The purchase of a lawnmower is a very individual matter in each case and depends primarily on the area’s shape, size, and texture to be mowed. So before you start choosing a particular model, you should ask yourself some basic questions: How often will I cut? How big is an area? What’s the slope of my land? How rugged is the garden?
These answers won’t give you a clear answer on their own, but they’ll give you a practical guide. After reading the following chapters, you’ll know how to choose a lawnmower for your garden.
We’ll provide you with a wealth of advice so that you can choose the type of mower, the optimum power, and other parameters important for comfortable mowings, such as torque, basket capacity, and cutting width. So let’s get down to the step-by-step process of choosing a mower together.
How to choose a lawnmower in brief:
- Drive – Depending on the nature of the land, choose the appropriate drive option. Petrol mowers are more powerful and suitable for larger gardens, whereas battery and electric machines are more suitable for smaller ones.
- Power and torque – The power and torque are related to the drive, which is generally higher on petrol models.
- WIdth or reach – Each terrain is specific. For large and flat grassy areas with no obstacles and close together, a wider reach is better. For very rugged terrain, choose narrower.
- Material – Steel construction is more durable, but also has more weight. However, a high proportion of plastic parts indicates a lower-quality model.
- Features and equipment – Selection factors include the desired adjustability and range of cutting height, the volume of the collection basket, mulching options, and so on.
- Price – For similarly equipped mowers with comparable specs, you can also choose a lower price as a criterion.
If we start from the very beginning, we’ll start with the mower’s power unit. That’s no to say, the main drive train, which is responsible not only for the mowing process itself but also for the eventual running of the garden machine. The resulting choice is proportional to your specific requirements and the area to be mowed.
- Petrol mowers – Have the highest power and their running time is basically limited only by the amount of fuel. For this reason, they’re also suitable for larger areas and less-maintained lawns.
- Electric mowers – These are lightweight, the electric motor is also a simple device that doesn’t clog filters. Devices of this type do well on smaller flat areas, they’re limited by the length of the extension cable.
- Cordless mowers – Suit well on flat well-kept lawns. The advantage is the ability to move without a cable, but power is limited, and run-time is limited by battery life.
Petrol or diesel mowers are equipped with an internal combustion engine and therefore don’t require any connection to the mains. This is one of their main advantages – better mobility and, to a certain extent, the power to cope with more difficult terrain. If you choose petrol lawnmowers with traction, you’ll even save your physical strength when mowing.
Petrol mowers are more comfortable in many ways. However, you may encounter their increased weight and impaired maneuverability over rougher terrain. Overly sloping surfaces, which aren’t conducive to a petrol engine, can also be a nuisance. There’s also more maintenance to consider, with continuous monitoring of petrol and oil levels.
Depending on the model, it finds its primary use on virtually any size of the plot, ideally up to about 3,900 ft² (1,200 m²), after which it’s worth considering a garden tractor.
- Power – The internal combustion engine is high, commonly quoted as horsepower and kilowatts.
- Running gear – Is typically strong and can pull a full basket through tall grass.
- Mowed area – Should be no more than 3,900 ft² (1,200 m²), with manufacturers usually stating a recommended area for a particular model.
Electric lawnmowers only work with a power supply, so you have to take the power cable into account. This can be a nuisance for some people when mowing and there’s also a risk of cutting if you’re not careful. Danger can also arise in the event of sudden rain (or if the grass is wet), in which case there’s a risk of a short-circuiting or dangerous discharge.
However, these advantages lie in their lighter weight and easier handling. As long as you keep an eye on the power cord, you’ll be able to tackle any terrain, including sloping terrain where you’ll feel right at home with a lighter electric mower.
Since you have to constantly drag the electric cable behind you, these garden mowers are more suitable for areas up to 1,600 ft² (500 m²). For large gardens, it’s worth investing in a petrol lawnmower.
- Power – Lower than that of an internal combustion engine. Tall grass may therefore need to be cut in stages, for example at two heights.
- Running gear – If there’s any, it’s weaker than with petrol mowers. Therefore, the basket volume is also smaller.
- Mowed area – The recommended area to be mowed with an electric mower should be no more than 1,600 ft² (500 m²). Take into account the distance from the socket.
