As seen in:
GreenWorks
G-MAX
Fiskars
17-Inch Staysharp Push Reel
GreenWorks
12-Amp, 20-Inch Corded
Snow Jow
Mow Joe, 14-Inch
Black & Decker
CM1936ZA 36V
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Good

Increases or decreases motor torque depending on the material being cut. Uses a unique blade shaped to chop and mulch clippings efficiently.

Patent-pending gearing system converts muscle to motion very efficiently, and the hardened steel blades have been precision ground to stay sharper longer.

Larger rear wheels make it easy to maneuver, and you have the option of a rear bag, mulching, or side ejection.

A robust, well thought-out machine made by a company with a reputation for quality. Very affordable.

With no gas tank to worry about, it can be stored on its end, making it take up considerably less space than other machines on the market.

Bad

Expensive, but you are paying not only for its advanced technology, but also for the fact that it's built to handle and sustain years of hard service.

Is entirely manual - i.e. you have to push it.

Needs to be pushed, but it does have powered cutting.

Has some difficulty with wet or thick grass.

The height adjustment is a little confusing, but this is a minor inconvenience considering everything else it has to offer.

Bottom Line

While there are plenty of good lawn mowers out there, there are only a few that make it to the next level, and the WG789 is most certainly one of them.

If you want a push mower, the Fiskars is tough to beat. It's well designed, well made, does a great job of cutting, and it will even help you keep fit.

It may not be the most modern or innovative, but there's no doubt it represents good value for your money.

The combination of the Sun Joe brand and the easy to use grass catcher - for under $100 - makes it an unbeatable proposition.

A lawn mower that has overcome many of the shortcomings associated with electric machines by providing adequate power and adjustable speed.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
81
Models Considered
41
Hours Spent
2
Experts Interviewed
153
Consumers Consulted

Best Lawn Mowers

The range of walk-behind lawn mowers is vast. At the high end you can pay well over a thousand dollars. Low-cost models are available for under fifty. In an effort to include only the best machines, we have not included the cheapest. Some might be perfectly serviceable in the short term, but there's little economical advantage if they only last a season. At the other end of the scale are specialist machines used by groundskeepers and contractors. While they are excellent in their place, they don't offer the versatility required by the average owner. 

As a result, our selection is comprised of premium-quality machines that should give great service over many years - yet all are remarkably affordable. 

Products we Considered

GreenWorks
G-MAX
Fiskars
17-Inch Staysharp Push Reel
GreenWorks
12-Amp, 20-Inch Corded
Snow Jow
Mow Joe, 14-Inch
Black & Decker
CM1936ZA 36V

Considerations

Grass Cutting Ability

We should expect more from a top quality lawn mower than just the ability to trim a well-manicured patch of grass. A good machine should be able to cope with a variety of vegetation and should also manage grass that isn't completely dry.  We haven't analyzed cutting width in any of our models and you might wonder why. After all, wouldn't a wider cut make for more efficient mowing? Theoretically that's true, but in practice the difference between our widest and narrowest machine is only 3 inches (or 1.5 inches either side of the machine), which is not enough to have any real impact.

Ease of Use

Above average grass cutting capability is a good start, but what else should you look for? We analyze the entire grass cutting operation, from easy starting to operator comfort, in order to select the best all-round package.

Features

There are rotary or cylinder options. There are gas, electric, or manual powered machines. You can have a rear bag, a side ejection option, or mulching alternatives. Which features are actually beneficial and make mowing your lawn quicker and easier?

Price

Price is always an important part of the equation. Although we haven't included the cheapest lawn mowers available, we've nevertheless managed to assemble an impressive group of machines that offer excellent value for your money.

Can't decide between a push mower and a riding mower? Luke, our professional landscaping consultant, offers this advice: "A lot of people buy a big riding mower thinking the job will get done faster when in reality, they've got a lot of tight spaces to navigate. In this case, a smaller push mower could be much more efficient."
Considerations

Grass Cutting Ability 

Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp 

You might be surprised to find an "old-fashioned" machine on a review of the top five lawn mowers, but the Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp Push Reel is a modern interpretation well worthy of consideration. The patent-pending gearing system converts muscle to motion very efficiently, and the hardened steel blades have been precision ground to stay sharper longer. The machine’s height adjustment option is as good as anything on the market and, providing you can supply the necessary amount of operator input, there's little that will stand in its way.

GreenWorks 25022 

The GreenWorks 25022 12 Amp 20-in 3-in-1 electric lawn mower handles most light lawn duties with the competence you would expect of such a popular machine. There is sufficient height adjustment for a variety of conditions, and the lever is easy to use and locates very positively. Users have questioned its ability with tougher materials, or grass when it's wet, but we didn’t find this to be much of an issue. Few machines of this type can deliver the torque of their gas-powered counterparts.

