Push lawnmowers have several advantages over gas-powered models. They’re less expensive, require no fuel, and can easily be repaired if and when they break down. Plus, push lawnmowers have a carbon footprint of zero so, like electric lawn mowers, they are great options for consumers who are concerned about the environment. They’re also great for people with small lawns who don’t want or need a high-powered lawnmower.
The best push mowers are easy to assemble, store and clean. You’ll not only spend less money than you would with a gas mower, but you’re also not going to inhale any exhaust fumes. Further, you'll get a better workout, be healthier and feel better once you’ve finished your chores.
We tested the models highlighted here, assembling them each and evaluating how well they mowed a 10’ x 10’ patch of lawn. While most push lawnmowers share a lot of the same features, we learned that some perform much better than others, even when they look the same on paper. Below is a guide to help you make an informed decision about which push mower will work best with your lawn. We’ve also include details about our testing and other things you should keep in mind as you decide which push lawn mower to buy. For more in-depth information, read our articles on push lawn mowers.
Best for Tough, Thick Grass
Some mowers don’t work well with grass that is too thick, tough or long. If you are dealing with crab grass and other varieties of hard-to-cut grass, you’ll want a mower that is sharp and stays sharp, as well as one that doesn’t require a lot of extra exertion to maneuver it over different types of grass. You’ll also want a mower that minimizes jamming. Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has unique design features that make it well-suited for tough grass, and in our tests it performed well in all of the above areas. The Scotts 2000-20 also handled tough grass better than most, though we did experience some jamming.
Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has an advanced design; wide cutting path; and the ability to cut your grass to a nice, even level with ease. You also have more control over the length of the cut than with any other lawnmower we tested. The blades on this machine are made of tempered steel, and they do not make contact with the reel. This greatly reduces metal-on-metal friction and makes the mower much more effective. It also increases the life of the mower.
The Scotts Push Reel Lawn Mower is one of the best push mowers on the market. It cuts with consistency and has a wide cutting path, and it gives you precise control over the length of the grass you’re cutting. The handlebars on this mower are both ergonomic and padded, which makes it easy on your hands and more comfortable on your palms and fingers. It also means that you’re far less likely to develop blisters or other injuries after prolonged use.
Easiest to Assemble & Use
While most push mowers are easy to assemble, some are made even easier with designs that don’t require any tools to put them together. When we tested push lawn mowers, we specifically assessed how easy each was to assemble and use, including a focus on how evenly the mowers cut grass. The GARDENA 538030 and the Earthwise Quiet Cut each took 10 minutes or less to assemble out of the box, and they scored well above average in our usability and consistency tests. The GARDENA mower, in fact, had the distinction of being the only mower with a perfect consistency score.
The Earthwise Quiet Cut Reel Lawn Mower is quick to assemble, reliable and cuts grass fast, making it one of the best push mowers available. But there are some downsides. It is comparatively difficult to push and only works well on lawns that are already well maintained. This push mower has five steel blades that yield an extremely consistent cut. These blades are covered by a guard, which protects your fingers in the event that you need to perform maintenance.
GARDENA is German company breaking into the American market with their product, the Cylinder Lawnmower. In Europe, the company is a market leader in lawn and garden products and accessories. This model is being sold in the United States, both online and in retail stores like Walmart and other hardware chains. This is a solid mower that scored among the best in our usability and consistency tests. However, it also has a narrow cutting path of less than 15 inches and a very narrow cutting range. The shortest it can cut grass is an inch and the longest is 1.65 inches.
Best for Big Lawns
Push mower cutting paths vary from about 15 to 20 inches. The wider the path, the quicker you can mow a big lawn. All push mowers require multiple passes to get an even cut, but for big lawns you’ll want mowers that will cover as much area as possible with each pass. Ergonomic handlebars are also a plus to help prevent chaffing and blistering when you’re mowing a large area. You’ll also want machines that experience minimal mechanical jams so you’re not stopping to clear out debris. The Sun Joe MJ501M and Greenworks 25072 performed well in our tests in most of these areas, and both have the right combination of features to tackle big lawns.
Greenworks is a company that lives up to its name. The Greenworks 25072 is an environmentally-friendly 20-inch reel lawnmower that requires no gasoline to operate and helps you to create mulch out of your grass clippings. Even the instruction manual is printed on recycled paper. This mower not only does its part to help the environment, but it also provides a less-expensive alternative to the now-popular gas-powered lawnmowers.
Aside from its fun name, the Sun Joe is a solid machine. It has most of the features we look for, cuts a wide path and offers a number of cutting levels. The model is simple and quick to assemble, and it doesn’t require any tools. However, in our testing we found it took more passes than average to get a consistent cut.
Best for Small Lawns
Almost by definition, a push mower is a convenient tool for small yards because you can simply take it out and start mowing without the hassle of motor maintenance and pull-cord starts. For small yards, you’ll want a mower that is relatively easy to push, especially if you’re dealing with hilly terrain. Multiple passes may be required for an even cut with any push mower, especially for long grass, so you’ll finish the job even quicker with a smooth machine. The Craftsman LMRM1602 and the Great States 415-16 are great mowers for small lawns and scored high in our usability and consistency tests.
