Deciding on the best self-propelled lawn mower isn’t as easy as it used to be. Do you need commercial or residential quality? Do you want to use gas or batteries for power? How much grass do you need to cut? Are you a mulcher or a bagger?
Having tested dozens of the best walk-behind lawn mowers from entry-level residential to the top professional models, we got our Pro team together to choose our top mowers in a range of scenarios.
One of the big things changing in the market is Honda’s announcement that the brand is exiting the lawn mower market. While you can still buy Honda mowers until they run out of stock, 2023 marks the end of production. We still highly recommend them, but due to the news and iffy availability, we’re not considering Honda as part of our choices this year.
Want to see more, including ride-on and robotic recommendations? Read out Best Lawn Mower Reviews main article!
Our Top Picks
- Best Commercial Gas: Exmark Commercial X-Series – Find a Dealer
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- Best Residential Gas: Toro Super Recycler– Buy at Acme Tools
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- Best Professional Electric: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 21″ – Buy at Acme Tools
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- Best Residential Electric: EGO Select Cut XP w/Speed IQ – Buy at Lowe’s
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- Best Large Commercial: Greenworks Commercial 30″ – Buy at Greenworks
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- Best Large Residential: Toro TimeMaster 30″ Personal Pace – Buy at Acme Tools
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- Best for the Money: Toro 21″ Recycler – Buy at Home Depot
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Best Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower
As we bid adieu to Honda this year, the HRC series still gets two thumbs up from us while you can get them. From there, we turn to Exnark and its Commercial X line that complements its Lazer Z zero-turn mowers well. Some professionals will certainly turn to the higher-capacity 30-inch model, but we expect the 21-inch model will find its way onto more trailers.
Exmark wisely uses a Honda 163cc GXV engine with a legendary reputation for reliability. It’s fed by a generous 1-gallon fuel tank and turns the blade at tip speeds up to 18,500 fpm. There’s also an option for a Kawasaki FJ180V engine if you’d like to step up to a 179cc engine.
The deck is 1/4-inch aluminum construction that keeps the weight down (112 pounds) while maintaining high durability. The deck is adjustable from 4.5 inches on the high side all the way down to 1 inch while the drive runs at speeds up to 4.2 MPH.
Price: Starts at $1799.00
Toro runs deep in the residential lawn mower sector and our favorite among them is the Super Recycler series. Getting the best of all the technology Toro has to offer, our top recommendation (model 21565) includes the Personal Pace drive system and the Smart Stow design that allows you to vertically store the mower even though it’s a gas model.
It uses a 163cc Briggs & Stratton engine that produces 7.25 ft-lbs of torque and just under 17,000 fpm blade tip speed.
Toro touts a commercial-grade construction on this model and includes a lighter aluminum deck rather than steel. In addition to that, you get outstanding cut quality, especially on the mulching side (you better with the name Super Recycler!). Wrapping it up, the Personal Pace drive system adjusts to your walking pace so there are no levers or dials to adjust.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted to find the best battery-powered lawn mower, you could only find residential models. Now, there’s an emerging class of professional-grade options and we have picks for both Pros and homeowners.
Professional: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
There aren’t many true commercial self-propelled lawn mowers with lithium-ion power sources. Milwaukee launched their effort in 2022 with a monstrous 10 ft-lbs of torque that tops what you typically see from a 200cc gas engine. It’s more than just muscle, though. Its blade and deck combine to handle mulching and bagging better than most.
As you roll into fall, the mower’s high-lift mode keeps the blades at 3300 RPM to help pull those lightweight leaves and clean up your lawn. Other features include 180° LED lighting, LED battery indicators facing you, variable speed thumb bar (in addition to the speed wheel), a durable build, and much more.
Price: $1099.00 with two 12.0Ah batteries and dual-port rapid charger
Residential: EGO Select Cut XP 21-Inch Lawn Mower with Speed IQ
The evolution of EGO’s flagship mower is interesting. It started with the dual-battery Peak Power model that raised the bar of what lithium-ion is capable of. Then, we saw the first stacked-blade SelectCut options that improved cut quality and effectiveness in tall grass. The two technologies combined in the SelectCut XP. Now EGO adds Speed IQ to the mix.
Speed IQ is a self-propelled drive system that automatically adjusts to your pace. However, it’s not a spring-loaded set of handles like Toro uses on its Personal Pace models. Instead, there’s a sensor doing some serious engineering magic… and it works like a charm from our brief time with it at Equip Expo 2022 (formerly GIE).
