Some Dude Says
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When I bought my house, I decided I wanted to not ever use a gasoline based mower or lawn tool in general ever again. I originally wanted an electric mower, but a reel mower gives you a workout, doesn’t require fuel or heavy maintenance, and is near silent. If you work late hours or a late shift, you can still mow with a light if you have to.
I didn’t want something noisy and which puffed out gasoline vapor laden smoke continuously. A cheap gas mower is going to stall on the slightest branch too. After searching for the perfect electric mower, I ended up going for a reel mower and an electric weed eater.
Gas mowers were out from the get-go, but electric mowers didn’t work out either. Though there were some good ones, most ended up being too pricey compared to their gasoline counterparts. 300 got you a 150 clearance gasoline mower at best. Low HP gas mowers stall on most of the types of weeds inhabiting my lawn too.
I didn’t want to maintain my lawn in the first place, but the city requires grass at a certain height. Artificial grass isn’t allowed and rock lawns are deemed unsightly. My lawn is a patchwork of weeds and invasive grass which creeps over from the neighbors. The people who owned the house prior had done absolutely no work with the lawn whatsoever either.
The Fiskars StaySharp Reel Mower had great reviews and I heard a friend of a friend mention how well it worked. I decided to give it a try since I was able to get one on sale. The hype about reel mowers was legitimate.
This mower absolutely destroys any kind of grass. There are a few types of weeds it won’t just cut through, but even stuff which choked out my old gas mower at my last residence was no match for it. Small branches, especially old ones, were crushed to bits with it too (though that isn’t ideal). It was a lot more maneuverable than a standard push mower too.
The height adjustment meant that if you were really lazy or tired, you could put up high, trim real quick, then lower a step at a time. The Fiskars was a light enough push that even when I hurt my knee, I could still mow enough to not get fined. If you wanted a workout, you could put it low and just run across the whole lawn. It’s a great quick workout, and if you have kids and live in the suburbs, it’s also something you can’t get out of having to do every week.
The maintenance is trivial too. I just spray some silicon lubricant into mine and it’s good for a season since I don’t store it in the rain. Avoid thick, hardwood sticks (especially freshly felled) and rocks and you won’t get nicks. I haven’t even needed to use the sharpening kit I bought. The parts to maintain it are also pennies compared to what you should do for a gas mower. Gas mowers need constant gasoline, oil, starter work every few years, cleaning, etc. A reel mower just needs some lubrication and maintenance as long as you let it dry.
Despite it shredding every weed and even seedlings, it does have a few plants it can’t get down. There’s some kind of weed which evades it entirely.
If the grass is too high, you probably can’t get it started easily without some clearance. A wet month in summer without mowing means it may be near impossible to mow without starting a spot with a weed eater or similar. Damp grass is substantially harder to mow.
The other obvious con is that it requires manual work which can be a deal breaker for some. This is what sold me on the concept in the first place, but most people don’t want to do the work. You’ll be out in the hottest part of the year pushing this across thick, dense grass, so take that into account.
If your lawn isn’t level, it can be a nightmare to mow consistently. This is an issue for pretty much any mower though, but is especially noticeable with a reel mower.
When I first settled on my goals for the lawn, I researched brands for what had the best of each type of item. Luckily, since I got a reel mower, the battery type was a nonissue, but it impacted my choice for electric tools.
Pick a brand which does the best at what you’re trying to do. You’re going to need more than one tool, and having a lot of chargers and batteries gets frustrating fast. I unfortunately now have 3 systems to keep track of (one was free and the other was an emergency). What do you plan to do with your equipment?
The more chargers you have, the more resources which have been wasted on something extra. The more battery systems, the more resources wasted between them. Your time and your space is wasted as well. It takes a whole shelf in a massive cabinet to keep track of all of my batteries and chargers.
Take into consideration what the cost to operate your tools is as well. Do you need specialty reels for a weed eater or can it take whatever? What about filters and bags? How much do replacement batteries cost? Some brands will sell a battery for 4/5ths of buying a tool and a battery. Some sell tiny batteries with their tools and you need to buy a larger battery to make it not miserable to work with.
Electric is the way forward, but see if a reel mower won’t work for you. It requires no electricity, no batteries, little maintenance, and gets you exercise. For electric brands, look at how they fit your goals as a whole. Sometimes, the cheapest individual item ends up being the most expensive if you have to buy something else entirely.
Manual mowers: Quiet, pollution/greenhouse gas free, safer, better for your lawn
Did you know that gas-powered lawn mowers are a major source of air pollution? In fact, one hour of running a two-stroke-engine gas mower can emit more smog-forming pollution than driving your car from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury! The stinky fumes from gas mowers can make it hard for people with lung and heart issues to breathe, and they are very noisy. Some are loud enough to pose a risk to your hearing and traumatize wild birds into abandoning their nests.
