch ZTXS6)
Best Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro FAB Series Lawn Tractor
Cub Cadet lawn tractors are very popular and consistently earn high ratings from owners. If you’re looking for the best lawn tractor among them, we recommend the XT1 Enduro FAB series. They’re a bit more expensive than others in the XT1 line, but they upgrade from a 13-gauge stamped steel deck to an 11-gauge fabricated steel one, improving the long-term durability.
Available with a 50 or 54-inch deck, these mowers are suitable for covering larger lawns than lawn tractors in the 30 – 48-inch range. Thanks to a Kohler 24HP engine, they have better overall performance than most of its competition as well. While they don’t turn as tight as a zero-turn, they do have a 16-inch turning radius that gives them a tighter turn than others.
Best Electric Riding Lawn Mower
Try as we may, we couldn’t pick just one electric ride-on lawn mower as the best. However, we do have three that stand out from the rest.
Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 82V OptimusZ Series Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
Greenworks was one of the first to push into the commercial electric zero-turn lawn mower market and they have learned a lot over the years. The culmination of that experience and the best of today’s technology come together in the Greenworks OptimusZ zero-turn and earns our recommendation as the best electric commercial riding lawn mower.
The line includes both ride-on and stand-on models, and we even got to see an operational prototype of a fully-autonomous version. Focusing on the ride-on models, there are 48 – 60-inch deck sizes with either 18KWh or 24KWh battery packages. On the 60-inch mower, the larger battery bank can run up to 8 hours on a charge.
The top speed is impressive, reaching up to 16 MPH with the blades on. Security is already onboard thanks to the combination of 4G and GPS connections. If all that sounds great, but you’re still not sure it can hold up, keep in mind that Greenworks backs these mowers with a 5-year/2,000-hour warranty.
Residential: EGO 56V E-Steer Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
EGO is making it easier to transition from gas to battery power and into the zero-turn market with the 56V E-Steer riding lawn mower. It takes the lap bars and exchanges them for a steering wheel, making for a much more approachable mower if you’re not used to traditional ZT steering. Beyond that, the design team shifted the controls/info screen onto the steering wheel where they’re easy to keep an eye on while you’re mowing.
The mower sports a 42-inch deck with cutting speeds between 4 and 8 MPH and matches the power of a 22HP gas engine. For the power source, EGO uses the same 556V batteries that power its other mowers and handheld tools. With a full load of six 12.0Ah batteries, expect to cut nearly four acres on a charge. With the four batteries that come with the mower, there’s enough juice to cover 2.5 acres.
Price: 5999.00 with four 12.0Ah batteries and onboard charger (scheduled for May 2023 launch)
Residential: Ryobi 80V iDrive Series Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
Ryobi’s iDrive zero-turn lawn mowers break the mold of lap bars, but not with a steering wheel. It uses joystick controls, making you feel a bit more like a lawn-cutting fighter pilot (without the missiles, of course). While it certainly breaks the norm, our crew was able to adjust to the steering quickly.
There are three deck sizes covering 30 to 54 inches and they primarily use 80V suitcase-style batteries for power. These mowers also have slots to use Ryobi’s 40V batteries if you need to extend your runtime beyond what the 80V packs offer.
The power ranges from a 28HP – 42HP gas equivalent with runtime covering 1 – 4 acres, depending on which model you go with. Plus, this mower uses the CrossCut stacked blade system to give you better cut quality than you’d get with single blades.
Price: 5999.00 – 7999.00 ready to mow
Take a look through our full list of Best Electric Lawn Mower recommendations!
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Small Lawns
John Deere S130 Lawn Tractor
Lawn tractors are great for small to medium-sized lawns and the John Deere S130 lawn tractor is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for small lawns. The S100 comes in at a lower price, but moving up to the S130 is worth it in our opinion.
Both feature a 42-inch mowing deck, but the S130 has a significantly stronger 22HP V-twin engine and it has John Deere’s super-easy 30-Second Oil Change system. The S130 also upgrades with cruise control and an electronic PTO system. Overall, it balances ease of ownership and performance well while keeping a safe distance away from the price of zero-turn mowers.
Top 5 Best Gas Lawn Mowers 2023
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Medium Lawns 1 Acre to 5 Acres
Husqvarna Xcite Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers
The best riding lawn mower for medium-sized lawns is the Husqvarna Xcite. There are two models available featuring a 54-inch 10-gauge deck that’s a great size for those 1 – 5–acre properties.
What’s exciting about the Xcite is a combination of innovative features and a design that feels more Pro even though these target residential users. Starting from the top, your start/stop and blade engagement controls are on the lap bar ends where you can easily reach them with your thumbs. Then there’s the suspension system. 4 bar links and 10 adjustment settings let you customize the setup based on your size, weight, and preferences to dial in a comfortable ride.
Depending on the model, you get either a 24HP or 26HP Kohler engine with a top speed of either 7 or 9 MPH. On the business end, Husqvarna puts stock blades that can go up to 5 years without needing to be sharpened. Husqvarna targeted a Pro feel with the convenience and ease of ownership homeowners crave with the Xcite and they nailed it.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Large Properties
Exmark Lazer Z Series Deisel Zero Turn Lawn Mowers
When it comes to maintaining large areas where you need a cleaner cut than a bush hog leaves behind, there are a few large-deck options. Leading the pack in size and with a robust professional resume’, the Exmark Lazer Z Deisel is our choice as the best riding lawn mower for large properties.
When we say large, we mean it. The Lazer Z diesel line includes 60, 72, and 96-inch options along with a monstrous 144-inch model. Ang get this—Exmark rates the largest mower’s cutting rate at up to 11.5 acres per hour! In terms of productivity, that’s going to be tough to beat.
These mowers aren’t cheap, though. They start at just over 27,000 and the 144-inch model is over 35,000.
Price: Starting at 27,099.00
Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills
Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
If you have hills, you need both power and traction to mow effectively. In our team’s opinion, the best riding lawn mower for hills is the Cub Cadet Pro Z 972 series SD/SDL models. What sets these mowers apart is a combination of their dually rear wheel and steering wheel designs.
Four rear wheels help prevent the back end from slipping, even in wet conditions. The steering wheel makes it easier to manage on slopes and there’s an option for a pivoting seat that keeps you more upright on those hills. As part of Cub Cadet’s commercial mower lineup, you can expect a commercial-level build and high-end comfort features as part of the package.
Best Riding Lawn Mower For The Money
Toro Timecutter 42-Inch Zero-Turn Lawn Mower
What’s the best riding lawn mower for the money? For that, we return to the Toro TimeCutter series. Specifically, it’s the 42-inch 75746. This isn’t the least expensive 42-inch in the line, and it’s not the most expensive, either. By upgrading from the entry-level version (3299), you’re moving from a 15.5 HP Briggs Stratton engine to a much stronger 22HP Kohler engine. up to a more durable 10-gauge fabricated steel deck.
If your lawn is 2 acres or less, this model offers the best balance of performance, durability, comfort, and price. But what if you have more then 2 acres? Stick with the Toro TimeCutter and move up in deck size to match your lawn.
What We Look For In The Best Riding Lawn Mower
Lawn Tractor or Zero Turn?
When you’re choosing the best riding lawn mower for your lawn, the first thing to decide is which style you want.
Lawn tractors have several advantages. They tend to be a smaller overall size, are less expensive, and are easy to use with their steering wheel/pedal control systems. The downsides are that they tend to be slower and don’t reach larger deck sizes. They also aren’t as efficient in your mowing pattern because they require a larger turning radius.
Zero-turn lawn mowers make it easier to efficiently mow straight lines. While they’re more expensive, larger, and can take some time to get used to lap bar controls, you can get larger deck sizes, they have higher speeds, and they’re better for large properties. If comfort is a high priority for you, you’ll find better options with ZTs and lawn tractors.
Gas or Battery?
