Lawn Mower Buyers Guide

Lawn Mower Buyers Guide

In this complete guide, you will find out all you ever need to know before buying a lawnmower.

What Do I Need to Consider Before Buying a Lawn Mower?

lawn mower mowing long grassWhen buying a mower, it’s important to first have a look at your yard size and the terrain.

The main elements to consider when buying a lawn mower are:

  • Size of your lawn
  • Size of your mower
  • Speed of your mower
  • Lawn conditions
  • Yard size & mower type
  • Type of grass

Below is a breakdown of each element you need to take into account when choosing the perfect lawn mower.

Size of your lawn

Before purchasing a mower the first question you should ask is, what size is my lawn?

Most push mowers are suitable for an acre, which is about 13,277 square metres, anything above this size will see you, most likely, wanting to purchase a ride-on mower. 

So before making the big decision as to which mower, think realistically about how much time you have to mow your lawn on a busy weekend and select your equipment accordingly.

Your property size does impact how long it takes to mow your lawn and larger lawns require more mowing time for obvious reasons. 

Size of your mower

lawn mower on green turfThe size of the mower deck impacts how long it will take to mow your lawn.

A larger deck allows the mower to cut a larger strip of lawn in one single pass, meaning the lawn is mown in less time.

Larger mowers also have longer blades which require a larger engine and are typically more expensive.

Speed of your mower

Some lawn mowers are designed to cut at a faster pace.

The size of your mower’s engine greatly influences how fast it moves and how fast the blades can spin.

It is always important to have sharp blades and to not push your mower by going too fast in order to get an even cut and avoid damaging your lawn.

Average lawnmower speeds

The average speed of residential lawn mowers

Mower Type

Speed (MPH) 

Push Mowers 3 MPH
Battery Mowers 2.5 MPH
Ride-on Mowers 3-5 MPH
Zero-Turn Mowers 5-8 MPH

 

Lawn Conditions

Your lawn’s conditions greatly impact how long it will take to mow.

A yard with many curves, trees, hills, walls, and other obstacles will take much longer to mow than a square yard with no obstacles. It’s difficult to predict exactly how long these obstacles will slow mowing time, but keep in mind that the more there are the longer it will take. Muddy or overgrown patches of lawn can also take longer to mow or workaround.

Yard size and mower type

Generally, a push mower is a good choice for yards that are about 3/4 of an acre or less.

The smaller your yard, the smaller the mower deck can be – which is the actual width the mower will cut in a single pass.

0-100m2 yard is best suited with a 16-inch push mower and up (1 push = 16 inches).

100m2-200m2 yard is best suited with a 18-inch push mower and up.

Greater than 300m2 is best suited with a 19-21-inch push mower.

Larger lawns over 500m2 are best suited with a ride-on mower such as a rear-engine riding mower or a lawn and garden tractor.

Ride-on mowers with rear-mounted engines provide good visibility and excellent mobility around trees, flowerbeds and other landscape features. Ride-on mowers are available with mowing decks that range from 28-42 inches wide and engines from  12-20 hp.

Yards in the 1-3 acre range are best suited with a zero-turning ride-on or front engine lawn tractor with at least 14-16 hp and a wide mowing deck – at least 38 inches.

Yards larger than 3 acres are best suited with a larger zero-turn rider or a garden tractor. Look for mowers that have at least 18hp engines and mowing decks in the 44-54 inch range.

Type of Grass

buffalo grass australian lawnIt is also important to consider the type of grass you have in your yard when considering purchasing a mower.

The most common lawns are Couch, Zoysia, Buffalo and Kikuyu.

Couch Turf – requires less horsepower to drive the mower as the cut is not as thick, potentially use smaller 140CC (cubic centimeter) engine.

Zoysia Turf– requires less horsepower to drive the mower as the cut is not as thick, potentially use smaller 150CC (cubic centimeter) engine.

