Getting the right walk behind lawn mower is vital to saving you time and energy while mowing. The right tool for the right job is cliché, but it is reality. Your property size and the terrain play a role in deciding the right mower for the job. Hopefully this Walk Behind Lawn Mowers Buyer’s Guide will help you get started. Consider this your very own shopping valet!
Walk Behind Mower Buying Criteria
Part of the decision which walk behind mower to buy, will be based on how much room you have and how many swaths you want to make across the yard. The wider the deck, the less times you need to walk back and forth to cut the whole lawn. Another factor to consider is the type of grass you have in your lawn. Remember when you seeded your lawn with tough grass that would endure harsh conditions? Wider decks tend to have more difficulty cutting tough thick grass such as Bermuda grass. If you have a finer grass, wide deck walk behinds should be fine.
Walk behind mowers come as two options, push or self-propelled. Self-propelled mowers push the machine for you. Your only job will be to steer the machine, easily done even on uneven terrain.
You are the power source for pushing a reel mower or push powered mower. Self-propelled mowers use the engine power to push the machine across the yard. The power to operate the blades to cut the grass comes from different sources, depending upon the type of walk behind mower. Reel mowers depend on you to power the cutting blades. Push powered and self-propelled mowers are dependent upon engines to power the cutting blades.
It’s time to be honest with yourself. Are you the type who is a tad obsessive about mowing the lawn every couple of days, or are you the type to leave it until it is tall enough to hide a treasure chest? Your answer matters, because not every mower will cut through tall grass.
Are you the type who will rake clippings for extra exercise after you are done mowing, or are you that kind of guy who leaves a gigantic trail of clumped cut grass all over the lawn? If you are the latter and want to save time and effort, you will want a walk behind mower that has a rear bag to catch clippings.
Everybody wants a light mower, specially when you have to push it yourself, like reel mowers or push mowers. The thing is that light reel mowers might demonstrate difficulties cutting tougher grass. So on heavier grass, like Bermuda, St. Augustine or Zoysia make sure you pick a reel mower that weights more like those from Fiskars.
On powered lawn mowers you will find a plethora of options too. Did you know that the electric lawn mowers are the lightest of them all? In general a self propelled lawn mower weights a lot more than the ordinary petrol mower, primarily because of a more sophisticated engine, which not only cuts, but also powers the self propelling system. If you would like to purchase a self propelled mower, but its heavier weight holds you back, it´s nice to know that there are a few good self propelled electric mowers on the market that are much lighter!
That’s right. I said it. The word every homeowner hates. Maintenance. Everything we own requires maintenance, so does your lawn mower. The question is how often and to what extent. The material the mower is made of (steel vs. sheet metal), the number of blades, the design of the wheels and other factors all determine how often the walk behind needs to be serviced.
Money. We love to hate spending it. Before you decide to just buy the least expensive machine on the market, remember to take a look at your list of needs. It will do you no good to buy a mower that cannot cut the thick Bermuda grass, or to buy an electric mower when you have no outlets near the back of your 3 acre property! The best price is which will buy you a walk behind mower that meets all your needs.
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When to Get a Non-powered Cylindrical Mower?
- Best Suited For – Patch mowing, lawns less than 1/3 acre
- Price – $ to $$
- Maintenance – No Engine Equals Zero Maintenance
Did you know that reel mowers were first invented over 2 centuries ago? Amazing isn’t it, something that we take for granted today was first designed back when electricity and engines were not even distant realities. These mechanical, human powered models are lightweight, often blessed with no more than 15 inch decks and are super easy to use. They however will not help you deal with a yard sized over a third of an acre. If you have a really tiny patch of grass in front or to the back of your house, or need something to tend to specific regions on an otherwise large lawn that is best served by a powered mower, the reel mower is your best friend. Noiseless, absolutely zero maintenance, the cheapest of the lot and a great tool to keep in your garden shed, I actually advise everyone to buy a reel mower regardless of whether they get a walk-behind or riding mower for their landscaping plans.
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When to Choose an Electric Lawn Mower?
- Best Suited For – Small lawns less than 2/3 acre
- Price – $$ to $$$
- Maintenance – Blade sharpening and two year battery replacements at most
The simplest walk behind mower you can get nowadays is an electric mower. They require very little maintenance compared to gas powered machines. The blades are about the only thing you have to maintain. No gas to buy, no oil to change, and no spark plug either. Electric mowers won’t be as powerful as the gas type machines. So you need to be able to mow your grass frequently enough to keep it under control. Smaller lawns are better suited for electric mowers as well. You don’t want to tackle a two acre field with a battery powered or corded mower.
