To avoid uneven grass and back strain, a self-propelled lawn mower may be the right tool to maintain a neat-looking yard with less effort. The standout feature is in the name: These mowers propel themselves. All you have to do is start it and steer.
The best self-propelled lawn mowers offer pace-keeping technology that allows you to walk at your chosen comfortable pace, so there’s no getting stuck running behind a speeding mower. These models also often include a variety of deck levels to choose the optimal cutting height.
The recommendations below are some of the top-performing mowers in their respective categories. Read on to find out what makes a high-quality self-propelled mower and how to select the ideal model for your yard.
- BEST OVERALL: Greenworks MO40L03 Lawn Mower
- BEST UPGRADE: Snapper XD 82V MAX Cordless Electric Lawn Mower Kit
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: EGO Power+ 20-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-ion Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR MIDSIZE YARDS: Greenworks Pro 80V 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Greenworks 40V 21” Brushless (Smart Pace)
- BEST FOR ROUGH TERRAIN: PowerSmart 20-inch & 170CC Gas Powered Lawn Mower
- QUIETEST OPERATION: Greenworks 40V Self-Propelled Cordless Lawn Mower
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
When choosing a new lawn mower, there are many factors to consider. Some of the essential features to consider include grass type, cutting options, and engine power. Evaluating personal needs and lawn size also helps determine the best type of mower to select.
The power of a gasoline engine is described in cubic centimeters (cc) and can help narrow the choices to a mower that is suitable for a particular yard.
- Small engines—around 125 cc—are good for modest-size yards with moderate yearly lawn growth.
- Average-size engines—from 140 to 180 cc—are suitable for small to medium-size yards, and they can handle moderate to heavy yearly lawn growth.
- Large engines—exceeding 180 cc—are best for bigger yards with heavy yearly lawn growth.
Similarly, battery-powered mowers measure their engine power in volts (V). Engine power for these self-propelled battery-powered lawn mowers ranges from 18 V for small engines to 120 V for very large engines. However, most of these lawn mowers run on between 40 and 80 V, which is more than enough to handle the same tasks as a 140- to 180-cc engine.
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 mph. 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.
Take a look at the mower’s speed control before purchasing to find one that works with the user’s 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 the user squeezes the bar toward the handle.
Traditionally, lawn mowers have one of several cutting options, including bagging, mulching, and side-discharge. However, most self-propelled lawn mowers now come with two, or even three, cutting options in one machine.
- Single-option mowers are simple and straightforward, though they don’t provide the versatility to adapt to differing lawn conditions, which is why most mowers now offer more than one option.
- 2-in-1 mowers offer two of the three available cutting options (bagging, mulching, or side-discharging). They are more versatile than single-option mowers but fall short of the options provided by a 3-in-1 mower.
- 3-in-1 mowers are quickly becoming the industry standard. As the name indicates, they allow users to choose bagging, mulching, or side-discharging in a single machine for more cutting versatility.
Front-Wheel vs. Rear-Wheel Drive
Self-propelled lawn mowers have either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, so the front two wheels are powered or the back two wheels are powered.
- 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.
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 the user needs 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 to 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. The user pulls 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 kicks over.
Although these mowers propel themselves, users 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.
When lifting the mower for storage or moving it across difficult terrain, a lighter machine is easier to manage. Self-propelled lawn mowers range from about 60 pounds to 100 pounds. Battery-powered mowers typically weigh less than gas-powered mowers and are a good option for those concerned about handling a heavy machine.
All power tools and yard equipment, including self-propelled lawn mowers, require some type of maintenance to ensure that they continue to work effectively and last as long as possible.
Very little difference exists between the maintenance of a gas-powered mower versus a battery-powered model. One requires gas tank refills, and the other needs a battery that needs regular charging. Beyond this, all self-propelled lawn mowers require some ongoing maintenance to keep them working properly.
Common maintenance requirements for self-propelled lawn mowers include regular oil changes, washing to remove dirt and debris, and inspecting the mower blades to ensure they are sharp and do not have nicks or cracks.
