Lawnmowers buying guide

What type of mower for you? Petrol, electric, battery?
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  • Updated:17 May 2009

01.Lawn mower types and features

Please note: this information was current as of May 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

Petrol lawn mowers

Mowed out $ signGood points

  • Generally the best cutting performance, though many electric models now come close.
  • Often have a wider cutting diameter, making mowing faster.
  • The best choice if you have a large area to mow.

Bad points

  • Can be a hassle to start and refuel, and you have to store petrol at home somewhere.
  • Ongoing petrol costs.
  • Eco black mark #1: Petrol lawn mowers produce more pollution than electric mowers.
  • Eco black mark #2: Because two-stroke lawn mowers burn oil and petrol, they're more polluting than four-strokes, producing around twice the carbon monoxide and four times the hydrocarbons. While CHOICE may test and report on the performance of two-stroke mowers depending on their significance in the market, we will never include them in our 'What to buy' list.
  • They’re noisy, often heavy and can be tiring to push.

Electric lawn mowers (mains-powered)

Good points

  • Small and lightweight, making cutting easier with some models.
  • Fewer breakdowns reported than for petrol models in CHOICE’s last reliability survey on lawn mowers.
  • Quiet, with less vibration.
  • Less polluting than petrol.

Bad points

  • Manoeuvring can be difficult with an extension cord, and the area you can mow is restricted by its length.
  • Mowing can be more time-consuming, as many have a smaller cutting diameter than petrol mowers.
    The cutting height is difficult to set on most models we test.
  • Some are so lightweight they bounce when mowing.
  • You have to add the cost of an extension cord and safety switch to the purchase price for most.


Good points

  • Generally the same advantages as electric models, though we don't have reliability data for battery-powered lawn mowers.
  • Mowing isn’t limited by the area the power cord can reach.
  • No concerns with becoming entangled in or cutting through the power cord.
  • The two tested have enough battery capacity to mow most suburban yards.

Bad points

  • You have to remember to charge the battery around 12–24 hours before use.
  • Mowing can be more time-consuming, as the two we've seen have a smaller cutting diameter than petrol mowers.

What to look for

Petrol lawn mower essentials

  • The handle should be comfortable to hold and preferably height-adjustable. A turned-up handle is easier on your wrists and gives better control over the lawn mower.
  • The engine control lever should be on the handlebar for easy access, and should be easy to operate.
  • Check that the starter cord is easy to pull. It's generally easier to operate when the cord is located on the engine, but a handle-mounted cord is good if you can’t easily bend over — but make sure it’s not mounted too high, as this can require a lot of shoulder strength to pull.
  • Look for a large number of cutting positions spread over a useful range of cutting heights. Make sure the cutting height is easily adjustable.
  • The catcher should have two handles: one on top for carrying, and one on the back for easy emptying.
    The mower should be easy to push and manoeuvre in all the conditions you'll use it. Big wheels improve handling on rough ground and a lightweight model is easier to push and turn.
  • A wash port or nozzle on top of the housing makes it easy to clean underneath the mower, including the blades.
  • Check that the mower is easy to maintain: can you easily change the oil, air filter and spark plugs?

Electric lawn mower essentials

  • The handle should be adjustable, turned up and comfortable to hold.
  • Ideally, the catcher should be made of rigid plastic; with a bag-type catcher you can get showered in dust. The catcher should have two handles, one for carrying and one for emptying.
  • Single or dual control levers should blend in with the shape of the handle — this will make a mower easier to use.
  • It should be easy to adjust the cutting height without taking the whole lawn mower apart.
    Big wheels improve handling on rough ground.
  • Only one of the tested models has a mulcher. If mulching is a priority, you may also want to consider petrol models with this function.


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