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The 5 best lawn mowers: Top gas and electric-powered mowers

What is the best lawn mower? ZDNet's top choice is the Husqvarna YTH18542. With it, you can make short work of your yard work.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro and  Sean Jackson

A lawn mower is a hefty investment, so it's very important to do your research to see what will best fit your lawn before spending any money. There are two basic types of lawn mower: ride-on tractors and push mowers. And each category has multiple sub-types like zero-turn, AI-driven robot, or self-propelled. It's also important to note how each lawn mower you're considering gets its power. 

The vast majority of models use gas-powered engines, which means that you have to consider the cost of keeping extra fuel and performing regular maintenance into your budget. There are also battery-powered electric models, both ride-on tractors and push mowers, that often use the same types of batteries you may already have for your cordless power tools; which makes it easier to integrate the mower into your arsenal and a bit more affordable to maintain since you don't have to invest in specialized chargers or batteries. The downside to electric mowers is that they don't have the same run-time as their gas-powered counterparts, with most having a maximum mow time of about an hour. Though this should be plenty of time to take care of most suburban lawns. 

Robotic mowers are a recent innovation, working the same way as robotic vacuums and mops: working with AI and a home charging base to frequently mow different parts of your lawn for a consistently well-manicured yard. Their biggest drawbacks are both their hefty costs and the need to lay boundaries or guide wires to keep them in your yard and out of the street. Zero-turn mowers are similar to what you'd see in a commercial setting, featuring very large cutting decks and pivot-point turning for much better maneuverability around obstacles like trees, lamp posts, flower beds, and mailboxes. 

To help you find the perfect lawn mower for your needs, I've chosen five of the best you can buy. I've broken down their major features, deck widths, and power sources to help you find the mower of your dreams, as well as the best fit for your budget.

Must read:

What is the best lawn mower?

The Husqvarna YTH18542 is the best lawn mower you can get. It has a mow-in-reverse feature that's perfect for navigating tricky areas or going back over spots you may have missed, as well as a 42-inch, dual-blade deck that's great for lawns up to 1 acre. The 16-inch turn radius makes it easier to maneuver around trees, lamp posts, decorations, and mailboxes, and the deck can be outfitted with either a bagger or mulching attachment for easier cleanup and lawn re-feeding. The automatic, hydrostatic transmission makes operating this mower similar to driving a car: the harder you push the pedal, the faster you go. So you don't have to mess with manually adjusting any speed levers.

Lawn mower


Cutting deck width


Husqvarna YTH18542



Hydrostatic, Automatic 

Honda HRN 166cc



Automatic, variable speed

Ego Power+ 56V



Automatic, variable speed

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1



Hydrostatic, Automatic variable speed

Worx Landroid L



Single speed

Which is the right lawn mower for you?

Choose this lawn mower…

If you want or are…

Husqvarna YTH18542

A well-rounded riding, a gas-powered mower with reverse mowing

Honda HRN 166cc

Looking for a variable speed, self-propelled push mower 

Ego Power+ 56V

An electric mower for more eco-friendly lawn care

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1

A larger cutting deck and top-notch maneuverability

Worx Landroid L

Hands-off lawn care

Finding the right mower for your yard can be tricky. It may be tempting to spring for the fancy zero turn model with the 60+ inch cutting deck or the robot mower, so you don't have to waste your Saturday afternoons cutting the grass. But not all mowers are suited to every lawn, and not all mowers are created equal.

If you have a smaller, suburban lot (think .25 to .5 acres), a riding mower is going to be overkill, and you might not have any space to store it in the offseason or during bad weather. A 21-inch push mower, preferably self-propelled, will be plenty of power and cutting width to handle most typical in-town lawns. For anything from .75 acres to 1 acre, a riding mower with a 30 to 42-inch cutting deck will be ideal; you'll be able to cut your grass in an hour or less and maneuver around most obstacles with ease. Anything over an acre, and you'll need a much larger cutting deck, 46-inches and above. That way, you won't have to spend 6 hours mowing 2-3 acres of open land. 