Cordless mowers are an offshoot of electric mowers. Their main drive unit is an electric motor with a battery that needs to be charged regularly. These models of garden equipment to some extent combine the silence of electric mowers and the absence of cable of petrol mowers.
In addition, today’s modern machines can also be equipped with two Li-ion batteries with sufficient endurance, so you won’t run out of breath halfway through the garden. Recharging is a matter of a relatively short time, within an hour. On a single charge, you can travel approximately 1.2 to 1.8 miles (2 to 3 km). Due to the limited capacity of the battery cells, these mowers are more suitable for areas of around 2,600 ft² (800 m²) at most.
- Performance – Quality battery mowers aren’t fundamentally different from electric ones. However, count on a limited run time on a single battery. This is normally in the tens of minutes.
- Running gear – Very often absent with regard to the energy saving required for mowing.
- Mowing area – Should be up to approx. 2,600 ft² (800 m²) and it’s recommended that it’s rather even. These mowers aren’t suitable for rough and difficult terrain.
Advantageously, manufacturers now offer entire product lines of various battery-powered garden aids, be it mowers, saws, garden vacuums, hedge trimmers, and more. This means that you can use a particular type of battery in multiple devices of the same brand, which is handy. Generally, this system is called a battery program.
This disadvantage is that the price of a single battery can be almost as high as the price of the device. In addition, you’ll often find that mowers (or other tools) are sold without a battery because the user may already own the battery from another machine and another one would be unnecessary. On the other hand, if no battery is available, the purchase price increases significantly.
Mowers without electric, petrol, or battery power. Products that work by having to be pushed in front of you (most commonly spindle mowers). These are very lightweight devices that take care of a perfect lawn cut. As a lot of manpower is required to operate them, they’re more suited to maintaining small garden areas.
From the drive, it’s just a small step to the type of mower or the design of the cutting deck. It’s the design of the model. Each of the products listed below will give you something a little different and can often be purchased with both power units, in both electric and petrol versions. Your final choice of which mower to choose is ultimately a matter of priorities and requirements.
- Rotary mowers – These are classic mowers with a basket at the back. The better models have running gear. They’re used for quick turnarounds but do damage to the lawn.
- Reel mowers – Used for high lawns and don’t have a collection basket.
- Cylinder mowers – Recommended for high-quality English lawns. The cut of the grass blades is clean, the grass doesn’t dry out. The mower leaves neat lines behind.
- Slat mowers – Ideal for tall grass on a large, flat area.
- String mowers – Suitable for finishing work on precise details, especially when mowing around fences or other hard-to-reach areas. They’re also suitable for meadows.
- Robotic mowers – Make the job easier as they are unmanned. However, they can only cope with a well-balanced, brushless lawn.
Probably the most common type of mowing that you’ll come across in almost every garden. The chassis of the mower houses a horizontally mounted blade (or blades) that is rotated by a motor. This movement then causes the grass to be cut. Considering that modern mowers are height-adjustable, you can also influence the height of the lawn to be mowed. The optimum grass height is within 3 inches (8 cm).
These machines don’t have a rotating blade but a special drum in the front. In the rotating drum are the blades that take care of cutting the grass. These mowers are usually not equipped with a collection basket and are more suited for cutting tall grass. Due to the appearance of the mower deck, you may also come across them under the name of disc mowers.
The spindle mower is characterized by its superior treatment of any lawn, which then looks as if you were cutting it with scissors. This is also why they are often used to maintain so-called English lawns. The basis of the entire mowing system is a fixed blade to which the other spiral blade on the horizontal spindle is connected, which prevents the leaves from fraying. Spindle mowers can be purchased in electric, petrol, and manual versions.
As the name of the mower reveals, the mower has a long bar in which two sets of blades run against each other. As a result, the grass is cut at the moment of contact with the bar. This type of device finds its primary use on flat terrain where a large area of tall grass needs to be cut.
String trimmers are almost identical to classical brushcutters. Hand tools are often equipped with straps for easier and more comfortable work. In this case, the fast-rotating string takes care of cutting the grass. This can also cope with thicker grass stems or bushes. String mowers are used for landscaping garden areas, especially around fences, curbs, and other elements that you can’t reach with a regular mower.
