Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
A good lawn mower is crucial for maintaining a lush, well-manicured lawn. With so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower appropriate for your yard can be challenging. To make it easier to find the right one, we tested more than two dozen top-rated mowers in several categories on real-life residential lawns. We evaluated their cutting ability, finish quality, and operator comfort.
Read on to learn more about the criteria we used to select our picks, how each one fared in our hands-on tests, and what to consider when shopping for the best lawn mower for your yard.
- BEST OVERALL: Toro 21-Inch 60V MAX Super Recycler Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Craftsman M220 150cc Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER: John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- BEST ELECTRIC RIDING MOWER: Craftsman 56V MAX 42-Inch Riding Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC: Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED: Ego Power+ 21-Inch Self-Propelled Mower
- BEST ELECTRIC: American Lawn Mower 14-Inch 120V Corded Mower
- BEST PUSH: Fiskars StaySharp Max 18-Inch Reel Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter MyRide Zero-Turn Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: DeWalt 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Photo: Mark Wolfe for Bob Vila
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
All of the mowers included in our list exceeded quality standards established in our shopping criteria and proved worthy through testing. After researching dozens of lawn mower models, we selected each of the above picks based on our shopping considerations detailed below. After sourcing the mowers and assembling them according to the manufacturers’ instructions, we tested them in an average yard—mixed grass, a few weeds, rolling terrain—in order to gauge capabilities in several key areas. The most critical aspects we observed included general quality and durability, mowing power and cut quality, and operator comfort and convenience.
We also tested each according to its claimed abilities. Riding mowers were used for larger and sometimes rougher areas and were assessed for power, speed, and comfort. Push and walk-behind mowers were mostly restricted to testing on well-established and well-maintained lawn spaces and closely monitored for cut quality and user convenience. For the robotic mower, we actually premowed the grass ahead of testing it, as the mower is intended to maintain rather than reduce grass height.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Our Top Picks
We mowed with everything from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. Here’s how they performed during our grass tests and why we think they are some of the best.
The Super Recycler is a premium, battery-powered, walk-behind mower with key features to enhance mowing performance and operator comfort. The mower is powered by a 60-volt (V) 7.5-amp-hour (Ah) lithium-ion rechargeable battery that provides up to 50 minutes of runtime per charge, according to Toro. The intelligent three-phase brushless motor knows exactly when to conserve battery life and when to increase power for tough mowing conditions.
The mower’s rustproof cast-aluminum deck is designed for maximum airflow that stands the grass blades up straight for a crisp cut and clean finish. It’s our Best Overall pick because of the Personal Pace Auto Drive system that rolls along smoothly at the operator’s natural pace on any terrain.
We tested the Toro Super Recycler on a slightly weedy, significantly sloped front yard that was about a week overdue for mowing. The mower was totally up to the task. With the deck set on a higher setting, we mowed up and down the slope, then on a lower setting we mowed perpendicularly. It climbed the (maximum 15-degree) slope without hesitation, even when the bagger was close to full, and didn’t feel like it was running away on the downhills. Both cuts looked great, leaving a uniform finish with no stray weeds.
Starting with a new, fully charged battery, we ran it exactly an hour before it was depleted—even better than the stated run time. Overall the mower was powerful, very comfortable to use, and ran quietly—an excellent choice for a more pleasant experience.
- Power source: 60V 7.5Ah battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled
- Up to 50 minutes or more of runtime per charge for 0.5 acre of mowing or more
- Ample blade speed and deck airflow for a high-quality finish
- Mower automatically paces itself with the operator’s walking speed
- Rear-wheel drive improves traction even when the bagger is full
- Much higher price for excellent performance compared to competition that may be adequate
Get the Toro Super Recycler lawn mower at The Home Depot or Mowers Direct.
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 150-cubic-centimeter (cc) engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it a good pick for yards up to three-quarters acre. Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easy to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag.
We liked the Craftsman mower’s affordability and simplicity. It only required about 20 minutes of easy assembly. The completed handle configuration was a bit less refined in appearance as the grip area is unpadded metal, and the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties.
