Choosing the Right Lawn Mower

Choosing the right lawn mower often depends on model, features and price. Lawn mowers come in several different model types: reel, rotary, gas-powered, electric-powered and battery-powered. Tractor-style mowers range from models that simply cut grass to those with all the “bells and whistles.”

New on the market are robotic mowers and mowers that are remotely controlled, but they are not for the budget-conscious.

Choosing the Right Lawn Mower

Reel vs. Rotary

Reel mowers are push mowers with blades that cut through the grass with an efficient, scissors-like cut. It actually provides a better cut than a rotary mower. However, a reel mower requires more time and effort. They are not ideal for large lawns, thick lawns or long grass such as zoysia. On the plus side, a reel mower is better for the environment and is practically maintenance free. In addition, it takes up less space in your garage or storage shed. Power reel mowers are available but are very expensive.

A rotary mower is the most common mower in North America. It is powered by gas, electricity or a battery. Gas-powered rotary mowers are the most popular of the three, and can be found in 2-cycle or 4-cycle; 2-cycle lawn mower engines are being phased out because of their high amount of exhaust, so look for a 4-cycle engine (and save yourself time mixing fuel).

Electric push mowers that plug into an electrical outlet are less expensive and are generally easier to maintain, but you are limited to the range of an extension cord.

A battery-powered mower cuts up to 5,000 square feet of lawn on a single charge. They are rather heavy, so consider a self-propelled mower if your lawn is hilly.

If your lawn is greater than 20,000 square feet, or if physical conditions limit your activity, consider a riding mower. A riding mower typically has a 30- to 42-inch mowing path, which is ideal for large lawns. The larger the lawn, the wider the mowing path you want.


Once you decide on the type of mower you want, you need to make some choices about the features. Just like buying a car, there are some features you need and some you can live without.


The first consideration is power. Gas-powered mowers offer the most power. The typical power range is 3 to 7 horsepower. How much power you need depends on your lawn — if it consists of thick, dense turf such as St. Augustine or zoysia, opt for the extra power. If your yard is hilly, on a slope or if you just want to save time, consider a self-propelled mower.

Mowing Deck

Next, take a look at the mowing deck. It should be wide enough to suit your lawn and you should be able to adjust the height to the proper level for your grass type. Check how easy it is to adjust the height. Decide if you want a deck made of steel, aluminum or plastic. Aluminum decks are lighter and rust-resistant, but they cost more. A plastic deck is lighter, which is a consideration depending on how you store the mower (if you lift it or hang it, for example).

Bag Attachment

If you want a bag attachment, consider if you prefer the discharge (where the clippings are thrown) on the side or the back of the mower. Consider a mulching mower if you want to leave the clippings on the lawn — it chops them into small pieces so they break down easier. Long clippings can look unsightly and prevent sunlight from reaching the grass blades, but they do not cause thatch (that is a common misconception).

Other Features to Consider

If storage is a concern, then look for a mower with a collapsible handle, or one that is light enough to hang from the wall or side of the shed. The handle should also feel comfortable in your hands. Finally, consider how it starts. A push-button electric starter is a nice feature for the physically challenged.

And don’t forget about safety features, such as “automatic off” levers that stop the mower when you release the handle.

Riding Mowers

For those in the market for a riding mower, or lawn tractor, there are many features to consider such as headlights, plow attachments, towing capability, seat width, mowing width, hydraulic decks, gas tank size and maintenance. Unlike push mowers, you can sit on a riding mower and test its comfort.

Regardless of the type of mower or its features, just be sure that it fits your budget, your needs and above all your lawn and grass type.

Republished with permission from The Scotts Company,


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