5 Reasons to Switch to a Reel Mower Vs. a Gas Mower (or Electric)

Whether moving into your first house or replacing an older lawn mower, you’ve probably been debating how you’re going to cut your lawn this year. Having used both push reel mowers and gasoline powered mowers, the two offer completely different experiences. In fact, I just switched to a Fiskars push reel mower.

I can tell you, without hesitation, I prefer the push reel mower versus a gas mower. Here are 5 great benefits that push reel mowers have over gas powered mowers (as well as some caveats to be aware of if you make the switch).

reel mower vs gas

1. Push Reel Mowers are Cheaper than Gas Powered or Electric

Push reel mowers range in price from $80 to $200. Most are below $125. Gas powered mowers are generally $500+ and some of the more advanced self-propelled gas mower models can be as pricey as $1,000. Electric mowers range from $500 to $700+ for self-propelled versions.

But initial price is not where the costs end. With gasoline, over $4 a gallon, you can expect to pay a significant amount every year for fuel. You will also have to pay for oil to change the oil (and learn how to do that). With electric, you obviously have to pay for electricity and for replacement batteries at some point.

Not only that, but neither gas-powered or electric mowers will last as long as reel mowers. Push reel are cheap due to their simplicity. A lot can go wrong with a gas-powered mower or electric mower – and the motors will eventually die (you will too, but then you won’t need a mower, will you?). The only maintenance cost with a push reel is sharpening it every few years, which you can often times do at home very easily with a $30 kit. There is not much that can go wrong with a reel mower.

2. Push Reel Mowers are MUCH More Environmentally Friendly

Think of the positive environmental impact that would result in everyone driving a bike to and from work vs. driving a Hummer. Everyone switching from a gas-powered mower to a push reel would have no less of an impact.

According to the California Resources Board,

Today, operating a commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving a new light-duty passenger car about 300 miles.

I believe it. Have you ever smelled your clothes after a lawn-mowing session? Lawn mowers don’t have the same strict pollution controls in place as automobiles. And smaller engines lawn care devices like leaf blowers are even worse.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of gallons of gas burned into the air, the EPA has estimated that 17 million gallons of fuel are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That’s more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez. Not only does this result in groundwater contamination, but spilled fuel evaporates into the air and volatile organic compounds produce smog-forming ozone when combined with heat and sunlight.

3. Reel Mowers Require Less Maintenance than a Gas Mower

I alluded to maintenance with price, but there’s also a time saving component that goes into it. No driving to the gas station and back when you run out of gas. No oil changes, and no spark plug changing. You may have to sharpen the blades every few years with a push reel, but you have to sharpen or change blades on gas mowers as well.

Push reel mowers are simpler and easier to maintain.

They also fit in a garage or shed much more easily than a gas or electric powered mower.

4. Reel Mowers Offer Peace and Quiet

With a push reel mower you can mow whenever you want without disturbing the neighbors. That includes morning or night when it’s typically cooler and healthier for you and the grass.

You can hear birds singing and neighbors when they walk by to say hi. And you don’t feel like that tingling in your arms like they have just been working a jackhammer.

Using a push reel mower is a pleasant and calming experience. Just what outdoor gardening should be.

5. The Cool Factor

There is not a neighbor that has walked by my house who uses a gas-powered mower that doesn’t stop to ask me questions with curiosity. First, they notice how well the mower cuts. Then they appreciate how quiet and peaceful the experience looks in comparison to a gas mower experience. Then they realize how much healthier it is for them and their lawn.

Somewhere along the way, Americans were convinced that gas-powered mowers were superior to push reel. Maybe they were at one point. But push reel mowers are a lot more advanced these days. It only takes a few trendsetters in a neighborhood to make the whole neighborhood realize it – cutting down the air, ground, and noise pollution for everyone. Why not be the trendsetter?

Reel Mower Caveats

I’ve painted a pretty rosy picture here, but there are a few things you should be aware of, if you are going to make the move to a push reel mower.

– Find a mower that cuts up to 3 inches or more. I moved from a Brill push reel mower to the new Fiskars push reel mower (seen below), which allows you to cut up to 4 inches. The Brill, and many other reel mowers only let you cut up to 2 inches max. I like to grow my grass longer so that I don’t have to water it as much. It’s much healthier for your lawn.

reel mower

– You can’t let the grass get too long, particularly if yours cuts up to a short max length. Otherwise it becomes difficult to mow. I’ve also heard that some weeds and very hardy grass varieties are very difficult to mow with a push reel. It’s something to be aware of. You may want to test out a neighbors push reel on your grass before buying (if their blades are sharp).

– Read reviews pretty thoroughly. Not all reel mowers are made made the same. Scotts, American, and Fiskars have the best reviews.

– You may have to go over some areas twice. Some people tout this as a big negative with push reels. I don’t think it is at all. We’ve probably all pushed a gas-powered mower at one time or another. It’s a hellish experience. Especially if you have hills. Pushing a 150 lb. beast up a 45 degree incline or even on flat ground is not easy. So from an energy exertion standpoint, you’re probably break even. As long as you keep your blades sharp, that is (very important).

– Not convinced that a push reel mower is right for you? If you’re looking for something lighter or with a little less ongoing maintenance than gas, check out the Greenworks and E-Go electric mower lineups. Electric mowers are not as environmentally friendly as reel mowers, but still are a big step up over a filthy, heavy, loud, high-maintenance gas mower.

Push Reel vs. Gas Mower Discussion:

  • Have you made the move to a push reel mower?
  • What model did you purchase and what where your thoughts on the experience?
  • Why are you sticking with a gas powered mower?

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