Electric mowers are less noisy, but the cord can be a pain to work with, and they still have a significant carbon footprint.
So why not consider a manual mower? Today’s manual mowers are not the beasts of our grandparents’ time! They are much improved and easier to use.
Six reasons to switch to a manual mower
- Aesthetic/environmental benefits: Can we all agree that gas-powered mowers are horrible to listen to and smell awful? With a manual reel mower, you have no annoying noise pollution, no noxious fumes, no greenhouse gas emissions. And again, while electric mowers are a bit greener, they still come with issues.
- Healthier lawn: Manual mowers work like scissors — they cut rather than rip or tear the blades of grass. This scissoring action leaves your grass less prone to diseases and pests. And reel mowers disperse clippings more evenly than motorized mowers do — no ugly clumps!
- Safety: Manual mowers do not fling rocks or debris and stop when you stop. They rarely cause injury. Each year in Canada, a lot of people, including children, are injured by power mowers.
- Cost: Manual mowers cost less and are much cheaper to maintain. No gas or oil to buy, no electricity used! They are very simple machines.
- No start needed: No rope to pull, no key to find, no gas or oil to top up, no cord to untangle and plug in, no recharging needed. Easy to get out, push, move, and store.
- Great exercise! It’s a nice way to burn some calories while walking around your yard.
We recommend you read up on reel mowers on product review sites before buying.
FYI: Reel mowers work best in yards with healthy lawns. If your yard is very weedy, depending on the types of weeds you have, a reel mower may have more difficulty. Buy quality for the best result.
How about your other power tools?
So once you’ve made the switch from gas or electric to manual mower, consider if you can switch out other gas-powered or electric lawn/yard tools as well. Gas and electric leaf blowers, string trimmers, and hedge clippers all pose the same issues as gas mowers.
We understand that in some cases manual is not an option. For example, some people have joint issues may find it difficult to use some manual tools.
But if we all switched to manual tools for at least some of our yard and garden tasks, it could make a huge difference in the levels of air and noise pollution in our community, and help reduce fight climate change.
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Mow N’ Stow® Technology allows a lawn mower to be stored upright without any fuel or oil leaks. Takes care of big lawn mower jobs and fits in small spaces.
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Lawn Mowing Alternatives. Reel Mower
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Reel Mower vs Gas: Both Options Compared
Maybe you’re in the process of buying a new mower and are not able to decide between these two options. Or perhaps you’ve got a gas mower, but your neighbor has been talking highly about their reel mower and you’re tempted to give it a try. Whatever the reason you find yourself on this page, we’re going to thoroughly compare the reel mower vs gas mower, looking at both the pros and cons you can expect from each, to help you to try and decide which is the best option for your lawn.
Reel Mower vs Gas: The Quick Summary
The differences between a reel mower vs gas mower are numerous and quite significant, but there are two main ones you need to be aware of. A reel mower is non-motorized (so is powered by you) whereas a gas mower is powered by an engine that requires fuel (gas). The blades (I say “blades” as there are usually 5 or 7) on a reel mower are arranged in a cylinder, whereas a gas mower uses a rotary blade to cut the grass.
These are the main differences, although there are many more. Reel mowers don’t produce any emissions, whereas gas mowers are known to be the worst type of mower in terms of pollution. There’s no comparison in the reel mower vs gas debate when we talk about power; gas mowers are far more powerful.
If you’re looking for a quick recommendation, here it is. If you have a small, flat city lot, are able to maintain your lawn regularly and it only takes 10-20 minutes I’d opt for a reel mower. Anything else (not flat, bigger lawn, longer grass), I’d go with a gas mower over a reel mower, although electric mowers would also be worth taking a look at in that case. Basically, something motorized with a rotary blade.
Comparing Reel Mower vs Gas Mower in Detail
If you’re in a rush, on the sales page trying to decide between a reel mower vs gas mower, the last section will likely have provided you with what you needed. But if you’re looking for more details, I’m now going to compare the reel mower vs gas mower across several different areas of usage to give you a more complete picture of what it’d be like to own and use each of these types of mower.
The “power” that a mower has is something a lot of people are bothered about when looking for a new mower. It’s got to be powerful enough to do the job, otherwise, that image of the guy happily mowing the lawn in the movies is not going to be at all like your experience. You’re going to be tearing your hair out!
Whether a mower is powerful enough to do a good job depends in large part on the conditions you’re expecting it to work in, which I’ll talk about in a moment. But just comparing the reel mower vs gas mower side by side in this sense is like comparing night and day. The reel mower has no motor/engine and is the least powerful type of mower you can buy. The gas mower on the other hand uses an engine and is the most powerful type of mower you can buy (it beats an electric mower on this score too).
