Cutting Costs

The market for cheap lawn mowers is awash in options costing $400 or less, from manual reel mowers to electric lawn mowers to gas-powered models. Upmarket mowers are graced with more features and power, but our scrutiny of expert reviews, as well as user reviews posted at home-improvement and other websites, showed that thrifty consumers who mow regularly can make do with less without sacrificing much in the way of cutting prowess, user friendliness, or durability. Manual reel mowers and corded or cordless electric mowers are best suited for smaller, relatively flat lawns up to one-quarter of an acre. For slightly larger yards of up to an acre — or for hacking cleanly through overgrown or wet grass in one pass — gas-powered push mowers are the better option for those looking for an effective cheap lawn mower. Homeowners with even more ground to cover or yards with lots of hills may want to spring for a self-propelled push mower (we've reviewed one here), or consider a riding lawn mower instead.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Greenworks 25022
Our Picks
Greenworks 25022

Pros:

  • 20-inch blade cuts relatively wide swath compared to many inexpensive electric mowers.
  • 7 height adjustments, ranging from 1.5 to 3.75 inches.
  • Three cutting options: side discharge, rear bag or mulch.
  • Solid build, with steel deck and large front and rear wheels.
  • Handle folds for storage.

Cons:

  • Bag prone to "leaking" grass clippings, some owners complain.
  • Detaching, emptying clipping bag can be challenging for users.
  • Users say cord holder is too small and flimsy to handle a heavier extension cord. (Cord not included.)

Takeaway: Professional testers don't often review or recommend electric mowers, preferring to focus on more powerful (and pricey) gas models. But the 12-amp GreenWorks 25022 is an exception, and that cheap lawn mower garners nods at a handful of pro sites and top billing at BestReviews and Your Best Digs, where it scores points with testers for affordability, ease of use, and overall efficiency. Like some other GreenWorks lawn mowers, it also earns plenty of enthusiastic owner feedback, including solid 4- and 5-star ratings from over 80% of the more than 3,700 Amazon customers who've reviewed it. Like all corded electric mowers, managing limited cord reach and keeping the cord out of the way while mowing is a challenge, beyond that, however, owners agree that this Greenworks lawn mower has got more than enough power to handle typical urban and smaller suburban lawns. Even better, it's covered by a fairly generous four-year warranty.

Sun Joe MJ401E

Pros:

  • Among the least expensive lawn mowers on the market.
  • Detachable grass catcher included.
  • Very lightweight and easy handling, at just 29 pounds.
  • Handle folds for storage.

Cons:

  • Maximum mowing height is just 2.5 inches, with only three cutting positions.
  • 14-inch cutting path is relatively narrow.
  • Can bog down with tall and/or wet grass.
  • Not intended for mulching.
  • Grass chute for bagless mowing costs extra.

Takeaway: For smaller properties and smaller budgets, the Sun Joe Mow Joe (MJ401E) is a cheap lawn mower that delivers big on value. The demure size and limited cutting path do mean it'll take longer to finish job than it would with a bigger mower, and it might not be quite powerful enough to plow through wet or overgrown grass, but the majority of users say this 12-amp corded electric mower meets or even exceeds, expectations. (It also comes in four colors now, including black, red, and blue, though you'll pay a little more for those.) Owners like the fact that it's incredibly simple to set up, light enough to lift with ease, and fairly easy to maneuver for a plug-in, particularly in tight spaces. Clean up is relatively simple, too, since the design of the hard-topped grass bag allows it to be easily removed for emptying — something users should be prepared to do frequently, as it only holds 10.6 gallons of clippings, about the capacity of a small kitchen trash can. Warranty coverage extends two years. If you like the features of the MJ401E but want to ditch the tether, the Sun Joe MJ401C (Est. $166) is the same, but cordless.

Ryobi RY40180

Pros:

  • 20-inch blade.
  • 7 height adjustments, from 1.5 to 4 inches.
  • Bags, mulches, and can be equipped for side discharge.
  • Can be stored vertically.
  • Longer-than-average 5-year warranty, plus 90-day return option.

