It is easy, when thinking about push reel mowers for visions of our grandpa struggling to push a heavy and cumbersome old mower around the lawn on hot summer afternoons.
However, the truth is that push reel mowers have come a long way since your grandpa’s days. They’re a lot easier to push than you might think, the blades are razor sharp and they look great.
So, lets take go head to head. Push reel mowers vs their more powerful cousins the gas mower and see where that takes us. What are the pros and cons of push reel mowers?
Perhaps the most obvious place to start is cost. A push reel mower typically costs less than $100. Anyone who has shopped around for a mower knows that if you want a decent one you may end up paying several hundred dollars.
And that’s just the start. Once bought, a push reel mower requires nothing further spent on it. Modern reel mower blades are very sharp and may only require sharpening once every two or three years.
Gas mowers on the other hand won’t work without gas. So, there is an on-going cost associated with even using a gas mower. On top of that you will need a gas can to store spare fuel and oil to keep the engine properly lubricated. Not large sums of money, but they all add up.
One of the big reasons why people like push mowers is the very low environmental footprint they have. Once bought, the impact on the environment of a push mower is the sum total of zero (unless, of course, you count cutting grass).
This is not so for gas mowers. The US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that running a new gas lawn mower for just one hour emits volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides into the air that is equivalent to driving 11 new cars for the same period.
If you care for the environment this fact is difficult to ignore.
There’s not actually much to a push reel mower. A wipe down of the blades after use, a little oil to keep the mechanism smooth and every now and then a bit of blade sharpening. Push reel mowers are not going to require you to know something about engines, or take up much of your time tinkering to get going. No. These small human powered tools are simple and easy to operate and require almost no ongoing maintenance.
Anyone who has owned a gas mower in the past will know this is not the case for their machines. Fuel, oil, dirty rags, fiddling with the choke and working hard to get the damn thing started. They may be more powerful than push mowers, but you definitely pay a price for that power with ongoing maintenance.
This one is self-evident. A gas mower is a gas-powered engine on wheels. There is no getting away from it, they can be noisy, even with sound dampening features the noise from a gas powered mower is unmistakeable.
Push reel mowers on the other hand, while not completely silent will not even disturb the neighbours. They do make a gentle whirring noise as the cylinder rotates and the blades cut the grass, but it really is a pleasing noise rather than an intrusive one and certainly not one anyone would complain about.
This is a big one. It is pretty obvious that the potential for a serious accident to occur when using a push mower is considerably lower than those that might occur from gas mowers.
It is thought that lawn mower accidents are the leading cause of amputations for children in the US a fact supported by a University of Missouri study which showed that there are 75,000 injuries every year from mowing accidents, with at least 10,000 of them harming children.
Not something easily overlooked and a real concern to any family with a garden.
The blades on rotary lawn mowers rotate so fast that they rip off the top of grass blades rather than cutting them neatly. These tears often result in a browning of your lawn grass following a mow and may mean the grass is more susceptible to disease.
Push reel mowers on the other hand neatly slice through the grass blades leaving a nice clean cut. The cuttings are small and fine and when left on your lawn will end up mulching down and providing much needed nutrition to the remaining grass.
Gas mowers also hoover up grass cuttings with a powerful vacuum. This can dislodge some grass roots and result in small grassless patches which are susceptible to invasion by weeds.
Many push mower owners will attest to this, swearing that they think their lawn looks much better using a push reel mower than it would if they used a gas equivalent.
In the interest of balance, it should be noted that push reel mowers are not better than gas mowers in every circumstance.
Push mowers really don’t cope well with long grass. If you forget to mow regularly, especially during the growing seasons, it can take a lot more effort to bring your lawn back under control. Gas mowers on the other hand can deal easily with slightly longer grass, even up to five inches in length.
Push reel mowing will take longer. It may be a more pleasant pastime, you may feel that you are getting some exercise while doing something useful, but it is difficult to ignore the fact that you are likely to spend longer push mowing your lawn than you would have if you had used a gas mower.
Push mowers work best on nice flat lawns. They do not cope as well if there are lots of undulations or the surface of your lawn is uneven. They also do not cope well with debris on the lawn, such as twigs or stones. This means that push mowers are not really suitable for the wilder areas of your lawn, or perhaps those areas overshadowed by a tree.
Push mowers work well on small, well established lawns. The reality is that if you have a large backyard you may well find that a push reel mower is simply not practical as the simple act of mowing the lawn would take up all the time you had plus any spare time you might have allocated for other yard work.
The Bottom Line
Owners of push mowers tend to love them. This is rarely felt by owners of gas mowers. But, needs must and although push mowers have many advantages the fact of the matter is that their disadvantages, if they relate to you, will take the decision for you when choosing what is the right mower for your lawn. Take a look at our push reel mower reviews if you are thinking of purchasing one.