A good lawn mower is crucial to maintaining a lush, green, well-manicured lawn. Whether you’re replacing an old mower or buying one to suit a new piece of property, it’s important to choose a model that fits the size and terrain of the property. But with so many options and brands to choose from, selecting a mower appropriate for your yard can be challenging. This guide explores the features and factors you should consider when shopping for the best lawn mower while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Honda 21 in. 3-in-1 Gas Self Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Craftsman M105 Gas Powered Push Lawn Mower
- BEST BATTERY-POWERED: EGO Power+ Self-Propelled Cordless Lawn Mower
- BEST RIDING LAWN MOWER: Ryobi 48V 38 in. Electric Rear Engine Riding Mower
- BEST CORDED LAWN MOWER: American Lawn Mower Company 50514 Corded Lawn Mower
- BEST SELF-PROPELLED: Toro Recycler 22 in. Self Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Toro 22.5 HP TimeCutter Zero-Turn Riding Mower
- BEST ROBOTIC: WORX WR155 20V Power Share LANDROID Robotic Mower
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lawn Mower
When shopping for a lawn mower, it’s vital to consider several factors, including type, deck size, and fuel type. Ahead, learn more about these and other important characteristics of lawn mowers.
Types of Lawn Mowers
The first step to selecting the right mower is to first decide which of the three types of mowers best suits the yard.
Walk-behind mowers consist of two different kinds of mower: push and self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers have power wheels that pull the mower forward. The operator controls the mower using a pressure-sensitive bar on the mower handle. Manual mowers have no power-assisted wheels and must be pushed manually by the user.
Riding mowers include zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine 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.
Lawn tractors look similar to a farm tractor with a 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. 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 more 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 operated via a smart device. These lawn mowers are powered by a rechargeable battery and can be programmed to mow the lawn at programmed times and intervals. These mowers require the user 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 homeowners 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 20-inch deck is a good size for a smaller yard of up to about ½ acre. Larger yards of up to ¾ of an acre require a mower with a 22-inch deck. Riding mowers, which have decks that range between 28 and 46 inches, are a good choice for lawns of 1 acre or more.
Lawn mowers can use three types of fuel sources: 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 awkward to use, especially for larger yards.
Gas-powered lawn mowers provide the most amount of power and can run for hours on a single tank. However, gas mowers require more maintenance to keep in top condition and can produce exhaust fumes.
Battery-powered mowers run off large lithium-ion batteries. They are easier to start than gas-powered lawn mowers and create no exhaust fumes; however, they don’t produce as much power and are limited to about 45 minutes of runtime per charge. Battery-powered mowers are also significantly more expensive than gas mowers.
Mowers come in two blade types: the more common rotary and the up-and-coming cylinder. Rotary mowers are the type of blade found on most residential lawn mowers. They consist of a blade or blades that spin on a horizontal plane, cross-cutting the tops of grass blades to trim them to the desired height.
Cylinder blades, which can cut grass to a very low height without damaging it, have historically been confined to use on sports fields and golf courses. They consist of a rotating cylinder that is equipped with blades that wrap around the cylinder in a spiral pattern. The 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.
While cylinder mowers make more precise cuts, they are not capable of cutting through taller grass. In fact, their cutting ability ranges from a height of about 2 millimeters to 35 millimeters. This limits this type of mower to varieties of grass that can survive being cut to a low height, such as Bermuda 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. Mulching keeps the grass clippings under the deck, allowing the blade to cut them multiple times to produce a mulch that can nourish the lawn. 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. These useful add-ons include mowing decks with hose attachments 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, cupholders for holding water bottles, and plush ergonomic seating for comfort. Mowers also feature different cutting heights, with higher-end models offering more options than lower-end models.
Our Top Picks
The list below includes some of the best mowers in the market by class. The list ranges from corded lawn mowers for small yards to powerful self-propelled gas lawn mowers for medium-size yards to riding mowers that can handle 3 acres or more. The mowers on this list include gas, electric, and cordless models from well-known lawn mower brands.
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 171cc engine powers not just one but two blades, giving it a superior 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.
- Power source: 171cc gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Two cutting blades
- Powerful and reliable engine
- Intuitive speed controls
- Clip system makes changing cutting modes easy
Craftsman is a well-established, well-respected brand in the world of lawn mowers, and this push model gas-powered model is no exception. It boasts a powerful 140cc engine and an ample 21-inch mowing deck, making it ideal for yards up to ¾ of an acre.
Large 8-inch rear wheels with heavy tread make it easier to push this mower, while six cutting heights offer versatility. The mower also offers three disposal settings: mulch, side discharge, and bag. And while this mower may lack the power assist of other walk-behind mowers, it is significantly cheaper, making it a good choice for those with level yards who may not need a self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 140cc gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Large cutting deck
- 8-inch rear wheels make it easier to push
- Three cutting options
- A little heavier than other push-behind models
The advancements EGO has made with its battery-powered mower sets it atop the cordless models. It boasts 1 hour of runtime, better than the 45 minutes that most other cordless mowers offer, thanks to its brushless motor and large 56-volt battery. With its 21-inch deck, the EGO is suitable for yards up to a ½ acre in size.
