What type of lawn mower do I need? – Complete guide

Approx Reading Time: 6 minutes

Come spring, lawns in American homes metamorphose into a hotbed of activity.

Weary-eyed home owners can be seen pushing, pulling or riding their lawn mowers in the quest for trimmed-lawn glory.

It’s no mean feat either. Neighborhood bragging rights are at stake after all.

Sometimes though, the sound of a mower powering to life is replaced by a few sputters and coughs.

That happens when an old clunker of a machine refuses to wake up after the long cryo-sleep.

It might just be a small niggle. But there’s every possibility that an upgrade is on the cards.

Lawn mower technology has vastly improved in the past few years and it might be completely possible to get a more efficient mower for a fraction of the cost that you paid a few years ago.

So, it would be wise to consider a few key variables before you swipe that card again.

Today, I will talk about selecting the right lawn mower for your lawn.

Irrespective of whether you are looking to upgrade or whether you have just moved from an apartment to a home with some green turf to tend to, this guide will help you navigate the landscape and make an informed decision.

The size of your lawn

The size of your lawn is hands down, the most important determining factor.

After all, the amount of time and effort that you’d have to invest in mowing each day solely depends on it.

Anything less than 50 feet is a thumbnail sized lawn.

Anything up to 100 feet is a medium sized lawn. And anything bigger is a large lawn.

For small lawns, a push reel mower or an electric mower will work best. These are low on maintenance, easy to use and cost effective.

For medium sized lawns, a self-propelled lawn mower or corded electric mower is the best bet. The only caveat is that you’d have to make do with a long cord trailing behind you as you mow. A cordless mower might also work, mind you. But you’d probably have to use a spare battery or make multiple passes to complete the task.

For large lawns, I recommend a riding lawn mower or a lawn tractor. It will significantly reduce the time that you need to mow.

The different types of mowers

There was a time when lawn mowers were simple machines. You had the barebones reel mowers or the fully loaded gas mowers that were as loud as an airplane engine and bellowed enough smoke to smother the neighborhood.

Cut to today, mowers are sleek, silent and efficient machines. And there are many varieties of these machines.

Push reel mowers

These are the old school mowers that your grandpa probably mowed his lawn with. Guess what, they are still ticking on. And for good reason. There’s no better solution for mowing a small lawn. These are lightweight, easy to use and the only maintenance that they’ll probably need, is sharpening the blades once in a year or two. They can cut even tall and thick grass like a scissor. And they are cheap. Perfect for urban green thumbs.

Walk Behind Mowers

For a long time, two-stroke walk behind mowers personified home lawn mowing. With their reliable engines that would power to life instantly, these machines have been permanent fixtures in most homes. They work for both small and medium sized lawns and you can choose from electric and gas powered models. You can check out some of my recommendations in this article.

Self-Propelled mowers

As the name indicates, these are self-propelled machines that do the bulk of the lifting. In other words, you do not have to manually haul or push it all over the lawn. These are great options for medium sized lawns, especially if there are steep inclines. If you are interested in buying one of these, I suggest reading this first.

Riding lawn mowers

If mowing your lawn takes more than two hours, then a riding lawn mower should be on your wish list. These will make short work of mowing medium to large sized lawns. Just hop on and go for a ride. If your lawn has many obstacles, consider a zero turn riding mower. These have a zero turn radius and can make complete U-turns on the spot allowing you to maneuver around obstacles.

The power source

The power source of the mower affects its output, weight and maintenance.

Gas powered mowers typically produce a much higher output but require frequent upkeep and oil changes. There will be recurrent expense of gas as well. Not to mention that they aren’t the most environment friendly option courtesy the smoke they belch and the din they create. But if you need brute power, there’s no better choice.

Electric powered mowers are either corded or cordless. Once again, the amount of money you are willing to spend, the size of the lawn and your personal preferences will be the decider.

While the general consensus is that cordless mowers lack the power of a corded one or a gas powered mower, you’d be surprised to know that there are many cordless mowers that can match, if not better the performance of a gas powered mower. Plus, you don’t have to worry about running over the power cord accidentally when you mow.

Other considerations

Once you have ticked off the important boxes, you can start browsing through the additional features and knick-knacks.

Bag or mulch or both

There are mowers that bag grass clippings, as well as ones that mulch or redistribute the clippings into the lawn. And there are ones that do both. If you prefer bagging the clippings, then ensure that the mower you choose has a collection bag that’s big enough to accommodate all the clippings in your lawn. Else, you will spend a lot of time emptying and reattaching the bag to the mower.


What does mowing your lawn constitute for you? Is it a chore? Then an automated (self-propelled or riding) mower is the best option for you. Do you consider it a chance to exercise some muscles? Then by all means go for a walk behind or a reel mower.

Cutting width

The wider the cutting deck, the less time it will take to mow the lawn. The caveat is that the wider the deck, the heavier the mower and more space it takes for storage.

Cutting height

Most mowers have height adjustable cutting decks allowing you to customize the trim size. But the height adjusting mechanism can be as simple as pulling a lever or extremely cumbersome. If you are one of those people who hate fiddling with machines, look for a mower that has easy user controls.


Storage space is a premium in many homes these days and there are mowers which fold after use for storage. Many manufacturers also throw in a cover that allows you the luxury to store it outside during winters.

To sum it up

There you have it. The complete lawn mower buying guide. I hope that it helps you select the best mower for your needs.

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!