Finding the right lawnmower to do the job

There are four kinds of lawnmower on the market, each with its pros and cons. Here’s a little primer to help you choose the one that’s right for you.
Manual (also called hand, push or reel) mower ($100 to $200)

  • Pros: This is the quietest and most environmentally friendly type of mower. It also provides better cutting, and needs only minimal maintenance.
  • Cons: Because it works on pure elbow grease, a manual mower might not be the kind of workout you’re looking for. It is best for small lots under 450 m2 (5,000 sq ft). Plus, you need to use it frequently as its blades are far less effective in tall grass. Lastly, having the blades sharpened is expensive because the mower must be completely taken apart to remove them.

Electric mower ($200 to $400)

  • Pros: An electric mower is light and easy to manoeuvre, produces no toxic exhaust, and starts easily. It demands only a minimum of maintenance: the blades need to be sharpened once a year. Many models also offer a choice between cutting and cutting plus mulching.
  • Cons: An electric mower is most suitable for areas that are 450 m2 (5,000 sq ft) or less, with few obstacles to hinder the electric cord. The cord must be the correct length and rating to avoid damage to the motor (always read the owner’s manual). Finally, the grass must be cut only when it is dry, as wetness increases the risk of electric shock.

Cordless electric mower ($300 to $600)

  • Pros: The lack of a cord means greater mobility. The mower is quiet and offers safe cutting with no risk of electric shock or toxic exhaust. It does not require maintenance, aside from sharpening.
  • Cons: A cordless mower is heavier and equipped with a 24-volt battery, which must be recharged; how often depends on the size of your lot. This type of mower is designed for an area of 450 m2 (5,000 sq ft) or less, because the battery’s maximum charge will not guarantee any more than that. If you have a larger area to mow, you will need a spare battery. Also, the taller the grass, the sooner the battery will drain, so it is best to mow frequently. Finally, over time, the battery will not retain a full charge, and will need to be replaced. The cost is high, however: $300 on average. 

Gasoline mower ($250 to $3,700)

  • Pros: Gas-powered mowers deliver greater cutting power. They come in several versions: manual push or self-propelled, pull cord or electric start. They are designed for large areas and, when equipped with a two-stroke motor (the type in which motor oil is added to the gasoline), can be used on sloping terrain, as long as it is not too steep. It may also come with a seat and a steering wheel—in which case it’s called a riding mower. Finally, it may come with a mulching attachment.
  • Cons: Gas-powered mowers are the loudest mowers and create the most pollution. They require thorough periodic maintenance.

Basic components

  • Blades: A heavier, hardened-steel blade will stay sharper longer and cut better. It will also last longer than a blade of lower-grade metal, which can easily lose its shape and will require more frequent sharpening. Mulching blades have a double-cutting edge and are equipped with wing-like shapes or notches to lift grass cuttings and keep them under the deck, where the blades shred them into finer particles.
  • Wheels: The more wheels a mower has, the less effort is required to push it around, which is particularly appreciated on uneven terrain. You should choose a mower that features an easy-to-use click mechanism to adjust the wheel height, enabling you to more quickly and easily change the cutting height.
  • Bags: A larger bag will need emptying less often, but will be heavier and more cumbersome. A lighter bag will often be harder to empty, though, especially the flexible type made of a synthetic fabric with a steel frame. Emptying is easiest if the bag opens fully. Compared to a side bag, a rear-mounted bag generally offers greater capacity and will affect the stability of the mower less.

Original text by Jacqueline Simoneau,
Updated by CAA-Quebec, June 2011
Translated by John Woolfrey