Buffalo and Kikuyu Turf – both types of grass require greater horsepower to drive the mower as they are thicker, potentially use 150 + CC (cubic centimeter) engine.

Types of Lawn Mowers

mower being pushed by manThere are many different lawn mowers on the market to meet a variety of lawn mowing needs.

A mower that is perfect for your neighbour may not be the right one for you.

Push mowers

Push mowers are ideal for flat yards and range in deck sizes depending on the size of your lawn.

Remember, the larger the deck of the push mower the heavier the mower is to push. A push mower cutting deck can range from 16-22 inches which is the ideal size to mow your lawn beautifully efficiently and quickly.

Cylinder mowers

cylinder lawn mowerCylinder lawn mowers have cylindrical blades that rotate vertically at the front of the mower.

Cylinder lawn mowers cut against a fixed blade at the bottom and they should have multiple blades – three or more is best.

Cylinder lawn mowers are best for flat lawns that you want to keep short and well-manicured.

All cylinder mowers have a rear roller to give the best ‘striped effect’ across your mown lawn. Cylinder mowers come with a grass box that attaches to the machine and collects the grass clippings as you mow. Cylinder lawn mowers can be electric, petrol-powered and push mowers.

Rotary mowers

Rotary lawn mowers have a single blade that rotates horizontally underneath the mower, like a plane’s propellers. Rotary lawn mowers are the most versatile type, will cope with most types of grass and are therefore better than cylinder mowers at cutting longer and rougher grasses.

A rotary mower may be electric, battery or a petrol engine.

Hover mowers

Hover lawn mowers hover above the ground, making them easier to push and adept at mowing uneven surfaces. Hover mowers are a good choice for unusual-shaped lawns and cheaper than other types. Hover lawn mowers are not always suitable for large lawns, are usually electric powered and have rotary blades.

Self-propelled mowers

lawn mower POV Self-propelled mowers are ideal for larger yards, ranging between  ¼ and ¾ acre, as the mower pushes itself to reduce the fatigue of the person mowing the lawn. The user walks behind the self-propelled mower to control its path.

Self-propelled lawn mowers offer both front and rear wheel drive depending on your yard’s needs.

Front drive pushers are ideal for smaller yards with many obstacles as the front wheels swivel by allowing easy 180-degree turns.

Rear wheel drive mowers are ideal for hills due to their traction and have better steering control but can be harder to navigate sharp turns. Rear wheel drive mowers are better suited to open yards with steep hills.

Bagging mowers

lawn mower being pushed by manBagging is a technique used to catch cut grass and mowers are available with both rear and side bags that produce a fresh-looking lawn every time you mow.

Rear bagging mowers give you more manoeuvrability around obstacles throughout your yard.

Mulching mowers

Mulching mowers have mulching blades that cut the grass into fine pieces and return them to your lawn to act as a natural fertiliser. A mulching mower works to improve your lawn’s health and does not require any extra time or money. A mulching mower also removes the time you may spend emptying the grass out of a bagging mower.

If your lawn size is larger than ¾ acre than consider a ride-on mower.

What Size Push Lawn Mower do I Need?

 

Lawn size

Mower size and type

Price guide

Small lawn ( up to 100 sq meters)

Battery or petrol lawn mowers

$150 – $1800 (price depends on accessories associated with the battery lawn mower)

Medium lawn (100 – 250 sq meters)

Battery or petrol lawn mowers

$150 – $1800 (price depends on accessories associated with the battery lawn mower)

Large lawn (250 plus sq meters)

Petrol lawn mowers

$200 – $2800

 

Ride-on lawnmowers

ride on lawn mower next to lakeThe size and selection of your ride-on mower is greatly a budget-related choice. The big difference between cheap mowers and expensive mowers are the fabricated decks, and most mower users would be best suited to a deck with thickness – to about 7-11-gauge.

