We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Whether you’ve got a trim little square of grass in front of your house or acres of sprawling pasture behind your barn, your lawn mower plays a huge role in the landscaping of your property. As such, you undoubtedly want a machine that gives the best performance possible. In fact, during certain times of the year, you may use your lawn mower more than once per week. The ideal lawn mower is a durable, high-quality machine that will serve you for many years without fail.
But how do you decide which lawn mower to buy? The market offers so many choices, from rotary mowers that cost under $100 to robotic lawn mowers that cost upwards of $1,000. If you’re thinking of buying a new lawn mower, you’ve come to the right place. At BestReviews, we research and test multiple items on the market so you don’t have to. We then provide our expert analysis to readers so they can make informed buying decisions.
The following shopping guide will discuss the ins and outs of walk-behind lawn mowers, which are arguably the most popular type of lawn mower used by homeowners. If you want to know more about walk-behind mowers, please continue reading. And if you’d like to learn more about the products available in this lawn mower category, please visit the matrix at the top of this page for in-depth information about our five choices.
Note: The above product recommendations were updated August 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.
If you’re considering a walk-behind lawn mower, chances are high that you don’t have acres of grass to contend with on a weekly basis. If you did, you’d probably be seriously considering a riding lawn mower instead.
But riding lawn mowers can be pricey, and they consume lots of storage space. If your yard is small enough, investing in such a large machine could be overkill.
A walk-behind mower is a great choice for homes with small- and medium-sized yards. Walk-behind lawn mowers also offer more precision than riding mowers, as they are easier to manipulate in small spaces.
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.
There are several types of walk-behind lawn mowers. Each has its own unique set of characteristics.
A push mower’s engine powers the blade. In turn, the blade rotates and cuts the lawn. All of the “forward drive” is human-powered; you rely on your own muscle to propel the machine. If you have a small, even lot — or if you just like the exercise — a push mower could be the right choice for you.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
EGO Power 20-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-ion Cordless
If you’ve ever wondered whether an electric mower could compete with the power of a gas model, the EGO Power+ Lithium-ion Cordless Lawn Mower answers that question to the affirmative. This battery-powered monster boasts 45 minutes of power (about 2 miles of mowing) and a Rapid Charger with a short recharge time of just 30 minutes. Owners who recently converted from gas to electric can’t get over how quietly (yet powerfully) the EGO Power+ does its job. What’s more, the EGO Power+ folds up for easy storage when not in use.
A self-propelled lawn mower uses energy from the engine to power the wheels. Sometimes, just the front or back wheels receive power; other times, the lawn mower has all-wheel drive.
These mowers are wonderful for lots of reasons. If you have a large lot, need to mow rough terrain, or suffer from physical weakness or fatigue, a self-propelled mower could be your best bet.
Self-propelled lawn mowers with all-wheel drive are especially handy if you need to propel the machine up and down a sloped lot.
If you own a gas-powered lawn mower, you must refill the gas tank periodically. This costs money, and as the gas combusts, it releases emissions into the air that aren’t great for the environment.
But gas mowers tend to wield more power, so if you’ve got a large lawn or thick patches of grass or other tough growth to tackle, a gas-powered machine could be the better choice.
While it’s true they require maintenance and tune-ups, you’re not tethered to extension cord or limited battery life when using a gas-powered motor. Some people swear by them; it’s the only type of mower they’ll use in spite of the noise and extra expense.
Electric mowers come with a battery that you must charge. The battery powers the blade’s rotation. This is a more environmentally friendly option than a traditional gas-powered motor.
Gas-powered lawn mowers employ the same internal combustion engine technology that most cars use to run.
Electric mowers don’t require engine maintenance, but they have their downsides. Some are less powerful than gas mowers, and some have a limited battery life, which can be frustrating. And electric lawn mowers that tether you to a cord while mowing can be very inconvenient.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Sun Joe Mow Joe, 14-Inch
If you’re looking for an entry-level electric lawn mower, the Sun Joe Mow Joe could be the perfect choice for you. The 12-amp motor is suitable for smaller yards, and the mower sports a removable grass clipping bag for added convenience. Most owners agree that you probably wouldn’t want to use this smaller mower for heavy growth or on a larger yard. What’s more, you must be willing to work with an extension cord to use this mower.
Do you want an entry-level lawn mower or a more advanced model? The answer to that question depends on your budget as well as your personal preferences. Below are some of the more notable lawn mower features to consider when you’re shopping.
Still other lawn mowers include mulching capabilities. These machines hold on to the clippings and cut them into smaller bits before depositing them back onto the lawn.
A lawn mower takes in grass, and it must dispose of it somehow. Many lawn mowers have a simple side-discharge feature for clippings; the clipped grass goes right back onto the lawn. But some lawn mowers have a bagging and/or mulching system for clippings.
Powered by a drive system, the wheels of a self-propelled lawn mower turn automatically. Some people prefer a self-propelled mower because it requires less physical effort from them.
However, some people like the exercise they get when using a push mower.
Self-propelled lawn mowers are typically controlled in one of four ways: squeezing a bail, pushing a lever, squeezing a lever, or pushing a handle to increase/decrease speed.
Self-propelled lawn mowers are great for people with larger yards, as they require less physical effort over the long haul. Some elderly, frail, and disabled people may also prefer the ease and convenience of a self-propelled lawn mower.
Some walk-behind lawn mowers come with a bagging system that collects clippings. The bag typically hangs under the steering handle of the mower. If you’re an active gardener, this option is a must-have.
