Taking care of a lawn is no easy feat — it requires you to get your hands dirty, and it often involves heavy machinery that can be exacting to maneuver. And before you can even get down to the nitty-gritty work of lawn care, you first need to gather all of your supplies, including a garden hose, some durable shoes and other essential maintenance tools. One of the biggest — and perhaps most frustrating — purchases for any homeowner is a lawn mower, as there are countless models on the market that differ in everything from fuel type to cutting width. Whether you’re new to mowing or want to upgrade your machine to something more automated, we spoke to experts about how to shop for a lawn mower, plus rounded up some top-rated options based on their advice.
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Best lawn mowers
To identify what makes for a great lawn mower in different use cases, we consulted experts about the features you’ll want (based on the yard you’ll want), and we rounded up some top-rated lawn mowers for every lawn size and experience level.
Best battery-powered push lawn mower: Greenworks
According to Asqa Tabassam, a gardener and landscaper with over 10 years of experience, this battery-driven push mower is one of the best on the market. “It boasts four-in-one turbo technology that is ideal for leaf picking and provides maximum power,” she said. This model has a cutting width of 20 inches, making it ideal for medium-sized and large lawns. If you prefer, you can also purchase it as a self-propelled mower.
Best gas-powered push lawn mower: Craftsman
This gas-powered push mower is a popular pick on Amazon with a 4.4-star average rating from more than 1,300 reviews. Tabassam is also a fan of the push mower, and she highlighted notable features like “durable wheels” and a “21-inch cutting deck.” This model has an attached bagger to catch clippings — or, if you prefer, the cutting deck can discharge them or use them as mulch.
Best electric lawn mower for large lawns: Greenworks
This corded lawn mower has a 20-inch cutting width and an unlimited run time thanks to its corded power, making it ideal for lawns on the larger side, according to Michael Hill, a garden and landscape expert at Garden Guidepost. It comes with a rear bag to collect clippings, though you can also opt to use the side discharge or mulch features.
Best electric lawn mower for small lawns: BLACK+DECKER
Hill recommended this corded lawn mower for smaller lawns. “[It] uses a 10-Amp motor to power a metallic blade that clears a 15-inch path in a single pass,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t mulch, it employs a winged blade and thus promises 30 percent more efficiency in channeling grass clippings to a rear grass catcher.” Hill also said that this mower can handle taller grass, noting that it’s “easy to adjust the cutting height.”
Best self-propelled lawn mower: Honda
This rear wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower from Honda employs a Smart Drive system, which means you can control its speed up to 4 mph via levers on the handle. It has a 21-inch cutting width, which the brand says is ideal for yards up to 1 acre in size. The mower has two blades, which allows for a finer cut, the brand says. In addition to mulching, the mower also offers bagging and discharging.
Best riding lawn mower: RYOBI
With a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,700 reviews at The Home Depot, this riding mower is a highly rated pick. It has a 38-inch cutting width with two blades to handle larger lawns, plus 12 deck adjustments so you can comfortably situate your feet and legs while you mow. According to the brand, the battery-powered mower has up to 2.5 hours of run time on one charge, and you can use the cruise control feature to simplify your mowing experience.
Best robotic lawn mower: Gardena
A relatively affordable option as far as robotic lawn mowers go, this battery-powered Gardena Robotic Lawn Mower can be programmed to mow yards up to 2,700 square feet in size, according to the brand. (Gardena sells a similar model that can handle yards up to 5,400 square feet.) The mower can be controlled via Bluetooth with the Gardena app, and all of the grass clippings the machine leaves behind are designed to be used as mulch in your yard. The robotic mower has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 500 reviews on Amazon.
How to shop for a lawn mower
Your lawn and what it looks like will determine the best lawn mower, experts told us — we asked them about the most important features to look for.
Most lawn mowers are powered by one of three types of fuel: electricity, gas or batteries.
