Electric Lawn Mowers: What To Know Before You Buy

Thinking of going electric? You're not alone. Electric mowers are becoming mainstream. Here are some considerations if you're thinking of going green.

If neighborhoods start sounding a little quieter, the growing popularity of electric lawnmowers might have something to do with it. With a noise level on par with a dishwasher, electric mowers are less ear-piercing than gas-powered machines. Firing up the mower early in the morning to beat the heat of day is no longer out of the question.

Along with a big reduction in noise pollution, electric mowers also reduce air pollution. Compared to gas mowers, electric mowers reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and methane by 99 percent, according to the National Gardening Association. And even after factoring in the power plant, they reduce carbon dioxide by 38 percent.

Types of Electric Mowers

Electric mowers come in an assortment of models, including walk-behind and riders. You can get them with side or rear discharge or mulching capability. Some are self-propelled, and there are even robotic mowers that do their work autonomously.

Corded electric mowers

These plug-and-go mowers are good for lawns of less than 8,000 square feet. Because they’re plugged into an outlet, they won’t run out of power and leave you waiting to recharge before finishing your mowing. But that cord also means they’re tethered, so there’s a practical limit to how far you can mow.

Hopefully you’ve got outlets in the front and back of your home, but you’ll still need to stay within a hundred yards or so of the power source. Corded mowers are lighter and easier to push because there’s no gas tank or battery. They also cost less than cordless models, and have steady power that doesn’t diminish while you’re mowing.

Cordless electric mowers

These battery-powered mowers are more appropriate for medium-size lawns. Because they aren’t hooked up to a power supply, they’re easier to maneuver — more like a traditional gas mower — and there’s no worry about running over the extension cord.

Ranging further from an outlet is nice, but cordless mowers are heavier and costlier than corded. To avoid waiting to recharge, some homeowners keep a spare battery on hand to swap in.

Battery-operated mowers come in styles from walk-behind to self-propelled to robotic. There are also electric lawn tractors in traditional and zero-turn configurations. The run times of electric riding mowers are much higher than electric walk-behind mowers, usually averaging one-and-a-half to two hours between charges.

Top Electric Mower Brands

Here are four brands with excellent reputations:

  • Greenworks: 40 to 80 volt; 17- to 21-inch decks; corded and cordless; rear-wheel drive, push, self-propelled. Greenworks Pro 80V has high-efficiency motor and a universal battery system that works on multiple tools.
  • Snapper: 48 to 82 volt; 19- to 21-inch decks; cordless; available features include push button start, automatic drive, three-in-one mowing deck and vertical storage capability.
  • Toro: 60 volt; 20- to 22-inch decks; cordless; self-propelled and walk-behind. Recycler has three-in-one capability with mulching, side discharge and bagging, plus intuitive speed control.
  • Ryobi: 40 volt; 13- to 21-inch decks; self-propelled, walk-behind and riders; load-sensing technology to maximize power when needed.

Why Choose an Electric Mower?

Here are four reasons why an electric mower may be the best choice for you:

  • Less noise: Gas mowers operate at about 90 decibels, so hearing protection is recommended. Electric mowers are in the 65 to 85 decibel range, compared to the level of normal conversation, which is 75 decibels.
  • Lightweight: Electric mowers are lighter than gas-powered mowers and easier to push, maneuver and store.
  • Easy starting: No more wrestling with a pull cord. Just flip a switch and mow.
  • Easy to maintain: No need to add gas, change the oil, oil filter or spark plug — just charge the battery or plug in.

Considerations When Buying an Electric Mower

Keep these things in mind as you make your buying decision:

  • Maintenance: Electric mowers need less maintenance than gas-powered mowers, but you’ll still need to sharpen the blade from time to time and charge the battery after use. Batteries come in two forms: Sealed lead-acid, which is durable and affordable; and lithium-ion, which is lighter, cheaper, lasts longer and won’t lose power as the charge decreases.
  • Battery runtime: Although the size of a battery will affect runtime, other factors also play a part, including the size of the cutting deck, thickness and/or wetness of the grass, the terrain and any attachments used.
  • Time: Electric mowers may be easier to maneuver, but they cut a narrower swath than gas mowers so you will have to make more passes.
  • Cost savings: Cordless mowers use just $3 to $4 of electricity per year, while a gas mower may use $20 to $30 annually in gas and oil.
  • Environmental impact: Electric mowers are expected to grow in popularity, driven in part by stringent new emissions regulations and greater consumer awareness of climate change.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.