In the helpful video below, landscape professional Patrick Weisel reduced the often-overwhelming lawn mower-buying process to a single statement: “When you’re choosing a mower, don’t choose more mower than you need.”
It’s true. Don’t overbuy. You’ll could spend much more money than you need to, and you could also end up with more lawn mower than you, or your lawn, can handle.
That is indeed sound advice, but when you’re looking for a new lawn mower—whether it’s your first or you’re replacing an old one—that statement alone isn’t quite enough to guide you. In order to heed Weisel’s advice, you need to know how much mower you actually need.
That’s precisely why we’ve created this guide. We want to provide you with useful information so you can make an informed buying decision. That way, the task of mowing your lawn just might be a little happier.
See our selection of small lawn mowers here.
I. Lawn Mower Buying Guide
How to Pick a Lawnmower
Ladies and gentlemen, start your (lawn mower) engines!
A. General Types of Lawn Mowers
Many different types of lawn mowers exist, all made differently. We’ve broken down the various mowers and what makes them go. Let’s start with the basic types.
See some of these mowers in action for an idea of where to use them:
Five Different Types of Lawnmowers
1. Self-Propelled Mower
A self-propelled lawn mower is one that essentially drives itself. You guide and steer it, of course, but the mower has a transmission that propels it so you don’t have to push the machine around your yard.
Because of the mechanics required to push itself forward, the self-propelled mower tends be more expensive and require more maintenance than push mowers. However, depending on the nature of what you’re mowing as well as your own strength, the extra cost might be worth it.
2. Push Mower
A push mower is powered primarily by you. Push mowers have engines of varying types, but the power is directed toward cutting the grass while you push it to where you need it to mow.
If you like the extra workout that comes from pushing a lawn mower around your yard, this type of mower is a good choice. Weights of mowers vary, but the typical weight is in the 60-70 pound range, with some lighter and some heavier models available. When shopping for a mower, you can find the lawn mower’s weight listed in the product specifications.
3. Reel Mower (AKA Cylinder Mower)
Reel lawn mowers are an environmentally friendly way to care for your lawn. They have no engine so don’t require gas, oil, or electricity. They’re quiet. Like a push mower, you benefit from the physical activity.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of a reel mower is your lawn. Instead of ripping the grass, these mowers cut blades of grass like a pair of scissors, leaving your lawn looking healthy and manicured.
However, to do this can require twice-weekly mowing. Lawnsmith offers a comparison of cylinder mowers and the other, rotary-blade, mowers.
Just for fun:
Have you ever longed for a bike ride but were unable to ride because you were stuck mowing your yard? Why not solve the problem by doing both at once?
Source: Tree Hugger
4. Hover Mowers
Source: Mowers at Jacks
These lawn mowers ride on a cushion of air and are almost gravity-defying. Because they can move side-to-side in addition to the standard forward and back, hover mowers work great in awkward spots that other mowers just can’t get to or maneuver around.
Hover mowers work and perform differently than mowers with wheels and rotary blades. Here is one in action:
Toro HoverPro Series Mowers
5. Robotic Lawnmowers
Believe it or not, the little apparatus pictured is a lawn mower. Have you ever been fascinated by the robotic vacuums that maintain your floors while you look on?
These robotic vacuums have an outdoor cousin. Let a robot mower clip your lawn while you relax in a hammock and sip lemonade.
Robotic lawn mowers work within the area you establish by installing a boundary wire. Program these mowers to cut your grass whenever you want it to do so. It’s quiet enough to run at night if you so desire.
Some users report that installation and programming are challenging. Once this initial set-up is complete and done correctly, you can sit back and let your robotic lawn mower clip your grass at your command.
6. Riding Lawnmowers
Two types of riding lawn mowers make big mowing jobs manageable: standard riding lawn mowers and zero-turn riding lawn mowers.
Standard riding mowers have steering wheels for maximum comfort and maneuverability. While they lack the precision of walk-behind mowers and even zero-turn riding mowers, they cut grass well to leave your yard looking neat rather than unruly.
A zero-turn lawn mower is a specific type of riding lawn mower. This type of mower is engineered to perform well and turn tightly despite obstacles and turns.
These allow you to cut grass growing close to landscaping. Standard riding lawn mowers often struggle to get close enough to obstacles and thus leave a swath of uncut grass near objects and landscaping.
Technically, there is an additional type of a riding mower: the lawn tractor. They share the same purpose but have a structural difference.
Just for fun:
You can buy a zero-turn mower at Lowe’s for $11, 823.27. That’s not much less than some new cars.
These six general types of lawn mowers meet a variety of lawn care needs and personal preferences. Let your imagination, and your mower, run wild with these stunning backyard landscaping ideas.
This beautiful backyard is perfectly manicured by just the right lawn mower.
B. Lawnmower Power Types
All lawn mowers must be powered by something. A variety of options exists, and you can choose the power type that best suits your needs. This overview highlights each type of mower power source.
1. Battery Power
A battery-powered lawn mower offers several advantages. These mowers are lightweight and much quieter than gas-powered mowers.
Battery powers must be charged prior to each use. The length of charge varies per model. It’s common for a battery to last for about an hour before needing another charge.
