Clearing fallen leaves, decaying plant material, grass clippings, twigs, and branches can all add to your seasonal work load.
But with the right tools and equipment – it doesn’t need to be backbreaking.
In this article, I take a look at the lawn sweeper vs lawn bagger debate.
Which is better for tidying your yard? How are they different? Do they actually work? And what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned rake?!
Read on to find out if you need one of these machines in your arsenal of autumnal garden tools.
- Lawn Sweeper or Lawn Bagger? Too Long, Didn’t Read
- What is a Lawn Sweeper?
- What is a Lawn Bagger?
- Factors Affecting Choice
- Lawn Sweepers vs Lawn Baggers – Head-to-Head
- Is a bagger or a lawn sweeper better?
- Do lawn sweepers actually work?
- Can you use a lawn sweeper while mowing?
- Do lawn mower baggers work?
- Will a bagger pick up leaves?
- What should I look for when buying a lawn sweeper?
- When should you use a lawn sweeper?
- Will a lawn sweeper pick up thatch?
- Is a bagger necessary?
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you shop through the links on YardThyme, we may earn an affiliate's commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information, read full disclosure here.
Lawn Sweeper or Lawn Bagger? Too Long, Didn’t Read
If you just can’t wait to get out there and clean up, here’s this article’s main points in summary.
I’ll be taking a look at:
- The differences between sweepers and baggers.
- Factors affecting your choice of tool.
- Which option is better – head-to-head.
- An FAQ section – for anything we might have missed.
In short, a lawn sweeper is an independent tool designed to clear your yard of debris, not too dissimilar from a vacuum cleaner.
By contrast, a lawn bagger is used in conjunction with a lawnmower, as an accessory that collects grass clippings and other material.
I highly recommend you stick around as we explore sweepers and baggers in more detail, including tips and tricks on how to use them, and finding out which option is best for your needs.
What is a Lawn Sweeper?
Lawn sweepers are mechanical tools that are used to remove any excess waste that is scattered on your lawn. They can come as manual versions such as the Earthwise LSW70021, tow-behind versions, electrical and gas-powered versions too, each one offering a different range of efficiency.
This tool can sweep up anything from pine needles, leaves, twigs, and grass-clippings – basically anything that needs to be cleared from the area!
There are so many variations of lawn sweepers that are optimal for different jobs – from sweeping litter from pavements to collecting plain grass-clippings.
This easy-to-use tool collects lawn debris using a rotating brush with soft bristles under its deck which deposits them into an attached bag to be thrown away. The brush is specially made with these soft brushes to avoid any damage to your grass.
This is an all-around great tool to use!
Sweepers are more preferable for larger garden spaces, around one acre or more, as they can get the job done faster with less work from you.
However, the size of your sweeper will want to coincide with the size of your yard, so getting a big sweeper for a yard less than an acre might not be advantageous for you as it would be a strain to navigate around the corners of small spaces.
Usually, lawn sweepers will offer a larger hamper size as they are preferable for larger spaced gardens and more heavy-duty debris. The size of your hopper – the bagging area of your lawn sweeper – is measured in cubic feet.
For smaller yards, a 12-cubic foot hopper is suitable and for a larger garden, a 26-cubic foot hopper will be enough.
Lawn sweepers offer more in terms of strength as this tool can manage heavy-duty debris as well as just simple lawn clippings. Furthermore, the lawn sweeper comes in different varieties based on the needs of the user such as on pavement, grass-clippings, and rough terrain.
For a guide on how to choose the right lawn sweeper for your needs, read this article, here!
What is a Lawn Bagger?
Rather than a tool itself, a lawn bagger is an accessory that can be attached to the back or sometimes side of a lawnmower as part of a debris collection system.
They aren’t powered, not do they have any mechanical or moving parts – like that of a lawn sweeper.
Instead, they rely on the airflow created by the lawnmower’s motor and blade, which lifts material from the ground, and forces it back into the collection unit.