You may also want this feature if you have to clean up clippings due to thick or coarse grass in your yard. Bear in mind, however, that you’ll have to empty the bag of clippings periodically with this feature.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
GreenWorks 12-Amp, 20-Inch Corded
The GreenWorks 25022 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 stamina with tougher materials (including wet grass), 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. Large rear wheels make the GreenWorks 25022 Electric Lawn Mower easy to maneuver, and you have the option of a rear bag, mulching, or side ejection. This allows you to easily cope with different materials.
Many lawn mower models no longer have the traditional pull cord start mechanism. Instead, they have a push-button start.
So if you’re sick of wrenching your arm every time you want to start the lawn mower, consider a machine that activates with the push of a button.
Electric mowers start like this, as do some gas models.
On today’s market, you can find both electric and gas-powered lawn mowers with push-button starting mechanisms.
A lawn mower that’s well-maintained can last 10 years or more. But neglecting to properly care for your lawn mower can easily cut that time in half.
Some manufacturers rate their lawn mowers based on how many hours the machines will supposedly last. Cheaper lawn mowers may be rated to last 200 hours or less. High-end models can be rated for 500 hours or more.
From these figures, you could deduce that a larger yard reduces the lifespan of a lawn mower. But there are steps you can take to make your lawn mower last as long as possible.
Cutting tall, thick grass puts a strain on your lawn mower. To avoid this strain, trim your lawn regularly.
Change your gas-powered lawn mower’s oil regularly
Just like a car, a gas-powered lawn mower needs regular oil maintenance. Check the oil after every eight hours of use. The darker the oil, the more urgently it needs a change. Fresh oil is amber.
If your lawn mower has an air filter, change it every 25 hours
Periodically check your lawn mower’s fuel filter
It should be clean. If it’s not, replace it, as cleaning it yourself may damage it.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Yard Machines 140cc 20-Inch Push
The gas-powered Yard Machines 20-Inch Push Mower has four same-sized wheels for easy maneuverability. The 140cc engine isn’t the most powerful on the market, but for people with small yards, its lightweight nature and affordable price tag are very appealing.
Conduct a regular check on the mower’s spark plugs
If you’re unsure how to do this, consider purchasing a lawn mower tune-up kit from your local lawn and garden store. Or, take your machine to a professional.
Examine the blade for damage
Power down your mower and let it cool off before you do this. If it’s electric, unplug it first. Then, examine the blade for nicks, dents, and other types of damage. The manufacturer may recommend blade sharpening or even blade replacement.
If you have a lots of precision work to do with your mower (maneuvering around trees, circling garden areas), consider a machine with four same-sized wheels, as those handle turns better.
In this price range, you will find smaller corded electric lawn mowers and basic gas-powered push mowers.
If your mowing chores are few, this could be all you need.
Before you purchase a lawn mower, check out the location of the machine’s gas tank and oil spout. Make sure both are in an easy-to-access spots.
In this price range, you’ll find lawn mowers with clipping collection mechanisms and more powerful engines. You may even find a cordless, battery-powered push mower on sale.
In this bracket, you’ll find more powerful electric lawn mowers with 18- to 58-volt electric batteries. Gas-powered push mowers with high-powered engines also sit in this price range, as do some self-propelled mowers.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Troy-Bilt 159cc 21-inch FWD Self-Propelled
The Troy-Bilt TB220 is a gas-powered lawn mower with a 159cc motor. Designed for small- and medium-sized yards, it offers the self-propulsion and mulching capabilities that many homeowners seek. Owners are thrilled by the reasonable price.
Some lawn mowers have a port that allows a hose plug-in. That hose rinses out clippings under the mower deck. This is convenient because you don’t have to tip the machine to wash the clippings out of the mower.
Many electric mowers come with a removable battery option. This is helpful, as you can store the battery where temperatures aren’t as extreme.
Some mowers have a blade-brake clutch feature that allows you to stop the blade but not the engine. This feature is good for picking up debris in your way while mowing. Notably, you should always exercise caution when picking up debris around a lawn mower.
The batteries on some electric lawn mowers may also charge other equipment, such as leaf blowers and trimmers.
Some gas-powered lawn mowers have a no-prime feature that allows for quicker starts.
Engines come in different power ranges, usually from 140cc to 190cc. If you’re dealing with crabgrass or tend to cut taller, wetter grass, we recommend a lawn mower with a more powerful engine.
Some lawn mowers come with a folding handle that takes less space to store.
Q. What type of lawn mower is best for which terrain?
A. If your lawn is rough or has many slopes to it, we recommend a machine with large back wheels. For many folks, the ideal product in this scenario would be a self-propelled lawn mower, since that leads to less physical exertion.
However, if you’re able-bodied and have a smaller yard with more even terrain, you could easily get by with a push mower.
Q. What type of upkeep does a lawn mower need?
A. A gas-powered mower needs the same type of upkeep that a car does: oil changes, air filter changes, new spark plugs. An electric mower doesn’t have these needs, but you might have to eventually replace the battery.
Q. Aren’t electric mowers considered the weaker choice?
A. Not as much by today’s standards. Thanks to advanced lithium-ion technology, batteries are more powerful and hold charges much better than they used to. Some electric lawn mowers can even match gas-powered mowers in terms of sheer power.
Find the best lawn & garden gifts
These are our top picks for lawn & garden gifts
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F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner
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17-Inch 28cc 2-Stroke
Best Expandable Hoses
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1-Gallon Galvanized Steel Watering Can
Best Lawn Mowers
20-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-ion Cordless
Best Lawn Sweepers
Chipper Shredder, 212cc 4-Cycle Engine
Best Yard Carts
Heavy-Duty Steel Utility Cart
Best Leaf Blowers
50.2cc Gas Powered
Best Snow Blowers
24-Inch 208cc, Two-Stage, Electric
Best Garden Hoses
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The Forecast Sprinkler
Best Weather Stations
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.