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If your lawn is starting to resemble the Aussie grasslands more than a green oasis, it’s probably time to break out the mower.

But whether you’re a newbie to lawn care or looking to upgrade your faithful yard companion, there’s one big question – what to look for when buying a lawn mower?

The answer is… Well, a lot of things. There’s no straightforward answer for the “best lawn mower,” since a lot depends on the size of your lawn and what you need to maintain it.

A good mower can make this chore a breeze, so we’ve put together this ultimate guide to buying a lawn mower – with everything from types of mowers to what size to choose.

We’ll help you pick a mower that’s a cut above the rest, mow problem. (Ha!)

Types of Mowers | Mower Power Sources | Mower Cutting Methods | Factors to Consider Before Buying | How to Choose a Mower | How Much Should You Spend | What Size Mower to Choose


Types of Lawn Mowers

When looking to buy a new lawn mower, one of your first considerations is what type of mower you need.

Common types of lawn mower include:

  • Push mowers
  • Self-propelled mowers
  • Ride-on mowers
  • Zero-turn mowers
  • Stand-on mowers
  • Hover mowers
  • Robot mowers

Each type has its pros and cons, so it’s best to assess your lawn ahead of time in terms of size, grass type, and landscaping.

That will give you a better idea of the “right” mower for you.


Push mower

push mower

Push mowers are typically what come to mind when you think of a lawn mower. The engine powers the mower blades, but the machine moves forward because you push it.

This type is best for flat lawns without obstacles or slopes. A push mower tends to be smaller and less powerful, but more affordable.


Self-propelled mower

A self-propelled lawn mower is similar to a push mower, except that the engine powers the wheels alongside the blades.

This means you don’t need to push the machine to move it forward while mowing. Instead, the user simply walks behind the mower to control its path.

There’s less effort required, making it feel “lighter” to use and reducing fatigue on the owner.

Self-propelled models can run on either petrol or electricity. 

Then you can choose the type of “wheel drive,” as follows:

  • Front-wheel drive mowers have more forward speed but are unwieldy on bumps and slopes. They’ll also become harder to manouevre as the catch bag fills up.
  • Rear-wheel drive mowers have less forward “pull” but are easier to move around uneven terrain.
  • All-wheel drive mowers are more expensive but can tackle even severe slopes.


Ride-on mower

For ride-on mowers, homeowners can choose either a rear-engine model or a “lawn and garden” model.

Rear-engine mowers have smaller cutting widths and similar power levels to large self-propelled mowers. The engine position allows for better visibility and balance.

These models also have a narrower chassis so you can tackle smaller yards or tight spaces.

A “lawn and garden” mower is better for larger yards from 250sqm to 3000sqm. These models have more power than a rear-engine model, as well as larger cutting decks.

And much like cars, mowers can have automatic or manual transmission.


Zero-turn mower

Zero-turn mower

Zero-turn mowers (ZTRs) are a type of ride-on lawn mower with a turning radius that’s effectively zero.

They have a rear-mounted engine and front wheels that turn separately to allow the mower to pivot. These allow for very tight turning circles.

ZTRs are much more expensive mowers, given their premium features such as higher top speeds and lightweight frames. 

They’re best for a large lawn (over 3000sqm), especially if you have landscaping or garden features. The zero-turn function will help you navigate better.


Stand-on mower

These are mostly used by commercial landscaping companies, although if you own a home with plenty of acreage, a stand-on mower may be worth the investment.

The idea is that standing on your mower (think of it like riding a Segway that decimates grass) allows for more user comfort, easier manoeuvring, and increased safety.

Instead of a seat like that of a ride-on model, you’d have a platform with some cushioning. This way, you have better visibility and control, and can jump to safety if anything goes awry.


Hover mower

Hover mowers are a recent innovation – the engine creates an “air buffer” between the mower deck and the ground. The blades are therefore “hovering” over your lawn, cutting only the topmost layer of grass.

It’s thought that this model is better for your lawn’s health since it minimises the risk of ripping grass or damaging the undergrowth.

