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 vs. other alternatives. 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).
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 $200+ and some of the more advanced push models can be as pricey as $500. Electric range from $300 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 $25 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 one study, one hour of gas-powered lawn mower use can produce as much pollution as a 300 mile car trip. 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.
On top of that, 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.
Anyone who has ever used a gas mower knows that you come away from using it smelling like gas fumes for the rest of the day. Those fumes are going right in your lungs.
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 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.
– 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 E-Go cordless electric mower. Not as environmentally friendly, but still 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?
Totally agree that push reel mowers are the way to go. I have similar issues with thicker blades of grass and sometimes having to mow the same area twice, but the peace of mind I get from not polluting the environment and the enjoyment of hearing birds singing while working outdoors is well worth it to me.
I have a small yard and used to have a company mow it. I decided I could save a little cash by doing it myself and why not go green. So I got a reel mower along with a battery operated trimmer/blower/hedge trimmer.
I spent the same on the equipment as one year worth of service (I had a cheap lawn service). However, the 15 minutes it takes to do my yard is enjoyable. Since I have electric stuff with the reel mower, I don’t smell like 2 stroke engine afterwards.
There is one area where a reel mower does fail. It does not cut stuff that is not grass. That includes sticks, mulch that might be in the yard. I have some mulch every now and then. It just stops the mower from turning and I have to pull it out. So if you have a lot of trees or stuff in your yard, it might be more of pain.
Nice write-up. I published a reel mower article on May 9, from a somewhat different perspective. Let me know what you think.
Where is the article?
I have a lot of weeds right now, but this is definitely something I would look into once my lawn is more manageable. Quite honestly, I never wouldve considered a push reel mower prior to reading this.
A little over a year ago I bought the Scotts 20in classic. I bought it off season for $80. I had never used a reel mower before and I was considering an electric mower. I have a very small lawn at 400 sq ft. so I decided to opt for the simpler and cheaper solution. I’m really glad I did. I was afraid to touch the gas mower we used to have. It needed regular maintenance and I always wondered whether it would start or not. My husband would spend more time trying to start it than he would mowing. Then we would have to clean up after it blew grass clippings everywhere and all over us.
Now with my reel mower not only do I enjoy the quiet and easy maintenance, but it is much safer. I was afraid to touch the other mower, and now I do all the yard work myself, joyfully. I also have a 1 yr old son running around the yard and the reel mower is much safer for all of us. Plus the grass clippings are automatically mulched back into the grass instead of being blown onto my patio.
My only minor quibble is that any small stick will stop it in it’s tracks. So I really have to make sure the yard is perfectly clear before mowing. I think I could also solve this by sharpening the blades. They don’t seem to be shipped with the optimum sharpness. I’ll probably drop it by a sharp shop next season.
Yes, as others have mentioned, sticks can be a problem. With reels, you should rake your yard at the start of the season and after any big wind storms. You may want to check out some of the sharpening kits on Amazon. Much cheaper than taking it in and probably easier than you’d think.
G.E. would you like to share w/ us specifically which item you bought on Amazon?
Ron, just added the link to the post. It’s a Fiskars 6201 Momentum. VERY happy with it. Neighbor already asked if he could try it out, haha.
I grew up in a Navy family. During one of my father’s unaccompanied tours, during which he was home only for a weekend every few months (and before Internet and satellite phones), my mother (between working and being the functional single parent of three little kids, got so frustrated with the gas mower that she bought a push mower. Maybe they’ve got a few more bells and whistles than the bare bones one she brought home but that thing was miserable and I’ve been scarred for life.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I would rather just push a gas mower right through the grass once and be done with it, not really having to worry about the sticks and other minor normal yard debris along the way. Besides, it’s kind of hard to bag all of the clippings to add to a compost pile.
One benefit that does come to mind about a reel mower though is that you’re not pushing something in front of you that produces heat. When it’s already 90-100 degrees outside, I don’t really enjoy feeling that gust of hot air from a gas mower every time I make a turn.
I have a push reel mower and I have used it for more than a decade and I prefer it to a gas powered mower. We have a small Urban lot so it takes less than 15 minutes to mow with a push reel. I have never sharpened my blades and it works just fine, I have been thinking about getting them sharpened for the $10 it will cost me. It might make things different.
Can anyone recommend any good links for buying items to sharpen one’s own mower blades? I’m looking for best price and reliability.
Where do the grass clippings go? I don’t see the bag in the picture…
Some push reels have grass catchers, others do not. I actually prefer to not use one because it feeds the lawn, producing greener grass.
There’s an attachment that catches the clippings for my reel mower, Scott’s Classic 20″. Really, the better way to go is just let the clipping mulch back into the ground.
I currently use an old electric mower. The kind that needs to stay plugged in to an extension cord. I have to use a 100′ cord but the cord only works intermittently. And those cord lengths are very expensive. I would rather buy a reel mower than to buy an expensive 100′ ext cord. Also b/c I know the reel mower will never break down.
Electrics are very appealing on the surface, but then you look into the cord situation or if it’s battery powered how quickly those batteries are depleted…. suddenly not so appealing. I’d opt for the reel.
One negative comment regarding push mowers: I did have a push mower years ago but we had lots of trees on our property. The trees shed a lot of small twigs so it wasn’t always a good experience cutting the lawn, as the twigs would get stuck in the blades. Thus, you had to kick the blade backwards to dislodge the twig. The new mower does look quite different from what I used so maybe they have a better remedy for cutting lawns with twig problems?
I’ve been using an electric mower for 30 years to mow my lawns. I’m on my 2nd mower in that time. Easy to use, no maintenance, almost as powerful as a gas mower. I would never change.
