A lawn mower is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that any homeowner will need. However, choosing a self-propelled mower can be a challenge since there are so many brands and models available. It’s hard to know which are the best features for the most value. This article will review some of the best self-propelled lawn mowers in the market to help you narrow down your choices. We want you to find the right mower for sale with the right price that will make your lawn care easy.
Choose the Right Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Choosing a self-propelled lawn mower comes down to what features will work best for your yard and for you. There are two main kinds of self-propelled lawn mowers available: front-wheel and rear-wheel drive systems. The front-wheel-drive system is ideal for flat yards, while rear-wheel drive systems are highly recommended for both flat and uneven surfaces. If you’re bagging clippings, rear-wheel drive is great on hills.
Front-wheel drive can be a little challenging to use where you have lots of turns to make. You’ll have to disengage the drive for a moment, or else tilt the mower back to lift the front wheels off the ground.
Speaking of wheels, mowers with small wheels do well enough on flat lawns with short grass. If you have uneven ground or taller grass, look at mowers with taller wheels, especially in the rear. Look at how the wheel heights are adjusted on the mower. You may prefer one lever to adjust all four wheels if this is a function you’ll be using a lot.
In terms of cutting options, there are also different features to choose from. The three-in-one models are capable of mowing, mulching, and bagging the grass. This makes this type of mower the most versatile. There are also two-in-one models that are capable of either mulching and bagging or mulching and side-discharging the grass. If you’ve never used a mulcher, you may quickly become a fan. A self-propelled mulching lawn mower makes yard cleanup a breeze.
It is also important to note that noisy, two-cycle engines are no longer being used. Modern lawn mowers make use of four-cycle engines that are more powerful, more efficient, less messy, and they run quieter. Gone are the days of mixing the correct proportion of oil and gasoline.
Nice-to-have extras on some self-propelled mowers
- Blade override, so you don’t have to stop the engine just to pause the blade
- Adjustable pace or variable speed drive
- Adjustable handlebar
- Deck washout port
- Electric start
If you have limited mobility, a self-propelled mower with electric start and adjustable pace would be easiest to use.
Now that we’ve had this introduction, let’s get to the top 4 self-propelled lawn mowers of 2016.
1.Poulan Pro 961420127 PR625Y22RHP Briggs 625ex Side Discharge/Mulch/Bag 3-in-1 Hi-Wheel Front Wheel Self Propelled Mower in 22-Inch Deck
You may be familiar with Poulan’s other power tools, like their chain saws. (Did you know that Poulan is affiliated with Husqvarna.? Both are Swedish companies that belonged to Electrolux.)
Poulan knows how to make equipment that gets the job done right without fuss. The Poulan Pro PR625Y22RHP is a powerful lawn mower, and it doesn’t come with a lot of frills.
You won’t need extra tools or parts to switch between mulching, bagging, and discharging, but you won’t get a lot of convenient options like some of these other mowers have. For example, the self-propelled front-wheel drive works at just one pace. You’ll have to mow at its speed, which might not be yours.
For maximum power, Poulan incorporated a Briggs & Stratton 625e series 150cc engine. It starts reliably with no choke and no priming needed. Yes, you’ll have to pull a cord, but no, it shouldn’t take more than one or two pulls before it roars to life. The motor easily handles mowing down tall grass on uneven ground or hills. It helps that the wheels are tall—8 inches in the front and 12 in the back.
There are 9 cutting heights to select from, but you’ll have to adjust each wheel independently. You’ll cover the whole lawn quickly because the cutting path is 22” wide. When you’re done, it’s easy to wash out the underside of the deck by connecting a hose to the washout port. Then fold down the handlebar for compact storage. Since this is a gas mower, you’ll need to give it a tune-up once a year. Poulan offers a 2-year warranty for home use.