Sun Joe MJ401E Mow Joe 14-Inch

Like the Fiskars, the Husqvarna 5521P gas-engined lawn mower needs manual power behind it. Unlike the Fiskars, the Husqvarna has the assistance of a 140cc Briggs & Stratton four-cycle motor to drive the blade - which it does very well. Height adjustment is independent at each wheel, so although technically it's only 5-position, you actually have many possible combinations. Some owners have been a little critical of how it copes with thick or wet grass, but bear in mind that those comments might be colored by the amount of physical force required rather than a lack of power from the engine.

Black & Decker SPCM1936 

The name Black and Decker has been associated with quality mowing machines for decades and the Black & Decker SPCM1936 19-Inch 36-Volt Cordless electric lawn mower is part of that tradition. Attention to detail is evident in the redesigned blade profile (for reduced drag when cutting) as well as the variable-speed propulsion that lets you cut at a pace that suits you and your grass. A few owners that we surveyed have mentioned that the height adjustment is a little confusing, but we found this to be a minor inconvenience considering everything else this lawn mower has to offer.

GreenWorks 25223 G-MAX

Rounding out our top five lawn mower review is the The WORX WG789 19-Inch 36 Volt Cordless PaceSetter - at first glance a similar machine to the Black & Decker. However, there are numerous differences, with the main one being the WORX Intellicut system that increases or decreases motor torque depending on the material being cut. The WORX also uses a unique blade, shaped to chop and mulch clippings particularly efficiently.

The WORX Intellicut system increases or decreases motor torque depending on the material being cut. 
Considerations

Ease of Use

You could argue that the Fiskars Push Reel lawn mower fails the ease of use test because you have to push it! But look at it another way: you don't have to plug it in, or recharge it, or refuel it. You wheel it out, push it, and it cuts grass. What could be easier?

The GreenWorks 25022 electric lawn mower also needs to be pushed, but it does have powered cutting. Larger rear wheels make it easy to maneuver, and you have the option of a rear bag, mulching, or side ejection. This enables it to conveniently cope with different materials or conditions. The only drawback of this machine is if you've got a large garden. This is when the cable becomes and issue. You can get an extension, of course, but that's not always convenient.

The gas-engined Husqvarna 5521P lawn mower is another machine that relies on your ability to push, but again it has that small front wheel / large rear wheel combination that reduces the effort required and allows for tighter turns. Like the Greenworks, it has three convenient modes for disposing of clippings. The big difference between the two is that powerful engine. Briggs & Stratton have been around for over a century, and for many mower experts, it's simply the only motor worth having.

If ease of use was only about forward motion, self-propelled models like the Black & Decker SPCM1936 would win hands down. Although clearly not the only consideration, it is a big point in its favor! The Black & Decker machine also benefits from easy starting - you just press the button - and the fact that it is cordless. As you would expect from a high-end lawn mower, it has three modes of clipping disposal which can be toggled with the push of a button. The 36 volt motor overcomes the lack of torque of smaller electric motors, but battery power still has some drawbacks. Black & Decker claims it will cut a 1/3 acre area between charges, but some owners have pointed out that it will only do so in ideal conditions.  Either way, we found this range to be on the higher end among all of the lawn mowers on the market.  

The WORX WG789 19-Inch 36 Volt Cordless PaceSetter has all the conveniences of a powerful, easy starting, self-propelled machine, including three methods of handling the clippings. WORX claim it will cut for an hour - or an area of about six tennis courts - before recharging. Like the Black & Decker, the battery is removable so this can be done away from the mower. While this may be convenient, the battery itself is quite heavy. If you're looking at a self-propelled mower because a push mower presents physical challenges, this is something you will want to think about.

If ease of use was only about forward motion, self-propelled models like the Black & Decker SPCM1936 would win hands down.
Luke
Expert Consultant
Luke
Landscaping Professional

Luke owned and operated his own lawn and landscaping business for over a decade. Founding the business and growing it prior to an acquisition, Luke led all procurement decisions, from the purchase of blowers and lawn mowers to weed whackers and tillers. Luke uses all of these machines regularly.

Considerations

Features

Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp 

To think that the Fiskars Push Reel lawn mower is short on features would be to misjudge its purpose - and the quality of its construction. Fiskar's advanced drive mechanism, Staysharp Cutting system, and the way it converts motive power to cutting action make it one of the very best lawn mowers of its kind.

GreenWorks 25022 

Green by name, and green by nature, the GreenWorks 25022 electric lawn mower complies with California Proposition 65, which means it meets stringent regulations in terms of the chemicals used in its manufacture. Although not as loaded with features as other machines here, it does its job competently.  

Sun Joe MJ401E Mow Joe 14-Inch

If the stand-out feature of the Husqvarna 5521P lawn mower is the CARB-compliant Briggs & Stratton motor, that doesn't mean it's the only area of note. Husqvarna have an equally high reputation for quality and this is undoubtedly a robust, well thought-out machine. It may lack some of the functions of the higher-priced cordless models, but we don’t think that this detracts in any way from the quality of this machine.

Black & Decker SPCM1936 

The Black & Decker SPCM1936 self-propelled lawn mower has overcome many of the shortcomings associated with electric machines by providing adequate power and adjustable speed. In the past, some users have complained that their mower was too fast, others that it was too slow - now everyone can mow at their own pace. Additionally, with no gas tank to worry about, this machine can be stored on its end, making it take up considerably less space than other machines on the market.

