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Lawnmower buying guide

Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

177 guides
Your choice of lawnmower will ultimately depend on the size of your lawn. From electric and robot mowers for small gardens to petrol or ride-on mowers for larger areas, you'll have to choose between push or self-propelled models, as well as various factors such as cutting width. Read on to find your perfect lawnmower!

Important features

  • Electric or petrol
  • Push, self-propelled or ride-on
  • Cutting width
  • Cutting height and mulching

How to choose a lawnmower


When choosing a lawnmower, you'll need to think about the size of your lawn, how comfortable the machine is to use and the desired height of your grass. The size of your lawn will determine the following factors: 
  • cutting width: 30 cm to 107 cm+;
  • power rating: 1 kW to 8.6 kW;
  • power source: manual, electric or petrol;
  • propulsion: push or self-propelled.

The level of comfort you're after will also affect your decision:
  • energy type: electric lawnmowers do not require any engine maintenance and are quieter;
  • propulsion: a self-propeller mower (which moves on its own) will be easier to use and is therefore recommended for areas over 700 m²;
  • type: a robot lawnmower operates independently while a ride-on mower makes mowing large lawns much easier;
  • a mulching setting prevents you from having to collect the grass after mowing (the mowed grass is mulched then released);
  • for petrol mowers, an electric start is more convenient than a recoil start.
The cutting height of your mower will dictate the height of your lawn:
  • short green-style lawn: 25 mm;
  • classic lawn: 50 to 70 mm;
  • a pasture: 90 mm.

Different types of lawnmowers

Manual lawnmowers

If your garden isn't any bigger than 200m², you're up to the task of caring for your lawn on a regular basis and you don't mind a bit of exercise, go for a basic manual lawnmower. Manual lawnmowers are equipped with two wheels that are used to turn a cylindrer of blades which, in turn, cut the grass.

Quiet, environmentally friendly, and hard-wearing, these machines will, nonetheless, need a sharp blade for optimum efficiency.

Features
  • Cutting height: 13 to 42 mm
  • Cutting width: 30 to 40 cm
  • 4 or 5 blades in a cylinder
  • With or without grass box
  • Non-adjustable handle
Tips for use

Never leave your lawn for more than a few weeks without a cut, or your lawnmower will not be happy!

Hover lawnmowers 

Hover lawnmowers are particuarly well suited to gardens of 500 m² or less with a high-quality lawn. These machines leave lawns in impeccable condition: your grass blades will be straight and you can say goodbye to wheel marks and uneven lines.

This type of lawmower uses a fan system to hover over the ground meaning it can be used to follow the curves of your land without leaving a trace. Lightweight, easy to handle and compact, hover lawnmowers can also be petrol-powered but this option is less common.

Features 

  • Cutting height: 15 to 41 mm
  • Cutting width: 40 cm
  • Power rating: 1500 W
  • With or without mulcher
  • Push mower
  • Folding handlebar
Tips for use

As the blades wear quickly, it is advisable to sharpen them regularly. You will also have to mow on a regular basis as these lawnmowers won't cope well with very tall grass.

Electric lawnmowers (corded and battery-operated)

Electric lawnmowers are recommended for lawns measuring less than 700 m² – particularly gardens in the city. They are lightweight, easy to handle, quiet and require little maintenance.

The wattage of corded lawnmowers and voltage of battery-operated models relates to their cutting width: the higher these values, the more powerful the machine. The amperage (Ah) of battery-powered lawnmowers will determine how long the battery lasts (in hour/mins): the higher this number, the longer the battery will last before recharging. These models are usually powered by lithium-ion quick charge batteries.

Choose your power rating depending on size of your lawn (which will determine the cutting width you require):
  • 1000 to 1300 W for ≤ 300 m² ;
  • 1400 to 1800 W for ≤ 700m² ;
  • 18 V - 2 Ah for ≤ 300 m² ;
  • 36 V - 3 Ah for ≤ 500 m².