Cons:

  • Takes 3.5 hours or longer to charge battery.
  • Some complaints of short run times and failing batteries.
  • A few owners say their mowers shut down intermittently, requiring frequent restarts.
  • Side discharge chute costs extra.

Takeaway: If you want to go electric but don't want to fuss with a plug, this battery-powered Ryobi is a solid alternative to pricier cordless models. While a few users say they've had to make second passes over stubborn patches, many claim the machine's ability to tackle tall grass and automatically ramp up power to deal with denser growth is nothing short of impressive. This Ryobi mower is also praised for its easy adjustment, compact storage, and a noise-level that's so low that some claim mowing can be done even in the morning without disturbing neighbors. Perhaps the biggest drawbacks are the exceedingly long charge times required and rather limited battery life. The manufacturer claims 40 minutes of run time on a full charge — sufficient for a half-acre yard — but experts and many users suggest that run times closer to 30 minutes, and a quarter-acre of mowing power, would be a more realistic. estimate. On the plus side, the Ryobi RY40180's lithium-ion battery (5.0Ah) is compatible with other 40-volt Ryobi rechargeable lawn and garden gear, so users who own one of these tools can simply swap out power packs in a pinch.

Ego LM2101

Pros:

  • 21-inch cutting patch is relatively wide.
  • 3 cutting functions: side discharge, rear bagging, and mulching.
  • 6 height adjustments, ranging from 1.5 to 4 inches.
  • Only takes about 40 minutes to fully charge the battery.
  • 45-minute run time; can last up to 60 minutes, depending on lawn.
  • Can be stored vertically.
  • 5-year warranty.

Cons:

  • On the pricier side for a push mower.
  • Struggles with wet and overgrown grass, some owners complain.
  • Several users say suction is not strong enough to pick up leaves or adequately clear clippings.
  • Side-discharge chute is free, but must be requested from company.
  • Ego's customer support and repair services are a source of frustration for many.

Takeaway: If you’re willing to pay a bit more for a cordless mower, the Ego LM2101 is a top choice. In professional tests, its cutting performance measures up well against all but the priciest gas mowers, and both Top Ten Reviews and Wirecutter have previously named it a best pick among electric mowers. Users are equally enthusiastic, giving this easy-handling Ego mower some of the highest ratings of any model in our lineup. It's the fast recharge time, in particular, that sets this powerful 56-volt mower apart from less-expensive options, and the 5.0Ah lithium-ion battery has got enough juice, according to reviews, to easily handle a lawn of half an acre. Though many do say this cordless unit can't match a gas mower when it comes to vacuuming up leaves, the majority are more than happy to deal with a little more debris in favor of fumeless yard maintenance that doesn't require mucking about with fuel or complicated upkeep. Another plus, the battery is compatible with other Ego power tools. (Note that Ego sells two versions of this mower: one with a battery and charger included, one without.)

Toro Recycler SmartStow 21329

Toro Recycler SmartStow 21329 Review

Available from Home Depot

Pros:

  • 22-inch cutting path is as wide as you'll find on a push mower.
  • 9 height adjustments, from 1 to 4 inches.
  • Briggs & Stratton engine never needs oil changed, just top offs.
  • Comes "3-in-1 ready," for bagging, mulching, or side discharge.
  • Only gas model that can be stored vertically.
  • 3-year starting guarantee.

Cons:

  • Recoil, rather than electric ignition.
  • Noisier than some similar mowers, according to tests.
  • At 69 pounds, some users find it a bit heavy for a push mower.

Takeaway: The Toro SmartStow delivers on both performance and features, users say. Its reliable 150cc Briggs & Stratton engine has got enough power to tame tough lawns — even damp, overgrown turfs — and feedback suggests it does equally well at mulching, too. The fact that it can be stored upright like an electric mower is also a big selling point for many, and the washout port for easier clean ups is another nice touch. Although not self-propelled, it handles fairly well with its large, 11-inch rear wheels and should be suitable for relatively flat yards of up to a half acre. It comes with a 3-year starting guarantee in addition to a 2-year full-coverage warranty; but, as with all gas mowers, be sure to pay attention to fuel recommendations to keep that guarantee in force.

