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Lawn maintenance is one summertime ritual that people either love or loathe. Many of us wake up on a summer Saturday morning intending to spend an hour or two communing with the sunshine, grass, and a whirling piece of steel. Some begrudgingly perform the bare minimum, just to check it off the list. Others meticulously detail every aspect of the landscape, applying seasonally appropriate lawn care products and adjusting the sprinkler system just so in a quest for horticultural perfection. Wherever you fall on the landscaping spectrum, it all starts with the lawn mower. The best lawn equipment is whatever makes the job most enjoyable (or tolerable). Of course, lawn mowers need to keep the grass short, but what else is important? Power, noise level, speed, emissions, size, maintenance, and other attributes vary significantly among the different types of grass cutters. Here we’ll review the best lawn mowers for a variety of outdoor spaces and personal preferences.
- Best electric lawn mower: Greenworks Pro 80V 21-inch Cordless Push Lawn Mower
- Best gas lawn mower: PowerSmart 170cc 21-inch Lawn Mower
- Best riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT
- Best self-propelled lawn mower: CRAFTSMAN M270
- Best robotic lawn mower: WORX WR150 Landroid L
- Best cheap lawn mower: Murray 21-inch Walk-Behind Push Mower
Choose the best lawn mower for your yard
Before shopping for a new mower, it’s good to narrow your options. At this point, brands are not important—but styles and features are. Riding mower, push mower, or self-propelled? Gas, corded electric, cordless, or manual power? Have you considered a robotic lawn mower? The kind of lawn maintenance habits and outdoor power equipment your parents had while you were growing up may not be the best option for your lawn care.
Consider the most practical energy source for your lawn care
The energy source is an important factor to bear in mind while shopping for outdoor power equipment. Among lawn mowers, the choice includes gasoline, manual, cordless electric (battery-powered), or plug-in, i.e. corded electric lawn mowers. Each one has far-reaching implications relative to your overall satisfaction with the mower.
While all of these machines are designed to mow grass, available power affects the ability to do it quickly or in adverse conditions, such as sloped terrain, weedy lawns, or tall grass. More power is required to drive larger, heavier, and self-propelled equipment. Generally speaking, the order of greatest to the least powerful engine is: gas, corded electric, cordless electric, and manual push mower.
Beyond its ability to cut grass, the power source affects other aspects of the mower. Gas engines are the heaviest, followed by cordless electric, corded electric, and manual. Noise level and air pollution are highest with gas engines, versus electric motors which cause significantly less noise and virtually zero emissions. In addition to the relatively high ongoing cost of gasoline, gas engines also require the most routine maintenance in terms of oil and filter changes. The other three types are virtually maintenance-free, with the exception of needing to regularly sharpen blades (at least twice every mowing season). That said, the batteries of cordless lawn mowers last about five years on average, after which they must be replaced.
Riding lawn mowers for larger yard maintenance
If your lot is a half-acre or larger, the best riding lawn mower could help cut your mowing time by half or more. Riders include traditional lawn tractors with front-wheel steering, as well as agile zero-turn-radius mowers that steer effortlessly around obstacles. Most are powered by gasoline, but a few brands offer battery-powered models.
Try a self-propelled lawn mower if you need help with a smaller yard
Self-propelled lawn mowers help reduce operator fatigue. They can be a great choice for all but the smallest properties, where the added weight and expense make them more cumbersome than necessary. This is a good style for those with sloped yards and for anyone who bags their grass clippings. Gas and electric models are available.
Let a robot do the lawn maintenance for you
Robot lawn mowers are fairly new to the market, presenting an opportunity to take back your mowing time. Much like robotic vacuum cleaners, they do the lawn care for you. After the initial setup—which includes installation of a ground-level perimeter wire, setting up the outdoor docking station, and programming the mower schedule—it’s a set-it-and-forget-it scenario. The tiny mower rolls quietly across the lawn day or night, returning to the docking station as needed for recharging, and it keeps the grass cut at the right height. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, mobile app controls, compatibility with smart listening devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri are just a few of the upgrade features to look for.
Do you need a durable, but cheap, lawn mower?
