If you’re in the market for a new lawn mower, you might be finding it a bit tricky to work out what to buy.
These days, there are so many different types of lawn mowers on the market, including gas, corded/cordless electric, hover, and even robotic mowers, that it can be difficult to decide which mower is right for you.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some key things to consider when choosing a lawn mower to buy as a laidback gardener. Hopefully, we’ll make the process a bit easier for you.
The Different Types of Lawn Mowers: Explained
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of lawn mowers you’ll find for sale at the moment. And the types of lawns they’re suited for.
Corded Electric Rotary Mowers
Corded electric rotary mowers are small and simple but very functional options. As the name implies, these types of mowers have a power cord, normally about 30-40 ft (10-12 m) long, that you need to keep plugged in at all times.
Since there’s no expensive battery or complicated fueling system, corded mowers are normally relatively cheap. The main downside, of course, is you’ll need to keep close to a power outlet, and you’ll need to be careful to avoid cutting the power cord when mowing.
Best For: smaller lawns, since you’ll be limited by the length of the power cord, and these types of mowers normally have a small cutting width.
Cordless Electric Rotary Mowers
If you like the simplicity of corded electric mowers but your lawn is the wrong shape or size for a power cord to work, it’s definitely worth looking at cordless electric mowers instead.
Rather than constantly needing to be plugged in, these types of mowers come with a lithium-ion battery. You’ll need to take it out and recharge it every so often, giving you unlimited range.
These days, the battery life of these types of mowers has improved substantially. However, batteries are still quite expensive to produce, making these types of mowers much more costly than their corded counterparts.
Best For: small to medium-sized lawns, or oddly shaped lawns where having a corded mower would prove tricky.
Gas Rotary Mowers
These days, gas lawn mowers are becoming increasingly unpopular. With the falling prices of batteries, the rising cost of gas, and the smell and noise that gas mowers emit, many people are switching to cordless electric rotary mowers instead.
However, for large lawns, it might still be worth considering a gas mower, if you don’t mind the hassle of buying fuel, and mixing it with motor oil outside of the fuel tank. You’ll need to do this if you have a 2-stroke mower.
Although the battery life of electric mowers is improving, you’ll still find yourself needing a spare battery or two to mow a large lawn without stopping. Also, it might be hard to find an electric mower with a wide-enough cutting width for a large garden.
Also, another unique thing about gas rotary mowers when compared to corded/cordless electric ones is they are often self-propelled. That means that they can drive forward on their own.
With a self-propelled mower, you don’t have to do all the work, which can be very helpful if you have limited mobility, or if there are slopes you need to deal with.
Best For: large lawns, especially sloped ones, as long as you don’t mind the noise and fumes produced.
For laidback gardeners with a small, flat lawn, you might like to consider doing things the old-fashioned way – with a push mower.
These types of manual lawn mowers have a cylindrical blade that rotates forward as you push, rather than a rotary blade that spins parallel to the turf.
Because there’s no motor, either gas or electric, you’ll need to do all the work with a push mower. However, these types of lawn mowers are cheap to buy, and simple to maintain. Plus, they won’t ever run out of fuel or battery charge – you just need to ensure that you have enough energy!
Best For: small, flat lawns, with little in the way of debris (twigs and rocks can jam the blades quite easily).
Hover mowers are a type of electric lawn mower that has caught on in the UK. However, they aren’t as popular in the US or Canada at the moment.
Rather than having wheels, these types of mowers “float” around on a cushion of air that sits under the cutting deck. This makes it possible to mow from side to side, rather than just forward and backwards, improving maneuverability.
The downside of hover mowers is they’re typically quite small. Also, they’ normally have a cord, although some gas models do exist.
Best For: small to medium-sized lawns with undulating terrain and obstacles that are difficult to mow around.
Robotic Lawn Mowers
Initially considered to be no more than gimmicks, robotic lawn mowers have taken up a considerable amount of market share. This is largely for the convenience they offer some people.
Robotic lawn mowers are small, disc-shaped gadgets (similar to a Roomba). They mow your lawn automatically, before returning to a home base for charging. They can be programmed via Bluetooth. And they come with a boundary wire that you’ll need to install to mark the edges of your lawn.
Unless you’re really pressed for time or particularly hate mowing your lawn, we wouldn’t recommend robotic lawn mowers. They’re very expensive compared to rotary mower. Also, they can be a bit tricky to set up, and are more difficult to maintain. That’s because they’re a lot more complex than your typical rotary mower. Also, since they’re quite small, robotic mowers can’t normally handle mowing large lawns.
