Buying a new lawn mower is no longer a simple endeavor. Your first question may be, “Should I buy a battery-powered, corded, or gas mower?” Before you make the big cut, you’ll want to consider things like reliability, storage, maintenance, and noise level.
We’ll help you navigate this wide-open field to decide which type of mower is best for your lawn.
- Three different type of mowers
- Pros and cons of battery-powered lawn mowers
- Pros and cons of corded electric lawn mowers
- Pros and cons of gas lawn mowers
- FAQ on electric vs. gas lawn mowers
- Betting on a new champion or sticking with an old reliable
Three different type of mowers
If you like choices, today’s mower market is for you. Choose from a battery-powered, corded electric, or gas lawn mower to find one that is a match for your lawn, mowing style, and budget.
Battery-powered lawn mower
Battery-powered lawn mowers are the first of two types of electric lawn mowers. (Caveat: We won’t address battery-powered robotic mowers in this article, since they are a category unto themselves.)
If you don’t like gas, fumes, or oil changes, battery-powered mowers are a viable option for smaller lawns. If electric lawn tools are appealing to you, find a brand you like and stick with it. You’ll be able to power their entire line of lawn equipment with one brand of battery.
Corded electric lawn mower
Corded electric lawn mowers are the other kid on the electric lawn mower block. These mowers use an electric cord instead of a battery and are great for small, flat lawns. If you don’t like dealing with a vacuum cleaner’s electrical cord, these may not be for you. If toting a cord doesn’t phase you, these are an inexpensive option that can fit almost any budget.
Gas lawn mower
Gas lawn mowers need no introduction. They’ve been around for decades, and until recently, “lawn mower” didn’t need an adjective in front to describe its power source. Power comes at a cost, though. Be prepared to tote a gas can instead of a cord and know that you’ll need to do a little winterization once the season is over.
Pros and cons of battery-powered lawn mowers
Battery-powered lawn mowers (AKA cordless electric mowers) were once weaklings in the face of the mighty gas mower, but now they are new, improved, and ready to go head-to-head (or wheel-to-wheel) with the competition.
Over the years, battery life and power have improved, and these cordless electric lawn mowers are now a viable option for small to average-sized lawns. Homeowners appreciate their quieter, emission-free operation and low maintenance. (Look, Dad, no oil!)
But compared to gas-powered mowers, battery-powered mowers don’t always measure up. Homeowners complain that many battery-powered models slow down or stop in thicker grass. With gas mowers, this isn’t a problem.
Mowing time is also an issue. Some battery-powered machines can’t mow an average-sized, somewhat dense or weedy lawn on one battery charge. This can be frustrating for people who don’t want to do more than one mowing session on an average-sized lawn.
If you’re interested in a battery-powered mower, all is not lost. Here are a few ways to work around these common problems.
Problems and solutions for battery-powered mowers
|Mowing time||Buy more than one battery|
|Thick grass, dense vegetation||Mow slower, tilt the mower back, or raise the mowing height|
|Maintenance||Find a local service dealer before you buy|
If you have a larger yard to mow, or you have thick grass or lots of fall leaves, look for more battery power. Most battery-powered mowers use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and you’ll see the battery power listed in volts (18V, 20V, 80V). The higher the voltage, the longer run time you’ll have.
Another concern is maintenance. In most areas of the country, it will be more difficult to find a service center that will repair a battery-powered or corded lawn mower. (California may be an exception.) In addition, centers that repair battery-powered (or corded) mowers often work only on specific brands.
Before you buy a particular brand, go on their website to see if there is a service center near you. If so, call and ask about typical repair costs, longevity, and warranty coverage. If there’s not a service center near you, you may want to consider a different brand, or call around to see if any independent shops work with that brand.
If your lawn is one-quarter to one-third of an acre and your grass isn’t too dense, many battery-powered machines will mow the lawn on a single charge. If you plan to mulch leaves in the fall, or if your lawn starts to grow denser from all of that fall fertilizer, you may want to invest in at least one backup battery.
