Last updated June 2014
The following points are covered in much more detail in ‘All about choosing a lawnmower – a full guide‘ – this page gives a brief overview.
Types of mower – for long or short grass?
For grass that is never allowed to get too long, you could use a cylinder mower. This type of mower has a scissor-like cutting action between a cylinder of revolving blades and a fixed bottom blade. There are hand, mains electric, cordless and petrol cylinder mowers available.
Mowers that can be adjusted to cope with long and short grass are more versatile. Rotary mowers have a blade whizzing around parallel to the ground, and are either electrically or petrol-engine powered, with electric and petrol hovers too. You can even buy automated robot mowers – after you set up the perimeter wires, just sit back.
Machines designed for tackling long grass are scythe (sickle-bar) mowers and flail mowers. The latter are often used by local authorities for long rough grass.
Mower features – stripes, grass collection and ease of use
Electric or petrol cylinder mowers with a heavy roller will leave a long-lived stripe,and some wheeled rotaries have a roller to leave a stripe too – such as electric and petrol rotaries from Lawnmowers UK.
Cylinder mowers can collect the mowings, usually in a rear-fitting grassbox. Some rotaries have optional grass collection. Mulching or recycling rotaries cut and recut mowings and drop them to the ground where they are invisible, and return nutrients to the soil. These mowers save time because there’s no box to empty, but often they have optional grass collection for versatility.
Scythe and flail mowers do not collect mowings.
Ease of use
Choose a mower with easily altered height-of-cut settings and convenient controls.
Modern, well maintained cylinder hand mowers (see our online garden centre or Lawnmowers UK are much easier to push than the old-fashioned ones – it’s because they have a much lighter rear roller to keep the weight down. Quiet, use no fuel (so eco-friendly), small, easy to use on horizontal lawns but harder work on slopes.
Electric mowers – mains and battery
Electric mowers are lightweight, usable on slopes, can be stored in the house too, but their use is limited to dry weather for safety.
There’s a good range of mains electric-powered mowers on sale. The cable can be a nuisance to keep out of the way, and easy to cut through accidentally if the mower has metal cutting blades rather than nylon or plastic blades. For safety, use electric mowers plugged into a residual current device (if not incorporated into the house wiring).
Or you could do away with the problem by using a cordless mower. These run on rechargeable batteries – cordless cylinder and rotary mowers are available; just click on an image below to see a range.
Petrol mowers – 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines
Petrol mowers are versatile but need servicing and outside storage. Choose special 4-stroke engines (made by Honda) for slopes; any 4-stroke for level ground. Why? Well, unlike 4-stroke car engines that have an oil pump, small engines for mowers do not. So an ordinary 4-stroke mower engine will not be lubricated sufficiently if used on slopes, so the engine will be damaged. 2-stroke engines are fuelled by a petrol/oil mix, which solves the problem, but legislation covering emissions has been the death knell of 2-stroke lawnmowers in the UK (in fact the whole of the EU).