Price: $599.00 bare, $999.00 with a 12.0Ah battery and Turbo charger
Best Large Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
Can a battery-powered commercial mower really displace gas models? Greenworks Commercial has an 82V 30-inch model that got our attention at the Equip Expo in late 2022, and it’s hard to ignore as a legitimate option. It has the power to replace a 200cc gas engine with blade speeds up to 16,000 FPM. On a full charge, it can cover up to 2 acres.
There are drive system features worth considering as well. Independent hub wheel motors engage what Greenworks calls the Easy Turn System (ETS), making the mower easier to maneuver. Another big deal is that there is a powered reverse function—something that’s incredibly helpful with the weight of mowers in this class. The controls are all up next to your hands and there’s even a display to help you keep track of your battery levels.
Price: $1999.99 bare, $2999.99 with three 8Ah batteries and a dual-port charger
Residential: Toro TimeMaster 30-inch Personal Pace Mower
With 10 ft-lbs of torque delivered from its Briggs & Stratton 223cc engine, the 30-inch Toro TimeMaster is our pick as the best large walk-behind lawn mower. Not only does it deliver big power to turn its time-saving 30-inch blade, but it also features Toro’s Personal Pace self-propelled drive and Spin-Stop that lets you stop the blade without shutting off the mower.
It all adds up to big-time savings on larger lawns. Grab model 21200 if you want an electric start or the 21199 if you don’t mind a recoil start and want to save $100.
Price: $1599.00 (21199), $1499.99 (20200)
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for the Money
Toro’s 21-inch Recycler (21352) offers an excellent value for budget-minded homeowners. It’s a Made in the USA rear-wheel drive system powered by a Briggs & Stratton 140cc engine. It comes ready to mulch, bag, or side discharge and you don’t have to worry about changing the oil. Just check the levels and add more when it’s necessary.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Brand
No one in the self-propelled lawn mower market dominates like Honda. Their engines enjoy a reputation for quality and durability every other manufacturer is shooting for, and their mowers are simply outstanding.
They typically run at a premium, though. Both Honda mowers and Honda-powered mowers are more expensive than similar designs from other brands. The big kick in the pants is Honda leaving the market, though.
That opens the door for Toro. There are a lot of Toro models we recommend for good reason and hit a wide range from budget-friendly homeowner mowers to commercial zero turns. It’s one of the best-selling brands of walk-behind mowers.
Getting hard sales figures is tough to come by, and it’s always possible we missed the mark. However, we see more Honda and Toro walk-behind mowers on commercial trailers and residential lawns than any other brand.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Bagging
You don’t have to ditch your current self-propelled lawn mower and buy a whole new one to improve your bagging efficiency. In most cases, adding a high-lift blade to your current mower will make a significant difference. With the exception of electric mowers, you don’t need to worry too much about matching the brand making the blade, but you do need to match the arbor style and the length. The package should tell you which brands it is compatible with.
If you’re still in the market for a new mower, higher RPMs make for better airflow and bagging. Check mowers with a 160cc or higher engine and compare the top blade speeds. You can always swap blades, but you can’t change the speed.
Pro Tip: If you have a 2-point or 4-point deck height adjustment, set the front wheels of your mower one notch higher than the rear to improve bagging.
Best Self-Propelled Mulching Lawn Mower
Similar to a high-lift blade for bagging, you can improve your mulching efficiency with a mulching-specific blade. These usually have additional cutting edges that cut the clippings more times before they drop back into the grass. Keeping the blade sharp ensures you get the best mulching results every time you mow.
If you’re in the market for a new mower, look for a 160cc or higher engine to give you the torque you need to keep your blade speed high in thicker grass. Remember, you can always add a mulching blade, but you can’t make up for an underpowered engine.
Pro Tip: You get the best mulching results if you’re only taking an inch or two off the top of your grass, so make sure you stay on top of lawn maintenance during the peak cutting season.
Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – More Priorities
Best Rear-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower for Hills: YBravo Gen II 25-inch Commercial Mower
After running into issues with other commercial walk-behind mowers, we turned to YBravo 25-inch commercial mower to take care of a 3-acre soggy field that our ZTs only bogged down in. Its Kawasaki 180cc engine kept the blade turning where others simply stalled.
