There’s an undeniable satisfaction that comes from mowing your own lawn. It’s the way your father would have done it, and buying the right mower can save you money compared to regularly using a lawn service. But buying a mower can be a daunting task, because it isn’t a matter of simply choosing the “best lawn mower” out there — there are many styles of mower, and each one has its place in a certain kind of yard or for a particular kind of homeowner. Below, we outline the best lawn mowers for every scenario.
If your yard is large enough (about a half-acre) it makes a lot sense to consider a riding mower; a machine like the Troy-Bilt TB30 can dramatically reduce the time you spend in the yard. But for smaller areas, you can choose among electric (corded and cordless) mowers as well as gas models. And even among these various walk-behind models, there are both push and self-propelled models.
Push models are generally the least expensive, and a gas mower like the Troy-Bilt TB160 is a good choice if you are on a budget with a particularly small yard. But if you have hilly terrain or more square footage to contend with, self-propelled is the smarter option. Better models are built on variable-speed motors and feature rear-wheel drive, which tends to give you better traction. Gas lawn mowers are less complicated, since you don’t have to contend with unfurling a lengthy electric cord or remembering to keep the mower charged. A cordless model like the Ego LM2102SP 21-inch Cordless Electric Self Propelled Mower can run for about hour; there are mowers with smaller batteries available, but compromising on battery capacity might mean needing to hot-swapping batteries in the middle of the job.
A riding mower is certainly the most audacious option, and generally only makes sense for very large yards. You’ll probably want to focus your search on a rear engine model — tractors and zero-turn mowers are much more costly and include features you just don’t need in a suburban backyard, like the tractor’s ability to tow attachments. If your yard has a gate, be sure whatever model you choose will fit through — most rear engine riding mowers will fit, but unless your have a double-wide gate, you might need to drop a tractor by helicopter.
And how are you planning to dispose of the clippings? Many mowers discharge the cut grass right back onto the ground, which leaves your lawn a mess. Mulching is a better variation. And you can opt for a mower with a attached clippings bag, but emptying it is a lot of work. Thankfully, many mowers in this list let you switch among these modes with the pull of a lever.
Finally, robotic mowers — the lawn care equivalent of a Roomba — are still pretty uncommon, but don’t count them out. If you want the most hands-off DIY mowing experience, these devices are costly but can automatically mow the grass within a boundary area you specify.
Best Overall Lawn Mower
Honda HRX217VKA 21-inch Gas Self Propelled Mower
The Honda HRX217VKA is a natural choice for the best gas engine self propelled lawn mower, but because this category is generally the smartest choice for the average homeowner, it also becomes the all-around best mower. This is the a mower that hits all the right notes at a reasonably affordable price — the GCV200 Honda engine starts easily and has plenty of power for driving the rear wheels. Honda places its Select Drive control at your fingertips so you can dial in the mower’s precise speed to match your walking pace — not with a lever but with an actual dial. And it’s particularly safe; the flywheel brake rapidly stops the engine if you release the brake lever.
Deck damage is one of the most common reasons people need to replace their mower, but Honda’s NeXite is one of the best deck materials in the industry; it’s dent-proof, rust-proof, and backed by a lifetime warranty. And underneath, it it uses air pressure to keep grass circulating longer for better clipping and mulching. From there, the business end of the mower relies on twin blades you can set between 0.75 inches and 4 inches off the ground. In operation, it creates great mulch. Speaking of mulch, a single lever lets you switch rapidly between bagging (the bag has a generous 2.5 bushel capacity), mulching, and discharge.
Best Cordless Self Propelled Lawn Mower
Ego LM2102SP 21-inch Cordless Electric Self Propelled Mower
The Ego LM2102SP delivers what may well be the best overall performance of any electric walk-behind mower on the market, so if this electric mower can’t satisfy you, you might want to stick with a gas engine for now. It’s powered by a 56 volt, 7.5 Ah Lithium-ion battery. That makes it about as powerful as an average gas mower, and it should run for about an hour on a charge (it recharges in about an hour, as well). Another advantage: The battery is compatible with all Ego power tools, so you can swap batteries around and always have a spare ready to hot-swap if needed.