The Craftsman Reel Mower has all the features we looked for in our review of the best push lawnmowers. Since Craftsman is a Sears brand, you will probably have an easy time finding it at your local mall. When you get your new mower home, you’ll find eight separate components. It should only take you about 15 minutes and eight bolts to assemble the unit. This is designed to be assembled entirely by hand, and it’s relatively easy to put the mower together. You don’t need to have a toolbox handy during the assembly phase.
The Great States Push Reel Lawn Mower is a stable machine that provides an excellent cut and is very maneuverable. While it is best suited for small lawns, it can easily perform nicely on larger yards, even if it takes more time than some of the more powerful push mowers in our review. Like other push mowers with similar designs, Great States is quite easy to assemble. Out of the box there are five components to assemble, including three bolts you'll need to tighten and two e-rings to put together.
What We Tested, What We Found
We subjected each of the reel mowers in our review to a battery of tests that evaluated how difficult the mowers are to assemble and how easy they are to push across a lawn. Additionally, we measured how consistently and effectively each mower cuts grass.
Our Mowing Tests
Grass Length & Number of Passes for an Evenly Cut Lawn
We used each mower to mow a 10’ x 10’ area of a well-maintained lawn, measuring the length of the grass in each area before and after mowing. We also tracked how many passes it took for each mower to achieve an even cut in the test area.
A wide cutting path is an advantage, but even more important is the mower’s efficiency in cutting grass. We found that some require more passes than others to get a consistent and even cut. A few reel mowers we tested were effective in cutting tough crab grass, while a couple had a tendency to jam easily.
After our testing was complete, we found that you can get a mostly uniform cut with each of the products we compared. Still, push lawnmowers vary widely in how easy they are to push, how reliable they are and how much control you have over the length of your grass.
Advertised Cutting Width vs. Actual Cutting Width
We also evaluated the advertised cutting width, which varied between 15 and 20 inches, by making a single pass over an area of uncut grass and measuring exactly how wide the cut grass was. In most cases, we found that the difference between the claimed width and our measurements was between a quarter of an inch to a full inch. This discrepancy is usually caused by the wheels flattening the grass they roll over, leaving narrow uncut strips of grass that you have to re-mow.
Our Usability Tests
Reel lawnmowers have a tendency to jam up frequently. During our tests, we tallied how many times the products stopped during the mowing process. Mechanical jams usually happen when the machine rolls over anything that isn’t grass, such as sticks, rocks and other lawn debris, but sometimes mowers get caught up on their own grass clippings, particularly if you’re using a bagger.
We also noted how easy each lawnmower is to push over your lawn. Meeting some resistance is not uncommon, but if you encounter resistance that’s too difficult to overcome with your strength alone, the height of the cut may need to be adjusted. If that doesn't help, then you have a mower that might not be right for you. Additionally, mowers that are harder to push are probably not appropriate for children to use.
Each of the mowers on our lineup requires at least some assembly. In our assembly tests, we timed how long it took to build each product by following the instructions found in the user manuals. We also noted how many components are found in the box and whether you can build them solely with your hands or if you need additional tools. We found that the average time it takes to assemble a reel mower is about 14 minutes.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate typical, real-world experiences with push mowers, and we purchased each of the mowers we tested. Note that the manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and our rankings are not shared with them prior to publication.
What Else is Important in Selecting a Push Lawnmower?
Appropriate for Children
Mowing the lawn is a traditional chore for children. However, not all the products we reviewed are appropriate for children. Some of the user manuals actually contain explicit safety warnings that these machines should not be used by children under a certain age – usually between 10 and 14 years old. Other mowers have no such warnings and are light and easily pushed; these can be used by youngsters without any safety concerns.
All of the mowers have either four or five blades, but the number of cutting levels varies quite a bit. Most of the mowers we tested have a cutting-length range of about an inch. Some can cut grass as short as half an inch; others can leave grass as long as 4 inches. The best reel lawnmowers have a cutting range of about 3 inches and are easy to adjust using a lever or knob found on the mowing unit of the machine.
All the mowers we reviewed did not cut grass that had grown over 6 inches. It’s worth noting, too, that push mowers don’t work effectively on unkempt or overgrown lawns. Additionally, grass should be free of lawn debris, such as sticks and rocks, because those items can make a reel mower stop dead in its tracks.
All the mowers we reviewed have a special storage position incorporated into the design, which usually involves simply pushing the handle straight upwards. Some lighter mowers can be hung on a pegboard, but larger, heavier mowers should remain on the floor. Also, you should always store your mower in a covered place where it is protected from rain and other elements to prevent rusting and to prolong the life of the machine.
The push reel lawnmower you choose should be one that meets your individual needs. Some are better for smaller lawns, while others excel at mowing larger yards. It should also be a mower that can effectively cut the type of grass growing at your home. Whether you want to keep your grass long or nice and trim, you can find the push mower that’s right for you.
Contributing Reviewer: Noel Case