There’s also less friction, so it’s easier to move a hover mower around the yard.


Robot mower

robot mower

You’ve got your robot vacuum for indoors and robot mower for outdoors!

These are fairly new to the market, but robot mowers can be game-changers for people with busy schedules or conditions that prevent them from mowing for themselves.

Much like a robot vacuum, a robot mower will operate within the range you specify. Many models allow you to schedule mowing times, navigation, and frequency.

However, also like a robot vacuum, these do have their limitations.

Robot mowers are best for small yards without steep inclines. They’re also much less powerful than their non-automated counterparts.


Types of Lawn Mowers by Power Source

Alongside choosing the type of mower you want, you’ll need to think of the power source.

This would be what “drives” the power tool – what pushes it forward across your lawn.


Manual lawn mowers

These are the most basic mowers on the market. There’s no power source – just good old-fashioned pushing.

Manual mowers tend to come with cylindrical blades, meaning there are several blades in a horizontal cylindrical arrangement at the front.

The blades will rotate forward as you push, trapping the grass against a fixed blade at the bottom.

Manual mowers are best for small yards due to the effort involved in using them. They do offer more precise cutting, less soil compaction, and reduced risk of scalping.


Petrol lawn mowers

petrol lawn mower

A petrol mower runs on petrol (or gas). The internal combustion system will mix air with your fuel, then a spark plug will ignite the mixture.

Petrol lawn mowers generally offer more power than electric mowers thanks to a larger engine. Older models have 2-stroke engines, but those are being phased out due to efficiency and emissions issues.

Most modern petrol mowers will feature a 4-stroke engine, which offers more power but requires a bit more maintenance.

However, petrol lawn mowers have more emissions (that will come with that gas smell) and more noise. 

There are also more mechanical parts (such as a spark plug or fuel line) that require maintenance.


Electric lawn mowers

If you’re looking at an electric mower, there are two types: corded and cordless mowers.

Corded mowers will have a consistent power source, since they’re attached to an electrical outlet. This gives you better performance, but limits you to the length of the power cord.

Cordless mowers, on the other hand, are battery-powered. They’re more manoeuvrable, quiet, and lightweight but are limited by their runtime.

Most battery-powered mowers have up to 60 minutes of runtime with 2 batteries. 

However, this will depend on lawn size and grass thickness – denser grass requires more power, while larger yards will take longer to work on.

On the plus side, an electric lawn mower will have fewer parts that require maintenance or servicing.


Types of Lawn Mower Cutting Methods

After all that, you’ll also need to look into how the mower cuts your lawn. The cutting method is generally decided by the position of the mower blades.

The type of lawn grass you have can influence your choice, since grass length and density can affect cutting performance.


Cylinder mowers

A cylinder mower tends to offer a “cleaner” or more precise cut when mowing. 

Instead of a set of blades slicing the grass, the blades rotate to “trap” grass against a singular fixed blade at the base of the machine.

Self-propelled cylinder mowers are often faster than their rotary counterparts. Some models even feature removable cylinders, which you can replace with other attachments (such as a scarifier).

Moreover, a cylinder mower can cut to shorter lengths than a rotary one without the risk of damaging your lawn. It can also deal with wet grass more easily.

However, the cylinder model has a harder time on uneven terrain. It’s also less efficient in long and/or dense turf, such as lawns seeded with Zoysia or Kentucky blue grass.


Rotary mowers

rotary lawn mower

A rotary mower has a single blade or series of blades that rotate horizontally – think of an electric fan facing the ground.

These blades will slice through the grass as the mower moves forward, then “suck up” the grass clippings either into a bag or out a discharge chute.

Rotary mowers are better for lawns with long or dense turf, since the blades are less easily damaged. 

However, you may run into problems such as a clogged deck (so don’t mow wet grass) or ripped turf, where the blades tear up or uproot grass instead of neatly cutting it.


What to Look for When Buying a Lawn Mower

Now that you have a breakdown of lawn mowers by type, power source, and cutting method, here’s the money question – what should you look for when shopping around?


