Whether your lawn is the size of a postage stamp or you own several acres of land, this article will help you find the best lawn mower for you.
During my years spent as a greenkeeper for several golf clubs, cricket grounds, National Trust properties and more recently, a domestic gardener, I have a unique experience of testing and using a vast range of lawn mowers.
From corded to cordless, from electric to petrol, rotary to cylinder and robot to ride on. My expert guide will help you decide which lawn mower is best for you and your lawn.
Best Lawn Mower By Type
If you already know what type of lawn mower you want or need, click on the links to see my top recommendations.
Which is the Best Type of Lawn Mower For You and Your Garden?
There are several types of lawn mower available and the best one for you will depend on many factors.
So let’s look at the different type of lawn mower, the pros and cons of each and when you might choose one type over another.
Hand Push Mowers: Best Small, Well-Kept Lawns Up to 100m²
These mechanical mowers are the most basic type.
They’re also by far the cheapest.
Simply push them along and a bladed cylinder spins and slices the grass in a scissor-like action.
Because they use a cylinder blade which cuts grass in a similar way to scissors, they produce one of the cleanest and healthiest cuts you can get (as long as you keep the blades sharp!)
Hand push mowers are best for small, level, already well-manicured lawns.
They’re also very lightweight when compared to other types of mower which is a good thing if you don’t want to haul a big machine around the garden.
However, because they’re so small and lightweight, they’re not great for larger areas, you’d be mowing all day with one of these.
And they’re terrible on bumpy, uneven lawns with coarse grasses. The blades get jammed, the grass collectors fall off and they’ll make your life a misery.
Electric Lawn Mowers: Best For Small Lawns Up to 200m²
Electric lawn mowers are the most common type and are good for small to medium-sized lawns.
You can buy them in cylinder or rotary versions.
They generally offer good value for money and they come in a range of power outputs. Whether you have bumpy uneven lawns or a well-cared-for lawn, there’s a model out there for you.
The downside to electric mowers is the fact that they’re limited by a power cord.
They’re generally only 10 meters long, although some models do have longer ones. Still, they’re rarely long enough to mow the lawn without the need for an extension lead.
This often causes problems when mowing around obstacles like garden features and furniture. It’s very easy to get tangled up and cutting through the power cord can result in electrocution.
Also, electricity and water don’t mix which means cutting wet grass is out of the question.
Hover Mowers: Best For Small Lawns Up to 200m²
Hover mowers are also fairly cheap, which makes them a common choice.
Their big advantage is their manoeuvrability.
Instead of having fix wheels like most lawn mowers, a hover mower works by creating a cushion of air on which it floats, similar to a hovercraft.
This makes steering them incredibly easy.
If you have odd or irregular shaped lawns that a traditional, wheeled mower might struggle with, a hover mower might be a good choice.
They mainly come in electric versions which are suitable for small to medium-sized lawns. However, their limitations caused by their power cords are the same as any other electric mower.
That said, you can also by petrol models if your lawn is on the larger side, although they can be pretty heavy.
For many people, hover mowers have two main issues;
- They’re not great on bumpy uneven lawns. If they hit a high spot or a thick tuft of grass, they can scalp the lawn.
- Their grass collectors are generally quite small, many don’t come with them at all.
Cordless Mowers: Best For Small, Medium & Large Lawns
Cordless mowers bridge the gap between electric and petrol versions.
They use electric power but have the freedom of petrol mowers because they’re not limited by a power cord. This means they’re a good choice for medium to large lawns.
And similarly to cars, as battery technology improves, they’re becoming more and more popular.
Batteries typically last for around 30-40 minutes on average. However, if your lawn is on the rugged side, expect the battery to run out of charge sooner.
That said, you can buy extra batteries.
You also need to remember to charge the batteries before using them, which usually takes a couple of hours. Some can take up to 5 hours.
Petrol Lawn Mowers: Best For Medium to Large Lawns
Petrol lawn mowers are the most common choice for larger lawns, although some can perform well on smaller lawns too.
They’re not limited by the length of a power cord or by the run time of a battery. If it runs low on fuel, just top it up.
