A Buyer's Guide To The Best Reel Lawnmowers
Every year when the weather breaks and spring begins, all of the snow melts away to reveal grass that you have not had to worry about for some months. Anyone with a yard needs a good mower to keep the outside of their home looking clean and neat.
Many people these days are turning to reel mowers instead of rotary mowers to keep their lawn cleanly cut. What is the difference between a rotary mower and a reel mower?
A rotary mower has a blade that spins from east to west and shreds the grass as it is moved across the lawn. Since it tears and shreds the grass it can leave the grass more susceptible to disease, decreasing the health of your lawn.
A reel mower, on the other hand, has blades which spin from north to south. This scissor-like cut cleanly snips the grass which results in an even and clean cut. This clean cut allows the grass to heal faster from being cut, producing a healthier lawn.
There are a lot of different reel mowers out there and different types as well. Many people have heard of the typical push reel mowers but there are two other types as well. Read on to learn about these different types and to find out about the best reel mowers currently on the market for each type.
Gas-Powered Reel Mowers
24.5 x 28 x 30
Electric Reel Mowers
22.3 x 15.8 x 15.6
Manual Reel Mowers
24 x 23.5 x 14.2
28 x 18 x 10
28.35 x 18.11 x 11.02
23.1 x 10.6 x 13.8
42.5 x 24 x 20
The Different Types Of Reel Mowers
Gas-Powered Reel Mowers
This type of reel mower has an engine attached to it that runs on gas. Some of the most heavy-duty reel mowers are gas-powered. They are great for cutting very large lawns which would be too tiring to cut with a manual reel mower, and also too big to use an electric reel mower since their batteries only last for around an hour. Gas reel mowers are great at cleanly cutting very thick grass over uneven terrain, which other types of reel mowers cannot handle. Even though they have a gas motor, some models are specifically designed to run quietly. The obvious downside is that they are not very eco-friendly.
Electric Reel Mowers
Electric reel mowers are more eco-friendly than gas reel mowers and also run much more quietly. They are great to use in urban areas since you can run them without having to worry about disturbing your neighbors. Electric reel mowers come with rechargeable batteries. For most models, a fully charged battery will last for an hour or more when in use. If you have a large yard, this might be a problem if the battery dies before you are finished mowing. Electric reel mowers have an advantage over the other types of reel mowers because they are easier to push than manual mowers and more eco-friendly than gas-powered mowers.
Manual Reel Mowers
This is the classic type of reel mower. Manual reel mowers have been popular for many decades. They do not have any motor and are completely man-powered. You don’t have to worry about a battery dying or having enough fuel, a manual reel mower will always work whenever you are there to push it. The best push mowers are not too difficult to push and have come a long way since the design of the original models many years ago. Many are now designed so that they require less effort on your part. Since they are man-powered, they do not harm the environment.
Best Gas Powered Reel Mower Buying Guide
- Number of blades: Reel mowers come with different numbers of blades- anywhere from four to eight. The more blades it has, the more cutting power it has. For tougher, thicker grass you will need a mower with more blades so that it will be able to cut cleanly. For grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda, a mower with more blades is required. For finer grasses such as Kentucky Blue or Fine Fescues, a mower with fewer blades will get the job done. Check to see what kind of grass you have to figure out how many blades your reel mower should have.
- Cutting width: Cutting widths for reel mowers can vary anywhere from 14 inches to 20 inches. The wider the cutting width, the faster you will be able to mow your lawn. A 20 inch cutting width is good for large lawns, while a smaller cutting width will be suitable for smaller lawns. However, reel mowers with a large cutting width can be more work to maneuver.
- Weight: Heavy reel mowers will require more strength to operate, so think about your own ability before making your purchase. Of course, if the mower is self-propelled then the weight will make little difference in how easy it is to push. If you need a bigger reel mower, opt for a self-propelled one.
- Height adjustments: Always purchase a mower that has several height adjustments. In general, cutting grass more than half of its height is not good for the lawn and doing so can damage the grass. However, not everyone is able to stick to a strict schedule of cutting their lawn, so sometimes the grass might get a bit long, requiring you to cut more than half of the grass’ height. Also depending on the weather and season, grass will grow at different rates. This means that you will not always be cutting the grass to the same height every time and this is why having adjustable heights is important. A mower with at least 4 adjustments is good. The height should be easy to adjust.
- Silent cut or contact mower: Silent cut mowers are very popular because they operate a lot more quietly than contact mowers. They are easier to push and cut cleaner than contact mowers. Silent cut mowers have to have their blades adjusted about once a year, since they are designed so that the blades do not make contact with the bed knife. Contact mowers do not need this adjustment and their blades do make contact with the bed knife. You have to choose which kind will work best for you.
