No matter your lawn or your budget, there's a perfect lawn mower to match your needs
Shop for a new lawn mower and you'll soon discover there is no shortage of options. The best lawn mowers are easy to handle, safe to use and can be ready to mow without much hassle. Clean up should be hassle-free as well -- the best mowers handle the clippings by bagging them or mulching them into fine pieces.
Lawn mowers can be powered by gas, electricity (battery or corded) or by you. In general, gas-powered lawn mowers can through tough vegetation better than electric mowers, but electric mowers are becoming increasingly effective for even tough jobs and are popular choices for the environmentally aware. Manual reel mowers are a hit with people who like to get their exercise points in while working in the yard, and for those whose yards (and maybe budgets) are small enough to make a powered mower just plain overkill.
While walk-behind lawn mowers are a great choice for most people (and yards), if you have a larger plot of land, you may be better served by a lawn tractor, also known as a riding mower, which we cover in a separate report. To deal with the clippings left on your sidewalks and driveway, you may want to consider investing in a leaf blower, while a string trimmer will put a beautiful finish on the job -- we have reports on both of those yard tools as well.
Types of lawn mowers
Self-propelled mowers require less effort. Typically the most expensive type of lawn mower, self-propelled models have a transmission that powers the drive wheels, so they move forward without effort, you merely walk behind it and guide it where you want it to go -- much like a car. Less expensive models often have set speeds, while pricier models use an automatic transmission and speed levers to accelerate and slow down. The top self-propelled mowers can travel up to 4 mph and have user-friendly controls within easy reach. Self-propelled mowers come in both gas and electric models, and tend to be a bit more expensive than push mowers, but are a good choice if you have a larger lawn to mow.
Push mowers are lighter and less expensive. If you want to spend less on a lawn mower and don't mind putting in a little extra mowing effort, consider a push mower. Other than the transmission, there is very little difference between push mowers and self-propelled mowers. This type is best for medium to small flat yards, if you have a lot of hills you may wear yourself out with a push mower. Some push mowers have larger rear wheels, which manufacturers say make them easier to use on rougher terrain, but many experts and owners say that actually makes them more difficult to maneuver.
Cordless electric lawn mowers run on a rechargeable battery. Cordless lawn mowers give you more freedom than corded lawn mowers and are often more powerful. However, they are also best for lawns of no more than half an acre because battery run time is limited to about an hour. While there are some older models still available that use a lead-acid, battery, like the one in your car, most of the top-rated mowers run on lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion) -- beefier versions of the Li-ion batteries used to power cordless tools and other appliances. The advantage of Li-ion technology include lighter weight and fast recharge times. The newest generation of cordless electric mowers are feature-rich and get ratings for performance that nearly rival those of the top gas mowers.
Corded electric lawn mowers save money. Corded electric lawn mowers are the most affordable type of powered mower to use and maintain, experts say. Their motors don't require oil, spark plugs or batteries, and professionals estimate the electricity required to use them is much less costly than gas. Many owners say handling the extension cord on a corded mower is far easier than dealing with filling and maintaining a gas model. This is the lightest type of mower, making it a good alternative for those who lack the strength to pull the rip-cord on a gas model. Electric mowers aren't as powerful as gas lawn mowers, and their extension cords keep you tethered to an outlet. That means that corded electric mowers are likely best for small yards without unruly patches of tall grass or weeds.
Reel mowers are the greenest option. Using a spinning reel to cut grass, manual reel mowers are operated by simply pushing them. These mowers offer more of an aerobic workout -- considered an advantage by many. Reel mowers are quiet, low-maintenance, are cheaper than most powered mowers -- they also will save you money down the line on repairs and servicing. Because they mow slower, require more work and their blades aren't strong enough for twigs or unruly grass, experts advise using a reel mower on weed-free properties smaller than half an acre. Plan on cutting about twice a week, on average, to keep grass from getting too high to mow.
How we found the best lawn mowers
ConsumerSearch editors consulted expert reviews and comparison tests along with owner feedback to select the best lawn mowers of each type. We consider reliability, handling, noise and safety, and also factor in user comments to determine long-term durability. The results are our Best Reviewed picks, along with some alternatives to consider, among gas, electric and reel mowers of all types.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Self-Propelled Mowers | Best Push Mowers | Best Electric Mowers | Reel Mowers | Buying Guide | Our Sources