Engine power and design

The “size” of a mower’s engine determines its power and performance. Typical walk-behind models have engines between 140cc to 190cc (cubic centimetres), while ride-on mowers can go upwards of 500cc.

Choose a good engine size that can tackle all the tasks you need when mowing, from simple cutting to mulching.

In terms of design, side-valve engines are more affordable but less fuel-efficient. Overhead-valve engines are pricier but are more durable and less noisy. They also offer better fuel and oil efficiency.


Cutting width

The cutting width (or cutting deck width) is the width of a grass strip that a mower can cut in a single pass. 

So if your mower has a cutting width of 500mm, that means it’ll cut a 500mm-wide strip as it moves forward.

Cutting widths are generally proportional to the size of your lawn. 

Smaller lawns can make do with smaller widths (usually between 300–500mm), especially if you have garden beds or landscape features.

Ride-on mowers with over 1000mm cutting decks are usually reserved for acreage (e.g. lawns over 3 acres).


Deck height adjustment

Red Lawn mower cutting grass.

Cutting height is almost as important as width when it comes to mowing. Most mowers (both cylinder and rotary) have adjustable cutting decks so you can select the height of your cut.

(TIP: As a general rule, don’t cut back more than 1/3 of the grass height!)

Take into account the type of grass you’re growing and how long you let it grow. Then find a mower with deck heights that fit within that range.

You should also check the number of allowable adjustments or levels. Some models have only 5 height settings, while others have as many as 10 possible levels.



A lawn mower is an investment – you’re gonna want it to last a long time. Check online reviews to see how durable the model is and how the parts hold up against wear and tear.

As a bonus, check the mower’s IP or waterproof rating. Some mowers are rated to be water-resistant (although as a general rule, don’t get your lawn mower wet).

It’s also a good idea to check the availability of repairs and replacement parts in your area. You wouldn’t want to order a mower only to find out you can’t buy new spark plugs at the nearest tools store.

For those planning to get ride-on models, make sure yours has a bumper. Yes, you will accidentally drive into a tree at some point. This will save you from a more expensive repair in the future.

NOTE: How many years should a lawn mower last? A good petrol or battery mower will last between 5–10 years depending on maintenance and use.

Meanwhile, a riding mower can last between 6–10 years (or longer with proper care).


Drive system

For most suburban lawns, this will come down to push mower vs. self-propelled mower. 

Push mowers are best for homeowners with a small, flat lawn. They’re more cost-effective and easier to maintain since they have fewer mechanical parts.

A self-propelled lawn mower, on the other hand, is better for uneven, sloped, or medium-sized lawns. It’s also easier to use for older homeowners or those with limiting physical conditions.

It’s worth noting that higher-end self-propelled mowers have variable speed functions. The mower will adjust itself to match your walking speed and the lawn conditions.



Modern lawn mower

Modern lawn mowers come with all sorts of extra features, so you can choose which ones suit your lawn care needs.

For example, a bagging mower will come with a box or bag that catches grass clippings as you mow. On the other hand, a mulching mower will deposit the shredded grass directly onto your lawn.

Another key feature would be the start system. More affordable models might have the traditional starter rope, but elderly homeowners or anyone else who might find those difficult can opt for electric-start (push-button) types.

Some higher-end mowers even offer “stop without restarting” features. These let you “pause” the mower to clear something out of the way without having to kill the engine entirely.

For ride-on mowers, some models offer a mow-in-reverse function.

And of course, check for child safety features!



This is a power tool you’ll ideally be using for years – it should, above all, be ergonomic and comfortable.

For walk-behind models (whether push or self-propelled), check if the handle heights can be adjusted. You shouldn’t be hunched over while mowing your lawn.

Moreover, check the comfort of the handle itself. Does it feel good to grip? Can you push and turn smoothly? Is the handle padded in some way to prevent calluses or injury?

Meanwhile, for ride-on lawn mowers, check the comfort of the seat. Can you imagine yourself sitting in it for an hour or two under the sun? Can you get on and off with ease?