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When To Purchase a Gas Lawn Mower?
- Best Suited For – Less than 1 acre of Property
- Price – $$ to $$$
- Maintenance – Needs winterization, regular oil and fuel change, spark plug, blade and other periodic replacements.
The most basic gas walk behind mower is propelled by the operator. You push it along as the engine just turns the blades. These mowers are good for tiny lawns or medium sized ones if you like the exercise that comes with more walking. You can also use this type mower as a backup mower to a bigger riding one. Many folks use a push mower of this style to mow ditches, banks, and hills only relying on their riding lawn mowers for the rest of the landscape. Most of these home push mowers are for home use and have decks averaging about 22 inches in width.
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When to Opt for a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?
- Best Suited For – Less than 1.5 Acre Uneven Property
- Price – $$$
- Maintenance – Lot more moving components, more weight adds to maintenance
A similar walk behind mower to the push type is the self propelled walk behind for consumer use. The benefit is that the engine propels the mower along so you save your energy. Less pushing means you may get the job done faster. These style machines are a bit easier on hills as well since you only have to guide them instead of struggling to push them at bad angles. 22 inch decks are common on these mowers also.
There are commercial self propelled walk behinds just like the consumer type. The decks may be a wee bit wider for faster mowing and the decks will be stockier metal as well. This makes them better endure the laborious work of a lawn business. The engines on these commercial machines are higher graded than the home owner styles too. Even though these are small mowers, a person can make money with them commercially. A lot of tiny fenced in lawns would be a good profit center for someone looking to get into lawn care as a business.
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When to Buy a Commercial Walk Behind Lawn Mower?
- Best Suited For – Large Properties, Landscaping business
- Price – $$$$
- Maintenance – Serious DIY, regular servicing, replacements and maintenance
Now for the big boys of walk behinds. Commercial walk behinds with decks between 36 inches and 72 inches can really mow down some acreage. These machines are built tough for commercial use with big engines to power the larger decks mentioned. If you need to mow a big property that you own or many properties for the public, this type of lawn mower can do the job. They are not quite as fast as a commercial zero turn mower, but for the money saved, they are a great value. You can trust these mowers on a hillside more than a top heavy zero turn. And when required, convert them to riders by adding a velkie, which is a wheeled platform that hooks to the mower and on which you stand to ride.
Please note: I don’t review or purchase commercial walk-behind mowers on this website because of their price and the fact that any average homeowner would rather buy a riding mower instead. If you need advice on commercial push mowers, drop me a personal message.
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When to Select Autonomous Robo-Mowers?
Best Suited For – Obstacle free lawns
Price – $$$$
Maintenance – Regular service, replacements and maintenance
Don’t forget the geeky little electric mowers that can do the mowing for you like the robot vacuums for your home. These can run on a remote or by GPS. They require a set up and some monitoring, but are pretty much hands off most of the time. They are meant for super small yards. I am talking yards that are not even considered yards! Also a flat terrain is best and you can’t let the grass get high at all, as these small machines are not meant for thick or tall grass. I don’t compare, review or even buy robotic mowers primarily because they are more of a helper tool than something any serious landscaper will ever use, nevertheless in the interest of full disclosure, I mention them here. Also remember that they are not yet perfect so what you would consider a well mowed lawn may not be the same for your metal friend. Add to this, robo-mowers need first time setup, configuration and a lot of tinkering to ensure they are useful enough.
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Quick Visual Overview on the Right Walk Behind Mower for You
|Type||For Small Lawns||For Bigger Lawns||Easier On Operator||Toughness Rating |
(1 worst -10 best)
|Steepness Use Rating|
(1 worst-10 best)
|Electric Push Mower|
|Electric Robot Mower|
|Gas Push Mower|
|Gas Self Propelled (consumer)|
|Gas Self Propelled (commercial)|
|Commercial Large Walk Behinds|
I hope this information clears the air about the type of walk behind mower you will be getting soon. The differences are clear. And, the main thing is to know the properties you will be mowing so you can choose a mower accordingly. If you mow only your own lawn, this is easy once you know what lawn mower is suitable for your lawn. If you mow as a business, have an idea of the yards you will target as potential projects and select your new walk behind accordingly.
Already purchased a walk behind mower? Need some advice on how to operate them? If you are facing cranking issues, need advice in maintenance, read my Lawn Mower Quick Start Guide for Walk Behinds instead!