Like it or not, a manicured lawn is always taken as a sign of a good homeowner though most of us dread the inevitable time to actually go and mow it. It’s a good thing, then, that we’re living in a time where it’s easy to do it fast and efficiently thanks to a machine called the electric start self-propelled lawnmower.
I took the time to find the different types in the market and the ones which are worth your time so you don’t have to, so make sure to read on!
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- 8 Best Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers 2020
- Lawn-Boy 17734 Self Propelled Lawn Mower
- Honda HRX217VLA Lawn Mower w/ Electric Start
- Craftsman M275 Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
- Makita XML03PT1 Lawn Mower Kit
- Snapper P2185020E Self Propelled Lawn Mower
- Greenworks LMF403 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- EGO Power+ LM2142SP Self Propelled Lawn Mower
- Scotts 60040S Lawn Mower
- The Basics of Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
- What to Keep in Mind Before Buying a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
- Some Disadvantages of Electric Start Self-Propelled Mowers
- Safety Considerations and Other Tips
8 Best Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers 2020
Let me preface this review by clarifying that “electric start” does not exclude electric lawnmowers. In my experience, electric mowers can easily fit the bill especially considering the convenience they bring.
Lawn-Boy 17734 Self Propelled Lawn Mower
The Lawn-Boy brand has been at it for more than 8o years now and it’s hit the mark more often than not. The Lawn-Boy 17734 electric start option and its reliability are the reasons why it’s on the list.
It’s got a Kohler XTX 149cc OHV engine and an RWD configuration. The 3-in-1 discharge ability lets you choose between side discharge, bagging, or mulching. The electric start takes the form of a key system which you turn to start it, just like you would a car.
- Tri-cut cutting system makes for easy mulching.
- Easy handling.
- Large bag capacity.
- Kohler XTX engine design never needs an oil change.
- Cut height adjustment can be finicky.
Honda HRX217VLA Lawn Mower w/ Electric Start
With decades of experience in building machines, Honda’s flagship mower series earns a spot on the list.
The GCV200 engine packs all the power you need for consistently mowing large lawns with heavy and thick grass. Its speed adjust dial is easy to use, so even those with mobility issues will like this, making it one of the best self-propelled electric start lawn mowers for the home.
The Versamow System’s got a gimmicky name but I can appreciate the simplicity of its design.
- Self-charging electric start.
- Sturdy NeXite mowing deck.
- Starter cord gives you options.
- All wheels are the same diameter.
Craftsman M275 Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
Powered by a 159cc engine, the M275 obliterates any errant blade of grass. The side chute attachment is a great option for when you can’t be bothered to bag your grass. The cutting deck comes in at 21 inches in diameter and earns a spot because of easy assembly and practical design.
As far as engine size goes, it’s at the middle range of the spectrum but that only means it’ll be easier to push around than one with a beefier engine.
- Deck Wash Port.
- Convertible deck.
- Standardized battery for V20 Craftsman tools.
- Single-speed configuration.
Makita XML03PT1 Lawn Mower Kit
Makita has been a big player in the power tools world and their expertise brings them to my list. This is actually a kit that includes four 18V LXT Li-Ion 5.0Ah batteries in addition to the mower itself and it’s got a single lever height adjustment system for added convenience when quick switching.
- High-grade steel deck.
- 3,300 RPM brushless motor.
- Bag can hold up to 1.7 bushels of grass.
- Needs two battery packs.
Snapper P2185020E Self Propelled Lawn Mower
The P2185020E is an RWD mower that packs a chunky 190cc motor so it gets a mention here.
The HI VAC system makes bagging so easy since it directs the airflow in such a way that the cuttings make it into the bag more effectively without affecting the quality of cut. You can control the self-propel speed and the blade speed to customize your mowing sesh. I didn’t need to prime the engine since it’s got a Briggs & Stratton 850.
- Drink holder.
- Easy height adjustment.
- 3-in-1 discharge capability.
- Doesn’t come with oil.
Greenworks LMF403 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Electric mowers are becoming way more common nowadays and Greenworks gets a spot because they make great power washers too. First off, the mower looks really good with the green and black contrast, and the steel deck construction is a welcome change from the typical Greenworks plastic. It’s got a powerful motor that’ll easily cut turf and is powered by a 40-Volt Lithium battery.
- Big batteries, good battery life.
- The battery fits other Greenworks 40-Volt tools.
- Great for the elderly.
- Small bag.
- Label directions a little unclear.
EGO Power+ LM2142SP Self Propelled Lawn Mower
If you’re willing to shell out a little more for a quality electric mower, do yourself a favor and take a look at the LM2142SP. It’s got a dual battery setup for longer runtimes in a 56-Volt platform for some satisfying mowing power. It won’t cut really tall grass in a single pass (email me if you find this unicorn of a mower of this category), but it’ll carry you through common brambles and weeds no problem.