GreenWorks 25223 G-MAX

If the top prize automatically went to the most features, the WORX WG789 Cordless lawn mower would walk away with it: adjustable drive speed, adjustable cutting torque, special blade design, power level indicator, robust build-quality, great looks and, like the Black & Decker, the ability to be stored almost anywhere. If modern style is factor, it's a winner too - somewhere in between a Transformer and a jet fighter!

Husqvarna have an equally high reputation for quality and the 5521P is undoubtedly a robust, well thought-out machine.
Considerations

Price

Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp 

At around $169, the Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp Push Reel lawn mower is by no means the cheapest of its kind - in fact, you can buy an electric machine for less. As we've already said though, that's not the point. If you want a push mower, the Fiskars is tough to beat. It's well designed, well made, does a great job of cutting, and it will even help you keep fit.

GreenWorks 25022 

For about $30 more, you could choose the GreenWorks 25022 12 Amp 20-in 3-in-1 electric lawn mower. $119 is not a lot of money for such a capable machine. It may not be the most modern or innovative, but there's no doubt it represents good value for your money.

Sun Joe MJ401E Mow Joe 14-Inch

The Husqvarna 5521P 21-Inch 140cc Briggs & Stratton gas-powered 3-in-1 push lawn mower is the only 4-cycle machine in our top five review. At $75, it is also a notable bargain. Although there are numerous other gas models available, we don’t think that any other lawn mower comes close in this price/performance bracket.

Black & Decker SPCM1936 

Normally over $500, the Black & Decker SPCM1936 19-Inch 36-Volt cordless electric self-propelled lawn mower is currently just $493. That's a considerable jump from the Husqvarna, but if you want the quiet and effortless operation the Black & Decker offers, it has to be a serious contender.

GreenWorks 25223 G-MAX

The most expensive of our selection is the WORX WG789 19-Inch 36-Volt cordless PaceSetter self propelled 3-In-1 lawn mower at $305 (a huge saving on it's usual retail price of nearly $750). Part of what you're paying for is all that advanced technology, but it's also built to handle the rigors associated with years of hard service.

Part of what you're paying for in the WORX WG789 is all that advanced technology, but it's also built to handle the rigors associated with years of hard service.

Best of the Best

Selecting the top five lawn mowers under $500 is difficult enough. Choosing the very best is nearly impossible - particularly given the different machines represented. Still, a decision needs to be made.

If it was a dog, the Fiskars Staysharp Push Reel lawn mower would certainly win best of breed. The problem is that what makes it so attractive to some owners - simplicity and near silent operation - are seen as drawbacks by others. We like it, a lot, but it's not the best machine here. The Worx electric lawn mower is another good performer. Tremendously popular and arguably the best in its price range. The same could be said of the Husqvarna 521P lawn mower. Its superb build quality and marvelous Briggs & Stratton motor are a match for any sub-$500 gas-engined machine on the market.

But neither of those two is our winner either.

The Black & Decker SPCM1936 Cordless and the WORX WG789 Cordless PaceSetter are two lawn mowers that share numerous similarities. The Black & Decker is a very good machine and, currently, a very good deal. It solves many of the power/performance challenges that have plagued electric mowers for years.

However, our winner is the GreenWorks machine. It takes everything the Black & Decker does and adds that little something extra. At just $35 bucks more, it's the clear choice for those looking for a top quality self-propelled mower, and it ranked at the top of our pack in every feature that we considered. While there are plenty of good lawn mowers out there, there are only a few that make it to the next level, and the 25302 is most certainly one of them.
Best of the Best
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While there are plenty of good lawn mowers out there, there are only a few that make it to the next level, and the WG789 is most certainly one of them.

Best Bang for your Buck

Deciding the best value for money lawn mower is also a challenge and, once again, the Fiskars Reel lawn mower is tempting. At under two hundred bucks it's already a good deal, but when you factor in the lack of fuel costs, it looks even better. If you don't mind a bit of exercise, buy one.

Unfortunately, it's not a practical solution for everyone. If you absolutely must have a self-propelled lawn mower, the Sun Joe would be our choice again. It's a $750 WORX machine versus the $500 Black & Decker - and right now the WORX is available for little more than half its recommended price. That's just too good to miss.

But both of those machines are quite a lot more expensive than the GreenWorks 25022 and the Husqvarna 521P - and in this category that difference is important.

It's perhaps a little controversial to pick the gas machine, but our Best Bang for Your Buck award goes to the Sun Joe. The GreenWorks 25022 lawn mower is a good machine, and if you have a modest yard you'll probably be very pleased with it. However, the combination of the Sun Joe brand and the easy to use grass catcher - for under $100 - makes it an unbeatable proposition.
Best Bang for your Buck
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The combination of Husqvarna build-quality and Briggs & Stratton power - for under $250 - makes it an unbeatable proposition.
The team that worked on this review
  • Amy
    Amy
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jasmin
    Jasmin
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Ben
    Ben
    Operations