We have mowed dozens of acres of grass with more than 30 lawn mowers, including self-propelled mowers, so we’ve seen a few things. In testing these six models, we evaluated this strain-alleviating feature as well as each mower’s power and performance. After all, just because a mower can propel itself doesn’t mean it delivers a great cut. The mowers on this list can do both.
Each of these models is among the top-performing mowers in their respective categories. Read on to find out how comfortable they were to use and how well they performed. Plus, learn what features to look for when selecting the best self-propelled mower for your yard.
- BEST OVERALL: Toro 60V MAX 21-Inch Super Recycler Lawn Mower
- RUNNER-UP: Ego Power+ 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Craftsman M220 21-Inch 150cc Gas Self-Propelled Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE LAWNS: Greenworks 40V 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS: DeWalt 2X20V MAX 21.5-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- ALSO CONSIDER: Worx Nitro 80V 21-Inch Self-Propelled Mower
How We Tested the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
Before we began testing, we researched dozens of self-propelled models, focusing on performance and user-friendly features. These features included load-sensing motors and engines, multiple grass-disposal options, single-lever height adjustment, and more. We took brand reputation and user reviews into consideration as well. We then narrowed our testing options to include mowers with sought-after features from a variety of brands.
In testing, we assessed everything from the basics to more complicated performance characteristics. We looked at assembly and storage and how certain features, such as grass-disposal options and self-propel, affected battery performance in electric mowers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we looked at cutting power and quality as well as the overall power and mobility of these self-propelled models. We scored each mower’s ease of use and performance, ranking them and giving them awards based on their best quality or what we thought would be their best use.
Our Top Picks
With so many self-propelled lawn mowers on the market, it can be tough to choose the right one. Here are our tried-and-tested favorites.
The Toro Super Recycler boasts the smoothest self-propel system that we’ve tested, making it number one on this list. Additional well-designed features improve both performance and operator comfort on this impressive model.
The Toro has a three-phase motor that automatically increases power output when it detects tougher mowing conditions, then eases off on less challenging terrain to conserve battery life. Underneath the 21-inch rustproof cast-aluminum deck is a powerful vortex air-intake system. This feature increases airflow so that grass blades stand up, allowing the mower to evenly slice through them and deliver a clean cut.
Plus, for a more user-friendly lawn-care experience, this mower has springs and shocks to absorb bumps on uneven terrain and a self-adjusting, self-propelled drive system. Bright LED headlights also make it easier to mow as the sun goes down. Its included 60 volt (V) 7.5 amp hour (Ah) battery delivers up to 50 minutes of runtime per charge and recharges in 3 hours. It has three grass disposal options, so you can switch between mulching, bagging, or side discharging when needed.
The Toro Super Recycler was one of the most comfortable mowers we tested, thanks to its robust self-propulsion system. Although it was not the only mower with a pressure-sensitive handle, this one functioned the best. It paired the slightly more resistant, but buttery smooth, handle movement with a higher top-end speed for self-movement that felt almost effortless on most terrain. We only had to apply slight pressure to climb uphill, and it didn’t try to run away when we were walking downhill.
Overall, the Toro offered excellent cut quality as well. However, we did have to do a second pass for best results in overgrown areas. The other minor downside to this otherwise great mower was its battery performance. It averaged 45 to 50 minutes of runtime in normal conditions and 3 hours to recharge. Still, it’s a great choice for anyone who prioritizes smooth operation and needs a top-quality cut on a lawn under a half acre.
- Power source: One 60V 7.5Ah battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Cutting heights: 1 to 4 inches in 9 positions
- Mows up to 0.4 acre (17,424 square feet) per charge
- Self-propelled system operates smoothly and improves ease of use
- Motor automatically adjusts output to match mowing conditions
- Rust- and corrosion-resistant aluminum deck
- LED headlights allow for ample visibility in darker areas or nighttime mowing
- Longer recharge time than the competition
- Top mowing speed is too fast for imperfect conditions
Get the Toro self-propelled lawn mower at The Home Depot or Mowers Direct.
The Ego Power+ is a 21-inch self-propelled lawn mower powered by a 56V rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Brushless electric motors for the drive wheels and a powerful two-stage brushless blade motor ensure a long runtime per charge—about 60 minutes with a 7.5Ah battery, which we used in testing. With the included rapid charger, the battery takes just 60 minutes to recharge, which is an impressive charging time compared to others on this list.
