How to Choose a Gas Lawn Mower
The top performers in our review are the Honda HRX217VKA, the Gold Award winner; the Snapper 12AVC3BD707 the Silver Award winner; and the Cub Cadet SC 500 EZ, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a mower to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 gas lawn mowers.
A healthy lawn grows quickly, and if you want your grass to have a clean, even cut, you'll need to choose the best gas lawn mower to fit your lawn's needs. Our lawn mower reviews are full of helpful information, as well as our articles about gas lawn mowers and lawn care. Finding the lawn mower that fits both your needs and budget doesn't have to be a daunting task. Use our research to narrow down the selection and compare the best-rated gas lawn mowers with our side-by-side rankings.
Gas Lawn Mowers: What We Tested, What We Found
We took the mowers in our lineup for a real-world test over multiple lawns with various grass types and thicknesses. As we mowed, we evaluated the responsiveness of each mower, how well it performed with tall and short grass, and how evenly it cut the lawn. We found that the best gas lawn mowers excelled in the following categories:
Lawn mowers all perform the same function, but their effectiveness depends on many factors, such as how well they cut and the width of their cutting paths. We found the mowers with a cutting path of 21 inches or more reduced the time it took to mow our lawns.
Depending on the type of grass you have, as well as your personal preference, you should consider the cutting heights of each of the machines in our lawn mower reviews. Some grass breeds can handle being cut super short, while some look best at a longer or medium length. Be sure to check whether a mower will give you the optimal clearance you need. The mowers on our lineup can go as low as 3/4 of an inch and as high as 4 inches.
If you have a big yard, the size of the grass bag is also important, especially if you neglect to mow for a few weeks and need to bag the grass to get rid of it. You don't want to have to stop mowing every five minutes to empty a bag full of clippings. We found that the gas lawn mowers with a 2-bushel bag are able to hold more without impeding your mowing and need to be emptied less often. How often you need to empty your mower bag is also proportional to the length of your grass, so be sure to mow often if you don't want to overburden your trash can.
Each mower is unique, and while they look similar, there are differences that can make it easier to mow your yard. We discovered through testing that the weight of each mower impacted its overall maneuverability. Lightweight or small lawn mowers are available for those who struggle with big and average-sized mowers. These light machines make mowing a large or hilly yard much easier, especially if you have to mow around flowerbeds and trees frequently.
Engine size can make a big difference in how well the mower cuts your grass, although you don't need to have the biggest engine to get the best results. We found that mowers that have at least a 150cc engine have plenty of power to cut the average yard. Handle height and cushioning are major contributing factors to how comfortable you can be when mowing. If you are over 6 feet tall, be sure to look for a mower with an adjustable handle that lets you mow without hunching, like the Craftsman 37744 and Husqvarna lawn mowers on our lineup. Handles that have some foam or rubber padding reduce hand and arm fatigue considerably compared to mowers that do not have any.
Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
Mowing doesn't have to be a taxing exercise, especially if you choose a lawn mower that has built-in self-propulsion. Guiding a self-propelled lawn mower around the yard can be largely effortless, making it easier for you to mow the lawn, regardless of your strength. If you are looking for a walk-behind lawn mower that helps you get some exercise, our lineup of push mowers is worth a look.
The mowers on our lineup are equipped with a few different types of propulsion: front-, rear- and all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is best when your mower has plenty of weight in the front to keep the wheels on the ground. But unless you are mowing up an incline constantly, you may have to push more to keep the mower moving. Rear-wheel drive is the most common propulsion system and is effective, since the weight of the bag helps give traction to the wheels. All-wheel drive is great for mowing around obstacles, but it often makes the mower harder to pull back or move when the mower is off.
Self-propelled mowers generally have a single speed, but the best self-propelled lawn mowers have variable speed controls that adjust the speed to your walking speed. Some have thumb controls or, like the Cub Cadet SC 500 Z, a handle that adjusts with the pressure you place on it.
Best Mulching Lawn Mowers
Mulching is the process of the lawn mower blade chopping up grass clippings into fine pieces as you pass over them while mowing. This reduces the waste to be bagged or raked, and because the clippings are cut into such small, fine pieces, they dry and decompose quickly, providing nutrients to the roots of the grass. Many states and communities have restrictions on green waste disposal, with possible fines for putting grass clippings in your regular trash pickup. A great way to avoid fines and give your lawn a natural fertilizer is to use your gas lawn mower in mulching mode.
Mulching is most effective with a maintained lawn and dry grass. Trying to mow and mulch with wet grass results in clumps and a frequently blocked blade. While all the mowers on our lineup can mulch, some are more effective than others. The Honda models in our lineup have exceptional mulching capabilities thanks to their specialty blades, and the Toro lawn mower does a fine job as well. Push lawn mowers such as these can help keep your lawn looking nice without you having to fill your garbage can with messy clippings or wearing yourself out raking your yard.
Gas Lawn Mowers: Our Verdict & Recommendations
The best gas lawn mowers can make short work of giving your lawn a well-groomed look you can be proud of. Through our testing and evaluation, we found the top lawn mowers varied in their capabilities and design, but they all effectively cut the grass we mowed because they share features such as variable propulsion, powerful engines and even cutting.
The Honda HRX217VKA is our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner because it cuts smoothly and mulches well, and its variable speed system is comfortable and easy to control. While it is more expensive than most in our lineup, the quality of this gas mower is unmatched, and Honda engines have a reputation for longevity.
Our Silver Award winner, the Cub Cadet SC 500 Z, surprised us with its maneuverability and comfortable variable speed handle that adjusted to our walking speed. It also runs quieter than most gas lawn mowers, though not as quietly as an electric lawn mower.
The Snapper 12AVC3BD707, our Bronze Award winner, features a single lever to raise and lower the cutting deck, is easy to clean, and provides an exceptionally even cut for a mower under $400. It is a good choice for a midrange lawn mower.
If you are on a tight budget, cheap lawn mowers like the Troy-Bilt TB200 or the Craftsman 37441 are quality choices. These mowers, while they don't have as many features as our top-rated lawn mowers, can give your lawn a great cut for a much lower price. However, the Troy-Bilt and Craftsman lawn mower will most likely need to be replaced sooner than other lawn mowers in our lineup.