Now that battery-powered riding lawn mowers are at a point where they really can replace gas, the conversation is shifting away from just power and runtime.
Gas mowers tend to be less expensive and you can usually find someone to service/repair them within a reasonable drive of your home. The trade-off is the noise, emissions, managing fuel and oil, and more required maintenance.
Battery-powered mowers have a push-button start system that’s ready when you are, assuming you charged the batteries. They’re remarkably quiet compared to gas, have no emissions, and your HOA isn’t going to suddenly rewrite the rules to eliminate them. Maintenance primarily boils down to blowing off the deck and maybe rinsing under the deck. The primary downsides at this stage are that you don’t have as wide of a selection as gas, they’re more expensive, the batteries need replacing every 3 – 5 years, and there aren’t nearly as many service centers close by.
Durability and Reliability
As you go up in price from entry-level riding lawn mowers to mid-range and high-end models, there are significant changes. A more powerful engine is only part of it. The design of the engine and its quality typically improves as you move up the line, giving you a more reliable engine to go along with the higher performance of more horsepower.
You also see the strength of the build improve. Some of it is the thickness of the metal or moving from stamped steel to fabricated steel on the deck. Other components come into play as well, with higher quality transmissions and electronics packages improving.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking at an entry-level model, see if your budget has room to move up into the middle or even high end of the line. The durability and reliability you gain are worth it in the long run.
The deck size you need depends on the property you’re mowing. 42-inch riding lawn mowers are a good starting point for lawns up to an acre or where you need to squeeze through a narrow gate. If you have more than an acre, go ahead and look at models up to 60 inches.
Realistically, it’s a matter of finding the right balance between how much lawn you have to cut, how much storage space you have available, and what your budget is.
Speed is primarily a concern for professional lawn crews who need to move from one property to the next quickly or on campuses with significant travel distance between the shop and where they’re mowing. They usually want a mower with a top speed over 10 MPH.
Even homeowners can make their mowing chores more efficient with some decent top-end speed, though. 7 MPH or more is a good benchmark for those models. If you tend to take your mowing more casually, 5 – 6 MPH is just fine.
The larger your lawn, the more time you need to spend in the driver’s seat of your riding lawn mower, and the more comfort comes into play. Entry-level mowers are going to bounce you around more than mid-range and high-end models. Look for a seat with plenty of cushioning, an adjustable tension knob, and enough travel for you to sit without having to scrunch up.
Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Ever check out a “review” site and you can’t tell if they actually tested anything or if they’re just “recommending” the Amazon top sellers? That’s not us. We won’t recommend anything unless we’d actually use it ourselves, and we don’t really care who the primary retailer is. It’s all about giving you a legitimate recommendation and our honest opinion of each product.
We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.
Each year, we bring in and review more than 350 individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.
Pro Tool Reviews consults with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.
We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites. We consult with them extensively on testing methods, categories, and practical applications.
Our site will provide more than 500 pieces of new content this year absolutely free for our readers. That includes objective evaluations of individual tools and products.
The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.
Best Lawn Mowers: Top 5 Grass Cutters Most Recommended By Experts
When warm weather returns, it is time for BBQ, swimming pools, and outdoor gardening. Lawn care for a home can be a major endeavor, depending on the size and layout of the lawn itself. In the search to find the right tool for the job, the best lawn mowers come in handy to keep your yard manicured.
According to a recent study, more than two-thirds of Americans find themselves spending more time at home now than two years ago – and the economy may be to blame. That’s according to a new survey of 2,000 Americans, where 69 percent of respondents remain home due to external factors such as inflation and a looming recession. With all that time on their hands, respondents have been staying busy by upgrading their homes. Over the last year, Americans have prioritized maintaining their yards and lawns (36%), followed by their kitchens (30%) and living rooms (29%). On top of that, they spend 50 hours maintaining their lawn, 42 hours caring for their kitchen, 27 hours keeping up their dining room, and 33 hours on their home gym each year.
Spending time on lawn care and gardening can be good for your health. In fact, a new study reports that gardening could help reduce the risk of cancer, boost mental health and bring communities together. Scientists say it leads to eating more fibrous fruits and vegetables, exercising more and building social connections. These positive elements of gardening can ease stress and anxiety and lower the risk of various illnesses, according to researchers from The University of Colorado Boulder.
With so many choices from gas to electric to remote controlled and more, there are many lawncare products to choose from. StudyFinds did the research for you by turning to the experts to find the best lawn mowers available for your today. Let us know your opinion in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below!
The List: Best Lawn Mowers, According to Experts
Honda 21-Inch Walk Behind Mower
As always, it is unusual for our sources to agree on which product is the best. However when it comes to Lawn Mowers, our sources agree: Honda is top of the line. “Whether it’s a car, generator, or lawn mower, it’s tough to beat the reliability and durability of Honda engines—and such is the case with this self-propelled gas lawn mower. Its powerful GCV170 engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a cleaner, more precise cut over most other gas-powered lawn mowers that have just a single blade. With its rear-wheel drive, this mower is ideal to contend with yards that have slopes and more-rugged terrain. Its engine is formidable, and so are its features. An easy-to-use clip system makes it simple to switch between its three grass-clipping options—mulching, side discharge, and bagging—and the well-designed speed controls add to the quality of this premium self-propelled walk-behind mower,” writes Bob Vila.
The wow factor of this mower comes from the quality and power of the engine. “In terms of cut quality and the ability to maintain turf health, it’s one of the best self-propelled mowers available, due mostly to a pair of features—a two-blade cutting system that offers golf-course-like results, and a unique way to dial in a precise mulching-to-bagging ratio to compensate for various grass conditions. Combine all of that with this mower’s other strong details, like a large 200 cc engine and rear-wheel drive to help traverse tall grass or hills, and you’re getting enough to justify the steep price,” says the NY Times.
This mower is especially well-suited for larger lawns: “It is not designed for small yards, and you won’t be darting in and out of flower beds and shrubbery. It is a pleasure to use. We had tested Honda mowers before and were familiar with their operation and overall product quality. The HRX217VKA did not disappoint. Easy to assemble and set up right out of the box, it started on the first pull of the cord. Right away you can feel the heft of this mower with its innovative NeXite deck and powerful motor. It’s heavier than most mowers, but it feels planted on the lawn and tracks perfectly,” adds USA Today.
Ego Power Select Cut Mower
Battery powered mowers have finally become a match for gas-powered competitors. “Advanced battery technology has finally arrived and the benefits can readily be seen in the Ego Power LM2135SP, a 21-inch self-propelled electric mower. This cordless mower with a cutting width of 21 inches utilizes a 56-volt lithium ion battery to power through up to 60 minutes of lawn cutting. The Ego Power is powerful, comfortable, and a joy to use. Even though the battery only lasted about an hour, the mower performed extremely well mulching and driving itself uphill. It has plenty of torque and is capable of doing anything a gasoline-powered mower can do,” says USA Today.
This model boasts powerful specifications as well as a compact size it could be a great choice for smaller lawns. “The battery is compatible with all Ego power tools, so you can swap batteries around and always have a spare ready to hot-swap if needed. The drive is controlled using a typical lever control, and delivers excellent fine-speed control over the range of the mower’s performance. The mower’s multi-blade system gives a professional, clean cut to your lawn that a single-blade mower can’t achieve. Need to mow late in the day? No problem: There are LED headlights to illuminate your path. The Ego lets you quickly switch between mulching, bagging and discharge with a single lever, and the collection bag holds 2 bushels of clippings. You can vary the deck height from 1.25 inches to 4 inches using a single handy lever—you don’t need to adjust each wheel or front and rear individually,” mentions Forbes.