Also, Batteries eventually need to be replaced. Proper battery maintenance will help extend the life of the battery.
One important thing to check when buying a battery-powered lawn mower: Are the battery and charger included? Some models are sold with a battery installed, while others are not and require you to purchase a battery separately.
Likewise the charger. Is one included, or will you need to buy one?
2. Electric Power
Choose from two types of electricity-powered mowers: corded and cordless. Corded mowers must be plugged in while you use them, while cordless mowers can be pushed freely like other walk-behind mowers.
Like all mowers, electric mowers offer both advantages and disadvantages. They’re convenient in that they’re easier to maintain, quieter, and lighter than gas-powered powers. They can be a hassle to use, though, especially if they are corded.
A corded electric mower doesn’t need to be charged outside of mowing, and the battery doesn’t drain while you’re mowing. Cordless mowers do deplete while mowing, potentially cutting your mowing time shorter than your grass.
Some electric mowers come equipped with a battery, while others do not. When buying, check to see if you’ll need to purchase a battery separately.
Mowing with a lawn mower tethered to a cord can be awkward at first. There are ways to make the task easier to handle:
How to Use an Electric Lawnmower — Electric Corded Lawnmower
Gas-powered lawn mowers don’t have to be charged and are not limited in range by a cord. They do require regular engine maintenance to keep up their excellent performance and enhance longevity.
Gas mowers are louder than other types of lawn mowers, but they also are more powerful. They can cut through long, tough grass nearly effortlessly.
Further, they shorten the amount of time you spend mowing. If you don’t mind the fact that they are heavier than other types of mowers, this could make mowing your lawn easier.
Just for fun:
According to Popular Mechanics, the first gas-powered mower was invented in 1921 by Knud and Oscar Jacobsen. They installed a gas engine on a reel mower to make large, commercial jobs faster. It looked similar to this model:
Source: Garden Tractor Talk
4. Manual Powered
You are the power source of a manual-powered mower. Whether it’s a reel mower or a push mower, you are what makes it go. While push mowers do have an engine (gas or electric), there is no mechanism for propelling the mower forward. With self-propelled mowers, you provide guidance, whereas with manual push mowers you provide the momentum as well.
Regardless of which type you ultimately select, it will work best and last longer when you maintain your mower. Simple maintenance on a regular basis will keep your mower working great and your lawn looking fabulous.
C. Drive Type
Mower Road Test for Car Owners: RWD vs FWD vs AWD Garden Petrol Mowers
Unlike all other mower types, manual mowers aren’t propelled by an internal drive. Even if it has an engine, a manual-powered mower moves because you make it move.
2. All Wheel Drive
All four wheels of an AWD mower are connected to the power source and move forward together. An AWD mower moves forward quickly and powerfully.
3. Front Wheel Drive
The front wheels pull this type of mower forward. A FWD drive mower can offer more maneuverability than AWD and RWD mowers. Which type, rear- or front wheel drive, is better depends on your personal preference and lawn mowing needs.
4. Rear Wheel Drive
True to its name, a rear wheel drive lawn mower is pushed forward by its back wheels. Lawnmowers generally have two types of back wheels: low (standard) or high.
The terms refer to the size of the wheel, with a low wheel measuring the same as front wheels and a high wheel measuring taller, courtesy of a larger diameter. Either style can be driven forward by RWD power.
The difference between the two wheel types relates to function. Low wheels are excellent on flat, even ground. High wheels are useful on rough, uneven, or hilly terrain.
D. Start Type
Starting a lawn mower can be an ordeal, but it doesn’t have to be. Much goes into designing a mower that will start for you right away so you don’t have to fight with your mower to get it going.
Briggs & Stratton: Straight Talk on Easy Starting Engines
1. Key Start
Like an automobile, this type of mower uses a key to turn the ignition and start the machine.
2. Push Button Start (Electric Start)
This lawn mower start type uses an electric system to easily and quickly start the engine. This doesn’t mean, however, that the push button start is only found on electric-powered lawn mowers. On the contrary, gas- and electric engines can start with a bush button as well.
3. Recoil Start (Pull Start; Manual Start)
This is perhaps the classic image that comes to mind when people think of starting a lawn mower: someone repeatedly jerking a cord only to have the mower start and stall again. It might make you want to avoid a recoil start mower. Thankfully, developers have made progress with this type of start system, and the modern pull start models start better than older models.
Watch how easily this pull start mower fires up, and learn some tips to work your own manual start mower:
II. Features and Extras
In addition to the primary types of lawn mowers and their mechanics, there are other features and extras for you to consider when purchasing a lawn mower.
A. Discharge Location
Source: Green Parts Store
Discharge location refers to where the grass clippings exit the mower. It’s a practical matter of whether you prefer to bag your clippings or let them lie on/in your grass (known as mulching the grass). There are reasons for bagging and reasons for mulching. Your preference will determine the discharge location you need.
1. Rear Discharge
Rear discharge mowers are designed for those who bag their clippings.
2. Side Discharge
Side discharge mowers dispose of grass clippings out the side of the mower. This is an advantage when you don’t want to bag your clippings.