Lawn baggers are commonly available as attachments for either zero-turn mowers or riding mowers; as well as regular push/walk behind machines.
But did you know that many people are using the wrong type of mower for their yard?
Here’s an example – there’s a guy down the end of my street trying to mow a huge plot with a small battery mower!
And a few doors across, there’s a woman who uses a ride-on machine for a relatively tiny patch of grass!
I think the two of them need to swap machines, don’t you?
Check out this article for an in-depth guide to all the different types of lawnmowers you can use, and make sure you’re using the right tool for your lawn.
The benefits of lawn baggers are that they come in a variety of sizes, therefore suitable for practically all garden sizes.
Regular commercial lawnmowers generally have lawn baggers attached and are around 18 gallons and are great for smaller gardens with little grass-clippings to collect.
It doesn’t stop there – lawn baggers can reach a size of a whopping 54-cubic feet, check out this huge bagger, below! This bagger is suitable for large acreage gardens and can be attached to the back of a riding mower or zero-turn mower.
Factors Affecting Choice
Whilst both lawn sweepers and baggers both do very similar things, there are a few key differences that can impact how well they perform.
Before purchasing either a lawn sweeper or a lawn bagger, there are three considerations to make that will affect your decision.
How Big is Your Lawn?
The size of your lawn space is a critical thing to consider when buying either a lawn bagger or sweeper.
If your lawn is smaller in size and only takes about half an hour or so to mow, then a bagger would be the better choice as it can still collect all types of smaller debris during the mowing process.
The main issue with smaller lawn baggers is that you will likely have to stop working to empty it a few times. This is why it’s not particularly suitable for larger yards and gardens.
Unless, of course, you’re using an industrial-sized bagger with a riding lawnmower.
If your yard space is one acre or more then a lawn sweeper might be the better choice for you.
To pick up debris that covers a larger space, a lawn sweeper is the best tool for the job! Tow-behind lawn sweepers that attach to your tractor can hold more material so can easily be used for large-spaced gardens.
Will Your Grass be Wet?
As far as conditions for yard work go, having wet grass and soaking leaves is arguably the furthest from ideal. It’s always better to wait until everything is as dry as possible.
But if you have no choice but to clean up a damp yard, is a lawn sweeper or a lawn bagger better?
In truth, there’s not a great deal of difference, as almost any tool is going to struggle in these conditions.
But I would say a lawn sweeper edges it, as it’s more capable of collecting clumps of wet grass, and easier to maintain and clear when required.
On the other hand, a bagger and mower will both labor in this department, and they’re notorious for clogging up if used in wet conditions.
Check out this article on top tips for mowing wet grass – the first of which is: don’t do it unless absolutely necessary!
Go inside, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and wait for the sun to do its thing. (Unless, of course, you live in the Pacific NorthWest, in which case you have my sympathies!)
And while you’re enjoying a well-deserved break, you can watch the video below for some tips and tricks for preventing a lawn bagger from clogging in the first place.
Type and Volume of Debris
When choosing between a lawn sweeper and a lawn bagger, you should take into consideration the kind of work you need it to do.
Namely – what type of debris and material is it going to attempt to pick up?
For riding lawn mowers, a heavy-duty bagger system should be picking up just about anything you drive over.
Likewise, a heavy-duty sweeper should be capable of a similar performance.
But there are question marks over both systems when it comes to smaller debris, such as pine needles.
And when it comes to material volume, obviously the larger the bagger or sweeper, the more debris you’ll be able to collect.
The amount of material your lawn-clearing method of choice is capable of hoovering up is determined by two main factors:
- How large the hopper(s) is/are.
- How wide the opening of the sweeper, or the size of your mower deck.
But there’s also an additional factor.
How much material it can retain.
Lawn baggers are closed units. Once the material is in there – it stays in there until you empty it out.