The way people mow their lawns in Australia means scalping often occurs, which is when the blades are moving along the ground, causing a lot of pressure to be placed on the blades. Therefore, a cheaper press metal deck ride-on mower flexes and wears out quickly meaning they need replacing more often than fabricated ride-on deck mowers.

Important – if you have a large acreage block, such as 5 plus acres, you should consider a mid-range, stronger mower deck.

Most ride-on mowers resemble a small tractor with a cutting deck suspended underneath, and they cut a wide strip of grass – anywhere from 70cm to over a metre. 

A general rule of thumb is to note that ride-on lawnmowers are convenient and best suited for lawns over one acre in size. Ride-on mower prices can start at around $3000, so if your property size is around ½ to 1 acre, you might want to instead consider a push mower which could save you thousands. But for lawns larger than 1 acre, the convenience of a ride-on mower should be considered.

There is a wide range of ride-on mowers on the market, and the top brands offer class-leading cutting widths, power figures and extra features, but be prepared to pay.

There are three main types of ride-on lawnmowers:

  • Rear engine models
  • Lawn and garden mowers
  • Zero-turn ride-on mowers.

Rear-engine mowers

Rear-engine ride-on mowers are generally quite basic and cheaper. Rear-engine mowers often feature power levels similar to high-end push mowers, and offer the same versatility, except you sit on them. Rear engine mowers usually feature smaller chassis and cutting widths, making them ideal for smaller lawns and driving through tight spaces, such as gates and fences.

However, rear-engine ride-on mowers can lack the power of other ride-on types but, the convenience factor and small frame may make it worthwhile for lawns that aren’t too big.

Lawn and garden ride-on mowers

ride on garden lawn mowerLawn and garden ride-on mowers have their engine at the front and their grass dispersed to the side.

In Australia, lawn and garden ride-on mowers are very popular for lawns that are over 1 acre.

Compared to rear-engine mowers, lawn and garden mowers often have more engine power, with much wider cutting widths of 70cm making them ideal for larger yards.

Lawn ride-on mowers are generally the smaller of the two, while garden varieties are bigger, have more power, larger cutting widths and look like a tractor more than a mower.

Zero-turn mowers

zero turn lawn mowerIf your lawn is of a reasonably large acreage with many obstacles, then consider a zero-turn ride-on mower.

Zero-turn mowers have a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel-brake steering, that delivers a very tight turning circle.

First time users of zero-turn mowers will need a bit of practice to get the feel of using lever steering controls.

One of the stand-out features of zero-turn mowers is the super-tight turning circles it can do, with the ability to make a 360° turn. Most zero-turn mowers feature large cutting widths of 100cm or more, making easy, short work of your lawn.

Zero-turn mowers also feature higher top speeds, with a lightweight frame and comparatively high-power engine figures. However, zero-turn mowers are somewhat of a premium compared to other mowers and best suited to manicuring elaborate lawns. Suburban homeowners with smaller yards may not see much use in a zero-turn mower.

Ride-on features

Once you decide what sort of ride-on mower you would like for your lawn and yard you may want to consider some of the features that can make your mowing experience easier.

Mowing, mulching, catching

Many mowers catch or send lawn clippings through an on-board mulcher to allow for easy grass recycling. Mowers without catchers or mulching features aren’t necessarily worse-off, it all comes down to what the user prefers.

Catching on mowers can work better on smaller lawns where reaching ‘fill’ capacity is not much of an issue. Mulching mowers are generally more efficient for large yards with finer grasses, such as Zoysia or Couch, while discharging works better for coarse grasses, such as Buffalo and Kikuyu.

Automatic vs Manual Lawn Mowers

As with cars, automatic transmissions on mowers are much easier to use however manual transmissions are still often cheaper. So, ask yourself if it is worth saving the extra money for the extra hassle of having to change gears on a manual transmission mower?

Hills and slopes

turf on slopeThe weight of your ride-on mower is very important as this can affect the performance and manoeuvrability of your mower which can weigh in excess of 100kg, and with a rider on top can skew the centre of gravity.

