Which of These 5 Types of Lawn Mower Is Best for You?

Choosing between riding and walking is just the beginning!
lawn mowers

If the grass actually is greener on your neighbor's side, it might be time for you to invest in a new mower. Our guide will help you choose the perfect lawn mower for your yard and budget.

What Kind of Lawn Mower Do You Need?

Riding or Walking?

The first decision you'll need to make is whether you'll walk or ride your mower. Consumer Reports says that if your lawn is greater than a half-acre (a lot approximately 220 feet by 100 feet), you should consider a riding mower. You're still allowed to buy a riding mower if your yard is smaller, but be prepared for eye-rolling from your neighbors.

If your lawn is greater than a half-acre, you should consider a riding mower.

Otherwise, you should consider the many options in walking mowers. You can choose between motor-powered or man-powered; gas or electric; battery or corded; self-propelled or push; and more.

Grass Clippings

Before you get to mowing, you'll also want to determine what you want to do with the cut grass. Are you a bagger who collects your clippings? A mulcher who wants their grass cut into confetti bits then tossed back on the ground to nourish the lawn? A side-discharger, who'd like the clippings blown out of the side of the mower?

Yard Incline

And finally, consider the terrain you're cutting. A 15-degree slope is roughly the maximum angle you can cut safely. But if your lawn does have a lot of slopes, you might not want to be lugging a huge mower up and down it.

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The 5 Types of Lawn Mowers

So, what's the best lawn mower for your needs? Read on for further details about each type.

Manual Reel Mowers

Many new homeowners are drawn to the bucolic charm of the manual reel mower, as it was the standard among households in the first half of the previous century. These push mowers emit no pollution, make little noise, require little upkeep, and can be had at a fraction of the cost of a powered mower.

But cutting grass with a manual mower is hard work, especially if the grass needs more than a 1" haircut. These machines also don't trim well close to objects like trees, so even basic landscaping requires some hand-trimming.

Corded Electric Mowers

People who are concerned about pollution often opt for an electric lawn mower. Effortless to start and maintain, many models run quietly and offer mulch, bag, and side-discharge options.

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There are some disadvantages to this type of mower — such as the awkwardness of wrestling with a cord. Moreover, these lawn mowers are only as powerful as the current they can draw from your home wiring; they don't typically handle long grass well. They're also designed to cut a narrower swath of grass than other models, which increases the time it takes to mow.

Electric Battery Mowers

This type of electric mower is cord-free, operating from a battery enclosed in the housing. Less cumbersome than corded models, these mowers can start at the flip of a switch and just need to be plugged in to recharge. Electric battery mowers are also emission-free at point-of-use.

The downsides? For many models, the recharge time can be close to a full day. And batteries can be heavy, making the mower more cumbersome to push.

Gas-Powered Mowers

There's a lot to be said for modern gas-powered mowers. They're efficient, powerful, durable, and dependable when properly maintained. Some even come with electric starters, freeing the user from those old rope-yanks. Yet these machines are still noisy, which is why you should wear ear protection while mowing. While we're at it, wearing eye protection is also a good idea; all mowers can kick up small pebbles and other debris.

Look for a gas lawn mower that has side-discharge, bagging, and mulching options included.

Most gas lawn mowers are powerful enough to cut yards that have been allowed to grow a bit beyond ideal. Look for a lawn mower that has side-discharge, bagging, and mulching options included with the unit, not as additional purchases.

A washout port (the place to screw in a hose and wash out the cutting chamber after you mow) is also a useful feature, along with a blade brake (which allows you to empty the clippings bag without stopping the mower). And padded grips help avoid numb hands.

But no matter the bells and whistles, be prepared to maintain your gas-powered mower with regular blade sharpening, oil changes, filter cleaning, and spark plug replacement. It's generally easy to find these items at your local home and garden stores, like Sears, Home Depot, and Lowe's.