Pro Tip: Check the specs sheet before you buy. Battery run time, lawn size, cutting height and all of the other specs for that mower are listed in the product description or online owner’s manual.
|Pros of battery-powered lawn mowers||Cons of battery-powered lawn mowers|
✓ No gas, oil changes, or fuel filters
✓ Best for small, ¼ to ½ acre lots
✓ Brushless motor option
✓ Many offer foldable storage
✓ Most offer a push-button start
✓ High marks for ease of use
✓ Some offer the same features as gas models: adjustable cutting height, variable speed, mulching option, self-propelled, and steel deck
|✗ Not ideal for larger lawns (½ acre or more)|
✗ Dense, weedy lawns may run down the battery faster, giving you less run time
✗ Less power than a gas machine
✗ Battery and/or charger may not be included
✗ Some models aren’t recommended for uneven terrain (check the specs)
✗ Harder to repair
Popular brands of battery-powered lawn mowers
- Cub Cadet
- Sun Joe
Pros and cons of corded electric lawn mowers
If you have a very small yard, a corded electric mower may be just what you need. You’ll get the eco-friendliness and low noise of a battery-powered mower without ever running out of juice. Many homeowners with simply-shaped lawns find that corded models provide an easy, affordable mowing experience that suits their lawn and budget.
Most manufacturers recommend corded mowers for lawns up to one quarter of an acre. Some models say they’ll work on up to half an acre. But would you want to tote an extension cord across even a quarter of an acre? For some homeowners, a corded mower is ideal even for a larger lawn. It depends on personal preference and the layout of your lawn (hills, flat, outlet location).
To run a corded mower, you’ll need a conveniently placed garage or outdoor outlet and pay close attention to where your cord is at all times. (Standard grounded outlets work fine.)
Corded electric mowers don’t currently (no pun intended) have a self-propelled option, but they are very lightweight. The smallest models with plastic (poly) decks are especially lightweight, even compared with battery-powered machines. The more moderate and larger sizes weigh about the same as a midsize battery-powered model.
Corded models are tethered to an outlet, so their power is measured in amps (amperes). Most models range from 9 to 13 amps for 14- to 21-inch cutting widths. The higher the amps, the more power you have to mow tough areas and long grass.
Some homeowners have a difficult time powering through thick or tall grass with a corded mower. Follow the tips we suggested in the “Battery-Powered Workaround” section above to help your mower get through the tough sections.
The main takeaway? Corded electric mowers are an affordable, powerful-enough option for homeowners with smaller lawns. If you don’t mind learning how to manage the cord, these machines are effective for small suburban lawns.
|Pros of corded electric lawn mowers||Cons of corded electric lawn mowers|
✓ Most affordable of the three mower types
✓ Never run out of power — no fading battery or empty gas tank
✓ Push-button or lever start — no pull cords
✓ Mow forward or backward (watch the cord!)
✓ Easy to use
✓ Quiet operation
✓ Ideal for small yards
✓ Steel or poly deck material
✓ Low environmental impact — no gas or emissions
✓ Most come with the option to mulch and bag; some come with a side discharge option
|✗ No option for self-propelled|
✗ Not ideal for lawns over ¼ of an acre
✗ Extension cord not included
✗ Cord can be a hassle
✗ Mower may bog down in tall or thick grass
✗ May be difficult to find a repair dealer for your brand. Some machines are seen as disposable.
Popular brands of corded electric lawn mowers
- Sun Joe
Pros and cons of gas lawn mowers
(Note: Since lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers are a category unto themselves, we’ll focus only on gas-powered push mowers and gas-powered self-propelled mowers in this section.)
If old gas and high decibels get your goat, a gas lawn mower is not for you. If you appreciate power and performance, you’ve met your perfect mower match.
