Welcome to the rise of the machines!
We’re not talking about the average third Terminator movie, but rather the latest “cutting edge” advancements in lawnmowers (pun intended).
How much do you know about robot mower technology?
They’re certainly not cheap – for such a compact garden power tool – but are they worth the money?
In this article, we take a look at the robot mower vs ride on debate – and find out if we’re ready for the next generation in lawn care.
And if humans are being replaced…
…for mowing duties, at least!
- Robot vs Ride On – The Short Version
- Robot Mowers
- Ride On Mowers
- Robot Lawnmower or Ride On? – Head-to-Head
- Are Robot Lawnmowers Worth It?
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Robot vs Ride On – The Short Version
If you’re looking for a quick result to the robot mower vs ride on battle, without going into too much detail, then here you go:
The jury is out, with several key advantages to each, but they both have notable downsides, too.
I’m going to sit on the fence on this one – and let you decide after you’ve read the arguments for and against.
And don’t forget, they’re just two options when it comes to all the different types of lawnmowers – so follow that link if you’re still looking for the right one.
For that, you can always check out the informative video, below, which compares a Husqvarna ride on with a Husqvarna robot.
Isn’t technology wonderful? Autonomous mowers barely existed a decade ago, (although they have roots back in 1969), and now they’re springing up all over the place.
But how do they work?
Robot mowers will use on-board sensors to scan your property, and are powered with a rechargeable battery pack. Once you’ve set them up, you just let them go – and you never have to cut your grass again.
Theoretically, at least.
Some models require the installation of a boundary wire, to tell the device where it can and cannot mow. Newer units use satellite links to navigate the terrain and negotiate obstacles.
Most robot mowers will use a smartphone app, so you can have complete control over your lawn mowing schedule, and even mow manually if you choose.
They typically return to a “docking station” to recharge, and some can even power down when rain is detected, although be aware that features (and price) will vary significantly from model to model.
I believe it was a former UK Prime Minister who said; “he who rejects change is the architect of decay.”
But has the time come for robot lawn mowers? Are we ready for them? Let’s take a look at their pros and cons.
Robot Mower Advantages
- The most obvious robot mower advantage is that it does the mowing for you, leaving you time to do other things. They can even mow the lawn when you’re away from home.
- This can also be a major plus point if you’re not getting any younger, and/or you’re not as physically capable as you once were. (Aren’t we all?!) Robot mowers do the hard work for you.
- As mentioned above, a robot mower is extremely compact, which can save A LOT of storage space.
- And their size can help them fit into those hard-to-reach spaces you always struggle with. You can also try this article on the best lawnmowers for smaller yards which might help.
- Robot mowers require minimum maintenance, and their overall low operating costs over time are a very attractive bonus for many homeowners.
- Robot mowers have zero emissions, and quiet operation – which means mowing can take place at abnormal mowing hours – if required.
- They’re compact and lightweight, which means they won’t damage the surface of your lawn.
Robot Mower Disadvantages
- At the time of writing, robot mowers are still expensive, and even for a basic model you’re not going to get much change out of $1000.
- While their size is obviously beneficial for saving on storage space, it’s not that great when it comes to cutting width. Some mowers can take a very long time to complete a yard – particularly if it’s on the larger side.
- As such, for some, a robot mower might be in almost continuous operation from March through November – which I personally find to be a bizarre thought.
- They’re also extremely slow – or, at least, appear to be. Check out some videos of robot mowers – they’re certainly not going to win any races, that’s for sure.
- Initial setup can be a very steep learning curve – not to mention the time and effort it takes to establish the boundary wire if required. Technophobes beware!
- They can easily miss sections of your lawn – especially if your yard is an odd shape – and simply can’t replace your awareness and knowledge of your garden.
- If it breaks – for whatever reason – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to repair it yourself.
- Robot mowers aren’t capable of cleaning debris from your lawn.
- Nor are they capable of striping a lawn.
- There’s very little to stop light fingers from stealing your expensive new toy, unless you’re locking it up after every mow – which kind of defeats the purpose. This means they’re probably not the best option for street-facing front yards, and you’ll still need another mower, anyway.
- Robot mowers don’t care about wildlife, because they can’t distinguish between animals, insects, and grass. As such, they can pose a danger to helpful critters in your yard.
- And if you have pets, I’d be very careful about allowing a robot mower to slice through dog poop…
Ride On Mowers
Most of us will be more familiar with the sight of ride on mowers every growing season – particularly anyone who has larger properties to maintain.
And even with moderate-sized lawns, they can be used to save a lot of time and effort. Several of my neighbors use them – especially if they happen to have a corner plot.
As such, they need little by way of introduction. Although, if you want to take a look at these awesome commercial zero-turn mowers, you can see how far ride on machines have come.
Let’s take a look at the ride on mower’s plus points – and the downsides, too.
Ride On Mower Advantages
- Tried and tested, you know where you stand with a good ride on mower. These machines have been workhorses for years, and are (usually) very dependable.
- When it comes to efficiency, ride on mowers can complete a large area in a relatively short space of time.