3. Both Rear and Side
A mower that lets you choose between bagging and mulching gives you flexibility. Even if you prefer one method, like mulching, there may be times you want or need to do the other. If your landscaping needs and methods vary, a mower that allows both bagging and mulching could be a good choice.
B. Cut Width
All types of lawn mowers come in a range of sizes because they have different cut widths. This measurement refers to how wide of a swath the mower cuts at once.
Cut widths range from under 20 inches to over 60 inches (and very large lawn tractors can have a cut width of 136 inches.) The blade pictured above produces a 22-inch cut width.
Using a mower with a larger cut width is great for large grassy areas because it will get the job done faster. Narrow cut widths are well-suited for smaller areas and areas with obstacles.
See some lawn differences in this article about backyard patio design. What size of lawn mower would you use on these yards?
C. Adjustable Height
Most, but not all, lawn mowers have an adjustable height feature. Such a feature might seem rather insignificant, but setting your mower to the correct height for your grass, your climate, and the season is essential to a healthy, beautiful lawn.
When selecting your new mower, check to make sure you can adjust its height. Also make sure it’s engineered in a user-friendly fashion. Most are simple to adjust and involve merely a quick adjustment at each wheel.
Take a look at how many mowers adjust. While you’re at it, learn why cut height is so important and what a health height is.
Mowing Height: Setting Correct Mowing Height on Lawnmower
D. Bagger Capable
If your mower has a rear discharge, you definitely want a grass bag; that is, unless you enjoy being peppered with bits of grass flying at high speeds. Bags gather clippings so you can easily and conveniently dispose of them.
Some rear-discharge mowers come with a bag, but others require you to buy a bag separately. Bags range in price from approximately $30 to around $55.
III. Speed Control
Some lawn mowers operate at a single speed, while others offer speed control. A lever connected to the throttle control cable lets you adjust your speed as you mow.
Full speed delivers a cleaner cut because it makes the blade rotate rapidly. If you are in a space where controlled maneuvering is necessary, a variable speed mower might be the better option.
IV. Important Considerations for Buying Your Mower
Now that you know the types of lawn mowers as well as their features and extras, you’re almost ready to make a buying decision. The final step is to take all of this information and apply it to your life and lawn.
Take the following ideas into consideration, matching them to mower types and features. Pay attention to what is most important to you. Then, you’ll know the type of mower for you.
A. Lawn Size
Naturally, a bigger lawn will require a bigger, more powerful mower, whereas a smaller lawn will need a smaller machine.
B. Terrain Type
Different lawn mowers are designed to work on distinct terrains. Consider the property you will be mowing. Is it even and flat? Flat with obstacles? Sloped, with or without obstacles? Uneven? Rough?
Whatever your lawn, you be happiest with a mower that is best suited for the terrain. When buying a mower online or in a brick and mortar store, you’ll notice that many have a description of the land they’re best suited for.
C. Nature of Your Climate and Your Grass
Not every mower is great for every type of climate or grass. Consider your conditions before you make your final decision.
Will you be mowing year-round, or just a few months of the year? Is your climate arid? Wet? What is the average temperature? If you’re consistently mowing when it’s 95 degrees, you probably won’t want to push around a heavy, manual-powered mower.
These factors will help you determine whether you need a reel, push, self-propelled, or riding mower. It will also help you decide the drive type that will make things smooth for you. Your climate and grass affect whether you’ll mulch, how much adjustable height you’ll need, and more.
Chances are, you want your lawn mower to be kind. Look for one that is easy for you to use. How strong are you? Do you have physical limitations? Or will a child (over the age of 12) be using it? Find a mower that honors you and/or the person who will be using it.
How easy or difficult is it to maintain? Gas mowers, for example, need more maintenance than other types; however, mowers with an electric motor require constant battery charges and eventual battery replacement.
Finally, you want a mower that is suitable for your surroundings. Some are very quiet, but others are pretty noisy. If you mow early on Saturday mornings, you might need to choose a quiet mower to avoid angry complaints from neighbors.
V. Where to Buy and Approximate Price Range
A. Where to Buy Your Lawnmower
Source: Sam Turner’s
When you’re ready to buy your lawn mower, you can purchase it in many places. Your local hardware stores as well as superstores like Walmart and Target sell mowers. You can also shop online. Even Amazon sells all types of lawn mowers.
Three sources are excellent for purchasing a new lawn mower.
B. Approximate Price Range
The cost of your mower will depend on the type, size, and features you want. It’s important to look beyond just the sticker price.
A less expensive electric mower, for example, might come without a battery or charger. If a mower comes without essential components, you’ll incur extra expenses.
Also, consider a mower’s capabilities. Does it have more than what you need, thus creating unnecessary expenses? Or perhaps the opposite is true, and it has many features that will make your mowing life so much easier.
This list offers you a general idea of the price range for each type of mower, but there will be variations.
1. Reel Mowers
2. Push Mowers
4. Hover Mowers
5. Robotic Mowers
6. Riding Mowers
You are now equipped to find that perfect lawn mower. You and your new mower will give each other a beautiful home.