Best Lawn Mowers for Small Yards

10 top push mowers from CR's tests for cutting up to a quarter-acre

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Mowing the lawn iStock-172252863

The beauty of a small yard is—in theory—easy care. So why complicate your life with a pricey lawn mower with features you really don’t need?

“For lawns up to around 1⁄4 acre, I’d recommend a push mower,” says Misha Kollontai, who oversees CR’s lawn mower testing. The bells and whistles on more complex and expensive, self-propelled mowers aren’t necessary for smaller yards, he says.

Consider, for instance, the boost that self-propelled mowers provide, to assist you in moving forward. “The feature helps most when moving in long stretches in one direction,” Kollontai says. That’s not a concern in small yards, he adds, because you’re mowing short swaths and turning often.

That said, push mowers have their limitations. They’re ideal if your lawn doesn’t take a lot of time to mow—say, half an hour. (That’s about the time it takes to cut 1⁄4 acre, CR has found.) “But once you start creeping above that length of time, anyone can start getting a little fatigued pushing a mower around,” Kollontai says.

And some homeowners with small plots still may want or need the extra ease that a self-propelled mower’s drivetrain provides. If it’s a struggle for you to push a mower or your yard has hills, you may want upgrade to a self-propelled mower.

More on Lawn Mowers

If you go that route, look for self-propelled mowers with Excellent handling scores in CR’s lawn mower ratings; higher scores often are related to lighter mower weights. “A lighter unit will be easier to turn around,” Kollontai says.

This year, CR tested nine new push mowers. The best battery-powered models now cut grass as well as, or better than, their gasoline-fueled rivals.

What’s more, run times are fast improving. Our testing shows that most cut about ⅓ of an acre on a single charge, and some can now ably cut 1⁄2 acre. Five battery self-propelled mowers and three battery push mowers keep their charge for at least an hour. (Most battery mowers get 30 to 45 minutes on a single charge.)

Keep in mind that run times and the area you can cut per battery charge can vary widely based on grass height, density, and more. To get the best run times out of your battery mower, cut the lawn on a weekly basis.

How CR Tests Lawn Mowers and Tractors

To get you ratings and reviews of the latest models by early spring, our testers travel to our mower testing facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to conduct tests in late winter at grounds we prepare each year. We plant 1,800 pounds of grass seed (predominantly annual rye, prized for its dense growth) and cut 500,000 square feet of grass in three modes—mulching, side-discharging, and bagging, a total of 3,000 pounds of clippings. We mow both level turf and slopes to get a feel for each model and review the convenience features.

The Overall Score incorporates all that performance data, along with predicted reliability and owner satisfaction ratings from our latest member surveys. They leverage data on more than 78,000 lawn mowers and tractors that members purchased between 2010 and 2020.

CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of the 10 best battery- and gas-powered push lawn mowers for small yards. Each one on the list cuts well, is easy to maneuver, and won’t hog storage space.

Put In the Shopping Legwork

Keep in mind that while your new mower may save you steps, shopping for one may take a bit more legwork this season. COVID-related supply-chain holdups, combined with increased demand, are reducing supply, says Courtney Pennicooke, the CR product analyst who covers lawn mowers. “Supplies are more limited, and models may be on back order,” he says.

You also might need to check out a variety of retailers. Some mower brands are associated only with Home Depot or Lowe’s, while others are sold only through independent dealers. And some brands may sell certain models at a big home-improvement chain and others through dealers.

“Shop around more than usual, checking a few different stores,” Pennicooke says.

Check our comprehensive lawn mower ratings for even more good choices, including over 30 push models from brands such as Atlas, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, DeWalt, DR, Ego, Hart, Honda, Kobalt, Masport, Ryobi, Stihl, Toro, and Troy-Bilt.

Best Battery Push Mowers for Small Yards

Best Gas Push Mowers for Small Yards

Finding the Perfect Lawn Mower

Is your lawn mower failing to make the cut? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert John Galeotafiore explains to host Jack Rico how to find the best mower for your needs.

Tobie Stanger

I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger