Self propelled bagger mower

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The 5 Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers of

Final Verdict

For an all-around reliable mower with multiple customization options, the best option is the Ryobi Volt Brushless Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. The lithium battery can cover half an acre of lawn on a full charge, and the bagging system makes for easy cleanup (view at Home Depot). But if you prefer gas-powered cutters, you can't go wrong with the Honda 3-in-1 Variable Speed Lawn Mower, which has an impressive engine, automatic choke, and adaptable speed technology (view at Lowe's).


Before buying a self-propelled lawn mower, familiarize yourself with the various types. The two main categories are electric and gas-powered. Gas mowers usually have more force, and you don't have to worry about the battery dying. However, today's electric lawn mowers run on advanced lithium-ion batteries and can offer more than an hour of grass cutting before they need to be recharged.

Then, there are front-drive and rear-drive mowers. Front-drive models are best for flatter terrains and are generally easy to steer. Rear-drive grass cutters, on the other hand, have better traction and are usually best for hilly areas. Additionally, all lawn mowers have engines, which can vary in terms of power and efficiency.

Lawn Size

You'll also want to consider the size of your yard. Because battery-operated mowers typically run for a little over an hour, you might want to get a gas-powered model if it takes you longer than that to mow your lawn. However, some options come with two batteries, allowing you to resume your mowing session when the first one runs out.

Both gas and electric lawn mowers are suitable for small yards. That said, you'll want to look for one that's easy to maneuver around tight corners, as less square footage usually means more turns.

Cutting Options

Self-propelled lawn mowers often have multiple cutting options. For one, you can usually choose between several grass-cutting heights. Also, many models allow you to set it to discharge, mulch, or bag your grass. Some even cut grass into super-fine pieces and then return the nutrient-rich clippings back into the ground to fertilize your lawn.

This guide was written by Theresa Holland, an experienced commerce writer specializing in home and garden content. Having spent countless hours researching landscaping products and yard care tools not only for her professional writing but also for personal use, she's well-versed in the world of grass cutting. You can check out more stories by Theresa on Byrdie and MyDomaine.


Deciding on the best self-propelled lawn mower isn&#;t as easy as it used to be. Do you need commercial or residential quality? Do you want to use gas or batteries for power? How much grass do you need to cut? Are you a mulcher or a bagger?

Having tested dozens of the best walk-behind lawn mowers from entry-level residential to the top professional models, we got our Pro team together to choose our top mowers in a range of scenarios.

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Overall

Honda HRCHXA inch Commercial Mower

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower | Honda HRCHXA

Start with a Honda GXV engine, tell the design team to build the best lawn mower they can think of, and you end up with the Honda HRCHXA. Highlights include a hydrostatic transmission, RotoStop system that lets you take your hands off without turning off the engine, MicroCut twin blades, and more. It&#;s not just a bunch of hype, either. This mower is powerful and built to a level that stands up to legitimate commercial and possibly even battlefield use.

If you want to save a little money and the Blade Stop feature doesn&#;t feel like a requirement to you, check out the HRCHDA mower which drops the price to just $1,

Price: $

Best Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower

As our top overall pick, Honda&#;s HRCHXA also ranks highest for gas. While we let it bask in victory, here&#;s our top-scoring residential gas model:

Cub Cadet SC inch Self-Propelled Mower

Best Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower | Cub Cadet SC

Against its well-known competitors, the Cub Cadet SC doesn&#;t have many faults. It leads in fuel efficiency and cutting area, though it does give up a few points in cutting power (despite having a cc engine) and value. In a competitive group, its 23&#; deck gives it an edge over most other residential lawn mowers.

Price: $

Best Self-Propelled Electric Lawn Mower

Commercial: Greenworks Commercial inch Self-Propelled Mower

Best Self-Propelled Electric Lawn Mower | Greenworks Commercial Inch Mower

There aren&#;t many true commercial mowers with lithium-ion power sources. The Greenworks Commercial inch model gets the nod as the best battery-powered self-propelled lawn mower on the commercial side thanks to its runtime and inch cutting swath.

With two active battery ports available, we were able to run just under 2 hours and cut more than an acre under a moderate load in St. Augustine grass.

Price: Starts at $ without batteries or charger. Find a dealer near you.

Makita entered the commercial scene in a big way with its XML08 self-propelled mower. It boasts a sturdy, well-built design and has impressive power considering its 36V power plant.

