Today there are many types of lawn mowers with all kinds of features available on the market.
There are manual mowers, meaning that you have to push the mower and the mower has no engine.
There are automatic mowers that have engines. The engines have one of the following sources of power:
- A battery-powered electric engine
- An electric engine that needs to be plugged into an electric outlet in order to operate or
- An internal combustion engine that runs on gas, similar to the one that you have in your car.
Mowers with electric engines, corded or cordless, are very quiet and require very little or no maintenance. Gas mowers are much noisier, produce emissions and require regular maintenance, including oil and filter changes and tune-ups.
In this review we will discuss some of the best models of self-propelled lawn mowers, their features, pros and cons.
What makes self-propelled lawn mowers different from other types of mowers?
A self-propelled mower propels itself. The operator does not need to push it, only to direct it. Certain models can only move with a fixed speed. Others have variable-drive systems, meaning that they can move at different speeds. Some even have self-adjusting systems that change the speed based on how fast the person operating the mower is walking.
While most mowers in this category do have handles, the purpose of a handle in a self-propelled lawn mower is similar to the purpose of a steering wheel in a vehicle. When operating a mower that propels itself, you will be using the handle to maneuver the mower, not to push it.
There are three main functions that a self-propelled mower can perform.
- Immediate discharge. Mowers that have this function typically cut the grass and immediately discharge the clippings without cutting them.
- Mulching. A mower that has a mulching option can not only discharge the clippings but also cut them into tiny pieces.
- Bagging. If your mower comes with a bagging option, you can attach a bag to it, collect the clippings and discharge them later at a location of your choice.
Immediate discharge usually happens through an opening on a side of a mower so that the particles do not end up on the person operating the mower.
A mower with a bagging option would typically have a bag in the back of the mower.
Many self-propelling models have all three of the described functions. When you see the words “3-in-1 functionality” in a description of a mower, it means that a mower can bag, mulch or discharge the clippings. Some mowers only have two functions out of three. Typically it would be mulching and bagging or mulching and discharging.
Types of transmission
A self-propelled lawn mower can move on its own because its engine supplies the power to the wheels of the mower similarly to the way it happens in cars. Just like cars, self-propelled lawn mowers have a transmission and can be front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mowers
All-wheel drive cars typically have better traction on the road and are safer compared to front wheel drive and rear wheel drive cars.
For this reason, many people assume that all wheel drive self-propelled lawn mowers are better than their front wheel drive or rear wheel drive counterparts and will always have better grip, especially when it comes to slippery or wet surfaces.
Tests show that this is not always the case. The fact that a self-propelled lawn mower has an all-wheel drive mechanism does not necessarily make it better. One of the disadvantages of all-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mowers is that they can be very hard to push when the engine is off. Because of the complexity of their transmissions, all-wheel drive mowers are heavier than front wheel drive and rear wheel drive models. They also have all four wheels connected to the transmission, meaning that you can’t simply tilt the mower and move it easily when the engine is off.
You want to consider an all-wheel drive mower if you do a lot of mowing on steep hills and bag the clippings.
Front-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mowers
Steep hills can be an issue for a front-wheel lawn mower because the weight of the bag in the back of the mower can cause the front wheels to lift, making any mower with front-wheel transmission a bad choice for terrains with a lot of slopes.
To propel forward through grass, debris and other potential obstacles the wheels of a self-propelled lawn mower need to be firmly established on the ground. Front-wheel mowers typically have the worst traction, which is a big reason why rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive mowers are usually more expensive.
This being said, front-wheel drive mowers are typically much easier to maneuver compared to their rear-wheel and all-wheel drive counterparts. If you want to change the direction of a front-wheel drive mower, all you have to do is tilt the mower back slightly on its rear wheels.
Rear-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mowers
Rear-wheel drive mowers do not have the issue of lifted wheels on uneven terrains. If you mow and bag the clippings with a rear-wheel drive mower, the added weight improves the traction of the rear wheels. This is the reason why rear-wheel drive self-propelled mowers will often outperform even all-wheel drive models.
Recoil, button, and turn-key start options
Most self-propelled lawn mowers with gas engines have a traditional recoil start mechanism. To start such a mower you will need to manually pull a cord, which, in turn, manually starts the engine.
Self-propelled lawn mowers with electric engines typically have a push start button or a turn-key mechanism. The way these mechanisms work is self-explanatory. When a mower has a start button, you can literally start it with a push of a button. If a mower has a key mechanism, you need to turn the key to turn the mower on. The biggest disadvantage of the start button and turn-key mechanisms is that they are more fragile and more expensive to repair compared to the recoil start systems.
Why you need to pay attention to self-propelled lawn mower model numbers
Below you will find a description of five great self-propelled lawn mowers. Many of the mowers have multiple model versions. This is why you always want to pay attention to the model number during your research and ordering process.
