Help & advice: Buying guide to lawnmowers
Buying guide to lawnmowers
A lawnmower is key for keeping your grass looking gorgeous. Our guide will help you buy the mower that's best for the style, shape and size of your lawn.
For luxurious lawns choose the best machine from Homebase's range of lawnmowers.
When you're choosing your lawnmower, the biggest influencing factors are the size, shape and turf type of your lawn. You'll also need to think about how much time you want to spend keeping your grass looking its best! Here are some hints to help you buy what's right for you.
There are three basic types of lawnmowers:
With the cylinder design, you can get electric lawnmowers, petrol-powered ones or simple hand-pushed models. The blades rotate vertically like a cylinder against a bottom blade and this gives a scissor-like cut for a well-manicured lawn. Cylinder mowers are perfect for level lawns where you're after a really fine, short cut. They come with a variety of cutting widths, rollers for a striped effect and a detachable grass collection box.
These mowers are extremely versatile and cope with most types of lawn, rougher grassy areas and difficult, sloping banks. You can choose from electric rotary lawnmowers or petrol-driven models. And there are manual push or self-propelled versions too.
If you have a big area to cut or you have difficulty pushing a lawnmower, then a self-propelled model is definitely worth checking out. (They can be slightly more expensive.)
On a rotary lawnmower the blades rotate horizontally at the selected cutting height. The grass is thrown out at the back into a collection box. If you don't want to collect the clippings, simply take off the box.
These rotary lawnmowers literally hover over the surface of the grass. They don't usually have wheels, but some models now have rear wheels to make it easier to move them into position for mowing. The handle folds so you can hang the mower from a shed or garage wall - usefully saving you space.
Hover lawnmowers are great for small and medium gardens. Bigger models should happily handle larger lawns. Some models come with an integrated grass collection box. If you simply want to keep your lawn neat and tidy, then hover lawnmowers do the trick. But they're not the best choice for a really high-quality cut.
The size of your lawn is important when deciding whether you need a petrol lawnmower or an electric one. Electric lawnmowers are great for smaller lawns. Light and manoeuvrable, they're easy to handle and the electric cable shouldn't cause you any problems.
If you have a medium-sized lawn an electric lawnmower is still fine, but you might prefer a smaller petrol lawnmower. For starters, there won't be a trailing cable to worry about. And petrol lawnmowers have that extra power to give a great cutting performance. They'll still be light and easy to handle, too.
If you have a large lawn, you'll want to get the mowing done as quickly as possible. That's when a more powerful petrol lawnmower really comes into its own. It will cope extremely well with a big expanse of grass without overheating.
Petrol lawnmowers save you time in other ways too. You'll appreciate their wider grass cutting blades and bigger grass collection boxes! Many are self-propelled - that's a huge help when you have a big area to cut.
|Size of lawn||sq m||Power||Cutting width|
|Small||up to 100||electric||300mm|
What type of grass have you got? A lawn with really fine ornamental turf needs frequent cuts to keep the grass short and looking its best. A cylinder mower is just right for this job.
But most family homes have lawns made up of a mixture of ryegrass and a generous growth of weeds and sometimes moss! This kind of lawn gets plenty of wear and tear and needs cutting at least once a week. You're better off with a rotary lawnmower here. More versatile than cylinder lawnmowers, rotary mowers can cope with longer grass if you miss the weekly cut. If you have a petrol lawnmower, it'll handle damp grass when the weather is wet.
Rotary mowers are great on rough grass too - paddocks, orchards or a naturalised bank where you only need to cut once every few weeks. Choose a four-wheel model. It does better on rough grass than a model with a back roller.
Look at the shape of your lawn. Do you have curving edges and border paths? Is the surface undulating with gentle slopes and grassy banks? Have you planted trees and shrubs in your lawn? If your answer is yes, then go for a hover lawnmower. They're extremely lightweight and float over the grass. They're also easy to handle, even in small areas and between flowerbeds.
Your three main types of lawnmower can be electric or petrol-driven but some cylinder mowers are hand-push.
They're cleaner and lighter than petrol mowers and need minimum maintenance. And they're ideal for people who don't have a lot of time - just plug in and go! If you have a small or medium lawn, go for an electric lawnmower. (Remember you'll need a power source close by, and watch out for that trailing cable.)
- Always install an RCD adapter when using an electric mower.
- Test the RCD to make sure it's working.
- Never cut the grass when it's wet.
- Choose a machine with an integral cable and plug tidy so you can reel the cable in.
- Get a mower with a lock-off switch so the machine can't be switched on before you're ready.
These can be more expensive than electric models. They need more upkeep and you'll have to have some petrol stored. But they're a great choice for larger gardens where you want that extra bit of power. And you won't have a trailing cable to worry about.
Petrol mower start-up
Petrol mowers come with electronic key ignition or a recoil starter. Mowers with electronic key ignition usually cost a little more but they're simple to get going. With the recoil starter, just pull on the starter cord to begin mowing. The recoil action might not be best for infirm or elderly users as you need a bit of strength to pull the cord.
Self-propelled or push?
If you're worried about the weight of a petrol mower, think about a self-propelled lawnmower. There's no need to push so they're really easy to handle. Some self-propelled lawnmowers have variable speed control. You simply adjust to match your walking pace.
Some cylinder models are propelled manually. Inexpensive and easy to maintain and store, the manual cylinder mower is perfect for small lawns or tiny spaces where you need a really close, fine cut. But if you have difficulty pushing a mower or your garden is on a slope, choose a power mower.
Most grass boxes are detachable - you decide whether you want to collect grass clippings and compost them or just leave them to be reabsorbed into the soil. Obviously, the bigger the grass collection box, the fewer times you'll need to stop and empty it.
Some hover lawnmowers also compact grass in an integral collection box. That means fewer trips to the compost heap!
A clear viewing panel on the collection box lets you see how full it is - you can empty the box before it overfills and chokes the mower.
Would you like a striped-effect lawn? Then choose a mower with a rear roller. As the mower cuts, the roller travels over the grass and flattens it in one direction, which gives that stripy effect. A rear roller also lets you mow up to and over the edge of borders. Rotary, cylinder and hover mowers with rear wheels are all available with a rear roller.
- Never use your electric lawnmower in wet weather.
- With electric lawnmowers, check that the socket outlet has RCD protection and test the RCD to make sure it's working.
- Position an electric mower's trailing cable away from the cutting direction.
- Always switch off (and unplug with an electric mower) and make sure the blades are still before you lift the mower to remove jammed clippings or empty the grass box.
- Use and store petrol safely.
- Keep children and animals away from the area.
- Before you mow, remove stones and thicker twigs and branches that could fly up and hurt you or damage the blades and mower.
- Read, understand and follow the manufacturer's instructions before using your lawnmower.