What does this mean in real life? Well, if you frequently need to cut long, thick grass, and maybe even weeds sometimes, the gas mower is going to be a much better choice. Providing it is kept in good condition, it’ll navigate these conditions quickly and easily. A reel mower on the other hand would struggle enormously in these same conditions. Even with the blades nice and sharp, it’s very likely that the blades will keep jamming up or you’d find that the reel mower is hard to push (which gets tiring and tedious). They’re just not designed for cutting longer grass or weeds.
A reel mower is designed for light usage and will deliver a beautiful cut providing the grass is kept to a reasonable length in between mowings, and you’re only cutting an inch or so off each time. When your lawn is in its growth period, this obviously means that you’ll need to mow far more frequently. You just have to ask yourself if you are willing and able to commit to doing this.
Bottom Line: Gas mowers provide you with the power to tame even the wildest of lawns, while the reel mower is designed for light maintenance and the lawn must be mowed regularly. If you like the idea of a reel mower but you’re concerned about the cutting power (or lack of it), you might want to read my guide on electric vs gas lawn mowers, as an electric mower could be more viable for your use case.
The Type of Blade
If you have the type of lawn that could be maintained by either a reel or gas mower, the type of blade each of these mowers has and the way it cuts may play a part in which way you end up going.
“But aren’t all lawn mower blades the same?” you might be thinking. No, is the short answer. The reel mower is fitted with a cylinder that is comprised of several blades (usually 5 or 7 – it depends on the model). This is the defining characteristic of a reel mower. As you push the mower, this cylinder rotates forward to cut the grass. A gas mower on the other hand is fitted with a rotary blade that is concealed underneath the mower deck and spins at a high speed parallel to the ground.
The manner in which these blades cut the grass differs quite significantly. With a reel mower, as the cylinder passes over the grass, the blades of grass poke through and are “sliced” down to size as the cylinder rotates forward. If you think about how it’d be if you cut a blade of grass with a pair of scissors, the cutting technique of a reel mower is rather similar. This is a very clean cut and promotes quicker recovery, so lawns often look healthier.
The rotary blade on a gas mower on the other hand will tend to “rip” the grass rather than slice it. This cut it generates is not as clean as that produced by a reel mower, and this can increase the risk of lawn diseases and exploitation by pests. I don’t want to make you think that cylinder blades are great and rotary blades are awful though. Providing the blade is kept sharp, a rotary blade will do a perfectly adequate job and won’t cause any problems for your lawn. BUT, the cut is never as clean as that of a reel/cylinder mower.
Bottom Line: Reel mowers produce a cleaner cut that promotes better lawn health than the rotary blade on a gas mower.
When comparing the reel mower vs gas mower, maintenance is definitely an area that you’ll want to consider, as the experience of owning each of these mowers can be quite different.
The makeup of a reel mower is so basic that there’s not much that can go wrong or that needs maintaining. The whole mower really just consists of the blade cylinder, two wheels and a handle. Very occasionally you might need to oil the wheels, but your primary concern as the owner of one of these mowers is going to be the blades. They need to be kept sharp. How often you’ll need to sharpen the blades will depend quite a lot on how often you’re mowing and how much lawn you’re taking care of. But the average use case only requires sharpening 1-2 times per season.
The gas mower is a totally different prospect when it comes to maintenance and is a lot more involved. You have the standard tasks of keeping the blade sharp and the cutting deck free of clippings (the same as with an electric mower). But on top of that you’ll need to monitor the engine oil level (adding more when necessary), check and clean/change the spark plug, add gas when necessary, periodically clean/change the air filter, keep the carburetor clean and check/clean/change the fuel filter. I’m probably missing something here, but you get the gist. There’s a lot more to do vs the reel mower, so if you don’t actually need the extra power a gas mower provides, you’re committing yourself to a lot of extra responsibility unnecessarily. And that’s not even mentioning the prep you have to do ahead of winter storage. Forgetting to winterize your lawn mower can be a real headache when you pull it out again in the spring!
Bottom Line: Reel mowers require very little maintenance to continue running smoothly, while gas mowers are the most demanding type of mower in terms of maintenance.
Another area in which owning a reel mower vs gas is quite different is storing it. They are almost opposites if truth be told.
Reel mowers are light and have a very compact profile, which makes storing them a breeze. They can either be hung up on the wall or stored on the floor and require very little space. This is another reason why they’re so popular among people with small city lots, where storage space is a prized commodity.
Gas mowers on the other hand most definitely cannot be hung up on the wall. The engine makes them heavy, plus if you store them anything other than level, you’ll likely have oil and gas leaking all over the place. Look for a model that allows you to fold the handle right over (a lot of them do) to reduce the storage footprint. That’s the best you can hope for. You just have to accept that if you go for a gas mower, you’ll need the garage space to store it.
You also have to be aware that you’ll need to store gas and oil somewhere at your home. If you don’t have outside storage space, a gas mower is probably not the best idea.