After adding oil and gas, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and pulling uphill, but it bogged down ever so slightly in tall, overgrown grass. The front-wheel-drive feature made turning easy, but a fully loaded bagger could weigh down the rear and cause it to lose traction, though we did not experience this. The fuel tank size is adequate to mow about a half acre per fill-up. This could be an excellent value pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150cc Briggs & Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing; prevents strain while in use
- Easy to start; no priming or choke required
- Side discharge, mulch, or bag for ease of cleanup after mowing
- Self-propelled feature is not adjustable; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
- Nonpadded grip could lead to hand fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman M220 lawn mower at Lowe’s.
Larger yards from a half to 2 acres call for a bigger machine for mowing. The John Deere S130, with its 22-horsepower V-twin engine and 42-inch deck, offers excellent mowing ability plus performance and comfort features that extend its range of use. The 20 by 10-8 rear tires and wide stance provide excellent stability and help to cushion the ride.
It features hydrostatic operation, single-lever throttle with spring-return choke, ergonomic deck-height adjustment lever, dash-mounted digital fuel gauge, and John Deere’s Easy Change 30-second oil change system. The included drop-pin towing hitch and power take-off (PTO) make it compatible with a wide range of John Deere branded and non-branded yard implements such as utility carts, spreaders, sweepers, snow blowers, and more.
In our extensive test, the S130 lawn tractor proved to be a comfortable, capable riding mower with good maneuverability in a wide range of conditions. It easily handled grassy slopes up to 13 degrees (4.5 vertical feet per 20 linear feet), which is the limit recommended by the manufacturer. Measured against leading competitors, it offered a tighter real-life turning radius thanks to superior weight balance and a seat base that is 3 inches higher to provide a better operator vantage point.
The high open-back seat was well cushioned and supportive while allowing excellent ventilation. The deck height, blade engagement, and throttle controls were well positioned for convenience and safe operation. Even with the slightly elevated price tag, this mower offers tons of value, making it an excellent choice for most larger yards.
Read our full review: John Deere S130 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
- Power source: 22-horsepower V-twin gas engine
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- High vantage point for optimal viewing of the yard and machine while mowing
- Tight turning radius allows for clean and even cutting paths
- Comfortable seat and controls make it easy for the user to mow the lawn
- All-in-one oil and filter canister makes for faster, easier, and cleaner maintenance
- Limited performance on steep hills; may not be the best option for hilly yards
Get the John Deere lawn mower at a local John Deere dealer or Lowe’s.
As the trend toward battery-powered mowing continues, those with larger properties are finding an increasing number of options. Bolstering the electric riding mower category, the Craftsman 56V MAX riding mower wins this category thanks to its excellent battery life, maneuverability, user comfort, and wide-ranging versatility.
This Craftsman electric riding mower features three brushless motors powered by a built-in 56V 6Ah lithium-ion battery. In our tests it charged in 4.5 hours and mowed for about 1.75 hours, or 3.5 acres per charge. Operationally, the controls felt very much like a comparably sized gas-powered hydrostatic lawn tractor—no gears to shift—with simple forward and reverse pedals for travel, and mowing speed up to 6 miles per hour. It comes equipped with a 42-inch cutting deck, LED headlights, towing hitch, electronic PTO for blade engagement, and an electronic mowing-in-reverse override switch. The cutting deck is manually adjustable with a lever, with 12 settings from 1.5 to 4.5 inches high.
As with other battery mowers, mowing with the Craftsman battery-powered lawn tractor was significantly quieter than gas and nearly silent when traveling with the mower blades disengaged. Unfortunately, it was underpowered for mowing tall grass or weedy spots where the shallow deck didn’t provide adequate airflow to pull the grass blades upright. It may not be an ideal choice for inconsistent or occasional mowing, but it is a good option for weekly lawn maintenance.
On the plus side, its TurnTight steering system was another great feature, which allowed the mower to carve incredibly tight turns—a 5-inch turning radius according to Craftsman. We had no problem edging tree mulch rings. The seat was comfortable, the ride was smooth, and the controls were responsive for an all-around quality riding mower.