Troy-Bilt TB110

Pros:

  • 21-inch blade.
  • Quality Briggs & Stratton engine.
  • 6 height adjustments from 1.25 to 3.75 inches.
  • Comes fully assembled; users say set up is a cinch.

Cons:

  • Recoil, not electric ignition.
  • Rear bagging performance not as good as side discharge or mulching.

Takeaway: Among lower-priced gas push mowers, experts say the Troy-Bilt TB110 is a good choice for homeowners on a budget. It has a lot of pluses, including an 140cc overhead valve engine by Briggs & Stratton, as opposed to the cheaper generic engines found in many inexpensive mowers, and owners say performance is good whether mowing or mulching. Handling also gets a thumbs-up, and the large rear wheels make negotiating uneven ground easier. As for shortcomings, there are complaints that the bagger tends to let stray clippings fly free and can be a hassle to fully empty, and some users are disappointed by the lack of an actual side discharge opening on this mower. Overall, however, this Troy-Bilt mower earns very solid reviews for a relatively cheap model. The Troy-Bilt TB110 carries a two-year limited warranty.

Honda HRR216VKA

Honda HRR216VKA Review

Pros:

  • 21-inch cutting patch is relatively wide for a push mower.
  • Honda engines have an excellent reliability record.
  • 6 height adjustments, ranging from 1.125 to 4 inches.
  • Variable speeds, up to 4 miles per hour.
  • Mulches, bags, and discharges, easily switching between modes with simple knob adjustment.
  • Twin-blade system for finer clippings.
  • Handle folds easily for storage.

Cons:

  • Relatively noisy, according to professional tests.
  • Ignition is recoil, not electric, and a few owners say it can be hard to start.
  • Discharges grass to the rear rather than the side, which some users dislike.
  • Some find variable speed thumb controls tricky to manage.

Takeaway: The Honda brand is the gold standard among gas mowers, and the Honda HRR216VKA is the least expensive self-propelled model the company makes. Experts consider it an excellent value, and it earns very solid scores across the board from consumers — including the more than 4,000 owners who offer feedback on home-improvement retailer Home Depot's website. In pro tests, this variable-speed self-propelled mower does exceptionally well at mulching leaves and lawn debris, and it can cut through grass smoothly and evenly in one pass, thanks to its uniquely designed blades and a powerful 160cc engine. It's suitable for yards of up to half an acre, and most owners say it can handle small to moderate hills with ease, although the self-propelled front wheels can occasionally slip and skid on steeper or slick surfaces. Honda offers a three-year "top to bottom" warranty on this mower.

Fiskars StaySharp Max 362050

Pros:

  • 18-inch blades are relatively wide for this type of mower.
  • 8 height adjustments, from 1 to 4 inches.
  • Grass chute can be reversed to send clippings forward.
  • Blades stay sharp longer than other reel mowers, according to reviewers.
  • Hassle-free: no cord, no gas, no battery.

Cons:

  • May struggle in tall or thick grass.
  • Weighs 52 pounds and requires elbow grease to push.
  • Grass catcher costs extra.
  • Comparatively expensive for a reel mower.

Takeaway: For homeowners with small yards looking for a simple yet sturdy mower that can stand the test of time, the Fiskars StaySharp Max reel mower is well worth considering. Prior iterations of this manual push mower have been popular with owners and experts alike, and current user feedback indicates this model is just as good. It's got more level adjustments and a higher maximum height than typical reel mowers, and the build quality is near bullet-proof. True, the trade-off is that it's bulkier and can be a little harder to maneuver in tight areas than similar mowers, and it's more expensive, too. Still, you get what you pay for, and users say this Fiskars mower makes short work of tough grass, delivering a smooth, clean cut: "like a hot knife through butter," according to more than one reviewer. Reel mowers work best on lower grass, however, so overgrown lawns and taller weeds can be a challenge. Feedback suggests that more frequent mowing makes for best results. This mower carries a three-year warranty.

