In recent years, electric mowers, including push, riding and even robotic models, have made great strides. Improved performance and extended run time of battery powered mowers have driven sales, making electric mowers preferred options for many homeowners.
Generally, a basic push mower with an adjustable deck will work for most lawns under a half acre. You probably will want to upgrade to a self-propelled model if your lawn is more than half an acre or has much of a slope. Riders are preferable for lawns around an acre or more. A mulching mower will help fertilize your grass and allow you to skip raking and bagging—definitely a win-win.
BATTERY POWERED PUSH MOWERS
Early electric push mowers required a cord, which was inconvenient at best and at worst, downright dangerous. Today’s battery powered electric push mowers are cord-free, running on rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs that hold a charge for 20 to 70 minutes, depending on the model, and the purchase of additional batteries can extend mowing time and acreage considerably. Some brands even offer interchangeable batteries that work with other outdoor tools.
Battery powered push mowers come in both manual and self-propelled models, and they offer many advantages over their gas-powered cousins. Electric mowers tend to be lighter and therefore more maneuverable. They offer an easy push button start and run extremely quietly with zero emissions. Because there is no fuel or oil to spill out, electric mowers can be stored vertically, a major space saver.
Best of all, electric mowers have improved substantially in terms of performance. In 2019, Consumer Reports proclaimed that the best battery powered electric mowers cut grass just as well as gas powered mowers.
Prices of electric push mowers are comparable to the gas powered versions, but are much easier and less expensive to maintain since they don’t require constant fuel fill-ups, tune-ups or oil changes. Regular recharging and occasional cleaning and blade sharpening are all you need to keep your electric mower in top condition.
There are surprisingly few down sides to battery powered push mowers. Batteries do wear out and affect mower performance over time, eventually requiring replacement. Also, overgrown or especially rough lawns may benefit from a heavier-duty gas mower.
ELECTRIC RIDING MOWERS
If you mow a large yard of an acre or more, you will probably want to invest in a riding lawn mower, lawn tractor or zero-turn radius (ZTR) mower. Many options have come on the market recently, and more are introduced every year, including commercial grade models.
Electric mowers, tractors and ZTRs look almost identical to the gas powered versions, with decks that range from 30” to 45”. Some offer baggers, premium seats, lights and other upgrades. Most will mow from 1 to 2.5 acres on a single charge, and some come with batteries that match other lawn tools.
Engineering of these electric mowers has improved dramatically, even within the past couple of years. Performance can vary widely depending on the producer and the model, so be sure to read reviews from recent purchasers and from Consumer Reports.
Models using lithium-ion batteries are more expensive, but usually recommended since they are lighter, better for the environment and last up to twice as long as Lead Acid AGM/FLA type batteries. Electric riding mowers, tractors and ZTRs can save a homeowner as much as $250 a year in maintenance costs compared to gas, since they don’t require fuel, oil, oil filters, air filters, spark plugs or tune-ups.
The main complaints about electric mowers historically focused on lack of power in thick grass and short battery life, but these complaints have declined as technology has improved.
Much like the robotic vacuums that have become so popular, robotic mowers have been gradually improving and coming down in price. Some residential robotic models can now handle up to 1.25 acres of grass, and professional-grade models can run for more than four hours to accommodate larger properties.
Robotic mowers vary in run time, charging time, deck size, decibel level and ability to dodge flower beds, trees and other obstructions, so it’s important to comparison shop based on your yard’s needs. All models require wires installed around the perimeter of the yard to maintain mowing boundaries, and some include anti-theft features, rain sensors and mobile controls.
Higher end robotic mowers now rival gas mowers in providing beautifully manicured lawns. Although they work best on relatively flat lawns up to 20 degrees, newer models claim to work on inclines up to 70 degrees. Keep in mind that most robotic mowers cannot handle tall grass, however. If you procrastinate and your grass gets too high, you’ll have to use a traditional mower to cut the grass down to a manageable height for the robot.
While prices for robotic mowers have generally fallen in recent years, they are still far from inexpensive. Current prices range from $600 to more than $5,000 depending on the mower’s features.
In addition to the hefty price, homeowners have complained that the robotic mowers are difficult to set up — some requiring costly professional help — and that the guide wires break easily, getting snagged when people walk through the yard.
However, if you have a flat yard of less than an acre with few obstructions, watching your lawn mower do all the work while you sip lemonade in the hammock may be well worth the extra cash.