How to Choose a Lawn Mower

It’s the moment of truth. You’re either shopping online or at a physical store. You’re looking at the models and brands available.

How do you choose the “right” mower for you?


Size of your lawn

Brick house in Suburban Melbourne, Victoria Australia

With everything stated above, the size of your lawn will have a large impact on your decision.

It’ll determine the width of the cutting deck, the engine power, the power source, and even the type of lawn mower you choose.

Opt for a model that suits your lawn and resist the temptation to go overboard. A ride-on model will probably be overkill for your average suburban lawn.


Lawn needs

Are you looking for a model that’s just for mowing, or does your lawn need extra features? 

Would mulching mowers be better or do you not need that function at all? 

Is a “stop without restarting” feature worth the cost?


Comfort and feel

If you can “test” a mower out (or even just hold it for a bit), all the better. Power and performance should never compromise comfort.

If it’s not a lawn mower you can reasonably expect to spend an hour or two moving around the yard, then look for a better fit.



This is the biggest constraint of them all. However much you want that zero-turn mower with power steering, if it’s out of your budget, then you can just live vicariously through YouTube videos.

Plan ahead and set your budget accordingly – but give yourself a bit of flexibility. You may find it’s worth spending a bit more for an upgrade that makes a difference in quality of use.


Healthy grass lawn in Melbourne, Australia


How Much Should You Spend on a Lawn Mower? 

For typical residential mowers (whether push or self-propelled), expect to spend between $150 and $1,000.

Electric models are more expensive upfront, but more cost-effective to maintain than petrol mowers (which will incur fuel and maintenance costs).

For larger yards and acreage, petrol mowers could cost up to $2,000. But if you’re looking into ride-on models (especially zero-turn ones), expect to pay at least $7,000.

TIP: There’s no “cheapest time of year” to buy a mower, but you can look out for big sales, especially online! Amazon will have Prime Day, while some retailers will follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Major holidays such as Boxing Day are also great times for sales, so keep an eye out.

Avoid buying a mower right before or during mowing season, as retailers might up their prices a bit due to demand.


What Size Lawn Mower Do I Need?

Your lawn’s size will impact the “size” (or type) of lawn mower you get.

For a small lawn (up to 100sqm, or about half a tennis court), a good walk-behind mower with 300–500mm cutting deck widths is adequate.

Battery-powered mowers are also great for smaller lawns, since you could feasibly cut grass on one charge.

For a medium-sized lawn (between 100–250sqm) look for more powerful self-propelled mowers with cutting widths of 700mm. Petrol engines will provide more consistent performance and longer mowing time.

For large lawns (over 250sqm), the mower size will depend on your acreage. Up to 3/4 acres (3000 sqm), you can opt for a mid-range ride-on model, ideally with a rear engine for good balance and visibility.

The mower deck can range from 700–1000mm depending on your yard features, such as garden beds or pathways.

But for a lawn size up to 3 acres (12,000 sqm), go for a zero-turn mower that has at least 14hp and a wide cutting deck (950mm and up).

Much larger lawns (over 3 acres) will require commercial ride-on lawn mowers with at least 18hp and 1000mm decks.


Essential Lawn Mower Maintenance

Again, your lawn mower is an investment – so you need to maintain it to prolong its lifespan and functionality.

That can mean anything from changing the mower blades to cleaning the air filter. You don’t need to be mechanically savvy, but it’ll save you money if you can do some things on your own.

It’s also important that you know how to identify common problems, such as a lawn mower overheating or one that starts then dies.

The earlier you catch a problem, the easier (and likely cheaper) it’ll be to fix.

Be mindful of how often you mow the lawn as well. The more you use the machine, the more it’ll wear down.

Storage also matters – it might be worth getting an additional mower cover that’ll help keep out moisture and dust that could get into more sensitive parts.

Once you’ve picked your One True (Lawn Mower) Love, get to know the ins and outs before you start it up.

Then you can put it to work and enjoy the sweet, satisfying scent of freshly-cut grass – and the sight of a well-manicured lawn.

About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.