Lawn sweepers, by contrast, typically have open hoppers, and material and debris can easily fall or blow out – particularly if you’re running over uneven terrain, and/or on windy days.
The choice really comes down to user preference and efficiency.
For argument’s sake, we’re talking about lawn sweepers and baggers that are attached to a riding lawnmower, tractor, or similar vehicle.
Walk behind tools are fairly straightforward to maneuver – regardless of whether you’re using a dedicated sweeper, or a bagger attached to your push mower.
Folks who regularly use tractors will tell you that a pull behind lawn sweeper isn’t going to be as maneuverable as a bagger that’s fixed to the back of your machine.
With a sweeper, you’re effectively pulling a trailer – which can be challenging when it comes to reversing, or negotiating tight spaces.
A bagger, on the other hand, is basically an extension of your lawnmower, and can be much easier to control as a result.
If maneuverability is a concern, then a lawn bagger is probably the better choice for you.
Another difference between lawn baggers and lawn sweepers is how you remove and deposit the waste collected.
With heavy-duty baggers, you typically lift the cover, unhitch the hoppers on the back of your tractor or mower, and dump out the contents.
With a heavy-duty sweeper, there’s often a pulley that tips the hopper, and allows you to dump the waste without the need to remove any collection basket.
For smaller units, like walk behind sweepers and mowers with baggers, emptying collected material is much the same.
So, which is better?
The answer to that is entirely down to personal preference, although the sweeper is arguably the easier of the two – at least when comparing manual effort.
Regardless of which method you choose, I hope you’re all using the material for compost. Turn that yard waste into black gold, and save yourself some money while you’re at it.
Read about how you can use yard waste to create your own DIY lawn food, for starters!
Another important consideration when it comes to choosing just about any large tool or accessory – is the one that is often overlooked.
How much storage space do you have, and/or how are you going to store it?
Trust me – I’ve nearly added a few tools and machines to cart before realizing I actually don’t have anywhere to put them!
For the most part, lawn sweepers are going to take up more space than baggers.
However, most decent sweepers have the option of being folded down to a smaller profile, which will take up less space in your shed or garage.
And some might come with hardware for attaching it to a wall.
Either way, consider where and how you’re going to store the tool before making a purchase – which will save you a headache after the job is done.
Finally, your choice of bagger or sweeper might come down to how much either unit costs.
For walk behind options, you will likely already own a lawnmower that came with a bagger as part of its set of accessories.
In that case, purchasing a lawn sweeper is going to be an additional expense, and you probably won’t find one that’s under $100 these days.
For heavy-duty yard maintenance using a vehicle, baggers and sweepers come in at comparable prices – although baggers are probably the more expensive overall.
You’re looking at the $350-$600 mark, depending on the size and quality of the product.
Lawn Sweepers vs Lawn Baggers – Head-to-Head
So, after all that, which one is actually best?
A lawn sweeper or lawn bagger?
Well, to be honest, most of the time it’s going to come down to personal preference. There are some folks who swear by their baggers, and others who much prefer their sweepers.
To help you finally decide, here’s an at-a-glance list of the pros and cons of each.
Of course, this is a broad analysis, and there might be variable advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of bagger or sweeper you’re using.
Lawn Sweeper Pros
- Wide choice of sizes available.
- Can pick up litter.
- Designed specifically to lift material.
- Can be used in wet conditions.
- Capable of picking up a variety of debris.
Lawn Sweeper Cons
- Material and debris can fall or be blown out.
- Variable results on uneven terrain.
- Takes up extra storage space.
- Can require additional maintenance.
Lawn Bagger Pros
- Used simultaneously while cutting grass.
- Clippings stay in the hopper until emptied.
- Wide choice of sizes available.
- Easier to maneuver.
- Little or no maintenance required.
Lawn Bagger Cons
- Not suitable on wet ground.
- Can clog easily.
- Unable to pick up litter.
- Can be limited to lifting leaves and grass.
Finally, as promised, here’s a comparison with the humble garden rake and a bit of elbow grease!
