- How to choose the best lawn mower
- My lawn mower buying experiences
- The key questions for lawn mower buyers
- 1. How big is your lawn?
- 2. What is your lawn like?
- 3. What is your grass like?
- 4. Do you have any environmental restrictions?
- 5. Do you have any physical limitations?
- 6. Do you have any interest in or aversion to lawn mower maintenance?
- 7. What is your budget?
- Push or self-propelled
- Front or rear wheel drive
- Wheel sizes
- Cutting height
- Grass discharge
- Cutting widths
How to choose the best lawn mower
The critical thing to remember when choosing a lawn mower, is that it should be the best lawn mower for you and your garden.
To work out which is going to be the best lawn mower for you, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself about your lawn, the type of grass you have, the size of your garden and so on – and I have detailed these questions below.
But, writing from the perspective of a gardener who has made a few mistakes in the past when it comes to buying lawn mowers, there are also a couple of rules of thumb that I think are worth bearing in mind as you go through your decision making process:
- It is generally better to over-buy, rather than under-buy. What I mean by this is that a more powerful mower can usually still do the jobs that a less powerful one can do, but the opposite is not true;
- Always buy the very best model you can afford. If you have to spend a bit more than you were originally prepared to spend, it may well pay off. The biggest mistake people make (I know, I’ve made it) is to put price before quality. If you get that wrong, you may find it’s not long before you are coming back for the better or more powerful model anyway.
My lawn mower buying experiences
I remember when I first bought a
I had my own garden for the first time but at that time I wasn’t really interested in gardening and I knew nothing about lawn mowers. All I knew was that I now had some grass and that it needed to be cut.
And I can still remember the feeling of being overwhelmed and utterly confused when I started looking at all the different
How did I know which lawn mower I should buy? Did I need a cylinder mower, a rotary mower, gas/petrol powered, electric, push or self-propelled? What size did I need? What features should it have? What features could I do without?
Of course that was a long time ago, when lawn mowers were less feature-rich than they are now – and before the advent of the internet and the availability of instant information.
But now, if anything, the potential for confusion and overwhelm is probably even greater. So, if you are looking to buy your first mower or upgrading to a new model, it’s more important than ever to go through a systematic thought process to work out what you need.
That’s what I aim to help you do in this and the related pages on gardeneningstepbystep.com.
Did I go through such a systematic process when I bought my first mower?
Of course I didn’t. I was young, impatient and ill-informed.
It took me three attempts to get a lawn mower worth having. Perhaps I can help spare you from a similar waste of time and money.
A word about terminology
About 50% of the readers of this website are from the United States, about 30% are from the UK and the other 20% come from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa (with honourable mentions to India, the Phillipines and Germany).
This gives me a problem when it comes to terminology because, although the English speaking countries have the English language in common, sometimes you’d be hard pressed to know it given the different names that we apply to the same things. When it comes to powered garden tools, for example, we talk about electrical cords (US, Canada) or leads (UK)and equipment that is powered by gasoline (US, Canada) or petrol (UK, Australia, NZ etc.).
Because I am British, I typically use British terms. But in some cases the U.S. terms are easier to use and still make sense to everyone. For example, it is easier to use the U.S. term “corded electric lawnmower” for an electric
The key questions for
lawn mower buyers
I think there are there are certain questions you need to ask yourself before you buy any piece of outdoor power equipment.
Of course they differ for each tool you buy, but these are what I consider to be the key questions to think about when buying a
1. How big is your lawn?
This will help determine a few things.
First, if your lawn is bigger than can comfortably be reached by an extension lead, you can rule out a corded electric
Second, if your lawn is likely to take more than about an hour of mowing time, a cordless electric model might not work (unless you have multiple batteries). The batteries on these things are getting better all the time, and I actually rate them pretty highly, but for now, most won’t last much more than an hour.
Third, the size of your lawn will have a bearing on whether you’ll want to buy a push mower or a self-propelled mower. If you’ve got a lot a lawn to cut, you might lean towards a self-propelled model. That is, unless you particularly want the exercise of pushing.
2. What is your lawn like?
The point here is to the think about the characteristics of your lawn, other than its size.
So – is it uneven? Do you have slopes and inclines? Is the ground boggy? Do you have lots of obstacles like trees, shrubs and flower beds to mow around. As you’ll see, these characteristics will all affect the type of mower you should buy and the features that you’ll need on that mower.
3. What is your grass like?
Is your grass lush and thick? Is it often quite long when you cut it? If so, these factors will have an impact on the amount of power you need and also on the discharge capability.
You’ll need more power for lush and long grass and you’ll need a side discharge option for grass that has been left long.