The Ego’s 21-inch deck adjusts to six height settings from 1.5 inches to 4 inches, and it offers mulching, bagging, or side discharge for grass clippings. All controls needed during operation—on/off switch, drive-wheel engagement, speed adjustment, and LED light switch—are conveniently located on or near the hand grip. For space-saving storage, the handle retracts and folds flat.
In our 7 hours of testing on a half-acre yard, the Ego Power+ was easy and comfortable to operate. We liked the simple speed adjustment for the self-propelled pace—a lever located on the left side of the handle—but the drive motor seems excessively noisy. Runtime did decrease when we used the self-propel feature, but that’s not unusual for battery-powered mowers. It could easily be extended with an extra battery or with the 10Ah option.
Overall, our experience was very good because this mower consistently delivered the two things we were looking for: cutting power and a clean finished appearance. The mower had no difficulty cutting normal grass and did not bog down noticeably in thick, tall grass. Finish quality ranged from good to excellent. The only time we didn’t get a clean finish in a single pass was when the grass grew for an extra week. That was fixed by simply mowing stringy areas again.
With its powerful cutting performance and decent runtime, this mower is a great option for a variety of lawns up to a half acre.
Read our full review: Ego Power+ 21-Inch Self-Propelled Mower
- Power source: One56V 4Ah, 5Ah, 7.5Ah or 10Ah battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Cutting heights: 1.5 to 4 inches in 6 positions
- 60 minutes of runtime works for yards up to a 0.5 acre
- Fast battery charging time of about 60 minutes, making it suitable for multiple uses
- Battery works with many other Ego Power+ tools
- Exhibits mowing power similar to a gasoline lawn mowers
- Drive system emits a whiny sound that some users may not like
- Using the self-propel feature decreases battery runtime by up to half, depending on terrain
Get the Ego Power+ self-propelled lawn mower at Amazon (with two 4Ah batteries), Lowe’s (tool only), or Acme Tools (tool only).
This gas-powered model lives up to Craftsman’s well-respected reputation—all for a reasonable price. This 73-pound self-propelled gas lawn mower boasts a 150 cubic centimeter (cc) engine, ideal for yards up to half an acre, and has a 21-inch cutting deck that adjusts to six levels. It sits on a set of 8-inch front and rear tires, allowing it to move easily over long, flat ground. The front-wheel-drive mower can be tipped up and quickly turned or maneuvered around lawn ornaments and other objects before putting the front down and letting the mower take over once more.
It has a recoil cord to start and an auto choke that balances the mixture of air and fuel, so you don’t need to deal with a primer or choke. You control this mower with a squeeze bar and can choose to mulch, bag, or side discharge cut grass.
We began testing with assembly, which took a quick and easy 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the overall appearance of the handle configuration left something to be desired—the blade and drive control cables are retained on the handle by heavy-duty cable ties—and we were disappointed by the unpadded handle.
On the other hand, and more importantly, the mower started easily on the first pull. It had good power for cutting average lawn grass and moving uphill, although it slowed down just a bit in overgrown grass. As we expected, the front-wheel drive made turning easy. That said, it’s important to note that with this configuration, 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 a great pick for a budget-minded shopper looking for a durable, self-propelled mower.
- Power source: 150cc Briggs & Stratton gas engine
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Cutting heights: 1.25 to 3.75 inches in 6 positions
- Self-propelled front-wheel drive assists the user while mowing to prevent strain
- Auto choke makes it easy to start; no priming or choke required
- 3-in-1 grass-disposal options: side discharge, mulch, or bagging
- Self-propelled feature is 1 speed, so it doesn’t adjust with user’s pace
- Nonpadded handle could lead to user fatigue with extended use
Get the Craftsman self-propelled lawn mower at Lowe’s or Ace Hardware.
With up to 70 minutes of runtime per charge with two batteries and a 21-inch mowing swath, this efficient, brushless lawn mower from Greenworks tackles larger lawns, up to half an acre (or even more for flat, manicured yards). It includes two 40V 4Ah batteries and a single-port battery charger that recharges each battery in 120 minutes.
Greenworks SmartPace and SmartCut technology adjust to user needs and lawn conditions. The SmartPace self-propel feature operates with a pressure-sensitive handle that automatically adjusts wheel speed to the user’s walking pace, while the SmartCut technology adjusts the motor’s power output depending on how long and thick the grass is, optimizing battery usage.