Self-Propelled Gas Mowers

If you don't fancy pushing a heavy mower around your lawn all day, you might consider investing in a self-propelled unit. It harnesses the power of the mower to pull itself along the yard, vastly reducing the amount of work needed to manicure your grass. Of course, we're calling these mowers an investment for a reason; self-propelled mowers typically start at around $250.

Readers, what type of mower do you prefer? Share your lawn-maintenance thoughts in the comments below!

Contributing Writer

Tom Barlow is a freelance journalist specializing in lifestyle and consumer issues. In addition to DealNews, his writing has appeared on many websites, including Forbes.com and Aol's DailyFinance.com.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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I agree with @FlapJax. As a member of People Incentivizing Grass, I will not stand for the torture of grass and "weeds". After all, a weed is just a plant growing where someone doesn't want it. Who are we to limit a plant's potential to be anything it wants to be, even kudzu if it dreams big enough.
I'm an anti-mow/grass rights activist. You all should be ashamed for indiscriminately cutting your grasses with no consideration to the indigenous weeds who live among them. Remember, weeds are people too...small, green, leafy people.
The photo shown at the beginning of this story is very scary. No matter what kind of mower you get, do NOT let your child anywhere near it when it's running!
I hate Home Depot due to the idiotic management, but they are the only source for the E-GO lawnmower. This is pretty expensive, but worth the money. It has a 56 volt battery which can do my 1/3 acre lawn in about 1/2 of the charge. The mower is self propelled with variable speed and will cut 3" of new growth without any bogging down. It also has a grass catcher for those who choose not to mulch. Adjustable handle and easy removal of bag, as well as easy to clean with a garden hose. Recharge takes about 30 minutes. Storage is by tilting up (no oil or gas to spill). For an extra $100, the same battery can be used with other tools. I have a blower that will blow rocks away with its power, far more than the old Echo blower I had. Highly recommended.
There's a carburetor diaphragm which wears out. Once that happens, the engine won't have power no matter what you do. Hardware stores used to stock it. Now, you'll have to hunt it down on Amazon for about $6 or $7. It's ridiculously easy to replace. Unmount the Carb. from the lawn mower (usually a screw holding the throttle cable and a couple of bolts) and then four or five screws dismount the carb. from the gas tank. And there's the diaphragm. Remove, clean, replace.

The trickiest part is that the carb. has changed slightly over the years, so it may take some sleuthing to figure out which exact diaphragm one needs.

The last time I did this, there was actually a little carb. rebuild kit with new jet and some O'rings for less than the diaphragm separately. That's a pretty good deal if you see it.

Anyway, with this little bit of knowledge, a good, steel, lawnmower can last forever. I guess I might need to replace one of the plastic wheels this year.
I have an old Montgomery Wards lawn mower with a 3.5 HP Briggs and Stratton engine. Bought it new at MW. Years ++++ ago.

This mower has a steel deck, which will outlast any of these new ones I see at the store with plastic wheel mounts. There are a few with all steel decks, but most that I see mount the front wheels on a plastic component attached to the main deck. That's never going to last. And when it does break, there will be no way to fix it.

A couple of years ago the steel deck started to crack and pull up where the handles attach, so I disassembled it, took it to a welder, and a little while later, it was better and stronger than new.

The B&S engine is indestructible if you know how to maintain it. Certainly, occasional oil changes, new spark plugs from time to time. Wash the air filter, and sometimes outright replace it. Eventually they all start to run rough, at which point most folks give up or take it in for a $100+ "tuneup".
I disagree with the non electric comments as long as you buy one of the high voltage mowers. Modern electric powered mowers and weed eaters have come a long way since lithium ion batteries. I have a 20v Black and Decker weed eater that does my entire yard on one battery 2.0 ah battery and I am sure that I weed eat much more than the average person.

I would put the Kobalt mower I have up against any walk behind mower up to 7 hp. It's really that good.

My girlfriend has the 56v Ego. It's nice but it doesn't cut as well as my Kobalt and it's not self propelled. but its light because it has a plastic deck which is fine if you aren't running over rocks and sticks when you cut. Ego batteries are super expensive.