For example, Lawn-Boy 17732 is a self-propelled rear wheel drive lawn mower with a gas engine and a pull start cord. Lawn-Boy 17734 is very similar to the 17732 model, but it comes with an electric start function, which is why Lawn-Boy 17734 is about $50 more expensive compared to 17732.
Lawn-Boy 17734 is a rear-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower. It has a Kohler XT6 OHV commercial-grade gas-powered engine with an electric key-start system.
The engine is 149 cubic centimeters, has 6.5 ft-lbs or gross torque and is fully compliant with California clean air CARB requirements.
Lawn-Boy 17734 features a durable steel deck that is 21 inches long. It also has 3-in-1 functionality.
There are six positions for grass cut height, ranging from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches.
This model has a 2-year full warranty and a 3-year Tru-Start Commitment warranty.
As mentioned earlier in this review, electric start systems are very convenient, yet costly to replace or fix, which is the reason why many lawn mower manufacturers offer a full warranty for the devices and an extended start system warranty on top of that.
The model does not come with a size discharge attachment, but you can contact the manufacturer and ask for one. The company will then send you an attachment free of charge.
The mower also has an adjustable speed, propels confidently when going up the slopes and is very easy and convenient to operate.
Husqvarna HU700H 961450023
Husqvarna HU700H 961450023 is a rear-wheel drive self-propelling mower. It has a 160 cubic centimeter Honda gas-powered engine, a 22-inch deck and 3-in-1 functionality.
The engine has an auto choke feature and starts easily in both hot and cold weather conditions.
Husqvarna HU700H 961450023 comes with 8-inch front wheels and 11-inch back wheels for superb traction and maneuverability in all kinds of conditions. The handle has 3 adjustable positions so that the mower is comfortable to use no matter your height.
This self-propelled mower comes in a box, almost completely assembled. All you will need to do to start using it is flip out the handle and tighten the screws. You will also need to add the oil to the engine (it comes with the mower) and add gas to the gas tank.
You can adjust the height of grass cut with a level on the left side of the mower. The level has settings that range from 1.5 inches to 4 inches.
One of the cons of this mower is that it is very heavy and weighs 100 pounds. Because of this, it can be hard to maneuver and change direction. This is not a mower for you if you have a lot of trees and shrubs on your property.
Honda HRR216K9VKA is a rear-wheel drive self-propelled mower with a gas-powered Honda engine. The engine is 160 cubic centimeters. The mower has a recoil starter and an automatic choke system.
Both front and rear wheels are made of plastic and are 8 inches in diameter.
The mower has a variable speed Smart Drive with a speed control. The speed control has 5 positions with speeds between 0 and 4 miles per hour. This allows the operator to slow down quickly when needed and easily maneuver between trees and other obstacles.
This model has 3-in-1 functionality. You will be able to switch between mulching, discharging and bagging with just one touch. The bag has a capacity of 1.9 bushels.
Honda HRR216K9VKA has a MicroCut System with a twin blade for superior mulching.
Grass cut height settings vary from 1.125 inches to 4 inches.
The deck of the mower is 21 inches long and is made of rugged, durable steel.
The oil comes with the mower.
The only thing that you may need to purchase separately is a cover because the mower does not come with one.
This model comes with a 3-year residential warranty or 90-day commercial warranty.
Troy-Bilt TB370 is a rear-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower. It has a 163 cubic centimeter engine from Briggs & Stratton.
It also comes with 3-in-1 functionality and InStep variable speed drive that automatically adjusts the speed of the mower based on the speed of the human operator. InStep speed drive also provides more traction over uneven terrains.
Troy-Bilt TB370 has a 21-inch long deck. Cutting height settings range from 1.25 inches to 3.75 inches and are regulated with an easily accessible height adjuster.
The mower has 8-inch front and 11-inch rear wheels. The tires on the wheels are softer compared to most other mowers and the grip is much better compared to plastic wheels.
The warranty is 2 years.
GreenWorks Pro MO80L510 80V
GreenWorks Pro MO80L510 is a rear wheel drive self-propelled mower. It has an electric motor with a push button start function. The electric motor is equivalent to a 160 cubic centimeter gas engine.
The deck of the mower is 21 inches long.
GreenWorks Pro MO80L510 has 3-in-1 functionality and a SmartCut sensing technology
This model is powered by a battery. It comes with an 80V 5AH li-ion battery and a charger. The mower is also compatible with a number of other GreenWorks batteries. The 5AH battery has a 60-minute run time. The 2AM battery can be charged in as little as 30 minutes, which means that you can work non-stop if you choose to invest in an extra battery and are willing to switch batteries while working. A 4AH battery requires about 1 hour of charging time.
The only disadvantage of this mower is that is can be extremely hard to push when the self-propelled feature is not utilized.
Making a Decision
All mowers described in this review have great features, powerful engines and excellent reliability. Decide on whether you want the power of a gas-fueled engine or the convenience of an electric engine. Make sure to choose the mower with a starting mechanism that’s right for you and best of luck with having a beautifully cut lawn!