The Best Manual Push Mower – 2019
A good-quality manual push mower (also called a reel mower) can have several benefits over a gas or electric-powered alternative. Though it may not be the quickest tool for getting the job done, a manual push mower is far quieter than one that runs on a motor, as well as producing less environmental and noise pollution.
Before you decide on one, you might want to take a look at how a mower actually works.
Our pick of the best manual push mowers available is the American Lawn Mower 1204-14 14-inch model. Though it struggles with smaller debris such as rocks and twigs, this is a common problem suffered by many models of push mower, and one that is easily overcome.
If you're looking for the ultimate best push mower, money no object, the Fiskars StaySharp Max is probably the mower for you.
For those on a tighter budget, the 16" Greenworks 25052 means you don't have to sacrifice too much performance & quality to save money.
The Best Reel Mower In Comparison
#1 - American Lawn Mower 1204-14 – Our Choice
The American Lawn Mower 1204-14 is our favorite push mower overall
American Lawn Mower specialize in manual push mowers - until recently, all their mowers were all operated manually, with no gas or electric-powered engines. With over 120 years of experience building reel mowers, you'd reckon they'd have got the design pretty close to perfect by now!
The 1204-14 model has an alloy steel frame with the durability needed to keep this push mower in functional condition long-term, while polymer wheels are puncture-proof and provide little resistance and friction, making the mower effortless to push. This push reel mower has a 4 blade reel made from heat-treated steel, and using ball bearings instead of cheaper bushes – the manufacturer hasn’t cut corners here.
Assembly is easy – you basically just need to connect the handle. Within 5 minutes of unpacking it, you should be ready to go.
Where the mower has more difficulty is in the navigation of ground full of debris such as small twigs or stones; this type of obstacle can result in blades locking up. However, this is a problem easily overcome by raking the lawn prior to mowing it.
One problem that traditional rotary-bladed gas-powered mowers cause over the long term is a reduction in grass quality, as grass is ripped and torn by fast-rotating blades. Conversely, this 1204-14 model snips each blade of grass with a scissor action, preserving the health and vital fluids within each blade, protecting the lawn from disease and decay.
With a 14-inch wide cutting path, it's easy to get full coverage of your grass. American Lawn Mower also offer reel mowers in 14-inch 5-blade, 16-inch 5-blade, and 18-inch 5-blade configurations. Bear in mind that more blades gives a slightly better cut, and more width will be more difficult to push.
No mower is perfect - slight problems don't need to be deal-breakers
The adjustable cutting height of this push mower ranges from 0.5 to 1.75-inches. This minimum cutting height won’t suit everybody; that said, not all push mowers feature an adjustable height setting, so this is a reasonably trivial issue. What’s more, a string trimmer can be used to pick up the slack if necessary.
Getting the borders closest to fences and foundations can be tricky – unlike powered motors, the rotating blade in a reel mower sits between the wheels, so the cutting path is noticeably narrower than the overall width of the mower. This issue affects all manual push mowers.
This manual push mower includes a limited 90-day warranty, which covers potentially defective parts at the point of purchase. Although this is a reasonably short warranty, the likelihood of a problem arising with a product of this build quality is slim, plus there are few moving parts making up a push mower, reducing the chance of component failure.
WE DON'T LIKE:
#2 - Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower
The Fiskars StaySharp Max is the ultimate manual push mower, money no object
The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower comes in at the upper end of the price range for this type, and has a range of features that help to justify the increased cost. An InertiaDrive reel helps tackle all varieties of grass, better handling those tough spots that often hold up cheaper push mowers. At the same time, most users find this mower easy to push.
The mower is simple and quick to assemble on arrival, and has a broad range of height settings, from a minimum depth of 1-inch up to a maximum of 4-inches. Additionally, we much prefer the use of a mounted grass chute for diverting cut grass over any kind of bag, as most bags will tend to fall off when they become heavy.
One other plus point worth a mention is the design of the mower’s wheels, which are inset, as are the blades. Both components extend to the full width of the mower, meaning that you won’t have any problems with missed edges around foundations, fences or walkways.
Although easy to push around the lawn, this push mower is still reasonably heavy at slightly over 50 pounds in weight. This can make carrying the machine to and from the lawn a more arduous task if you it is not in close proximity to the garage where the mower is stored.
The warranty for the Fiskars StaySharp mower is a limited 3-year cover that only extends to any manufacturer defect or component failure. However, the build quality is good. and this shouldn’t be a common occurrence.
WE DON'T LIKE:
#3 - Scotts 2000-20 Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower
The 2000-20 is great value for a larger (20") push mower
If you're after a mower that's much cheaper than a gas-powered machine, yet won't sacrifice on quality, then you'd do well to opt for the Scotts 2000-20. The cutting path is 20-inches wide, which is the upper end of the scale for push mowers, while the cutting height can be adjusted through 9 different iterations.
The combination of a lightweight frame, and innovative dual-wheel tracking technology, help to keep maneuverability of this push mower at the forefront of the design. That said, there’s one minor niggle with the construction of this mower that we shouldn’t neglect to mention, which is that the bolts securing the handle tend to loosen after prolonged periods of use; they’ll need tightening from time to time, to keep them secure.
Unfortunately, it’s mostly the lack of a solid warranty that lets the product down somewhat. A limited 3-year warranty covers only defective parts, and any replacements must be shipped at cost to the customer.
WE DON'T LIKE:
#4 - Greenworks 16" Reel Mower with Grass Catcher
The Greenworks 25052 is our favorite budget push mower
The Greenworks 25052 has a 16" cutting path. Double 10-inch front wheels elevate the blades to a minimum height of 1 1/8-inches, with a maximum height of 2 1/4-inches. There are also rear rollers, but they don’t do much for the stability of the unit overall.
