It is important to get the right tool for the right job and yard work is no exception. Knowing the size and terrain of your lawn will help you choose the right lawn mower for your yard. For most yards, a walk-behind mower is a good choice for lawns that are about ½ acre or less.
Small Lawns (up to ½ acre)
With a small flat yard – you need only a standard walk-behind manual push mower. If you have a marginally sloped or hilly yard, consider buying a self-propelled walk-behind mower rather than a manual push mower. A walk-behind mower with big back wheels makes it easier to maneuver across rough terrain. If your lawn is closer to a half-acre in size, best to buy a 21-22 inch wide mowing deck. My recommendations:
Push reel mowers are easier to use and effective at cutting the grass without gas, electric cords, or batteries to charge making them the most eco friendly. However, it is important to be timely when cutting the lawn – if the grass gets too tall between mowing sessions, it will be considerably more push work for you. Typical widths are from 12” to 18” or more, the difference is the wider the cutting path, the more effort required to push the mower. This is an ideal mower for lawns under 3,000 sq ft. See all push reel mower reviews here
Cordless mowers are safer to use than electric outlet-powered mowers. However, they have limited running time. The higher the voltage value, the more power is produced. When running low on power, the blades have noticeably less force behind them, and the cut grass begins to look choppy. You then need to turn off the mower and recharge the battery. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the blades and motor. Cordless mowers are ideal for yards of 8,000 sq ft or less (⅓ acre max). Anything larger would require you to stop and let the battery recharge (or switch out the battery with a charged spare). See all cordless lawn mower reviews here
Electric corded lawn mowers are very similar to cutting grass with a gas-powered lawn mower with some operational differences. Electric mowers are quite, don’t need gas and maintenance items (filters, etc) like gas mowers. They also don’t need to be recharged like cordless mowers, allowing them to continuously run. However, electric mowers cannot be used on wet or damp grass without running a risk of electrocution or popping a circuit breaker (plus not great on the motor either).
Longer grass tends to bog down an electric motor vs a gas powered engine, so you may need to make multiple passes for grass that is long and thick. The cord needs to be long enough to reach areas where the mower is needed. However, the recommended maximum extension cord length is 100-ft in addition to the of cord on the mower. This limits the “reach” of your electric mower to your outdoor power outlet locations. You also need to be constantly aware of your power cord location so that you don’t trip over the cord or run over it, which can damage your blades, motor, slice the cord or worse. Best for yards of 10,000 sq ft or less. See all electric corded lawn mower reviews here
Gas powered push mowers (manual or self-propelled) have the best range of all walk behind push mowers. Can operate in damp or wet conditions (not recommended for grass health) and handle longer thicker grass better than the other push mower options. Better for mulching grass clippings, side discharge or rear bagging grass (convenient for leaf pickup as well).
However, higher maintenance needs including gas, oil & filter changes as well as the least eco friendly (2-cycle worse than 4-cycle). The more lawn you have, the wider the deck you should get, typically 21-22 inch. Manual push mowers are best for about 15,000 sq ft (⅓ acre) or less, and self-propelled walk behind mower for up to a ½ acre. See all gas power push mower reviews here
Moderate to Large Sized Lawns (½ to 3 acres or more)
For yards larger than ½ acre, you should seriously consider getting a riding mower (see illustrated chart below). There are four basic types of riding lawn mowers: rear engine riders, lawn tractors (aka riding mower), garden tractors, and zero-turn mowers.
Rear engine riding mowers provide good visibility and excellent mobility around trees, flowerbeds and other landscape features. Even though not as wide a mowing deck as the other riding mowers (26″ to 36″), this riding mower is still wider than push mowers to help you get the job done in plenty of time. So if you have limited storage space, a medium-sized lawn and smaller budget, this may be the mower for you. See all rear engine riding mower reviews here
Lawn tractors are medium duty riding mowers, with lower torque transmissions, less horsepower, and smaller rear tires than garden tractors. Not only will they cut and bag (with attachment) grass, these tractors pack enough punch to tow light carts and spreaders. Plus, they can be converted into snow plows or snow blowers in the winter. They’re even effective at handling advanced lawn work, such as aerating, dethatching, spraying, and spreading fertilizers.
For added traction and stability on uneven terrain, you should look for a lawn tractor that comes with a locking rear differential. While you won’t have the same forward speed, the stability you gain on slopes will be well appreciated. They’re available with mowing deck widths from 38-48 inches and are powered by gas engines typically ranging from 14-20 hp making them ideal for yards from ½ to 2 acres. See all riding lawn tractor reviews here
Garden tractors are basically a beefed-up version of a lawn tractor, with the added ability to handle more heavy-duty ground engaging jobs. They’re capable of tilling, furrowing, and towing heavier cart loads than lawn tractors. Garden tractors all have at least a 22 horsepower V-twin engine, which are capable of towing heavy-duty attachments.
They also have 48-60 inch wide decks and larger pneumatic tires for extra ground clearance. These larger wheels also provide enhanced stability on slopes and inclines. However, if you’re using it on slopes more than a 15% grade, consider getting a tractor with a traction control system or locking rear differential. Able to handle large lawns of 2 acres or more. See all riding garden tractor reviews here
Zero-Turn-Radius (ZTR) Riding Mowers are similar to the mowers professional landscapers use, with a rear engine and rear-wheel steering. They provide superior maneuverability, faster speed and greater control cut lawn maintenance time in half compared to standard lawn tractors.
Their dual-lever steering controls with one in forward and the other in reverse, you can turn sharp circles in place. ZTRs can also side-discharge, bag, and mulch clippings and typically mow with a 42- to 54-inch path and are ideal for large, flat lawns from 1 to 3 acres or more. See all ZTR riding mower reviews here