Know before mow

Lawn mowers are not created equal. Read on to find the right one for your grass-cutting needs.

Spring sprang early this year, and with it came the grass.

If you were caught without a mower, or if you need to replace your worn-out relic in the garage, you’re probably scrambling right now to find a way to trim your lawn before it’s knee high. Luckily, there are plenty of options at your local hardware store.

The Southwest Journal recently stopped by Bayers Do It Best Hardware at 43rd & Upton to get behind a few machines and chat with longtime manager Joe Young about the pros and cons of each. Young also shared some of the trends he’s seen in mower sales during his 15 years at the store.  

Buyers have four basic options when it comes to lawn mowers: gas-powered, battery-powered, plug-in electric and the old-fashioned human-powered reel.

Young said the reel is the most popular these days, likely for its eco-friendliness, ease of use and low maintenance, especially since hardened blades that require no sharpening were introduced about five years ago.

Gas mowers, meanwhile, have slipped in popularity. Young said he used to order 20–30 a year. This year he ordered five. He suspects the green movement and the regular maintenance those mowers require contributed to that decline.

Battery-powered mowers are selling well, just behind the reels, Young said. Plug-in electrics are actually the worst sellers, probably because of the potentially hazardous and somewhat annoying cord, he said.  

But when used correctly, each of the mowers is capable of making your lawn look beautiful.

“You can get really good results from all of them,” Young said. “They’re just not the same results.”

Below is a basic overview of each mower type, along with their best and worst qualities, according to Young and our own experience.  


Gas-powered

Description: Uses a small internal-combustion engine to rotate fan-style blades

Price range: $150-$330*

Adjustable height: Yes

Pros: Will cut through just about any length of grass; capable of mulching or sucking up clippings, leaves or branches; consistent cut whether the lawn is wet or dry

Cons: Requires trips to the gas station, oil changes, air-filter cleaning, spark plug replacement and blade sharpening; noisy; polluting; pull starts are no fun   


Battery-powered

Description: Uses a 24-volt rechargeable battery to power an electric motor attached to fan-style blades

Price range: $330-$400*

Adjustable height: Yes

Pros: Low maintenance; zero emissions from the machine; can be used to mulch or suck up clippings, leaves or branches; just plug into a wall to recharge; additional batteries available ($100 each)    

Cons: Battery lasts for about an hour and has to be recharged overnight; additional batteries are spendy; motor struggles with tall or wet grass; blades need to be sharpened; noisy in an industrial-electric-fan sort of way; still has a carbon footprint from electricity use


Plug-in electric

Description: Draws power from an outlet to run an electric motor attached to fan-style blades

Price range: $170-$240*

Adjustable height: Yes

Pros: Low maintenance; can run all day from an electrical outlet; can be used to mulch or suck up clippings, leaves or branches; zero emissions from the machine

Cons: Cord can limit range and be a nuisance and a safety hazard; motor struggles in tall or wet grass; blades need to be sharpened; noisy in the same way as its battery-powered cousin; still has a carbon footprint from electricity use

Reel

Description: A human-powered mower with reel-style blades that turn when the machine is pushed

Price range: $70-$250*

Adjustable height: Yes, though it’s generally shorter than other mowers

Pros: Zero emissions; low maintenance; nostalgic; quiet; surprisingly light

Cons: Will not handle bumpy lawns, tall grass, sticks, leaves or other debris well; only cuts in one direction; some models require blade sharpening, which is difficult and costly ($50 at Bayers)