Whether you are purchasing a mower for the very first time or replacing a trusted machine after years of use, you want to do everything you can to get the best mower your money can buy. Purchasing a mower is not an impulse buy or a decision to be taken lightly. There is a lot to consider about your mowing needs and the capabilities of mowers under consideration. Whether to purchase a riding mower, a walk-behind gas-powered mower, an electric mower, or even a reel mower all need to be weighed as well as individual manufacturer specifications to be sure you are getting the right mower for your needs.
Narrowing Your Options
Because there are so many different types of mowers to choose from, it helps to first narrow down your options based on your specific needs. Ask yourself a few questions: What size yard do you have? What type of terrain are you covering? Do you have any physical limitations? Do you want a machine that can do more than just cut grass? Are there any particular features you are looking for in a mower? Would you rather just hire a lawn care service and forget it all? Once you answer these questions, you can whittle down your choices and begin focusing on specific types of mowers until you find the one that will be the best one for you.
If your yard is more than half an acre in size, a riding mower may be worthy of consideration. Riding mowers are precisely what the name suggests, allowing users to sit down on the job. Riding mowers can be as no-frills or as elaborate as your budget allows and have so many options to choose from that the selection alone can be mind-boggling. There are three basic kinds of riding lawn mowers: rear-engine, lawn and garden tractors, and zero turn radius mowers.
Rear engine mowers are usually going to be the most affordable. They reach an average top speed of 5 mph and are ideal for yards with small passes (think fence gates) because of their small cutting deck. If you are simply looking to ditch your walk-behind mower in favor of a riding mower and do not need many bells and whistles, then this is right up your alley.
Lawn and garden tractors can pull double-duty. They offer more options than the basic rear engine riding mower in terms of attachments. Lawn and garden tractors can perform a variety of tasks aside from simply cutting grass: they can be used to plow driveways in winter, for light towing, and for light-duty gardening jobs. Lawn and garden tractors generally have a more powerful engine than standard rear engine mowers and reach an average top speed of 7.8 mph with a mid-sized cutting deck.
Zero-turn radius mowers (or ZTR mowers) are the Cadillac of riding lawn mowers. They have the most powerful engines and are excellent machines for terrain with a lot of trees or landscaping to mow around. Because of the tight turn radius, these types of mowers can zip around your yard and get the job done faster than any other type of mower. Top speed is around 10-15 mph, though average mowing speed comes in around 8 mph, and cutting decks can be nearly seven feet wide.
Walk Behind Mowers
When somebody asks you to picture a lawn mower, this type is usually what comes to mind first. Standard walk-behind mowers are suitable for lawns that are 3/4 of an acre or less and have no significant physical limitations. Like riding mowers, the different types of walk behind mowers are endless, though there are three main types of these as well: gas powered, electric powered, and manual reel mowers.
Gas powered walk behind mowers give the user a lot of control of the terrain being cut. A powerful engine and spinning blade give these types of mowers the ability to cut grass quickly. They can be used on uneven terrain, as well. Gas powered walk-behind mowers can be divided into two additional categories: self-propelled and push mowers. The self-propelled machines are driven by the wheels and require less effort to push and maneuver than the push mowers. Push mowers are lighter-weight than their self-propelled counterparts and tend to be less expensive. They are usually better for lawns with a lot of hills or uneven terrain as they require direct guidance to mow.
Electric powered mowers are becoming increasingly popular for people with smaller yards (1/3 acre or less) and have come a long way over the past few years. They are quiet and offer easy start-up for users. Electric mowers can be broken down into two major categories: corded or cordless. Corded electric mowers do not have the same time constraints as their cordless peers–as long as the mower is plugged in, it can still mow. The downside is that you are limited to the length of the cord for mowing. Cordless mowers, on the other hand, do not keep a physical tether on the user while cutting grass. They are lightweight and do not require oil or gas to run and have no emissions. The downside is that battery life limits the amount of time you can spend actively using this type of mower.
Manual reel mowers are ideal for small yards or 1/4 of an acre or less. Because of the basic design and no engine, they require very little maintenance and room for storage. All power is supplied manually by pushing and works similarly to how a pair of scissors works to cut hair by the blades squeezing together. The downside of this type of mower is that it can be challenging to push if there is a lot of foliage or bracken in your yard and are not suitable for lawns more than 1/4 acre in size.
The Results are in: Best Mowers to Buy
Now that you have your options for your next lawnmower purchased narrowed down to type, it is time to look at how some of the most popular mowers held up to expert comparisons. Use these guides to help decide which exact mower is best for you.
Popular Mechanics chose eight of the top walk behind lawn mowers on the market to pit against one another to show which ones performed the best and which ones performed the worst. Mowers ranged in price from $231-$599. Ratings include what users liked best about the mowers and what they liked the least about them to help you decide what features are simply an added bonus and which flaws are deal-breakers.
Consumer Reports, one of the most trusted names in consumer product testing, breaks down different types of mowers. Their comprehensive guide gives the pros and cons of each type of mower as well as some of the most popular features on different types of mowers and honest, real-world opinions about whether those options are worth paying for.
In another one of their product tests, Consumer Reports compares some of the top-selling walk behind mowers on the market. They compare gas powered and electric powered walk behind mowers and offer unbiased recommendations on which brands offer consumers the best product at the best value.
In yet another endeavor to uncover the best options in mowers, Consumer Reports offers comprehensive reviews on lawn mowers and tractors. Covering 111 different mowers, this review rates lawn tractors, push mowers, self-propelled mowers, and even robotic mowers.
Green Industry Reviews gives great product reports on the most popular outdoor power equipment manufacturers. They take into consideration almost every imaginable aspect of outdoor equipment from price to product availability by utilizing the recommendations of power equipment dealers.
Lawn Tools Guide takes a more general approach to their lawn mower reviews. Instead of putting mowers themselves head-to-head, they take an overall approach towards overall product quality across all models. This guide is an excellent reference if you aren’t looking for just one good piece of machinery, but overall brand reliability.
Leading Lawn Mower Brands
There are some great products out there, but if they are a small, unknown company, their products will often go overlooked. Often, we equate big names with quality equipment, which is certainly not always the case. Here is a little background on some of the best-known brands when it comes to outdoor equipment.
Black & Decker – Stationed in Maryland, Black & Decker is a leading manufacturer of power tools, home improvement products, and commercial equipment. The company has been in business since 1910 when it was founded as a small machine shop in Baltimore. In 2010, Stanley Works and Black & Decker merged, officially forming the Stanley Black & Decker company. In 2017, Stanley Black & Decker purchased Craftsman from Sears and is among the most recognized names when it comes to home improvement.
Craftsman – Sold exclusively in Sears and K-Mart stores, Craftsman is a brand that has long been synonymous with durability. Owned by Stanley Black & Decker, Craftsman offers an extensive line of tools, work wear, and lawn and garden equipment. First sold in 1927, Craftsman tools was recognized in 2007 as “America’s Most Trusted Brand” with high expectations among consumers.
Cub Cadet – Cub Cadet has been building outdoor power equipment in the United States since 1961. Based in Valley City, Ohio, Cub Cadet is proud of its American heritage and communities in Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, which is referred to as “Strongsville.”
EGO – A relatively new company, EGO has made a name for itself in producing outdoor power equipment without gas. Their vision is to provide a product that gives the power and quality of cordless gas-powered tools without the emissions. EGO uses Lithium battery technology to provide professional-grade power while remaining ecologically friendly.
Fiskars – Fiskars was established in Finland in 1649. Although it is typically most noted today as the company that produces orange-handled scissors, Fiskars was an innovator in some of the earliest gardening equipment: plows. When industrial and economic development was in demand in the 17th century, Fiskars answered the call and began manufacturing equipment made of iron. From agricultural machinery to steam engines to kitchen utensils, Fiskars has been a leader in consumer goods.
Greenworks – Part of the Globe Tools Group, Greenworks is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company focuses on environmentally friendly outdoor power equipment with lowered emissions as an alternative to gasoline-powered tools. Greenworks products have zero carbon footprint, making them a pioneer in environmentally-conscious outdoor power equipment.
Honda – This company is known for more than just a sporty street car. Honda has been manufacturing outdoor power equipment since 1953. They have long been on the cutting edge of producing engines that are low emissions and fuel efficiency. Honda Power Equipment is headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia. In 2015, they celebrated 40 million satisfied power equipment customers in the United States.
Husqvarna – Headquartered in Sweden, Husqvarna has been in business since 1689. It began as a rifle company and manufactured shotguns up until 1989. They have manufactured items from sewing machines to cast iron kitchen equipment, but began focusing on outdoor power equipment when it started manufacturing lawn mowers in 1919. In recent years, the company has started to acquire leading brands in outdoor power equipment and continues to be innovative in watering equipment and outdoor power equipment.
John Deere – As American as apple pie, John Deere has been a renowned name in mowers, tractors, farm equipment, and outdoor power tools for over a century. Headquartered in Moline, Illinois, John Deere was founded in 1837 by a blacksmith and inventor. The company is built on a foundation of integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation.
Lawn-Boy – Lawn-Boy is responsible for producing what we know of as the modern day lawn mower. In 1934, the company introduced the first one-handed reel power mower to the United States. The company, then known as the Evinrude Company, partnered with the Outboard Marine and Manufacturing Company to produce engine-driven mowers for companies like Sears and Gimbles. In 1952, the company was officially changed to the Lawn-Boy name as it has been known ever since.
Makita – A Japanese company, Makita has been in business since 1915. Its first electric motors were exported in 1935. In 1969, Makita produced the first rechargeable power tool–the 6500 D battery-powered drill. Today, Makita operates all over the world, and a significant number of their tools sold in North America are assembled in their Buford, Georgia factory.
Poulan – Having been in business for over 70 years, Poulan is known for making durable, rugged equipment that is manufactured in the United States. Boasting factories in McRae, Georgia, Nashville, Arkansas, and South Carolina, Poulan Pro is known for making products that are innovative and comfortable to use. Originally based in Shreveport, Louisiana, Poulan was initially known as Poulan Saw Co., and one of their chainsaws was featured in the 1974 movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Stihl – This company is best known for the other landscaping equipment they make, but they do manufacture capable battery driven lawn mowers. Founded in Germany in 1926, Stihl is a premier name in chainsaws. The company claims to be the world’s best-selling brand of chainsaws, though it is important to note they are the only company to manufacture its own saw chains and guide bars. The company designed and built the first-ever chainsaw, which premiered during the Great Depression, giving the company a slow start. Once chainsaws became cheaper to manufacture and lighter in weight, the power tool gained traction. In the 1970s, Stihl expanded to include a manufacturing plant in the United States. Stihl is currently recognized as a leading brand in professional grade chainsaws.
Toro – Toro celebrated 100 years in business in 2014. They are a global company with dealers and retailers in more than 90 countries. They produce outdoor equipment across a broad range of products such as snow removal, irrigation products, and lawn and garden equipment.
Purchasing a lawn mower is a significant investment. Decent mowers can range in price from a hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. The most expensive mowers are not always the best, and even the showiest model may not offer what you need to keep your turf looking postcard perfect. Making an informed purchase can save you a lot of effort over the years, and selecting the right mower to meet your needs can keep your lawn well-manicured for decades to come.