Gas lawn mowers are the defending champions of American mowing. They have a multi-decade history of helping homeowners keep their lawns manicured and neat without the aid of a family cow or scythe. These workhorses are a key component in a DIYer’s toolkit and have many advantages:
- Gas mowers are reliable and tough — just keep them clean and oiled
- When a gas mower breaks down, you can probably fix it yourself
- Most will mow through any vegetation with no problem: leaves, grass, and weeds
- Can mow almost any size suburban lawn
Today, gas mowers have more bells and whistles and are easier to operate than older models. Here are a few of the newer features you can find on some modern gas mowers:
- Push-button electric start or spring-assist pull start
- Compact storage feature (fold up and store)
- Self-propelled or standard push mower
- Your choice of mulching, side discharge, bag, or a combination
If you’re interested in the power gas mowers provide, look at the number next to “cc” (cubic centimeters) in the product description. The higher the number, the more power you’ve got to mow tough areas.
Although there are pluses to gas mowers, many homeowners are starting to vote with their dollars and choose electric or battery-powered mowers. Homeowners cite the following reasons for going gas-free:
- High noise levels
- Messy gas and oil
- Harmful emissions
- Difficult to start (older models)
- Engine maintenance and winterization
Whether you’re gung ho for gas or an electric mower maven, it’s hard to deny that gas mowers offer a reliable history, a variety of features, and the ability to mow through whatever vegetation stands in your way.
|Pros of gas lawn mowers||Cons of gas lawn mowers|
|✓ Has the most cutting power|
✓ Works on larger lawns
✓ Makes quick work of tall or thick grass
✓ No cord to tether you or battery to limit mow time
✓ Residential or commercial use
✓ If it needs maintenance, small engine repair shops are equipped and knowledgeable
✓ Wide range of price points
✓ Pull start, push-button electric start, or spring-assist pull start
✓ Many features to choose from: Variable speed, compact storage, push or self-propelled, multiple cutting heights, and mulching, side discharge, or bag options
|✗ Heavier than most battery and corded models|
✗ Louder than most battery and corded models
✗ Pull starts may be difficult
✗ Require gas, oil, spark plugs, air filters, etc.
✗ Emissions may be harmful
Popular brands of gas lawn mowers
- Briggs and Stratton
- Yard Machines
FAQ on electric vs. gas lawn mowers
Mower companies, like cars, put out long-lasting models and lemons. It’s hard to generalize because some people say they’ve had theirs for a decade, while other mowers go belly up in a few years.
The best way to figure out a mower’s lifespan? Call your local small engine repair shop. Ask which models are reliable and which are duds. Ask what they can fix or are willing to fix. By asking experts who have experience repairing all types of mowers, you will get great advice.
Here are a few other questions to consider:
—Do you have an engine shop that is willing or able to repair your model? (Call them and ask.)
—How long will you be able to get parts for the machine? Are there generic parts available, or does your mower only accept parts from that company?
—How expensive are basic repairs? If repairs cost more than buying a new machine (or almost as much), will you repair your mower, or would you rather upgrade and buy a new machine?
—Can you do the repairs yourself, or would you send the mower to the shop?
Remember the adage, “Electricity and water don’t mix?” Your corded electric mower manual agrees.
The short answer is they prefer not to. Electric mowers are like the electric hair trimmer the barber uses as he’s putting the finishing touches on your summer haircut. The scissors do the heavy cutting first. The electric clippers come in at the end and finish out the shorter hair.
Electric mowers are more of a supplemental maintenance tool. They like to cut regularly mowed lawns and take off the extra one-third of the blade that has grown since your last mow. There are ways to help your electric mower along if the grass has grown a little high: Raise the mower height, tilt the mower on the back wheels, or take those sections at a slower speed.
Betting on a new champion or sticking with an old reliable
Whether you’re ready to get inventive and eco-friendly with electric mowers or stick with the tried-and-true gas mower, your local small engine repair shop and home improvement store are great spots to get the dirt on top-notch mower models.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge and buy your own electric or gas lawn mower just yet, don’t sweat it. Let one of our local lawn care professionals mow and edge the lawn with their time-tested, professional-grade (gas-powered) lawn care equipment.
Main Photo Credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians | Pixabay