A walk behind lawn mower, otherwise known as a push mower, is a basic tool that gets the job done without a lot of fancy extras. But if your lawn is small and relatively flat, it’s all you need. Some push mowers don’t have engines and rely on manpower to pass blades over the grass. Others have gas or battery powered blades. Still other walk behind lawn mowers contain a drive belt to turn the wheels, eliminating the need for the user to do anything but steer. But on flat land, there is rarely a reason to spend extra on a self propelled lawn mower unless mobility is an issue for you. We have gathered all the info you need to find the best walk behind lawn mower for your property.
Types of Mower
There are two basic types of walk behind mower: reel and rotary. The names describe the method by which the cutting blades are powered.
Reel mowers are old school. Their blades come together and clip the grass like scissors as the user pushes the mower across the grass. They are basic lightweight tools that have no motors or other complex mechanical parts that can break down. Because they are entirely manpowered, they release no emissions and are environmentally friendly.
There are some downsides to reel mowers, however. They usually don’t have baggers, so grass clippings stay on the lawn unless you rake them afterward. Reel mowers are also tiring because all the power comes from your own effort. When grass has become long or thick, mowing takes even more effort and the cutting blades may struggle to cut grass evenly. You generally need to mow more often with a reel mower than with a rotary model.
Rotary mowers use a fuel source to power spinning blades. Most rotary mowers are powered by gas, but electric and battery powered models are becoming more popular. Rotary mowers are better able than reel mowers to handle dense vegetation and crush up things like twigs or pinecones in their path.
Unlike reel mowers, most rotary mowers come with a grass collection bag. On a clear and regularly maintained lawn, there is a case to be made that reel mowers provide a cleaner cut than rotary mowers. But if you have a lawn with trees that drop leaves, needles, or cones, or if you don’t want to mow a couple of times a week, opt for the rotary model.
TOP 5 Best Walk Behind Lawn Mower
Following are at-a-glance specs for the top rated walk behind lawn mowers on our list.
TOP 5 Best Walk Behind Lawn Mower
Now we’ll dig deeper into the details of each of these lawn mowers. Stick around after the reviews for additional facts and information that can help make your lawn maintenance job easier.
1 American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 14-Inch 4-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
A nice compact yard with even terrain can do just fine with a manpowered reel mower, like this sturdy model from the American Lawn Mower Company. It is an inexpensive lawn mower for small yard spaces and can do exactly what you need while minimizing damage to the environment at the same time. There are no exhaust fumes emitted and no electricity used.
This is a small lawn mower that offers a 14” cutting swath. It has 8.5” composite wheels and a 4-blade ball bearing reel that provides a clean, scissor-like cut. But even though this mower is basic, it has some nice features. The grass cutting height is adjustable. You can set the blades between 0.5"-1.75" to achieve the right length for your particular type of grass.
Because there is no motor or electronic component, you won’t need to do much maintenance to keep your reel mower in great shape. To minimize the effort it takes to push your walk behind mower, it’s important to grease the wheels occasionally. To keep the cut clean, you may sharpen your mower blades as needed. However, the blades from the American Lawn Mower Company are made of strong heat-treated alloy steel and will stay sharp for a long time. A clue that your blades have dulled is torn rather than snipped grass and a tendency for the unit to bog down.
20 x 24 x 42.5 inches
90 day warranty
- Light and nimble
- Doesn’t throw rocks
- Near silent operation
- Can’t cut pine needles or sticks
- Not ideal for rolling terrain
- Somewhat narrow cutting swath
2 Greenworks 20-Inch 12 Amp Corded Lawn Mower 25022
Getting into the more common rotary models, here is an excellent electric lawn mower that receives its power through a cord. That can make it a bit challenging to navigate, but once you set out a path that doesn’t require doubling back over the cord, you may appreciate the fact that this mower never runs out of power.
Greenworks has designed this mower in a striking green and gray color scheme. It has 20-inch steel deck and a powerful 12 Amp motor, both designed for longevity. One particularly nice feature of electric mowers, as opposed to gas mowers, is that they are very easy to start up. There is no challenging rip cord to pull. It starts at the touch of a button.
Maneuvering this walk behind mower is easy. It’s not too heavy and has ample ground clearance provided by the 10 inch rear wheels and 7 inch front wheels. The cutting deck can be adjusted at 7 different points that range between 1 ½ and 3 ¾ inches.
The clippings can be collected in a rear mounted bag, or you can choose to have them mulched and discharged from the side. When you’re done with the mower, you’ll find that its foldable handle saves a ton of space.
