Reel Mower Vs Rotary – Which Is Best For My Lawn?

One crucial decision that every homeowner will face at some point is whether to use a reel mower or a rotary mower to keep their lawn looking great. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, so how do you choose between a reel mower versus a rotary one? What are the deciding factors?

Choosing between a reel mower and a rotary mower comes down to personal preference and your specific lawn care needs. Reel mowers offer a clean and precise cut, making them ideal for small, flat lawns with short grass. In contrast, rotary mowers are versatile and can handle tougher terrain and longer, thicker grass.

You might think it’s a straightforward choice between a manually powered push mower and one with an engine, but there are lots of other aspects to consider you may not have thought of. Continue reading to find out how you can make the right decision for your own garden.

Is A Reel Mower Better Than A Rotary Mower?

Reel mowers are certainly better than a rotary model for certain situations, but not all and there are many things to consider before making a choice.

Reel mowers are best suited for maintaining a healthy, lush lawn with a fine, manicured finish. Rotary mowers, on the other hand, are better suited for larger properties with thicker grasses, especially those that tend to grow unevenly. 

One of the biggest advantages of using a reel mower is the ability to create a beautiful, uniform appearance that is difficult to achieve with a rotary mower. Reel mowers cut grass cleanly and uniformly, leaving behind a tidy finish that is perfect for formal lawns and smaller properties.

However, reel mowers are not as effective at handling taller grasses or uneven terrain, and they can struggle to cut through weeds or rough spots as well as rotary machines can. 

Let’s look into the pros and cons of each in more detail.

Reel Mowers – Pros And Cons

Reel mowers are a classic type of lawnmower that utilizes a series of horizontally spinning blades to get the job done. More powerful versions are frequently used on golf courses, where precision and consistent cut quality are highly valued. Manual push reel mowers are a popular choice for homeowners who prefer a more traditional approach to lawn care and maintenance.


  1. Environmentally Friendly – Manual reel mowers are non-polluting and do not require gas or oil to operate, making them an eco-friendly option.
  2. Healthier Lawn – Reel mowers tend to provide a cleaner and more precise cut as they snip blades of grass like scissors, leaving a healthier, neater lawn that is less prone to diseases.
  3. Quiet – Because reel mowers don’t have an engine, they operate quietly and don’t produce noise pollution, making them ideal for early morning or late evening mowing.


  1. Not Ideal for Large Lawns – Reel mowers are not suitable for large lawns as they will require a lot of physical effort and time to maintain the lawn.
  2. Challenging for Uneven Terrain – Reel mowers are not designed for use on uneven or sloping terrain as they require a flat and even surface to operate efficiently.
  3. Narrow Cutting Width – The cutting width of most reel mowers is usually less than 18 inches, making them hard work for large areas of grass.

When Should You Consider Using A Reel Mower?

Reel mowers are a great option for those who want a clean and precise cut on their grass, they are also perfect for small, flat lawns with short grass (below 2 inches works best). If you have a smaller sized yard that is somewhat level and you don’t mind the physical work of pushing the equipment, a reel mower is an excellent choice.

Tips For Getting The Best Results From Reel Mowers

  1. Make sure the blades are clean and sharp before cutting the grass. This will help ensure a clean and precise cut.
  2. Clear any stones and other debris before mowing.
  3. Walk at a normal pace while pushing to maintain consistent cut quality.
  4. Mow the lawn regularly to prevent grass from growing higher than 2 inches, prevent thatch build-up, and maintain a healthy lawn.

If you want to learn more about using a push reel mower, you can check out this article

Rotary Mowers – Pros And Cons

Rotary mowers have been used for decades and have become a staple tool for most homeowners. These mowers use a horizontal spinning blade that cuts grass indiscriminately from any height, providing a quick and efficient job.


  1. Time-saving – Rotary mowers are ideal for large lawns because they have a wider cutting width (up to 22 inches) that enables you to mow a larger area quickly.
  2. Easy to Handle – The ergonomic design of rotary mowers require less physical effort compared to reel mowers.
  3. Ability to cut tough and tall grass – Rotary mowers can easily cut grass of varying heights and thicknesses, making them ideal for maintaining overgrown backyards and bumpy terrain.


  1. Uneven Mowing surface – Rotary mowers can leave an uneven cut due to their design involving a single rotating blade.
  2. Environmental Impact – Rotary mowers often produce additional environmental pollution due to their usage of fossil fuels.
  3. Heavy and Bulky – Most rotary mowers are relatively heavy, making them difficult to maneuver unless self-propelled.

When Should You Consider Using A Rotary Mower?

A rotary mower is the best option for large lawns, overgrown gardens, and terrain containing tough grasses that reel mowers cannot cut. Rotary mowers are not recommended if you’re looking for a perfectly manicured finish.

They are also your best choice if you want to get the job done with minimal effort. 

Tips For Getting The Best Results From Rotary Mowers

  1. Adjust the blade height for the thickness of the turf, commonly between 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
  2. Do not cut the grass too short; this can lead to stress, thinning, and root damage.
  3. Keep the blade sharp to ensure a clean cut, and make sure to maintain the mower properly.
  4. Cut the grass when it is dry and avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.

Final Words

Making a decision about the best mower for your garden or lawn can be challenging, but I hope this post has given you a good idea of what to look for when choosing between a rotary mower and a push reel type. 

For smaller lawns and those interested in environmentally friendly and low-maintenance options, reel mowers are an excellent choice. On the other hand, rotary mowers are ideal for larger lawns, uneven terrain, and taller grass. 

Regardless of which mower you choose, remember to follow the tips and techniques I’ve covered to ensure the best results and maintain a healthy lawn.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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