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Push vs Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers: A Comparison

Push mowers are different from self-propelled mowers because they do not utilize a transmission or belt to assist with moving the mower. The operator is the one moving the mower using the operator’s physical strength to complete the task. A self-propelled mower often costs more than a push mower.

There are many types of push mowers on the market today. Some push mowers you find are inexpensive while others are more expensive because of the engine, cutting width, and added self-propelled system. There are several factors you will want to look at to choose what mower is the best for you and your yard.

push mower vs self-propelled lawn mower comparison
GAS POWEREDPush Lawn MowerSelf-Propelled Lawn Mower
Price $150 – $300$300 – $1,300
Engine Size 140cc – 170cc159cc – 193cc
Deck Size18″ – 21″21″ – 30″
Starting TypePull Start or Electric StartPull Start or Electric Start
Options AvailableBagger System
Mulch Kit
Deck Wash Port
Foldable System
Bagger System
Mulch Kit
Deck Wash Port
Foldable System
Warranty1-5 Year Limited1-5 Year Limited
ELECTRIC POWEREDPush Lawn MowerSelf-Propelled Lawn Mower
Price – Corded$100 – $300
Price – Cordless /
Battery Powered
$175 – $700$250 – $800
Battery Voltage20 – 82 Voltage24 – 82 Voltage
Deck Size12″ – 21″19.5″ – 21″
Starting TypePush Button StartPush Button Start
Warranty2-5 Year Limited2-5 Year Limited

12 Items to Consider Before Buying a Gas Push Mower

1. Price

Price Range: $150 – $300

2. Engine Size

Manufacturers measure the size of the engines in cubic centimeters (cc). This is known as the engine displacement. The typical size engine you will find in a push mower is between 140cc and 170cc.  The higher the engine displacement the better your mower will be able to through longer thicker grass without bogging down.

3. Deck Size

Most push mowers come with either a 20” or 21” lawn mower deck. This is the cutting width you will achieve with each pass of the mower. Remember, you will have some overlap in cutting to prevent leaving small strips of uncut grass.

4. Starting Type

You will find you will need to pull a rope to start most push mowers unless you purchase a higher end mower that utilizes an electric start. You may choose an electric start if you don’t have a lot of arm strength to pull the rope.

A benefit to the electric start system is you do not have to pull a rope and all you need to do is prime and turn the key. If the key fails, you will need Some cons with the electric start is it is one more item that can fail and you will eventually have to replace the battery which adds an additional expense.

5. Wheel Size

Larger front caster wheels and larger rear wheels is better than smaller wheels as the larger wheels and casters allows you to maneuver the mower easier. Larger wheels will make it easier to push through the grass.

6. Height Adjustment

Mowers come in either have a single-lever or dual-lever height adjustment. This is a convenience choice for the owner. A single-lever height adjustment is just as it sounds. It will allow you to adjust the height of the deck with one lever. You will have to adjust two levers by each wheel on the dual-lever height adjustment.

Review the height adjustments available. The more cutting height adjustments, the more options you have for the length of grass you get with the finished cut.

7. Blade Brake Clutch

The blade brake clutch stops the blades and allows the mower’s engine to keep running. This is convenient if you need to empty a bagger or stop to move some items that may be in the path of the lawn mower. With a blade brake clutch you won’ have to restart your mower every time you stop and let go of the handle bar.

8. Mulching System

Some mowers come with mulching systems while others may allow a mulch kit to be added. The mulching blades cut the grass into small pieces and then disperse into the yard. This system works well if you mow regularly.

9. Deck Wash Port

A hole in the deck where a garden hose can be attached to clean the mower deck by removing debris and grass clippings. To use this option you will have to place the garden hose on the deck, turn on the water and then engage the blades to spin water to clean out the deck.

10. Bagger System

You can buy push mowers with a bagger system. You will have to dispose of grass clippings. Baggers work great in the fall for some leaf cleanup, but you will have to stop mowing and empty the bag if your yard accumulates a lot of leaves.

11. Foldable System

Some push mowers have the option to fold the handle bar down into the mower for more compact storage.

12. Warranty

1 – 5 Year Limited. Engine may have a different warranty period.

10 Items to Consider Before Buying a Gas Self-Propelled Mower

Self-propelled lawn mowers utilize a belt drive system or a transmission drive system.  Self-propelled mowers will cost more than a push mower, but they can make lawn mowing easier. The self-propelled lawn mower has more maintenance to take care of including belt drive systems and cables.

1. Price

Price Range: $300 – $1,300

2. Deck Size

Self-propelled mowers come in deck sizes ranging from 21” to 30”.

3. Engine Size

The typical size engine in a self-propelled lawn mower is between 159cc and 223cc.  Just like with push mower engines, the higher the engine displacement the better your mower will be able to through longer thicker grass without bogging down.

4. Starting Type

While most self-propelled lawn mowers come with a pull start type of engine, there are more mowers available with an electric start than in a push mower. While electric start mowers are easier to start, this is also another item that can fail in the mower. Electric start mowers often have a recoil start as a backup in the case the electric start fails.