2.Husqvarna 961450023 HU700H Honda 160cc 3-in-1 Rear Wheel Drive Hi-Wheel Mower in 22-Inch Deck
Do you recognize the orange? Husqvarna doesn’t just make sewing machines. This HU700H mower has a lot of value for the money.It’s well-worth it because of how easy is it to use and how thoughtful the design is. It’s got power and it’s still user-friendly.
First off, it has a Honda 160cc 4-cycle OHV engine, which is powerful without polluting a lot with emissions and noise. It’s an efficient engine that will mow a lot on less gas than older mowers ever did. The cord handle is mounted up high on the handlebar so you don’t have to reach far to grab it.
The soft grip handlebar adjusts to three different heights, which is handy if you have more than one person mowing from week to week. The wheels are nice and tall at 8 inches in the front and 11 inches in the rear. All the wheels have double ball bearings for durability. The cutting height adjusts with just one lever for all four wheels. You can select between 1.12” and 3.75” tall.
The self-propelled drive runs the rear wheels, so the mower is easy to turn and maneuver. We love that this mower has true variable speed—change its pace by applying more pressure to the bail handle.
The HU700H is a 3-in-1 mower. It mulches, bags, and discharges. The cloth collector bag holds up to 2.3 cubic feet of clippings. When you’re done mowing, connect your garden hose to the deck washout port. You’ll wash away clippings from the underside of the mower without having to tip it.
Our Top Pick for Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
3.Honda 21” 3-in-1 Self Propelled Self Charging Electric Start Lawn Mower
Now we’ve come to our favorite in this review. Yes, we waited until the end to introduce the best self-propelled lawn mower for the money. It’s a Honda, and of course it has a Honda engine. Anyone who’s had a Honda car knows how fuel-efficient and long-lasting those are. This one is part of the GCV160 series that meets EPA and CARB emission levels in all 50 states. It has auto-choke and electric start. You only have to turn the key. How’s that for an easy start?
The HRR216VLA has other convenient features besides the superior engine. The self-propelled rear-wheel drive has five walking speeds between 0 and 4mph. Use the dial to select the pace most comfortable for you. If you need to adjust the cutting height, you can do it with just one lever. The deck raises and lowers to 6 different positions between 1” and 3-1/2.” When you’re done cutting the grass, one lever releases the handlebar so you can fold it down for storage. The same lever makes it possible to adjust the height of the bar.
We really liked the twin-blade cutting system that does a great job with mulching and leaves the grass ends neatly clipped. This is a 3-in-1 mower with a simple switch to change functions. Move the “Clip Director” lever between bagging and mulch. With the mulch setting, the clippings fall on the ground. The bag setting allows you to bag, of course, or discharge clippings to the rear.
Yes, this mower discharges out the rear. This is good and bad. Bad because you’ll be walking through the fresh clippings or mulch. Good because you don’t need to remember to attach a discharge chute. When the HRR216VLA mulches, it grinds both grass and leaves into small bits. This makes fall yard cleanup easy. The bag that comes with the mower holds 1.9 bushels, so it gets pretty heavy with the fine mulch packed into it.
But wait, there’s more. The mower has an important safety feature: a flywheel blade brake. Let go of the bail handle and the blade stops. Now how many times would that have saved you from damaging something in the past? There’s also a manual fuel shutoff valve in case you need to store the mower, transport it, or do maintenance.
The only thing we liked less about the HRR216VLA is that all four wheels are only 8 inches tall. This is still the best self-propelled lawn mower for hills. But we loved that it has a 3-year warranty because Honda made it to last.
Click to watch a 5-minute video on how to use this Honda self-propelled lawn mower.
How to maintain a self-propelled lawn mower
Now that you’ve found a lawn mower that meets your budget and needs, you’ll want to keep it in top shape so it will perform well and last for a long time. Each manufacturer includes instructions on troubleshooting their self-propelled lawn mowers. There are a few things all mowers will need to have done on a regular basis.
