Before you rush into buying a mower, have a think about what you really want and what is suitable for your lawn. To help you make the right decision, I’ve outlined the four characteristics on which I judge all mowers I review.
However, if you can’t answer one question first, then you may end up with the wrong lawn mower even if you get all the others right.
What To Look For In A Lawnmower – The Four Key Factors
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You want a lawnmower that is gonna tolerate being dragged around a lawn all summer then shoved in a shed for months during winter
Something that is not gonna give up when it approaches a strong tuft of grass, and is made of strong materials, with a proven engine (yes Japanese are the best, is that racist now?)
Cheap plastic isn’t always a bad thing, but you need to be extra careful if you are buying on the budget end of the spectrum, the best cheap lawn mowers will have good materials, but some models cut corners with poor quality components.
Mower design has come a long way since workers walked through green pastures wielding sharp scythes.
(link history) The first mower made in 1830 was designed by textile worker Edwin Budding. This had to be drawn by horses, whose gloves were shod with rubber boots to stop the turf from getting damaged. Eventually mass production took hold and mowers became far more efficient. Now you have a bunch of different designs to choose from based on the size of your lawn, type of grass, personal preference, budget, and storage space.
There are different standards of cut for different applications. Suburban housewives might tolerate a slightly straggly lawn, but the occupants of the regal mansion on the other side of town might prefer a finer cut — more like that of fine lawns and sport turf, with stripes to boot.
Having the right mower is crucial for good quality of cut. Cheap and badly designed mowers leave an uncut strip along the edges, or have poor quality blades that mean they go blunt and dont cut properly. Poor mowers, and poor mowing can also scalp the lawn.
Cylinder mowers give the best quality cut for fine lawns and sports turf.
You will also need a mower that is adjustable to cut at various different heights, and can discharge clippings — mulching is ideal for optimal lawn health.
Most lawns are not perfect flat rectangles, but are curvy hilly unique creations, replete with boggy areas and grassless patches.
Having the right maneuverable mower allows you to negotiate flowerpots and vege patches with ease, and means you will spend less time trimming the edges of your garden but still end up with a neat result.
Zero turn mowers are the most maneuverable as they allow you to go from forward to reverse immediately and wiggle yourself out of tight spots. This not only speeds up mowing but makes it far more enjoyable and comfortable.
What To Look For In A Lawnmower – The Critical Consideration
There is one factor that matters above all else. Get this wrong, and even if you nail the four factors above, you may still end up with a lawnmower that isn’t right for you.
The most important factor is… The size of your lawn!
There’s no point in having a 130cc engine petrol-powered monster for twenty square metres of lawn. You’re wallet will be hit way too hard and may even be too bulky to effectively mow the tight corners of your small garden.
Similarly, have a super cheap and friendly cordless lawn mower with a 30cm cutting width that runs for half an hour on a single charge is just not going to cut it when you have an acreage. You’ll need 6 batteries just to get through one mow!
Choosing only those lawn mowers which make sense for your lawn size will quickly narrow the playing field. This allows you to focus on the four key factors for lawn mowers that makes sense for you.
As a quick rule of thumb:
- Very Small Lawns – Less than 40 square metres – Manual / push mowers are perfect here. It won’t take you long at all and a decent quality hand mower will produce a far better cut than a cheap electric option and still be much cheaper. A small cut-width is sufficient here, even 30cm is fine
- Small Lawns – 40 to 100 square metres – Manual / push mowers are a still good cheap option, but if you have a reasonable budget you can go for a corded electric mower. Cordless is still an option, but probably not necessary as these tend to be another leap in price. Small cutting faces still work here, about 34cm is nice
- Medium Lawns – 100 to 200 square metres – This is where cordless mowers really shine. Cords would be too long, manual would be too hard and petrol would be overkill, but battery operated cordless models are perfect. Operating widths should probably be up around 38-40cm
- Large lawns – 200 to 400 square metres – A good quality battery powered model can still work wonders here, but will struggle at the upper end on a single charge and a back-up battery is probably a good idea. Here, petrol mowers begin to have a real edge over the competition. The cutting edge should be at least 40cm, maybe even as high as 50cm
- Very large lawns – More than 400 square meters – It’s basically petrol or ride-ons, which usually also run on petrol. You need power and a long run time to get through the entire lawn efficiently and effectively. A cutting width of 50cm or more is preferred.
Lastly, don’t forget to buy a mower that you actually like — something that’s got soul!