26.9 x 16.1 x 18 inches
4 year warranty
- Quiet operation and no emissions
- Folds up for easy storage and transport
- Simple to set up and to use; powerful performance
- Extension cord must be purchased separately
- Power cord will need repositioning as you mow
- Wet grass may clog the collection bag
3 Husqvarna 7021P 21-Inch 160cc Honda GCV160 Gas Powered 3-N-1 Push Lawn Mower with High Rear Wheels
Husqvarna is a trusted name in lawn equipment, and this relatively large walk behind mower is a solid entry. It is a gas-powered push mower with a 21” cutting deck. It has a 160cc Honda GVC160 engine that’s efficient and compliant with emissions regulations across the United States. The mower is relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver on high 12-inch wheels that create enough clearance to manage dips and swells across your property.
Find just the right grass height for your lawn with the 4-point, 9 position cutting height adjustment feature. For the grass clippings, there is a 3-in-1 cutting system that allows you to mulch, rear bag, or side discharge those. The 2 bushel collection bag is included with your purchase. And when you’re done, the folding handle saves a ton of storage room.
There are a number of features built in to make operation more comfortable, too. The soft grip handle reduces the vibrations felt while mowing, which can keep your hands from becoming cramped or fatigued. The handle also features height adjustment so that people of varying heights can use the mower without stooping or stretching.
38 x 23 x 68 inches
2 year warranty
- Choke-less, prime-less start feature
- Powerful Honda motor
- Collection bag and motor oil come with purchase; overall affordable & reliable
- Bolts that attach handle to deck may need to be tightened frequently
- Mulching attachment may cause mower to bog down in high grass
- Relatively large difference between each cutting height
4 Yard Machines 140cc 21-Inch Push Mower
If all you’re looking for is a small gas lawn mower that is affordable and basic, Yard Machines may have the model for you. It is relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver due to the high clearance provided by 11” rear wheels and 7” front wheels. Despite the lightweight of 62 pounds, the mower is built durably.
The mower has a reliable 140cc OHV engine, 21” steel cutting deck, and dual level height adjustment. It’s a good wide area mower than can save you time. You will be able to discharge mulched cuttings from the side of the machine, but it is unfortunately not built for use with a grass collection bag. Another feature that some might miss is a padded handle for ergonomic comfort.
This Yard Machines mower will arrive almost entirely assembled, allowing you to get started within minutes of unpacking it. Sometimes just getting the engine started can be the most challenging aspect of working with a basic lawn mower, but one or two pulls is enough to fire this one up. Once running, users have found that it powers through even thick, tall grass. Though this Yard Machines mower is an entry level model without a lot of flashy extras, you can count on it to excel at its primary job of mowing grass.
36.6 x 23.9 x 17.5 inches
62 pounds2 year warranty
- Well-built with excellent value for money
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Starts with one or two pulls
- No padding on the handle
- No collection bag available
- Owners’ manual is limited
5 EGO Power+ 20-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-ion Cordless Lawn Mower - 5.0Ah Battery and Charger Kit
If you prefer to use a lawn mower with a better eco-footprint, consider a battery-powered model. This one from EGO runs on an advanced arc-lithium battery that provides an impressive 55 minutes (or 2 miles) worth of runtime per charge. With a 20” cutting swath and convenient 3-in-1 collection bag, nothing will slow you down when you’re mowing your lawn.
Unlike gas mowers with a challenging rip cord for starting, this one starts really easily with the push of a button. You also don’t ever need to find and buy ethanol-free gas or remember to change the oil with this mower. And let’s not forget one of the best benefits of using a battery mower – they are incredibly quiet. You can mow anytime without annoying the neighbors, and you’ll be much more comfortable, too.
The grass collection bag can be mounted on the side or back, or you can simply mulch the clippings. A rapid charger is also included with your purchase. The EGO Power folds quickly and securely for storage, and unlike gas mowers, can be stored in any position.
One thing to note is that some users have reported that the battery can overheat if you mow during the hottest part of a summer day, but who wants to do that, anyway? Stick to mid-morning or early evening mowing to protect yourself and your mower from heatstroke.
37.4 x 21.6 x 16.1 inches
5 year warranty
- Multiple blade positions
- Long warranty
- Runs quietly with no fumes
- Customer service is not very responsive
- Battery life diminishes over time
- Grass must be dry to protect electronics
We have spoken about the ability of some of these mowers to mulch grass clippings. But what exactly is that and why would you want to do it? First of all, mulching is the process by which grass clippings are cut multiple times into very small pieces that will break down quickly when left on your lawn. Mowers may come with a mulching attachment or else be retrofitted with one after purchase. Regular cutting blades will not mulch your clippings.
