How to Choose the Right Mower for Your Lawn - dummies

How to Choose the Right Mower for Your Lawn

By Lance Walheim, The National Gardening Association

Having the right lawn mower can make the job so much easier. Basically, you can choose from two types of lawnmowers, rotary and reel, with a number of variations of each. Either is type of mower is available with gas or electric motors. Gas-driven models are most common, but the environmental benefits of electric mowers increase their popularity. Which mower is right for you? Probably a self-propelled rotary type with 5 or 6 horsepower.

Rotary mowers are lightweight, easy to maneuver and care for, and a lot less expensive than other types. Just make sure that you get one with enough power if you have a large lawn. If you have a huge lawn, buy a riding mower.


  • Push rotary power mowers: Push rotary power mowers may come with side- or rear-bagging units to catch clippings. Side-baggers may be less expensive than rear-baggers. Most newer models are very easy to start. Don’t buy any walk-behind mower, push or self-propelled unit, that doesn’t include a blade break system, colorfully termed as a dead man switch. This device makes the spinning blade stop within seconds after the operator releases a lever on the handle. The blade break system makes power mowers more complicated (and expensive) but has reduced the number of injuries caused by careless use of lawn mowers.

  • Self-propelled and mulching rotary mowers: A mulching mower basically is the same as a typical rotary mower. However, the clippings circulate in the blade housing and get cut and recut until very small. If you don’t like picking up grass clippings but can’t stand the sight of them lying on your lawn, mulching mowers are for.

  • Electric rotary mowers: Electric rotary mowers are great. You turn a switch, and the blade spins. These mowers are virtually silent, too; all you hear is the low hum of the spinning blade.

  • Cordless electric mowers: Perhaps the best feature of these mowers is their minimal environmental impact. Even after accounting for power-plant emissions, replacing gas mowers with electric versions results in a 99 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and methane, and a 38 percent reduction in carbon dioxide.

    These mowers can be hard to push up sloping lawns. Although they’re not heavy in comparison to standard mowers, only a few models of cordless electric mowers are self-propelled.

  • Lawn-and-garden tractors: Lawn-and-garden tractor mower deck sizes vary, but most cut 38 to 48 inches of grass in one swipe. Some models take attachments such as snow-moving blades, and snowblowers or snowthrowers. The lawn-and-garden tractor is the type for a homeowner with a large property.

  • Garden tractors: The benefit of a garden tractor over a lawn tractor is that the garden tractor can accept a larger variety of attachments, such as tillers, chippers, snow- or earth-moving blades, and snowblowers or snowthrowers. A garden tractor is a good tool for weekend farmers who need to do lots of chores.

  • Reel mowers: Push mowers are quiet and nonpolluting. If your lawn is 1,000 square feet or less and composed of mostly soft grasses such as fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, or ryegrass, a push-type reel mower is for you.


  • Robotic mowers: Most robotic units look similar to unattached mower decks. The futuristic mower moves around an area of the lawn like those small battery-operated cars your kids love to control. A barrier (usually electromagnetic) keeps the mower confined to within the area you want mowed. To create the barrier, you bury grids beneath the turf at the perimeter of the space.