Very specific and modern devices that work on a similar principle to rotary mowers. Their privilege is a certain autonomy. These machines are quite similar to domestic robotic vacuum cleaners. The robotic lawn mower is equipped with a control unit and is able to maintain the mowed lawn without your input. It will even drive itself to the charging box. This type of product is more suited for regular maintenance, i.e. more frequent lawn trimming. Ideal for flat areas without any landscaping.
Power and torque
If you’re clear about the type of mower and the power unit, you should bear in mind that power and torque will also be quite important parameters in your purchase. These are variables that are also proportionally related to the total mowing area and other features, which we’ll discuss in the following chapters.
When it comes to power, remember one main lesson, the large the area you mow, the more powerful the mower. It’s the power that can cope with taller grass, work better with a wider swath, and can be a handy aid with a walk-behind mower.
To give you at least a rough idea, here are the performance figures you may come across for electric and petrol mowers. Sometimes the values are given in horsepower with the HP designation (1 HP = 0.75 kW).
- Electric mowers – Power from 1,000 W to 2,300 W
- Petrol mowers – Power from 1,500 W to 6,500 W
Power is also reflected in the speed of the walk-behind mowers. This usually ranges from 3 km/h and can exceed 5 km/h. It’s a good idea to find out how the travel speed is set.
Unfortunately, there are many problems you can encounter as a consumer when it comes to measuring power. Manufacturers may quote this figure in different formats. For example, the rated power differs from the classic working power, and so on. Unless manufacturers state the power according to the same standards, it’s almost impossible to compare several models according to this criterion.
This isn’t the rule, but a powerful engine can also make more noise, which is especially true for petrol mowers. Current devices present themselves with values below 93 dB, but the noise from 93 dB to 100 dB is no exception.
The second essential parameter is torque. This also determines to some extent how much grass the mower can handle. Unfortunately, this figure isn’t always stated by the manufacturer. A simple rule of thumb can be chosen in this respect:
- 2x torque in Newton meters = maximum grass height in centimeters
We can illustrate this with a concrete example. If you choose a mower with a torque of 8 Nm, it should cut a maximum of 6 inches (16 cm) of grass.
With a lawnmower, you have to look not only at the engine part, but also at the outer casing, or the cover under which the engine and the mower deck are hidden. There are three types of production material you’ll most often come across.
- ABS plastic – The cheapest option, which translates into lower weight and shorter life. It’s mainly used in electric mowers.
- Metal – A more robust and heavier material, which can be expected to be more durable but also need more regular maintenance. Metal chassis can be found on petrol mowers.
- Alloys – Aluminium and stainless steel are probably the most expensive you can get on the market today. High surface durability and low weight combined with long life and minimal maintenance.
The wheels are also part of the mower body, where different manufacturing materials can also be distinguished. The cheaper form is plastic wheels. Their durability depends on the terrain and the regularity of mowing. However, don’t count on service life of more than two to three years. Far more durable and altogether more comfortable to ride on are ball-bearing castors, for which you’ll of course pay extra.
Last but not least, the overall construction of a garden mower is directly proportional to the overall weight of the product. The lightest electric mowers weigh around 22 lbs (10 kg). If you switch to petrol-engined models, you can go over 66 lbs (30 kg). Depending on the design and overall workmanship of the mower, you can even go beyond 121 lbs (55 kg).
Cutting width and cutting height
The cutting width is one of the very important parameters when choosing a mower. You don’t have to guess the exact size blindly, but you’ll take into account the overall size of your garden area. This is what determines how much money it’s worth investing in a mower with a given width of reach. To make this choice as easy as possible, here’s a handy breakdown.
|Up to 650 ft² (200 m²)||13 inches (32 cm)|
|Up to 1,150 ft² (350 m²)||16 inches (40 cm)|
|Up to 1,600 ft² (500 m²)||16 to 18 inches (40 to 45 cm)|
|Up to 3,200 ft² (1,000 m²)||16 to 21 inches (45 to 53 cm)|
|Over 3,200 ft² (1,000 m²)||More than 21 inches (53 cm)|
Of course, you can also adjust the width of the frame to suit how rugged your garden is. The ideal size is one that allows you to pass comfortably between the various elements around the house.
