The Best Reel Mowers of 2024, Tested

Lawn mower technology has advanced in the past few decades, but there are still many reasons to opt for a reel mower. Read on for top recommendations and tips on navigating this mower market.

Best Overall

The Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower on a white background.

Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower

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Runner-Up

The Craftsman 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower on a white background.

Craftsman 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower on a white background.

Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Quiet in operation, simple to maintain, and largely affordable, reel lawn mowers can be smart options for yard maintenance. Since they only take up about a third of the storage room needed by traditional mowers, they’re easy keepers. In this guide, we’ve tested some of the best reel mowers for stealthy and sustainable lawn care.

Reel mowers also might be better for a lawn’s health than standard mowers. They make a sharp cut along the top of the grass blade, similar to the way scissors cut. The blades on a traditional rotary mower tend to tear the grass, which causes ragged brown tips and increases the risk of disease.

Our pick for the best overall reel mower is the Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower. We chose it for its 18-inch swath-cutting ability; five-blade, heavy-duty construction; adjustable mowing heights, and easy-to-maneuver oversize wheels.

While all reel motor mowers function similarly, there are differences among the options. We tested the following models to find out how blade width, mowing height, handle design, and other details affect performance in different settings. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for a reel mower and why the following models are among the best reel mower options available.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower
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  2. RUNNER-UP: Craftsman 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
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  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
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  4. BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS: Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
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  5. BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Scotts 20-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Mower
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  6. BEST FOR TOUGH GRASS: Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
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  7. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower
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  8. BEST ELECTRIC: Scotts 16-Inch 20V Cordless Electric Reel Mower
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  9. ALSO CONSIDER: Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
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A person holding the best reel mower option by the handle in a large yard
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Reel Mowers

We tested these 10 reel mowers in a Georgia backyard in the middle of the winter. That meant a combination of dormant warm-season grasses—some Bermuda grass and some centipede grass—along with a few areas infested with cool-season lawn weeds like annual bluegrass, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, and wild onion. The test areas were a combination of flat, sloped, and uneven lawn.

We divided the lawn into test plots so that each reel mower would have a chance to prove its capability under a variety of conditions. To be eligible for inclusion in this guide, each mower had to effectively perform the basic function for which it was built: mowing to reduce the grass height by approximately one third. 

Then, beyond basic weed-free lawn mowing, we also tested each mower on the tougher conditions of overgrown and weed-infested grass. All of the reel mowers in this guide easily passed the basic functionality test and earned bonus points by tackling one or more adverse conditions, as noted in the reviews.

Testing Stats
Products tested10
Time spent testing10 hours
Tests performed 4
Price range90 to $305

Our Top Picks

Using a reel mower is an environmentally friendly way to mow the lawn and get a bit of fresh air and exercise at the same time. We tested these manual models on our lawn to discover the best reel mowers for a variety of users and circumstances. Read on to learn more about the performance details of each mower.

Best Overall

Fiskars StaySharp 18-Inch Max Reel Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 5/5; Maneuverability 4.5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Value 4.7/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 18 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1 to 4 inches

Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction can last for several years
  • Ergonomic design is comfortable to use
  • Easy to adjust and maneuver with oversize wheels
  • Cuts closest to the edges so you can skip the trimmer

Cons

  • Twice the price of other reel mowers
  • At 52 pounds, more than twice the weight of other reel mowers
  • Bulky design takes up a bit more storage space than conventional reel mowers

The saying “you get what you pay for” rings true with this reel mower from Fiskars. Boasting hardened steel StaySharp blades that reduce the need for resharpening, this model also includes two small front rollers to help balance and stabilize the mower. Additionally, it features InertiaDrive, a chain-driven design that can power the reel mower through thicker grasses. This system allows the reel to spin freely under its own inertia when the user stops pushing the mower forward—a seemingly minor detail but one that reduces the operator’s workload, especially when pushing the mower around obstacles or changing directions.

You can adjust the cutting height from 1 to 4 inches, which is ideal for both warm-season and cool-season grasses. An adjustable chute directs the clippings to fall either in front of or behind the mower to suit the operator’s preference. The Fiskars mower cuts a generous 18-inch swath, making it well suited to mowing small- and medium-size yards. An optional grass catcher can be purchased separately.

