Interested in whether a reel mower could be the right choice for you and your lawn? You’ve come to the right place.
There are so many benefits to reel mowers that you may not have realized and I’m going to tell you what they are!
But just so you know what you’re getting yourself into, I’m going to explain some of the drawbacks as well.
- What is a Reel Mower?
- Benefits of a Reel Mower
- Disadvantages of a Reel Mower
- So Are They Worth It?
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What is a Reel Mower?
You’ve probably seen them around. Whether it be someone in your neighborhood using one or someone in a movie.
You know, those old-school metal push mowers with no motor?
Yep, a reel mower is a manual mower that functions by turning a blade as you push it. The turning action actually cuts the grass in a similar way to scissors.
If you’re a visual person and want to see this explained, have a look at this video.
Benefits of a Reel Mower
Reel mowers have come a long way since the days of our grandparents. They’re no longer the heavy, clunky, back-breaking machines they once were (well, some might still be – but for the most part they’ve improved).
So what are the benefits of using a manual reel mower over a gas-powered beast?
If you imagine the difference between cutting your hair with a pair of scissors versus a strimmer, you’ll have a reasonable idea of what a regular lawn mower does to your grass when compared to a reel mower.
Since a reel mower cuts your lawn more like a pair of scissors, each blade of grass gets a trim with a nice clean cut rather than the rough shred of a gas-powered mower. This means that the grass heals quickly and isn’t left with the grass equivalent of an open wound that could be vulnerable to pests and disease.
Reel mowers are nice and quiet to use since they don’t have a motor.
This is a massive plus if you appreciate living in a quiet neighborhood, want to cut your grass at odd hours, or just don’t want to have to experience the anti-social roar of a gas-powered mower.
You won’t need to use ear muffs either!
No Air Pollution
This is a big one. Motored lawn mowers are terrible when it comes to the pollution they produce. They’re actually far worse than a regular car.
How much worse?
Well, running a lawnmower for an hour produces as much air pollution as a new car would driving over 300 miles! That’s a lot of pollution! Removing that from your environment is better for everyone.
Minimal Maintenance or Parts to Break
Maintaining a reel mower is a piece of cake. There’s no engine to worry about and the moving parts are pretty simple. You’ll need to sharpen the blades every now and then but some folks enjoy this.
Aside from that, you have a very low-maintenance piece of lawn equipment that won’t laugh at you when you try to start it on a cold morning.
You could argue that pushing a regular lawnmower is also exercise, but regardless of how improved today’s reel mowers are compared to those of yesteryear, you’ll still need to put in a bit of muscle to get a good push going.
You’ll work out more of your body than if you’d just gone for a walk, and you’ll end up with a beautiful lawn as a bonus!
Due to their simple design and lack of motor, manual reel mowers are much more affordable than their gas powered equivalents.
While a gas or electric-powered mower could set you back multiple hundreds, you can set yourself up with a decent reel mower for under $100.
Make for a Good Looking Lawn
The nice clean cut that we talked about earlier makes for a tidier job and a better-looking lawn. You’ll have the professional look you didn’t even realize was possible with the humble reel mower.
Not having an engine means a manual push mower is much, much safer than your regular lawnmower. If you trip or lose control of the mower in any way, it will stop and wait for you right where you left it without continuing on its way, leaving a path of destruction behind it.
This is especially relevant if you’re mowing a slope and super important if you have a family with young children. Nearly 10,000 children are injured by lawn mowers every year in the U.S., many of whom end up having to have a limb amputated. That’s a horrifying statistic.
You can make sure that yours isn’t one of them by using a reel mower.
Clippings Serve as Natural Fertilizer
The grass clippings are spread evenly over your lawn as you cut, so they’re not really noticeable, they don’t clump up, and they break down quickly, serving as a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
This means less effort emptying out a catcher and less time fertilizing your lawn!
They Can Cut Wet Grass
While it’s best practice to avoid mowing your lawn when it’s wet, this isn’t such an issue with a reel mower. It might take a bit more energy, but you can cut wet grass with a reel mower.
Disadvantages of a Reel Mower
Regardless of the positives, there are a few cons to manual push mowers that are worth bearing in mind. Most of them are more related to your individual situation so it will likely be your lawn that will decide rather than you!
You Can’t Save the Clippings
Some reel mowers come with a catcher, but they’re not super good at their job and most reel mower users prefer to let the clippings be dispersed naturally over the lawn.
As you don’t get the clumps of clippings that are common with powered mowers, this shouldn’t really be an issue, it just means that if you were hoping to compost it or use it for mulch elsewhere in your garden, you probably won’t be able to.
Not Suitable for Larger Lawns
Reel mowers are better suited to smaller lawns, but this is more of a personal choice. If you’re fit and determined and have time on your hands, the sky is your limit as to what you can mow with a reel mower.
If you’re looking for other options for a small yard, this guide to the best lawn mowers for small yards is worth a read.
Doesn’t Handle Bumpy Ground, Rocks, or Long Grass
If you have a relatively unmaintained lawn with uneven ground, obstacles like rocks or long, thick grass, the reel mower may not be your friend. You’ll have to set it to a higher mowing height and then likely go back with another tool to tidy up the bits that the reel mower missed.
Maybe you thought your lawn was well maintained and now you’re realizing that actually, you need some new habits? Never fear! Take on board some helpful lawn mowing tips and get your lawn where you want it to be, then it might just be the perfect candidate for a reel mower.
Better Suited to Finer Grass Varieties
Some reel mowers are better able to cope with thicker grass varieties than others. But, generally speaking, thick grasses like Bermuda grass are not ideal partners for a reel mower.
So Are They Worth It?
My personal opinion is a resounding YES. But as mentioned above, it might be your lawn that decides for you. Whether or not a reel mower is going to be a reasonable option will depend on the size and type of lawn you have and how well maintained it has been.
But if you tick the right boxes, a reel mower is an excellent investment in your yard care toolbox in more ways than one.
If you’re not convinced and think that a different mower might be what you’re after, check out the different options available in this guide to different lawnmowers. One of the things you certainly want to know is if your lawn size suits a reel mower. At some point, you might want to take a look at the best commercial zero-turn mowers, that will make the job so much easier.
What do you think? Are they worth it? Do you use a reel mower? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and let me know what you think!