They’re generally much more robust and have far more power than electric or cordless models too. This makes them the obvious choice for more unruly lawns.
Petrol lawn mowers can be expensive though.
There’s the constant need for fuel and you also need to service them before every season. If you can’t do it yourself, get your local lawn mower shop to take care of it for you.
However, this does mean added cost.
Robot Lawn Mowers: For Lawns of All Sizes
When robot mowers first came to market the general opinion was that only people with more money than sense would buy them.
However, robot technology is developing quickly and as a result, these machines are becoming more and more popular.
In fact, there are a few reasons why you might choose a robot mower;
The first one is if you hate mowing the lawn. In this case, a robot mower could be your new best friend.
On average, a person spends 9 hours each summer cutting the grass. If you have large lawns, it could be double, even triple that. A robot could give you that time back.
Set it up once and it’ll come out and mow the lawn automatically on a schedule that you decide.
You can buy them for all sizes of lawn too, from small lots to massive lawns of up to 5,000sq meters.
Another very good reason for choosing a robot mower is if you’re disabled, or if for whatever reason, you’re not able to push a mower around.
The fact is, robot mowers aren’t as silly as some people might think.
They’re not great with unruly lawns though so if yours resembles more of a paddock, a robot probably isn’t a wise choice.
And they’re expensive, expect to pay around £500 for a basic model. Bigger, more advanced versions will set you back several thousand.
Ride-On Mowers: Best For Lawns Large Lawns of 1,000m² +
When your lawn is too large for a petrol mower, a ride-on machine is often the only other option.
They tackle really big lawns much more quickly and efficiently than other types of lawn mower.
And as an added bonus, they’re just fun to ride around on.
They come with a whole range of features and higher-end models don’t just mow lawns. They can tackle paddocks and meadows as well as pull ploughs, tow trailers and other things.
That said, they’re expensive so I wouldn’t invest in one unless it makes sense to do so.
Completely impractical on smaller lawns but fantastic for bigger plots.
The Difference Between Rotary and Cylinder Mowers
When it comes to lawn mowers, there are two types of cutting action;
- A rotary blade, or
- A cylinder blade
The type of cutting system you choose will very much depend on the current state of your lawn.
Rotary mowers are the most common type.
They have a single blade which spins at very high speed, chopping the grass on impact.
They’re almost always more practical on a typical family lawn which has imperfections like bumps, divots and features long, coarse, meadow grasses.
Another benefit of a rotary mower is that as the blade spins, it creates suction.
This means it not only hoovers up grass clippings as you mow the lawn but you can also use it as a vacuum in the autumn and winter to remove fallen leaves.
The downside to rotary mowers, however, is that because they ‘chop’ instead of ‘slice’. They don’t cut as cleanly as a cylinder mower. This causes more damage and stress to the grass.
Especially if the blades are blunt.
You’ll sometimes see the tops of the grass leaves are jagged and turn brown. If you start to see this, sharpen the blade.
Cylinder mowers have anything from 5 to 12 blades attached to a cylinder which spins at the front of the machine.
These blades trap the grass against a fixed blade at the bottom of the mower, slicing it in a scissor-like action.
The more blades a cylinder has, the better the cut will be.
Because this cutting action slices through the grass instead of chopping through it, the cut is much cleaner and therefore less stressful on it.
Cylinder mowers aren’t for everyone though.
Firstly, they’re generally more expensive than rotary mowers.
Secondly, if you have an unruly lawn which has bumps, divots, and long grass or coarse grasses, they’re useless. They jam on the bumps and just won’t cut long or coarse grass, especially stalky meadow grasses.
That said, if your lawns are reasonably level, a cylinder mower is definitely worth considering.
If you have formal or ornamental lawns, a cylinder mower must be your only choice. It’s the only type of mower that will give you a clean, formal cut.
Features to Consider When Shopping For a Lawn Mower
As you’ll no doubt already know, not all lawn mowers are made equal.
Some come with more features than others.
In fact, there are so many features available, we could be here all day so I’ll only cover the main ones here.