Price: $ with 4 batteries and dual-port rapid charger

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Best Self-Propelled Electric Lawn Mower | EGO Select Cut

The EGO Select Cut mower made waves with it stacked-blade system and earned our pick as the best battery lawn mower on the residential side. Choosing between better mulching or better runtime (both options come in the box), you can select what your priority is.

Though not as powerful as EGO&#;s Peak Power mower, it still has higher torque to keep those blades turning better than most electric lawn mowers available. It strikes a balance between runtime and power that&#;s just right for more homeowners.

Price: $ bare, $ with Ah battery and charger

Best Commercial Walk-Behind Mower

Honda still gets our vote for the best commercial walk-behind mower. However, there&#;s another mower that raised our eyebrows more than most.

YBravo Gen II inch Commercial Mower

Best Commercial Walk-Behind Mower | Ybravo Gen II Inch Commercial Lawn Mower

After running into issues with other commercial walk-behind mowers, we turned to YBravo inch commercial mower to take care of a 3-acre soggy field that our ZTs only bogged down in. Its Kawasaki cc engine kept the blade turning where others simply stalled.

When it&#;s time to move out of the radio station swamp and you&#;re going for a more professional look, its cut quality is excellent as well. Available in a inch and the inch model we tested, Ybravo is worth your serious consideration.

Price: $ (inch model). Find a dealer online.

Honda HRNVLA inch Walk-Behind Mower with Electric Start

Best Residential Self-Propelled Lawn Mower | Honda HRNVLA Inch Walk-Behind Mower with Electric Start

The Honda HRN series replaces the massively popular HRR series and isn&#;t regretting it one bit. At the top of the line with excellent cutting power, cut quality, and a solid build, the Honda HRNVLA gives you a GCV engine, variable speed Smart Drive self-propelled drive, and an electric start.

It&#;s a tough choice between this and the VYA model that has RotoStop instead of the electric start. We just happen to prefer not pulling the recoil cord. Perhaps Honda will give us both options on the same mower in the future.

In addition to its solid performance, Honda also solved the HRR&#;s reversing issues and you can pull the mower back without a problem. No matter which model in the HRN series you choose, there&#;s a good chance it&#;s going to be the best residential self-propelled lawn mower you&#;ve ever used.

Price: $

Best Large Walk-Behind Lawn Mower

Toro TimeMaster inch Personal Pace Mower

Best Large Walk-Behind Lawn Mower | Toro TimeMaster Inch Mower

With 10 ft-lbs of torque delivered from its Briggs & Stratton cc engine, the inch Toro TimeMaster is our pick as the best large walk-behind lawn mower.

Not only does it deliver big power to turn its time-saving inch blade, but it also features Toro&#;s Personal Pace self-propelled drive, and Spin-Stop that lets you stop the blade without shutting off the mower.

It all adds up to big time savings on larger lawns. Grab model if you want an electric start or the if you don&#;t mind a recoil start and want to save $

Price: $ (), $ ()

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Best Electric Start Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet SC EQ Signature Cut Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

Best Electric Start Self-Propelled Lawn Mower | Cub Cadet SC EQ

There&#;s no doubt an electric start mower is incredibly convenient and there are plenty of good options out there. Our pick for the best electric start self-propelled lawn mower goes to the Cub Cadet SC EQ.

Its cc engine gives it solid power to keep its blade speed high, and it has all three discharge options (mulch, bag, side discharge).

What sets it apart from other electric start lawn mowers is it SmartSound Technology—a design that reduces the engine noise without a big drop in performance. If you like to get started on your yard work early, it&#;s a choice your neighbors will thank you for.

Price: $

Learn more from Cub Cadet or find a dealer.

Best Rear-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

Honda HRNVYA inch Self-Propelled Mower

Best Rear-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower | Honda HRNVYA inch Self-Propelled Mower

We already mentioned the Honda HRN series and we&#;re bringing it up again. Representing our choice as the best rear-wheel-drive self-propelled lawnmower, the HRNVYA takes care of business better than most with the rear-wheel advantages of better traction and straighter lines.

It also comes with Honda&#;s RotoStop system. It&#;s a design that lets you stop the blade without stopping the engine. Now you can open gates, move debris, empty the bag, or traverse non-grass areas without worrying about the blades turning or having to restart the engine.

Price: $

Learn more from Honda.

Best All-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

Toro inch Personal Pace All-Wheel Drive Mower

Best All-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower | Toro Inch Personal Pace All-Wheel Drive Mower

AWD mowers are what you turn to for work on slopes and uneven terrain where its possible to have a wheel or two lose traction. For the best all-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower, we like the Toro Personal Pace model.

