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Lawn & Garden

Push or Ride: How to Choose a Lawn Mower [With Graphic]

Not sure what kind of lawn mower you need? Then check out what to consider when deciding between manual, electric, push, self-propelled or riding mowers.

how to choose a lawn mower graphic

The initial hard work of seeding, sodding, fertilizing and watering is done. Now it’s time to consider an essential purchase — the mower you’ll be using to keep your lawn looking perfectly manicured.

First Considerations

When buying a mower, most homeowners weigh factors, such as price, brand reputation and special features. Before investing in a lawnmower with all the bells and whistles, however, you should also ask yourself the following questions.

How big is my lawn? 

Lawn size is a major factor in determining how much lawnmower you actually need. Walking mowers work best for lawns smaller than three-fourths of an acre. For larger lawns, a riding mower may be a better solution.

What's the lay of the land?

 If your lawn is small and flat, a walking mower that’s not self-propelled probably has enough power behind it. If you'll frequently be mowing up- and downhill, then a self-propelled or riding mower might be a better choice.                                                                                            

What other landscaping features will my mower have to navigate?

 Trees, shrubs, flower beds, bird baths and other elements may further beautify your lawn, but they become obstacles when it's mowing time. Such features become particularly important considerations when selecting a riding mower. Rear-engine riding mowers tend to fit through narrower spaces, while zero-turn-radius mowers are wider but more agile. Overall, lawn and garden tractors don’t maneuver around obstacles, as well as other riding mowers. 

Walking mowers

If you like a nice, leisurely walk with your yard work, you have a number of walking mower options to choose from.

Manual reel mower.

 This classic mower employs a mechanism that spins cutting blades as you push. With no engine, reel mowers are quiet and environmentally friendly. They also produce natural mulch from grass clippings, which some homeowners feel makes for a healthier lawn. Because they run on manpower, however, reel mowers work best for small, flat yards.

Corded electric mower. 

Corded electric models are also well-suited to smaller yards. Just plug the mower in and go. However, your range is limited by the length of your extension cord, and constantly having to manage the cord to avoid running it over can be a chore. Because their engines are typically less powerful than gas-powered models, tall, thick grass can also thwart electric mowers. You may have to mow more often in order to reduce your chances of ending up with a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker.

Cordless electric. 

Cordless electric mowers are relatively new to the marketplace. They are light, quiet and powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Some advanced models hold enough charge to mow a small to medium-sized lawn and can be recharged in as little as half an hour. Cordless electric mowers are available in either push or self-propelled models, but expect to pay a premium for the convenience of mowing without a cord.

Push or self-propelled gas mower. 

More powerful than electric models, these mowers can really plow through tall grass and weeds. Most self-propelled models are variable speed, allowing you to fine-tune the pace of your mowing. Whatever the mower's specifications, it should come equipped with a "kill" or "dead man's switch." This essential safety device brakes the blade in seconds, reducing the chances of anyone sustaining a serious accident due to a runaway mower. Finally, if you do elect to go with a gas-powered mower, be prepared for regular maintenance. Check out these great tips for making sure your mower always runs at peak efficiency.

Riding mowers

As with walking mowers, riding mowers come in a variety of models.

Rear engine mower

These mowers are comfortable and fairly quiet. They can handle gentle slopes, but because they’re smaller and less powerful than larger models, mowing takes longer.

Lawn tractor

.With a powerful motor and wide mowing deck, these machines make short work of most lawns. They can handle nearly all terrain, and you can add attachments such as a snowplow or work cart to get additional use out of them.

Garden tractor

The mower for the very largest yards is basically a larger, more powerful version of the lawn tractor. But the mowing deck is often sold separately and that can increase the cost significantly.

Zero-turn-radius mower

These high-performance mowers zip around at speeds up to 8 mph and their steering system allows you to make 360 degree turns easily. Zero-turn-radius mowers often come with great time savings, but at somewhat steep upfront costs

Just as when buying a new car, remember that substance comes before style. Think carefully about what you need for your size and type of lawn, do your research (especially with respect to manufacturer's warranties) and comparison shop before spending your hard-earned money on a fancy new lawnmower. 


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