A lawn mower is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that any homeowner will need if you have a lawn to maintain. However, choosing a self-propelled lawn 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, and this year we have one entry that is all-wheel drive. 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 while the mulched grass becomes fertilizer.
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
Best self-propelled lawn mowers for the money
Now that we’ve had this introduction, let’s get to the top 5 gas powered self-propelled lawn mowers of 2020.
Honda 663030 21 in. GCV170 Engine Smart Drive Variable Speed 3-in-1 Self Propelled Lawn Mower with Auto Choke and Roto-Stop
Let us introduce the Honda HRN216VYA 3-in-1 lawnmower. The mower is very powerful, convenient, reliable and time-saving. The HRN216VYA is the new 2020 model of this very popular HRR216 self-propelled mower series.
The mower uses a Honda GCV170 engine that is easy to start and nearly unbreakable. When it comes to engines, Honda motors are the best, and you can bet that they will deliver extraordinary cutting power. Combined with twin micro blades, this Honda becomes a surgically designed cutting machine, plowing through even the thickest grass with ease.
Naturally, the mower has been made very convenient and accommodating to the user. The self-propelled lawnmower has adjustable speeds up to 4 miles per hour, so you can go about your business at your own pace.
The mower is also a 3-in-1 and it can bag, discharge or mulch. The twin blades are especially useful for mulching, as they chop the grass into very small fragments, allowing for faster decomposition. If you need to walk away briefly, this mower will stop the blade without having to turn the engine off.
The handle has two adjustment heights for making it more comfortable to push. It also folds down easily for less storage space requirements.
The machine has a cut width of 21″, which is more than wide enough to cover most yards fairly quickly. The wheels are both 8″ with the back wheels rolling on metal bushings for durability. The cutting height is adjustable from 1″ to 4″, giving you lots of choices for your lawn and preferences. Honda also warranties their products, and the HRN is under a good 3-year warranty.
Click to watch a 5-minute video on how to use this Honda self-propelled lawn mower.
If pulling on a rope to start your mower is a hassle for you, the same Honda HRN216 with electric start is also available.
Craftsman M275 159cc 21-Inch 3-in-1 High-Wheeled Self-Propelled FWD Gas Powered Lawn Mower, with Bagger, Red
Craftsman is a well known name and this Craftsman M275 mower gives you a lot of bang for the buck.
The M275 lawnmower is powered by a Craftsman 159cc engine, with plenty of power for moderate sized lawns. There is no cord pulling with this mower since it comes with an electric starter. The starter is powered by a V20 1.3 Ah lithium ion battery than can be used in any other Craftsman V20 tool. Its dual-lever, 6-position height adjustment makes it easy to change cutting heights from 1.25 in. to 3.75 in. high. The handle has 3 height levels.
Another very thoughtful addition to the machine is the adjustable handle. Now, if several people are using the mower, they can easily personalize it. In addition, the mower allows you to control the pace by pressing on the bail handle, becoming even more personalized.
The body of the mower is 21 inches wide, thus covering a good bit of ground at once. The wheels are 8 inches for the front and 11 inches for the back, making the machine pretty maneuverable and adjustable to any grass level and uneven terrain. And the self-propelled variable-speed front-wheel drive allows you to mow at your own pace.
Just like Honda, Craftsman M275 is also a 3-in-1 mower. The machine allows you to mulch the grass, or discharge it out the side, or, if you want your yard clean, bag it.
Overall, this is a good machine, and get the grass cut for you. It is budget friendly as well.
The Troy-Bilt TB330 rear wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower is one more reliable and quite a bit more powerful than the other machines on our list.
This Troy-Bilt uses a Honda GCV Series 190cc engine, like the Honda mower reviewed above. Combined with a stellar blade, this lawnmower will devastate vast fields of grass with ease, and, with a special rake bumper, will make an excellent mulching machine, as the rake prevents blockages and clumping.
The lawnmower also features all wheel drive, making it splendid for mowing uphill as well as level terrain. However, unlike the Lawn-Boy, this one has speed control, and with one press you can adjust the speed to match your pace.
It is also important to note that the mower has an duel lever adjustable deck so you can lower or raise it to control how short the grass is. The cut of grass has six adjustment heights, from 1 1/4″ to 3 3/4″.
Lastly, let us just say that this one is also a 3-in-1 mower. As you know by now, this means that the mower can mulch, bag and discard the grass. We also mentioned above that the mower has a special rake that prevents clumping, raises the grass, and cuts it up for better decomposition. We also have to say that the mower comes with a mulching kit too, so you can put nutrients back into the soil at an even higher level.
If this machine is a little pricey for your budget, take a looks at the Troy-Bilt 210 for another, but lower priced, self-propelled model.
Lawn-Boy 17732 Carb Compliant Kohler XT6 OHV, Rear Wheel Drive Self Propelled Gas Lawn Mower, 21-Inch
Now here’s an awesome mower that does not use a Honda engine. Lawn-Boy uses a very reliable Kohler engine, another big name in the industry. Lawn-Boy is a Toro made mower, so you can be sure that it works and works well.
The Kohler XT6 149cc OHV is an awesome engine. It is powerful and very quick to start. In fact, the Lawn-Boy folks are so confident of this engine, that they are offering you a free fix if the engine does not start within 2 pulls max. That’s a pretty bold statement, but true as well, as the mower will never fail to start, even after years of intense use.
The mower also allows you to control the height of the deck, and, thus, the height of the blade. You have 2 settings that can be easily set up. However, some customers are reporting a problem with the setup, and the front wheels do not always lock properly, which could lead to problems when mowing.
Another thing that we particularly like about this mower is that it has a rear wheel drive. This gives the machine more traction, especially if you’re mowing uphill. That being said, the mower is a bit harder to pull back because of this, so you will only have to push it forward.
Lastly, this is again a 3-in-1 mower. Like all others, you will be able to mulch, bag and discharge the grass on the side. We also must say that the lawnmower does not have speed adjustment, and you will have to follow its pace.
One of the best lawn mower manufacturers has to be Toro. Their mowers are usually very high quality, extremely customer friendly, and very reliable – in essence, a near perfect machine. So, what makes Toro 20378 so special?
First off, this mower is powered by a Kohler engine. This engine is the reliable 149 cc model with auto choke. There is no need to change oil, either. Just check the oil before starting and add if necessary.
Now, combine that with 9 cutting heights ranging from 1 to 4 inches, and you have a great machine on your hands. However, to adjust the height, you will need to check each of the wheels separately.
When we’re on the topic of wheels, the Toro’s wheels are what has become standard, with the front wheels at 8 inches in diameter, while the rear ones are 11 inches. The height of the wheels makes the mower ever better suited for mowing on uneven terrain.
The speed of this self-propelled mower is adjustable up to 3.25 mph.
Lastly, this mower is a 3-in-1. It offers you to mulch the grass, bag it or discharge it through the side. With such a versatile machine, you will truly require no other.
The Toro brand has been around for a long time with a reputation for quality and durability. Mowers lasting 10 to 15 years is not uncommon when properly stored and maintained.
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 lawn 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.
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.