Blade sharpening how-to
Some manufacturers like Poulan want you to buy new blades instead of sharpening the one you’re using. Depending on your lawn, your mowing habits, and the type of blade, this could be a more economical option and it could save you the hassle of sharpening the blade yourself.
If you want to try sharpening your own blades, you can do it by hand with a metal file or with a bench-top grinder. First, disconnect the spark plug, power cord, or remove the battery, depending on what kind of mower you have.
If you have a gas mower, make sure you tip it to the correct side so you don’t send gas or oil flooding into the carburetor. You’ll need your owner’s manual to find out what they recommend.
It’s best if you wear thick gloves. Even a dull blade can cut you. Brace the blade in place and use a wrench to remove the bolt holding the blade on the motor shaft.
Hang the blade on a balancer or on a nail through the center hole. If it doesn’t hang level, if one side is lower than the other, that’s the side you need to file. Make just a few passes with the files and hang it again to see how it balances. You can also test the edge with a piece of paper to see how it cuts. Sharper is better for your grass.
If you want more instructions on how to sharpen your own blade, check out this video on Youtube.
Gas mower tune-up
Gas mowers need more of your time than a battery or corded electric mower will. You’ll need to change the oil, clean the air filter, replace the spark plug and fuel filter, drain the gas tank before storing it for the winter, and clean the carburetor. If this sounds like more work than you want to deal with, check for a reliable service center or mechanic in your area. Failing that, switch to an electric or battery-powered mower for much less maintenance, mess, and expense.
Typical small engine maintenance, courtesy of Briggs & Stratton:
Stop mowing if this happens
If you feel unusual vibrations or hear abnormal noises like a grinding sound, turn off your mower right away. Disconnect the power source (i.e. spark plug, battery, power cord) and check to see if the blade is bent or broken. A damaged blade or motor shaft will make a lawn mower vibrate more than usual. Replace the blade. If that doesn’t stop the problem, see a mechanic.
If your mower won’t start
Did you insert the key if it has one? Sometimes people forget to insert the safety key in electric mowers.
If you have self-charging electric start like on the Honda mower, and it’s been in storage all winter, check the battery.
Also check the battery’s charge if you have a cordless mower that won’t start.
If it’s a gas mower, check the spark plug for discoloration or damage. They’re inexpensive to replace—try putting in a new one.
Is there gas inside the carburetor? Look below in our section on maintenance for tips on how to clean or rebuild a carburetor.
Once it starts, if it runs rough, you may need to clean the carburetor (see below), or check the blade to see if it’s damaged and causing vibrations. If the motor sputters, check the air filter to see if it’s clogged.
If your mower won’t move
No, we can’t help if the person that is supposed to be mowing the lawn won’t move. You might want to offer them a lemonade. On the other hand, if your self-propelled lawn mower won’t move, there are steps you can take to troubleshoot it.
For example, the Black & Decker SPCM1936 has a little glitch. If you turn off the self-propelled drive and then pull backwards on the mower, the drive wheels may lock. They suggest pushing the mower forward and it will unlock the wheels.
Other self-propelled mower drives may act the same. Check with your owner’s manual, and simply double-check the mower wheels.
If the wheels seem okay, and your mower is a couple years old, check the drive belt for wear. It’s something you may be able to replace by yourself.
Electric mowers need a little advance planning before use
Plan your cord management before you mow to avoid tangling the power cord around obstacles. It’s also best if you plug your extension cord into a GFCI outlet. Those are the ones that will shut off your electrical current if you run over the power cord with the mower. They usually have two buttons, red for test and black for reset. Bathrooms, garages, and outdoor outlets on newer homes should already have this kind of outlet installed.
How to select the right gauge extension cord to power your electric lawn mower:
AWG is the gauge, or thickness of the power cord wire. The smaller the AWG gauge number, the thicker the wire. Thicker wire conducts more current over a longer distance.
- Anything under 10Amps of current can use 16 AWG up to 100 feet.
- 11 to 13Amps need a minimum of 16 AWG for 50 feet and 14 AWG wire to reach 100 feet.
