How To Choose The Best Lawn Mower

Selecting the best lawn mower can be difficult and the wrong choice can prove to be an expensive mistake. So what are the options and how do you make up your mind?

Lawn mowers can be either powered or manual (you provide the power!), so this should be your first decision.

If you decide on a powered model you have some further decisions to make: the power source, and the type of mower.

The power source can be either a petrol engine or mains electricity, (although rechargeable electric mowers are becoming increasingly available) and the available types are cylinder, rotary, and hover mowers. Note that manual lawnmowers are all cylinder types.

I've listed all the options below, together with their advantages and disadvantages, to help you decide which is right.

Overall, the best choice depends very much on the size of your lawn and the type of cut required.

Remember that grass should be cut more closely in summer so look for a mower which allows you to adjust the height of the blades.

If you don't want to rake up all the loose grass clippings choose a mower with a grass collection box.

You've probably heard this before, but... whichever type of lawnmower you choose, it is worth paying a little more for the best quality as mowing the lawn is one of those jobs that need to be done regularly.

A good quality lawn mower will do a better job, be easier to use and more reliable, and will last longer.

Choosing The Best Lawn Mower: Manual Mowers

A manual model is probably the best choice if you only have a small area of grass to cut.

They are relatively cheap to buy, very quiet in operation and require minimal maintenance. Also, you won't need to deal with awkward cables or fill them up with fuel. Overall they are more environmentally friendly and safer to use.

Some manual mowers are driven by wheels at the side rather than a rear roller. These are easier to push but are difficult to use at the edge of a lawn as both wheels must be in contact with the ground to drive the cylinder blades.

The types that use a rear roller to drive the cylinder are heavier but can be used at the lawn edges. They also produce the traditional striped effect on your lawn.

Tip: Always make sure that the blades are sharp and don't let your lawn become overgrown otherwise it will be difficult and exhausting trying to cut it.

Choosing The Best Lawn Mower: Powered Mowers

If you have a large lawn a powered mower will be more suitable. The first decision is whether to buy an electric or petrol driven model.

Electric Lawn Mowers

These are cheaper to buy and maintain and are generally more convenient to use if you have an outside power source. However, they are not as powerful as petrol driven types and may overheat if used on long grass or over an extensive area. Care must be taken to avoid the long trailing flex on mains powered mowers.

Rechargeable electric mowers are becoming increasingly available and can be a convenient option as you don't need an outside power source and can avoid the dangers of dealing with trailing wires.

However, if you are considering one of these, check how long it will operate for before it needs recharging - will this give you enough time to mow your lawn in one go? You will also need to make sure that it is recharged in time for each use.

Tip: Always use a circuit breaker with mains powered models and never use on wet grass.

Petrol Driven Lawn Mowers

These do not depend on a fixed power source and can be used anywhere. They are available in a range of motor sizes that are capable of tackling even the largest of lawns. However they are more expensive to buy and to maintain and are messier to use.

Tip: Consider paying extra for a model with an electronic ignition as these are easier to start.

Choosing The Best Lawn Mower: Cylinder, Rotary and Hover Mowers

Once you've decided which is the most appropriate power source you need to think about whether a you need a cylinder, rotary or hover mower.

Cylinder Mowers

Cylinder mowers give the best quality finish and most are fitted with a rear roller which is essential if you want a striped lawn. They nearly always have a grass collection box.

As the name suggests, the blades are arranged in a cylinder which is usually propelled by a rear roller. There are two types: those that are entirely self-propelled and those that just have a powered blade. The latter type can be tiring to push, especially if they have a heavy rear roller.

Petrol driven cylinder mowers are usually wider than electric ones and this reduces the number of passes you will have to make across the lawn, although it also makes them more difficult to manoeuvre.

If your lawn is very extensive consider investing in a ride-on or tractor mower to make life easier.

Tips: The best lawn mower for a high quality lawn. Choose a model with a large collection box to avoid very frequent emptying. If you want very pronounced stripes, look for one with a heavy rear roller.

Rotary Mowers

Rotary mowers are pushed along on wheels and have either metal or plastic blades that rotate horizontally. They do not give such a fine finish as cylinder types but are much better for uneven sites and longer grass. Very few models have a rear roller to produce stripes. Many do, however, have grass collection boxes.

Tip: The best lawn mower for extensive areas of long grass and slightly uneven sites where a very high quality finish isn't of prime importance.

Hover Mowers

Hover mowers work on the same principle as rotary mowers but, rather than having wheels, they ride on a cushion of air. They do not have either rollers or grass collection boxes. Again, they do not give the same quality of finish as cylinder models, but are good for uneven sites and longer grass.

Tip: The best lawn mower to choose if manoeuvrability and ease of use in awkward places, such as under overhanging branches or along the edge of paths, is important to you. They can also be used on more sloping sites.

Whichever Type You Choose... Work Safely

Modern mowers should come with a range of safety features including adequate blade protection, a deadman's handle, a lock off switch (to help prevent them being turned on accidentally), and a fast acting blade brake.

However you should take sensible precautions particularly when using powered mowers:

  • Always wear strong boots or shoes when mowing.
  • Use a circuit breaker with electric models and do not attempt to use on wet grass.
  • Switch off and disconnect the power source before trying to de-clog the blades.
  • Avoid cutting the grass when small children and pets are running about.
  • Do not use powered mowers on steep slopes.

Looking After Your Lawnmower

Keep your mower running smoothly with some simple maintenance:

  • Clean the engine and blades after each use (remember to disconnect the power first!).
  • Oil and lubricate regularly.
  • Replace blunt blades or send them away for sharpening.
  • Service annually - preferably before the mower is needed to avoid the rush!
  • Drain petrol engines before storing them for the winter.
  • Regularly check spark plugs, filters and air intakes on petrol models.
  • On electric models regularly check that the flex is undamaged and in good condition.

Find more information at these related Lawn and Lawn Care pages

Once you've chosen the best lawn mower, find out the best way to use it by checking out the information on mowing a lawn.

You can also find handy tips and information about how to select the right lawn care tools.