Bottom Line: Reel mowers are very flexible in terms of where they can be stored and take up very little space, while gas mowers require outside storage and are typically much bigger.
Again, reel mowers and gas mowers are very much on the opposite end of the spectrum on this score too. As you’ll be coming to understand, this is a recurring theme when comparing the reel mower vs gas.
Reel mowers don’t have an engine or a motor. They’re completely powered by you pushing them forward, which causes the blade cylinder to spin. The only noise you’ll really hear is the sound of the blades cutting the grass, and that’s minimal. The only time I’ve heard a reel mower that I thought was “loud” was one that clearly needed a bit of oil adding to it to lubricate the parts.
Gas mowers can be extremely loud. It does vary from model to model, but don’t buy one if you think noise could be an issue, because it most likely will be. You’re going to be using a powerful piece of kit and you’ll know about it. I’d recommend you use some type of ear protection.
Bottom Line: If you buy a gas mower you’re going to have to put up with significantly more noise than you would with a reel mower.
Do you have a budget in mind? As reel mowers are much more basic in design the cost to produce them is generally cheaper and that is reflected in their sale price. I’m not saying you can’t pay a lot for a reel mower; you can – some of Fiskars’ models aren’t cheap. But on the whole, you’ll find that reel mowers are more budget-friendly than gas mowers.
Some of the top-end reel mowers are a similar price to the entry-level gas mowers. And the thing is, I personally wouldn’t recommend “going cheap” with a gas mower. I’ve always been taught that with a lot of things, you buy poor quality, you buy twice. I’ve found that to be true with gas mowers. Budget gas mowers tend to be made with poor-quality components (it’s the only way to produce them for such prices).
Bottom Line: Expect to pay 100-200 for a decent reel mower vs 250-400 for a gas mower. You can pay less for both types of mower though.
The price you pay on the day that you buy your mower is not the only cost you have to consider. There’s also the ongoing cost to run the mower. And this is an area that the reel mower offers a significant advantage over the gas mower (and every other type of mower to be honest).
Reel mowers cost you NOTHING to run. A big fat zero. You can’t get better than that, huh?! There is no fuel or energy source to pay for. You are the energy source. So as long as you’re fit and able to push a reel mower, it’ll mow your lawn for free.
With a gas mower, you obviously have to take the gas into consideration. And if you’ve got a large lawn, this can actually be quite a significant running cost. You’ll also need to pay for oil, spark plug and air filter changes, among other things. So please remember that once you’ve paid for your gas mower, that’s not the end of your spending, it’s just the beginning.
Bottom Line: Reel mowers are very economical and have no ongoing running costs to power them, whereas with a gas mower you’ll need to pay for gas.
Quick Recap of Reel Mowers
I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible here in comparing the reel mower vs gas mower, but I realize that this is quite a lot of information to process.
So I’ve quickly recapped the main pros and cons of each for you below.
Pros of Reel Mowers
- Can be purchased for a very reasonable cost
- Barebones design that is easy to understand and operate
- Cylinder blade slices through grass rather than tearing it, which promotes fast recovery
- Can be stored anywhere and takes up very little space
- Very, very quiet, producing just 55 decibels on average
- Apart from the blades, there’s nothing to maintain
- Doesn’t cost anything to run – no fuel or energy to pay for
Cons of Reel Mowers
- Doesn’t deal with long, thick grass well, nor weeds
- Regular mowing sessions are a must
- Large areas or uneven ground are not well suited to reel mowers
Pros of Gas Mowers
- Have the power to cut right through the toughest conditions (overgrown grass, weeds etc)
- Will generally help you to cut your lawn faster than a reel mower
- suitable for larger or uneven lawns
- Can bag, mulch or discharge your clippings
Cons of Gas Mowers
- Generally more expensive than reel mowers
- maintenance to do
- Ongoing cost of gas, oil etc
- Take up more storage space
- A lot noisier than a reel mower, and produces fumes
Final Thoughts on Reel Mowers vs Gas Mowers
I’ve owned reel mowers before and I own a gas mower now. Why did I change? The main reason was the size of my lawn. I had a postage stamp lawn when I had a reel mower that I could mow in 10 minutes flat. The lawn at my current place is much larger. I also have a bunch of tricky little sections to deal with and don’t like having to manage a power cord. Plus I’m sometimes a little lazy with my yard care (I go on too many trips) and it sometimes “matures” a little more than I would like (code for it gets overgrown). My gas mower allows me to get it back into shape quickly.
Classic Push Reel Mower & Why I Love it!
About Tom Greene
I’ve always had a keen interest in lawn care as long as I can remember. Friends used to call me the lawn mower guru (hence the site name), but I’m anything but. I just enjoy cutting my lawn and spending time outdoors. I also love the well-deserved doughnuts and coffee afterward!
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