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Cordless, petrol or electric – which type of lawn mower can you rely on?

New survey results published by Which? have found the best and worst lawn mower brands for reliability

Cordless, petrol or electric – which type of lawn mower can you rely on?

Those of us lucky enough to have gardens will be spending a lot of time in them in the weeks to come. That’s why choosing a lawn mower you can depend on is more important than ever.

Recent expert research carried out by Which? can tell you which lawn mower brands are the most reliable and help you buy one that lasts.

We asked Which? members to tell us about the petrol, cordless and electric models they own, how satisfied they are with them, the faults they’ve had to deal with and how long they lasted for before they needed replacing.

Read on to learn some pros and cons to consider when buying cordless, electric and petrol, or head straight to our lawn mower brands guide to get the lowdown on the brands to buy and those to avoid.


Or head straight to our lawn mower reviews to see the best models of each type.


Petrol lawn mowers

The powerhouse type, petrol mowers are often large machines with wide cutting widths intended for cutting large lawns of more than 150m sq.

In our independent tests, petrol mowers need to score 75% or higher to be made a Best Buy, which is higher than the scores needed for cordless and electric models.

The bar may be set higher than other lawn mower types for these big machines, but our tests have found some petrol-powered duds among the strong cutters.

Key factors to take into account include:

Pros:

  • Powerful – a strong engine means a stronger cut, so petrol mowers often excel at cutting tougher grass types, such as long or rough sections.
  • Professional features – these mowers tend to have features such as mulching plugs or rear rollers, which are handy for redistributing finely cut grass and giving your lawn a smart, striped finish.
  • Built for large lawns – with wide cutting blades, long-lasting fuel and no restrictive cables, petrol mowers are the go-to for getting large patches cut. If you’ve got a big garden, a petrol model is the choice option.

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to start – some come with handy buttons for a push-start, but these are rare. Most petrol mowers have a pull cord that needs a good tug, which can be frustrating if it doesn’t work and problematic if you have mobility issues.
  • Heavy – wide cutting blades and large steel engines make for a heavy machine. These mowers can be difficult to push without a self-propel function and should always be lifted by at least two people.
  • Noisy – a powerful engine usually makes the most noise, so if your neighbours don’t like to be disturbed, you could have problems with the noise a petrol mower makes.

Want to pull the cord and start up one of the best lawn mowers around? Head to our top five lawn mowers for 2020 to see our picks.

Cordless lawn mowers

The modern and most popular type around, battery-powered cordless mowers are usually aimed at cutting smaller lawns you might find in a city or suburb. However, there are some that rival petrol models for power and are well suited to larger lawns.

Although cordless products are convenient and usually cost less to run than their petrol and electric rivals, you should always make sure the battery comes included, as they are sometimes sold at cut prices without the batteries included.

Lithium-ion batteries also gradually lose their ability to hold a charge over time, so make sure you can buy replacement batteries so you aren’t left with a product you can’t use.

Thing to bear in mind when buying include:

Pros:

  • Easy to switch on – pop your battery in the slot and press the ‘on’ button – it’s as simple as that. No need to mess around with tricky pull cords.
  • Multi-use batteries – many cordless mowers come with a battery that’s compatible with a range of gardening machinery from the same brand. It can be handy for switching from your mower to a grass trimmer or hedge trimmer.
  • Energy efficient – the electricity used to charge up the battery will be far less than what’s needed to power an electric mower or fuel a petrol one.

Cons:

  • Running times can vary – your mower will frustrate you if you barely get enough use out of it before it runs out of charge. Our tests have found cordless mowers that last a little over 10 minutes.
  • Charging times are often long – batteries take a lot longer to load up on energy than they take to expend it. A reasonable charging time is around one hour, but some batteries can take six hours or more.
  • Batteries not always included – make sure to check if the mower comes with a battery included, because sometimes they don’t and batteries aren’t cheap – they usually cost around £60-£90.

We’ve made a shortlist of the very best cordless mowers money can buy. Head to our top five cordless mowers for 2020 to discover the kings of cordless.

Electric lawn mowers

The lightest lawn mower type available, electric lawn mowers can be very easy to manoeuvre – as long as you don’t mind the wire trailing behind you.

The electric mowers we’ve tested have an average weight of 11.8kg, which is almost a third of the weight of the petrol mowers, which weigh in at 32kg, on average.

Our reliability survey found that electric mowers were a mixed bag. One brand had a very commendable customer satisfaction score of 79%, but we also found one with a much less satisfactory score of 65% – the lowest of all the brands we surveyed.

Other important elements to consider include:

Pros:

  • No refueling – with no petrol tank to refill or battery to recharge, an electric mower will keep on cutting until your grass is the way you like it.
  • Cheap – electric mowers are generally the cheapest to buy with a typical spend of £130 – that’s less than half the typical price of a cordless (£300).
  • Lightweight – this type of mower often does well in our ease-of-use and difficult terrain tests. A lighter weight often makes turning and dodging obstacles easier.

Cons:

  • Cable length – depending on the size of your lawn, you might be frustrated to find that the length of the cable stops you from reaching parts of your garden. A safe and reliable extension lead is a must.
  • Safety risks – make sure to move the cable out of the way during mowing, as the last thing you want to do is accidentally cut the cord during use. A residual current device (RCD) can help reduce the risk of electric shocks should you cut the cable by accident.

Head to our Best Buy lawn mowers to see which electric lawn mowers we recommend you buy.

Which lawn mower type lasts the longest?

As can be seen from the graph above, the expected lifetime of different lawn mowers can vary by several years.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. There’s one electric mower brand that our survey found lasts approximately 11 years, for example. That’s much longer than the averages would suggest.

Ready to see the full picture of how reliable each lawn mower brand is? Check out our lawn mower brands guide.

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