Zero turns are similar to commercial-grade lawn mowers, featuring very wide cutting decks and pivot turning for exceptional maneuverability around obstacles. They're perfect for 2+ acre lawns or 1+ acre lawns with lots of trees.

Robot mowers are the latest innovation in lawn care and are similar to robot vacuums and mops that you may already use inside your home. Their biggest appeal is that they automatically run mowing routines and return to their home bases for charging so that mowing can be completely hands-off. The downsides are: they're very expensive, they don't mow in straight lines (randomized patterns only, but they also mow frequently, so theoretically, you'll always have a well-manicured lawn), have very small cutting decks (less than 10-inches wide), and require you to lay guide or boundary wires in order to keep the unit from driving itself into the street or your neighbor's garden beds. They can be a wonderful addition to your tool shed but aren't suited to many kinds of lawns. 

If you're ever unsure about what kind of mower will work best for your lawn, you can always ask an expert at your local DIY or hardware store about what features you'll need to get the best experience.

How did we choose these lawn mowers?

I chose a variety of lawn mowers, including riding tractors and robot mowers, to suit a wider range of yard sizes and terrains. I also chose both gas and electric-powered models so customers could decide which would fit best into their existing lawn care tools and routines or if anyone was considering moving to battery-powered equipment in order to be more eco-friendly. Since lawn mowers are always going to be a pricey investment, I wasn't able to find anything that would be considered "budget-friendly," though push mowers do tend to be much more affordable than ride-on tractors.

How often should I mow my lawn?

In the early spring and fall, you can get away with mowing your lawn once every other week since the grass isn't going to grow as fast as it does in late spring and throughout the summer. Mowing more often during these times also runs the risk of killing sections of your lawn since the tender, young shoots are more susceptible to damage which can cause them to die off.

During the later spring months and the height of summer, you'll want to mow your lawn at least once a week. Not only does this keep your yard looking neat, but it also helps keep your grass growing evenly so you don't get tall patches. Mowing more frequently during the prime growing season also helps keep your lawn healthy by re-feeding the roots with lawn clippings if you have a mulching attachment on our mower.

Is it safe to mow wet grass?

Not at all. If you use a push mower, you run the risk of slipping in the damp grass, which may result in not only pulled muscles and tweaked ankles, but you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself if you land on the mower itself or take it down with you. Mowing wet grass with riding mowers can cause you to get stuck and create deep trenches with your drive wheels as you attempt to get yourself moving again. Electric mowers also come with the risk of electric shock if water works its way into the motor or battery housing, which will not only hurt a whole lot but could also kill you.

Aside from the risk of injury, mowing wet grass is bad for your lawn as well. Water weighs down each blade, making it harder for your lawn mower to make an even, clean-cut, leaving behind uneven patches and huge clumps of clippings that can kill off patches of your yard and damage your mower if the discharge chute gets clogged. 

Whether it's from rain or morning dew, always allow your lawn to dry out as much as it can before you start mowing.

How long should a lawn mower last?

As long as you perform proper maintenance (oil and filter changes, spark plug adjustments/cleanings/replacements, cutting deck cleaning, and blade sharpening as needed), your mower should be expected to last 10 years or more. Keeping your gas or electric mower in good working order and your blades sharp go a long way towards extending the life of your mower since they reduce the risk of unnecessary wear and tear; and mowing with dull blades can be dangerous since they won't make clean cuts, causing discharge chute build-up that can damage drive spindles and the blades themselves.

Are there alternative lawn mowers worth considering?

There are tons of options out there if you're in the market for a new lawn mower: rider models, push mowers, electric motors, and even commercial-grade models for businesses or customers who have very large properties. Here's a short list of other models I thought were great choices:

Editorial standards


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