- Power source: 56V 60Ah battery
- Deck size: 42 inches
- Type: Lawn tractor
- Extremely tight turning radius easily maneuvers around obstacles
- 1.75 hours of runtime per charge; enough to mow up to 3.5 acres
- Familiar feel, with controls that operate similarly to gas-powered lawn tractors
- Mulching, bagging, and side discharge capable (accessories sold separately)
- Premium price; about twice the price of similar size gas lawn tractors
- Deck does not create as much of a vacuum to pull grass blades upright
- Not enough power to mow heavily overgrown, weedy areas
Get the Craftsman 56V MAX lawn mower at Lowe’s or Ace Hardware.
Further pushing the limits of lawn mower technology is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a quarter acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a set area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front caster and two large rear-drive wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Worx Landroid M can also connect to a smart device, through which the user can program daily schedules or direct the mower to stop or start. It runs off the same 20V Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
Testing the Landroid M required a detailed setup process, but then the operation was almost completely hands-off. After installing the Landroid mobile app, the base station, boundary wire, and then establishing the mower’s Wi-Fi connection, we programmed the robot for a daily mowing schedule. Setup and programming were straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions and tutorial videos on the Landroid app. The whole process took about 2.5 hours, including time taken to watch videos. The covered area included a sloped section, a narrow corridor, a broad contiguous area, and an off-limits landscape bed.
Landroid mowed on time every time and stayed inbounds without a problem. On an evening when rain moved in during the mowing cycle, Landroid’s rain sensor picked it up and sent the unit back to its base station to wait it out. The only challenge we encountered was that the mower initially did not dock properly after mowing because the base station was not sitting level. After fixing that issue, it simply worked.
A week after we installed the Landroid, the grass it cut still looked freshly mowed with the exception of the edges, while the adjacent lawn outside Landroid’s coverage needed to be cut. Those looking to infuse the time-, fuel-, and labor-saving benefits of robotics into their law-care routine may want to consider Landroid.
Read our full review: Worx Landroid M 20V Robotic Lawn Mower
- Power source: 20V 4Ah battery
- Deck size: 8 inches
- Type: Robotic
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for hands-off mowing
- Brushless motor extends battery life, making it great for yards up to 0.25 acre
- Onboard rain sensor protects the mower from potential damage
- Requires a detailed setup procedure, including making sure the docking station is perfectly level
Get the Worx lawn mower at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Tractor Supply Co.
Ego Power+ offers a feature-rich mower with this 21-inch model. Its load-sensing motor automatically increases output when encountering tougher cutting conditions. Variable-speed self-propelled wheels drive this mower up to 3.1 miles per hour. A simple handle-mounted lever allows users to quickly and easily adjust the speed to match their mowing pace. LED headlights, one-lever deck-height adjustment, a fold-down handle, and three grass-disposal options round out the Ego Power+’s list of user-friendly features.
We used this mower with a 7.5Ah battery, which powered it for about 60 minutes on a single charge in our tests. (Ego Power+ also offers 4Ah, 5Ah, and 10Ah batteries.) The battery charged in 60 minutes as well, an impressively fast time compared to other battery-powered mowers that we’ve tested. It navigated the ups and downs of our terrain at a comfortable pace, held adequate battery life to mow the entire half-acre yard on a single charge, and generally left behind a nice even lawn without the need for double mowing. (The only time we had to double mow was after we intentionally neglected the yard for testing purposes.)
On the downside, when we used the self-propel feature, its battery life decreased by about half and the self-propelled wheels seemed excessively noisy. Overall though, we were impressed by this mower’s blend of mowing ability, operator comfort, and rapid recharging ability.
Read our full review: Ego Power+ 21-Inch Self-Propelled Mower
- Power source: One 56V 4Ah, 5Ah, 7.5Ah or 10Ah battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge, allowing users to mow up to 0.5 acre
- Fast battery-charging time of just 60 minutes
- 2-stage motor automatically increases power output for tough cutting conditions
- Convenient handle-mounted control lever adjusts self-propel pace for user comfort
- Drive system emits a surprisingly loud whiny sound
- Self-propelled feature cuts runtime in half
Get the Ego Power+ lawn mower at Amazon (with 5Ah battery), Lowe’s (tool only), or Acme Tools (tool only).
Corded lawn mowers offer an easy, affordable choice for smaller yards where a gas-powered mower would be a hassle. This mower from American Lawn Mower can keep the yard looking great at a low price point, without worrying about the mess or expense of gasoline or batteries.
