A John Deere gas tractor lawn mower and an Ego battery push mower on a green background

Depending on where you live, mowing your lawn is either a seasonal chore or a part of your year-round weekly regimen. But regardless of how often you mow, finding the right machine for your situation can make a big difference in the ease and time it takes to get the job done. Here’s a guide to the best type of lawn mower depending on your yard size and topography.

Click on the links here to go the recommendations for your lawn size:
Up to ¼-acre yard
¼- to ½-acre yard
• ½-acre or larger

Your Yard: Up to ¼ Acre

Best Choice: Battery Push Mower
Smaller yards are the best candidates for battery push mowers because you can easily cover the area on a single battery charge. 

More on Lawn Mowers

If your neighbors are close by, they’ll appreciate how quiet your battery-powered mower is. In our tests, battery mowers produced an average 63 decibels at 25 feet, about the same level as a car going by at 65 mph at that same distance. That’s nearly half the loudness of gas models, which averaged 72 decibels—the same level as busy traffic. That means you can get out there first thing on Saturday morning without worrying about waking the neighborhood.

If your yard is hilly, however, you might want to consider a self-propelled battery mower: The motor powers the wheels to make pushing easier. Because that consumes battery charge, most come with a larger battery or a second one, which adds to the cost. Self-propelled battery-powered mowers usually cost at least $100 more than comparable battery push models.

CR members with digital access can read on for details on two top-performing battery push mowers that are CR Best Buys. For a deeper dive on lawn mowers, see our lawn mower and tractor buying guide, and check our lawn mower ratings for data-based comparisons of the models we test.

Battery Push Mowers

Top Picks

1

Side discharging
Mulching
Bagging

2

Side discharging
Mulching
Bagging
Unlock Lawn Mower & Tractor Ratings
Become a Member or Sign in

Your Yard: ¼ Acre to ½ Acre

Best Choice: Gas Self-Propelled Mower
Yards this size are bordering on being too big for either a gas or battery push mower but not quite large enough to justify owning a riding tractor.

So your best bet is a self-propelled gas mower, which takes some of the chore out of doing your lawn.

This type of walk-behind mower has powered wheels, which make the task of pushing it around the yard easier.

If you have a sloped yard, our experts advise choosing a mower with rear- or all-wheel drive because they tend to have the easiest time on inclines.

A battery self-propelled mower with a long run time of an hour or longer is another option. For battery mowers with shorter run times, you’d need a second battery to cut the entire yard without stopping to recharge.

CR members with digital access can read on for details from CR’s tests on a top-performing gas self-propelled mower and a top-rated battery-powered mower. For a deeper dive on lawn mowers, see our lawn mower and tractor buying guide, and check our lawn mower ratings for data-based comparisons of the models we test.

Gas and Battery Self-Propelled Mowers

Top Picks

1

Mulching
Bagging
Handling

2

Side discharging
Mulching
Bagging
Unlock Lawn Mower & Tractor Ratings
Become a Member or Sign in

Your Yard: ½ Acre or Larger

Best Choice: Gas Lawn Tractor
If you have more than a half-acre of turf, you’re probably looking at a lawn tractor with a gas-powered engine. Two types are suited for the job: traditional lawn tractors and zero-turn-radius lawn tractors. Both are equally adept at cutting large yards because they’re designed to run for hours. The distinctions come down to cut quality, handling, and cost.

Traditional lawn tractors feature front-mounted engines and a proper steering wheel. They generally provide a more even cut than zero-turn tractors but sacrifice some maneuverability. They are typically less expensive than the zero-turns. 

Zero-turn models turn in place around one of the rear wheels when you push one of the two steering levers—as if you were putting on the emergency brake for one wheel. Their engines are mounted in the back, providing a clear view of what’s ahead to trim. While zero-turn tractors can maneuver quickly around flower beds and tree roots, they don’t steer as well as traditional lawn tractors on sloped terrain. And because the rear wheels control the steering, they can dig up your yard if you turn too quickly.

A third option, a gas rear-engine rider, may be unimpressive on larger lawns. They typically cut in 30-inch-wide swaths—vs. 4 feet for many lawn tractors—so you’ll need more time to mow. In our tests, we also found many to have a jerky gear drive and smaller bags that required more frequent emptying. 

CR members with digital access can read on for details on two top-performing gas lawn tractors from CR’s tests. For a deeper dive on lawn mowers, see our lawn mower and tractor buying guide, and check our lawn mower ratings for data-based comparisons of the models we test.

Gas Lawn Tractors

Top Picks

1

Side discharging
Mulching
Bagging

2

Side discharging
Mulching
Evenness
Unlock Lawn Mower & Tractor Ratings
Become a Member or Sign in

Take a Test Drive?

If you’re struggling to choose among types, you may be able to arrange a test drive at a dealer for a specific brand. Check with the dealer before you show up in person, though; during the pandemic, test drives may be limited. On its website, John Deere, for instance, says, “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and local regulations, demonstrations may be restricted or unavailable at this time.”

Whether or not you try out a mower, check Consumer Reports’ reliability ratings to find the most reliable walk-behind and riding mower brands.


Lawn Love

In addition to the size and type of lawn you have, knowing approximately how often you’ll need to cut the grass may help you determine the right mower for you. The averages in the graph below assume you keep your grass at a 3-inch height. 

Number of Times You Cut Your Lawn Each Year,
by U.S. Region*
*At sea level, watering as necessary to sustain growth.
Source: Frank S. Rossi, New York State Extension Turfgrass Specialist and associate professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in the May 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.