Its inch deck is on the larger size of standard mowers and the Personal Pace system is easy to use once you get used to it. If you switch between mulching and bagging, the mower&#;s lever system is super simple.

Packing plenty of power with its cc Briggs & Stratton engine, it&#;s not so much that it destroys the competition. It&#;s that its performance is excellent and the innovations are genuinely helpful while keeping its price in check.

Price: $

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Bagging

Snapper Hi Vac Series Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Bagging | Snapper Hi Vac Series

Snapper&#;s Hi Vac series is designed to have better airflow that pulls grass clippings up and delivers them to the bag, making it our top choice as the best self-propelled lawn mower for bagging. The same airflow also leaves a clean cut and makes it a good mulcher as well.

There are three models in the series. One is a push mower, so it doesn&#;t really count since we&#;re focusing on self-propelled models. Regardless, they all pack a Briggs & Stratton Professional Series cc engine. For the two self-propelled models, you can choose a recoil start or an electric start for $ more.

If you already have a mower you love but want better bagging, look for compatible high-lift blade kits. There are plenty around and chances are, there&#;s one that fits your mower.

Price: $ (recoil), $ (electric start)

Learn more from Snapper or find a dealer.

Best Self-Propelled Mulching Lawn Mower

Toro inch Personal Pace Super Recycler Self-Propelled Mower

Best Self-Propelled Mulching Lawn Mower | Toro Inch Personal Pace Super Recycler Self-Propelled Mower

Good mulching begins with having the deck design and airflow to keep clippings up in the deck long enough to get chopped into fine pieces by the blade(s). Our pick for the best self-propelled mulching lawn mower is the Toro inch Personal Pace Super Recycler.

Building on the knowledge of their Recycler mowers, a kicker system under the deck works alongside Toro&#;s mulching blade and clipping accelerators to provide superior mulching.

What we like about the model, in addition to its mulching, is its Honda GCV engine. Other models in the line offer Spin-Stop, electric start, and SmartStow if you don&#;t mind a different engine.

Price: $

Learn more from Toro.

Best Walk-Behind Mower for Hills

Husqvarna LCRH inch Rear-Wheel Drive Mower

Best Walk-Behind Mower for Hills | Husqvarna LCRH Inch Rear-Wheel Drive Mower

We started our search for the best walk-behind mower for hills expecting to award it to an all-wheel-drive model. However, the rear-wheel-drive Husqvarna LCRH mower stepped up with excellent performance mowing uphill and side-to-side on the slopes of the lake we tested it on.

Featuring a Honda GCV engine and excellent fuel efficiency, you can make your mountain a molehill for around $ Plus, it&#;s Made in the USA.

Price: $

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money

Under $ Troy-Bilt TB ES inch Self-Propelled Mower with Electric Start

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money | Troy-Bilt TB ES

Troy-Bilt puts together a solid package with an electric start for under $ to make it our top choice for the best self-propelled lawn mower for the money under $ In a stiff competition, it&#;s the electric start that won our team over.

Price: $

Learn more from Troy-Bilt.

Toro&#;s is another excellent inch high-value choice that comes in under $ While it doesn&#;t have an electric start, it does sport a Honda GCV cc engine and a variable speed drive.

Price: $

Learn more from Toro.

Under $ Craftsman M inch Self-Propelled Mower

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money | Craftsman M

Getting a good self-propelled lawn mower for less than $ is tough. You typically find OEM engines instead of brand names, the power levels drop, and you lose some cut quality. Still, there are some that do the job well.

Our pick for the best walk-behind lawn mower for the money under $ goes to Craftsman&#;s M It uses a cc Briggs & Stratton engine for power. The trade-off is that it&#;s a single-speed drive and will mulch or bag, but not side discharge.

On a positive note, this is a mower that&#;s Made in the USA with global materials by folks in Tupelo, MS.

Price: $

Learn more from Craftsman.

Toro&#;s also makes a good case in the sub-$ class as a member of the Recycler series. It uses a Kohler cc engine with an automatic choke for power and never needs an oil change. Just refill the oil as needed.

It also features a inch deck and variable speed drive.

Price: $

Learn more from Toro.

Which is the Best Brand of Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

No one in the self-propelled lawn mower market dominates like Honda. Their engines enjoy a reputation for quality and durability every other manufacturer is shooting for, and their mowers are simply outstanding.