- Electric lawn mowers need to be plugged into a power outlet to run and are generally “suitable for smaller lawns,” according to Tabassam. They also tend to be more reliable, Hill noted.
- Gas lawn mowers require gasoline in order to operate. Tabassam said that these are better suited for larger lawns, though Hill cautioned that they tend to be louder and are “not eco-friendly” since they emit fumes.
- Battery lawn mowers run on chargeable batteries and can work for both large and small lawns, depending on the size of the battery. Hill noted that “if you want long range and mobility, battery lawn mowers are the way to go.”
Type of lawn mower
There are a few different types of lawnmowers on the market: push lawn mowers, manually propelled lawn mowers, riding lawn mowers and robotic lawn mowers. All of these mowers are classified based on how they are moved around the lawn.
- Push lawn mowers need to be physically pushed. Tabassam noted that they usually “make little to no sound,” but she also warned that they’re “not as powerful” as some of the other types of mowers, which is especially relevant for long grass blades.
- Manually propelled lawn mowers, aka self-propelled lawn mowers, don’t need to be physically pushed in order to move — they just need to be guided. Self-propelled mowers are usually either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive (more on that below).
- Riding lawn mowers, like the name suggests, are designed so you can ride on top of them while you mow the lawn. These mowers, which resemble a tractor, are better for larger lawns.
- Robotic lawn mowers are exactly what they sound like: All you have to do is set them up, and they will mow the lawn for you. This type of lawn mower is better for a smaller yard no larger than 0.5 acres.
- Zero turn mowers operate like riding lawn mowers, but the mowing deck is located at the front of the machine for easier maneuvering. This type of lawn mower is better for larger lawns and commercial properties.
Lawn mowers can also be categorized by how they handle grass clippings. Some models equip lawn sweepers to collect the grass clippings to be disposed of later while mulching mowers, for example, will break them down and distribute them around the lawn as a fertilizer of sorts.
Front-wheel drive vs. rear-wheel drive
Like cars, self-propelled lawn mowers differ in how the engines distribute power to the tires. Typically, these are either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, though occasionally you’ll also find all-wheel drive ones.
- Front-wheel drive lawn mowers are ideal for level terrain lawns with lots of turns, according to Hill. “Their movement dynamic is easier, allowing more movement as the drive wheels are in front,” Tabassam added.
- Rear-wheel drive lawn mowers are better for hilly terrain and “provide more traction at the center, which allows for mowing difficult hilly [areas] with much ease,” according to Tabassam.
- All-wheel drive lawn mowers work well on uneven terrains, though rear-wheel drive mowers usually do the trick.
Type of blade or cutter
Lawn mowers are either powered by cylinder mowers or rotary mowers, and which one you choose depends on how you want your lawn to look.
- Cylinder mowers have a cylinder of horizontal blades at the front. This type of cutter provides a more precise cut, but according to Tabassam, they can’t handle more difficult or overgrown terrains.
- Rotary mowers use only a single blade that rotates horizontally. According to Hill, this type of mower is better for tall gass, though it “can’t cut as close as cylinder mowers.”
A lawn mower’s cutting width measures the size of the strip the lawn mower can cut. According to Hill, you can determine the ideal cutting width for your lawn mower based on the size of your lawn:
- For a smaller lawn, the ideal cutting width is 28 to 35 centimeters (up to 14 inches)
- For a medium-sized lawn, the ideal cutting width is 35 to 40 centimeters (14 inches to 16 inches)
- For a larger lawn, the ideal cutting width is 40 centimeters and upward (16 inches and up)
Keep in mind that this advice doesn’t always apply, especially when it comes to larger mowers like riding lawn mowers. Make sure to pay attention to what each brand recommends for its lawn mowers to make the most informed decision — many listings will include the recommended acreage or square feet intended for a lawn mower. Some retailers, like The Home Depot, also offer handy guides that you can use to shop for specific mowers.
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