Push mowers give the user complete control of speed and direction, and they are less expensive on average than the other types. This is an excellent lawn mower for small yards and anyone on a budget who doesn’t require assisted mobility. A surprisingly large range of diversity exists in this manual group, including gas, corded electric, and cordless battery-powered lawn mowers. The smallest mini-mowers measure a mere 12-inches wide and easily tuck away into a storage closet, while the largest gas lawn mower models feature 30-inch decks.
Best electric lawn mower: Greenworks Pro 80V 21-inch Cordless Push Lawn Mower
If you’re looking for a clean, quiet, electric mower that will go anywhere, this is the best electric lawn mower. The efficient brushless motor promises power equal to a 160cc gas mower. Features of this Greenworks mower include an instant push-button start, rugged steel deck, three-in-one discharge capability, seven-position height adjustment, and 10-inch rear wheels for easy pushing.
Best gas lawn mower: PowerSmart 170cc 21-inch Lawn Mower
Featuring a powerful, easy-to-start 170cc gas engine and rugged steel mowing deck, this push gas lawn mower has what it takes to cut through tall, thick, or wet grass without missing a beat. The toolless folding handle design allows for efficient use of storage space. Plus, five mowing height settings and options for side discharge or mulching offer the flexibility to mow the way you like.
Best riding lawn mower: Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro LT
For yard maintenance of a larger space with thick or inconsistent grass, the Cub Cadet XT1 is designed to power through up to 1.5 acres with smooth cutting action and a tight turning radius. The hydrostatic transmission eliminates the jerky starts associated with clutch and gear shift mowers. This Cub Cadet riding mower features a 42-inch, 13-gauge deck, and 547cc one-cylinder engine.
Best self-propelled lawn mower: CRAFTSMAN M270
This 21-inch, self-propelled gas lawn mower boasts a strong 159cc engine that starts at the push of a button. Front driving wheels with variable speed control allow the user to mow and turn at their own pace. This Craftsman lawn mower features six-position height adjustment and three-way discharge (side, mulch, or bag). Included are a mulching kit and a 1.9-bushel dust-blocker bag.
Best robot lawn mower: WORX WR150 Landroid L
For the price of a cheap riding mower, this robot lawn mower will completely take mowing off your to-do list. Aided by onboard obstacle sensors and cut-to-edge technology, this WORX lawn mower is quiet enough to mow day or night and includes a rain sensor in order to skip mowing during inclement weather. Check mowing progress or change the schedule with the convenient Landroid mobile app.
Best cheap lawn mower: Murray 21-inch Walk-Behind Push Mower
This push lawn mower offers the one basic feature you want from the best cheap lawn mower: a one-step starting system (no prime, no choke) guaranteed to start on the third pull. But it offers more than that, including a 22-inch steel deck, a capable Briggs & Stratton 140cc engine, an option to either mulch or bag the clippings (bag included), 1-inch rear wheels for easy rolling, and six-position height adjustment. It won’t do the work for you, but it will reliably help you get the work done.
Q: What is the easiest lawn mower to use?
A robot lawn mower is possibly the easiest model to use. It automatically cuts the grass on a pre-programmed schedule. After initial setup and programming, you need only change the blades periodically to ensure a consistently clean cut.
Q: How long should a lawn mower last?
With basic care, even the best cheap lawn mower should last more than 10 years. Store it away from the elements when not in use and keep the blade sharp. Maintain the engine according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Cordless electric mowers will need replacement batteries around the five-year mark.
Q: How often should you replace your lawn mower?
Mowers are built to last at least 10 years if they are given adequate care, but many will last much longer. There is no established timeline for replacing a mower; keep it as long as it works. When your mower no longer operates in a safe or efficient manner, replace it.
The final word on choosing the best lawn mower
Ideally, doing research in advance about the best lawn mowers will lead to long-term satisfaction with your outdoor power equipment. But what happens when you move to a new home or decide you really don’t want to push a mower across a half-acre any longer? Perhaps it’s time to sell your old, yet still functional lawn mower and buy some better lawn maintenance tools. Location and lifestyle changes may be a chance to acquaint yourself with better lawn equipment. Innovations like the zero-turn riding lawn mower or a robotic mower arise once in a generation, and they are likely to remain state-of-the-art for the next five to 10 years at least.