For the average suburban home this model could easily be a go-to purchase for lawn care. “The Ego Power Cordless Mower is the best bang for your buck. With its Rapid charger, this battery-powered push mower contains lots of helpful features, such as LED lights that keep you on track if your mowing time spans into the night. Create the cut of your dreams with one of six height positions, so the stripes on your grass are always up to snuff. When you’re ready to store your mower, take advantage of its foldable technology to be compact and out of sight. Oh, and don’t forget about the lawn mower cover, too,” writes Family Handyman.
Husqvarna AUTOMOWER Robotic Lawn Mower
Robot lawn care has not only arrived but are now becoming more readily available. “Robot lawn mowers are for those of us who don’t want to mow the lawn ever again. They’re still relatively new, meaning are still relatively high, but if you’ve got the cash to spend, they’re a fantastic investment for the time-tight gardener. The 315X has built-in Bluetooth and cellular, meaning you can use the companion app and check in on your lawnmower’s progress wherever you are in the world, as well as stop and start it manually if you prefer. Set a schedule, and you’ll never need to worry about mowing the lawn ever again or use voice commands to bark instructions at it via Amazon Alexa or Google Home instead,” explains Homes Gardens.
For those who want to take the plunge and go robotic, “This Husqvarna Automower Robotic pick mows the yard for you! It can complete large yards, too, thanks to its 145 minutes of running time and fast-charge battery. Its adjustable cut height system can be set between 0.8 to 2.4 inches, and you never have to worry about it being stolen thanks to its GPS tracker and PIN code. The weatherproof technology allows this mower to be caught in the rain without damaging its system, and it’s also capable of mowing slopes up to 24 degrees,” says Family Handyman.
This particular model is pricey, but with the larger price tag comes all the exciting features one might want from a lawn care robot. “This futuristic-looking machine is specifically designed to be able to handle hills up to 35°. This Automower works great for yards up to roughly 0.9 acres and the battery keeps it mowing for an hour and 40 minutes. Charging takes just 30 minutes before it’s off and running again. Like most robotic mowers, the cut height is limited. Ranging from 1.2 to 2.8 inches, it’s not the best option for all grass species. Smartphone connectivity and GPS assistance are built into the system. It’s not completely wire-free just yet, though Husqvarna is working on that,” mentions Pro Tool Reviews.
Greenworks 3-in-1 Lawn Mower
Suburban homeowners are certainly the target audience for many lawn mower manufacturers. “If you have a small lawn that’s no more than 0.25 acre (a typical size for a suburban lawn in many parts of the US), we recommend the Greenworks 3-in-1 Lawn Mower, a mower that impressed us when we tested it in the past. During our latest round of testing, we tested this model again in one of our own backyards on three separate days and found it simple to assemble. It only took around 10 minutes to be up and running), easy to turn on, and comfortable to use. We also had no trouble folding down the handle when it was time to store the mower and appreciated its small size. Overall, we continue to be impressed with this push mower’s features, performance on flat lawns or gently sloped terrain, and value,” explains The Spruce.
The benefits of a corded lawnmower outweigh the hassle of an extension cord, particularly for smaller lawns. “If you’re on a budget, you’ll get a lot of performance for your money. The deck is on the smaller side at 20 inches, meaning you might want to leave this one if you have a larger yard. It is better for nipping around smaller areas and getting into smaller corners easily instead. Noise levels are low, and an easy push-to-start button will get it up and running without any hassle. It’s well-made and reliable, so you have no worries about running out of fuel or battery at any stage. Features are pretty functional here, but there’s enough. You can choose between seven mow levels and between bagging, side discharge, and mulching for the cuttings,” points out Homes Gardens.
It’s all about choosing the right tool for the right job. “If you have a small yard, there’s no need to spend big bucks for a large or expensive machine. This Greenworks option is corded, so you don’t need to think about recharging a battery or making sure the fuel tank is full. The mower’s 20-inch deck allows you to cover plenty of ground in one pass, while seven position height adjustment lets you get the perfect mow every time. Clippings can go right into the included bag. Since this is a plug-in model, it’s nice to know it has a cord retainer to keep the extension cord from accidentally unplugging during the job. Once you’re finished, fold down the handle for easy and compact storage,” mentions Forbes.
Toro Smart Stow
Toro is a trusted American brand for lawn care. “Toro touts a commercial-grade construction on this model and includes a lighter aluminum deck rather than steel. In addition to that, you get outstanding cut quality, especially on the mulching side (you better with the name Super Recycler!). Wrapping it up, the Personal Pace drive system adjusts to your walking pace so there are no levers or dials to adjust,” says Pro Tool Reviews.
The Toro Smart Stow could be a great choice for larger lawns or lawns that are not level. “The Toro SmartStow is another top-rated mower that our experts like for homeowners who are short on space in their garage or shed because it folds down for vertical storage. It’s extremely versatile, too: the self-propelled engine lets you customize its speed to match your pace, plus the mower has nine cutting height options and 10-inch rear wheels that make it easy to maneuver over all lawn types. Thanks to its flex handle suspension, physical fatigue is reduced when mowing larger or sloped lawns. It also features a robust Briggs and Stratton engine for easy riding and powerful mowing — and easy maintenance with no oil changes required. The all-terrain workhorse allows for versatility with its three-in-one cutting offerings — rear bagging collection, side discharge or recycler mulching,” notes Good Housekeeping.
Unleash the Power: Top 5 Gas Lawn Mowers for a Perfectly Manicured Lawn! Part 1
The Toro Smart Stow touts several great functional advantages: “The Toro 20340’s storage feature is called the SmartStow system, which is made possible by the Briggs Stratton engine’s unique design. It’s a simple process: You fold the handle over the body of the mower and lock it in place. Then (with the bag removed), you set the mower upright or wheel it around like a piece of luggage, much like you would a cordless model. It makes storage easy, not to mention cleaning the underside of the mowing deck or inspecting the blade,” claims the NY Times.
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.
The 5 Best Lawn Mowers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Our top picks include self-propelled, electric, and gas mowers.
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
Mowing the lawn can be a frustrating challenge, but investing in a high-quality lawn mower can make a huge difference in reducing the effort spent on this chore. If you’re not familiar with lawn equipment and don’t know where to start on your search, have no fear—we tested eight gas, electric, and self-propelled mowers, evaluating each on setup, design, performance, usability, safety, and overall value.
“The size of a shopper’s yard will not only dictate what type of mower may work best for their needs, but also some of the mower features they will want to pay special attention to when shopping,” says Gary McCoy, Lowe’s Store Manager serving Charlotte, North Carolina.
Additionally, we spoke to Michael Felices, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Master Mower, to get expert advice on what to look for when shopping for lawn mowers, as well as how to properly use and maintain them. Our top picks include self-propelled, electric, and gas mowers for every type of shopper.
Best Overall Gas Lawnmower
Honda 21-Inch Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
Yes, the Honda HRX217VKA is certainly pricier than most, but if you’re able and willing to splurge a bit, it’s definitely worth the cost. It’s a durable and reliable self-propelled gas mower that’s powered by a notably strong engine able to handle even the thickest, longest grass. To get it going, just pull on the starter cord (no tugging needed!) and it’ll immediately rev right up.
Before mowing, choose from four cutting modes (mulch, bag, rear discharge, and leaf shredding) to pick the one that’s right for your lawn’s specific needs. You can also choose from seven cutting height options (more than most mowers have) and use the device’s real-drive self propel to get you from place to place without too much effort. Then, prepare to be amazed by how quickly and evenly the mower works. In our testing, we had zero issues with maneuvering or cutting.
This mower also features the brand’s strong yet lightweight NeXite steel deck, which is rust-resistant and doesn’t easily dent, as well as Honda’s Twin Blade MicroCut System that leads to particularly fine clippings and a greater number of clippings per grass bag (making cleanup easier). You can even change the mower’s speed as needed just by rotating the speed dial and pressing down on the lever, and it’ll lock into your specified speed for quick access next time.
All in all, this is a mower that will save you valuable time and energy as you work on keeping your lawn looking neat and uniform. We were blown away by its ease of use, even trimming, and self-propelling.
