There’s never been a better time to consider adding a battery-powered lawn mower to your outdoor tool arsenal. “Battery technology has improved to the point where a battery-powered mower performs just as well as a gas-powered mower,” says Mike Chiesa, director of Power at Hand, which sells and services outdoor power equipment in Denver.
According to Alex Kronk, whose website thelawnreview.com gives advice on lawn tools, eco-friendly electric mowers are 30-40% quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, which can emit around 11 times the emissions. of a car over the same period. Electric models also require minimal maintenance, almost always start on the first try and emit no harmful fumes. Also, gas prices are incredibly high right now.
Thanks to high customer demand, battery-powered cordless push mowers have become commonplace. Riding mowers will probably follow (currently costing in the thousands), but for this story, I’m sticking to the ones you walk behind. You can find mowers from almost all major manufacturers in DIY stores and specialist dealers.
Before whipping out your credit card, however, do a bit of self-assessment. Chiesa asks every customer: Do you really take care of your lawn? Do you mow every four to five days when it grows in the spring, or do you mow when the grass gets tall and your neighbors complain? Cutting tall grass requires extra force, which can wear down an electric motor. “Be realistic with yourself about what kind of mower you are,” he says. “Electricity will let you down if you let the grass grow.”
For those who take pride in a manicured lawn, electric is the way to go. With a battery-powered mower, you never have to change the oil or worry about the gasoline going bad. Battery-powered models are lightweight (about 20 pounds versus about 80 pounds for gas-powered models) and fold up neatly for storage. A durable one costs $300 to $600.
Here are some tips for choosing a battery lawn mower.
Determine the size of your lawn. Many consumers mistakenly estimate how much grass they need to mow. Use Zillow or Redfin to get your lot size or try measuremylawn.com. For any space under 1 acre, a battery-powered mower should be up to the task, Kronk says.
Ask the dealer how long a model will run or how many square feet it can mow before the battery runs out of juice. A battery-powered mower can typically run for 25-40 minutes on a single charge, so a large lawn may require you to upgrade to a second battery (around $40-$150) unless you choose to mow the front and back on different days.
Look for reputable brands. For major equipment purchases, savvy consumers know to buy well-known brands with strong track records. It doesn’t matter where you buy your mower — a specialty retailer, home center, hardware store, online — as long as the company has a solid reputation for product and customer service. Look for unbiased reviews online and/or watch video reviews to see the machines in action.
Then talk to family members or neighbors who have electric mowers, says Aran Brosnan, senior marketing manager at outdoor equipment maker Toro. Overwhelmed by choices? Buy from an authorized dealer, who will help you assess your lawn needs and answer any questions you may have, as well as test different models to get an idea of which is right for you.
Stay with a single battery system. Take note of other products that might use the same battery and charger, such as a trimmer or leaf blower. “Manufacturers try to ensure that their rechargeable battery is interchangeable across all power tools, so you can buy another tool in the system without another battery or charger,” Brosnan says.
If you already have other battery-powered tools, you might want to start with that company, such as Ryobi, Ego, Toro, or Greenworks, to see if they offer a mower. This way you can either buy the full version and swap out the battery for your other tools for extra runtime, or buy the tool without the battery and save some money.
Self-propelled or pushed by hand. Push mowers come in two styles: hand-push or self-propelled. With the latter, you essentially walk behind the machine while it cuts the grass. Which one you choose will depend on your preference, but note that electric mowers aren’t that heavy to start with.
“The self-propelled feature quickly drains the battery and increases the cost of the mower by up to $200,” Kronk says.
Know the procedure in the event of a problem. One of the most important things to consider is what happens if there’s a problem with the mower, Chiesa says, so ask your retailer before you buy.
“Some companies have authorized dealers, others insist you send it back in the box to the factory for repair. There’s no local place to pick it up,” he says.
Look for durability. You’ll pay more, but in the long run, it’s worth buying a mower with a metal—not plastic—deck, Kronk says. The metal deck protects the mower’s engine, so stones won’t crack it or get thrown around while you mow.
Almost all newer battery mowers have a brushless motor, but you need to confirm this with the retailer. Brushless motors are more energy efficient and run longer than brushed motors.
Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. Although battery-powered mowers require little maintenance (no gas, oil or spark plug changes), you should take them to a specialist once or twice a year to have the blades sharpened. “It’s a real surprise to people that dead leaves, not sticks or thick grass, dull mower blades,” Chiesa says.
You also want to properly store your trimmer and battery. Although the mower can be left in a space that is not temperature controlled, the battery and charger should be kept indoors, away from humidity and temperature fluctuations.
Additional features may (or may not) be worth it. With so many battery-powered mowers on the market, manufacturers come up with extra features to set their product apart from the rest. For example, some Toro models come with what the company calls Personal Pace. (Basically, the faster you walk, the faster the self-propelled mower goes, and it slows down when you do.)
Some mowers may be equipped with an eco mode which slows down the blade to save battery power; others can sense if the grass is thick and will intensify when you need more energy. Almost all mowers have both bag and mulcher options, allowing you to switch between the two features. The only feature you really shouldn’t pay for, Kronk says, are the lights. “Not only is it a battery killer, but who mows in the dark?”