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 power through tough vegetation better than electric mowers. Some reviews also say gas mowers impart the best finish or final appearance on a lawn. Manual reel mowers remain popular choices for the environmentally aware, 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 tools as well.
Finding the right lawn mower
To find the best lawn mower, start by narrowing down your choices to what type best suits your needs, budget and property. Another factor to keep in mind is reliability: Brands that rate highly for dependability tend to have fewer warranty and service issues. Taking your lawn mower in for repairs is a hassle, and owners say that authorized repair shops aren't always conveniently located.
Self-propelled mowers require less effort. Typically the most expensive type of lawn mower, self-propelled models do the pushing for you. 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.
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. Look for a model with large wheels and ball bearings, which improve mobility.
Electric 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. All that means that corded electric mowers are likely best for small yards without unruly patches of tall grass or weeds.
Cordless 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. Some cordless lawn mowers use a lead-acid, battery, like the one in your car, and that typically lasts two to three years; good battery maintenance is key to extending its life. Some newer cordless 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 (lead-acid-battery cordless mowers can be heavy) and fast recharge time. If it's features you want, cordless mowers are available with just as many features as gas mowers.
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, and 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. Reel mowers are not only increasing in popularity with those who want a more environmentally friendly option to trim their lawn and, according the feedback that we've seen, they are improving in performance.
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 Lawn Mowers: Self-propelled mowers get the best recommendations from experts and users. These are the models that finish in the front of the pack
Best Push Mowers: Push mowers are perfect for smaller properties and smaller budgets. Editors name the best gas-powered push mowers from brands like Lawn Boy, Cub Cadet and Husqvarna.
Best Electric Mowers: Electric mowers are more energy efficient and decidedly quieter than gas models, and might make the most sense for smaller properties. These are the top corded and cordless electric lawn mowers.
Reel Mowers: A people-powered reel mower is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to keep a small lawn looking its best. These are the top ones.
Buying Guide: Not sure where to start in finding the perfect lawn mower for your property and your budget? These helpful pointers will help steer you in the right direction.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews we used to select the top lawn mowers, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.