- And speaking of area, there’s no real limitations when it comes to cutting range with a ride on. So long as there’s gas in the tank – you can keep on truckin’.
- Ride on mowers are versatile machines, and they can be kitted out with any number of additional tools or pieces of equipment, such as tow-behind spreaders, sprayers, lawn aerators, and dump carts – to name a few.
- Vacuuming, mulching, bagging, and side-discharge options are all available with a ride on. It’ll make short work of those leaves on your lawn.
- Striping kits are available for ride on mowers – if you want to turn your yard into a baseball field.
- And while regular maintenance is one of the disadvantages (more on this below), they can usually be repaired easily, by anyone who even vaguely knows what they’re doing.
Ride On Mower Disadvantages
- You can see the main disadvantage of a ride on mower just by looking at one. They take up a significant amount of storage space.
- Operating costs are also high, with fuel, oil, and maintenance making a regular dent in the wallet. This will seriously add up over the years.
- Then there’s the fact that you actually have to be there to operate it. Ride on mowers aren’t autonomous, so you need to set aside time to cut the grass.
- They’re not the best for the environment, either, with noise pollution, and smelly gas emissions that can be hazardous to owners and operators. Not to mention, how civil your neighbors are.
- Did I mention noise pollution? These things are LOUD.
Robot Lawnmower or Ride On? – Head-to-Head
I think the differences between the two mowers are fairly self-explanatory, but it’s worth highlighting what I think are the four main battlegrounds when comparing them head-to-head.
As always with the latest technology, robot mowers are, for the most part, exorbitantly expensive.
But then again, for a good quality ride on mower, you’re probably going to be paying something similar, and more in many cases.
Winner – Robot mower.
This is a no-brainer. I imagine that even the folks with the space to store a ride on mower would rather it be the size of a robot version.
You can keep the thing under your bed – if for some reason you wanted to, like a little electronic pet.
Winner – Robot mower.
This is a tough one. On one hand, you have a machine that can speed cut a large yard in a respectable time – but you need to be there to do it.
And on the other, you have a device that will take an age to get around the lawn – but is fully autonomous, and will never allow the grass to grow higher than you program it.
However, when you think about what else a ride on mower can do, and how much faster it’s going to do it, there’s really no contest here – especially with such a significantly larger width of cutting deck.
Winner – Ride on mower.
In my experience, engines need more maintenance – but most people can do it themselves if push comes to shove. Electronics might be more reliable initially, but if they break, then you’re all outta luck.
If a ride on mower doesn’t start, I reckon I could tinker around, watch a couple of how-to videos, and get it ticking over again.
If a robot mower doesn’t start – I’m sending it back, possibly losing money in the process, and having to revert to an “old-school” lawnmower anyway.
Winner – Ride on mower.
My scorecard has that at a dead heat, but we could probably argue about it until the cows come home. In the end, I suppose it comes down to one, big question:
Are Robot Lawnmowers Worth It?
If you have a small to medium-sized yard, you’re short on storage space, you can afford the initial high price, and you absolutely despise mowing, then I would say a robot mower is 100% worth it.
Their quiet operation shouldn’t be overlooked, either – especially when compared to the roaring beast engine of a ride on.
But the simple fact that you won’t ever have to mow again is worth its weight in gold.
I still think that ride on mowers have a place in the world – especially if you’re going to use the machines for other purposes, and/or you have a much larger property to cover.
If you’re not convinced by either, you can always click this link on push mowers vs self-propelled models, for another article in this series that pits mowers against mowers to find out which will work best for you.
And don’t forget to check this article for a guide to all the other essential lawn care tools you need to keep your yard the envy of the neighborhood.
I’m going to preface my FAQ section for the first time, because in researching this article, it’s clear that robot mowers are still something of an unknown quantity – certainly compared with a ride on.
This is just a small sample of the many questions that are currently bouncing around the internet – and I feel will be for some time.
Can a robot mower cut long grass?
Yes and no. Depending on the model, it might struggle with grass higher than a few inches – certainly when compared to a ride on mower.
But you should bear in mind that once the grass has been cut – it will never be allowed to get long again. The robot mower will stay on top of its duties.
Check out this article on how to mow tall grass if this is a concern for you.
Can a robot mower do hills?
Yes, they can. In fact, a robot mower is far safer than a ride on for tackling hills with a gradient of more than 15 degrees.
However, bear in mind that their coverage on a single charge will be less if they need to tackle such slopes, and you might want to check out this review of the best ride on mowers for rough terrain, instead.
Do robot mowers work in the rain?
How much rain are we talking about here? I believe some can operate in the rain, while others power off when a downpour is detected. The question is – why would you want it to continue?
This article on mowing a wet lawn is advisable if you can’t possibly avoid cutting your grass when it’s damp.
How much area can a robot mower cover?
Again, it depends on the model, but I think there are some devices that can cover up to 1.5 acres. In any case – not as much as ride on, is the answer.
In the battle between the robot mower vs ride on, who comes out on top?
If you’ve got the money, it might be worth giving the new tech a go – but there’s something comforting about tried and tested products that work.
I don’t think ride on mowers and humans are obsolete just yet!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Stay safe out there, and happy mowing!