On most mowers, you can set the cutting height you need. This is done either by adjusting the lift on the individual wheels, but a more convenient option is to adjust the height with one lever for the whole mower (centrally). The most common cutting height range is approximately 1 to 3 inches (25 to 80 mm). Nowadays, the machines offer several height levels, and the individual models can be selected according to how many heights they can handle. It’s common to choose between 5 and 8 cutting heights.
The choice of a particular type of mower and its width of reach is also related to the volume of the basket in which the grass clippings are collected. The size is directly proportional to the above values. For smaller mowers, you can fit in a volume of 55 liters. Large models can exceed 18.5 gallons (70 liters). The larger the volume, the less you’ll empty the basket.
Another interesting functionality is the basket fill rate indicator, which is found in better models. It can sometimes make your job easier.
When choosing a lawnmower, you can also look at the manufacturing material of the collection basket:
- Textile – Its advantage is better airflow
- Plastic – You’ll especially appreciate the easier maintenance
Functions and equipment
The mowers can be purchased in a basic version, but also in a version that makes it possible to make much better use of the garden machine or makes the work easier. So let’s take a look at the most affordable equipment:
- Self-propelled – A privilege of petrol mowers in particular, which, in addition to the mower trigger, also have a forward and reverse control. This feature makes mowing easier because you don’t have to push the mower in front of you, it goes all by itself.
- Mulching – Garden mowers equipped with this mechanism are able to cut the grass into very small pieces and then scatter it back across the lawn. The grass is cut in this way. The mulched grass actually serves as a kind of fertilizer. Ideal for lawns up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) high.
- Side discharge – Mowers aren’t only able to deposit grass clippings in the collection basket, but also have a side discharge outside the basket.
- Folding handle – This benefit gives you greater variability and storage of the mower, which can then be transported more conveniently.
- Lever-operated cutting height adjustment – Adjust the cutting height via a single control, which is much more convenient than adjusting each wheel individually.
- Electric start – Mowers with this feature can be started using a button rather than manually pulling the starter cord. This feature is very convenient and makes the physically demanding process of starting easier.
You can invest a few hundred dollars in a lawnmower, but you can also invest thousands. The initial cost always depends on the type of equipment you prefer. If the above information has given you an idea of which lawnmower is right for you, here’s a practical example of what you can buy in this price range.
Price up to $500
By far the most sought-after price bracket in which you can buy cordless, electric, petrol, and manual mowers. The most common models are rotary or spindle mowers. Given this purchase price, mowers with a cutting width of up to 18 inches (46 cm) and a basket capacity of up to 14.5 gallons (55 liters) lead the way. Usually, the power is around 1,800 to 2,400 W. Both plastic and metal materials are used, resulting in a total weight of up to 61 lbs (28 kg), depending on the type of mower.
Price from $500 to $1000
Within this investment, you’ll not only come across rotary mowers but also drum mowers. With a swath width of 23 inches (58 centimeters), you can reach the limit. Automatic or robotic mowers are no exception. Very often, aluminum production material is used.
Price above $1,500
In this price range, there are customers who want an almost professional device with a large reach and, above all, a basket volume of over 18.5 gallons (70 liters). The high power of over 4,500 W and a travel speed of over 3.1 mph (5 km/h) is primarily designed for mowing larger areas, about 7,200 ft² (2,200 m²). The appropriate equipment is of course matched by a weight of up to 121 lbs (55 kg) or more, which is of course compensated for by the practical running gear.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning some practical advice on lawnmower maintenance. If you take care of your future garden machine with the utmost care, you can be sure to ensure its longevity. The description below applies mainly to petrol mowers, which are much more demanding in terms of maintenance than electric mowers.
- Change the oil every year. If it’s very dark and clogged, it should be drained (with a vacuum gun or drain valve) and replaced with new and clean oil. How often you use the mower also affects the frequency of oil changes. It’s recommended to change it once a year or after 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers).
- Pay attention to cleaning the air filter. Replace it after some time if it’s clogged with oil and dust.
- Don’t forget to check the tightness of the individual screws. These loosen due to the strong vibrations, especially on petrol mowers.