They typically run at a premium, though. Both Honda mowers and Honda-powered mowers are more expensive than similar designs from other brands.

That opens the door for Toro. There are a lot of Toro models we recommend for good reason and hit a wide range from budget-friendly homeowner mowers to commercial zero turns. It&#;s one of the (if not the top) best-selling brand of walk-behind mowers.

Getting hard sales figures is tough to come by, and it&#;s always possible we missed the mark. However, we see more Honda and Toro walk-behind mowers on commercial trailers and residential lawns than any other brand.

Best Lawn Mower Buying Guide

Gas vs Battery

Gas power still wins the day when you&#;re highest priorities are keeping your purchase price down and your power level high. With advancements in battery and motor technology, the OPE world is shifting towards battery-power. It&#;s cleaner and quieter to run and requires less maintenance.

However, you have to look at premium models to get true gas power, and runtime can be a limiting factor. It&#;s also less likely you have a service center nearby that can get you back up and running quickly if there&#;s a problem.

If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, there are a lot of battery-powered options available. Once you get beyond that size, you need to consider how many batteries you&#;ll need and legitimate options really start to thin out once you hit 1/2 an acre.

Take a deeper look at the comparison between gas and battery power in this article.

This might be better titled &#;professional vs homeowner&#; considering there are both commercial and residential professional crews. Regardless, commercial mowers are built with better components and commercial engines, creating a machine that is built to last for years of high-hour daily use.

If you&#;re a homeowner mowing once a week or so, a good residential mower can still last for 5 or 10 years (or more) if you take care of it. It just uses components and engine designs better fit for occasional use.

Engine Size

If you stay on top of your mowing and cut quality isn&#;t a high priority, an engine as small as cc is likely fine.

Move up to the cc–cc class for better performance when the grass is thicker and taller, or when you want to make sure you get excellent mulching, bagging, and/or clean cuts. The greater power improves lift and is less likely to bog down in thick patches.

When you&#;re looking at deck sizes beyond 22 inches, you should start looking for engines in the cc–cc range (or higher) to ensure it can keep the RPMs high while it&#;s cutting such a large swath.

Deck Size

or inches is pretty standard for most mowers. Jumping up to a inch or inch mower may seem tempting, but it&#;s not for everyone.

If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, the time you gain with a larger deck might not mean a whole lot of time-savings. Where you really gain some time is on lawns that are a 1/2-acre or more.

Keep in mind, these mowers are heavier. When you have to mow wet or soggy areas, the weight can work against you.

Steel vs Plastic (Poly) Deck

The vast majority of gas mowers have steel decks while battery-powered models have a much higher percentage of plastic poly decks.

Those poly plastic decks are tougher than they look, but they probably won&#;t hold up as well as steel in the long run. It&#;s still highly unlikely that you&#;ll wear through one before it&#;s time to replace the mower.

However, there&#;s a whole lot more design flexibility that comes with poly decks, and engineers can do some amazing things to help with airflow that directly affects cut quality along with bagging and mulching efficiency.

Deck Height

Here in Florida, we have a lot of St. Augustine grass that we cut at /2 inches, so we prefer a mower that has at least a 4-inch maximum deck height.

Depending on what species of grass you have, you might be able to get away with a lower height, but 4-inches is a good all-around benchmark.

On the low end, most of us aren&#;t cutting golf course greens (you&#;d use a reel mower for that, anyway), so the minimum deck height usually isn&#;t an issue.

However, if you use a blade that dethatches or scalps for maintenance or re-seeding, you might want to make sure the deck height gets low enough—typically /2 inches or less.

Height Adjustment

Single-point height adjustments are the easiest since you can raise or lower the deck with just one lever. It&#;s common on battery-powered lawn mowers, but not so much on their heavier gas counterparts.

Part of that is because the single-point mechanisms tend to introduce additional flex into the system and the weight of a gas mower puts more strain on the mechanism. So while we generally prefer single-point, we understand why gas mowers may opt away from them.

Pro Tip: Set the front wheels one notch higher than the rear wheels to improve bagging efficiency on 4-point or 2-point adjustable mowers.

Adjustment Levels

If you&#;re really OCD, more height adjustments mean more precise cutting. Realistically, most of us are going to find a good height on any mower as long as it hits the maximum and minimum heights we mow at.

Setting the Speed

The type of speed adjustment your self-propelled lawn mower has can make or break your experience. There are pull levers, thumb push levers, full push bars (Toro&#;s Personal Pace), and iterations on those.