The batteries for the Kobalt can be found on Ebay for as little as $38 for a used one but who cares because you can charge them 1000 times.

I would stay away from the lower voltage mowers. I have a neighbor who just bought the 40v Ryobi mower and he says it's under powered.
For those who mulch vs bagging or side discharge, consider one of the better Honda self propelled mowers. They have a unique twin blade system that cuts the grass clippings much finer than any single blade system can and handle thick grass without any clumping or raggedness. The smaller clippings degrade much faster and preventing thatch issues, etc. I am a lawn fanatic and have just under a 1/2 acre of lush green grass and this is the only mower that gives me the perfect manicured look every time. I have owned multiple Toro's, a Snapper, a John Deere, and two Honda's and the latest Honda models are the best. Yes, they are expensive, but they are built to last and will be cheaper in the long run over less expensive mowers. Periodic blade sharpening and annual oil changes are the most common annual maintenance tasks needed to keep Honda's running for years.
My 18 year old Sears finally went to a new home this spring. In looking for mowers for my .3 acre suburban property, I had it narrowed down to the Honda, Ego, and Cobalt. I was leaning battery until my neighbor (Ego owner) shared that he had to purchase a leaf eater for about $150 to remove our tree leaves. We both mulch our leaves and then bag. This process takes about 3-4 hours (meaning it would take 6-8 with electric, not ever mulching as well). In addition, when I spoke with Ego customer service (fantastic, BTW), they said the average battery lasts 4-6 years and currently costs $180 per battery.

So, in the end I purchase a Honda for about $400 that is self-propelled. Great machine, I am enjoying mowing again. I am excited to see where the battery goes and fully anticipate that in 2025-2036 I will be purchasing a battery operated machine (gosh, I will be old then!).
I don't recommend any non-gas powered mowers or weed eaters. They just don't have the power needed to mow through thicker grass (this will be an issue for you at least once a year when it rains for a stretch). I had an electric weed eater with two batteries and never had enough charge to finish a .25 acre lot where I had my first home. I also don't recommend any Ryobi trimmers or mowers. Maintenance for each was a pain due to cheap construction of each. My advice: small lawns get a gas powered mower that's preferably American made, get a Stihl trimmer, and for half-acre to 3 acre lots look at a John Deere tractor riding mower.
I have Kobalt 80V electric SELF PROPELLED walk behind mower from Lowe's. It is THE BEST the walk behind mower I have ever owned. I have had Craftsman, a Honda (very close second) and a front swivel wheel Cub Cadet. What makes it so great? First, no gas or oil. Batteries charge in 30 minutes and cost 3 cents to charge according to my Kill-o-watt. I have a third acre of grass. The 2 included batteries cut the yard with power left over. It has a TON of power. I have heard of others complain about electric mowers bogging down. Not this one.The Kobalt has a 2 speed motor. The blade motor actually SPEEDS UP in thicker grass. It has never bogged down EVER when mulching and my grass is thick. Its lighter than my old Cub Cadet so its easier to maneuver. It has infinite self propelled speed adjustable from super slow to getting a serious workout fast. The best feature? Cut quality. It misses NO BLADES of grass when mulching. It was expensive but I would spend the $550 again without hesitation.
Battery powered mowers are currently rated as the five highest walk behind or push mowers on Home Depot's website and range in price from $380 - $499. The sixth highest rated is a $750 Honda model. They claim it will mow for one hour on a charge and then requires one hour to recharge to full capacity. I have a good honda and a .39 acre yard so am hesitant to go with a new battery powered mower just yet. I have their battery powered line trimmer and it is a beast every bit as good as any comparably priced gasoline trimmer. They have a battery powered riding mower too that also gets excellent reviews. Change is hard and I have trouble making this leap but surely will when something happens to my current mower.
I have a self-propelled mower... I am in my 60's and have a slight incline on my yard. Mowing in a straight line is easy and you just have to keep the mower going in the right path. It makes it easier on me.