The EGO Power+ also includes other features that make it an attractive buy, including speed controls that the user operates with an intuitive dial and interchangeable blades for bagging, mulching, or extended runtime. And, with its two blades (typically a feature you only find on high-end gas mowers), it’s able to produce a higher quality cut than many gas-powered mowers.
- Power source: 56-volt battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Type: Self-propelled walk-behind
- Long battery life
- Multiple cutting blades
- Intuitive speed controls
It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of a battery-powered riding lawn mower seemed out of the question. Now, this electric rear-engine mower from Ryobi, the signature tool line of The Home Depot, is one of the best all-around riding mowers on the market. That’s due largely to the leaps and bounds the company has made in battery technology that brings its performance level closer to gas power.
This mower boasts three brushless motors that power a two-bladed 38-inch deck, along with the mower’s rear drive wheels. It’s all powered by a giant 48-volt battery that produces enough juice for up to 2 hours of operation before needing a recharge. It also comes equipped with cruise control; a USB input for a smart device; plus bag, side-discharge, and mulching options for clippings.
- Power source: 48-volt battery
- Deck size: 38 inches
- Type: Rear-engine riding mower
- 2 hours runtime
- No emissions
- Three grass-clipping options
Corded lawn mowers are a rare sight these days, but there is still a place for them in smaller yards where a larger gas-powered mower would be overkill. This corded mower from American Lawn Mower Company can handle smaller yards and does so at a low price point.
Its 14-inch deck size may be small, but that suits smaller yards. At just 26 pounds, this mower is also easy to maneuver for those who might struggle with a larger model. It also has a surprising range of options, allowing one 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.
- Power source: 11-amp corded motor
- Deck size: 14 inches
- Type: Walk-behind
- Low price
- Offers bagging and mulching options
- Narrow 14-inch deck
- No side-discharge option
This self-propelled lawn mower from Toro boasts excellent performance, thanks to an ample engine, broad mowing deck, and numerous cutting heights and functions. It also has a feature called Personal Pace, which automatically adjusts the pace of the self-propelled wheels based on how fast the operator is walking.
While this is a cool feature, what really sets this mower apart is Toro’s Smart Stow system, which allows the operator to break down the mower into a compact size when it’s not in use, reducing its footprint by about 70 percent and opening up more space in the garage or shed for other needs. This design also makes maintenance easier by allowing the user to easily clean the mowing deck by standing it upright.
- Power source: 150cc engine
- Deck size: 22 inches
- Type: Self-propelled
- Folds up for compact storage
- Mower paces itself with the operator
- Rear-wheel drive improves traction
Unless spending an entire afternoon mowing the lawn isn’t a problem, those with 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 54-inch deck, the aptly named TimeCutter from Toro is the answer. 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 3 acres or more.
Toro also makes sure the operator will be comfortable while covering all that ground with its 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 toolless oil-change system and a cupholder.
- Power source: 24.5 horsepower
- Deck size: 54 inches
- Type: Zero-turn riding mower
- Huge mowing deck
- Shock-absorbing suspension
- Large engine
- Toolless oil-change system
Pushing the edge of lawn mower technology further is this robotic lawn mower from Worx. It functions similarly to a robot vacuum cleaner by mowing a preset area of up to a ½-acre on its own. The operator sets up wire barriers that the lawn mower won’t cross, ensuring it only mows in a certain area. It has a laser eye that guides it around any obstacles that might be in the yard. A single front wheel and two large rear wheels carry it through the yard while allowing it to turn on a dime.
The Worx WR155 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 Worx battery that powers the company’s other yard tools and will automatically return to its charging station when the battery gets low.
- Power source: 6.0Ah battery
- Deck size: 18 inches
- Type: Robotic
- Can mow up to ½-acre
- Can be controlled via an app through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Brushless motor extends battery life
- Can be inconsistent in where it mows and doesn’t mow
For its reliability, excellent cut, and user-friendly controls, the Honda 21 in. 3-in-1 Gas Self Propelled Lawn Mower is a worthy choice for those who can afford its higher price. Those in the market for a more affordable option who don’t mind pushing the mower themselves should consider the Craftsman M105 Gas Powered Push Mower.
How We Chose the Best Lawn Mowers
In reviewing dozens of lawn mowers, we considered several important features including power, reliability, deck size, and clipping-disposal options. Since mowers come in a variety of types, we limited our evaluation to mowers of the same type to get an apples-to-apples comparison. Riding mowers were compared to riding mowers, and self-propelled walk-behind mowers were compared with other self-propelled walk-behind mowers.
In terms of power, we only chose mowers with gas or electric motors that could capably power the mower’s deck size and wheels (if the mower was self-propelled or a riding mower). For battery-powered mowers, battery life was crucial in the selection process. Since lawn mowers tend to sit for long periods in the off-season, mowers with high marks for reliability ranked high. We also leaned toward models that offered more versatility with numerous cutting heights and multiple grass-clipping options.
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 should 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, go with a larger engine.
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 will last about 4 years. The rechargeable battery on an electric mower will 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.