4. Do you have any environmental restrictions?
Gas or petrol driven mowers are obviously noisier that electric models and also produce exhaust emissions. If you have any noise restraints where you are then you may have to go with an electric model.
If you have large lawn that may take longer than an hour to cut, it will be more complex. It that case, you’d need to get a cordless model, of the kind where the battery can be removed, and keep at least one spare battery on charge that you can slot in when needed.
5. Do you have any physical limitations?
Some mowers are simply bigger and heavier than others and therefore harder to manoeuvre around. Even a self propelled mower needs to be got out of the shed or garage. So, if you are not especially physically strong, look carefully at the weight and dimensions of any mower you are considering buying.
Electric models tend to be lighter weight than petrol models, but don’t take that as a given. Weight will be affected by materials used (steel decks are heavier than plastic ones, for example) and the presence of certain components. Some batteries on cordless models can really add to the overall weight of the machine.
6. Do you have any interest in or aversion to
lawn mower maintenance?
Modern petrol or gas powered mowers usually start easily enough. But they still have more complex moving and user serviceable parts than electric models. With a petrol/gas model, you will need to top up or change oil, you will need to mix petrol and oil on a two stroke (two cycle) model and you may have some starting issues when your mower is unused for some time.
You’ll also need to keep the spark plugs clean and make sure plug leads aren’t worn. There may also be some maintenance required on the fuel pipes and carburettor.
With an electric
7. What is your budget?
There are lawn mowers within the different categories to suit most budgets nowadays. But there are a couple of points to consider.
The best petrol lawn mowers are generally more expensive than the best electric models and the best cordless models are generally more expensive than the best corded electric lawn mowers.
Lawn mower key features
When you are looking to decide on the best
Some of these features are common to all types of lawn mowers and some are particular to the individual
In this section, I’ll take a close look at the key features that are common to most types of
Push or self-propelled
One choice you need to make is whether you want a mower that drives itself or one that needs you to provide the driving force.
If your mower is you-propelled (or is a push mower, as it they are more commonly called), then you provide the power for moving the mower around your lawn by pushing it.
With self-propelled mowers, the power source (the engine or electric motor) not only provides the power to turn the cutting blade(s) but also drives the front or rear wheels, relieving you of the effort.
Push mowers are cheaper and if you have a small flat lawn, then they’ll probably be fine for you. But, if you have a lawn of any size, a self-propelled mower is likely to be a good investment in saving you time and energy.
Front or rear wheel drive
On self propelled lawn mowers, the drive power may be applied to the front or the rear wheels.
If you have a lawn with slopes or bumps, you’d be well advised to buy a
In most cases, therefore, rear wheel drive models are preferable.
While we’re on wheels, you’ll also find that mowers with equal sized wheels at front and rear (see, for example, the Honda pictured) are easier to maneuver and turn and have greater all round stability as you mow.
If the wheels are not equally sized, try to avoid a large differential in sizes.
Look for a decent range of cutting heights because you’ll probably want to vary the height of cut at different times of the year or to suit any personal preference you may have as to how high you want to keep your grass.
Also try to find a mower with a simple and easily accessible height adjustment mechanism.
On some models height can be adjusted in a single action, others require adjustments to be made to front and rear wheel heights separately.
There are 3 basic types of grass discharge – side discharge, mulching and bagging.
Believe or not :), side discharge means that the clippings are discharged to the side of the mower as you mow. What you want from a side discharge action is an even spread of clippings with no clumps.
If clippings are left in clumps, your lawn is likely to suffer damage because light is obscured from the grass beneath the clumps and the leaves are unable to photosynthesize.
If your mower does leave clumps of clippings then you will be put to the added effort of raking out the grass clippings.
Side discharge is the best means of dealing with your clippings when cutting long grass.
Instead of side discharge some mowers discharge clippings at the rear, but the same considerations apply to mowers with that option as to those with a side discharge capability.
Mulching is where the grass clipping are cut up very finely within the mower deck and deposited back onto the lawn. The benefit of this is that the clippings provide nutrient value to the lawn as they decay. You are also spared the trouble of having to dispose of clippings if bagging is your only other option.
With a good mulching action the clippings are cut fine, dispersed evenly and driven down amongst the stems of the lawn.
If you are left with clumps or excess clippings on the surface, you will again face the risk of damage to your lawn and having to rake out the clippings.
The bagging option pretty much speaks for itself – clippings are deposited in a collection bag as you mow.
Even so, some models are more efficient at this than others. Watch out for models where the bag intake chute begins to clog before the bag is full or where quantities of clippings are left on the ground as you disconnect the bag for emptying
It also make sense to get a model with a decent size bag so that you minimize the amount of times you have to empty it.