The Greenworks push mower is surprisingly sturdy, given the low weight and reasonable price. This model is available in 16", 18" and 20" cutting widths.
A common feature of the Greenworks brand of push mowers is their inclusion of a rear-mounted bag, which is designed to catch grass tossed behind the blades. At first, the feature is well-received. However, as soon as it gains any real weight from the mounting cut grass, it begins to struggle in staying attached to the mower and is liable to fall off. It’s far easier to remove this attachment and allow the cut grass to compost into the lawn.
The warranty is a class-leading 4 years.
WE DON'T LIKE:
Are reel mowers effective?
Power rotary mowers cut grass by chopping and tearing, while reel mowers cut the grass by snipping it like a pair of scissors; just the way you trim your hair. So, yes, reel mowers are definitely effective. Torn or shredded grass means they are wounded which means they are prone to invasion by various diseases or insects. Grass clean cut with a reel mower are less susceptible to such attacks and can heal much faster.
Not only this, grass cut with reel mowers appear more tidy and immaculate due to the precise, even snipping mechanism. This is why professional baseball stadiums and golf courses opt for large reel mowers pulled by tractors to trim their grass.
Besides, reel mowers are both noise and emission free. You could read more on this issue here.
What Makes A Good Manual Mower?
Read on to see what makes a good manual push mower
There are two things to consider when it comes to the maneuverability of your prospective push mower: the actual weight of the item itself, and the ease with which it can be maneuvered across the lawn. There’s little point in owning a lightweight machine that is difficult to move around due to poor wheel design; similarly, an ergonomic mower that’s cumbersome and difficult to budge wouldn’t be very good either. Look for something that isn’t too heavy to transfer from the garage to the lawn, and is easy to push, so it will not tire you out after 5 minutes of usage.
Cutting height is typically adjustable and allows you to choose at what height you want to cut your grass. The window afforded by a machine can vary wildly, but the smaller the bottom number and higher the top number, the better. Push mowers often struggle with tall grass, pushing it flat as opposed to cutting it; so, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t mow the lawn frequently, you’d be best suited to a machine with as tall a cutting height as possible.
Again, there are two factors to consider here. Firstly, you should consider the cutting width specified in the product description. If you have a large lawn, but purchase a machine with a small cutting width, then you’ll be spending far longer mowing the grass, making multiple passes. For smaller lawns, a cutting width of 14 to 16-inches might suffice, but for larger areas, you’ll want to consider something around 20-inches.
However, there is a slight penalty for wide cutting paths – as you are providing all the effort, and it takes more effort to cut a 20-inch wide path than a narrower one, it is a little harder to push a wider reel mower than a narrower one.
Secondly, you should consider the design of the push mowers wheels, blades and frame. If you have numerous fences or foundations against the edge of your lawn, then any mower that doesn’t have inset wheels won’t be able cut right up against the boundaries. This could result in untidy edges, unless you invest in a string trimmer to pick up the slack.
Push mowers all handle grass clippings differently. Some will funnel the blades into a bag, others will divert the grass off in a chosen direction, and some will simply let the grass fall to the ground to decompose. If you’re not too worried about the appearance of cut grass on your lawn, then the latter option might be the cheapest for you. Consider that bag attachments often have problems with remaining attached when weighed down by grass, and they can get in the way, too.
Look for a mower with a steel blade reel – you want your mower to last for a long time, so it’s best to pay a little extra for good quality materials & construction.
Maintenance / Cleaning
How to look after your new lawn mower, so it works as well as it can, and lasts as long as possible
Maintenance and cleaning of a manual push mower is much simpler than that of an electric or gas-powered lawn mower, not to mention carrying less risks. Since there are no electric or gas-powered components, there’s no risk of the machine kicking into gear while your hands are near the blades. The basic design also means that you don’t have to spend time emptying oil or gasoline from their respective tanks. Push mowers can be cleaned with a hard-bristled brush, detaching the blades and any grass-catching accessories. It’s recommended that you wear gloves to avoid any accidental scrapes on sharpened blades. Check out our articles on how to maintain a lawn mower and sharpening reel mower blades to learn more.
Manual vs. powered mowers
As the name suggests, manual push mowers are powered by the user. The basic mechanism by which a manual mower works resembles the mechanism of a pair of scissors. Upon pushing, as the wheels and the axle turn, the blades start moving against the stationary cutting cutter bar, snipping the strands of grass as they are scooped in by the cylinder.
Powered mowers, on the other hand, are driven by either electricity, battery or gasoline. It has an engine which can be ignited by any of the three sources so that it can work on its blades. Unlike manual mowers, the blades of these mowers do not snip off the grass; instead they are encompassed under a deck horizontally and spins around very fast to cut the grass as it comes into contact.
Manual mowers offer clean, precise cuts while being lightweight, cheap and environment friendly. But they are limited in efficiency as they tend to miss spots and so have to be pushed around repeatedly; making the mowing task laborious and unsuitable for larger yards. Powered mowers, despite being bulky, costly and somewhat hazardous to the environment, make lawn mowing super efficient and convenient, regardless of the yard size.
Manual mowers are simple gardening tools meant for simple tasks. If you have a small space to work on that doesn't require premium maintenance, these mowers will be your best friend. But for lawns with increased area that require intense work, it would be quite impossible for an individual to push the mower around for long hours. In that case, powered mowers are more fitted for the job.
Occasionally faults are discovered after a product has gone on sale, usually requiring the product to be recalled by the manufacturer.
There were no recalls listed for any of the mowers mentioned here at the time of writing (June 2019). However, it's always a good idea to check the latest information at the Consumer Product Safety Commission website before buying any large, expensive or potentially dangerous product.
Do you own any of the manual mowers mentioned here? Did you choose a different one? Let us know in the comments!