This mower also offers single-lever height adjustment in seven positions, and its three-in-one cutting options offer the ability to mulch, bag, or side discharge the cut grass. Featuring 8-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels, this self-propelled mower can maneuver through most yards.
In testing, we were surprised to find that this mower performed similarly to others with significantly more battery power. However, we noticed that performance in overgrown areas changed depending on the grass-disposal option used; it tended to bog down a bit in mulching mode but easily mowed overgrown areas with the discharge chute in place. Those areas also cut down runtime by about half. Overall, the cut quality was quite good. Only the most difficult grass patches required a second pass to achieve decent results.
The Greenworks 40V mower uses one battery at a time and automatically switches to the second battery when the first is depleted. We took advantage of this by charging the depleted battery while mowing on the second battery, reducing downtime to just 20 minutes after depleting the second battery. On a single battery, we averaged from 20 to 30 minutes of runtime depending on our pace, terrain, and overall mowing conditions.
The self-propel system worked fairly well, but it was not perfect. (To be fair, that is the case with most of these pressure-sensitive handle systems.) It accelerated unevenly going uphill and downhill and occasionally had trouble decelerating with the user going downhill and across flat ground; sometimes it felt as if it was running away.
Still, it was much easier to adjust to these glitches than to push the mower for an hour at a time. For its extensive runtime and battery-management capabilities, this Greenworks mower could make a good choice for those with larger lawns.
- Power source: One 40V 4Ah battery
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Cutting heights: 1.38 to 3.75 inches in 7 positions
- Dual battery ports feature automatic switchover for an extended uninterrupted runtime
- Can tackle small to large yards; 70 minutes of runtime per charge with 2 batteries
- Self-propelled with automatic pace adjustment to alleviate strain on user
- Heavy-duty steel deck can handle thin to thick grass varieties
- 10-inch rear wheels help to maneuver over slopes, hills, and uneven terrain
- Pace-adjustment feature is less smooth than that of competitors
- Less effective at mulching dense grass than comparable options
Get the Greenworks self-propelled lawn mower at Amazon or Greenworks.
The DeWalt 2X20V MAX self-propelled lawn mower has better-than-average build quality with a heavy-duty 21.5-inch 15-gauge stamped-steel deck and a thoughtful design overall. Its 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 load-sensing motor seamlessly increases torque in tougher mowing conditions.
The DeWalt also features a security-key-enabled push-button start; has mulching, bagging, and side-discharge capabilities; and offers six different cutting heights from 1.5 to 4 inches. It runs on two batteries and provides up to 60 minutes of runtime per charge (in ideal mowing conditions), making this mower best for smaller yards.
We tested the DeWalt mower in about 10,000 square feet of lawn, just under a quarter acre. Our test plot included some short but steep slopes, weedy spots, and dense grass. We mowed it three times, requiring just over two full battery charges each time. Recharging was a time-consuming 8 hours with the included chargers.
We were able to mow about 5,000 square feet per charge with the grass catcher in place and with the cutting height at 2.5 inches. At 3.5 inches, that extended to about 8,000 square feet and 40 minutes of runtime. 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.
Despite its shorter runtime, we liked that this mower was comfortable to operate on all kinds of terrain. 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 and, most importantly, it delivered a nice even cut. We also liked its fold-flat handle and vertical storage capability. It only needs about 2.5 square feet of storage floor space.
Overall, the quality of this DeWalt mower is better than most and is a solid choice for home lots under a half acre or about a quarter to a third acre of lawn.
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
- Cutting heights: 1.5 to 4 inches in 6 positions
- 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
- Shorter runtime not ideal for longer, denser grasses
- Takes a long time to recharge the batteries with the included DCB107 battery chargers
Get the DeWalt self-propelled lawn mower at Amazon, Tractor Supply Co., Ace Hardware, or Acme Tools.
The Worx Nitro power-share system packs a serious lawn-mowing punch, delivering up to 60 minutes of power with four 20V 5Ah Worx Power Share Pro batteries. At a moderate price, this highly capable 21-inch mower offers numerous features to compete with other mowers we tested.
Its convenience features include a single-lever deck-height adjustment; a one-touch fully collapsible handle; a charge-level indicator; and a choice of side discharging, bagging, or mulching. Plus, the built-in mulch/discharge lever eliminates the hassle of a mulch plug while LED headlights enable mowing past sundown. Finally, the load-sensing multistage motor automatically increases output for difficult mowing conditions.