Features

  • Cutting height: 15 to 75 mm
  • Cutting width: 30 to 53 cm
  • Wattage of corded lawnmowers: 700 to 1800 W
  • Voltage of cordless lawnmowers: 18 to 36 V
  • Amperage of cordless lawnmwoers: 2 to 3 Ah
  • Battery: 2 to 4 Lithium-ion
  • With or without mulcher
  • Push or self-propelled models
  • Option for folding and adjustable handle

Tips for use

When mowing using a corded electric lawnmower, putting the extension cable over your shoulder will help to prevent you from running over it. It is recommended to have one battery plus a charged back-up battery when using a battery-operated lawnmower. While some electric mowers are efficient enough to mow lawns of up to 900 m², they are not the best choice; the battery power of cordless mowers will not last long enough while you will need a very long extension cable for corded models.

 

Petrol lawnmowers

Petrol lawnmowers are recommended for lawns stretching over 700m². The motor of these mowers will require regular maintenance, from checking the oil and petrol level to cleaning the spark plug and air filter. You will also need to do a full check and empty the oil before storing over the winter.

In the past, most small petrol lawnmowers had 2-stroke engines; however, 4-stroke engines are more or less the norm these days. Their power is often indicated in horse power or kilowatts (1 hp = 0.74 kW). Engine capacity is noted in cubic centimetres (cc): the higher the capacity, the less the motor has to turn on full power. 

Petrol lawnmowers are hard-wearing but noisy and are mainly used in the countryside and in big gardens. They vary in power depending on the size of your lawn (which will determine the cutting width you require):
  • 2.6 kW or 3.5 hp, 160 cm3 for 2000 m²;
  • 2.2 kW or 3 hp, 150 cm3 for 1500 m²;
  • 1.8 kW or 2.4 hp, 100 cm3 for 900 m².

Features

  • Cutting height: 15 to 90 mm
  • Cutting width: 40 to 84 cm
  • Power: 1.6 kW or 2.1 hp to 3.6 kW or 5 hp
  • Engine capacity: 100 to 200 cc
  • With or without mulcher
  • Push or self-propelled models
  • Recoil or electric start
  • Option for folding and adjustable handle
     
Tips for use

The engine will require regular care (oil, air filter, spark plug, petrol) and the various cables and wires will have to be lubricated. Electric start mowers use batteries to fire up; these batteries should be disconnected over the winter.


Ride-on lawnmowers

Specially designed for large lawns of over 6000 m², ride-on mowers offer a greater cutting width, easy handling and are comfortable to use.  

These machines may feature lights, a drink holder and may look a bit like a cart or mini tractor. Heavier, more powerful and more robust than other models, ride-on mowers feature a range of speeds. Their cutting system may be located centrally (beneath the seat) or towards the front of the mower (less common but can be practical). 

Once again, the cutting width you require will dictate how much power you need:
  • cutting width of 66 cm, 8.2 kW or 11 hp, 190 cm3 for 2000 m²;
  • cutting width of 107 cm, 9.7 kW or 12.8 hp, 500 cm3 for 5000 m².

Features

  • Cutting height: 30 to 911 mm
  • Cutting width: 66 to 102 cm
  • Power: 8.2 kW or 11 hp to 9.7 kW or 12.8 hp
  • Engine capacity: 190 to 500 cc
  • With or without mulcher
  • With or without grass box
  • 3 to 4 speeds
  • Electric start (battery-operated)
  • Classic transmission by manual gearbox
  • Hydrostatic transmission: gradual speed change
  • Mowed grass released behind mower for collection
  • Side release for mulching
  • With or without lights, bumper in front

Tips for use

Be sure to keep on top of your engine maintenance and get yourself a jack for easy blade cleaning. Steer using short turns and use a greater cutting height if your ground is very uneven.
 

Robot lawnmowers

The hard work is over: simply watch your robot lawnmower do its thing then potter off for a nap! Completely autonomous, robot lawnmowers return to their charging station when their battery charge drops below a certain point.

While these machines are not suitable for high gradient slopes (+35 %), you can choose from two different types: those equipped with a boundary wire and those without.

The performance of robot lawnmowers is pretty impressive with most able to mow up to 500 m² in one hour. You will have to put these devices to work regularly as they prefer to cut little and often. Able to detect obstacles, the most high-tech robots may even be equipped with solar panels. However, even the most efficient models will only cover up to around 2000 m² of ground. 

Corded robot lawnmowers

You will have to mark out the various obstacles in your garden (flower beds, rocky areas, etc.) using a boundary wire. These models are usually supplied with around 150 metres of cable, plus connectors, etc.