There are several reasons to think about mulching rather than bagging your grass cuttings. The most important is that mulched grass returns nutrients to the soil and fertilizes your lawn for no extra money. A layer of mulched grass is also great for retaining moisture in the soil, which will cut down on your water bill tremendously.
One scenario in which you may not want to mulch your clippings is if the yard has a lot of weeds that you want to eliminate. Mulching in this case will simply spread those seeds around. Mulching also doesn’t leave the perfectly clean, ballfield type of finish to your lawn. However, the pieces are so small and break down so quickly that your lawn will not be unusable when you’ve mulched the clippings.
How Often to Mow
The answer to the question of how often to mow depends a lot on the type of grass you have in your yard. Different varieties thrive at different heights. Do some research to determine what your lawn might like best.
Once you know, aim to keep grass blades at that height by cutting no more than 1/3 of the blade length per mow. More than that can be challenging for grass to come back from. Generally speaking, once every week or two weeks (depending on rainfall) is sufficient, but every lawn is different. Get to know yours well through observation and you’ll find the best mowing schedule for it.
Fun Facts About Lawns & Lawn Mowers
Mowing the lawn isn’t usually that fun, but the results are a joy to behold. To give you something to ponder the next time you are alone with your thoughts while mowing, we have collected some interesting (some scary) facts about lawn mowers and the lawns they maintain.
This is info that is sure to help you keep your eyes on the prize as you work.
What Lawns Take to Maintain
- The average American spends approximately 4 hours per week mowing and maintaining their lawn. That equals 208 hours per year, or a bit more than 8 days. Good thing you can spread that time out, or you’d have to take your vacation days!
- American homeowners also spend about $30 billion per year on lawn care, which is not surprising given that most grass used in the US today is not native to the area and needs some babying to thrive.
- Because it is so time consuming, about 1 in 5 homeowners engage a professional lawn care service to maintain their lawn.
- Grass gets most of its nourishment from the soil it is planted in, and this is challenging in tightly packed earth. Aerating your soil in the spring or fall might just save a struggling lawn because it allows for more moisture and oxygen to penetrate as well as supports the delicate root system of grass.
The Danger Zone
- Powered lawn mowers are responsible for 68,000 injuries every year, so it is important to wear skin covering and be aware of hazards as you mow.
- Even scarier, each year 800 American children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors and approximately 600 of those accidents require a subsequent amputation; 75 people are killed by lawn mowers each year, and 1 in 5 of those deaths involves a child.
- The average amount of air pollution a basic gas-powered lawn mower emits per hour is the same as if you drove your car for about 200 miles. This is just one good reason to consider a battery-powered or electric lawn mower – or else opt for a classic manpowered reel mower.
- Each year in the United States, over 80 million pounds of pesticides are applied to grass. That’s a lot of poison that can come in contact with your family’s skin and be breathed in by anyone in the vicinity.
History of the Lawn Mower
- Formal lawns requiring neatly manicured grass appeared first in France in the 1700s. At the time, grass was maintained by grazing animals or else hand-cut with shears and scythes!
- The very first lawn mower was invented by an Englishman named Edwin Beard Budding. He got the idea while watching a cutting cylinder at work in a local cloth mill. Budding was able to patent his invention in 1830, but it took 10 more years for a working mower to actually be produced.
- The first gas-powered mower was manufactured in England in 1902 by Ransomes of Ipswitch; it wasn’t until 1919 that the United States got a version developed by Colonel Edwin George.
- Today, you can visit the British Lawnmower Museum in Merseyside, Great Britain to learn more about the history of this ubiquitous tool.
All About Grass
- There are currently about 50 million acres of grass grown in the US, but only 21 million acres are private lawns. The rest blanket public parks and land as well as commercial areas.
- There are over 10,000 species of grass in existence. Some of the most popular types used for lawns include Kentucky Bluegrass, Bermuda, Fescue, and St. Augustine. The best type for your lawn depends on your local climate, sun, and access to water.
- Lawns do a fantastic job of producing oxygen. A lawn of just 50 x 50 feet square releases enough oxygen per day to meet the needs of one person. Grass also has a fairly long growing season and helps to maintain balance in our ecosystem.
- Grasses grow at their base rather than their tip as most green plants do. That is what makes it possible to mow grass without killing it.
A grass lawn takes a lot of effort to maintain, but in the end, it’s worth it. A nice healthy lawn does wonders for the environment, as long as you make the effort to minimize use of pesticides and gas-guzzling tools. We’ve given you five great basic lawn mowers to choose from, and three of them require no gas at all. Still, if your lawn requires the greater power of a gas mower, don’t feel guilty. You can compensate by using mostly battery or hand powered tools for your other yard care needs. So get shopping! Your best walk behind lawn mower is waiting.