Pick The Best Lawn Mower For Your Yard Without Breaking Your Budget
If you've ever tried mowing a lawn with a sub-par mower, you know how helpful it is to use the best lawn mower that is ideal for the circumstances!
That's why we've scoured the internet and read reviews upon reviews to learn which mowers work best in various common situations. In this guide, we'll help you identify your needs so you can start narrowing down your criteria to help you find the exact mower that fits your situation, whether that's a push mower, riding mower, electric motor, etc.
If you'd rather watch instead of read, here's a helpful guide from Home Depot to get you started...
The first factor you'll want to consider is your yard size. Do you need to mow a small yard (up to half an acre) or a larger yard (more than half an acre)?
For Small Yards
For smaller yards (up to half an acre), you can save some money plus get some extra exercise by getting a walk-behind mower, typically called a push mower. These come with various features. Your main choice is between manual push or self propelled. The names are self-explanatory, but just to be clear I'll explain...
Manual vs Self-Propelled
The "manual push" type means that you'll have to physically push the mower around the yard while the engine is running. The "self-propelled" type means that when you pull a lever, the mower propels itself forward and you can typically adjust the speed at which it moves. As you may have guessed, self-propelled mowers cost a little more and burn up a little more fuel, but the cost difference is relatively minimal. Unless you're on a very thin budget, we recommend choosing self-propelled.
Gas vs Electric vs Reel
The other choice you'll have to make is between gas-powered or electric-powered (or engineless, but we'll address that later). For quite a few years, gas-powered mowers were all that was available until in recent years electric powered motors have started to become more popular. Gas powered mowers are generally on the lower end of the price spectrum, and you'll need to feed it with gas regularly plus oil on occasion, plus they need regular maintenance (we recommend once a year in the spring before your first mow).
As expected, electric mowers are noticeably more expensive and although the cost to run it (including typical maintenance fees) are generally less expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, most people choose the electric type because of its significantly quieter volume and the simplicity of maintenance. Also, most electric mowers are the "manual push" type unless you pay even more to get a self-propelled model.
Although very uncommon, one other option you have for small yards is a push reel mower, which is a very basic motorless mower that has a blade that spins when you push the mower forward. If you thought a "manual push" gas or electric mower is exhausting to use, you'll think that's easy compared to using a reel mower. The obvious plus, though, is very minimal maintenance and no fuel costs (not to mention the mower itself is significantly less expensive up-front).
This guide wouldn't be complete without at least mentioning robotic mowers. There's still a lot of room for improvement with these types of mowers so we generally don't recommend them unless you have a really small yard with practically no obstacles.
Yes, they are self-propelled and self-guided so you don't have to lift a finger for most of the mowing session once you get it set up, until it's finished and you have to clean it up and put it away. Sounds pretty convenient, doesn't it? But not without its cons...
The common complaints people have about robotic mowers are that they don't do well in yards with hills or obstacles, and they tend to not cut the grass as well as most other mowers do.
For Large Yards
For larger yards, the best lawn mower for you is probably a riding mower. This gives you the convenience of sitting while mowing the yard so you'll be much less tired when you're finished. Additionally, riding mowers tend to have wider cutting span (called the "cutting deck"), so you can typically finish mowing faster than if you used a walk behind mower.
There are two main types of riding mowers to choose from if you have a larger yard...
Riding Mower vs Zero Turn
What most people are familiar with is the traditional riding mower that has a steering wheel you use to guide it throughout the yard. They're fast, as mentioned already, and they also typically have good traction, which means they often perform well even in slight slopes. Although, if you have some really steep slopes or hills, you may need to keep a walk-behind mower on hand to get the hard stuff after you've mowed the majority of the lawn with your riding mower. And although riding mowers much more expensive than the walk behind type, they don't cost as much as zero turn tractors.
Zero turn tractors are mowers that use levers to turn the mower instead of a steering wheel. This makes it possible to be more nimble as you're mowing and so you can get around things much more easily and of course turn much more precisely. As the name suggestions, you could even turn around in place without moving forward an inch. The only downside, aside from the fact that it's more expensive, is that if you're not careful you may damage the grass if you turn to aggressively, especially when the grass is wet after a big rain storm.
Rough Terrain Or Obstacles
Depending on how rough the terrain is and how many obstacles the yard has, you may need both a riding mower and a walk behind mower.
So when you're shopping for a riding mower, make sure you look up its specs to see how steep of an incline it can safely mow. Most riding mowers can be safely operated at a slope of up to 10 to 15 degrees, but it depends greatly on the size, weight, and center of gravity of each specific model, which is why we recommend checking the mower's specs before buying it to make sure you'll be safe using it on your yard.
Also remember that even walk-behind mowers have their limitations with slopes too. You may be safe operating it at a slope of up to 20 or 30 degrees, but again check the mower's specs and use extra caution if the slope seems extreme.
If your yard has lots of little obstacles scattered throughout, such as bushes, plants, or yard decorations, a walk behind mower along with a weed wacker will give you the best precision to mow around those obstacles. However, if your only obstacles are relatively large plots of plants or bushes, you may be able to maneuver fairly well around these with a zero turn radius tractor mower.