Cordless robot lawnmowers

The robot lawnmower is able to recognise obstacles and avoid them on its own. Easy to set up, you will simply need to take a quick scan around your garden and remove any items from the ground.


Features

  • Water-resistant
  • Lift and tilt sensor (the blades will stop if the robot is tilted)
  • Anti-theft protection (locking code)
  • Obstacle sensor
  • Maximum slope of 35% (depends on model)
  • Lawn size from approx. 1000 to 2000 m²

Main factors to consider when choosing a lawnmower

Terrain type


Of course, a self-propelled or ride-on mower will be preferable if your garden has a lot of steep slopes. If you're dealing with a small, flat surface, an electric or manual mower will do the job. In order make the right choice, consider the layout of your garden and your requirements, such as the type of terrain, the desired cutting height and the overall surface area to cover (which will determine the cutting width).

Cutting height

The cutting height of your mower will depend on what you want to do with your lawn. If you want it to look like a perfect village green with the grass cut clean across at 3 cm, you'll need to prioritise mowers which offer this level of precision. Otherwise, don't worry: there is a whole range of models out there to suit your needs. 

Cutting height can be adjusted by means of a lever which is usually located on the deck or handlebar. This generally ranges from a minimum of 20 mm right up to 102 mm.

Cutting width

The cutting width of your mower depends on the size of your lawn. The greater the width, the fewer times you'll have to go back and forth. Here are some basic rules of thumb:

  • Lawn area ≤ 500m²: opt for a 33–41 cm blade;
  • 500m²–1000m²: 41–46 cm;
  • 1000m²–2500m²: 48–55 cm;
  • ≥ 2500m²: at least 66 cm.

Mulching

This well-designed option mulches your cuttings as you mow, meaning that you won't need a grass box or a rake. Once broken down, your grass cuttings settle on your lawn and help to restore nutrients, eliminating the need for fertiliser. However, you will have to mow more often and at a lower cutting height.

Clutch release

This optional system immobilises the mower blade and is practical as it saves you having to stop your mower to empty the grass box or navigate an obstacle (a toy, stone, etc.) 

Variable speed

A practical option that allows you to adjust the speed of the mower using a lever positioned on the handlebar. You can therefore change the speed to match the layout of your garden and/or the rythmn of the user.

Push or self-propelled mowers

This option only applies to less powerful mowers and refers to the fact that the mower is either pushed by the user or self-propelled, which means it moves forward on its own. A ride-on model is preferable if your lawn has steep inclines or covers a large areaPush models can also be used on gardens of 300 - 600m² and uneven ground (although mains-powered electric mowers are limited by their cable).

Front swivel wheels


This is a great option for making more precise turns and circling back from the bottom of the garden. Without these wheels, you will have to reverse or even slightly lift the front of your mower while putting weight on the back in order to turn – tricky if your machine is particularly heavy. The addition of a swivel wheel means you can guide your lawnmower by the handlebar. This will also help you to work around flower beds, garden edging, etc.


Deck

The structure of your lawnmower is similar to that of a car. It holds the motor, protects the blade, absorbs vibrations and covers the inner mechanism. This deck can be made of steelplastic or aluminium and its performance will depend on the material you choose. Some mower frames are lightweight yet fragile or bendable (ABS and polypropylene), while others are heavier and more robust (aluminium, stainless steel and pressed steel).

Grass box

Used to collect cuttings as they pass through the blade. The capacity of grass boxes (in litres) does vary and will determine how often you have to empty it. This usually depends on the overall size of the mower, but is generally around 50 litres.

Electric or recoil start 

This factor only applies to petrol mowers. You can choose either manual or electric ignition.

Manual works with a recoil start that you pull by hand and electric by pressing a button or turning a key (requires a battery).


Folding or adjustable handlebar 


Adjusting the height of your handlebar to suit the size of the user offers greater user comfort – your back will thank you for it! Folding handlebars allow you to save room when storing your lawnmower after use and/or over the winter. 

Deck wash 


A deck wash is a quick and effective way to clean your deck. It consists of a water inlet that can be connected to your garden hose in no time.

This system is fast, efficient and allows you to clean the deck without the risk of cutting your fingers!

Rough grass mowers

Rough grass or field mowers are specially designed for tall grass and can only be powered by petrol.