For a premium price compared to other models we tested, the Fiskars StaySharp reel mower delivered the performance to justify the price. Weighing in at a hefty 52 pounds, the build felt heavy-duty but worked smoothly and efficiently. The ergonomic handle was extremely comfortable, and the machine moved almost effortlessly over all but the roughest ground. The only criticism we had was that the 8.5-inch drive wheels felt somewhat undersized for higher mowing. 

Unlike other reel mowers, the cutting reel is mid-mounted with the drive wheels offset to the rear, preventing them from flattening the grass before it is mowed. This configuration allows the mower to cut within an inch of the edge rather than 3.5 inches from the edge like other reel mowers. The toolless single-lever height adjustment worked in seconds. 

Notably, this was the only manual reel mower we tested that could mow effectively with sticks and other debris lying on the grass. It was a pleasure to mow with this tool, and the finished cut was clean and even.

Read our full review: Fiskars StaySharp Max 18-Inch Reel Mower

Get the Fiskars reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Runner-Up

Craftsman 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 4/5; Ease of Use 4.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4.5/5; Value 4.7/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 18 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1 to 3 inches

Pros

  • Time-tested design works efficiently and quietly with 0 emissions
  • Durable but lightweight construction for easy maintenance and storage
  • Mowing height range is compatible with both warm-season and cool-season grasses
  • Includes a grass catcher to keep clippings off the lawn and feet

Cons

  • Relatively small twigs and debris can cause a jam between the reel and bed knife
  • Lightweight build makes the mower less stable on bumpy terrain

For a tried-and-true design that mows well and stores easily, look no further than the Craftsman 18-inch reel mower, one of the best lawn mowers on our list. This lightweight model weighs just 24 pounds and uses a traditional pinion gear drive system, with the five-blade mowing reel mounted between the wheels. Two levers control the cutting height, which ranges from 1 to 3 inches. A padded loop handle provides a secure grip and comfortable control, and the included grass catcher keeps clippings off the yard and off your feet.

This reel mower (and other reel mowers featured in this guide) incorporates the timeless design that our great grandparents would immediately recognize: two large wheels with the blade assembly mounted between them. Two gears inside one of the wheels drive the reel assembly whenever the mower is pushed forward, but not when it is pushed backward. When the forward motion stops, the reel immediately stops as well. This leads to the traditional complaint that reel mowers jam easily when small debris lodges between the reel and bed knife. As a result, we found that it was vital to remove all twigs, pine cones, and other debris from the grass before using this mower.

The mower arrived well tuned for a nice even cut. We appreciated the included grass catcher, which kept most of the clippings off our feet as we mowed. As a bonus, the entire unit was compact and lightweight enough to store on a wall hook in the shed.

Get the Craftsman reel mower at Lowe’s.

Best Bang for the Buck

Great States 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 3.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 16 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Lower profile for easy storage; great for busy gardeners with lots of other tools to store
  • Comfortable handlebar-style grips; ideal for prolonged use
  • Easy-to-use knob screw-style height adjustment

Cons

  • Cuts too low for taller grasses like fescue
  • Sticks, acorns, and pine cones stop the blades abruptly
  • Does not cut to the edge; may need a trimmer tool

For affordability and mowing ease, this five-blade reel mower from Great States is a worthy option. It features a smooth cutting operation and a cushioned T-style handle for easy maneuverability around corners. The 16-inch swath width makes it relatively simple to push, and back rollers offer added stability. 

This reel mower’s five heat-treated alloy blades resist dulling, and blade height is adjustable from 1 to 2.5 inches, making it optimal for mowing short grass species, such as buffalo or zoysia. It’s also a lightweight option at just under 25 pounds. 

We found this 16-inch mower to be a good “middle-of-the-road” option: narrow enough to move well through thick grass but still wide enough to get the job done quickly. The T-style handle grips gave the mower a comfortable feel as it glided effortlessly around the yard. The 16-inch blade moved slightly easier through dense grass than the 18-inch model but still cut a generous swath.