Its 14-inch deck suits smaller yards and smaller storage areas. At about 20 pounds, this mower is easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a heavier model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing you to bag or mulch clippings (though it oddly has no side-discharge option). It also offers a convenient single lever for height control, eliminating the need to make height adjustments for each wheel individually.
In our tests, this model delivered a rock-solid performance. Assembly, which entailed installation of the handle and cord retainers, took about 10 minutes to complete. It mowed well, even in dense, weedy grass, and the bagger worked well. The small size and lightweight build limit this mower’s practicality more than its corded motor does.
By starting close to the electrical outlet and mowing progressively farther away, we easily minimized the risk of cord damage or entanglement. As an affordable mower with arguably the least environmental impact, this quiet, capable corded electric model makes a great electric option for anyone with a small lawn.
- Power source: 11-amp corded motor
- Deck size: 14 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Durable maintenance-free electric motor doesn’t require battery charging or fuel refills
- Lightweight and easy to use for excellent maneuverability
- Offers bagging and mulching options for easy cleanup
- Not ideal for large yards; suitable for only the smallest yards
- No side-discharge option; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
Get the American Lawn Mower lawn mower at Amazon or Walmart.
Although battery mowers get lots of praise for low emissions at the point of use, electricity does produce emissions and the batteries still have an end-of-life disposal problem. For truly clean lawn care with grab-and-go convenience, manual reel mowers are the best choice. But most push reel mowers are difficult to push in all but the flattest, most pristine yards, and they require frequent sharpening and blade adjustments. The Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower tackles those problems with its InertiaDrive system and StaySharp blades.
This manual lawn mower is heavier and bulkier than traditional reel mowers at 52 pounds but can be maneuvered easily through the yard. The gear-assisted drive system and ergonomic handle made it much easier to use than other reel mowers we’ve tested. Not only did the inertia drive system make it easy to push, it also allowed the blades to slice through coarse weeds and small sticks that brought other reel mowers to an immediate halt. This mower worked on a wider variety of terrain and grass types than any other push mower in our test group, and cut closest to the edges as well.
A few of the other details we liked about this mower included offset wheels that prevent rolling over the grass before it is cut, lever-controlled height adjustment, and an adjustable clipping chute that can be set to direct clippings in front of the mower or behind it. On the downside, the 8-inch wheels felt slightly undersized on taller grass and bumpy ground. The 18-inch width is ideal for small and midsize yards.
Read our full review: Fiskars StaySharp Max 18-Inch Reel Mower
- Power source: Manual
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Reel mower
- Manual operation for emission-free lawn care
- StaySharp self-sharpening blade system minimizes maintenance
- Easy to adjust mowing height from 1 to 4 inches
- Front- and rear-discharge options or add the optional grass catcher (sold separately)
- Ergonomic handle and inertia drive system make operation easy
- Heavier and bulkier than other manual reel mowers
- More expensive than other reel mowers
- Small wheels struggle a bit in rougher terrain
Get the Fiskars lawn mower at Lowe’s or The Home Depot.
Yards that could house a couple of football fields require a mowing deck that can level large swaths of green in a single pass. With its massive 50-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is ready for a big job. This large mower, which boasts a 24.5-horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 7 miles per hour, making it capable of handling yards of up to 4 acres.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its adjustable MyRide suspension system that absorbs bumps in the lawn as well as vibrations from the engine. Plush seating provides support and comfort for longer mowing sessions. Toro also includes other useful features, including a foot-lever-assisted deck-height adjustment, toolless oil-change system, and a cupholder.
When we tested the 50-inch Toro TimeCutter, we timed its performance on a one-acre area of an old field converted to lawn. The MyRide suspension system smoothed out the ruts and bumps for a comfortable ride at near top speed. It mowed the acre in 20 minutes, a blistering 3-acres-per-hour pace. The finish quality was excellent, and it used less than 3 quarts of gasoline. As a point of comparison, a 22-horsepower 46-inch lawn tractor that has been used to mow the same area takes nearly an hour and uses more than 1.25 gallons of gas.
Even before factoring in the amazingly comfortable ride, we appreciated the prospect of mowing in one-third of the time and reducing fuel and maintenance expenses by half on this large lot. For large grassy areas, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a zero-turn mower, and the TimeCutter makes an excellent pick.
