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22 Sep 2020

Five questions you should ask before buying a robot lawn mower

Having your grass cut by a robot may sound great, but there are important things to find out before you pay out
Robot mower

If cutting the grass is more of a chore than a pleasure, buying a robot lawn mower can be tempting. Good ones keep your lawn looking beautiful all year round and you don't even need to deal with any grass clippings.

They're far from cheap, though - most robot lawn mowers cost at least £500 and some more than £1,000, so you'll want to be sure they're right for you before investing.

We've listed five key questions below that are a good idea to answer before you part with your cash. Read on to find out what you should be asking to find the right robot for you.

We've just tested robot models for the very first time - check out our robot lawn mower reviews to see which ones cut their way through to our Best Buy recommendation.

1. Is it smartphone compatible?

If you want total convenience in a robot lawn mower, you should check whether it comes with a companion app for your smartphone. Most mowers do have one, and through these apps you unlock the full potential for programming and customisation.

Not only can you to set a complete grass-cutting schedule with a few taps of your finger, but you can also access extra features, such as location monitoring, coverage results and even remote control so you can manually drive it around your garden.

You won't be at a total disadvantage if you get a robot without a smartphone app, though - in fact, mowers without one tend to be cheaper to buy and simpler to maintain.

The one thing you would have to put up with is going out into your garden each time you want to program it, as you'll need to use the onboard control panel to adjust the schedule and set it to run.

2. Does an installation kit come included?

Unlike other robotic home products, such as robot vacuum cleaners, almost all robot mowers need to have a perimeter wire installed before they can be used.

The start and end points of the perimeter wire are usually at the mower's charging station, and once set, the mower will aim to cover every blade of grass inside the area set by the wire.

However, it's important to know that not all robot lawn mowers come with an installation kit, which includes perimeter wire and pegs for setting up your mowing area.

They can come at a significant extra cost, usually from £70 to £100, so make sure to check if an installation kit comes included before you buy so you know how much you'll really need to pay. Some manufacturers offer an installation service at a price, but it will save you getting up and down installing the wire.

For more tips on setting up your mower and extra buying advice, head to our handy robot lawn mowers guide.

3. Do I have an outdoor plug socket?

If you've bought a robot lawn mower but don't have a power outlet in your garden, you could be in trouble.

As well as linking the perimeter wire up to the charging base, you'll also need to connect the charging base to a plug socket so the mower can set itself to recharge when it needs some juice.

An outdoor plug socket is therefore essential, and because of this you'll also need to consider the ideal spot for your charging base. It won't do to have it at the bottom of your garden if your plug socket is on the other side as the cable won't reach.

Not willing to invest in an outdoor power outlet? Head to our lawn mower reviews to see the best in traditional grass cutting.

4. Does it have anti-theft features?

Leaving robot lawn mowers outside to cut the grass unsupervised can understandably lead to concerns around the risks of them being stolen, especially given how much they cost to buy.

That's why for peace of mind you should check on the security features that each robot mower comes with.

Perhaps the most useful anti-theft feature is an alarm that will sound when the robot mower is removed from its mowing area (ie past the perimeter wire). This will both deter thieves and alert you if it's being stolen.

If there's a companion smartphone app for your mower, some can also be tracked using location services similar to the 'Find my iPhone' feature on Apple devices, which can help you find your mower if it's taken from your garden.

Almost all robot mowers at least come with security Pin codes, which are useful for making sure you're the only person that can program it and are also helpful for deterring children as well as thieves.

The Tech Specs tab in our robot lawn mower reviews will tell you if a robot mower has anti-theft features or not.

5. Can the battery be replaced?

When buying gardening machinery as expensive as a robot lawn mower, you'll want one that will last many years to make it a worthwhile investment.

That's why you should always check if the battery can be replaced or not, as lithium-ion batteries inevitably lose their ability to hold a charge. If the battery in your mower can't be replaced, the mower itself will need replacing when the battery does.

At Which?, we understand the importance of living sustainably, which is why we never award a Best Buy to a robot lawn mower that doesn't have replaceable batteries, no matter how good it might be.

Replacement batteries can be pricey (sometimes more than £100), but this pales in comparison to the cost of buying a replacement robot every few years and you'll be sending much less waste to landfill.

If you're keen to reduce your impact on the planet in other ways, our handy guide on how to recycle cuts through the confusion around what can and can't be recycled, and explains what all the different symbols mean.