When you have a small yard under ¼-acre, you probably don’t need a self-propelled or riding lawn mower. There are exceptions, of course, but you’re probably thinking along the lines of buying a push mower, maybe gas or electric. You might even be looking at manual push reel mowers.
How do you know which is the best mower for your small lawn? Let’s see if we can help you decide. First, here are some questions to consider:
- What kind of grass will you be mowing? For example, do you have longer Northern grass like bluegrass or fescue? Or shorter Southern grass like centipede or St. Augustine? Make sure the mower you choose can cut the grass to the suggested height for your lawn.
- Do you want a gas mower, a corded electric, a battery-powered, or a push reel mower? (There are even robot mowers.) Your choice may be determined by your tolerance for maintaining the mower and your budget. More on that in a moment.
Here is a little summary of the pros and cons of each kind of lawn mower.
Gas mowers are the traditional choice. They are generally powerful but noisy, and they need regular maintenance that adds to the cost of fueling them. You’re not limited to a certain distance, unlike a corded electric, as long as you have gas to refuel.
Corded electric mowers are very popular among homeowners with small yards and not too many obstacles to navigate. They’re much quieter than gas mowers, they need very little maintenance so they are cheaper over the long run, and they are nearly as powerful as gas mowers.
Battery-powered, AKA cordless electric
Battery-powered mowers are quiet and give more freedom of movement than corded electric mowers. They also require very little maintenance. Newer models are just as powerful as corded electric, and some can even mulch. The only long-term cost difference between these mowers and the corded electric ones is the need to replace the battery after three to five years.
Push reel mowers
Manual, or push reel, mowers are the ultra-inexpensive choice and the obvious one to make if you’re living off the grid or trying your best to be kind to the environment. They are very quiet and need next-to-no maintenance. In fact, you might not even need to sharpen your push mower’s blades for a few years. There is one major con—if you like to bag, it’s very difficult to find a push reel mower with a decent bagger attachment.
The Estimated Cost Of Lawn Mower Ownership
Paying someone $20 to $40 each week to cut your grass would quickly pay for your own lawn mower instead. So let’s work on the assumption that it’s cheaper for you to purchase a mower and cut your own grass. If you have a small yard, you’ll probably need less than an hour per week from start to cleanup.
Gas mower–If you have a gas mower and you don’t do any of its maintenance yourself, you’re looking at blade sharpening two to three times per year, or replacing blades instead. Then there’s the cost of gas (we’re going to ignore oil because newer OHV engines don’t need you to mix fuel). Plus, you’ll have a once-a-year tune-up for filters, spark plugs, etc. The total cost of owning a gas mower might be around $120 to $200 per year.
Corded electric—The cost of powering your electric mower is probably less than $1 per mow. Blade-replacement or sharpening is your only maintenance cost as long as the mower doesn’t need a repair. Your total cost would be perhaps $50 to $60 per year.
Battery-powered—Again, this is an inexpensive way to mow your lawn. The cost would be comparable to owning a corded electric mower. The difference would be if you needed to replace the battery. Generally, they last at least three years. But if you needed to buy one, you’re looking at $80 to $200, depending on the brand and type.
Push reel—Clearly, this is the cheapest option for maintaining a small yard. It will demand more from you physically, but it won’t take much from your wallet. Yearly cost is $0, except for years when you choose to sharpen the blades. But it may take you two or three years before you have to worry about that.
Now that you’ve seen the overview of pros, cons, and costs, here are our favorites for the top mowers for the money.
The Best Lawn Mowers for Small Yards
Here are our top picks for the the best lawn mowers for small lawns. We’ll begin with manual mowers, then work our way through electric, battery, and gas models.
GreenWorks 25022 12 Amp Corded 20-Inch Lawn Mower
The 25022 is a 12Amp electric mower with a 20-inch blade that covers a small lawn quickly. The tall 10-inch rear wheels and reasonably large 7-inch front wheels handle bumpy ground easily.
The mower does a good job even if you let the grass grow for a couple of weeks. At 56 pounds, it’s easy to push, but heavy enough to tackle tough jobs. The one-touch lever for height adjustment raises or lowers the deck to cut between 1.5” for centipede grass up to 3.75” for bluegrass.
One of the things we admire about the 25022 is that it’s a 3-in-1 machine. That means it mulches, bags, or discharges clippings to the side. This is a feature seen on expensive gas mowers and not too many electric models. The mulching capability is very handy for managing yard cleanup and waste.
When you’re done mowing, the handle folds down for storage. You can probably fit this mower in the trunk of your car. The 25022 is covered by GreenWork’s 4-year warranty, longer coverage than most electric mower brands offer.
Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp Push Reel Lawn Mower
The Fiskars company knows a lot about blades. Ask anyone who sews, they probably have a pair of Fiskars scissors. The five-blade cutting reel on their 17-inch wide StaySharp push reel mower snips grass with razor-sharp efficiency. They’re mounted on an InertiaDrive blade wheel that’s designed to be easier to push than ordinary manual mowers. If you happen to run over twigs, there’s usually no problem. And if you have tough grass like St. Augustine, you’ll love this little mower.
Another great feature of the StaySharp is that it handles a nice range of cutting heights, from 1.5 to 3.5 inches. Set the levers (one at each wheel) for the height you want, then test the handle length. The cushioned handlebar height is adjustable also, so you should be able to push the mower without bending over and without the front end of the mower lifting up.
While the mower is pretty heavy, the build is very sturdy, and it’s covered by a 2-year warranty. The extra set of wheels in the rear make it easier to push and balance while the strong plastic hood protects low-hanging branches from the blades. You can also buy a grass catcher that attaches to the rear of the mower.
EGO Power+ 20-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-ion Cordless Lawn Mower
The EGO Power+ 56-Volt cordless lawn mower runs up to 45 minutes on one charge of its 4.0Ah battery. If you’re in a hurry to cut more grass somewhere else, the battery only takes 30 minutes to refill. Or you can invest in the 5Ah capacity battery for up to 55 minutes’ runtime.
While it’s a monster at cutting grass with its 20-inch wide deck and 3-in-1 capability, it’s very quiet as it mows. You can cut the lawn without hearing protection and listen to music, a book, or a podcast. The cutting height adjusts with the touch of one simple lever—in fact, a lot of gas mower manufacturers could benefit from putting this feature on their mowers. The EGO Power+ even comes equipped with headlights in case you want to get a very early (or late) start on the lawn.
EGO Power covers the mower with a 5-year warranty on it, plus a 3-year warranty on the battery and charger.
Craftsman 37430 21 Inch 140cc Briggs and Stratton Gas Powered 3-in-1 Push Lawn Mower
Our last mower is the gas-powered Craftsman 37430, a 3-in-1 that can mulch, bag, and discharge. It’s powered by an efficient and reliable 140cc Briggs & Stratton engine.
While this is a pretty basic push mower, it has some nice features. You won’t have to mix your own gas and oil—the mower does it for you. It’s got recoil start but most owners say it’s easy to pull the cord and start it on the first try. The cutting height adjusts to 6 different positions with two levers, one on each front wheel. And the tall rear wheels make it easier to push through weeds and tough grass.