When it’s time to move out of the radio station swamp and you’re going for a more professional look, its cut quality is excellent as well. Available in a 21-inch and the 25-inch model we tested, Ybravo is worth serious consideration.
If you have a Bad Boy dealer closer to you, check out the same model sold under the Bad Boy brand name.
Price: $1299.00 (25-inch model)
Best All-Wheel Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower: Toro 22-inch Personal Pace All-Wheel Drive Mower 21472
AWD mowers are what you turn to for work on slopes and uneven terrain where it’s possible to have a wheel or two lose traction. For the best all-wheel drive self-propelled lawn mower, we like the Toro 21472 Personal Pace model.
Its 22-inch deck is on the larger size of standard mowers and the Personal Pace system is easy to work with once you get used to it. If you switch between mulching and bagging, the mower’s lever system is super simple.
Packing plenty of power with its 163cc Briggs & Stratton engine, it’s not so much that it destroys the competition. It’s that its performance is excellent and the innovations are genuinely helpful while keeping its price in check.
More Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Recommendations
Not every mower earns an award, but there are several other models we recommend that didn’t find a place earlier in the article. Check these options out if one of the others doesn’t fit your needs.
- Echo 58V E-Force 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Buy at Acme Tools
- Greenworks 60V 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Buy at Tractor Supply
- HARt SuperCharge 40V 21-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Learn More
- Ryobi 40V HP Brushless Crosscut AWD Lawn Mower – Buy at Home Depot
- Skil PWRCore 40 20-Inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – Buy at Amazon
Best Lawn Mower Buying Guide – What We Look For
Gas vs Battery
Gas power still wins the day when you’re highest priorities are keeping your purchase price down and your power level high. With advancements in battery and motor technology, the OPE world is shifting towards battery power, though. It’s cleaner and quieter to run and requires less maintenance.
However, you have to look at premium models to get true gas power, and runtime can be a limiting factor. It’s also less likely you have a service center nearby that can get you back up and running quickly if there’s a problem.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, there are a lot of battery-powered options available. Once you get beyond that size, you need to consider how many batteries you’ll need and legitimate options really start to thin out once you hit 1/2 an acre. With larger lawns, newer battery-powered zero turn mowers are a legitimate option.
Take a deeper look at the comparison between gas and battery power in this article.
Commercial vs Residential
This might be better titled “professional vs homeowner” considering there are both commercial and residential professional crews. Regardless, commercial mowers are built with better components and commercial engines, creating a machine that is built to last for years of high-hour daily use.
If you’re a homeowner mowing once a week or so, a good residential mower can still last for 5 or 10 years (or more) if you take care of it. It just uses components and engine designs better fit for occasional use.
Engine Size and Cutting Power
If you stay on top of your mowing and cut quality isn’t a high priority, an engine as small as 140cc is likely fine.
Move up to the 160cc–180cc class for better performance when the grass is thicker and taller, or when you want to make sure you get excellent mulching, bagging, and/or clean cuts. The greater power improves lift and is less likely to bog down in thick patches.
When you’re looking at deck sizes beyond 22 inches, you should start looking for engines in the 180cc–200cc range (or higher) to ensure it can keep the RPMs high while it’s cutting such a large swath.
We look for three major components of cut quality: evenness, mulching size, and bagging efficiency.
Evenness is pretty straightforward. When we’re testing, we look for grass blades that weren’t cut and indications that there wasn’t enough lift to clip all of the blades at the same level.
When mulching, smaller clippings are better since they drop down closer to the base of the remaining grass. We also look to see if a mower is prone to leaving trails and clumps.
For bagging, it’s all about how much grass is collected, if the chute tends to clog while we’re cutting, and how much grass is deposited back to the ground.
One of the major benefits of battery-powered mowers is the lower noise levels compared to gas, but that doesn’t mean gas mowers have to be obnoxious. We expect higher levels than battery-powered models and that is typically the case.
When we test noise levels, we measure from our operator’s ear to get an idea of what the person using the mower should expect. Even though some mowers are quieter than others, we still recommend hearing protection when you’re using a gas model.
How efficient gas mowers use fuel has a very direct effect on your wallet, especially when you’re mowing every day as a Pro.
Fuel efficiency testing is more than just a runtime calculation. The cutting swath of a mower comes into play, especially on those 25 and 30-inch models. With larger lawns, it’s possible to get more cutting done per gallon of gas with an engine that uses more gas per hour.