- 14 to 15Amps need 14 AWG for 50 feet and 12 AWG to reach 100 feet.
Please don’t use a damaged cord even if you’ve salvaged it with electrical tape. The risk isn’t worth the small savings. Just get a new one, and make sure it’s marked for outdoor use.
General maintenance for all mowers
Check your blade for dullness and damage, and check your wheels to see if they’re loose. Keep your mower clean of mud and clippings to cut down on rust and engine problems.
Break in a new gas-powered lawn mower slowly. The first five hours you use it, don’t run the engine at full power. This is based on the advice of the engine experts at Briggs & Stratton.
If your self-propelled drive is behaving badly, take a look at our brief guide on “How to Fix a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower.” After a couple years of use, many self-propelled mowers don’t move at the same pace they used to when they were new. This can usually be fixed by adjusting the throttle cable. See our article for an explanation of how to adjust the throttle cable.
Take the time to clean your lawn mower’s wheels and spritz graphite on the bushings. That will keep the wheels turning smoothly. (WD-40 works too, but it sometimes gathers more dust and debris. Graphite isn’t as sticky.)
You can clean and rebuild your carburetor yourself. Honda has a how-to article on servicing one of their mower carburetors. They also sell replacement parts directly to the public.
Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
Q: How do self-propelled lawn mowers work?
A: The engine on the mower spins the blade and also turns one or both axles, usually with a belt.
Q: Why buy a self-propelled lawn mower?
A: A self-propelled mower will save you time and effort. It doesn’t require much energy to guide it. If you’re not pushing a heavy mower with brute force in front of you on a hot day, you might just get the grass mowed in time to watch the game.
Q: Which kind is best—gas, electric, or battery-powered?
A: The first consideration is the size of your yard. If it’s under 1/3-acre, you can probably mow it all in one go with a battery-powered mower. If you prefer electric, the length of the power cord is your only limit. If you have a large lawn to mow, up to ¾-acre, a gas-powered self-propelled lawn mower would be best.
Q: Which mower is best for hilly terrain?
A: We would recommend a gas-powered self-propelled mower like the Honda or Poulan Pro in the review above. Battery mowers will run out of charge a lot faster if the terrain is rough or there are a lot of hills.
Q: Is it worth the money to buy a lawn mower?
A: Yes, if you’re willing to mow your own lawn. Landscape services vary widely in price, but the average for just cutting the grass is quite cheap. Multiply that out by the number of weeks you plan to mow. Let’s say you live in a climate where you’ll start mowing in April and stop at the end of October. You could buy a top-of-the-line full-featured self-propelled lawn mower for that amount! And it will last you for years if you take care of it. Having your own self-propelled lawn mower is a very affordable option, even with the cost of maintaining it.
Q: What about a zero turn mower or a riding mower?
A: Self-propelled mowers fall in the category of “walk-behind” lawn mowers used for residential lawns by homeowners. These other two types are often used by commercial landscapers or people maintaining a large area over an acre in size.
Q: How many calories will I burn mowing the lawn?
A: This depends on your walking pace, weight, age, and so forth. Since you’re not pushing a self-propelled lawn mower, just guiding it, it’s less exercise. Count on burning anywhere from 80 to 160 calories an hour. If you want to make it real exercise, get a variable-speed drive that lets you set your own pace. Then walk quickly with the mower across the lawn. Many self-propelled mowers have a top speed of 4mph, and that’s a lot faster than a stroll in the park.
Q: When were lawn mowers invented?
A: A man in England invented the first manual push lawn mower in 1830. Motorized lawn mowers started appearing in the 1890s. Some ran on steam.
Q: How can I build a go-kart with a lawn mower?
A: Believe it or not, this gets googled a lot. Check out this simple overview.
Other top mower reviews
If you have a small lawn and think a self-propelled mower might be overkill, check out our reviews on the best push mowers for every budget.