Price at time of publish: 990
Mower Type: Self-propelled | Fuel Type: Gas | Mowing Width: 21 inches | Extra Features: Grass bag, speed control
Best Electric Lawn Mower
Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch 3-in-1 Corded Lawn Mower
- The collection bag is easy enough to remove, but it takes practice to not spill any of the clippings.
For those in the market for an electric lawn mower, look no further than this great option from Greenworks. To get it going, just plug it into either an extension cord or a wall outlet, depending on what you have available, and push the start button. The powerful 120-volt motor will immediately get to work, whether you want the mower to be focused on mulching, rear collection, or side discharge. We found this mower to be really easy to use, and were impressed by how well it cut down long, spindly weeds, even in tight corners, thanks to its compact size. Best of all, this mower has a relatively affordable price tag, so you don’t have to break the bank in order to have a strong, dependable mower at your service.
This mower has a wide cutting path of 20 inches (ideal for mid-to-large-sized yards), with a sturdy steel (yet still lightweight!) cutting deck that’s durable enough to last for season after season. You can adjust the cutting height to one of five positions, and maneuver the mower around the grass easily with one hand, thanks to the set of four wheels and strong grip. Both a grass collection bag and a mulch plug are included, making cleanup as simple as it gets, and when you’re done mowing for the afternoon, just use the cam lock handle to fold it up and get it ready for storage. Speaking of locks, the mower also comes with a cord lock that prevents the cord from disconnecting while the mower’s in use, giving you one less thing to worry about as you work.
Overall, we loved the compact size and lighter weight of this mower. We think it’s very easy to set up and provides an impressive performance, and with a far lower price than most other mowers, you truly can’t get a better deal.
Price at time of publish: 230
Mower Type: Corded | Fuel Type: Electric | Mowing Width: 20 inches | Extra Features: Cord lock, grass bag
Best Battery-Powered Lawn Mower
EGO Power Select Cut 56-Volt 21-Inch Self-Propelled Cordless Lawn Mower
If you don’t mind dealing with batteries and chargers, a battery-powered lawn mower can be a great tool, such as this lightweight yet durable option from Ego. The mower can run for up to 60 minutes on one charge of the included lithium battery, and it takes just one hour for the battery to fully charge, so you won’t have to wait long to get things started each time you want to mow.
This mower features a sharp, long-lasting steel blade that we found was efficient enough to mow a very clean and even cut of grass in one go. If you’re not happy with the height of the cut grass, that’s no problem, as you can very easily adjust the cutting height to one of six positions with the mower’s manual lever. Additionally, this model comes with a large two-bushel grass collection bag, so you can be sure that there will be no clippings left all over your yard once you’re done mowing.
The mower’s wheels make it easy to navigate all over the yard as needed, and since you can switch between using the self-propelled feature or pushing it yourself, we think it’s a very good option for someone who experiences back pain while mowing. Plus, since the machine is so lightweight, you can transport it without any hassle as well—its small size and foldable design is particularly great if you’re limited on space. It also comes in either a cool green, black, or gray hue, so you’ll be cutting your grass in serious style. All in all, this is a low-maintenance mower that’ll leave your lawn looking fresh with each mow.
Price at time of publish: 549
Mower Type: Cordless | Fuel Type: Battery-powered | Mowing Width: 16 inches | Extra Features: Grass bag, charger
Best Lightweight Lawn Mower
Ryobi 40V HP Brushless 21-Inch Dual-Blade Self-Propelled Mower
If you want a lawn mower that’s so compact and lightweight that you’ll never have a problem pushing it around, this option from Ryobi is the way to go. It weighs just 75 pounds and can fold up vertically into a small rectangle, which makes storing it a breeze.
We found that it’s also incredibly easy to set up, requiring just a quick touch of the button once the batteries are charged (which should only take about an hour’s time). You’ll get around 70 minutes of runtime off one charge (ideal for yards up to ¾ acre), and maneuvering the mower is very intuitive due to that aerodynamic feel and Smart design. Since it’s so light, we found that lifting it up on the back wheels to turn it around was a piece of cake.
The mower offers a self-propelling feature that you can adjust to multiple different speeds, which makes going over even small hills a breeze. You can also adjust the mower’s height to one of seven positions, and see clearly as you work thanks to the built-in LED headlights. And due to the 3-in-1 mowing functions (bagging, mulching, or side discharge), the mower will tackle all of your needs with ease. When you’re done, just remove the bag and empty it out on the ground.
Price at time of publish: 799
Mower Type: Cordless | Fuel Type: Battery-powered | Mowing Width: 21 inches | Extra Features: Grass bag, charger, LED lights
Best Budget Lawn Mower
Sun Joe MJ401E-P2 Electric Lawn Mower
Looking to save money? Don’t miss this inexpensive electric lawn mower from Sun Joe, which boasts a low price tag but many great attributes. The compact and uniquely-designed mower (check out that all green look!) weighs only 29 pounds, making it very simple to move around and store, especially since it has a collapsible handle. It runs on a powerful 12-amp motor and is ideal for work in small yards.
It’s impressively easy to use, and it’s noticeably quieter compared to a gas-powered mower (plus it has the benefit of not creating a gassy odor). To use the mower, just push the start button, choose from three heights, and then maneuver the all-terrain wheels around your yard. We could even navigate it in ultra-tight spaces, since the smaller size means it can get truly everywhere without issue. In fact, it felt more like vacuuming rather than mowing.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to attach an extension cord in order to reach your whole yard, and check the grass clippings bag often to make sure it’s not overflowing, as it can fill up quickly. And of course, it’s not the right pick for anyone with a particularly spacious yard. Still, we love how effective, fast, and maneuverable it is.
Price at time of publish: 99
Mower Type: Cordless | Fuel Type: Electric | Mowing Width: 14 inches | Extra Features: Grass bag
If you’re looking for an effective, easy-to-use gas mower, you can’t go wrong with the Honda HRX217VKA 21-Inch Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower. Not only does it have a variety of helpful features, but it’s also durable, powerful, and is easy to use. If you prefer an electric mower, we recommend the Greenworks 25022 20-Inch Electric Corded Lawn Mower, which stands out for its lightweight design and lower price.
How to Shop for Lawn Mowers Like a Pro
There are over a dozen different types of mowers that exist, but some of the most popular options are push mowers (where you manually lead the mower across the grass), self-propelled mowers (where the transmission propels the mower forward), electric mowers (where a cable provides the mower’s power), gas mowers (where the engines run on oil), and battery-powered mowers (where a lithium-ion battery powers the mower). There’s no one “best” option—which type you choose should come down to factors including the size of your yard, the effort you want to put into mowing, and the value you put on convenience or sustainability.
“Gas mowers are more powerful and have longer run times but require more maintenance and can be more expensive upfront,” says Lowe’s Store Manager Gary McCoy, while “electric mowers are easier to start, light-weighted, and alternatively require less maintenance. However, they require a power source for corded models and may eventually require a battery replacement.”
McCoy notes that self-propelled mowers are ideal for people with larger lawns with hilly terrain, as “they require less effort and time to mow, mow over hills easier, reduce the effort of using a bagger, and are available with larger, more powerful engines.” Self-propelled and push mowers, meanwhile, “are great for those looking for an economical option that weighs less, offers more exercise, requires less maintenance, and allows total pace control.”
When choosing between gas- or electric-powered motors, there are a few factors to consider, says McCoy. “Electric mowers are quieter and require less maintenance, but require charging, which can range from 30 minutes for quick-charge batteries to several hours.” Meanwhile, “gas-powered mowers offer more power and a longer run time, which is great for those who need to tackle elements like taller grass, leaf-covered lawns, and damp turf.”
For gas-powered mowers, you’ll likely need to use regular, unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 87 or higher, and a 10 percent or less ethanol content. You can pick this up at most gas stations.