21 or 22 inches is pretty standard for most mowers. Jumping up to a 25-inch or 30-inch mower may seem tempting, but it’s not for everyone.
If your lawn is a 1/4-acre or less, the time you gain with a larger deck might not mean a whole lot of time savings. Where you really gain some time is on lawns that are a 1/2-acre or more.
Keep in mind, larger deck-size mowers are heavier. When you have to mow wet or soggy areas, the weight can work against you.
Steel vs Plastic (Poly) Deck
The vast majority of gas mowers have steel decks while battery-powered models have a much higher percentage of plastic poly decks.
Those poly plastic decks are tougher than they look, but they probably won’t hold up as well as steel in the long run. It’s still highly unlikely that you’ll wear through one before it’s time to replace the mower, though.
However, there’s a whole lot more design flexibility that comes with poly decks, and engineers can do some amazing things to help with airflow that directly affects cut quality along with bagging and mulching efficiency.
Here in Florida, we have a lot of St. Augustine grass that we cut at 3 1/2 inches, so we prefer a mower that has at least a 4-inch maximum deck height.
Depending on what species of grass you have, you might be able to get away with a lower height, but 4 inches is a good all-around benchmark.
On the low end, most of us aren’t cutting golf course greens (you’d use a reel mower for that, anyway), so the minimum deck height usually isn’t an issue.
However, if you use a blade that dethatches or scalps for maintenance or re-seeding, you might want to make sure the deck height gets low enough—typically 1 1/2 inches or less.
Single-point height adjustments are the easiest since you can raise or lower the deck with just one lever. It’s common on battery-powered lawn mowers, but not so much on their heavier gas counterparts.
Part of that is because the single-point mechanisms tend to introduce additional flex into the system and the weight of a gas mower puts more strain on the mechanism. So while we generally prefer single-point, we understand why gas mowers may opt away from them.
Pro Tip: Set the front wheels one notch higher than the rear wheels to improve bagging efficiency on 4-point or 2-point adjustable mowers.
If you’re really OCD, more height adjustments mean more precise cutting. Realistically, most of us are going to find a good height on any mower as long as it hits the maximum and minimum heights we mow at.
Setting the Speed
The type of speed adjustment your self-propelled lawn mower has can make or break your experience. There are pull levers, thumb push levers, full push bars (Toro’s Personal Pace), and iterations on those.
Try it at the dealer before you buy it. If you hate working the mechanism for a couple of minutes, imagine what it’s going to feel like after 30 minutes or an hour.
Front-Wheel Drive, Rear-Wheel Drive, or All-Wheel Drive?
Front-wheel drive lawn mowers are typically the least expensive and work well for even terrain. They also help you turn the easiest since you lift up the drive wheels as you make your turns.
Rear-wheel drive mowers add some cost but create better traction on hills and slopes. They’re particularly good at pushing the mower’s weight uphill where front-wheel drives start to lose traction as they try to pull the weight.
All-wheel drive mowers are the most expensive and generally do the best job on hills, slopes, and uneven terrain. On particularly bumpy areas where it’s likely one or more wheels will lose traction, it’s the best bet.
Larger wheels tend to handle bumps and uneven terrain better than smaller wheels according to manufacturers. However, it’s a claim that Consumer Reports says isn’t really the case.
If you’ve used a gas engine, there’s a good chance you’ve worn out your arm pulling the cord to start it. There’s no doubt that having an electric start on your mower can take away a lot of the frustration.
It won’t make up for poor maintenance, though. A well-maintained mower starts easily on the first or second pull. That begs the question as to whether the electric start is worth an extra hundred dollars.
It’s totally up to you, but if it’s in the budget, we want it.
Mulch, Bag, or Side/Rear Discharge?
Most quality mowers are 3-in-1, meaning you can bag, mulch, or side/rear discharge. Less expensive models often only provide options for bagging and mulching. Which one you choose depends on what type of grass you have, how fast it grows, and your personal preference.
In central Florida where St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bahia dominate our landscapes, the summer heat and rains make our grass grow incredibly fast. Most of us mulch out of necessity since we almost need a dumpster for the volume of clippings we create.
Most lawn mowers have 3 handle positions you can set. For tall guys like me or average-height guys like Clint, it helps you find a more comfortable grip. Some mowers opt for 2, or sometimes just 1 handle position.
Value is more than just price. We take a broad look at the performance and features compared to the price to determine the value of each mower.
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