- Price: Buying the cheapest option is tempting, but can end up costing you more money in the long run. A poor quality reel mower will not cut as evenly, meaning you will end up spending extra time mowing your lawn. An uneven cut can also make your lawn susceptible to weeds and disease, which means you will be spending more money on lawn care products. A poor quality reel mower will not last as long and you will spend more money making repairs. So spending a little extra money to get a good quality reel mower is worth it.
Check out the video below to see how to disassemble the McLane 20-inch 4.0 HP Honda gas-powered reel mower for sharpening:
Best Gas-Powered Reel Mowers
McLane 20-inch Reel Mower
Equipped with a powerful 4.0 Honda engine, this McLane gas-powered reel mower cuts grass precisely and does the job faster than other reel mowers. It has a powerful gas engine to help you to mow your lawn faster.
You don’t need a lot of muscle to operate this reel mower since it is self-propelled by a combination of gears belts, making it easy for you to guide it along. Unlike other types of reel mowers, the McLane mower handles uneven terrain with ease without getting stuck. It has 7 blades to produce a clean cut every time. With an adjustable cutting height of ¼ inch to 1 ¼ inches, you can be sure to get the exact cut that you prefer.
The included grass catcher makes cleanup easy, catching grass as you move it along. This mower leaves behind a fine layer of clippings if you leave off the grass catcher, which will act as a mulch to aide in the health of your lawn.
If you need a reel mower that has a powerful engine, runs quietly, produces a clean, even cut, and is easy to operate, this McLane 20-inch 4.0 HP Honda gas-powered self propelled 7 blade front-throw reel mower may be the one for you.
Best Electric Reel Mower Buying Guide
- Battery life: Since some electric mowers depend on a battery to function, you will want to be sure to check how long the battery will last when you mow your lawn. Most of the best reel mowers that run off electricity have batteries that last at least an hour or longer. Think of how large your yard is and if an hour will be long enough to finish cutting it. Some of the best reel mowers that are electric have the option of being used manually as well. This is a great feature just in case the battery dies when you still have yard to mow. A good electric mower should have an indicator to let you know how much battery is left.
- Weight: The heavier the reel mower, the more difficult it will be to maneuver. Make sure you purchase one that will be easy for you to push.
- Cutting width: The size cutting width that you will want your reel mower to have depends much on the size of your yard. For larger yards, you will need a mower with a wider cutting width to cut your lawn faster. For small yards you can go for a smaller cutting width.
- Height adjustments: The best reel mowers will offer several different height adjustments. Since the height of your grass will not always be the same when you cut it, you need to be able to set the mower at various cutting heights. One of the popular electric reel mowers does not have positive stops in the height adjustment, allowing for it to be adjusted to any height. There are two locking screws on each side of the mower to lock it into place at any height. This is a great feature feature since it offers an infinite number of cutting heights.
- Corded or cordless: Cordless electric mowers are of course the preferred option since you do not have to worry about getting tangled up in a cord. Cordless mowers do not have to be plugged into a power supply. However, with corded mowers, you never have to worry about a battery dying since it will always be connected to a power source. Make sure to read how to use your electric mower safely, especially with corded options.
- Attached grass catcher. Sometimes you will want to leave the grass clippings behind to keep your lawn healthy. Other times you may want to collect the grass clippings. Having an attached grass catcher makes cleaning up grass clippings much easier.
Check out the video below to see how well the Gardena 4025-U electric reel mower cuts:
Best Electric Reel Mowers
The Gardena 4025-U electric reel mower can be used with or without the rechargeable battery, making it both an electric reel mower and a manual reel mower at the same time. The battery is a 25 V lithium-ion battery which allows for superior cutting performance. Once charged, the battery lasts for around an hour. The LED display shows how much battery life is left so that you know when it is getting low. For safety, an overload protection is integrated into the system. Even if the battery dies while you still have more lawn to mow, you can use the mower manually to keep going. You can always purchase an extra battery to ensure that you have a replacement when one battery dies. Since it is cordless, it is easy to use and you don’t have to worry about being attached to a power source.
This electric mower has a compact design, making it great to use for narrow yards. It has a 15 inch cutting width, so it can be used to mow smaller yards. The cylinder has a non-stick coating which allows the mower to run quietly. The blades do not make contact with one another so it is very quiet when in use.
The sharp blades produce a scissor-like cut, resulting in an even, cleanly cut lawn. It comes with a detachable bag to collect the grass clippings. When you want to store the mower you can fold down the handle so that it takes up less space.
