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A Guide On The Different Types of Lawn Mowers

picture of a lawn mower

Differentiating between the different types of lawn mowers can be a real minefield. They can have a variety of power sources, with petrol or electric options (including corded and cordless). There’s a choice of cutting action with a selection between cylindrical or rotary.

They can also be categorized based on how they move forward, with driver controlled, self-propelled or even robotic options! Heck, if you want to you could break them down into whether they have wheels or not. All thanks to the introduction of hover mowers.

It’s plain to see you’ve got a huge variety of options. Each mower is likely to fall into more than one of these categories. You must distinguish between the power used for cutting and the power used to propel the mower. Some mowers use an engine to power for the blades and are pushed manually, others are self-propelled.

Reel Mowers

Let us take a traditional reel mower with cylindrical cutting action. You push it up and down the lawn. The advantages are that you don’t spend money on petrol and you need no electricity supply. It gives you exercise. You can set the blades to a variety of cutting depths. You must keep the blades sharpened and the joints oiled, but it is a low tech device that often lasts for years without replacement. It suits a person with an average sized garden.


A rotary mower uses a spinning cord to slash the grass. There are two types. One has wheels, and we call this a rotary mower, the other is a hover mower, which floats on an air cushion. Hovers are the easier to use, and they are particularly suitable for sloping gardens and gardens with an irregular shape, as they are the most maneuverable of mowers. However, they cannot have settings to control grass length and have no container for grass cuttings. Nor can they give you stripes. Both types suit ordinary domestic gardens. Mowers of this type are generally electrically powered.


Let’s move on to petrol lawn mowers. These suit bigger lawns where a manually pushed mower would be physically demanding. Most of the mowers that you sit on and drive use petrol, but there are smaller ones that you use on foot. Their advantage is that they make life quite easy.

However, many have to be started by tugging a cord, and this is not always easy for everyone. You have to get two stroke fuel, and getting the wrong mix can coke up your engine. Petrol is becoming more expensive, and these mowers probably don’t have all that much of a future. You also need to ensure that your petrol can be safely stored to prevent fires.


A popular alternative to petrol is electric mowers. These fall into those needing to be powered by a cable from the mains and cordless ones. The advantage is that electricity has a long-term future. Cable-powered mowers are suitable for domestic gardens where there is access to mains electricity and an extension lead.

A cordless mower can tackle lawns with no access to a power supply, which makes it convenient. However, the batteries add a bit of weight and need charging. So access to a power supply is unavoidable. It’s worth noting that different types of lawn mowers, regardless of their category are nearly always powered by either petrol or electricity.

Push or Self Propelled?

Self-propelled mowers are small vehicles designed for mowing grass. They can have a driver, or they can be robots. The driver-controlled ones are especially suited to the largest of lawns and are quite expensive. They use a cylindrical cutting action which can cut grass at the length that you select.

Like ride on lawn mowers, they can be dangerous on sloping ground, as on steep slopes they can roll. Robot mowers are suitable for older people who are beyond gardening, but they give no exercise. Push mowers, on the other hand, require a bit more elbow grease. This is because the engine doesn’t help push them forward, it’s all done by the driver.

What Happens To the Cuttings?

Different types of lawn mowers do different things with the cuttings. Some mowers, e.g. hover mowers, just spread the cuttings around, leaving the gardener to rake them up. Most mowers with cylindrical cutting action can have a container into which the blades throw the cuttings. This facility is available whether the mowers are manually pushed or driven by a power source.

You could add the grass cuttings to the compost heap. However, you are taking nutrients from your lawn and may have to supply a compensatory feed, though at a suitable time not necessarily when you mow.

Mulch mowers have a specialized attachment that enables the cuttings to be recirculated in the mower until they are finely shredded and thrown out onto the lawn to recycle the nutrients. The benefit of this approach is that it obviates the need to replace nutrients.


  1. Lawnmower Manual: a practical guide to choosing and maintaining lawnmowers, Brian Radam, Haynes Manuals,2014
  2. Lawnmowers and Grasscutters, Brian Radam, The Crowood Press,2011

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