Try it at the dealer before you buy it. If you hate working the mechanism for a couple of minutes, imagine what it&#;s going to feel like after 30 minutes or an hour.

Front-Wheel Drive, Rear-Wheel Drive, or All-Wheel Drive?

Front-wheel drive lawn mowers are typically the least expensive and work well for even terrain. They also help you turn the easiest since you lift up the drive wheels as you make your turns.

Rear-wheel drive mowers add some cost but create better traction on hills and slopes. They&#;re particularly good at pushing the mower&#;s weight uphill where front-wheel drives start to lose traction as they try to pull the weight.

All-wheel drive mowers are the most expensive and generally do the best job on hills, slopes, and uneven terrain. On particularly bumpy areas where it&#;s likely one or more wheels will lose traction, it&#;s the best bet.

Wheel Size

Larger wheels tend to handle bumps and uneven terrain better than smaller wheels according to manufacturers. However, it&#;s a claim that Consumer Reports says isn&#;t really the case.

Electric Start

If you&#;ve used a gas engine, there&#;s a good chance you&#;ve worn out your arm pulling the cord to start it. There&#;s no doubt that having an electric start on your mower can take away a lot of the frustration.

It won&#;t make up for poor maintenance, though. A well-maintained mower starts easily on the first or second pull. That begs the question as to whether the electric start is worth an extra hundred dollars.

It&#;s totally up to you, but if it&#;s in the budget, we want it.

Most quality mowers are 3-in-1, meaning you can bag, mulch, or side/rear discharge. Less expensive models often only provide options for bagging and mulching. Which one you choose depends on what type of grass you have, how fast it grows, and your personal preference.

In central Florida where St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bahia dominate our landscapes, the summer heat and rains make our grass grow incredibly fast. Most of us mulch out of necessity since we almost need a dumpster for the volume of clippings we create.

Handle Positions

Most lawn mowers have 3 handle positions you can set. For tall guys like me or average-height guys like Clint, it helps find a more comfortable grip. Some mowers opt for 2, or sometimes just 1 handle position.

How We Test

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency on gas mowers has a very direct effect on your wallet, especially when you’re mowing every day as a Pro.

Our fuel efficiency testing is more than just a runtime calculation. We also take the blade size into consideration and see how much area you can cut on a tank of gas and per gallon of fuel.

Cutting Power

There are a couple of ways we test cutting power. The most standardized is to cut a section of grass as high as our Cub Cadet Pro Z will let us and then see how low each mower can cut effectively cut from there.

Another is to simply let the grass grow to inches (which doesn&#;t take all that long in the Florida summer) and see how far each mower can cut at inches at a MPH walking speed.

Hills, Slopes, and Uneven Terrain

Sure, it&#;s Florida and we don&#;t have many legit hills. But we do have sloped lakesides and ditches to go along with plenty of uneven terrain. We like to see how well our mowers hold wheel traction mowing uphill, downhill, side-to-side, and bumping along.

Cut Quality

We look for three major components of cut quality: evenness, mulching size, and bagging efficiency.

Evenness is pretty straightforward. We&#;re looking for blades that weren&#;t cut and indications that there wasn&#;t enough lift to clip all of the blades at the same level.

When mulching, we look at how small the clippings are and if a mower is prone to leaving trails and clumps.

For bagging, we&#;re want to see how much grass is collected compared to a standard baseline, if the chute tends to clog while we&#;re cutting, and how much grass is deposited back to the ground.

Noise Level

One of the major benefits of battery-powered mowers is the lower noise levels compared to gas, but that doesn’t mean gas mowers have to be obnoxious. We expect higher levels than battery-powered models and that is typically the case.

To test the noise level, we use our SPL meter and checked the sound on a road away from any houses. With Tom Gaige as our &#;average&#; user at 5&#; 9&#;, we measure the decibels as A-weighted, slow response from his ear.

Even though some mowers are quieter than others, we still recommend hearing protection when you&#;re using a gas model.


By far the biggest feature of these mowers is a self-propel drive. It pretty much neutralizes any weight concerns other than getting it home from the store. But that&#;s not all there is. See the buying guide above for the common features we look for.


Value is more than just price. We take a broad look at the performance and features compared to the price to determine the value of each mower.

Despite the rise of battery-powered lawn mowers, gas lawn mowers still enjoy a big advantage in power. Where battery-powered models prefer cooler temperatures, shorter grass, and dry grass, gas mowers get the job done no matter what time of day you need to cut.