Get the Great States 16-inch reel mower at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

Best for Small Lawns

Great States 14-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 3.5/5; Maneuverability 4.5/5; Cut Quality 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 14 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1 to 1.75 inches

Pros

  • Compact size allows for easy maneuverability in small spaces
  • Lightweight and low profile for easy storage
  • No-frills gardening tool makes for low maintenance

Cons

  • Does not cut close to the edges (3.5 inches from blade edge to outer wheel)
  • Too lightweight to mow sloped areas
  • Height adjustment requires a wrench instead of just knob screws

With a 14-inch swath width and a ball-bearing reel, this little mower from Great States is just right for a small lawn and more petite users. This narrower-than-most reel mower is easy to maneuver around trees and corners, and it comes with a back roller for added stability. The blades are made from a heat-treated alloy to help reduce dulling, and the mower features a low adjustable cutting height from 1 to 1.75 inches, making it best suited to short grass species.

A narrow overall body width of just 20 inches, 8.5-inch rubber tires, and a traditional handlebar with padded grips make this mower easy to pivot in tight spaces, in addition to taking up minimal storage space. And at just under 20 pounds, it is even light enough to hang on a wall hook. This model is essentially a scaled-down version of our 16-inch Best Bang for the Buck pick, with similar height and blade adjustments. 

Unfortunately, this smaller model requires a wrench to adjust the height instead of using knob screws. However, the narrow body was even easier to push in dense grass but took almost twice as long to mow the same amount of space when factoring in the imperfections of walking a straight line, additional turnaround times, and overlapping edges. This mower could be a good pick for mowing a small grass patch around a townhouse or condo.

Get the Great States 14-inch reel mower at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Northern Tool + Equipment.

Best for Large Yards

Scotts 20-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 4/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 20 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1 to 3 inches

Pros

  • Wide 20-inch cutting swath mows more grass faster than smaller reel mowers
  • Quick-snap height-adjustment levers easily adapt to mowing conditions
  • Padded ergonomic loop handle with multiple grip options for ideal comfort
  • Rear-tracking wheels improve maneuverability compared to rear roller alone

Cons

  • Does not include a grass catcher
  • Wider mower requires more effort to push, mostly noticeable in dense grass

Although reel mowers are mostly limited for use on smaller yards, the Scotts 20-inch reel mower excels at the upper end of the yard size range. It comes equipped with one of the widest cutting reels available and includes several design details that make it more suitable for extended use over varying terrain.

The mower features two quick-snap levers to set the mowing height between 1 and 3 inches. It is also equipped with 6-inch rear tracking wheels instead of rollers, which helps to more easily cover bumpy ground. At a middling weight of 34 pounds, it was heavy enough to “stick” to rough ground instead of bouncing around like some of the lightweight models were more likely to do. We also liked the ergonomic raised loop handle. It allowed for multiple grip positions to relieve user strain during longer mowing sessions.

This reel mower utilizes a traditional gear drive system that makes it somewhat susceptible to jamming with debris. However, possibly due to the increased effort required to push the wider mower in the first place, we experienced less jamming compared to most of the other mowers we tested. Our overall impression was that this mower would make a good choice for those who care for midsize lawns up to a quarter acre or so.

Get the Scotts 20-inch reel mower at Ace Hardware or Walmart.

Best for Tough Grass

Earthwise 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 3.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 7
  • Swath: 16 inches
  • Mowing height range: 0.5 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • 7 alloy-steel blades are great for mowing coarse grasses
  • Includes easy-to-use height-adjustment knob screws
  • It’s simple to cleanly maintain dense grasses at low height

Cons

  • Harder to push than 5-blade models
  • Does not work as well if grass grows extra long between cuts
  • Not suitable for taller grasses like fescue

The Earthwise reel mower features seven blades—two more than most reel mowers—which gives it extra oomph to power through dense grass. This mower cuts a 16-inch swath with its steel-alloy blades that are designed to stay sharp longer. The grass-cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, suitable for a range of grasses like St. Augustine, buffalo, and Bermuda. 

The mower is on the lightweight side at only 26 pounds. The T-style handle makes it easier to maneuver around the corners of houses and trees, and the nonslip, cushioned handgrips reduce hand fatigue and blistering.

In our tests, this seven-blade mower gave the cleanest, most consistent cut. We even used it to scalp a section of dormant centipede grass, where it left a smooth, even finish. Unfortunately, the additional blades offered more resistance, so it is more difficult to push than the five-blade models. Since the height adjustments range from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, a good strategy would be to mow regularly at 1 or 1.5 inches and leave a little room to move higher if the grass grows too long between cuts. 

Get the Earthwise reel mower at Amazon or Walmart.

Best Lightweight

American Lawn Mower Company 14-Inch 4-Blade Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 3.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 4
  • Swath: 14 inches
  • Mowing height range: 0.5 to 1.5 inches

Pros

  • Very budget-friendly compared to similar options
  • Easy to push, even in overgrown or dense grass
  • Durable construction, yet still a lightweight and maneuverable design

Cons

  • Fewer blades produce a less thorough cut
  • Requires a wrench for height adjustments
  • 8.5-inch wheels do not roll as well over rough ground

With a total weight of just 20 pounds, this 14-inch model from American Lawn Mower Company is the lightest reel mower in this guide. It features four cutting blades made from heat-treated steel alloy to reduce dulling and 8.5-inch polymer wheels and rear rollers to increase stability. 

This smaller mower is naturally well suited to mowing a small lawn. The low weight makes it not only simpler for more petite users to operate but also light enough to hang on wall hooks in a garage or storage shed. The T-style handle folds down for storage, and nonslip, cushioned grips allow for more comfortable mowing. Cutting height is adjustable from 0.5 to 1.5 inches, although a wrench is required to make those adjustments. 

With only four 14-inch blades slicing against the bedknife, this model offered the least resistance of all the mowers we tested, making it the easiest mower to push. However, fewer blades meant a less consistent finish in dense or overgrown grass. Overall, the mower felt strong, durable, and easy to use, but it required a second pass to clean up some of the more difficult areas. It’s probably a good choice for keeping up with pathways in the vegetable garden or other secondary grassy areas.

Get the American Lawn Mower Company reel mower at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Best Electric

Scotts 16-Inch 20V Cordless Electric Reel Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 4/5; Ease of Use 3.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4.5/5; Value 3.7/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 16 inches
  • Mowing height range: 1.54 to 2.8 inches

Pros

  • Battery-powered mowing reel reduces blades jamming on yard debris
  • Works with or without the battery for flexibility and battery conservation
  • Operates quietly and efficiently on flat or moderately bumpy terrain

Cons

  • Much more expensive than the manual reel mowers we tested
  • Does not include a self-propelled feature or push assistance
  • Low mowing height range limits use to warm-season grasses only

For those who like the idea of a reel mower but have to deal with tougher mowing conditions, this manual-electric reel mower from Scotts lets the operator cut dense grass and debris-covered areas with ease while retaining the advantages of reel mowing. It features a 20-volt 2-amp-hour battery-powered motor that can tackle tougher mowing scenarios but is also capable of working with only the traditional gear drive system to extend battery life.

This motorized reel mower weighs 37 pounds, cuts a 16-inch swath, and comes equipped with a convenient grass catcher. It has a padded loop handle with a secondary wire bail handle and power switch to engage the electric motor. When the motor is not engaged, the wheels are geared to power the mowing reel. Mowing height adjustments are not as easy to make, requiring adjustments to a pair of screws at the rear of the machine. The height range is relatively limited at 1.54 to 2.8 inches, so it’s best for warm-season grasses.

We were impressed by this mower’s ability to power through dense grass and debris-laden patches of lawn, but we couldn’t help but wonder if the capability was worth the added cost. The mower did a great job in every area of the lawn and operated fairly quietly, but it was heavier and bulkier than the conventional 16-inch reel mowers. Buyers will need more storage space and have to maintain a battery and charger for this model.

Get the Scotts battery-powered reel mower at Amazon or American Lawn Mower Company.

Also Consider

Great States 18-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

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Our Ratings: Assembly 5/5; Ease of Use 2.5/5; Maneuverability 4/5; Cut Quality 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Number of blades: 5
  • Swath: 18 inches
  • Mowing height range: 0.5 to 2.75 inches

Pros

  • Wide swath reduces mowing time; great for larger yards
  • Loop handle increases user comfort and control
  • 10-inch wheels roll easily over uneven terrain
  • Alloy-steel blades stay sharp longer; less maintenance required

Cons

  • 3.5 inches from blade edge to outer edge of wheels means more edge trimming
  • Sharpening, when necessary, requires disassembly of the drive wheel
  • Hard plastic blade height bracket seems like it could wear out prematurely

Users wanting a wide swath on a reel mower may want to consider the Great States 18-inch five-blade mower that cuts a hearty swath to reduce mowing time. This reel mower is simple in design and allows for adjusting mowing height from as low as 0.5 inch to as high as 2.75 inches. It features 10-inch composite wheels and back stability rollers. 