A standout feature on the Nitro mower is the Base Camp power pack. Not only does it combine the power of the four included batteries to produce 80V of power, it doubles as a four-way charger, recharging the depleted batteries in just 2 hours. Better still, it can be used for both onboard and offboard charging.
In testing, this mower’s smart power output and finish quality performed well. It did a great job conserving power while providing an excellent cut on previously maintained lawn areas, then increased output almost immediately to tackle overgrown areas. The finish quality was good to excellent in both the previously maintained area and in the overgrown area, with no need for a second pass.
On the downside, battery runtime varied based on conditions, but that is often the case with load-sensing motors. The difference wasn’t as pronounced between a slope and flat ground. However, battery runtime decreased by as much as 50 percent under a heavy mowing load.
Another drawback was removing and installing the Base Camp; we found it to be much more cumbersome than working with a single battery.
All in all, however, the pros outweigh the cons with the Worx, and its clever charging design makes it a great option for those wanting a self-propelled electric mower.
- Power source: Four 20V 5Ah batteries
- Deck size: 21 inches
- Cutting heights: 1.5 to 4 inches in 7 positions
- Flexible charging system replenishes battery power onboard or offboard
- Single-lever deck-height adjustment for user-friendliness
- Bag, side discharge, or mulch; no mulch plug required
- LED headlamps for mowing at night and in other low-light conditions
- Removing and installing Base Camp is more awkward than a single battery
Get the Worx self-propelled lawn mower at Amazon, Walmart, or Target.
What to Consider When Choosing a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
When choosing a new self-propelled lawn mower, there are many factors to consider. Some of the essential features to take into account include grass type, cutting options, and power. Evaluating personal needs and lawn size will also help you determine the best type of mower to select.
Engine Size and Motor Power
Electric mowers have motors while gas mowers have engines. The power of a gasoline engine is described in cubic centimeters and can help narrow the choices to gas mowers that are suitable for a particular yard.
- Small engines, around 125cc, are good for modest-size yards with moderate yearly lawn growth.
- Average-size engines, from 140cc to 180cc, are suitable for small- to medium-size yards, and they can handle moderate to heavy yearly lawn growth.
- Large engines, exceeding 180cc, are best for bigger yards, dense grass, and heavy yearly lawn growth.
A battery-powered lawn mower measures motor power in volts. Power for these mowers ranges from 18V for small engines to 120V for very large motors. However, most electric lawn mowers run on about 40V and 80V, which is more than enough to handle the same tasks as gas mowers equipped with 140cc to 180cc engines.
Self-propelled lawn mowers have a variety of speed-control options, including a squeeze handle, drive bar, dial, and even a pace-keeping system that automatically adjusts to the user’s walking pace.
Some mowers operate at only one speed, while others include several speed settings up to 4 miles per hour. The speed controls and speed options will differ among self-propelled lawn mowers, and what is right for one person might not work best for the next. Additionally, the mower may not move as quickly through tall grass or over uneven terrain.
Take a look at the mower’s speed control before purchasing to find one that works with your lawn-mowing style. For example, a squeeze bar is an excellent option for a self-propelled lawn mower that will be used by more than one person. This style moves the mower faster as you squeeze the bar toward the handle.
Mulch, Bag, or Side-Discharge Options
Traditionally, lawn mowers have one of several cutting options to manage grass clippings, including bagging, mulching, and side discharging. However, most lawn mowers now come with two, or even three, cutting options for managing grass clippings in one machine.
- Single-option mowers are straightforward, though they don’t provide the versatility to adapt to differing lawn conditions. That’s why most mowers now offer more than one option.
- Two-in-one mowers offer two of the three available cutting options for dealing with grass clippings. They are more versatile than single-option mowers but fall short of the options provided by a three-in-one mower.
- Three-in-one mowers are quickly becoming the industry standard. As the name indicates, they allow you to choose bagging, mulching, or side discharging in a single machine for more cutting versatility.
Front-Wheel, Rear-Wheel, or All-Wheel Drive
- Self-propelled lawn mowers generally have either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, so the front two wheels are powered or the back two wheels are powered. However, there are some all-wheel drive models on the market as well.
- Front-wheel-drive mowers are great for even terrain. Users like the ability to tip the mower back, removing the wheels from the ground and halting the progression of the lawn mower. This immediate pause in the momentum of the mower makes it easier to maneuver around lawn ornaments and other obstacles.