- Fast charging.
- Weather resistance.
- Metal deck.
- Deck is a bit long.
Scotts 60040S Lawn Mower
With a design that reminds me of my old G.I. Joe action figures, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the Scotts 60040S. It’s got a 2-speed brushless motor with cutting power on par with gas mowers, and a battery indicator at the dashboard for easy reference. I like the deck because it doesn’t blow dust and fumes back into my face plus it’s got storage areas within the mower for batteries and other accessories.
- LED headlights.
- Steel deck.
- Vertical storage with steel lift handle.
- The telescoping handle needs to be pulled out evenly.
The Basics of Electric Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
How They Work
First, let’s broadly discuss how a self-propelled lawn mower works.
As the name suggests, these mowers can move on their own when you apply the gas but only while the throttle is engaged and the safety is off. They use engine power that is normally dedicated to propelling the blades to also turn either the front or rear wheels, helping to move the mower along. Many of these mowers have an internal combustion engine so if you’re new to these, be wary that there are some maintenance requirements involved.
Typical lawn mowers have a starter cord that you repeatedly pull to start the engine. Electric start lawn mowers offer added convenience since they require only the turn of a key or the push of a button to start up. Explore the different types of lawnmowers to know what your yard really needs.
Why You Need One
Gas or electric lawnmowers move on their own when you squeeze the trigger. It’s a helpful system that saves time and energy which you’d otherwise spend pushing the weight of the entire mower-engine, and all. They’ll mow an expansive yard real quickly and some designs even have multi-speed options to cover even more ground.
The biggest argument for getting one is if you have a large area to mow but not too large that would warrant a ride-on mower. A proper self-propelled mower should make quick work of any pesky weeds while producing clean cuts at even heights.
However, if a ride-on mower is what you’re after, we have a separate article on the best riding lawnmowers that’ll also handle rough terrains easily.
Types of Electric Start Self Propelled Lawn Mowers
Rear-Wheel Drive Mowers (RWD)
Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) mowers achieve better traction, making them ideal for irregular lawns. It makes them better for bagging too since the added weight from the grass build-up from within the bag will add to that superior traction. Conversely, when the bag is empty you’ll have to do a little pushing.
These are also ideal for mowing in straight lines and your cuts will be more even and precise thanks to their superior traction. As a caveat, rear-wheel-drive mowers are less maneuverable and you might have to disengage the drive when turning.
Front-Wheel Drive Mowers (FWD)
Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) mowers are best for flat and regular lawns and can easily change direction by pushing down on the handle to tip the mower on its rear wheels.
The average homeowner can comfortably settle for these provided that all the wheels can firmly touch the ground. This means they are a no-go for hilly or irregular terrains. For more of a hilly situation, look into these awesome lawn mowers for hills.
FWD’s aren’t that great for inclines, though. It’s because of all the weight being focused at the front.
All-Wheel Drive Mowers (AWD)
All-Wheel Drive (AWD) mowers are more balanced and achieve much greater traction than rear-wheelers but handle just like them (badly for tight turns) and they cost more.
Those are the basics. But if you’ve got a hankering for more about mower drive layouts, check out this really informative video:
What to Keep in Mind Before Buying a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
If you’re new to the scene, you’re probably asking: “What should I look for when buying a self-propelled lawnmower?” And it’s okay! We’ve all been new at something at one time or another.
The basic features you’ll want to look for are grass management (bagging, mulching, discharge), adjustable height, speed configuration, and cutting width, amongst others. Specific to electric start mowers are these options: Key start or button start.
Wide-Cut Self Propelled Lawn Mowers
If you’re looking for a machine that’ll mow your lawn and maybe those of some clients, you might consider going for a subcategory of self-propelled lawn mower called wide-area or wide-cut mowers. They are configured to have larger cutting decks with either a larger diameter blade or a dual-blade design.
These can cover an even larger area than your typical walk mower and can reach speeds of up to 6 miles per hour. You’re looking at riding-mower territory if you’re looking to go a step further than these.
With a bigger engine comes greater cutting power. Needless to say, weight increases as the engine power increases – at least for gas-powered mowers. Engine sizes can go upwards of 337cc but that’s for rugged, heavy-duty machines built for hacking down non-turf grass and weeds.
Consumer lawn mowers can be powered by small 125cc engines but can range between 140 to 190cc at the medium to the large end of the spectrum. Engine size influences a number of aspects and functions of the mower, so a larger engine means faster movement speed, stronger cutting power, and increased torque for better bagging.
If your mowing habits keep your lawn from going out of control between mowings, you can get away with a 140-160 cc mower easily. Just make sure you’ve set the optimal deck height and you’ll be fine.
