Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.

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Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Provided by NBC News

Push lawn mowers can be a good option if you’re looking for a relatively affordable alternative to other types of lawn mowers. They do require more physical labor to operate, but they are an efficient lawn tool to keep on hand if you need to maintain a small to medium lawn and hope to get some calorie-burning exercise while you’re at it. Depending on the type of push mower you choose, they can also be lighter and easier to maintain than other popular types of mowers, including self-propelled mowers and riding mowers.

Aqsa Tabassam, a gardener and landscaper at Garden Guidepost with over 10 years of experience, told us in our guide to lawn mowers that while push lawn mowers usually aren’t noisy, they’re also less powerful than some of the other types of mowers and won’t be as efficient at cutting longer grass blades. According to Bryan McKenzie, co-founder of the Bumper Crop Times, it’s likely easier for a landscaping expert to mow first and you can later maintain the length on your own with a push mower.

We talked to experts about the benefits and drawbacks of a push lawn mower and how to shop for them, and got their recommendations for the best push lawn mowers to shop.

5 best push lawn mowers in 2021

Since we don’t test lawn mowers ourselves, we rely on expert guidance and our past reporting about how to shop for them. For push mowers, experts recommended looking for a cutting width that’s proportional to the size of your lawn and the machine’s grass expulsion method. The experts we spoke to recommended each of the highly rated push mowers below.

Best corded electric push lawn mower: BLACK+DECKER

BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded

This battery-powered push mower can also be used as a string trimmer and edger (which lets you trim grass at the very edge of your lawn), thus allowing you to do multiple jobs back to back as long as you have access to a power source or have an extension cord. The 12-inch string trimmer attaches to the mowing deck to form a compact mower you can push around your yard. “A great benefit of this construction is that you can also use it for perfect edging and string-trimming in hard-to-reach spots of the yard,” said McKenzie. This mower has a 4.2-star average rating from more than 3,000 Amazon reviews.

BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded

Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Amazon BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded (Amazon / Amazon)

  • BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded $88.35 at Amazon
  • BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded $112.04 at Walmart
  • BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger & Lawn Mower, 6.5-Amp, 12-Inch, Corded $102.99 at Lowe’s

Best cordless electric push lawn mower: Greenworks

Greenworks 48V 20″ Brushless Cordless Push Lawn Mower

Tabassam previously told us this cordless push mower is best for lawns on the medium to larger side due to its 20-inch cutting width and provides plenty of power for leaf picking. It features up to 45 minutes of runtime and comes with two fully charged Lithium-ion batteries. It has a rear bag to collect clippings, but you can also use a side discharge or mulching method to collect and expel grass. You can also purchase a self-propelled version of this mower if you prefer.

Greenworks 48V 20″ Brushless Cordless Push Lawn Mower

Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Amazon Greenworks 48V 20

  • Greenworks 48V 20″ Brushless Cordless Push Lawn Mower $399.99 at Amazon
  • Greenworks 48V 20″ Brushless Cordless Push Lawn Mower $399.99 at Lowe’s
  • Greenworks 48V 20″ Brushless Cordless Push Lawn Mower $399.99 at Greenworks

Best gas-powered push lawn mower: Craftsman

Craftsman M105 140cc Gas Powered Push 21-Inch 3-in-1 Lawn Mower with Bagger

This gas-powered push mower has a 4.4-star average rating from more than 1,500 reviews on Amazon. This model features side discharge, rear discharge and mulching capabilities, and you can choose from six different height settings for comfort and stability. Tabassam said she likes the mower’s “durable wheels” and its large 21-inch cutting deck that makes cutting grass more efficient with each pass.

Craftsman M105 140cc Gas Powered Push 21-Inch 3-in-1 Lawn Mower with Bagger

Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Amazon Craftsman M105 140cc Gas Powered Push 21-Inch 3-in-1 Lawn Mower with Bagger (Amazon / Amazon)

  • Craftsman M105 140cc Gas Powered Push 21-Inch 3-in-1 Lawn Mower with Bagger $259.99 at Amazon
  • Craftsman M105 140cc Gas Powered Push 21-Inch 3-in-1 Lawn Mower with Bagger $308.13 at Walmart

Best reel push lawn mower: Great States

Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

This basic yet sturdy reel mower has a 4.4-star average rating from over 1,500 reviewers on Amazon. McKenzie recommended this mower for small, flat lawns, noting that it “can last for decades if you maintain the blades well.” It has a 16-inch cutting width, a universal-height handle and an adjustable cutting height of one-half inch to 2.5 inches. The device is relatively lightweight at just over 2 pounds, allowing you to push it comfortably across your yard and store it without hassle.

Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower

Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Amazon Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower (Amazon / Amazon)

  • Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower $110.91 at Amazon
  • Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower $99.99 at Home Depot
  • Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower $109.99 at Mowers Direct

Best budget push lawn mower: Sun Joe

Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower

Another highly rated corded electric option, this push mower from Sun Joe features a 4.4-star average rating from over 2,000 Walmart reviewers. Ronnie Collins, a gardening blogger for Electro Garden Tools, said he recommends this tool for small yard owners “who want to keep it cheap [and] quiet and don’t mind cord management.” This budget option is under $100 and provides you with a decent 12-Amp motor, a foldable design, 14 inches of cutting width and a bag for clippings. It weighs 29 pounds, making it one of the lightest options on this list for more comfort when pushing it around your yard.

Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower, Green

Is a push lawn mower worth it? Experts weigh in.
© Walmart Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower, Green (Walmart / Walmart)

  • Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower, Green $74.00 at Walmart
  • Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower, Green $97.99 at Amazon
  • Sun Joe MJ401E 14 inch 12 Amp Home Electric Corded Push Behind Lawn Mower, Green $119.00 at Sun Joe

What types of push lawn mowers are available?

Depending on the type of yard you have and how much effort you’re hoping to put into mowing your lawn, you can choose between two main types of push lawn mowers: reel mowers and motorized mowers.

A reel mower, or manual lawn mower, features a set of sharpened blades — called the “reel” — that uses a scissor-like motion to cut the grass as you push it. These mowers are compact and lightweight and rely solely on physical exertion. They do require some light maintenance, though: You’ll need to occasionally clean and sharpen the blades so they don’t get dull.

Reel mowers are best for lawns that are small (less than one-third of an acre) and even, without steep slopes or hills, according to Collins. He added that you should also “have enough strength to push it under the angle if the entire yard is slightly sloped.”

A motorized rotary mower, on the other hand, has a rotating blade hidden under the mowing deck and is powered by a gas or electric motor (either corded or battery-powered). Motorized push mowers are typically the cheapest options when it comes to engine-powered lawn mowers, though they’re just as noisy as other motorized units, according to McKenzie. They can be a more effective option if you need to trim a lawn with uneven spots, but they’re typically heavier than reel mowers, according to Collins.

Motorized push mowers usually have cutting widths — the size of the strip the machine can cut in a single pass — between 21 and 40 inches, while small reel mowers can go as narrow as 14 inches since they’re designed for smaller yards. Both reel and motorized mowers may have adjustable cutting heights, which let you customize how many inches of grass your unit can cut.

Experts told us you should pay attention to how powerful the motor is as well as the deck cutting width. “Look for the best combination of the motor and the deck cutting width to make sure it won’t take too much time to process the entire lawn,” Collins advised.

How do push lawn mowers expel grass?

Push lawn mowers typically collect and expel grass clippings using one of three methods: bagging, side discharge and mulching.

Push mowers with bagging systems neatly collect grass clippings into a bag much like a vacuum, according to Michael Crnkovic, president of Fresh Cut Professionals lawn care service. This method is the best way to collect weed clippings, though it can add to your mowing time since you’ll have to dispose of clippings during and after each use.

A mulching system breaks down grass clippings and distributes them around the lawn to provide nutrients to the soil. According to Crnkovic, this method is the “best of both worlds” since it doesn’t blow grass all over the lawn like a side discharge system, but still leaves the plant material to “continue the turf’s food cycle.” “If you mulch and bag clippings, you can later add them as green matter to your compost pile,” Collins added.

A side discharge system directs the grass clippings back onto your yard using a side discharge chute. Your motorized mower can rotate the blade faster when it doesn’t need to bag or mulch the clippings simultaneously, resulting in a cleaner cut. However, this method is waning in popularity since it can be messy and may leave grass clippings on driveways, sidewalks and flowerbeds.

Push mowers and self-propelled mowers: What’s the difference?

The main difference between a push lawn mower and a self-propelled, or manually propelled, mower is that the latter features a transmission (either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive) that can push the wheels forward — it only needs to be guided rather than pushed.

“Some people prefer [push mowers] for a more active lifestyle, but others want or need to limit the load with a self-propelled mower,” Collins explained.

Experts told us they recommend self-propelled lawn mowers for uneven terrain with hills and slopes. Motorized push lawn mowers can handle uneven terrain better than reel mowers, but self-propelled mowers can maintain the same speed when going up hills and slopes, thus putting less strain on your muscles.

“Bumpy lawns are not a problem for self-propelled mowers, while push mower reels don’t have enough friction to cut the grass evenly on the bumps,” said McKenzie. “A motorized push lawn mower doesn’t really have that problem, but it’s heavier [to push].”

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