Some lawn mowers give you the option of all 3 discharge methods (3 in 1), some give you 1 or 2 options.
Some Honda mowers even have a system, called the ‘Versimow’ system, that allows you mix bagging and mulching at the same time- i.e. you mulch some of your clippings and bag the rest.
You should note that most mowers are not good at every method. Therefore try to identify which option you are likely to want to use most and find a mower that is most proficient in that mode.
Most consumer lawn mowers have cutting widths falling between 14 and 22 inches.
Clearly, the wider the cutting deck, the more grass you cut in one go and the more quickly you’ll get the mowing job done.
However, if you have limited storage space, narrow access ways or lots of narrow twists and turns to mow around, you may need to settle for a mower with a smaller deck.
Leaving aside lawn tractors or riding lawn mowers, there are 5 basic types of lawn mower.
You’ll find a full run down on buying each of the main types of mower, including the key features that you should look out for, if you click on the appropriate link below. But here is a summary.
Reel or cylinder mower
The reel or cylinder mower is the traditional push along hand mower with spinning blades, although powered reel mowers are available. Reel mowers produce a fine finish but can be easily jammed by sticks and debris.
- Quality Yardcare Tools: Designed to help you take back your yard, Fiskars lawn and gardening tools are equipped with smart technologies and award-winning, ergonomic features that make it easier and more enjoyable to transform your outdoor space.Advanced design is 60% easier to push than other reel mowers
- Advanced Technology for best-in-class cutting performance: The InertiaDrive Reel boasts twice the cutting power of standard reel mowers, while the StaySharp Cutting System eliminates the cost and inconvenience of manual blade sharpening.
- Superior Ergonomics: Reversible grass chute can direct clippings away from your feet making it easier to mow tough patches while limiting messiness. One-touch handle height adjustment enhances your comfort and control.
- Ideal for eco-friendly cutting of all grass types: Can even cut tough southern varieties like St. Augustine, Zoysia, Bahia and Bermuda. No gas, oil, charging or cords required like a gas or electric lawn mower.
- Includes 1 Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower with 18” cutting width. VersaCut technology offers cut height settings from 1″-4″ to mow all types of grass cleanly. Limited 3 year warranty.
- 4-blade reel mower with a cutting width of 14” and durable 8.5” polymer wheels for maximum maneuverability. Lightweight at only 19 pounds. Reel Lawn Mowers are great for small lawns.
- This push lawn mower has an adjustable blade height of 0.5”-1.75”. Capable of cutting grass up to 4 inches tall and is less effective on taller grass.
- Manual grass cutter is environment-friendly alternative to other lawn mowers. This push mower is pollution-free, noise-free, low maintenance, lightweight and easy to use.
- A reel mower uses a cutting action that does not bruise or damage the blades of grass. For best results using a reel push mower, mow no more than 1/3 of the grass blade, so that the roots stay intact.
- Increase the amount of overlap while using your push mower if your lawn reaches a height of 4 inches or more. It’s better to mow smaller amounts more frequently than it is to let the grass get long. Try not reel mower when the grass is wet.
- The Great States motor-less lawnmower with an adjustable cutting height of 0.5″-2.75″ for a clean, even cut
- 18″ cutting width 5-blade manual push mower with 5-blade ball-bearings, and 10″ composite wheels
- Push mower blades are made of high-quality alloy steel that stay sharp longer
- Loop-style lawnmower handle with cushioned grips for comfort and maneuverability; Easy to assemble without special tools
- Planet-friendly and quiet motorless lawn mower design that is low-maintenance
Last update on 2023-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Hover mowers are now less common than they were, but are still used for cutting steep slopes, waterfronts or heavily weeded areas. They can be electric (corded or cordless) or petrol driven. The electric hover mowers are usually quite light weight, so they suit those who can’t easily handle a heavier mower.
Petrol or gas powered lawn mowers are the work horses of the garden. They give you freedom of movement, power and speed of operation. Here are a couple of quick recommendations in this category:
- GAS ENGINE: Powerful 4-stroke, single cylinder gas engine makes it powerful enough to handle even the tallest and toughest grass.
- MOWING DECK: The 21-inch steel mowing deck creates a large cutting area that is highly durable, making it easy for you to take on bigger jobs.
- ADJUSTABLE CUTTING DEPTH: The push lawn mower has 5 height adjustment levels to easily cut grass and overgrowth, It can be adjusted between 1.18 and 3.0 inches.