Garden Rake Pros
- Highly versatile.
- Should last a lifetime.
- No maintenance required.
- Easy to store.
- You’ve already got one.
Garden Rake Cons
- Can be monstrously hard work.
- Almost useless for large yards and gardens.
- Small volume-to-effort cleaning ratio.
Garden rakes will always have a place in our sheds and garages – but I don’t particularly look forward to using them on the mountain of leaves each year!
Maybe I can purchase a good lawn sweeper without the wife realizing…?
Is a bagger or a lawn sweeper better?
It depends on a number of factors, including how large your yard is, the conditions in which you’re working, what you want to pick up, and cost.
I don’t believe that one is better than the other, and it will come down to personal preference, and your own circumstances.
Do lawn sweepers actually work?
Great question. And to be honest – the jury is still out.
Take a look at the reviews for any lawn sweeper, and you’ll see a polarizing response. Put simply, they work for some people, but they don’t for others.
I think it largely depends on the type of yard you have – the evenness of the terrain, and the material you’re trying to pick up.
Consider these factors with care when making a decision.
Can you use a lawn sweeper while mowing?
Yes, I don’t see why not – providing, of course, you’re talking about a tow-behind lawn sweeper for your ride-on mower.
In fact, this might be a very effective way of clearing your lawn, and mowing at the same time. Check out the video below for a great example of this technique in practice.
However, you might find that it’s challenging to maneuver, and adds to your work load when it comes to the stop-start process of emptying a full hopper.
Do lawn mower baggers work?
Yes. Although they arguably don’t collect as much material as a dedicated lawn sweeper that uses brushes to gather material.
Will a bagger pick up leaves?
Yes. Unless they’re particularly wet, of course. Lawnmower baggers are notorious for failing in damp conditions, and can clog easily.
What should I look for when buying a lawn sweeper?
I would say the following factors are most important:
- Tow behind or push?
- Gas or mechanical?
- The size of the sweeper – how much ground it can cover in one pass.
- The volume of the hopper – how much material it can hold before it needs to be emptied.
- The overall quality and durability of the machine.
When should you use a lawn sweeper?
A lawn sweeper (like a bagger) can be used at just about any time of year.
However, it’s most common to see them out during the fall, when nature decides to blanket our yards and gardens with leaves.
Still, anytime you see debris on your lawn, feel free to bring the sweeper out to take care of it. Its use is not solely restricted to a certain time of year.
Will a lawn sweeper pick up thatch?
Providing the thatch has already been raked up, then yes, a lawn sweeper will pick up thatch.
But if you’re thinking it will do the same job as a dethatching machine, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck.
For that, you’ll need one of these dedicated tools for the job – and don’t forget to check out our complete guide to dethatching your lawn while you’re at it.
Is a bagger necessary?
No. You don’t need to have a bagger attached to your lawnmower. I don’t use one when I’m mowing my lawn, because I prefer to mulch instead.
And thanks to the giant tree in our relatively small yard, our fall leaf problem is far too extreme for a small lawnmower and bag to handle.
However, they can still be extremely useful for clearing yard waste when using your mower like a vacuum cleaner – and/or if you have a larger property and a more heavy-duty bagger and vehicle.
Lawn baggers and lawn sweepers are both really good considerations when you’re tired of using the rake to clear leaves and other material from your lawn.
The choice is up to you:
If you have a smaller yard and a riding mower, or zero turn mower then a lawn bagger might be better for you. If you only want to pick up smaller waste and in a shorter time frame then a bagger is great, it is also great for storage as well!
You should invest in a lawn sweeper if you want to cover a larger area of space, have a bigger garden and more invasive material to collect. The lawn sweeper is great for those who want to invest in something that can be used for a wide variety of uses and if you don’t mind having a separate tool to use after you mow.
What do you think? Would you prefer a lawn bagger or a lawn sweeper, let me know in the comments!