Yes, they&#;re louder. Yes, they have emissions (that are reducing with modern small engine technology). However, you can raise your glass to your neighbor who&#;s using his battery-powered mower at noon while you&#;re settling in for kickoff in the AC.

Aside from that, running out of fuel means walking back to the garage or trailer to refill instead of 45 minutes to more than 3 hours of waiting for a battery to charge. In the worst case, you make a minute drive to the gas station. Either way, you get larger lawns cut more quickly.

Another advantage is long-term durability. Cordless mowers need battery replacements every 3 to 5 years, and most won&#;t live longer than 5 years thanks to their more complex electronics. It&#;s not uncommon for a cheap gas mower to last 5 years with little to no maintenance and good ones to keep working 10 years or more with some basic care.

Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews

Ever check out a “review” site and you can’t tell if they actually tested the tools or if they’re just “recommending” the Amazon top sellers?

That’s not us. We only recommend what we&#;d actually use, even if we don&#;t earn a commission from it. It’s all about giving you a legitimate recommendation and our honest opinion of each product.

We’ve been in business since covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction, automotive, and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.

Each year, we bring in and review more than individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.

We consult with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.

We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites and consult with us on testing methods, categories, and weighting.

We’ll provide more than pieces of new content this year absolutely free for our readers—including objective evaluations of individual tools and products.

The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.

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For many homeowners, the machine of choice to keep their lawn under control is the self-propelled mower. With a small transmission that drives the front or rear wheels, these take some of the mowing load off of you, no small consideration at the peak of the hot and humid mowing season. And since that season may last from early spring through late fall, it’s important to select a mower not just based on price but features that make sense for how you like to mow. To help you with that decision, we tested a batch of mowers. Our goal, as always, is to help you find the right one and, in doing so, hopefully make your yard work a little easier.

See quick info of top tested and non-tested mowers below, then scroll down for buying advice and in-depth reviews of these and other models.

Best Overall




A beauty of a mower, with a cast-aluminum deck and a smooth-running engine.


Craftsman M

Craftsman M


The Craftsman appears to be a basic, easy-to-handle, three-function mower.

High Cut Quality




We recommend the Honda as a durable option that offers good cut quality.

Most Affordable

Troy-Bilt TB XP

Troy-Bilt TB XP


A true Troy-Bilt mower, offering a lot of performance for the money.

Things to Consider

A mower is like many consumer products in that the more features a manufacturer adds, the more expensive it becomes. A longer or eye-catching features list isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Here are the most important to keep in mind.

Engine size

An engine as small as cc can power a mower, but most fall somewhere in the cc to cc range. A large engine helps when powering through tall, lush grass or in extreme conditions, such as with a side discharge chute in place and mowing tall weeds in a border area. Its extra torque improves bagging when the going gets tough (tall, leaf-covered grass in the fall). But if you mow sensibly and pay attention to deck height—and especially if you don’t let your lawn get out of control—an engine in the cc range has more than enough power to get the job done.

Rear wheel diameter

A mower can have all four wheels the same diameter (seven to eight inches) or it may have rear wheels that range from inches to 12 inches in diameter. Larger rear wheels help the mower roll more easily over bumpy ground.

Storage options

Mower manufacturers have paid attention to homeowners complaining about crowded garages and sheds and equipped some mowers with handles that fold forward, allowing for more compact storage. Some mowers have the forward-fold feature and can stand on end for additional space savings.

Electric start

Self explanatory. Mowers that are really decked out start the engine with the twist of a key or the press of a button. It’s a great option, but a luxury. Keep the mower engine tuned and use fresh or preserved fuel, and you’ll never have trouble starting.

Speed control

Any number of mechanisms can control a mower’s ground speed—a squeeze handle, a drive bar that you press forward, even a dial. There’s no single right answer here. Look at the design and think about how you like to work. For example, if more than one person will be using the mower (and not all of them are right-handed), a drive control like that on a Toro might be the answer. Just push down on the bar to make it go faster.

Two- or three-function

A mower that can bag, mulch, and side discharge is known as a three-function mower, the most versatile kind. Two-function mowers bag and mulch or mulch and side discharge.

Deck height

Mowers will typically have one, two, or four levers to control the deck height. Single-lever adjustment is the easiest to use, but it requires more linkage, which adds weight and complexity. If for some reason you find yourself varying deck height frequently, it’s a good option. Otherwise, two or four levers work just fine.