- Drain all remaining petrol from the mower and carburetor for the winter.
- From time to time sharpen the blade, which should also be correctly centered. Also, clean the inner area around the blade.
- Check the condition of the belt and carrier, or consider replacing these components.
- Check the condition of the wheels and their bearings, which should be replaced with grease once in a while.
- Check the spark plugs regularly and replace them if necessary. Also pay attention to checking the cable routing, axle fit, and the condition of the crankshaft.
- Clean the inside of the mower after each mowing before grass and other debris become unnecessarily dry.
- Once in a while, you should have your mower adjusted by a specialist service center.
If you don’t know exactly how to look after your lawn throughout the year, a few key points might help:
- Remove dicotyledonous weeds – a mechanical weed eater is sufficient for small areas, and a selective herbicide for larger areas.
- Verticutting, which is cutting through the thatch to allow air, moisture, and nutrients to reach the roots, is essential for a dense, high-quality lawn. Verticutting should be done 2 to 3 times a year, at the same time removing thatch. A verticutting rake can be used on small lawns and a specialized motorized verticutter on larger lawns. The depth of cutting through the turf is 0.1 to 0.2 inches (2 to 5 mm). A deeper cut would damage the lawn.
- After verticutting, the lawn should be reseeded and fertilized to encourage further growth. An important element of fertilizer is nitrogen, which is what promotes growth, and iron will give a dark green color. It’s a good idea to use a spreader for even fertilization. The fertilizer dose is around 93 to 111 grains per ft² (20 to 30 grams per m²).
- It’s important, especially in the dry season, to water the lawn sufficiently and regularly. It mustn’t be forgotten, especially after sowing and fertilizing.
Frequently asked questions about lawnmowers
How and which mower to choose?
There are many types of lawnmowers on the market, but for everyday work, you’ll probably choose rotary models, the most classic mowers. For these, you’ll have to decide what drive you prefer, which is largely based on the characteristics of the area to be mowed. Petrol mowers are the most widely used, with electric and cordless mowers more in the background, but they also offer undeniable advantages. So once you’ve selected the drive, you can move straight on to the cutting parameters, which are dominated by power and, most importantly, cutting width. Choose this on the basis of the size of the plot.
Other mowing parameters include the adjustable cutting height and maximum range. The material and therefore the durability of the products is also important factor. A metal chassis certainly helps compared to plastic, but you have to take into account the higher weight and therefore heavier handling. Of course, the equipment, functions, and accessories also play a role, for example, the size of the collection basket and so on. The self-propelled mower, the mulching capability, or the electric starter are definitely useful. You’ll find the best mowers in our comparison.
How does a walk-behind mower work?
You have to push a lawn mower without traveling in front of you, which is tiring with prolonged use. Some mowers can help you with this, as the engine can also push them forward. Its maximum speed is usually around the speed of human walking, i.e. 2.5 to 3.1 mph (4 to 5 km/h). You’ll especially appreciate the drive when mowing large and hilly terrain. Although mostly the preserve of petrol mowers, you’ll occasionally find it in conjunction with an electric or battery-powered variant.
What is torque?
Torque is a parameter related to the power of the mower, or how much grass the machine can handle. This calculation is very simple, you multiple the torque (in Newton meters) by two to get the maximum height of the lawn (in centimeters).
When to sharpen or replace the blades?
As far as mower maintenance is concerned, you can use the brand’s service or handle it yourself at home. Nothing stands in the way of manually skilled users.
Blade sharpening intervals are very individual. In principle, however, if your lawn looks a little “chewed up” instead of precisely cut, or if it suddenly becomes more difficult to mow, you’re probably mowing with a dull blade. But if the blade is bent or cracked, you’re better off replacing it straight away.
Which mowers are the cheapest?
You can find the cheapest models in the electric lawnmower section. This is partly because they’re generally smaller, lighter, and have a narrower cutting range. Among their manufacturing materials, plastic has pride in place. This doesn’t mean that electric mowers are generally a bad choice. They also have their uses, for example in front gardens in residential areas. However, if you have a larger lawn in difficult terrain, the price of the mower should definitely not be the most important criterion.