This type of machine is robust with a high capacity, and may be self-propelled or ride-on. These machines are ideal for lawns that have been neglected for long periods of time.

Electric vs. petrol lawnmowers

Electric mowers 


When deciding between the two options, it all basically comes down to the size of your lawn. Firstly, it's worth bearing in mind that for any garden that stretches over 700 m² (i.e. a square garden of approx. 26 metres on each side), the power cord may become an issue. Secondly, the cutting width of electric models is fairly limited (up to 53 cm for cordless models and 43 cm for mains-powered mowers).

While a cutting width of 53 cm will be fine for a lawn of up to around 2000 m², you'll only get this with a battery-operated model which can only go so far before it has to be recharged. With this in mind, manufacturers generally only recommend these mowers for areas under 700 m². The initial purchase is also more expensive. Electric corded lawnmowers offer a cutting width of 46 cm which will cover a lawn area of around 1000 m².

Petrol lawnmowers

Petrol-powered lawnmowers are comparatively heavier and noisier, and their engine will have to be maintained regularly. As they run on fossil fuel, they create pollution but are more efficient and more durable. They do not require proximity to an electrical outlet and offer a cutting width of 66 cm plus, which will cover a garden of 2500 m². Of course, you also won't have to deal with a power cord but you will have to refuel.

Electric or petrol: the verdict 

To sum up, you will only really have to choose between an electric and petrol mower if your garden is over 700 m² (or even up to 900 m² for those who really don't like petrol). For a space in the city measuring ≤ 800 m² – or for anyone who doesn't want to maintain a petrol engine – an electric lawnmower will be the way to go.
 
What's more these models are much easier than petrol models to start up; petrol mowers can be temperamental and may require some force to pull the starter cord.

In terms of electric technology, it's up to you to choose between a battery-operated and corded model: either you deal with the power cable or your double your budget!

For anyone with a bit more to spend, it has to be said that robot lawnmowers offer the most comfort. Autonomous and quiet, the most efficient models can work in gardens of up to 2000 m² and can operate using solar power.

Choosing, using and caring for your lawnmower

 

5 tips for choosing a lawnmower 

  1. Go for a self-propelled lawnmower if your land is sloping or measures over 700 m²
  2. If your budget allows it, choose a mulching self-propelled model for lawns over 2000 m². You'll be able to mow faster and will save yourself the trouble of collecting and getting rid of your cut grass
  3. Some mowers feature an inlet under the deck for connecting your garden hose – a practical and efficient way to clean.
  4. A swivel wheel at the front of the deck will allow you to make more precise turns. This is a good option for mowers weighing over 20 kg. 
  5. As is the case with many products, the price of a lawnmower is a good indicator of the level of quality and user comfort you can expect. The price can vary widely, depending on the brand and warranty conditions, alongside the features and options you choose. It's a good idea to choose a brand that offers good after-sales care and a warranty of 2 or 3 years.

     

Tips for caring for your lawnmower

You will need to clean and maintain the cutting system after each use. It's also advisable to clear your lawn of objects that could damage the blade (stones, dog bones, toys, etc.). Sharpen or replace the blade when it starts to wear down.

To finish off your lawn, why not use an trimmer to go around your borders and flower beds? And if your edges or paths are overgrown with brambles or tall grass, you may even go so far as a brushcutter!

Maintaining a petrol engine

Petrol engines require careful and regular maintenance. In addition to pre-winter storage care, you should follow the manufacturer's guidelines and carry out the following steps at set intervals: 

  • empty the oil;
  • clean the spark plug and air fliter;
  • disconnect the battery if your mower is equipped with an electric start (over the winter);
  • clean the deck and cutting system;
  • sharpen the blade;
  • lubricate the mechanism (wires);
  • tighten up various parts.
Special jacks are available for emptying 4-stroke petrol mowers (including ride-on models); do not risk using an inappropriate lifting device.

Winter storage

Preparing to store your lawnmower after its last use in the autumn will involve a full maintenance check (engine + cutting system). It is advisable to drain the engine to avoid any deposits from building up and degrading the fuel. Finally, store your lawnmower in a garage or shed and shield it with a protective cover.

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter 177 guides écrits

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.
Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.
Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.
Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check.

The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job!
What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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