If your yard and lawn is sloped, a zero-turn mower will sit lower and therefore has a lower centre of gravity, making it safer to cross hills and uneven terrain

For maximum mower stability on sloped surfaces, an all-wheel drive model is an option, but they do cost more – however, when it comes to mowing on difficult terrain safety should come first!

What Size Ride-on Lawn Mower Do I Need?

Lawn size

Mower size and type

Price guide

Up to 1 acre

Lawn ride-on with 30-42 inch cutting width

 

Zero-turn ride-on mower with 42 inch cutting width

$2000 – $5000

Up to 2 acres

Lawn ride-on with 46-48 inch cutting width

 

Zero-turn ride-on mower with 46-48 inch cutting width

$3000 – $7000

More than 2 acres

Lawn ride-on with 50 inch or bigger cutting width

 

Zero-turn ride-on mower with 50-60 inch cutting width

$7000 – $15,000

 

Petrol vs Electric/Battery Lawn Mowers

When it comes to deciding whether you want a petrol or battery lawn mower it comes down to your yard and your preferences.

For most modern suburban blocks with a small yard, an electric mower is probably ‘good enough’. Electric and/or battery mowers benefit from quieter operation, have no emissions and are commonly cheaper than petrol mowers.

However, petrol mowers win out by their sheer ability to get the job done because they often feature more powerful motors, with leading torque figures and cutting widths. For homeowners living on older, bigger blocks or semi-rurally, a petrol lawn mower is probably still the best option.

Power Differences

Petrol lawn mowers win-out when it comes to power, with the average petrol mower achieving at least 7nm (newton metre) of torque making mowing the average suburban blocks child’s play.

The average lawn mower engine sizes are between 150-200cc (cubic centimeters).

With large engine capacities and big torque figures, petrol lawn mowers become the dominant contender for mowing lawn quickly and efficiently.

Battery/electric lawn mowers, on the other hand, are more suited to small blocks and strips of grass. However, any type of push mower is probably going to be a struggle and hard work if you have a large block – that’s when a ride-on mower should be considered.

Smell and Sound

For no emissions and low noise, an electric lawn mower is the way to go as long as the block suits that size mower

Aside from just noise and smell, petrol lawn mowers are also prone to polluting similar amounts to cars.

Usability

lawn mower being used on backyardThe useability of your lawn mower generally comes down to the individual model in question, rather than what powers the motor.

Several things to consider with an electric mower:

Is it corded or cordless? Corded lawn mowers provide endless run time, but you are limited by how far the extension cord goes.

While many corded lawn mowers are over 20m, you may still have to unplug and replug as you mow and have outdoor power points around your yard.

Cordless mowers are obviously unbound by cords, but may feature limited run times of an hour or less, making a second battery necessary if tackling anything more than a small lawn. Charging the batteries of a cordless mower also takes longer than how long you can run them for.

If you live on a yard bigger than ¼  acre, a petrol mower with a 50cm plus cutting width is most likely more suitable. Electric mowers are also generally lighter than petrol as they don’t have a mechanical engine on-board.

Maintenance Requirements

maintaining lawn mowerNo matter the type of mower, they all require some degree of maintenance.

A petrol lawn mower with its mechanical engine may require more maintenance than an electric mower.

Both electric and petrol lawn mowers require maintaining, sharpening, and oiling the blades, but petrol mowers – like cars – also require extra servicing.