5. Wheel Size and Drive System

Larger front caster wheels and larger rear makes maneuvering the lawn mower easier than with smaller wheels. Self-propelled mowers come in front wheel drive (FWD), Rear wheel drive (RWD) and all wheel drive (AWD).

FWD mowers work best if your lawn is generally flat. RWD or AWD is a good choice if you plan on mowing steep ditches or hills. If you use a FWD mower, you will lose your drive when you press down on the handle to move up the steep hill.  Pressing down on the handle causes the front wheels to come off the ground.

6. Speed

Single speed or variable speed option is available on the self-propelled mower. Having the ability to operate at a speed that matches your stride is better than having to match the one speed option proved by the single speed mower. For the best option, choose a variable speed mower if you can afford it.

7. Height Adjustment

Having a single-lever deck adjustment lever to raise and lower your deck is advantageous and quicker than having dual-lever height adjustment.

8. Blade Brake Clutch

The blade brake clutch stops the blades and allows the mower’s engine to keep running. With this option on your self-propelled mower you will be able to stop the mower and pick up items in the mower’s way, open gates, or empty the bagger without having to restart the mower each time.

9. Warranty

2 – 5 Year Limited. Battery may have a different warranty period.

10. Additional Options Available

  • Deck Wash Port
  • Bagger System
  • Foldable System
  • Lights

Buyer’s Guide to Corded and Cordless Lawn Mowers

The more environmentally friendly choice is the corded or battery powered lawn mowers. The advantages to cordless lawn mowers are they quieter than their gas counterparts and the lack of gas required to run the equipment. Disadvantages are the short operating times and the wait times to charge the battery.

Many features of electric mowers are similar to gas powered units including height adjustment, blade brake clutch, bagger, and mulching systems.

Cord Length – Electric Corded Lawn Mower

Electric mowers with a cord is a great choice if you have a small yard under ¼ acre and you are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to a gas push mower. While the corded mower will allow you to be able to operate the mower without worrying about battery usage, you will need to make sure you have an outlet available where the cord will reach every part of your lawn.

Battery Operating Time – Cordless Lawn Mower

You need to consider the time it takes to charge a battery along with the battery run time for your lawn mower. Battery operated push mowers are getting more sophisticated every year and are not competitive with its comparison gas mower. Knowing your battery run and charging times will keep you from having to recharge in the middle of mowing your lawn. Recharging a battery can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. Having multiple batteries on hand may solve this issue to keep you mowing.

Battery Voltage

A larger battery does not mean it is better. To accurate compare the power between two lawn mowers you need to multiply Voltage by Current to get Power.  Voltage X Current = Power

Other Items to Consider When Buying a Push Mower

Your Physical Condition

Pushing a lawn mower is very labor intensive.  It is a great workout if you are looking to add a physical activity to your weekly routine. You will need to push the mower up and down your yard which is more difficult with a push mower than a self-propelled mower.

If you are not in good physical shape and you have difficulty walking, a walk-behind style mower like the push mower and self-propelled mower is not the right type of mower for you. In this case, you should look at a lawn mower you can sit on such as a zero turn lawn mower.

Other physical items to consider in addition to your leg strength is the strength of your arms and heart. Maneuvering a walk-behind mower does take arm strength to turn the lawn mower when turning to mower to move in a different direction.

Typography of Your Land

Hills can take a lot of extra effort with a push mower.  A self-propelled mower will be easier to use than a push mower on hills, especially when you are pushing up hill!

Ditches and landscape features will require a push mower.  You never want to mow closely to water features, embankments, or steep hills with other mowers as you will be putting yourself in a very dangerous position. Always follow safety guidelines if you are operating a zero turn mower or riding lawn mower.

Size of Your Property

1 Acre
The size of your property is a big determining factor on what size mower to buy. If you are mowing 1 acre or less of property a push mower or self-propelled lawn mower will be the best mower for you.

More than 1 Acre
Many people enjoy mowing their lawns when they have the right lawn mower. I know many people who don’t enjoy mowing because the mower they chose is too small and a large portion of their weekend is spent mowing.

I love mowing and having a nicely cut lawn and well-manicured landscape. I also love fishing, trail riding on my side-by-side and having bonfires with friends. I purchased a mower that worked with my  lawn size and mowing needs. This allows me to still have time to go on my mini weekend adventures.

Your Financial Budget

You may be in a financial situation where you just do not have money to buy a larger format mower. You may have a lawn that is over 1 acre and you cannot afford to spend the extra on a riding lawn mower or zero turn mower. Many have been in that situation and it is okay to start with a push mower.

Push mowers and self-propelled mowers are reasonable entry level lawn mowers that start at a low price point in comparison to all mowers.  Self-propelled mowers will be more expensive than a standard push mower because of the belt-drive system built into the mower. I’ll talk more about this when I go through the similarities and differences between the two types of mower.