Gas or Electric? Here’s How to Choose the Best Mower for Your Lawn

A lawn mower is parked on the grass.

If you’re a homeowner in search of a new lawn mower, you have more options than ever before. You used to be limited to basically gas or reel mowers, unless you wanted to drag a thick extension cord around your lawn. But now there are a range of battery-powered mowers available, many claiming the same cutting power as their gas counterparts, and for the ultimate in modern convenience, you can even leave your lawn mowing to a cordless robot lawn mower.

But is an electric mower the right choice for you? They’re not for every lawn nor every homeowner. Here’s what you need to know to make the right choice for your lawn.

Your Lawn Size May Be the Determining Factor

Do you have a quarter-acre lawn? What about an acre or two? When you’re looking at cutting a larger lawn, a gas mower is best. Battery-powered electric mowers have come a long way, but even the best models are only able to cut for about an hour on a single battery charge. That means you may need multiple batteries for a larger lawn, and multiple batteries means a larger upfront equipment cost as well as more time spent charging the batteries between uses. Remember that you need to buy extra batteries, too, in case you run out of charge before you run out of lawn.

So, if your lawn is much larger than 1,000 square feet, a gas mower is the better choice — and for very large lawns, a riding mower is preferable to a walk-behind. You can run a gas mower for hours as long as you have enough gas. 

Factor in Your Cutting Schedule, Terrain, and Grass Type

Some of the more powerful battery powered lawn mowers available today are capable of handling the same mow heights as gas-powered mowers — so, one to four inches on average. But electric mowers are going to get bogged down in tall grass much more easily than gas mowers, because the electric engines just don’t have as much torque. So you’ll want to be able to commit to cutting your grass frequently, and not letting it get too long between cuttings. 

If you’re buying a mower for rough terrain, you may do better to choose a gas model. There are some electric mowers designed to handle uneven terrain, including some self-propelled electric mowers, but you’ll find a better selection of gas models with features like rear-wheel, front-wheel, or all-wheel drive; caster wheels for tight maneuvering; and self-propelled motors. 

Electric mowers also work better on soft grass varieties, so if you’re growing a tough grass turf like tall fescue, an electric mower may not be able to handle it, at least not when it starts to get long.

A woman operating the best lawn mower in a grassy area.

When to Choose an Electric Mower

If you have a small lawn with even terrain and a soft grass variety, an electric mower may be the best one for your needs. They have a number of perks over gas mowers. For example, electric mowers are quieter than gas mowers, produce no exhaust to pollute the atmosphere, and don’t require gas or oil — so there’s no danger of spilling these toxic liquids on your body or property. 

Many homeowners appreciate that an electric lawn mower’s smaller size makes it easier to store, and there’s no need to store flammable gas anywhere on your property. Electric lawn mowers have practically no maintenance when compared to gas lawn mowers — there are no spark plugs or air filters to change, no oil to check and change, and no gas to pour. Electric mowers start easily with the flip of a switch, so you can say goodbye to yanking on a throttle over and over. You can even buy a robotic electric lawn mower that will cut your grass on a schedule without your involvement, although you do have to bury an invisible fence around your lawn to keep it from running away.

But electric mowers do have some drawbacks. The biggest is that you can get a shock if you use one to cut your grass while it’s wet, but you shouldn’t be cutting wet grass anyway. The next-biggest drawback for most folks is the short battery life for cordless models, and the need to use an extension cord for corded models. You might also find that you need to make more passes with an electric mower, because they have smaller mowing decks. To mitigate this, look for an electric mower that cuts a larger swath. A typically walk-behind gas mower cuts a 22-inch swath, for reference.

If you’re looking for a lawn mower that lets you keep your grass neat without polluting the environment, you should look into a battery-powered electric model — especially if you have a smaller lawn. But for larger lawns and tough terrain, a gas mower is still the best choice. Either way, the most important thing is to keep your grass healthy, lush, and green.

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