When purchasing a home, a big yard is often a selling point—and the size of your yard is very important when it comes to choosing a mower. “For example, the cut width of a riding lawn mower should be selected based on the number of acres it needs to cover on a regular basis,” says McCoy. Additionally, if you have a medium or large lawn, you’ll likely want to pick up a gas mower, since they last longer than electric and battery-powered mowers and cover more space.
Some mowers come with extra features that can pose real benefits, such as chargers (for battery-operated mowers), grass bags (for picking up shards as you mow), or cord locks (to prevent the cord from disconnecting while you use the mower). “Zero turn radius (ZTR) is a popular feature to consider when shopping for a riding lawn mower,” says McCoy, as these mowers “can navigate a variety of obstacles, and feature front caster wheels that allow the mower to pivot at sharper angles than lawn or garden tractors. ZTR mowers also offer a wider range of attachments for those looking to leverage their mower’s capabilities year-round.”
If you’re opting for a gas mower, look for ones that have “a no-prime engine that allows the mower to be started quickly and easily, a blade brake clutch, which allows users to empty the grass-collection bag without restarting the mower, and torque measures—higher torque offers a better cut in tall or thick grass,” says McCoy. And for electric mowers, keep your eyes peeled for “a dual-battery system that extends cutting time, battery voltage (a higher measurement means more power), and a brushless motor, which can make better use of battery power.”
Lawn Mowers to Consider
Toro 21465 22-Inch Recycler Gas Lawn Mower: Although this self-propelled gas mower moves smoothly and is very easy to start, adjusting the direction can be difficult and it can spew dust and dirt into the air as it goes. It’s also fairly bulky compared to other models.
Honda HRN216VKA 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower: Another self-propelled gas mower, this model does an excellent job mulching grass clippings and cutting through dense areas. Still, the bag latching area gets easily clogged with clippings, and in the self-propel function, the mower’s speed doesn’t seem to ramp up evenly.
Questions You Might Ask
Are gas or electric lawn mowers better?
It depends on the size of your yard, says Michael Felices, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Master Mower. If you have a medium to large lawn, a gas mower might make more sense, as it won’t run on a battery that could run out before you’re finished with the job. Gas mowers also tend to be more durable and, often, less expensive. Electric mowers, however, are quieter, more eco-friendly, and convenient since you just have to pop in the battery.
When is the best time of day to mow the lawn?
Felices recommends mowing your lawn in the evening, as that’s when the temperature “is cooler and the yard has no dew.” Early morning, on the other hand, “would be the worst option, as cutting wet grass causes clumps and makes it susceptible to diseases.”
What kind of maintenance does a lawn mower need?
Depending on how old they are and how frequently you use them, gas mowers may require you to occasionally service the engine, sharpen the blade, and fix up the belt, says Felices. Electric mowers, on the other hand, “are great in that they need nothing except sharpening the blade,” he notes.
What is the lifespan of a lawn mower?
“With proper maintenance, a lawn mower should last eight to 10 years, on average,” says McCoy. To prevent having to replace yours much sooner than that, make sure to follow the maintenance tips provided above.
How much should you expect to pay for a lawn mower?
That depends on what kind of lawn mower you’re looking to buy. Riding mowers “can range from 2,000 up to 8,000”, says McCoy, “depending on the type of mower and attachments included.” As for push lawn mowers, “shoppers can expect to spend between 200 and 600 for a push lawn mower,” while self-propelled options are often priced between 300 and 1,500.
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 a variety of lawn mowers in real world settings, evaluating them on setup, design, performance, usability, safety, and overall value. We also spoke to Michael Felices, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Master Mower, and Gary McCoy, Lowe’s Store Manager serving Charlotte, North Carolina.
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.
The Best Lawn Mowers
A fter spending a whole season mowing a 4,300 square-foot lawn with self-propelled gas, electric and manual lawn mowers, we’ve selected the Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA as the best lawn mower. With a 160cc engine, the Honda’s cord-free, self-propelled operation gives you plenty of power to get through weeds and overgrowth. If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you don’t want to deal with gasoline and engine maintenance, the Greenworks – 22502 electric is a great option.
A fter spending a whole season mowing a 4,300 square-foot lawn with self-propelled gas, electric and manual lawn mowers, we’ve selected the Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA as the best lawn mower. With a 160cc engine, the Honda’s cord-free, self-propelled operation gives you plenty of power to get through weeds and overgrowth. If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you don’t want to deal with gasoline and engine maintenance, the Greenworks – 22502 electric is a great option.
The 6 lawn mowers we tested
Best self-propelled gas mower: Honda – 21″
Honda seems to have discontinued our winning pick but has released a new model that seems almost identical in features. The changes seem to be a different engine, adding 1 more height option, and a darker paint on the body. We have adjusted all the links to point towards the newer item.
Both models of self-propelled gas mower that we tested are well-built machines. This was a very close call, but Honda – 21″ has included design and ergonomic considerations that make it a better mower.
Honda has models in the 500 and 600 range which add features and functions you may be interested in: electric starting or the option to stop the blade and idle down the engine rather than shutting off and re-starting every time you need to stop, for example. We stuck to our 400 budget and feel confident that most will be happy with the performance of this machine on an average lawn like ours.
Top Pick: Honda. HRR216K9VKA 21
Honda’s small engines are rock-solid and reliable. Plenty of power and great design considerations — even the pull start was easy to use. If you need the power and speed of a self-propelled mower, this is your best bet for under 400.
Honda engines have a reputation for easy starting and this one is no exception. Even with just a pull-start (and needing to re-start every time we stopped to pick up a piece of debris), we never had any trouble getting this mower going.
Self-propelled mowers are heavy and can cause damage in wet soil when making a tight turn. Turning while in motion was very manageable on the Honda, but avoiding lawn damage with a heavy mower requires getting to know the wet spots on your lawn and developing a feel for the balance of the mower.
We tested the mowers in wet grass to see how they’d fare, and the Honda did stall on the wettest grass we tested — probably because the chute clogged up with the wet clippings we were bagging. Other reviewers claim their machine didn’t stall with wet grass, but very wet grass is definitely not something any mower is designed for.
After running electric mowers and manual mowers, the Honda was definitely louder, but it’s not like a straight-pipe Harley or a chainsaw.
Adjusting cutter height requires individual settings on each wheel — this is a bit annoying, but most people won’t have to adjust often.
Since the mower is pulling itself forward whenever the engine is going, variable speed control helps for working slowly around turns or near edges of a curb. Honda’s thumb-controlled walk-speed setting was easy to use and felt more natural than the “personal pace” adjuster on the Toro, which was another mower we tested.
Honda’s switch controlling the bagging/mulching flap is also nicer than the Toro’s lever, with a solid engagement that clicks reassuringly in place. Honda claims that their blade system cuts better with two blades, but with a yard the size of the one we tested it was difficult to tell the difference. Suffice it to say, the Honda and Toro both cut well.
The foldable handle has quick-release locks for folding and storing the handle, whereas the Toro uses spin-off fasteners that take more time. Honda also includes padding on the handles of their machine, where Toro leaves you with plastic.
We stored our mowers in a raised shed in the backyard. The shed isn’t super roomy, so storage size and maneuverability were something we noticed. At 84 pounds the Honda is still light enough to lift on its back wheels to roll in, but lifting it to move around in a tight space is noticeably more difficult than with the non-gas models.
- The Honda – 21″ HRR216K9VKA gave us trouble-free performance the first time and every time. No trouble with the pull-starter, the bagging system, or the blade adjustment.
- This mower is powerful enough to take on wet grass and mulches whatever twigs and leaves are on your lawn.
- While it’s hefty compared to electric or manual-powered mowers, Honda designed a handle-folding system that makes it relatively easy to store.
