Shop for a new lawn mower and you'll soon discover there is no shortage of options. With hundreds of different models on the market, it can feel overwhelming to narrow down the choices on your own. In addition, paying more doesn't guarantee a better cut quality or increased durability, according to comparison tests.
The best lawn mowers are easy to handle, safe to use and ready to mow without much hassle. They should keep your grounds looking their best by bagging clippings, discharging them to the side or mulching them into fine pieces.
To find the best lawn mower, start by narrowing down what type of lawn mower best suits your needs, budget and property. A major 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 frequently say authorized repair shops aren't conveniently located.
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. Top mowers can travel up to 4 mph and have user-friendly controls within easy reach.
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 each brand's push models and self-propelled mowers. Look for a model with large wheels and ball bearings, which improve mobility.
In general, gas-powered lawn mowers can power through tough vegetation better than electric mowers. Some reviews also say they impart the best finish or final appearance on a lawn.
Electric lawn mowers are the cheapest kind 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 expensive than gas.
Many owners say handling the extension cord on a corded mower is far easier than wrestling with a gas model. This is the lightest type of mower, making it a good alternative for consumers 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 100-foot extension cords keep you tethered to an outlet. They are best for small yards without unruly patches of tall grass or weeds.
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. Cordless lawn mowers use a lead-acid battery that typically lasts two to three years; good battery maintenance is key to extending its life. Cordless mowers are heavier than their corded relatives and are available with just as many features as gas mowers.
Using a spinning reel to cut grass, reel mowers trade gas engines and electric motors to get the job done. Operated by simply pushing them, these mowers offer more of an aerobic workout -- considered an advantage by many. Reel mowers are quiet, low-maintenance and save you money on repairs and servicing.
Reviews are mixed about the performance of reel mowers with some owners saying they do not provide as pristine a finish as a gas mower. Numerous others contend that once the grass is acclimated to being cut with the scissor-like blades, it actually grows healthier. Reel mowers are "better for your grass because they cut rather than tear the grass like gas-powered mowers," according to CleanAirGardening.com, a retail website for environmentally friendly lawn products.
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, but according to expert tests, they are improving in performance.
We use expert reviews and comparison tests alongside actual owner feedback to select the best lawn mowers of each type. ConsumerReports.org and Popular Mechanics perform side-by-side trials, and J.D. Power and Associates surveys hundreds of owners to find the lawn mower brands with the highest customer satisfaction. To get owners' perspectives, we read hundreds of user reviews at retail sites such as Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com. Cut quality is the most important characteristic of the best lawn mowers, but we also consider reliability, handling, noise and safety.