Deck material

Only Honda makes a gas-engine mower with a high-impact plastic deck (there are battery mowers that have plastic decks). Otherwise, mowers generally have a steel deck, and a few manufacturers—Toro, for one—offer a corrosion-resistant aluminum deck. An aluminum deck won’t rot the way a steel deck will, but you still need to keep it clean.

Deck wash

This is a hose fitting mounted on top of the mower’s deck. When you’re done mowing, hook up a hose and run the mower to power wash the underside of the deck. We’ve had mixed results with these, but they’re better than just letting a mass of dried grass clippings accumulate.

Bag quality

More expensive mowers come with a more durable bag with more dust-blocking capability. If you bag a lot, especially leaves or other lawn debris in the fall, then you need a mower with a higher quality dust-blocking bag. Having said that, if you rarely bag, the standard one that comes with a mower will last you the life of the mower.


Also called wide-area mowers, machines in this subgroup of self-propelled help homeowners better reconcile their need for more power and speed with the fact that they may not have enough storage for a large machine. A typical residential walk mower has a single-blade deck that cuts a swath from 20 to 22 inches wide. Wide-cut mowers (built for homeowner use) have either a single blade or, more typically, a pair of blades, cutting from 26 to 30 inches with each pass. Some of these are rated for light commercial use and have larger decks, in the inch range, and engines that start at cc and go up to about cc.

Wide-cut mowers employ gear or hydrostatic drive transmissions, and they have top speeds of about four to six miles per hour. At their fastest, they move so quickly you have to trot to keep up with them. Needless to say, they’re overkill for small yards; only opt for one of these if you’ve got a significant plot of land that you need to keep tidy, but not one so large that you’d be better off going with a full-on riding mower.

How We Tested

We put all of the mowers we test through the paces using our standard Popular Mechanics methodology: We cut turf grasses such as fescues and blue grass and rougher non-turf grasses like Timothy, clover, orchard grass, and wild oats, all in both normal and shin-deep heights. We mow uphill, downhill, and across the faces of hills. The maximum slope we cut is about 35 degrees. That may not sound like much, but it’s about all you can do to stand on it, let alone push a mower up it. We mow damp and wet grass to test general cutting performance and whether clippings accumulate on the tires. And we cut dry and dusty surfaces to see how well the bag filters under less-than-optimal conditions. After all that mowing and analysis, we give each a rating from our star system.

Good, improved ease of use
Very Good, additional versatility or power
Outstanding, with more emphasis on some combination of power, cut quality, bagging, or versatility
Category leader and possibly the best product in our test; performs as well as mowers with stars with improved industrial design, ease of use, or durability

Have a look at our tested mowers below, and keep scrolling down to look at options that we haven’t had the chance to test yet but are promising based on their specs and brand pedigree.


Engine size: cc | Deck size: 21 in. | Functions: Mulch, side discharge, bag | Drive: Rear | Non-lawn surfaces: Good | Uphill mowing: Very good | Sidehill mowing: Fair | Bagging: Very good




This is a beauty of a mower, with a cast-aluminum deck and a smooth-running Honda GCV engine. It’s both an effective bagger and mulcher, even of moist grass, we found. Equipped with rear-wheel drive and the Personal Pace system (the farther you push the drive bar, the faster the mower goes), it’s an effective hill climber and moderately effective on sidehill cutting. It has inch tires on all four corners, which causes this Toro to bump up and down a bit on washboard surfaces, but the good news is that it’s equipped with a far higher quality tire than we’re used to seeing these days. We didn’t notice any grass pickup on moist surfaces. Other features we like include its forward fold handle and a high-quality grass bag that loads through the handle, from the top.


Engine size: cc | Deck size: 21 in. | Functions: Mulch, rear discharge, bag | Drive: Rear | Non-lawn surfaces: Very good | Uphill mowing: Outstanding | Sidehill mowing: Very good | Bagging: Very good




We had never heard of Masport mowers before this test, but after giving this rugged inch machine a solid workout, we’re glad we came across the brand. This really is a contractor-duty mower, as reflected by its rugged construction, such as the gauge steel deck. Among its other stalwart features are a big professional-series Briggs & Stratton engine with a cast-iron cylinder sleeve, a tube steel bumper in front of the engine, and the most robust single-lever deck height adjustment in this test. We also appreciated the decal applied right beside its lever that indicates the optimal deck heights for bagging and mulching—a user-friendly feature we’ve never seen on any mower. Its 9 x 3-inch rear tires have thick, horizontal cleats, enabling good hill climbing. Its cut quality is as outstanding as its bagging, as good as any mower we’ve seen. And it waltzed through tall grass like it was mowing a putting green. The comes with a blade on it and a spare one for mulching in the box. Both are thick and well-ground, reflecting the attention to detail that one would expect for a mower rated as contractor-duty.