Best electric mower: Greenworks – 22502
Compared to the heavy gas mowers the Greenworks – 22502 electric powered mower feels incredibly light: at 56 lb, it’s about 30 lb lighter than the Honda. This makes it far easier to turn without skidding, not to mention easier to handle when you’re putting it away. There’s a lot of plastic involved in keeping that weight down, of course, but the Greenworks still feels more like a serious lawn mower than the other electric model we tested. It’s a simple machine and doesn’t need unnecessary bulk.
Best Electric Mower: Greenworks. 22502
With a wide cutting path and easy-to use features, the Greenworks makes quick work of a lawn without the extra noise and smell of gasoline power.
The Greenworks mower has a 20-inch mowing width and height can be adjusted from 1.5 inches to 3.75 inches with seven height settings total. In the price range we tested, most electric mowers cut a much narrower track (the Sun Joe is a 14-inch and a comparable Black and Decker model is 15 inches) which means you’ll finish 20-30 percent more quickly with the Greenworks.
The Greenworks came ready to go for bagging, side discharge, and mulching, where the Sun Joe only lets you bag unless you buy extra accessories. Setup was a piece of cake, though we should note that the box it came in was not taped shut — the outer shipping box was secure and nothing was missing, but it was a possible sign of lax shipping quality control.
Greenworks made height adjustment very easy: adjusting one lever controls cutting height on the entire mower. On the other hand, the Sun Joe required individual wheel adjustments, as did the gas-powered models we tested.)
This mower has a side discharge chute, but it requires an attachment to keep open. You have to insert a plug in the back of the mower and add the chute on the side to spread clippings to the side.
One of the disappointing things we noted was that clipping shreds occasionally spray out from the catch basket around the perimeter of the deck. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s not something that happened with other mowers.
Dumping the clippings can be slightly awkward since there’s a crossbar that supports the handles. This is an issue on both electric models we tested, but not on the gas models (which have larger, more robust handlebars that don’t use a cross-brace.) This doesn’t stop you from removing the bag, but you have to be aware of where your hands are and bend in awkward ways.
Mowing with an attached power cord is not fun. You’re chained to the plug, dancing a tango with the mower to avoid the cable getting clipped. It’s manageable if you start near the plug and work going away from the cord, but annoying to say the least. Water in pools or puddles is also an electricity-related hazard you’ll have to pay attention to with a long cord.
Note that the Greenworks mower doesn’t come with an extension cord; you’ll need to buy a fairly heavy cord, at least 14 gauge if you’re going longer than 50 feet. 16GA is okay at 50 feet, but you’ll want something longer than that unless you have electrical outlets on every corner of your lawn. You’ll also have to coil the cable carefully after you use it, either a careful straight coil or over-under, unless you want to spend time every week untying a bunch of knots and dealing with a spiral-shaped cord after a year of twisting and untwisting it from sloppy coils.
We felt this mower was ideally sized for our lawn and having no exhaust fumes was great, but it still made a lot of noise relative to manual mowers. Plus, we really missed being cord-free after our time with the gas mowers.
- Like any electric mower, the Greenworks – 22502 20″ mower is lighter and easier to maneuver, but you’re tied to an electrical cord.
- Greenworks gives you a lot of mower for your money; it’s much more efficient and better built than the other electric mower we tested.
- It’s not as quiet as the manual mowers, but not having to deal with the noise and smell of a gasoline engine is a huge plus.
Best manual mower: Fiskars – Staysharp Max
The Fiskars – Staysharp Max is wonderfully simple. It’s solid and precise. Plus, with an 18-inch wide reel it covers ground more quickly than even the Sun Joe electric mower we tested (the Fiskars also costs more though.) Manual mowers use a scissor-like blade system that usually makes a grinding or swishing noise, but Fiskars takes pride in their carefully aligned blades and resulting lack of noise.
Before starting we knew we were going to be in love with manual mowers for the eco-friendly aspect, quiet operation, and lack of gas exhaust. The Fiskars mower was indeed very enjoyable to cut with.
Best Manual Mower: Fiskars. Staysharp Max
Quiet and smooth, this is a machine made to clip a smaller lawn that’s already in top condition.
A quiet mower means you don’t feel guilty bugging your neighbors if mowing early in the day or late in the evening. A great perk is that you can talk on the phone or listen to music with non-sealing earbuds while mowing with this machine.
We wore gloves while mowing (since you need to be even more diligent about clearing debris with a manual mower) but were surprised at how comfortable the padded handles are on the Fiskars.
Fiskars went for a very wide cutting area, two inches wider than the Great States mower. This lessens cutting time, but all that width makes it more cumbersome to maneuver in the shed. We feel that it’s well worth the tradeoff and had no issues maneuvering on the turf.
Out of the box, setup was pretty simple, requiring a few screws to connect the handles to the body. The handles fold up (without locking), which saves space, making storage easy compared to non-folding handles.
Adjusting height on this mower is even easier than on the gas-powered models — it’s just one lever in the front instead of adjusting four wheels individually. It’s also marked at 1 inch (shortest) to 4 inches cutting height. On other models you kind of just have to know the height range and wing it, so this was a nice touch on the Fiskars.
To give this manual mower a workout, we used the 1.5-inch setting on overgrowth at first. It was easy in some parts, but extremely difficult towards the end, in patches that weren’t even super tall. On subsequent mowings, it was a breeze. Unlike with gas or electric mowers, you definitely have to spend more time clearing the lawn of twigs and debris before mowing so you don’t jam up the mower.
The adjustable chute can let you direct clippings forward or backward as needed. There’s no included bagging option and even with the optional clipping-catcher this mower can’t suck up and pulverize leaves and small twigs like the powered mowers can.
With extra lawn-clearing time and smaller cutting width, a manual mower can be more work and will take longer than powered lawn mowers. However, if you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint and don’t ever let your grass get overgrown, this may be the mower for you.
- Heavier than most manual mowers, the Fiskars Staysharp Max‘s 18-inch cutting width makes quick work of small lawns.
- Most manual mowers are somewhat quiet, but Fiskars has made a reel that’s almost noiseless.
- Great build quality, fit and finish; this mower is more expensive than a cheap plug-in mower and it shows.
Other products we tested
Toro – 22″ Recycler 20334
Immediately, we noticed the Toro 22″ Recycler’s excellent packaging: high-quality plastic wrap on all the parts and the engine keeps everything tidy during shipping.
While we appreciated the padding and a few control details on the Honda just a bit more, Toro really knows their stuff too. The handle and connectors on this mower are excellent.
One setup detail that lost Toro some points is how hard it is to add oil to the BS engine and check the level. Waiting for the oil to drip down into the crankcase so you can read the dipstick accurately is a tedious process and the min/max markings on the dipstick are not present as depicted in the manual. Instead, there are only dots. There’s very little room for error, so setting up the mower for the first time involved a lot of waiting/re-dipping to make sure we got the right amount of oil.
We had trouble with the electric starting system, too. We charged the starter battery as directed, but it didn’t work. The instructions for initial startup weren’t especially clear, either. The starter button didn’t work in an intuitive way and the manual talks about a key-start that our mower doesn’t have. So for our review, the tester started the mower manually, just like the Honda. The Toro we tested does include the electric starter at the same price as the Honda with pull-start only.
Wheel height adjustment on the Toro isn’t as easy as other mowers. You have to adjust each wheel individually. Plus, the front wheel height adjustment tab was bent on the machine we received.
Eventually, the first Toro we got had to be exchanged, since the metal tab on a wire that looks up to the blade control lever was broken. This rendered the machine unable to start. Home Depot swapped this out for us without a problem.
Toro’s “personal pace” drive speed feature works just fine, but we preferred the thumb control of the Honda. On the Toro, you have to hold the fixed handle in one hand and control speed with another handle that slides up and down. It’s not difficult to use, but it’s not as easy as Honda’s system.
