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Lawnmowers

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Time for a new lawnmower?

We've tested electric- and battery-powered mowers, petrol mowers (catcher-only, mulch-and-catch and a mulcher-only model) and eco-friendly push mowers.

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From our test

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Get instant access to 28 lawnmower test results

We've tested electric- and battery-powered mowers, petrol mowers (catcher-only, mulch-and-catch and a mulcher-only model) and eco-friendly push mowers. Join Consumer and use our expert test results and recommendations to find the model that's right for you.

What type of lawnmower?

Push mowers

Push mowers are a cheap form of exercise and you're not burning fossil fuels. But they're not that practical for large or sloping lawns.

To get a consistent cut with a push mower you need to keep the blades sharp and properly adjusted. Resharpening the blades means a visit to your local mower shop.

Electric mowers

Electric mowers are light, quiet, have no emissions and are easy to manoeuvre and push around. But they are not very powerful and have a narrow cut compared to a petrol mower – this makes mowing the lawn take longer. It’s probably not that noticeable with smaller lawns, but becomes more so the bigger the lawn.

On long grass the motor slows (especially in a battery-electric model) and the cutting performance drops. Electric mowers probably won’t suit you if you let your lawns get on the long side or you try to mow them when they’re wet.

If you have a traditional quarter acre (1000m²) or larger section, the limitations of electric mowers mean they’re probably not for you. But if your lawn is smallish, electric could be the way to go.

Petrol mowers

Petrol driven mowers are powerful, have a wide cut and can handle long or wet grass. But they are heavy and harder to manoeuvre than electric ones and starting can be a hassle.

Also handling and storing petrol can be hazardous.

Battery or mains?

Mains-electric mowers suit most small-to-medium lawns that have short or medium-length grass – as long as you can reach all the lawn with a single extension cord.

Battery-electric (cordless) mowers are good for smaller lawns with short or medium-length grass. Make sure the whole lawn can be cut with a single battery charge – life’s too short to wait several hours with a partly cut lawn for the battery to recharge.

The running times of our battery-electric models varied from 15 to 90 minutes. The longer run times are for the Enviromower and Worx models, which have lead-acid batteries.

The trade-off is they have much longer charge times (12 to 24 hours) compared with the models that use lithium-ion batteries (1 to 7 hours).

Battery-powered mowers are a clear winner where trees or other obstacles have to be negotiated. But they tend to be heavier than mains-powered models – not quite so suitable for sloping sections or if you don't have much upper-body strength. With mains-powered models the power cord can get tangled on obstacles and has to be dragged around. You also have to plan your mowing pattern carefully, to avoid running over the cord.

Mulching or standard?

Mulching mowers have a specially shaped cutting blade and a catcher-chute plug.

With the catcher removed and the plug inserted, the clippings are spun under the body and chopped up further by the blade. They are then blown down into the lawn, leaving a smoothly mown surface.

For successful mulching, the grass can’t be too short or too long. Cut too short and there won’t be a carpet of grass for the mulch to sink into and decompose. Left too long after cutting and the mulch will form clumps on the lawn – especially if the grass is wet. As well, the length of the cut shouldn’t be more than 25mm.

Mulch-and-catch mowers are the most versatile. With the catcher attached and mulching plug removed, they can be used as a conventional catcher-only mower. Mulcher-only mowers dispense with the catcher. They operate in mulching mode only.

Features to consider

When choosing a lawnmower consider these features.

  • Body: A rotary mower’s body is made from steel, aluminium alloy or (less commonly) plastic. An alloy body is more expensive. It’s corrosion resistant and likely to last longer in damp conditions – although it won’t last as well in sandy coastal areas because sand wears away the aluminium. Steel is cheaper but will rust unless cleaned and dried after use. However, if hit by a large rock it’ll only dent – whereas an alloy body can crack. Plastic is lightweight and doesn't corrode … but it may not last as well if regularly pounded by stones and other debris. A plastic body is more suitable for well-tended lawns where there’s only a slight chance of it being hit by rocks or stones.
  • Handle: A turned-up handle is generally regarded as easiest to use. Adjustable height is also an advantage, although it's not as common as you might think. The handles should fold easily for stowing.
  • Throttle control: Located on the handle bar for quick and easy access. It shouldn't be stiff.
  • Cutting height: Look for a large number of cutting positions. It should be easy to change the position using 1 lever acting on all 4 wheels.
  • Catcher: Catchers can be either solid plastic or partly mesh. Rigid plastic is heavier, but stronger than the mesh type, which can allow dust to blow over the user. The catcher should have 2 handles, 1 for carrying and the other for emptying. It should be easy to remove and replace.
  • Engine maintenance: How easy will it be to change the oil, air filter and spark plug?
  • Starter cord: Some mowers have the starter cord on the handle, so you use just your arm and perhaps upper body to operate it. Others have the cord down on the engine casing, requiring a full body pull. Neither guarantees an easy start, and both have their fans. If you're not familiar with either style, ask to try it in the shop. Some cords are located on the upper handle, which restricts the pulling action more than those placed further down the handle. Left-handers may find it harder to use a starter cord on the handle.
  • Wash port: Look for a hole on top of the body, designed for you to connect a hose to, for easy cleaning underneath.
  • Noise: There's no such thing as a quiet petrol-driven mower, but some are noisier than others. Check the vibration as well.
  • Easy push: Ball-bearing wheels make pushing easier.

Safety tips

Rotary mowers are dangerous and have caused many serious foot injuries.

  • The body of the mower should come close to the ground so that it's not possible for your foot to touch the blades.
  • The mower should stop quickly when the engine is turned off.
  • Check blade/s and blade bolts visually for looseness or wear before mowing.
  • Don't persevere with a blunt blade. Have it sharpened.
  • Wear strong, heavy non-skid footwear. Never mow in bare feet.
  • Use ear and eye protection.
  • For mains-powered models, use just 1 extension cord and make sure the lead is plugged into a residual-current-protected power point or a plug-in residual-current device (RCD).
  • Mow along slopes, not up or down them.
  • Keep children and pets clear of the mowing area.
  • Stop the motor before filling the fuel tank.
  • Clean the mower after use. Disconnect the mains or remove the battery before you do anything underneath an electric mower.
  • Always disconnect the spark plug before carrying out maintenance on petrol mowers.

Our advice

  • A push mower is the most eco-friendly way of mowing your lawn. But it's only suitable for relatively small, flattish lawns.
  • Mains-powered mowers are ideal for smaller sections where there are not too many cord-trapping obstacles in the mowing area.
  • Battery models don't have the hassle of a mains lead – but they have a limited cutting time, are heavy, and you have to remember to charge the battery before mowing.
  • In our conditions steel-bodied power mowers are cheaper than alloy, but they corrode. Alloy-bodied models are likely to last longer.
 
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