- 3-IN-1 CAPABILITIES: Unit has side discharge, rear discharge, and mulching capabilities. Use with rear bag, this machine can clean up dead-leaves and grasses while mowing.
- MANEUVERABILITY: 8-inch rear wheel drive provides greater traction for all terrains, mowing grass quickly on large yards.
- Exclusive and industry-leading CVT (Continuously variable transmission) offers superior speed variability to adjust the mower pace to your walking speed by simply selecting the 6-speed shift lever
- Exclusive rubber tires with aggressive spike tread pattern significantly increases overall traction and maneuverability
- Easily clean the underside of the cutting deck with the deck cleanout port
- Single-lever deck adjustment for quickly setting your mow height
- 7 cutting heights from 1.38 in. to 3.55 in.
- 140CC OHV GAS POWERED ENGINE: Engine comes equipped with recoil and auto choke. No more fussing with a primer or choke – just pull to start!
- 3-IN-1 CAPABILITIES: Unit has side discharge, rear discharge, and mulching capabilities. Ideal for yards 1/8 to 1/4 of an acre
- 21-INCH CUTTING DECK: Efficient cutting deck helps trim grass in one quick pass for an easier yard job.
- DUAL-LEVER ADJUSTABLE CUTTING HEIGHT: Choose from 6 different height settings to suit user’s needs.
- DURABLE WHEELS: Zag Treaded tires measure 7 inches in the front and 8 inches in the back.
- Single-lever deck adjustment for quickly setting your mow height
- MAXFlow Deck Technology – volute spiral deck design for better airflow and mulching
- Heavy-duty, 16-guage stamped steel deck
- Durable, one-piece seamless steel deck reduces vibration
- Seven cutting heights from 1.25″ to 3.75″
- Powerful Gas Engine: 209CC engine deliver unbeatable power for better cutting effect. Equipped with recoil starter for easy pull start.
- 21 Inch Deck: Deck allows you to mulch, helping put nutrients back in the soil for a healthier lawn, ideal for small to medium yard.
- 3-in-1 Push Lawn Mower: side discharge, mullching capabilities, rear bag discharge. Use with rear bag, this machine can clean up dead-leaves and grasses while mowing.
- Cutting Depth Adjustment: this gas mower has 5-position height adjustment from 1.18″ to 3″, suitable all kinds of grasses.
- Easy to Use: 95% assembled, no expert assembly needed. Easy starter, Quick folded design, save storage space and easily get it to work.
Last update on 2023-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Corded electric lawn mower models are suitable for relatively small gardens and require the use of an extension cord. They are quiet, efficient and easy to use, but keep you firmly tied to your electricity supply. There is a full run down on how to buy the best corded electric lawn mower here.
Cordless electric mower
As the quality of batteries improve, I’m becoming increasingly impressed with cordless outdoor power equipment. In the right conditions, these are a great tool. They are easy to use and afford you lots of flexibility in the areas you can cut.
We have a separate article where you can read more about the features to look out for in the best cordless electric lawn mowers, which also list some of the best sellers in this category.
UK Buyer – lawn mowers selection
Here is a solid selection of different types of mowers from leading UK sellers:
Cobra 16 Petrol Powered Rear Roller Lawn Mower
Cobra 18 Petrol Powered Rear Roller Lawn Mower
Cobra 18 Petrol Powered Rear Roller Lawn Mower B&S
Hayter Harrier 41 VS 60v Cordless GreenSeries™ Roller Mower (No Battery / Charger)
Hayter Harrier 41 VS 60v Cordless GreenSeries™ Roller Mower 6Ah Kit
Hayter Harrier 41 VS 60v Cordless GreenSeries™ Roller Mower 7.5Ah Kit
Hayter Harrier 48 VS 60v Cordless GreenSeries™ Roller Mower (No Battery / Charger)
Hayter Harrier 48 VS 60v Cordless GreenSeries™ Roller Mower 7.5Ah Kit
I expect, that if you’ve read this far, you’ll be getting an idea of which kind of mower might suit you best.
Next, to help you firm up your views, I suggest you take a look at the following pages in which I detail the pros cons and key features of each of the different kinds of mowers and compare some of the leading models:
- How to buy the best gas powered lawn mower
- How to buy the best electric lawn mower
- How to buy the best cordless electric lawn mower
And don’t forget, that you’ll probably need a string trimmer or lawn edger to really finish your lawn beautifully when you’ve mown it.
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition. He is a member of the National dahlia Society.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.
6 thoughts on “The best lawn mower: how to choose the mower that is right for you”
Thanks for the tip about getting a lawn mower for physical limitations. I’m hoping to get a new lawn mower this summer. I’ll make sure to find one that I can use.