What is a self-propelled lawn mower?

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Any lawn care expert worth their salt would recommend self-propelled lawn mowers for lawns that have slopes and inclines.

But I won’t blame you if you are confused at all the options at display. There are gas or electric powered models, corded or cordless ones, cutting decks of varying sizes, single speed or variable speed.

Whew! Let’s find out more about these machines.

The self-propelled lawn mower decoded

A self-propelled lawn mower is an automatic mower, in the sense that it gets engaged and moves automatically without any manual effort from the user.

It uses a drive transmission system, pretty much like an automobile.

There’s a bail (somewhat like an accelerator) on a handle bar or a separate shifter. When squeezed or pressed, it activates the rotary spinning blade mechanism and the wheels.

The mower starts to mow and move in one single action. All that the user has to do is guide it in the right direction.

If you let go of the bail, the blades stop spinning (unless it has a blade override system) and the mower stops dead in its track. So, if you accidentally lose footing or want to move some obstacle out of the way, you just have to let go of the bail.

How does a self-propelled lawn mower work?

As I mentioned earlier, self-propelled mowers are available in various configurations. There are single and variable speed models as well as front wheel, rear wheel or all wheel drives.

Single speed front wheel drive models work best for flat lawns with minimal obstacles. These are easy to use and maneuver. All you need to do is tip them backwards and lift the front wheels off the ground to turn the mower in any direction.

Rear wheel drive mowers are best suited for lawns with slopes, which are best when mowed across the face. This prevents the mower from doing a mid-drive wheelie or tipping over. For this reason, it is also recommended that you use these mowers with a bagger.

Most of the self-propelled mowers are gas powered. However, some brands also offer corded and cordless electric models.

Pros and cons

The biggest attraction of choosing self-propelled lawn mower is that mowing the lawn won’t be akin to an HIIT session anymore. It does the bulk of the lifting and you barely have to exert any effort.

However, these type of mowers also offer some other benefits and have some design idiosyncrasies.


  • Reduces mowing time
  • Can be used for lawns with all types of terrains
  • Zero manual effort needed
  • Can be used to cut thick turf grass
  • Available in many configurations to suit your need


  • More moving parts translates into more chances of breakdowns
  • Can be more expensive than push mowers with identical configurations

Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons.

To sum it up

If you are shopping for mowers and are on the fence about choosing between a push mower and a self-propelled one, I highly recommend the latter. It makes the task a lot easier, reduces the time needed to mow and provides much better results in lawns with bumpy terrain.

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!