Great States – 16″ 415-16
Unpacking the Great States – 16″ 415-16 mower was definitely a low point. Terrible setup instructions meant we had to undo the assembly we’d already done to fit the handles into the lower mower part. The plastic twist knobs that hold the handle fasteners together are poor quality, to say the least. In fact, you could cut yourself while tightening them. That being said, it’s a tool-free setup process.
At 16 inches of cutting width, (two inches less than the Fiskars, but much lighter overall), this machine is definitely more maneuverable. The quality of build feels lower than Fiskars, but not too bad considering it’s less than half the cost.
The cutting height on the Great States ranges from 0.5 inch to 2.5 inches compared to the Fiskars’ 1-4 inches. You really don’t need the 4-inch range unless you are cutting down overgrowth, but this might matter in a few cases.
The lack of motor noise and exhaust is still a great reason for choosing this manual model, but the cutting blade makes a grinding sound that’s louder than the Fiskars precisely adjusted cutter. The Great States is also slightly harder to push than the Fiskars.
This is a tool that gets the job done for less than 100 and will likely last for many years (with a design that’s been around longer than you probably have.) There are even folks with yards larger than ½ acre who happily use this machine to mow. When it comes down to details, though, the Fiskars is a much nicer mower.
Sun Joe – 14″ MJ401E
Setting up the Sun Joe 14″ MJ401E was drama-free, with a good (non-folding) attachment design for the surprisingly comfortable padded handles, but the budget price shows through: This mower looks and feels like a toy. While it is more agile than most of the other mowers, it is very plastic, very light, and very basic. At about 40 less than our winning electric model, this should be treated as a basic mower.
Sun Joe doesn’t even include the parts needed for mulching at this price point; If you only ever bag and need to stay within a low budget, this will get the job done. The relatively smaller clippings compartment fills up fast, though. We had to dump out 5-6 times on a small lawn, though that’s partly on account of some overgrowth we were chopping through.
Another disappointment was the very flimsy-feeling height adjuster, which uses a spring-loaded adjuster on each wheel axle and makes you turn the mower on its side to adjust. With three settings, it’s adequate for basic lawn care.
How we selected
For our lineup, we selected an assortment of manual, electric, and gas-powered mowers. As always, we tried to avoid products with consistently negative reviews that mention the same problems. We narrowed our selection to mowers from top brands with good reputations for warranty, reliability, and quality.
Lawn sizes have been shrinking. Recent census data shows that 95-percent of new houses sold have a lot smaller than ¼ acre (and the houses on those lots are getting bigger, leaving even less space for turf). So, we excluded riding mowers from our review and focused on the benefits of powered mowers relative to calorie-powered manual push mowers on a moderately-sized lawn.
We capped the price of the gas models at 400 since there were lots of good options. There are many other features to be had beyond that price range, but unless your lawn is bigger than 1/2 acre, it probably won’t make sense for you to spend much more.
How we tested
Our test lawns (front and back) total to around 4,300 square feet. We cut at the recommended height of 2.5 inches multiple times with each mower. Some mowers got a bit of an extra workout at the beginning of the season due to overgrowth, but we made sure to mow with them again once they reached normal heights to be fair.
Initial setup was one of the big differentiators for the mowers. Some had great instructions, while others were misleading and confusing. Each of these machines required some setup time since they come disassembled. The Great States mower stood out as most frustrating to set up.
We tested the bagging feature on all the mowers that included it. We also compared all of the features used for normal lawn mowing including setup of the cutter height and ease of storage.
Weight and size were some of the most important factors that we noticed. A bulky mower is more difficult to store and transport and extra weight also requires some practice to get clean turns and avoid damaging lawns.
Important features to consider
Mower type – This is typically recommended by lawn size, but there are plenty of options; even within the broader gas/electric/manual categories there’s much to consider.
Bagging and mulching options – Some people will want to bag their clippings. We found that while all of these mowers are capable of bagging, you’d have to buy a separate attachment for the manual mowers. Overall, the design of the bigger self-propelled mowers made removing and emptying the clipping bag easier than the electric models.
Self-propel or push-assist – This makes the work much easier, but it comes with noise, smell, maintenance concerns, and a CO2 footprint. On the flip side, people-powered mowers are quiet and pollution-free, but they’re only efficient if you’re mowing on a rigid schedule to minimize the amount you’re cutting with each pass.
Electric-powered mowers – Electric motors offer great performance, but until battery technology can improve, these models require power cords which introduces a set of compromises compared to other style mowers.
Cutting-height adjustment – This is something most people won’t be adjusting frequently, but it’s still something you’ll have to deal with at least once on all mowers.
Cleaning and storage – This is another big usability consideration. Each mower has its own set of folding-handle quirks, plus nooks and crannies that need to be brushed out or washed off.
How to properly mow a lawn
Mowing a lawn often includes other maintenance aspects like perimeter cleaning with a string trimmer and clearing clippings or debris with a leaf blower which we cover on those respective articles Below we’ll stick to strictly mowing tips.
The “stripe” pattern clearly visible on most sporting fields comes from the fact that mowers push the grass over slightly while they trim and alternating directions when mowing will create contrast in the way those ‘rows’ of clipped grass reflect sunlight.
Generally, the back-and-forth stripe pattern is also the most efficient way for you to mow at home. If you start by mowing around the perimeter a few times, you’ll have some “headland” room to turn around at the end of each long row without fussing about grass you might miss when you turn.
Cutting in a concentric spiral pattern from the outside perimeter is also viable if you’re looking to minimize the stripe effect; Some also find the right-angle corners easier than 180° turns.
(If you really want to get fancy, reel mowers or powered mowers with a roller attachment push the grass flat enough to create the contrast needed for the intricate patterns you sometimes see on ball diamond outfields. David Mellor, groundskeeper for Fenway Park, even wrote a book on the subject.)
The best practice is to rotate your mowing pattern 90 degrees (start at a right angle to your previous pattern) every few mowings to keep grass from being pushed down too much in one direction.
Types of grass
There are basically two “regions” of grass-growing in the United States: “warm-season” grasses in the South, “cool-season” grasses in the North, and a narrow “transitional zone” where it’s common to cross-seed types from both regions.
Seed producers like Pennington and Scotts have lots of great info about the different varieties you might have in your yard. It’s a good idea to get to talk with a lawn-care professional in your area who can help you understand the quirks of growing locally (especially weeds and disease).
The biggest difference between these regions and the varieties you’ll find there is in the timing of peak growth: warm-season grasses grow the most during the summer, then go dormant and turn brown during the cooler winter months; cool-season grasses grow the most in spring, slow down when it gets hot, then have another growth spurt in the fall before winter dormancy.
Grass height and mowing frequency
When you’re deciding how tall you want your grass, the most important thing to remember is that if your grass is too short, it can’t absorb sunlight. Photosynthesis doesn’t happen without leaf area, and all of the other qualities of good turf are dependent on that energy. Basically, longer is better for the health of the grass.
This is especially important in non-growing seasons: the grass will be stressed and needs plenty of leaf and root area (with stored energy from the growing season) to continue thriving. Mow when the air is cool and avoid mowing right before hot weather is in the forecast.
Some warm-climate species, like Bermudagrass, are cut as low as a half-inch on sporting fields. This requires daily mowing in quick-growth seasons, though. (And plenty of water to keep it healthy.) See our in-depth review we did on garden hoses too.
There’s another benefit to keeping lawn grass on the longer side. While the grass is soaking up all the sunlight with lush, long leaves, it’s keeping that sunlight away from any weeds that might be trying to start underneath.
As a rule of thumb, never remove more than a third of the leaf area in one mowing. So if you’re mowing down to two inches, mow again before the grass hits three inches. Pennington provides a handy chart of mowing height for common grass types.
Mulching grass vs. bagging
In very sandy soil mulching can cause some problems since there aren’t as many organisms to consume clippings, but in most cases mulching regular clippings back into the turf is highly recommended by grass experts and municipalities alike.