Self-propelled lawn mowers are typically configured to have the same 7- to 8-inch diameter wheels but some are designed to have larger rear wheels of up to 12 inches in diameter. Larger rear wheels allow for more maneuverability, especially on uneven ground.
I’m typically biased towards larger rear wheels not only because they look meaner but also because they give me a better feeling of control over the machine.
Believe it or not, tires affect the overall result of your toils when mowing. The heavier the mower, the more likely it will leave tire marks on your freshly-mowed lawn. Consider mowers with tires that don’t have sharp treads or edges so it’ll eliminate the possibility of scarring the dirt and leaving brown streaks.
Speed Control and Speed Adjust
There’s no standard as to how a mower is supposed to accelerate but in this case, it’s a good thing because it leaves you with options. Some AWD mowers like those made by Toro use a push-bar system which lets you make granular adjustments to speed. Others use a trigger or squeeze handle system while others use a dial for making the thing go.
But are they all that different from one another? Actually, yes. For instance, if you were to share the mowing duties with another family member who has a different dominant hand, then the push-bar type is best so anyone can use it comfortably.
There are also options for controlling the speed of the mower. Some models like the Hayter Harrier are equipped with a lever-adjust system for setting mow speed while others simply idle at the same RPM when disengaged.
To adjust the deck or cutting height, mowers can use single, two, or four-lever systems. Cheaper lawn mowers have two or four-lever systems and result in a lighter overall design while those with single-lever systems are easier to adjust but are heavier because of the added components.
An example is Honda’s Versamow line which requires you to move a lever on each front wheel along a pivot that locks in place to allow for different heights.
You save some time with a single-lever system especially when you want to trim a portion of the lawn higher than the rest.
Stainless steel mower bodies are the most common and are cheaper in comparison to aluminum but the latter is much lighter and has a better overall feel in terms of quality. Aluminum is also less susceptible to corrosion than steel.
Those with plastic housings are also available. Some brands like Greenworks and Black and Decker use plastics to negate corrosion but have a cheaper feel to them. Plastic-bodied mowers are often super lightweight compared to those with steel or aluminum decks, making them easier to maneuver and to store.
Bagging, Mulching, or Discharge
Mowers share the same general bagging design while other models omit them completely in favor of mulching or some form of discharge system. The mower uses airflow generated by the blades to essentially vacuum the cut grass into the bag. You’ll typically want to empty the bag periodically as you mow because running it full will cause issues with clumps falling onto the lawn.
The bag allows air to flow past it, so keeping it dry will prevent any issues.
Mulching is a method of repeatedly cutting the grass into tiny clippings that decompose easily to feed the lawn. It’s a great option for when the grass hasn’t grown to astronomical proportions; you don’t have to bag the cuttings and your lawn has a compost layer to feed off of.
Another benefit of mulching is that it will protect the grass layer from the sun, thereby preventing them from drying out from the heat and allowing them to grow.
Most mowers allow you to simply discharge the cuttings. A common design has a discharge port or attachment at the side which allows the cuttings to blow out onto your lawn. Rear discharge is also an option; just remove the bag and make sure that the rear plastic hood is closed so the grass doesn’t blow up all in your face.
The best electric start self-propelled lawnmower is also one that you can easily pack away when you’re done. Consider the space you have on your shed. If your floor is packed but you’ve got wall space to spare, consider a mower than can be stowed vertically.
Lightweight mowers like electrics often have front guards which double as a carry handle and triple as a storage hook. Other designs forgo vertical storage capability and provide a more compact footprint.
Even if you’re not keen on maintenance, you really don’t have a choice because even the most “low maintenance” machines need some love every now and then. It just comes with owning property, I guess.
So that you don’t have to keep hearing it from me, have a glance at this article from Snapper for a rundown on self-propelled lawnmower maintenance. You’ll thank me later.
As for the electric start feature, some models rely on a separate battery that powers the starter. Needless to say, do make sure to keep the starter battery charged before mowing. Be wary of this since electric start batteries like those from Briggs & Stratton can only hold a charge that’s good for 20 starts so stay on top of that and it’ll save your bacon.
Electrics win out when it comes to maintenance. You don’t have to worry about replacing oil, gas, or keeping spare spark plugs. You do have to keep the mower clean after mowing, but that goes for any type of mower anyway.
Upgrading Your Mower Blades
I can appreciate the ability to upgrade some aspects of my mower even though I like to leave my machines stock for the most part. You can get third-party mulching blades that have those smaller angled blades at the back for more effective mulching. Blades like those by Oregon claim to be able to redistribute up to ⅔ of the mulched grass back onto the ground and the rest will be discharged.
Factor in the weight of the blade before buying. This isn’t a big deal for gas-powered mowers but blade weight can influence the performance of an electric mower in terms of power and endurance. Corded mowers should be able to handle that added weight, though.