Petrol mowers require spark plugs, oil, air and fuel filters, and of course petrol

Despite the shortcomings of an electric mower, their potentially lower running costs may make the compromise worth it – if your yard is small enough.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do zero-turn mowers work? Unlike other types of riding lawn mowers built based on front-wheel-steering, zero-turn mowers pivot around the rear wheels and turn on a dime. They typically steer by pushing both levers forward causing the mower to move forward, while pulling them back causes it to reverse.
  • Why buy a zero-turn mower? Zero-turn lawn mowers save time. The wide range of deck size options in a zero-turn lawn mower allow homeowners with both small and multi-acre yards to cut their lawns much faster than they could with a lawn mower tractor.
  • Are zero-turn mowers good on hills? Zero-turn lawn mowers steer faster and better on flat terrain, but they are harder to steer when mowing downhill because the steering controls the rear wheels, while the front wheels are loose with no control.
  • What zero-turn lawn mower do I need? Zero-turn mowers are generally suited to gardens larger than 1 acre and where the terrain is not too hilly.
  • How do battery powered mowers work? Cordless electric mowers use batteries to power them which need to be continuously recharged. They also must be replaced at the end of their charging life with replacement batteries.
  • Why buy a battery powered mower? Electric lawn mowers are lighter and easier to use compared to bulky petrol lawn mowers. This makes for easier manoeuvrability and faster mowing. Physical strain is reduced since you no longer have to push a heavy machine around a yard.
  • How long do battery powered lawn mowers last? On average, a battery-powered mower will need to be replaced after about five years.
  • Why buy a ride-on mower? Ride-on lawn mowers are ideal for large yards as they cover more ground than push mowers in a shorter time frame. While more expensive, ride-on lawn mowers are an investment worth considering if you have a significant amount of grass to mow.
  • Can you use ride-on mowers on hills? Some ride-on lawn mowers are not suitable for mowing anything other than flat terrain. Be sure the ride-on lawn mower you buy is built to handle slopes. Check with your local mower dealer if you are unsure.

Related Articles

lawn mower mowing long grass

Lawn Mowing Heights & Management Guide

Managing your mowing is a key part of maintaining a healthy, lush green lawn. The rule of thumb is to only cut one-third of the leaf per mow – no more. Many Australians tend ...

Read More
lawn mower being used on backyard

The Ultimate Turf Maintenance and Lawn Care Guide

From mowing, aerating & watering, to fertilising & seasonal lawn care tips, this lawn care guide covers it all… After reading this guide from head to toe you will be ...

Read More
maintaining lawn mower

Key Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

Like any machine lawn mowers have parts and equipment that require regular maintenance to improve and maximise strength and performance. Ideally, lawn mower maintenance should ...

Read More

Buffalo Lawn Mowing Heights in the Shade

Buffalo grass is a lawn type which is best suited for shaded conditions. Not only does Buffalo have very high shade tolerance amongst all the warm season lawn types, but ...

Read More

Mowing Buffalo Grass without a Catcher

Mowing lawns without a catcher has many benefits, and a few drawbacks as well, but like all things - there is usually a balance to be found in moderation. Unlike other Aussie ...

Read More

Lawn Mowing Heights for Buffalo Grass

Proper lawn mowing heights are important for all lawn types, and especially for Buffalo grasses such as Palmetto, Sapphire & Prestige. The differences in mowing heights ...

Read More

How to Mow an Overgrown Buffalo Lawn

Buffalo grass is a major concern when it becomes overgrown. If the Buffalo grass is not managed or mowed properly when it is in an overgrown state, there is a high risk of it ...

Read More

How Often to Mow Buffalo Grass

A healthy Buffalo grass lawn can grow at an extremely fast rate. In fact, a Buffalo lawn which is receiving adequate water and nutrients can grow up to a foot high every four ...

Read More

Dangers of Mowing Buffalo Grass Too Short

Buffalo grass must be mowed at the right heights to ensure the turf remains in the best condition possible. Most lawn types will suffer poor health when mowed at heights which ...

Read More
cylinder lawn mower

Cylinder Lawn Mower Heights for Buffalo Grass

Cylinder Lawn Mowers provide a wonderful finish to our lawns. That beautiful flat finish that we see on bowling greens is due to their lawns being mowed with a Cylinder Lawn ...

Read More