What’s the Difference? Gas vs. Electric Lawn Mowers
Understand how gas, corded electric, and battery-powered lawn mowers stack up to choose the right model for the size of your property, your mowing style, and your budget.
Several decades ago, you had two options when it came to mowing your lawn: a manual reel-type mower that took major muscle to push or an early gas-powered model that might or might not start (and, when it did run, often filled the yard with black smoke).
Reel mowers are still available to purchase but don’t necessarily compete with the convenience of upgraded machinery. Today’s gas mowers have come a long way, burning cleaner and more efficiently than ever—yet, while they still dominate the market, electric mowers are making inroads. Corded electric mowers have been around for more than 30 years accruing some loyal fans, and battery-operated mowers are the new kids on the electric block and they’re gaining in popularity. We’ve analyzed the two main categories side by side—gas vs. electric lawn mowers—so keep reading to discover the pros and cons of each to determine which lawn care option is right for your yard.
Gas mowers are better for large lawns.
If you have a large lawn (more than 14,000 square feet) and want to finish mowing in one shot, a gas mower can go the distance (as long as it has enough fuel). With a corded electric mower, you won’t run out of power, but you’re restricted by the length of the extension cord (50 to 100 feet), so electric mowers are better for small yards under 1,500 square feet. A battery-powered mower, which can run 20 to 45 minutes per battery charge, depending on the height of the grass and the thickness of the lawn, are generally better suited to small to medium yards, up to 14,000 square feet. Purchasing an extra battery and keeping it charged, however, will double your mowing time.
Battery-operated electric mowers are the easiest to maneuver.
While corded electric mowers are the lightest in weight (35 to 55 pounds), making them among the easiest to push, you must drag a long cord around during use. This can make it difficult to maneuver around trees and flowerbeds while keeping the cord out of the way, and the last thing you want to do is run over the cord, chopping it in half, exposing live wires, or blowing a circuit breaker. A gas mower can weigh in over 90 pounds, which can make it difficult to push it up an incline—unless it’s self-propelled, meaning the front wheels help pull the mower along. Self-propulsion is a wonderful feature, but if the mower is powerful, it can be difficult to hold it back, and you could inadvertently mow over a flowerbed before you get it turned around.
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At an average of 50 to 60 pounds, battery-operated mowers are fairly light and easy to maneuver without having to constantly account for the cord. Some of the newer battery models are also self-propelled, but this option usually reduces battery run time by about one-third.
Gas lawn mowers are the noisiest.
If your neighbors are sleeping in on Saturday morning, you won’t make any friends if you crank up your old gas-powered mower that emits around 95 decibels of racket—comparable to the sound of a motorcycle running. Newer gas-powered models are making improvements to the noise output. Even still, both types of electric mowers (corded and battery operated) are much easier on the ears, producing between 65 to 75 decibels—similar to the sound of a washing machine running. If noise pollution is a concern, either type of electric mower will be the best option.
Electric mowers are eco-friendlier.
Because they’re powered by fossil fuel, gas mowers emit hydrocarbon gases into the air, so if reducing your carbon footprint is important to you, opt for a corded electric or battery-operated electric mower. Gas mowers also require the storage of flammable gasoline. Both types of electric mowers create zero emissions, but the rechargeable batteries for cordless mowers contain lithium, the mining of which has been known to pollute water supplies. If going green is your top priority, a corded electric mower is likely to have the least impact on the environment.
Gas mowers require more maintenance.
All mowers should have their blades sharpened annually (usually in spring) to ensure that they leave a clean cut on grass blades. But gas engines often pose more of a hassle by requiring regular maintenance, including changing air filters and spark plugs annually to keep the engine in good running order. In addition, gas engines require oil to lubricate the engine parts, and the oil level should be checked each time before mowing and more oil added if necessary. Owners of gas mowers should also drain the gasoline from the tank at the end of the mowing season, because over the winter, the ethanol can separate from the other components, causing the fuel to degrade and keep the mower from starting easily next year.
Gas mowers are pricier.
Corded electric mowers are the least expensive because they don’t feature a gas engine or batteries, and you can pick one up for around $150 to $250. Battery-operated mowers run anywhere from $275 to $800 or more, depending on whether they feature options such as self-propulsion. (See a selection of the best electric mowers on the market here to compare.) Gas mowers are among the most expensive: You can find models starting around $350, but in the upper range, they reach as high as $850 or more for a self-propelled gas mower.
Consider, too, the expense of operating the mower.
Corded electric mowers will use $15 to $22 per year in electricity, depending on how often you mow, while battery-operated mowers will cost $11 to $18 per year in electricity to charge their batteries. Gas mowers use approximately $20 to $35 of gasoline per year, depending on how often you mow and the price per gallon of gasoline. Choosing the right mower ultimately depends on the size of your yard, and whether you prefer sheer power over a more budget-friendly and eco-friendlier machine.