Troy-Bilt TB XP

Engine size: cc | Deck size: 21 in. | Functions: Mulch, side discharge, bag | Drive: Rear | Non-lawn surfaces: Fair | Uphill mowing: Good | Sidehill mowing: Good | Bagging: Good

We’re longtime fans of Troy-Bilt lawn mowers, generally; They offer a lot of performance for the money. And this one doesn’t disappoint. The TB XP has an engine on the small side, standard-size rear wheels, and a drive system that works more like your car’s cruise control. Set the lever to the desired position, squeeze the drive handles, and away you go. Troy-Bilt also packs in a few other goodies. Most impressive are the two-lever deck-height adjustment and an excellent tread configuration that boosts traction for uphill and sidehill mowing.

DR Power SP30

Engine size: cc | Deck size: 30 in. | Functions: Mulch, side discharge bag | Drive: Rear | Non-lawn surfaces: Very good | Uphill mowing: Very good | Sidehill mowing: Very good | Bagging: Outstanding





We had the most fun using this mower from DR Power. It’s simple to operate, thanks to a minimum of controls. Turn the key, pull the drive lever to make it go (all the way up to a very brisk pace), and pull back the blade engagement lever to cut. That’s all there is to it. It’s comparatively light, with weight distribution and geometry to make it surprisingly agile for such a big mower. It leaves a smooth cut, and its bagging performance is outstanding. We attribute that to the air flow off the deck and into the bag, which is so good that when you go to remove the bag, you don’t find a loose pile of clippings, rather a tightly packed hay bale. Our test indicated that every morsel of grass goes into the bag. We also like the cast-aluminum deck. Assuming it’s the correct alloy and you don’t abuse the machine, you should get many years out of it. We also like the single-height deck adjustment courtesy of a nice long lever with a big grip. We had only one dislike: That big engine needs a better muffler.

Other Promising Options

Craftsman M

Engine size: cc | Deck size: 21 in. | Functions: Mulch, side discharge, bag | Drive: Front




Craftsman mowers have been doing very well in our tests, so we can recommend this one because it’s so much like the many other Craftsman models that we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a good blend of maneuverability and power, you’ll get it with this American-built mower. Its front drive provides maximum maneuverability. Though it’s important to note that front-drive mowers do lose some traction when running uphill, particularly with a full grass bag. But if your slope is less than 20 degrees, and you’re not bagging uphill, you’ll be fine. The side discharge will also help you handle tall-grass cutting conditions. Adjust the two deck levers to bring the mower up to full height and have at the rough stuff. The fact that the mower bags, mulches, and side discharges is a plus, enabling you to handle a wide range of mowing conditions, from early spring and late into the fall. Three-function mowers like this are our preference for that versatility.


Engine size: cc | Deck size: 21 in. | Functions: Mulch, side discharge, bag | Drive: Front



Honda mowers enjoy a sterling reputation. And having tested their walk and self-propelled mowers for the last 30 years, we feel pretty confident in saying that this mower is a great choice for homeowners looking for power and durability. This model features an upgraded engine from its predecessor, with the switch from the GCV to GCV The slightly larger engine is built to withstand long hours of operation; in fact, it’s primarily used in pressure washers. And if you do your own maintenance, (and most owners who buy this class of product do), you’ll appreciate the easily accessible spark plug and the fuel shutoff valve that enables better winter storage. Close the fuel shutoff and run the mower until it sputters to a halt. The few drops of gasoline left in the carburetor will evaporate. Open the shutoff valve in the spring, and the mower should start easily, thanks to a carburetor free of gasoline deposits and the high-energy ignition that Honda engines are known for. All this maintenance stuff is great, but we can also tell you that our past test findings on other Hondas prove that their cut quality is outstanding for cleanliness. Sharp blades deliver a velvet-like finish. And their bagging ability is also quite good, in the same league with other well-bagging mowers from Cub Cadet and Toro. In all, if you take mowing seriously, you should enjoy this Honda.

Roy BerendsohnSenior Home EditorRoy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment.


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Bagger self mower propelled

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