- Rear-wheel-drive mowers tend to have more power than front-wheel-drive products, though they also are more expensive. These mowers are suitable for hilly terrain, taking some of the strain from the user. However, they aren’t as easy to maneuver.
- All-wheel drive mowers are well suited for yards with more extreme slopes and rougher terrain.
The rear-wheel diameter can vary depending on the size of the mower and the terrain that it is equipped to handle. Some self-propelled lawn mowers have four wheels of equal size that are frequently between 7 and 8 inches in diameter.
However, mowers that are better for bumpy ground and thick grass have larger rear wheels than front wheels, with rear-wheel diameters ranging from 8 to 12 inches. This wheel configuration is best if the yard has heavy lawn growth or very uneven ground.
Recoil vs. Electric Start
Another feature to consider when searching for the best self-propelled lawn mower is whether it starts with the push of an electric ignition or if you need to pull a recoil cord to crank the engine.
- Electric starts exist on all electric self-propelled lawn mowers, but this feature is also present on some gas mowers. By pushing a button or turning a key, the mower communicates with the engine and automatically starts up with little effort. However, the mower will not start if the electric start isn’t powered. If this is a concern, consider a lawn mower that has both an electric start and a backup recoil cord.
- Recoil cords are the traditional way to start a gas lawn mower. You pull the cord that physically cranks the engine, prompting it to start. As anyone who has ever used one of these lawn mowers knows, though, the recoil cord rarely works the first time, often taking three or four pulls before the engine turns over.
Deck Width and Height
The width of the cutting deck (the part of the mower that houses the blades) can determine how maneuverable a mower is and how long it takes to finish mowing a lawn. Smaller mowers, such as those with 16-inch decks, may fit through small garden gates and turn tight corners easily, but they’ll require more passes to mow a yard. Larger mowers, such as those with 21-inch decks, can make short work of a larger yard but may not maneuver as well in tight spaces.
Unlike width, deck height is adjustable. When you adjust the deck height, you adjust the cutting height of the mower’s blades. Some mowers feature convenient one-lever adjustment, while others require two or more levers. Most height adjustments range somewhere between 1 and 4 inches, give or take. Keep in mind that some grass varieties should be cut at longer lengths for optimal health. If you have one of those varieties, a mower with a high cutting height is your best bet.
For most people, the larger their yard, the larger and more powerful their mower and vice versa. Grass type and terrain may also affect your choice of mower. Here’s a general breakdown of what size mowers are best for what size yards:
- Mowers with a cutting deck of at least 21 inches and runtime of at least 60 minutes or a 180cc or larger gas engine make quick work of larger yards of a half acre or more.
- Mowers with a cutting deck between 18 and 21 inches and a runtime of at 45 minutes or 150cc gas engine work well for lawns from a third to a half an acre.
- Mowers with a cutting deck between 14 and 20 inches and a runtime of 30 minutes or 125cc gas engine work well for small lawns up to a quarter acre.
Keep in mind that grass disposal and self-propel features may decrease total runtime for battery-operated mowers. Those with large yards may consider purchasing additional batteries to extend continuous runtime.
Additional features to consider may include the mower’s weight, deck material, handle positions, and storage options. Although these mowers propel themselves, you still might consider the mower’s weight. Weight can be critical if the mower is only self-propelled while cutting, or if the mower needs to be lifted over concrete curbs or into storage.
If weight is a concern, take a look at the mower’s deck material. More traditional mowers have steel decks, which are durable but can be heavy, while some mowers have plastic decks, which may be lightweight but prone to cracking. Some mower decks are made of aluminum, which is weather-resistant, lightweight, and durable.
Handle positions may seem minor, but if you have limited storage space or you’re not the only one mowing the lawn, they could be a deciding factor. Some handles adjust to better match user height, and others fold all the way down for more compact storage.
Here are some answers to a few of the most common questions about self-propelled lawn mowers.
Q. What does a self-propelled lawn mower do?
A self-propelled mower has a front- or rear-drive system that moves the mower forward without the user doing anything except holding on and steering.
Q. What is the most reliable brand of lawn mowers?
Several brands of lawn mowers are known for their reliability, cutting power, and high-quality performance including Greenworks, Ego Power+, Craftsman, and Toro.
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 industry. 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 Timothy Dale.