Cutting Height Adjustment
The cutting height isn’t something that many people consider when they in the market for a new lawn mower.
That said, it is an important consideration and it all comes back to the state of your lawn and how you use it.
If it’s not very even and has bumps and troughs, look for a machine with plenty of height adjustment.
On the other hand, if your lawn is relatively level and you like a closer cut, you might not need so much adjustment on the high side.
The cutting height should also be easy to adjust.
This is where many lawn mowers fail. The manufacturers say it’s easy to adjust but they often feel stiff, get jammed or work poorly.
All of the lawn mowers I recommend are in fact, easy to adjust.
It’s important to choose the right cutting width for your lawn.
The wider the cutting width, the more grass the mower will cut on each pass.
However, if you choose a wide cutting width for a small lawn, you’ll find it hard to manoeuvre in tight spaces or corners.
On the other hand, if you choose a narrow cutting width to mow a large lawn, it’ll take much longer the cut the grass than it should.
So how do you choose the right cutting width?
Here’s a quick guide:
- Up to 50sq meters: 30cm – 34cm
- 50 – 150sq meters: 35cm – 40cm
- Over 150sq meters: 40cm +
Some of the bigger lawn mowers are heavy, especially petrol mowers.
Obviously this makes them difficult to push around, especially if your lawns are on an incline.
Self-propelled mowers have a drive feature which propels them forward so you don’t have to push them. All you have to do is steer.
This reduces the amount of effort you need to put into cutting the grass.
Some lawn mowers have multiple ways of dealing with grass clippings.
One of these ways is mulching.
You can buy dedicate mulching mowers or regular rotary mowers that mulch.
Mowers that mulch grass clippings cut them into tiny pieces and blow them back into the lawn.
The benefit is that the clippings decompose and keep nutrients in the lawn instead of being taken away and chucked in the green waste bin.
However, if your lawn is full of weeds, mulching isn’t a good idea. You’ll potentially spread weed seeds all over your lawn as the clippings are dropped. Which will make your weed problem even worse.
If you like a striped finish to your lawn, get a mower with a roller.
The roller will flatten the grass as you mow it which creates that striped effect.
Some mowers do a better job than others at mowing the edges of your lawn.
If you have lawn edging or a mowing strip which allows you to mow right over the edges of your lawn, this should matter too much.
If you don’t you might find yourself having to finish off the edges with a grass trimmer or lawn edging tool.
Mowers with a rear roller often do a better job of mowing the edges of your lawn. Wheels can drop off the edge into borders causing you to scalp and damage the edges.
Other mowers have a feature on the front called ‘grass combs’. These guide the grass at the edges of your lawn under the cutting deck and into the path of the blade.
The end result is that you have less to do when finishing off.
Again, this is something most people never even think about.
Most lawn mowers have a fixed handle but others allow you to adjust the height.
If you’re taller or shorter than average, choose a mower with an adjustable handle. A fixed handle might make cutting the grass uncomfortable on your lower back.
This only applies to petrol mowers.
Many models have a pull cord starting mechanism. This requires your to prime the engine, adjust the choke and give the pull cord a sharp tug.
Pulling the cord does take some strength and isn’t easy for everyone.
Not only that, adjusting a choke and priming an engine is enough to scare some people off because they think it’s difficult.
If this sounds like you, look for a model that has a push-button or key start.
As you can see, the term ‘the best lawn mower’ means different things to different people.
As such, don’t take my recommendations as gospel.
Once you’ve figured out which type of mower you want, whether it be electric, cordless, petrol, hover, cylinder, robot or ride-on, go have a look at my recommendations for that category.
Go to a lawn mower shop if you have to and try them out.
The key is to buy exactly what you need.
If you buy a machine which is too small or lacks the features you need, mowing the lawn will be a chore you’d rather avoid doing.
On the other hand, if you overbuy and go too big or invest in too many features, it might be too much for you and your lawn to handle.
Take your time to buy best mower for you and your lawn and cutting the grass will become a job you really don’t mind doing.
Hell, you might even enjoy it!