Tending to the yard is a never ending chore that spans March through November for many place in the country. It’s a chore that some people love and many people hate.
Interestingly enough the people that love maintaining the best yard in the neighborhood are usually looking for the exact same types of mowers that those of you who hate yard work are looking for too.
Everybody wants a mower that is easy to use, cuts good, gets through the job quickly, and is easy to maintain.
Once you get past that then buying a lawn mower can actually start to get a bit confusing because their are lots of different styles.
To name just a few major styles of mowers you have:
- Reel Mowers
- Corded Electric Rotary Mowers
- Battery Powered Rotary Mowers
- Gas Powered Rotary Mowers
- Gas Powered Riding Mowers
But within each of these main styles their are a ton of different styles, sizes, feature sets, and motors to choose from. There are also a number of less common styles of mowers that are available to.
There are electric riding mowers, Roomba-style robot mowers, and even manual grass cutters like scythes.
So with all of that said and with the understanding that all of that is just scratching at the surface of the lawn mower marketplace let’s dive in and start answering the question, “what lawn mower do I need?”.
For me I use battery mowers almost all the time. I do own other mowers of different styles but the battery mowers I own are used most frequently in my yard.
To see which battery mowers I like best see this post I published not too long ago. It is a running log of my reviews of the most powerful battery mowers on the market. Each one I own and have actually used.
Your property dictates the best style of lawn mower for you before everything else
Let’s put it like this, if you live in a condo in the city and have only 100 square feet of turf grass to your name then a riding mower is out of the question because it’s way too big for such a small job.
Likewise, if you have a 2-acre manicured lawn then a 14″ push-reel mower is also out of the question because it’s way to small of a tool for such a large patch of grass.
Further considerations have to do with the flatness of your lawn, the height of your grass type, the amount of obstacles in your lawn like landscaping elements, trees, bushes, and gardens, etc.
I would even advocate for using two different mowers if two different parts of your property are completely different. In my home I actually use three different mowers. I use a dedicated battery powered mower for my main lawn right around the house because the grass is perfect and I cut it often and don’t want the loudness of a gas powered mower around the kids every few days.
I also have a slightly large field on my property that I like to cut every 7-10 days with a riding mower to keep it looking tidy without spending a huge amount of time on it.
Lastly I use an old self-propelled electric rotary mower for my grass hills which are not flat enough to use a riding mower on and the rough landscape on my property that’s further away from my house which I still want to knock down regularly to give our rural property more of a defensible space for the threat of fire. This third machine is pretty beat up because it hits rocks quite a bit and gets bumped around on the hills and rough terrain on the farthest edges of our property.
For the vast majority of people looking to buy a mower three is probably overkill but even two isn’t that far fetched.
Many front yards in cities and towns have a small patch of grass with lots of obstacles like trees, bushes, mailboxes, sidewalks, garden gnomes, bird baths, etc. These small patches of grass are best cut frequently to keep the curb appeal up and larger machines may be more hassle than you need.
In my last house I used a small 14-inch wide push reel mower to frequently cut our front yard grass while using a larger gas-powered rotary mower in the back yard less frequently as it was where the kids and animals played… and covered a lot more square footage.
In my current house I use that battery powered mower close to the house for the main lawn. I could use a corded electric which would be cheaper but my house doesn’t have exterior outlets on two sides of the house so the corded versions would require the use of long extension cords, something I don’t want to mess with.
All of this is to say that your property will play a large role in your decision to buy one style of mower over another and then after that your grass type will come into play.
The type of grass you grow and it’s preferred height will play a large role in what type of mower you should get
Some grassed like perennial rye can be cut very short, golf course short, without any problems but you will never be able to achieve this with a large riding mower or even many rotary mowers. People who keep lawns short, under an inch tend to use reel mowers because they can get all the way down to just above the ground.
These reel mowers are also a little narrower on average meaning they are less likely to scalp the grass in uneven lawns because the wheel base is closer together.
On the flip side of the coin some grass types are frequently cut very high. If you have a grass type that is regularly kept at 4-5 inches then you will probably find reel mowers to be too hard to use or impossible to use. Most won’t go that high anyway so you have to opt for a rotary mower that cat be set to a very high height.
Another consideration is one I”m wrestling with – grass thickness.
My grass in my main lawn is very thick. A few years back it was sod and over the years I’ve maintained it well and it’s just a regular lawn now but the grass density is very high and sometimes I have trouble cutting it with my battery-powered mowers because they just don’t have the same amount of power as gas-powered models.
Right now I’m dealing with it but I’m very tempted to get a gas powered mower for my main lawn to give me the power I need to get through super dense turf-grass efficiently. I like the battery mowers next to the house because they are so quiet but when they start bogging down it really slows down the mow.
If you have grass that isn’t to dense then you probably wouldn’t have this problem but it is something to consider. There are of course stronger battery powered mowers on the market but man they can get expensive on the high end, especially if you also want the mower to be self-propelled.
And that leads us to price.
The mower you should buy should usually be the most expensive machine that you can afford
Unlike other household appliances and power tools the mower is the one machine that you will use the most frequently and regularly and it will affect your quality of life a lot more than other things will.
A $50,000 car will get you to work just as good as a $20,000 car. A fancy blender will make your smoothies only slightly better than a cheap blender. With a lawn mower however the more you pay up front the easier your yard work will become and you will enjoy the work a lot more.
If your budget is very low then you can get 14″ push reel mowers for well under $100 but after overlapping your cutting paths you’ll only be cutting maybe foot-wide strips with each pass and you’ll be doing all of the pushing which can get tiring. Spending a little more money you can get a 20″ reel mower that will give you 18-inch cutting strips. The mower will be slightly heavier but you will have to walk back and forth 50% fewer times. It will be much faster and more palatable for the average person.
In the gas powered rotary category a couple hundred bucks can land you a decent entry level machine that will cut 16-18″ strips all day long but by spending a bit more you can get the self-propelled feature which will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the chore.
Basically by spending the extra amount of this feature you will hate mowing the lawn less or like doing it more.
Similarly, spending more money on a mower with a bigger stronger engine will cost you more but it will also ensure you have fewer (or none) times where the mower bogs down on tall or thick grass. In my experience nothing is more annoying than when I have to slow down to a near crawl to get my mower through an over grown section of thick grass.
When the mower is strong enough to power through anything and everything then mowing the lawn is always enjoyable and stress free.
I’m a big advocate for buying only what you need but when it comes to the lawn mower owning the best you can afford is always the right decision in my book. There’s definitely a lot of extra lawn care tools you can own like string trimmers, blowers, edgers, etc. but the mower is the one thing that you can’t live without unless you decide to ditch the lawn for good and replace it with rock.
On this site I talk a lot about lawn care so to go along with that theme I’ll be dedicating a bit of my time this year to posting more information on how lawn mowers work, how to maintain them, how to compare them, how to use them, and how to buy them.
This article will be your starting point. Through the links above and below you should find a lot more information on mowers. I hope you’ll find this resource helpful.
Make sure to see the following posts for more on mowers:
► What Kind of Oil Goes in a Lawn Mower?
► How to Cut Grass on a Steep Hill
► How Do Battery Powered Lawnmowers Work?
► Amp Hours (Ah, Volts, & Watts In Battery Powered Mowers Explained
► Greenworks 80V vs EGO 56V Mower Comparison
► EGO 56V vs Toro 60V Mower Comparison
You can also see all of my lawn care guides here.