Earthworms, fungi, and other primary consumers in your lawn’s ecosystem thrive on the clippings and turn the mulch back into available nitrogen for your lawn. (So it’s not just easier than disposing of bags: it means less fertilizer!)
So long as you aren’t trimming off more than an inch of grass, and you aren’t mowing when it’s wet, the clippings should easily scatter down to soil level and form a helpful layer of worm-food. You can even mulch the leaves that fall off your trees!
All of the mowers we tested are mulch-ready except for the Sun Joe 401E, which requires an optional attachment to safely funnel the clippings (and any debris you may accidentally find in your grass) to the side. The other powered mowers will require a quick conversion from bag-mode with an included plug or a moveable flap.
Because bagging is occasionally beneficial (if you have to wait for your lawn to dry in the spring and the grass gets really long, for example) we also tested the bagging features of all the powered mowers. (Manual-power reel mowers aren’t very good at cutting tall grass, but you can get leaf-catcher attachments if you really don’t want to mulch.)
Mowing wet grass
While it’s good to mow when the air is cool, avoid mowing grass that is wet from watering or rainfall. When fibers in the leaves get wet they get tougher, so the cut takes more work and can leave a ragged edge on the leaf. It requires you to sharpen your blades more frequently, too.
Plus, if you’re mulching your clippings, wet mulch all over your lawn is just as bad as it sounds — clumpy and prone to get musty. If you don’t have a way to dispose of them within a few days, having bags of wet mulch sitting in your garage is even worse.
Mowing wet grass is just a bad idea. A little dew in the morning generally won’t slow you down much, but if the grass is soaked it’s best to wait for the sun to come out.
Mowers are tools and tools need to be taken care of if you want them to keep doing a job well. Storage in a clean, dry place should be a given, but there are a few specific tasks that you’ll have to get used to if you want a mower that will keep your lawn looking its best:
All cutting edges require routine sharpening, even mower blades. Plan on sharpening at least once a season if you don’t want to bruise or tear your grass. Checking the blades for uneven wear and other problems is Smart, but checking the grass to see how well you’re cutting is the surest way to determine the condition of your mower blades.
Sharpening more than once a season should only be necessary if you’re cutting heavier material like a lot of twigs (or the bane of every mower, hidden gravel/sand leftover from winter snow piles.)
Fiskars claims that the steel and tight-tolerance design used in their reel mower will cut cleanly for the life of the mower, but they still sell a sharpening kit and it works like all the other reel-mower sharpening kits. An abrasive compound wears away high spots and leaves a keen edge when you spread it on the blades and run the reel backward against the stationary cutting bar. (If dismounting drive chains or spinning mower reels with a hand drill aren’t your idea of fun, you can usually find a local handyman or landscaper who will do the job for you.)
Powered mower blades have edges more like axes and you can sharpen them in nearly the same way. A vise or other clamp to hold the blade steady and a carbide scraper or good steel file are all you really need to bring the edge back to a chisel-shaped apex that will be able to slice paper and keep your lawn looking crisp and green.
Winterizing gas mowers and oil changes
If your lawn is covered in snow (or simply not growing) for more than a month every year, there are storage tasks you’ll need to remember for gas engines. Old gasoline can go stale or dry out and create a layer of varnish inside your engine. You need to either add a stabilizer to your mower’s gas tank and fill it before storage (pretty easy, but the mower will be heavy) or get all of the gas out of the system.
Like your car, a mower’s four-cycle gasoline engine uses oil for lubrication, but unlike your car, it doesn’t run the oil through a filter to clean out debris. Nearly everyone will recommend annual oil changes before storage as part of a winter routine.
Spark plugs in a mower should last for a long time, but you should check them annually or as directed in your owner’s manual. People fool themselves into replacing electrical components arbitrarily if mowers won’t start, but it’s well worth learning how to spot signs of failure as a part of annual maintenance.
Gas vs. electric vs. manual mowers
All the mowers we tested will cut well enough once the blades hit the grass. The biggest differences come down to how much effort is required from a homeowner to get there and cover ground efficiently.
Manual reel mowers
These are the greenest of mowers, powered by whatever you’ve had for breakfast. They’re relatively simple tools that do one job: they cut grass quietly and efficiently for as long as you can push them. Beyond the sustainability and simplicity, they’re lighter and easier to store: no cord, no gas, no worries. If you like the idea of augmenting your lawn-mowing cardio with a bit more resistance, you should consider a reel mower.
The biggest weakness to the reel mower is that it’s not effective with thick or tall grass. This is a tool that will make you regret every time you forget to mow by making you work much harder. Have a lot of overgrown weeds? You’ll want to look elsewhere.
If your lawn is big enough that just thinking about pushing a reel mower is exhausting, an electric-powered mower is one way to ease your burden without the weight, noise, smell, and maintenance concerns of a gasoline engine.
Even compared to the Fiskars Max, the electric mowers we tested were light and easy to maneuver. They’re still louder than the manual mowers, since there’s a 14-inch or 20-inch steel blade swinging around under the deck. However, your neighbors and family will still have less reason to complain about your Saturday-morning routine.
There’s not nearly as much to maintain on an electric mower as on a gasoline-powered mower, but keeping the deck clean and inspecting the cord for wear are still important tasks you’ll need to perform.
Managing the cord on an electric mower is similar to the annoyances of working with a household vacuum cleaner but on a larger scale. Running over the cord with the mower is, obviously, something you must never do. You also don’t want to trip on it, drop it in a pool, accidentally unplug it or plug it into a socket that can’t provide the 12 Amps of AC power needed by these engines.
Gas-powered self-propelled mowers
The bigger your lawn, the more you’ll appreciate the self-propelled mower: these machines are designed to help you cover a lot of ground quickly by pulling themselves along at up to four MPH. So, all you really need to do is steer.
The gas mowers we tested have engines that provide around five horsepower to get through thick or long grass. (These are very similar to the engines you’ll find on a small Go-Kart.) Naturally, having all of that internal combustion power at your fingertips also brings noise and smells that other kinds of mowers won’t have.
While your time mowing will be much easier, the biggest drawback to gas-powered mowers is in maintenance. Like a gas-powered car, these mowers need fuel, oil changes, and air filter and spark-plug checkups. Maintaining a small engine is very simple: you can do a mower oil change in minutes and even teach your kids how to do it. However, it’s not for everyone. Naturally, there are mechanics who will do all of these services for you, for a fee.
The bottom line
Mowing your own lawn is one of those rites of passage for do-it-yourself home ownership. Like other jobs you do around your house, it will save you money compared to professional care, but it may take you more time and involve more cursing than you expected. We hope one of these mowers will help make your weekly lawn chores more enjoyable and less frustrating.
If you’ve got a smaller lawn and you’re excited about the idea of a brisk walk back and forth across it every Saturday morning, the Fiskars is probably an ideal machine for you. Smooth, quiet and precise, like the scissors the company is famous for, the Staysharp Max reel mower can help you keep your lawn looking its best without the noise and complications powered mowers bring.
If you’ve got a few weeds that are invading your lawn or if you anticipate dealing with overgrowth after a wet spring, a powered mower will mean less straining — not to mention the time it’ll save. The Greenworks 22502 has a 20-inch cutting blade that lessen the number of rows you’ll need to walk. Plus, it’ll make quick work of just about any foliage found in an urban lawn-care setting. It’s ready to go for bagging out of the box, too.
And if you’ve got a lawn bigger than ¼ acre or if you think you’ll appreciate the one-switch conversion between mulching and bagging, the Honda HRR216K9VKA cuts a wide swath quickly and efficiently through leaves, twigs and tall weeds. A self-propelled machine takes a bit more maintenance than an electric, but annual oil changes might seem a small price to pay compared to the headache of dancing around a cord on a larger lawn.
Top Pick: Honda. HRR216K9VKA 21
Whether bagging or mulching, the Honda keeps up with your needs. It’s solid and simple to make the most of your mowing time.