Read our full review:Toro 50-Inch TimeCutter Zero-Turn Mower
- Power source: 24.5 horsepower
- Deck size: 50 inches
- Type: Zero-turn riding mower
- Huge mowing deck makes this model ideal for large lawns
- Shock-absorbing suspension system integrated, easing the rider for the driver
- Large engine is capable of cutting thicker grass varieties
- Large construction may be difficult for some users to store
Get the Toro TimeCutter lawn mower at Tractor Supply Co. or The Home Depot.
With mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities, the DeWalt 2X20V MAX self-propelled lawn mower has a better-than-average build quality and thoughtful design. Its heavy-duty 21.5-inch 15-gauge stamped-steel deck adjusts to six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. Running on two batteries and offering up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge (in ideal mowing conditions), this mower works well for lawns up to one third of an acre. It features an adjustable front-wheel-drive; self-propulsion eliminates half the work of mowing, lets you choose your own pace, and works on all kinds of terrain. The motor is equipped with auto-sensing technology that increases torque when encountering tougher mowing conditions.
We set up a test area for the DeWalt mower in our yard, with about 10,000 square feet of lawn that included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed the test plot three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. Recharging was a time-consuming 8 hours with the included chargers.
The DeWalt covered about 5,000 square feet per charge when adjusted to 2.5 inches high with the grass catcher in place. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime—20 minutes less than DeWalt’s claim of 60 minutes. Still, that should be plenty for anyone with a quarter-acre lot and most half-acre lots when the house, driveway, landscape beds, and other nongrass areas are removed from the equation.
We liked that the controls were well laid out for easy operation, and the cushioned handle felt comfortable while we mowed. It was also easier to turn than rear-wheel drive mowers, although it was a bit cumbersome to push without self-propel on. As a bonus, it only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage space thanks to its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability.
Overall, the quality of the DeWalt mower is better than most and is a solid choice for small lawns of a third of an acre or less.
Read our full review: DeWalt 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- Power source: Two 20V 10Ah batteries
- Deck size: 21.5 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Heavy-duty steel mower deck with 3-way grass-clipping management
- Front-wheel drive self-propel system supports safe operation and smooth turns
- 2-stage brushless motor preserves battery life and automatically increases power for tougher mowing conditions
- Ergonomic cushioned hand grip is comfortable to use and reduces operator fatigue
- Heavy and cumbersome to maneuver manually without the self-propel feature engaged
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
- The mower’s battery compartment has an awkward design
Get the DeWalt lawn mower at Tractor Supply Co., Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Mower
In addition to mower type, it’s vital to consider other factors like deck size and fuel requirements when shopping for a lawn mower. Here’s what to look for when choosing a lawn mower.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to decide which of the three main types of mowers best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Push lawn mowers require manual power to propel forward; they do not have power-assisted wheels. Push models include gas-powered, electric (corded), battery-powered, and reel mowers. Self-propelled mowers have power-assisted wheels that pull the mower forward. Some also have an adjustment feature to increase or decrease the travel speed for improved operator comfort and convenience.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers, the most expensive lawn mowers on the market, have a motor that sits behind the operator and are controlled using two levers. The mowers get their name from their ability to pivot 360 degrees in place. Zero-turn mowers also have very broad mowing decks. Their size and maneuverability make them ideal for cutting large lawns with obstacles the user must drive around.
A lawn tractor looks similar to a farm tractor with its motor in the front of the mower. The user operates the tractor from a driver’s seat using a steering wheel. Lawn tractors have broad mowing decks but do not have the small turning radius of a zero-turn tractor. Because of their balance and traction, lawn tractors are well suited for mowing hilly terrain and may be used for other property management tasks like towing a utility cart or plowing snow.
Rear-engine lawn mowers are similar to lawn tractors but have their engines in the rear. Rear-engine lawn tractors typically have smaller decks, though they allow for greater visibility and nimbler handling for the operator.
The newest type of lawn mower, robotic mowers look similar to robotic vacuum cleaners, only they are larger and have bigger wheels that enable them to move through grass. Robotic lawn mowers can mow a yard automatically while being controlled via a smart device.