Our Top Picks
With so many self-propelled lawn mowers on the market, it can be tough to choose the right one. To make the task of searching easier, the following list of models collects some of the best self-propelled lawn mowers available, chosen for their quality, price, and performance. There are a variety of mowers in different categories, so one of these should be a strong pick for any lawn.
This Greenworks mower uses pace-keeping technology to increase or decrease the speed of the mower to match the user’s pace of walking. A 40-volt engine powers the 70-pound mower. It moves forward only when the user depresses the squeeze bar, eliminating concerns about the mower rolling away. Greenworks’ Smart Cut technology adjusts the power output of the mower to enhance power or increase battery runtime, depending on how thick the grass is.
Featuring 8-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels, this self-propelled mower can handle most yards. Its 3-in-1 cutting options offer the ability to mulch, bag, or side-discharge the cut grass. The deck of the mower sets to one of seven different height positions to best suit the user’s grass preferences.
- Matches the user’s pace of walking
- Can’t roll away on its own
- Seven cutting heights to choose from
- Struggles with dense wet grass
The powerful 82-volt engine of this Snapper model comes at a premium price, but it allows the mower to move through thick grass growth without slowing or stopping. Once the grass is cut, the mower can mulch, bag, or side-discharge the grass according to user needs or preferences.
The 72-pound self-propelled lawn mower has 8-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels to move across the bumpy ground without issue. It uses a squeeze bar and pace-keeping technology to automatically move forward at a pace that matches its user. The mower purchase includes two batteries and a rapid charger.
- Great on thick grass
- Mulch, bag, or discharge options
- Fast-charging battery
This EGO Power+ electric lawn mower has a built-in light, allowing users to mow the lawn more safely in the evening or during overcast weather. The 20-inch cutting deck is suitable for moving around objects in the yard, like a bird-feeder post or a tree, while the front-wheel drive makes it easy to simply tilt the mower back and turn 360 degrees on a single point. This maneuverability is necessary for efficiently maintaining small yards.
It has six different height settings, allowing the user to adjust the cutting deck to the ideal height for their lawn. The 85-pound mower operates on a 56-volt battery for up to 60 minutes. The battery and battery charger are included.
- Built-in light
- Easy to maneuver around objects
- 1 hour of battery life
- Not suited for leaves in the fall
The self-propelled lawn mower weighs 65 pounds and comes with a battery charger and an 80-volt battery that helps it drive the blades through weeds, damp grass, and dense foliage. The battery lasts up to 60 minutes, allowing users to quickly power through small to midsize yards before needing to recharge the battery.
The electric Greenworks lawn mower includes the option to mulch, bag, or side-discharge cut grass, and it can fold up for vertical storage, taking up less space in the garage or shed. It is a rear-wheel-drive option with 8-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels that can move easily over uneven or hilly terrain.
- Folds for vertical storage
- Great for hilly terrain
- No gas fumes
- Cuts and mulches very well
- Emptying the bag is sometimes tricky
Boasting a 21-inch swath cut, this Greenworks mower can operate for up to 70 minutes powered by its two 40-volt lithium-ion batteries (included), allowing users to mow longer without stopping to recharge. When one battery runs down, the power automatically switches to the second battery. The mower has rear-wheel drive and can climb up to 20-degree inclines.
The 92-pound mower features large front and rear wheels for easy maneuvering, a push-button start, cutting height adjustment, and a folding handle for easy storage. Rear bagging, side discharge, and mulching options are all available to collect clippings. As a bonus, the battery charger includes a USB port that can charge a cell phone or tablet if necessary.
- Wide cutting blade
- Two batteries for extra running time
- Can climb up steep inclines
- Can miss grass after the first pass
The powerful 170-cc engine of this self-propelled gas mower from PowerSmart drives the cutting blades through dense grass and foliage. It also supplies power to the rear-wheel-drive system, allowing the mower to take on hills and rough or uneven terrain. The 11-inch rear wheels help with moving over uneven or difficult ground, but the truly unique feature of this mower is the single front wheel. This three-wheel design makes it easier to turn in tight corners or maneuver around garden beds and obstacles in the yard.