I’m with mdenis. I was given a battery powered electric mower 3 years ago in exchange for some electrical work (fittingly) and will never go any other direction. I have 2 batteries but, when I’m mowing as often as I should, I get front and back yards done on just 1 battery. My yard is 60’×130′. Price is similar to a decent gas mower and the better push mowers aren’t cheap, so I suggest that folks that can spend a little bit more go electric.
When we moved into a house after some years of apartment living, we were short on cash as well as in need of a lawn mower. My husband, being the lawn guy, decided he wanted a push reel mower. Me? I thought he was nuts, but since the person that does the job is the person who gets to make the call on the tools, I figured it wouldn’t hurt for us to struggle through a season or two with a push reel mower before “upgrading” to a power mower.
Six years on, and we never have bothered. I’ve pitched in and mowed the lawn a few times, and it’s kind of fun to use the push reel mower. It works fine, keeps the grass trimmed decently and with rising gas prices, not having to fill the darn thing up is nice.
i have a reel mower that cuts grass as hi as 9″ and is faster than a power mower and does not pick up sticks & such. first I removed the roller then I connected the handle of the mower to the reel body with a turnbuckle and a cord using the holes roller occupied.
adjusting the turnbuckle determines the height of the cut.
it functions like a wheelbarrow I lower it down from above the grass. I am skipping the details of how to attach the cord and turnbuckle. try to figure it out. use a 4″ turn buckle or a niteize cam
I used a push mower for 4 years in Fresno. It worked ok on bermuda grass. Now I live in Utah and our lawn (over 1000 sq ft) is blue grass and I started with an electric mower ($500). It had a hard time with longer thicker grass.
After 10 years it quit working and I got a gas mower, self propelled from Costco for $500.
After 20 years, no oil changes, it still mows the lawn fast and great. I prefer the gas mower. Sorry. At least I bike to work. I think the benefits to the reel mower are overstated. Its not a peaceful experience for me, its a piece of exercise equipment, some might enjoy it though. I’d prefer to do my exercise in the mountains on my bike.
Good to hear about the benefits of push reel mower over the gas powered mowers. And also the gas powered mowers need more maintenance as compared to the push reel mower. Great views, thanks for sharing.
I received my very old never been serviced reel mower as a gift 4 helping a neighbor with yard work. I have an acre lot. It is a work out but I enjoy it. I also love the golf course look. I adjust the blades whenever it gets noisy. I love to rake so sticks are not an issue. I miss excess clipping I used 4 garden mulch, but not enough to ruin my environment.
Can a reel mower be used effectively in a yard that constantly has pine needles?
I first used a gas mower as a kid and it always was a pain. In my 20’s my mom’s uncle passed away and we inherited a garage of old stuff. A vintage reel mower was in there and I decided to take it in and have a craftsman bring it back to life because it seemed so distinct. It was heavy and wide (made of steel and wood) but compared to the gas mowers I had used all my life it was a more pleasant experience. When I got a house of my own (lawn is less than 1/4 acre) I bought a 14′ wide 2′ clearance American reel mower and it really is crazy how much the concept\models have improved when compared to the vintage model. The newer reel mowers are significantly lighter (the American is 19lbs) and the blades cut regular grass very well. I don’t even bag my clippings with it, I just go over them a few times to really mince them up and keep the covered grass oxygenated. Haven’t had any bad patches or trouble with suburban Ohio weeds like dandelions. I purchased the reel mower for $63 and am very satisfied with it.
We went to Lowe’s to buy an electric mower and instead came home with the more affordable Fiskars push reel mower. So happy we did–LOVE the smooth action, the adjustable height settings (we like to keep the grass longer, to improve its health and cut down on watering), and the smaller footprint to store it in our small outdoor garden shed. Sometimes I love it so much I’ll mow twice–once at the higher setting, and again at one setting lower, to get a pretty criss-cross effect. Our grass has never looked better, and we are not contributing to noise pollution, either. Oh, and we leave the grass clippings on the lawn; they’re free fertilizer! If you don’t like the look of it, it’s simple to use a large lightweight rake to spread the clippings evenly over the lawn. We also bought a manual core aerator that is simple and addictive to use. Did I mention it’s good exercise, too? but not too taxing–we’re in our 60s!
Sling blade it baby. 5 years for less than $20 bucks. My modest sized lawn looked better than ANY mowed lawn in the ‘hood.
A push reel lawn mower is better enough than a gas powered mower. They can save your money, noise pollution, and mostly the environmental issue you mentioned here. Thanks for all the reasons for switching to a reel mower…
As a SAHM to a military husband, I much prefer the push reel mower! We garden and have lots of outside toys for the kids, so the lawn service provided here just doesn’t work for us. With a toddler and a preschooler in tow, the many starts and stops are much less of a problem for me than they would be with a gas or electric mower, I don’t worry about hurting little ears or lungs, risk of accidents is lower, AND I can let them help in a very real way even at this age!
I must admit, that my yard has more weeds than grass at the moment. Can I use a reel mower on it!
Yes. So does mine. It cuts weeds just as well as gas mowers (but always good to have a weed wacker too).
go to this link on facebook. you’ll find a $5 modification of a cord and turnbuckle or cam that allows me to raise the cutting height making it better than gas or electric by eliminating most of standard reels disadvantages
i have a reel mower that cuts grass as hi as 9″ and is faster than a power mower and does not pick up sticks & such. i took a cord tied one end to the roller rod pulled it back and cinched other end to handle. it functions like a wheelbarrow I lower it down from above the grass. I am skipping the details of how to attach the cord and turnbuckle. try to figure it out. use a 2″ turnbuckle or a niteize cam