The blades are made from heat-treated alloy to retain their sharpness longer, and the handle offers nonslip cushioning to help reduce blisters while improving grip. The loop-style handle also folds down for easy storage. The mower weighs in at 27 pounds.

In our backyard test, this model worked quickly, quietly, and easily. It was pretty simple to push in all but the thickest grass but was abruptly stopped by twigs or debris thicker than a pencil (as were the rest of the mowers we tested). We liked the padded wide-loop handle that gave it the familiar feel of a conventional gas mower. Sharpening the blades—a task that most users would require once or twice a season—requires the disassembly of one wheel to access the blade drive mechanism. However, the process is typical of these mowers and was only slightly complicated.

Get the Great States 18-inch reel mower at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

ALSO TESTED 

Pulsar 16-inch 40-Volt Cordless Reel Mower

Equipped with a 40-volt rechargeable battery, the Pulsar 16-inch 40-volt cordless reel mower is built to power through debris and dense grass. It did a pretty good job in our tests, but the designers ignored a few key details that would make it truly worth the price. 

For example, the height adjustment ranges from 0.6 inch to 2.15 inches, which means that cool-season grasses are not doable and even warm-season grasses should be mowed within the upper half of the range. Then, to make the adjustment, the operator must remove and replace two bolts. Similarly, the handle requires the removal of two bolts to secure it into one of three fixed positions. That’s too much work for a machine at this price, and the rigidity of the fixed positions simply does not work for most users.

Once we adjusted the mower and began mowing, the excessive noise level became problematic. At 96 decibels (as indicated on the mower label), it’s nearly as loud as a gas-powered lawn mower. Not at all what we expected or wanted in a reel mower.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Reel Mower

For any home with a lawn, mowing is a fact of life that is required in most neighborhoods. To cultivate a lush green expanse, regular mowing is essential. When mowing is done correctly—frequently enough to remove no more than one third the height of the grass—it promotes dense, uniform growth.

Manual vs. Powered

Unlike standard mowers, the majority of reel mowers are manual, although consumers can find a handful of gas-powered reel mowers as well as battery-powered models. 

  • Manual: Everything old is new again—or so it seems with more of these old-fashioned mowers popping up in home improvement centers and online stores. One of the drivers of the manual mower’s resurgence is its eco-friendliness: no fuel to store, no fumes, and no pull cord that can cause a struggle.

The downside to mowing with a manual lawn mower is the near impossibility of cutting the grass if it’s allowed to grow too tall before mowing, especially if the lawn is dense. The thickness and coarseness of the grass help dictate if it is too tall, but if the grass is twice as tall as its recommended cutting height, it usually can pose a problem for a manual reel mower. For the best results with a manual reel mower, cut the grass more often during fast-growth periods, such as in early spring and the rainy season.

  • Powered: Like traditional rotary mowers, reel mowers may be powered by either gas or a battery, which makes it immeasurably easier to mow dense or tall grass. Some gas and electric reel mowers also include self-propulsion, which virtually eliminates the need to push the mower—the user needs only to guide it. 

While a gas-powered reel mower is just as noisy as its traditional counterparts, electric mowers are not as noisy as gas mowers. However, they still have a motor and will produce more noise than a manual reel mower. Opting for either a manual or powered reel mower is mostly a matter of personal choice. For those with large lawns, a gas reel mower or an electric reel mower might make better sense. 

Blades and Cutting Height

Reel mowers feature between four and seven steel blades. On some models, the blades are treated with a nonstick coating for easier mowing. More blades lead to a cleaner cut because the grass blade doesn’t bend as far before it’s severed. For most lawns, mowers with four or five blades work well. A few reel mowers have six or seven blades, which make them ideal for achieving a uniform cut on dense grass. Reel mowers are also suitable for lawn striping, a mowing technique that leaves an attractive alternating pattern in the grass. 

The blade cutting height is preset on a few reel mowers, often at around 1.5 to 2 inches, which is well suited to short grasses but not tall-growing varieties, such as fescue. Other models offer adjustable cutting heights. As a result, it’s important to consider grass type and its optimal growing height. If the grass is of the tall variety, choose a reel mower that will adjust to the best mowing height for the grass.

