You can drop a lot of cash for a mower. Die-hard yard groomers swear by their gas-powered mower brand and the features that it provides.
But over the last few years, electric mowers, both plug-in and battery powered, have gained popularity. While they are not positioned to take over the market, it’s fair to say that electric mowers are making an impact.
The real question with this trend is whether or not there is a true advantage of an electric model over traditional gas-engine mowers. This is what I’ve learned from my research.
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Are electric lawn mowers worth it? Electric mowers are worthwhile investments compared to gas-powered mowers in the following situations:
- Small, easy to manage yards.
- Owners who lack mechanical knowledge of gas engines
- Those who prefer a quiet mowing experience
- Environmentally-conscious families seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
Let’s break down each of these and determine if this type of mower is the best choice for you.
Electric Lawn Mowers Are Best Suited To Small Yards
Whether you are considering a plug-in mower or battery powered, you will be best served to tend a small yard with an electric mower. Although they continue to increase in power and runtime, electric mowers are not designed or intended for large areas.
How big is too big? For battery-powered mowers, Consumer Reports found that most electric mowers managed 1/3 acre at best without needing to be recharged (source). Unless you plan to have a stockpile of charged batteries on hand, you are best served to stick with a smaller yard.
Electric Mowers Are A Good Option If You Don’t Know How To Work On A Gas-Powered Engine
Assuming you meet the yard size recommendation, the next criteria is your knowledge of small engines. Gas-powered mowers require maintenance and repair. If you are intimidated by the idea of changing oil, cleaning a carburetor, or replacing a fuel filter, an electric mower may be the right choice.
One big advantage these mowers have is that they require very little maintenance. There are less moving parts. They don’t have fuel sitting in hoses gumming up the system. You simply plug them in (or insert a charged battery) and get to mowing.
I must admit, after spending last weekend changing oil and flushing my fuel lines, this sounds appealing.
One thing to be aware of is that electric mowers don’t like moisture. Read Electric Lawnmower Left Out In Rain (What to Do)
Electric Mowers Are Quieter To Operate Than Gas Mowers.
If you live in a neighborhood with noise zoning rules that prohibit operating a gas engine mower during certain hours, an electric mower could be just the thing.
These mowers are significantly quieter. Though they are not purely silent, they come nowhere close to the noise pollution of a gas-powered lawn mower.
One caveat to this: if you are planning to mow in the mornings when there is still dew on the ground, invest in a mower with a more powerful battery. Damp grass clippings can really burden a motor. When that motor is running off of a battery, the strain can quickly deplete it.
Electric Lawn Mowers Are Good For The Environment
I realize that this is not a definitive factor in buying decisions for everyone. The fact is, however, that electric lawn mowers do offer an environmentally-friendly option for maintaining a lawn.
Carbon Dioxide is emitted with every gallon of gas we consume (source). If this weighs on your conscience and you have a small yard, you may consider an electric mower.
What Do I Need To Know Before I Buy?
For every advancement that we make in technology, an unintended consequence results. You can gain a lot by using an electric mower if it suits your needs but you should be aware of the adjustments that you’ll need to make.
The first consideration deals with whether you decide on a corded or cordless model.
Plug-In Mowers Cost Less But Come With Headaches
Since they do not require expensive lithium batteries, corded mowers can cost significantly less money. This model from Greenworks is currently Amazon’s Choice for corded mowers. But this savings comes with a trade-off of convenience.
Remember that you will be tethered to an extension cord the entire time that you are mowing. Depending on the size of your yard, this can get a little old.
Add trees and shrubbery into the equation and you are headed for a tangled mess. I once purchased an electric weed-eater and found that after fighting the cord a few times, it didn’t get used. It was just too much of a hassle.
Cordless Mowers Offer Tangle-Free Use But Are Limited By Battery Power
While battery-powered mowers would seem to be the obvious solution they too come with limitations. Most notably, a limited mow time. Granted, lithium batteries are getting better and advertised run times are impressive.
But we can’t go strictly by a manufacturer’s estimation. Those estimates often deal with ideal circumstances that you may never encounter in the real world. At best, we can probably count on around 80% of the manufacturer’s “Up to ___ hours of runtime” marketing.
And lithium batteries do degrade over time. It will be a few years most likely but eventually, they will fail to charge and run as long as they originally did. So at some point, you will be looking at a replacement cost.
When factored against the cost of gas, oil, and small engine repairs, a replacement battery investment seems trivial. But it is a consideration.
And remember, depending on the size of your yard, you may need more than one battery. So factor that into your decision making.
Important Related Questions
Are Electric Lawn Mowers Powerful?
Electric mowers continue to improve when it comes to power. They are still not on par with gas-powered mowers but assuming you don’t let your yard get out of hand, they can be quite effective.
Greenworks now makes an 80-volt push mower that offers a tremendous amount of power for a battery-powered mower. The company claims up to 45 minutes of mowing on a single charge, although that is likely under ideal and rare conditions. Based on my research, 30 minutes is a safe bet.
This mower is enticing because it’s a three-in-one system that can mulch, side discharge, or collect clippings in the included bag. Even with this amount of power, however, it can be difficult to justify the cost when compared to a gas-powered mower.
We often equate the higher cost to more power when it comes to motorized tools. That is not the case here. Gas-powered mowers are usually less expensive than their electric counterparts.
With electric mowers, you are paying for technology, convenience, and, if you are environmentally conscious, peace of mind.
Do Battery-Powered Mowers Use Oil?
Since they forgo the combustion engine, electric mowers do not require oil like a gas-powered mower. They may, however, require routine lubrication of gears.
I reviewed the owner’s manuals for several models from Ryobi. In each, the company claimed that the unit came pre-lubed with sufficient lubrication for the life of the unit.
Download the owner’s manual for a mower before making a purchase. You can find these with a quick Google search such as “Ryobi electric lawn mower owner’s manual”.
Everyone’s situation is different. Consider the criteria that we outlined earlier to determine if an electric corded or cordless mower is the right choice for you.
If you have a relatively small yard, don’t want the hassle of engine maintenance, prefer a quieter mowing experience, or just want to do your part to reduce carbon emissions, today’s electric mowers offer power suitable for most lawns.
You will sacrifice some level of power but so long as you mow regularly and don’t let the grass get out of hand, you may be quite pleased with a corded or battery-powered mower.
Be sure to read Gas vs Electric: 6 Reasons To Use Battery-Powered Yard Tools