Buying Guide

Numerous brand names populate the lawn mower universe. Most are well established outdoor power-equipment manufacturers that produce a variety of gas and/or electric power tools for gardening chores (and some also make snow blowers for when the white stuff flies). Examples include GreenWorks, Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, Worx, Toro, Black & Decker, Craftsman, Lawn Boy, Sun Joe, Poulan, Weedeater, and Yard Machines. Most of these companies produce a range of push mower models that span the gap between an entry-level cheap lawn mower and high-end professional-grade machines. Other well-known makers, such as John Deere, concentrate on the commercial lawn mower market, but may also offer a model or two (or, as in the case of John Deere, a line of lawn tractors) that might be suitable for those that own very large properties.

To identify the best lawn mowers for your money, Cheapism chomped through comparative testing results from experts at Consumer Reports, as well as reviews from professionals at Top Ten Reviews, Wirecutter, and Popular Mechanics, among others. These sites largely cover more expensive lawn mowers, though, particularly in the gas segment. To evaluate cheaper push mower models, we also took careful stock of hands-on assessments from actual users posting feedback on home-improvement retailer websites, such as Home Depot and Lowe's. We also looked at reviews posted at major general-merchandise sellers, such as Walmart and Amazon, as well as those at specialty vendors that concentrate on gardening gear. What we found was that, while it's easy to spend more than $1,000 on a high-end mower, there are a number of top-ranked and reliable models from trusted brands that will get the job done for $400 or less. We even found one cheap lawn mower for just under $100. One of these best-seller lawn mowers is sure to be just right for your property and budget.

For the cleanest and smoothest cut, matching the equipment to the size and grade of the yard is critical, experts say. Manual reel mowers and electric mowers are best suited for relatively flat areas up to one-quarter of an acre (about 11,000 square feet). Gas-powered push mowers boast more oomph and are the best lawn-mower choice for slightly larger yards, especially those with a few bumps. Consumers with even more ground to cover may want to spring for a riding lawn mower. However, keep in mind that a riding lawn mower is an entirely different category of yard equipment. These models (which also includes zero-turn riding mowers and even larger lawn tractors) are decidedly more expensive than a cheap lawn mower, and can be overkill for a smaller yard. Still, if you think a riding lawn mower is best lawn-mower choice for your property, we have some recommendations for those as well. And for those that hate the idea of mowing the lawn at all, there's always a robotic lawn mower, like the Husqvarna AUTOMOWER 315X Robotic Lawn Mower, though those hardly qualify as cheap, or even affordable.

Electric Lawn Mowers

For consumers with small, flat yards, an electric lawn mower is a quiet, lightweight, and environmentally friendly choice. Electric mowers draw power from a cord plugged into an outlet or from a rechargeable battery.

Corded electric mowers, such as GreenWorks lawn mowers and Sun Joe lawn mowers, are generally cheaper than battery-powered mowers. Their range of movement across the grass, however, is limited by the length of the electric cord, which typically extends 100 feet. Managing the cord to prevent tangles can be tricky, and the cord may hamper the operator's ability to maneuver around obstacles. Some users of corded mowers say they feel as though they're vacuuming the lawn.

That leads some experts and homeowners to say that among electric lawn mowers, cordless electric is the best lawn-mower choice. That said, while cordless electric mowers allow more mowing flexibility, they do have their own quirks. The battery on budget electric lawn mowers can handle about one-quarter to one-third of an acre on a single charge, and most cordless electric mower models come with a disclaimer stating that difficult cutting conditions will cause the charge to run down faster. Batteries on a cordless lawn mower last about five years before needing replacement. These power cells are heavy, and the difference in weight between a corded lawn mower and a cordless mower with the same size deck can be 30 pounds or more. (One plus: Some cordless mowers use batteries that are interchangeable with other battery-powered tools that run on the same voltage.)

Gas Lawn Mowers

Gas mowers cost more than electric models upfront and over time, between maintenance expenses and refilling the gas tank. Still, more grass calls for a bigger, heavier, more powerful machine, making them the best lawn mower for larger yards. For even more square footage than a push mower is designed to handle, or where there are inclines or especially bumpy terrain, a self-propelled gas mower is a labor-saving but more expensive choice. A selfpropelled lawn mower requires minimal effort and almost pulls the operator along.