Light in weight, the Gardena 4025-U is easy to push and is suitable to use by older people and others who don’t have the strength to push a heavy mower. The large wheels help to make it easy to steer. The ergonomically shaped handle is comfortable to use and it has an integrated power switch.
Unlike other reel mowers, the cutting height can be adjusted to any position which allows for an infinite number of cutting heights. This makes it easy to use on many different grass types.
The Gardena 4025-U is a great choice if you want a reel mower that is easy to push but also eco-friendly.
Best Manual Reel Mower Buying Guide
Before purchasing a manual reel mower, there are some things to consider to make sure that you purchase the best push mower.
- How big is your lawn? Manual reel mowers are best to use for small lawns. For large lawns using a push reel mower will take a long time so powered reel mowers are more suitable to mow large areas.
- Is your lawn flat or uneven? Trying to mow uneven ground with a manual reel mower is a no-go. Some mowers can handle some bumps here and there but most manual reel mowers will get stuck on very bumpy ground. If your lawn is mostly flat, a manual reel mower will work well for you.
- What type of grass do you have? Some manual reel mowers specify as to which type of grass they work on best. Some are designed to cut tougher grass, whereas others are only suitable to cut lighter grass. If you have a tougher grass make sure to buy a mower that can cut it well. Usually heavier push reel mowers cut tough grass better than lighter mowers. The type of grass you have can also help you decide how many blades your reel mower should have. For fine grass a 5 blade reel mower works best, while a 7 blade manual reel mower will work better on tougher grass. Keep in mind that the more number of blades it has, the more work it will be to get the blades spinning.
- Do you want a grass catcher? While left behind freshly cut grass helps to keep your lawn healthy, you may prefer a cleaner look for your lawn. If that is the case for you, you may want to purchase a reel mower that comes with a grass catcher. This makes cleaning up the cut grass a breeze.
Now you should know whether a manual reel mower will work for you. But when it comes to the mower itself, there are some more things to consider.
- Cutting width: Always pay attention to the cutting width of a reel mower, since the larger its cutting width, the more grass it will cut as you mow with it. For instance, a mower with a 16-inch cutting width will make a 16-inch wide cut as you push it along. A mower with a 20-inch cutting width will cut a wider path as you push it.
- Cutting height: Everyone has their preference when it comes to how short they like their grass cut. Some like it very short like the grass on a golf course, and others like it a bit longer. Reel mowers offer different adjustable cutting heights so you will want to pay attention to this feature to ensure it can deliver the cut you want. Some offer many cutting heights while others offer only a few. The cutting heights vary anywhere from ½ inch to 4 inches.
- Weight: Lighter mowers are easier to maneuver and don’t require a lot of strength to operate. As stated earlier though, heavier reel mowers work better on tough grass.
Check out the video below to see how a reel mower works:
Top 5 Best Manual Reel Mowers
Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower
Coming in at number one as the best push mower is the Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower. Featuring the special InertiaDrive reel, it offers twice the cutting power of other reel mowers. This special reel has the power to get through areas that have twigs, weeds, and other tough spots that other reel mowers cannot get through. The StaySharp Cutting System eliminates the cost and the hassle of having to sharpen the blades. Made of hardened steel, the durable blades do not touch when cutting grass which eliminates blade wear caused by friction.The inset wheel design allows the blades to extend across the full width of the mower.
Some reel mowers leave strips of uncut strips of grass under the wheels, but not with this reel mower. This allows for a more efficient cut and also allows you to cut a close edge to fences, borders, and foundations for a more polished look.
The unique grass discharge chute throws clippings forward, away from your feet. When you want to adjust the height, you can choose from height settings from 1-4 inches. This VersaCut Technology allows you to get a clean cut on any type of grass, and the one-touch height adjustment gives you more control over the mower and makes it more comfortable to use.
The combination of all the special technologies this Fiskars reel mower offers makes it 60 percent easier to push than other reel mowers, allowing you to cut your grass with less effort. It also comes with a 3 year warranty.
With a 20-inch cutting width, this push mower will reduce the time and effort you spend on cutting your grass. By reducing the number of passes you need to do on your lawn, the Scotts 2000-20 helps you get the job done faster and more efficiently.
The five-blade reel features five durable heat-treated steel blades which provide an accurate cut every time. The quick-snap height adjusters give you complete control over blade height to provide a more precise cut. With 9 different height slots to choose from, a precise cut is guaranteed. The height can be adjusted from 1 to 3 inches and once you choose a height, it locks securely into place. To make the work easier for you, the ball bearings are smooth so that the blade spins with ease as you push the mower.