Best For: small to medium-sized lawns, and those who prefer to focus on garden activities other than mowing.
What to Know When Buying a Lawn Mower
Once you have an idea of the types of lawn mower that might work for you, here are some other things to keep in mind when choosing between different mowers to buy.
- Never buy a lawn mower with plastic blades, because they’ll shatter easily. Only buy mowers with steel blades.
- If you want the ability to mow stripes, you will want to buy a rotary mower with a rear roller.
- It’s often a good idea to buy a lawn mower with a mulching function. Mulching mowers are able to chop up your grass clippings into very fine pieces. They then return them to the lawn to decompose and release their nutrients. This helps to reduce the amount of time and money you need to spend adding compost to your lawn. And avoids the hassle of having to dispose of your grass clippings every time you mow.
- The weight of a mower is an important consideration. Lighter lawn mowers will feel more maneuverable and will be easier to use. However, some lightweight mowers also feel quite flimsy, which some people don’t like.
- When mowing your lawn, you want to keep in mind the one-third rule: never take off more than a third of the height of the grass with each cut. Therefore, when you assess different mowers’ cutting height settings, it’s actually the maximum (highest) cutting height that matters the most. Typically, you won’t want to be mowing your lawn very short, as this can stress it out. So, if a manufacturer boasts that their mower can get as low as ¾ inches (2 cm), that’s not typically something you won’t want to take advantage of. Instead, look for a high maximum cutting height of at least 2 1/3 inches (6 cm).
What Size Lawn Mower Should I Buy?
As you probably know, the bigger your lawn, the bigger your mower should be. That will make the mowing process mower efficient.
If you have a smaller lawn, you’ll want a smaller lawn mower. That will make it easier to mow right up to the edges.
The size of a lawn mower is measured by its cutting width – the width of the blade. Here’s a rough guide on how big your mower should be, based on its cutting width, depending on the size of your lawn:
- Up to 3000 square feet: 11-14?
- 3000-5500 square feet: 15-16?
- 5500-8000 square feet: 16-18?
- 8000+ square feet: 18?+
- Up to 250 m²: 28-35 cm
- 250-500 m²: 36-40 cm
- 500-750 m²: 41-45 cm
- 1000 m²: 46 cm+
However, you also need to consider the shape and size of your lawn, as well as any obstacles. If there are trees, ponds, benches, or anything else on your lawn that is tricky to mow around, it’s best to err on the side of getting a smaller lawn mower that’s going to be more maneuverable.
What Lawn Mower Should I Buy?
To conclude, in most cases cordless electric mowers are a great choice. They’re not the cheapest option, but they’re not tethered to anything, are relatively quiet, and don’t come with the hassle of managing gas.
If you have a smaller lawn, and a power outlet nearby, you might like to consider cordless electric mowers as well. Or even a hover mower if you want the ability to mow from side to side. And if your lawn is flat, and you feel up to it, a manual mower is a very environmentally friendly choice.
On the other hand, for larger lawns, gas mowers are still the way to go. You’ll still need to be careful to store your gasoline safely and take good care of the mower, though. That includes cleaning the carburetor at least once or twice a year.
It would also be useful to discuss weight of the mower, and adjustable handle height and starting cord length. Not all of us mowers are average size men.
As a slightly shorter than average older woman of average strength there are some mowers that just aren’t a good fit.
We used to have a gas mower that I had to actually jump in the air to achieve the height the starting cord needed. We now have a lighter weight cordless electric mower which is pretty good.
It has been very encouraging to see the gradual introduction of lighter and smaller gardening tools (such as my little electric drill size chainsaw that I bought after an earlier column this year) that suit those of us who are not ‘average’.
Thanks for this column. I love seeing it in my inbox!!
Although I’d never shop at Home Depot, I was gifted a Ryobi (immediately named, of course, Obi Wan Ryobi). I still have my old manual reel mower as a back up, but agree with Judy – I do love the electric. My rural back and front yard mowing consists only of paths as I allow wildflowers and grasses to flourish*, however with my age and slight disability, manual mowing was becoming increasingly time consuming and painful.
The cordless electric is easy and quick!
*The birds love it!
I mow infrequently because other members of the family mow the rest of the time. So, when I decided it was time to move away from the gas powered mower that required pulling and pulling, I bought a Ryobi battery mower. It’s light, and it starts every time. I love it.