The 85-pound self-propelled lawn mower has a 20-inch cutting deck with eight different height settings to customize the cut of the lawn. It also includes a large bag for grass collection, but it offers the ability to mulch or discharge the grass from the side of the mower. Just remember to rake up mulch or side-discharge grass because clumps of cut grass are inviting to nuisance pests, like ticks.
- Powerful engine
- Lasts longer than battery-operated units
- Adjustable handrail
- Self-propelled is only one speed
The Greenworks 21-inch, 40-volt self-propelled lawn mower uses a battery-powered engine to cut a lawn in near silence. One active battery sits in the live battery port, and a second battery can ride along in the storage port for quick switching when the first battery runs out.
The user controls this mower with a squeeze bar and can choose to mulch, bag, or side-discharge cut grass for optimal versatility. The 8-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels make it easier to run the self-propelled lawn mower over bumpy or uneven ground and to avoid struggling to keep the blade from hitting the ground.
- Brushless motor for less noise
- Impressive battery life
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Mulcher can leave clumps of grass
- Battery can be difficult to remove
For a versatile lawn mower with an impressive battery life, consider the Greenworks MO40L03 Lawn Mower and enjoy the smooth maneuverability. For shoppers looking for more of an upgrade to their current lawn mower, pick up the Snapper Cordless Electric Lawn Mower Kit and enjoy a super fast-charging battery and multiple ways to deal with cuttings.
How We Chose the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
The best self-propelled mowers are innovative machines that can be either front- or rear-wheel drive, propelling the lawn mower while the user simply directs the mower where to go. Our list of recommendations includes a range of choices for users depending on their preference—from lightweight battery units that are easy to maneuver, to power-house gas units that can cut through almost anything.
Our top picks of self-propelled lawn mowers can match the pace of the user to avoid the constant starting and stopping that creates uneven patches in the lawn. We made sure to look at speed control in our research, to provide options for shoppers looking for a mower that can match their individual pace instead of feeling like the machine is running away from them.
Several of our options also feature adjustable cutting heights and innovative battery and charger units, which can handle large yards without needing to stop halfway through to recharge.
After learning about the features of self-propelled lawn mowers, there may be some lingering questions about how these mowers work, what features to look for, and what size is appropriate for the yard. Some of the most common questions and answers are below.
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 should I look for when buying a lawn mower?
There are many important things to consider when buying a lawn mower. Some unique features include a blade stop system that automatically stops the blade from spinning when the trigger is released and an electric-start system on a gas mower, so users don’t need to pull a recoil cord to crank the engine.
Electric starts are a feature that may be better for mowers with an auto choke because the power transferred to the engine is consistent, instead of relying on the pull of the user. Other features to look for are a side-discharge, rear-discharge, or included bag attachment, to know how the machine handles grass clippings. More features are discussed in detail in the What to Consider section above.
Q. What size lawn mower do I need?
Gas lawn mowers are generally better than electric mowers for large yards, but the ideal size of the self-propelled lawn mower depends on the size of the yard. Large yards with more than 1 acre of lawn to mow are best with a mower with a powerful engine and a deck measuring between 21 to 23 inches in width. Users with lawns smaller than 1 acre can invest in mowers with cutting decks that measure 18 to 20 inches in size.
Q. Is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive better for a lawn mower?
Both front-wheel and rear-wheel drive are suitable for self-propelled lawn mowers. A front-wheel-drive mower is better for mostly level terrain and for easier maneuverability. Choose a rear-wheel-drive mower for better power, traction, and fewer problems mowing hilly terrain.
Q. What is the most reliable brand of lawn mowers?
There are several different brands of lawn mowers that are known for their reliability, cutting power, and high-quality performance including Greenworks, EGO Power, Craftsman, and PowerSmart.