Most entry-level gas mowers now feature a four-cycle engine that runs on straight 87-octane gasoline, which is a big advance over the old two-cycle engines that required a gas-oil mixture. However, never use gas with more than 10 percent ethanol content (E10). Higher ethanol content gas is fine in heavier automobile engines, but can be corrosive to the lighter weight power equipment engines used by lawn mowers, and especially to lawn-mower parts like the carburetor and fuel lines. If the use of gas with ethanol is unavoidable, a fuel stabilizer, which can help protect lawn-mower parts such as the carburetor, fuel intake valve and more, is recommended. Gas-powered engines are far noisier than electric motors and spew emissions. And they still rely on a recoil start while electric motors feature push-button starts.

Residents of California must consider regulations on carbon emissions when buying a gas-powered lawn mower. (A gas mower generates more than 10 times as much pollution per hour as a new car, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.) The equipment must meet requirements set by the California Air Resources Board. There are plenty of CARB-compliant models to choose among.

Reel Mowers

Reel mowers — the old-fashioned style of push mower with cylindrical lawn-mower blades — are very quiet and emit no exhaust of any kind. A push-reel lawn mower is relatively inexpensive and simple to assemble, maintain, and operate. On the other hand, mowing the lawn with a manual reel mower takes a lot longer, and heaving a reel mower across a large or hilly yard can be a bear. Twigs or debris lying around can jam the lawn-mower blades. And if the grass is too high, a reel mower just won't cut it. If the choice is between a reel mower and a gas or electric mower, just remember that a push-reel lawn mower requires 100% person power. On the other hand, a manual reel mower is the least expensive type of lawn mower you can buy, with models such as the Great States 30414 available starting at around $60.

Expensive vs. Cheap Lawn Mowers

Compared with budget mowers, pricier mowers have more power (higher voltage batteries for electric mowers and engines with more displacement in gas mowers). They often have more features, such as handlebars that adjust to more than two positions, zero-radius turning, all-wheel drive, longer warranties, electric start, and are generally built using higher quality lawn-mower parts. But most American homes sit on lots no larger than a quarter of an acre, according to a Census Bureau survey, and most consumers don't need a heavy-duty, high-priced push lawn mower, riding lawn mower, or lawn tractor. An affordable push mower is more than up to the chore.

What We Considered

Both experts and users point to cutting performance as the most important criterion for judging a lawn mower. Testing by Popular Mechanics shows that almost any mower will work under ideal conditions, but individual yards are rarely ideal. That puts a premium on choosing a mower that suits the property and the operator (the easier the mow, the more likely it is the chore will be completed). Reliable and quick starts are important criteria for gas lawn mowers, but reviews indicate this is rarely a problem on the best new models. Overall, users expect their lawn mowers to be durable and trouble-free.

Mowing Performance

Experts note that entry-level lawn mowers are at their best when users mow on a regular basis and don't let the grass get too long; user reviews corroborate that assessment. Our picks generally earn high ratings in lawn mower reviews for cutting cleanly, quickly, and efficiently. Most operators say the push mowers on our list tackle weeds and heavy grass with aplomb — unless the yard is wet. Owners of electric models and reel mowers report instances where they have had to go over the same spot more than once if the grass is very thick, although this slight glitch in performance doesn't seem to deter those who prefer to keep weight, noise, and emissions to a minimum.

Height Adjustment

Mowing demands a certain amount of precision. Grass that's too short may not withstand drought or excessive heat, and grass that's too long can accumulate thatch that gets in the way of water and fertilizer. Experts recommend keeping the lawn at 2 to 3.75 inches, all the better for weed control and absorption of water and nutrients. Each mowing should trim no more than one-third of the lawn's height. A machine with multiple height settings affords flexibility in mowing frequency. On the best budget mowers, adjusting the height of the lawn-mower blades takes very little effort — just a finger pull on a lever that's located on the handle or wheel.

Cutting Width

Mowing efficiency is affected by the operator's speed but also by the width of the cutting deck on the mower. The wider the cutting path, the fewer passes needed to finish the job.