If you don’t want to replace your mower blade, check out our article on some of the best lawn mower blade sharpeners to make your lawn mower purchase more cost-effective.
While there are a number of things to consider, one of the most important is probably the price range because you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor equipment. You’re looking at around the low $200 to high $800 range though ones with added features and luxuries tend to go higher.
Other Features Worth Looking For
Some mowers omit the rear wheels in favor of a rear roller design which provides superior traction, maneuverability, and doesn’t create those markings normally caused by wheels when you turn the mower around.
A welcome feature is the quick wash nozzle. It’s found in some Craftsman mowers and it’s basically a hose nozzle located at the top of the mower body where you hook up a standard diameter garden hose to clean the inside all without having to tip the mower sideways.
That’s it for features but for more information, here’s a handy (albeit biased) feature video about the basic features of a Honda mower released in 2019:
Some Disadvantages of Electric Start Self-Propelled Mowers
First up, let’s take a look at the electric part, separately.
It has to do with the limitation presented by using a battery to start the mower. You’re basically stuck waiting for the battery to charge up when you’re caught out with a drained one unless you have a backup ready. A bit of planning ahead should help with this as you can typically go weeks without charging the starter battery.
For electrics and gas mowers without alternative starting methods, you’re similarly stuck if the key or button fails. Thankfully, many of these components are covered by a warranty and aren’t all that likely to break.
As for the self-propelled part…
Even the best electric start self-propelled gas lawn mowers come with their drawbacks.
Gas mowers have stamina in spades but depending on the brand and model, they can sometimes go too fast on their own and you end up struggling to keep up. That may be something to ponder for the elderly who still want to maintain their own yard.
Battery life already comes at a premium when you’re looking at electric mowers. Add self-propelling into the mix and you’re looking at a drastic reduction in operating time.
Safety Considerations and Other Tips
I know you’re excited to try your new mower but bear with me for a few more minutes. Mowing safely includes wearing the right gear. Steel toe shoes, long pants, and safety glasses are a must. Clear the lawn of any children’s toys, debris, dead or live animals, and rocks before mowing.
Mow in the morning when the ground is damp but the grass is dry. This will prevent dust clouds from forming as you mow and keeps the bag dry so it doesn’t clog up.
It’s typically inadvisable to bag when the grass is wet because the moisture accumulates along the lining of the bag and impedes the airflow. Whenever this happens, hose off the bag, leave it to dry, and try again when the grass has dried. If you can’t be bothered to bag, try mulching or just discharging instead.
Who makes the most reliable self-propelled lawnmower?
The best answer to a very subjective question is: whoever is the most reputable brand and who has been around the longest. Reliability doesn’t really equate to efficiency, however. I tend to lean toward industry experts like Honda and Toro, but younger companies like Greenworks are pumping out some great options too.
Can self-propelled mowers be pulled backward?
For FWD mowers, yes. For RWD and AWD, only if you disengage the blades first. These mowers only move forward when transmitting power to the blades, so idling the mower should allow the wheels to freely move backward.
Which is better, rear or front propelled lawn mowers?
It depends on your lawn. RWD is better for inclines and hilly lawns while FWD is best for flat, turf-only terrain.
How long should a self-propelled lawn mower last?
With proper maintenance and care, yours should last 8 to 10 years. Remember that it’s an investment that you can keep running smoothly with the right tools and proper maintenance habits.
Are battery lawn mowers better than gas?
It depends on the size of your lawn. A battery version is great for average-sized suburban yards but you can go further with an extra battery pack and eco-friendly when combined with another green tech such as solar power for charging. I’d say battery mowers are considered perfect lawn mowers for small yards.
Gas is great for any sized lawn, provided you have gas reserves and it’s well-maintained.
Can you adjust the speed on a self-propelled lawn mower?
Yes, but check the owner’s manual since designs can vary between manufacturers and models. Some use a lever system while others have dials to lock in the speed. Push-bar configurations also exist, which operate much like airport trolleys but with a motor making it go.
To sum it all up, the best electric start self-propelled lawn mower to buy depends on your needs. Grab a wide-cut gas mower and go to town on your large yard. Get a narrower gas mower or even a cordless electric one if the lawn is small or the neighborhood is cramped and you don’t want to be inconsiderate with noise pollution.
The Lawn-Boy 17734 self-propelled lawn mower is my personal pick because it checks all the boxes without being prohibitively expensive. It’s not over-engineered and with its ample 21-inch diameter blade, it’ll help you keep your lawn looking (and your reputation as a homeowner) pristine for a long, long time.
If you’re interested in a battery mower but are stumped on which one to get, read my battery-powered lawn mower review for some insight.