The drive is commanded using a pretty typical lever control, and this is a good indication of how much power is lurking in the battery; if anything, it’s a bit too fast even at its lowest setting if you’re used to walking your mower very slowly. Need to mow late in the day? No problem: There are LED headlights to illuminate your path.
The Ego lets you quickly switch between mulching, bagging and discharge with a single lever, and the collection bag holds 2 bushels of clippings. You can vary the deck height from 1.5 inches to 4 inches, and do it with a single handy lever — you don’t need to adjust each wheel or front and rear individually.
Best Gas Push Lawn Mower
Troy-Bilt TB160 21-inch Gas Push Mower
The Troy-Bilt TB160 is a 21-inch push mower that is built around a beefy 160 cc Honda motor. It’s a budget-smart mower that gives you a lot of mowing power, but dispenses with luxuries (like being self-powered) for smaller yards.
The motor is easy to start; there’s no need for a manual choke adjustment before trying to turn it over, which is a welcome convenience. And since you’ll be pushing this mower, you’ll appreciate the enormous 11-inch rear wheels that helps you get traction on rougher terrain and inclines. The deck can be adjusted from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches, but you’ll need to set height levers separately in front and rear.
You can quickly switch among mulching, bagging and discharge. The discharge chute conveniently clips to the handle when it’s not in use. Troy-Bilt includes a 1.9 bushel bag for your clippings; it would be nice if it were larger, to be honest. But you’ll also find a few unexpected extras, like a deck washing port. You can attach your garden hose to the port to quickly clean the deck.
Best Cordless Push Mower
Dewalt DCMW220X2C 20-inch Cordless Push Mower
If you’re looking for a push mower without the noise and maintenance issues associated with a gas engine, then a cordless electric model like Dewalt’s DCMW220X2C might be just the thing. This mower relies on a pair of 20 volt batteries to generate a fair bit of power, and the 9Ah batteries should be able to spin the blades for about 55 minutes on a charge. When it’s time to top them off, Dewalt includes two chargers so you can recharge them simultaneously. (The company has heeded customer feedback, because earlier versions of this mower only shipped with a single charger, which created a frustrating bottleneck if you needed to recharge before going out for a second sortie.)
It features large rear wheels for traction on inclines and two different handle positions so you can dial in the most comfortable position to command the mower. You can vary the deck from 1.5 inches to 3.4 inches, and choose mulch, bag, or discharge. There’s just one especially weird feature here: A safety key needs to be inserted before running the mower. Since relatively few electric mowers require a key, it’s not clear why it’s there — just don’t lose it.
Best Corded Electric Lawn Mower
American Lawn Mower Company 50514 14-Inch Corded Electric Mower
American Lawn Mower Company 50514 14-Inch Corded Electric Lawn Mower
BUY FROM AMAZON
Though much less common than they once were, corded electric lawn mowers are still an option if you have a small yard and want to avoid a gas-powered mower. The American Lawn Mower Company’s 50514 14-Inch Corded Electric Mower is hard to beat on price, but is a powerful tool that’s easy to use.
Perhaps the largest disadvantage of the 50514 is its modest deck size — you get just 14 inches of cutting width, so it’s clearly intended for smaller yards. In exchange, though, it’s among the lightest of the recommended walk-behind mowers at under 26 pounds.
American Lawn Mower builds this mower around an 11-amp motor and gives you a choice of bagging your clippings (it is fitted with a 1.7 bushel bag) or mulching — but no discharge option. The bag has a grass level indicator so you can tell when it needs to be emptied. Another convenience: The deck height is controlled with a single lever, though it has a somewhat limited height range from 1 inch to 2.5 inches.
Best Combination Lawn Mower and Edger
Black+Decker MTE912 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger/Mower
Not every assembly job requires a 12-volt electric screwdriver; sometimes all you need is a simple manual ratchet. Likewise, some yards are too small to justify a traditional lawn mower. If that sounds like your home, then Black+Decker’s 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger/Mower might be the perfect compromise. While the cordless version is currently out-of-stock at every retailer, the corded version shown here is just as useful and in-stock on Amazon. This mower is one of those clever devices that you might want to buy for small, quick yard projects even if you have a large yard — just because it’s so much fun to use. Here’s the deal: It’s a two-piece system that’s comprised of an edger that turns into a mower when you seat it in the accompanying deck.