Instead of having just 2 wheels like a traditional push mower, the Scotts 2000-20 is equipped with two 10-inch composite wheels with radial tires, plus two 6-inch tracking wheels for increased maneuverability. This innovative design makes it easy to push the mower by eliminating drag, making it suitable to use on even the roughest terrain. For easy handling, the loop-style handle has a foam grip to provide added comfort while operating. The welded rear hood prevents the mower from accidentally cutting overhanging plants and shrubs.
It measures 28 x 18 x 10 inches and weighs 34 pounds. Backed by a 2-year warranty, the Scotts 2000-20 has a sturdy design and is built to last.
The GreenWorks 25072 Reel Mower has a 20-inch cutting path to help you get the job done much faster and more efficiently. It offers 9 different position heights ranging from 1.75 inches to 2.75 inches. This gives you more control over how you want your grass cut and allows you to use it on many different grass types. A single lever allows you to easily switch the level. The 10-inch front wheels and 6-inch rear wheels make the mower easy to push and maneuver around your lawn.
Assembling the GreenWorks 25072 is simple and the instructions that come with it are straight-forward and easy to follow. In just 20 minutes you can have it completely assembled without needing any extra tools.
With 5 blades, it will deliver a consistently good cut every time. Weighing just 39 pounds, this mower is lightweight compared to other reel mowers, making it easier to maneuver both on even and uneven ground.
A grass catcher is included in the purchase which allows you to easily dispose of the clippings when you are finished, or keep them for composting.
The GreenWorks 25072 comes with a very long warranty of 4 years, so if anything goes wrong with it, getting a replacement will be no problem. It comes in a budget-friendly price and is cheaper than most other good quality reel mowers.
Great States 415-16
Equipped with a 16-inch cutting deck, the Great States 415-16 is great to cut small lawns in fewer passes. Weighing just 26 pounds, it does not require a lot of strength to maneuver and is small enough to make it easy to store when not in use.
The five blades are mounted onto a four spider ball bearing system which allows the reel to spin easily with just a gentle push. This design allows the blades to slice cleanly through the grass rather than chewing it, which produces a manicured looking cut. The blades are heat-treated, allowing them to stay sharp longer, producing an even cut every time. The reel is made of tempered alloy steel for increased durability. Finished with a powder coating, the T-shaped handle is resistant to rust and is also covered in a cushion to make it comfortable to use.
The Great States 415-16 offers three different height options between ½ to 2 ½ inches. When you want to adjust the height, simply use the lever next to the outer wheels. The wheels are ten inches tall and made of solid rubber to ensure durability.
This reel mower is a good quality mower and is less expensive than many other options. It is made of durable materials to ensure you will be able to use it for many years.
American Lawn Mower 1204-14
Coming in at number 5 as one of the best push mowers is the American Lawn Mower 1204-14. Designed especially for cool-season grasses like bluegrass, fescue, and rye, it provides a clean and precise cut. It has a 14 inch cutting width and an adjustable cutting height from ½ to 2 ½ inches. Weighing just 19 pounds, this reel mower does not require a lot of strength at all to maneuver. Its small size allows you to store it away without it taking up too much space.
Equipped with high-impact 8 ½ inch polymer wheels with integral molded treads, this mower can easily go over uneven areas in your yard. The cutting reel is mounted on a 3 spider ball bearing assembly. This design gets the cutting reel spinning quickly with just a light push, making it less work for you to push it. The result is a clean, precise, scissor-like cut on your lawn. Made of steel alloy, the blade is durable and won’t need to be sharpened as often as other reel mowers. The zinc-plated handle has plastic grips to make it more comfortable on your hands.
The American Lawn Mower 1204-14 is made of durable materials and has a very budget-friendly price, so you are sure to get your money’s worth. Since it is made of such good quality materials, it will pay for itself many times over.
If you have cold season grass and your yard is small, this is one of the best options for you. It also works great for cutting narrow strips of turf along sidewalks.
Best Reel Mower Wrap Up
As previously discussed, reel mowers have a big advantage over rotary mowers. To figure out which one will work best for you, you have to consider how large your yard is and what kind of grass you have. First decide if you want a gas-powered, electric, or manual reel mower. The best choice for you will depend much on your personal preferences as well as the kind of yard you have. No matter what type you choose, the best reel mowers will not be too difficult to push. Even though manual mowers are completely man-powered, the best push mowers will not be too labor intensive either.
Although everyone loves to save a buck when it comes to making purchase, it is usually better to spend a few extra dollars on a good quality reel mower than going for a cheaper option that will need a lot of maintenance.
Once you purchase a good quality reel mower, your yard will be looking clean cut and beautiful all summer long.