Swath Width and Grass Type

North American lawns feature a multitude of grass varieties. Easy-to-cut grass types include perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass, and fescue; these are suitable for cutting with wider mowers. Thick grasses, such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, and zoysia, are better suited to mowing in narrower cutting widths (swaths). In either case, frequent mowing will make using a manual mower easier.

The swath width of a reel mower and the type of grass the yard contains both influence usability. Standard swath widths on reel mowers range from 14 to 20 inches. While a wider swath means it won’t take as many passes to finish mowing, it also makes the mower more challenging to push because more grass means more resistance.

Additional Features

Reel mowers don’t come with many bells and whistles, but a few added features can enhance the mowing experience.

  • Grass catcher: Some users prefer to allow grass clippings to settle back on the lawn. The clippings act as a mulch that biodegrades to offer organic nutrients to the soil. Those who prefer a bag vs. mulch function on their mower will want to look for models that feature a rear-mount grass catcher. 
  • Padded handles: Nonslip, padded foam handles make it easier to grip the mower handles and reduce the risk of blisters.
  • Rollers: Reel mowers have two sizable front wheels, but some come with additional back rollers or front rollers that add stability to the mower and help you maneuver near borders and edges for clean cutting.

The Advantages of Using a Reel Mower

Reel mowers are almost always powered manually. The physical pushing of the mower turns the blade cylinder, which in turn cuts the grass. Since they’re push-powered, reel mowers excel when cutting fine, straight-growing grasses but can bog down in coarse, wiry grass. Here are some of the advantages of using a reel mower: 

  • Avoidance of diseases. A clean cut helps grass avoid diseases like “brown patch,” which can leave a lawn pockmarked with areas of dead grass.
  • Affordability. While pricing varies based on quality and design, expect to pay about half the cost of a powered push mower.
  • Low maintenance requirements. Manual reel mowers only require occasional cleaning and blade sharpening. A gas reel mower requires the addition of oil, draining fuel over winter, and other maintenance tasks.
  • Relatively compact and lightweight models. Many reel mowers weigh around 20 to 30 pounds, and they often feature fold-down handles for easy storage.
  • Free of exhaust and fumes. Breathe the aroma of freshly cut grass rather than toxic exhaust fumes when using a reel mower.

FAQs 

With no toxic fumes, no need to store fuel or charge batteries, and quiet operation, the reel mower is making a comeback. This eco-friendly mower will reduce the carbon footprint while offering some physical exercise. For those thinking of investing in a reel mower, a few questions are to be expected.

Q. Are reel mowers any good?

In a word, yes! They operate quietly, are quite affordable, and are easy to store. Plus, since they make a sharp cut along the top of the grass blade (instead of tearing the grass like a traditional rotary rower), they are healthier for the lawn and can decrease the risk of disease.

Q. Is it hard to push a reel mower?

Manual reel mowers are easy to push in thin, sparse grass, but it takes more force to move one through tall, dense, or coarse grass. 

Q. Can I mow wet grass with a reel mower?

Although a manual reel mower can easily cut through wet grass, doing so frequently is not advisable. As with other mowers, clippings will clump and look unsightly. Wet clippings that stick to the mower increase rust formation, dulling the blades prematurely.

Q. How often should I mow with a reel mower?

Mow as often as is necessary to keep from removing more than one third of the grass blade. This may mean mowing two or more times each week during the fast-growing grass season.

Q. When should I sharpen my reel mower?

In general, it’s a good idea to sharpen the blades on a reel mower after 20 to 25 hours of use. For some users, this may be once a year; others may need to sharpen blades two or more times in a season.

Q. Are reel mowers hard to maintain?

Unlike gas-powered mowers that need oil changes and tune-ups, reel mowers are easier to maintain. Rinsing the mower after use, sharpening the blades, and lubricating the gears when needed are the most important maintenance tasks for these machines.

Q. Can you leave a reel mower outside?

If you do decide to store a reel mower outside, cover it with a heavy-duty tarp. Consider elevating it off the ground to allow air to circulate.

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 Glenda Taylor.

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Mark Wolfe

Staff Writer

Mark Wolfe is a second-career freelance writer based in Georgia and has an extensive background in the horticulture industry. Since 2020, he has contributed numerous gardening and home improvement articles to BobVila.com, along with a variety of consumer product reviews.

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