Electric mowers generally cut a slightly narrower path than gas-powered models, so operators must make more passes than they would with a wider deck. On the other hand, a mower with a slim cutting path is easier to steer around landscaping obstacles such as shrubs, trees, garden beds, and walkways. Budget-priced electric mowers usually have decks that measure 18 to 22 inches.

The decks on budget gas mowers usually fall between 14 and 22 inches, with the widest cutting swath most often found on self-propelled mowers. The larger the lawn-mower blade, the more difficult it is to push the mower, so it's no surprise that self-propelled models cut the widest path — a few even have a cutting width of 30 inches or more.

Grass Disposal Options

Where does all that grass go once it's been cut? Most electric and gas walk-behind mowers are 3-in-1 models, a reference to the number of options for dealing with the cuttings: ejecting the grass onto the lawn, collecting it in a bag, or mulching it. The manual Fiskars StaySharp Max sends clippings out the front, either into a Grass Catcher (sold separately) or to be mulched (very finely chopped) as the blades roll over them again.

Grass left to fall back on the lawn should be raked unless the clippings are very short or mulched by the mower. Bagged clippings must be disposed of, which requires a place to dump them (compost heap, perhaps) and interrupts the mowing zen. Mulched grass reduces evaporation and adds nitrogen back into the soil, a step that alleviates, to some extent, the need for store-bought fertilizer. If there's one spot where cheap mowers teeter, it's in the mulching. We read some online comments lamenting that the clippings aren't chopped well and clump when slightly wet.

Ease of Use

The best entry-level mowers singled out in this buying guide present few, if any, issues regarding handling. Even people who push one of these electric or gas lawn mowers up and down inclines have no problem with their weight or maneuverability. That said, a small cordless electric mower is going to be easier to maneuver than a much larger, heavier gas mower, especially with a full fuel tank. Self propulsion helps move such models along. Corded electric lawn mowers, such as GreenWorks lawn mowers, Sun Joe lawn mowers, and similar models from other brands are the lightest weight choice, but that's offset a bit by the challenges some face in wrangling with the cord.

Some consumers steer clear of gas engines to avoid the perceived challenge of starting one, but gone are the days when operators struggled to pull and pull and pull a recoil cord to rev up the machine. The current crop of gasoline engines, even at the cheaper end of the market, feature some type of quick start that sets the engine humming after one good yank (two at most). Reviews of the models we researched report that the engines almost always start on the first pull. Electric mowers start right up with the push of a button. Electric start is also available on some gas lawn mowers, but those mainly sit at the higher end of the market.

Durability

We looked for reviews by consumers who have owned their lawn mowers for at least a year. The best lawn-mower models present no or few problems over time; the major gripe in this regard seems to be engines that sometimes stall or seize up.

A three-year limited warranty is fairly standard for a push mower, though having it honored is easier with some brands than others. User tales of having to travel long distances to authorized repair centers, or having to endure long waits for out-of-stock lawn-mower parts to arrive, are, unfortunately, anything but unheard of. And for gas-powered mowers, use of gas with ethanol content that's higher than recommended can void the warranty altogether.

Still, the average lifespan of a lawn mower is about six years, according to Consumer Reports, but can be much longer with proper care, which includes cleaning out the deck, keeping the lawn-mower blades sharp, and paying close attention to outdoor power-equipment manufacturer guidelines regarding gas use. An annual checkup at the start of every mowing season is vital. Lawn-mower parts such as wheels, bolts, belts, and bearings, which can come loose from the vibration of routine use, should always be checked before starting to mow.

Maintenance is minimal with an electric mower. Manufacturers recommend recharging a cordless lawn-mower battery before it runs dry and keeping the mower (or the battery, if it can be removed) connected to the charger when not in use. Corded lawn mowers should be unplugged before (dry) cleaning under the deck and around the lawn-mower blades. Users suggest spraying the deck with silicone so the grass releases easily. Never leave an electric lawn mower of any kind exposed to rain or snow.

Gas lawn mowers demand more care and attention, from draining the gasoline and winterizing the mower to periodically changing the oil and spark plugs and cleaning or replacing the air filter. Cleaning off the built-up dirt and grass immediately after use is also important. Our top picks feature washout ports where a hose can be hooked up for cleaning underneath the cutting deck.