It’s small enough to look like a kid’s toy, which is part of its charm; the deck is just 12 inches, so you’re obviously not going to using it for a large yard. But it’s incredibly convenient to use it alternately as an edger and mower, since it comes in and out of the deck easily. It’s also fully compatible with Black+Decker’s family of other power tools.
The MTE912 is a snap to use as edger/trimmer or as a mower because the nylon line feeds automatically as needed — you don’t have to bump it, which would be inconvenient as a mower, to say the least. But in the end, remember that this isn’t a full-bore mower. The deck is made of plastic and adjusts only within a narrow range of 1.6 inches to 2.4 inches. And without actual metal blades, cutting power is modest.
Best Riding Lawn Mower
Troy-Bilt TB30 inch Gas Riding Lawn Mower
When your yard is large enough to benefit from a riding mower, you shouldn’t have to spend a small fortune, which is why the Troy-Bilt TB30 is an ideal choice. It’s built around a 382cc single-cylinder OHV Troy-Bilt engine that generates about 10.5 horsepower and features a 6-speed transmission.
The 30-inch cutting deck is one of the main reasons you’ll want to consider the TB30. Yes, it’s expansive enough to make short work of even a large acre-or-larger yard (and a 1.3-gallon tank will keep running all day), but this mower should still have no trouble fitting through a standard gate. You can directly discharge your clippings or choose to mulch. And the beefy 16-inch rear wheels generate a lot of traction for uneven terrain, though Troy-Bilt doesn’t recommend this for grades in excess of 12 percent. And it’s quite maneuverable, able to turn rapidly to mow around obstacles — it’s perhaps the best turning riding mower you’ll find short of a true zero-turn mower.
Best Tractor Mower
John Deere E100 42-inch Lawn Tractor
If a rear-engine riding mower isn’t enough for your needs, consider stepping up to the affordable but powerful John Deere E100 series lawn tractor. This mower has a large 42-inch deck which can make short work of even very large fields, but isn’t as convenient to store — and will require a double gate for entry, if you have a fenced property line.
Getting started with the E100 is made simpler by John Deere, which offers white glove service on all sales. A local dealer delivers the tractor and teaches you how to operate and maintain the system. Under the hood, you get a powerful 500cc, 17.5 horsepower engine with a 2.4-gallon tank that enables a top speed of 5.5 mph. You also get a choice of bagging or direct discharge.
It’s also built like a tank, with a cast-iron front axle, 12-gauge, 11 inch fully welded steel frame, and 13-gauge steel deck. Nonetheless, the cockpit is surprisingly ergonomic, with a spacious seating area for entry and exit, and conveniences like an easy-access lever to adjust the deck height between 1 inch and 4 inches in quarter-inch increments.
Best Robot Lawn Mower
Worx WR140 Landroid M Robotic Lawn Mower
Like a Roomba for the yard, the Worx WR140 Landroid M Robotic Lawn Mower is a modern alternative to regularly shepherding a walk-behind mower in the hot sun. The idea here is that this robot mows your lawn autonomously, on a set schedule or when you trigger it manually from your smartphone. It’s equipped with Wi-Fi and GPS so it knows where it is within your yard at any given moment and you can control it remotely. The WR140 intended for lawns up to about a quarter-acre, and you define the perimeter by laying down a boundary wire that it knows not to pass. (WORX also has a model designed for larger, half-acre lawns as well.) The mower isn’t limited just to watching for the boundary wire, though. Thanks to a set of optical sensors, it can go around obstacles in the lawn, so it won’t run into or try to mulch toys your kids have left lying around.
Equipped with a standard WORX battery, the WR140 returns to its charging station automatically when the battery running low. The charging station, like the robot itself, works autonomously, and has a weather cover to keep the mower dry in the rain. As an added bonus, you can use the battery interchangeably with other WORX tools.
The WR140 is surprisingly agile. It has a pair of large wheels in back for traction and a single smaller wheel up front which lets it turn more or less on a dime. It can easily navigate tight corners and obstacles, and can successfully work in hilly yards with as much as a 35 percent grade.