These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at set times and intervals. Robotic mowers require you to set up wires in the yard that create boundaries for the mower so it doesn’t wander away. They also use laser-eye technology that spots obstacles in the yard so the mower can evade them.
Self-propelled mowers come in different drive wheel options including front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drive mowers are easier to turn by allowing the operator to raise the front wheels and use the back wheels to pivot.
- Rear-wheel drive mowers place the bulk of the mower’s weight over the drive wheels, creating better traction for climbing inclines and slopes.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
Cutting Width and Yard Size
A mower’s deck size determines the width of the swath of grass it can cut with each pass and hence how quickly it can mow the lawn. A wider deck also makes a mower less nimble, which can make it awkward to mow small lawns with flower beds, trees, and gardens to navigate.
A walk-behind mower with a deck up to 22 inches is usually a good size for a smaller yard of up to about half an acre. Riding mowers with decks that range between 30 and 46 inches are a good choice for lawns up to one acre. Zero-turn mowers and lawn tractors with 48- to 60-inch decks can be efficient choices for larger properties.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: corded electricity, gas, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Electric mowers supply a constant source of power; however, they are limited by a cord that connects to a standard wall outlet. This makes corded lawn mowers somewhat awkward to use. However, they are extremely durable, have no batteries to recharge or replace, and are almost entirely maintenance-free.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the greatest amount of power, run a long time on a single tank, and have no recharge time to worry about. However, gas lawn mowers are loud, require more maintenance to keep in top condition than electric mowers, and produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run on lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and do not create exhaust fumes; however, they are less powerful and generally limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge, with terrain, grass conditions, and battery-using features (such as self-propel or certain grass-disposal options) taken into account. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive to purchase than gas mowers, and the batteries typically need to be replaced every 5 years.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the cylinder blade. Rotary blades are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, crosscutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it. Motorized models are generally confined to use on sports fields and golf courses, while manual models, or reel mowers, are used on residential lawns. They both consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. Cylinder blades cut the grass using a shearing action that creates a cleaner cut than rotary blades, which can tear grass and leave a ragged edge.
Manual models can cut generally in a range of 0.5 to 3 inches—with the Fiskars model above being a bit of an outlier, cutting up to 4 inches. Since they’re push-powered, reel mowers excel when cutting fine, straight-growing grasses but can bog down in coarse, wiry grass.
Mowers offer different grass-disposal options including side discharge, mulching, and bagging. Side discharge ejects the grass clippings out of the side of the mower onto the lawn. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a fine mulch that quickly incorporates into the soil. Mowers that support baggers collect the clippings in a bag at the rear of the mower.
Mowers come with additional features that make them easier to operate and maintain. Deck-height adjustment allows you to increase or decrease the mowing height for optimal lawn health. Other useful features include mowing decks with built-in wash-out ports that make them easier to clean, switches that make it easy to change between cutting options, and easy-to-operate variable-speed controls for self-propelled mowers.
Many riding mowers have LED headlights for nighttime mowing, drink holders, adjustable plush ergonomic seating, and many other convenient features.
For those who have concerns about maintaining a lawn mower or are wondering how big an engine the mower needs, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q. How long should a lawn mower last?
Most mowers can last about 10 years, depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained.
Q. How powerful of a lawn mower do I need?
Engine sizes for walk-behind mowers range from 140cc to 190cc. For tough terrain with thick grass, a larger engine is usually a better choice.
Q. Can I replace the pull cord on a lawn mower?
Yes. In fact, replacing the pull cord on a mower is a fairly simple repair, requiring just a screwdriver and wrench.
Q. How long does a lawn mower’s battery last?
As a general rule of thumb, a riding lawn mower’s battery can last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower can last about 5 years.
Q. How do I clean my lawn mower?
To clean a mower, tip the mower over to access the deck. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may be wrapped around the blade or stuck to the bottom of the deck. Wet the deck with a garden hose, then spray the underside with an all-purpose cleaner. Scrub the deck with a brush, then rinse thoroughly. Turn the mower back upright and use a damp rag or paper towel to wipe down the housing.
Q. How often do I need to change spark plugs in my lawn mower?
Change the spark plugs in the spring at the beginning of the mowing season or after 100 hours of use.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with a background in the nursery and landscaping industries. For more than 20 years he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor-living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick.