It's time to buy a lawnmower, are you considering a good ol' fashioned human-powered reel mower? While this low-maintenance classic offers some real benefits, the trade-offs might keep you pushing its gas-powered alternative.
We purchased a reel lawnmower in the spring of last year for our 6,000 square foot yard. Now that I've pushed my way through a year, here are firsthand pros and cons to help you make the best decision for you.
Finding a great sale, we were able to snatch an 18" reel mower for just $50. We were in the market for a mower and had grandiose dreams of all the smart benefits we were taking advantage of – low maintenance, physical workout, and environmentally friendly. The most expensive reel mowers top out around $200 and the cheapest price for a gas mower is the same. When it comes to price, there's no question which mower is saving you more money, but what about time?
At just about .1 acre of grass, we were convinced a reel mower wouldn't add much time. We were wrong. Our little reel hacks its way through 18" of grass at a time, but needs a pretty decent overlap to avoid mohawks sticking up in-between passes...making the reel feel more like 12". At the end of the day, even though we saved upfront on the mower, the extra time spent mowing left us wondering how much our time was worth.
Bonus time-sucker: if your yard has a tendency to get a little long between cuts, plan on going over everything twice because long grass is a real challenge for these mowers. As one of the most common complaints of a reel mower, long grass will become your worst nightmare.
As we brought home our new purchase, we were glowing with pride for the positive environmental impact we'd make without an engine. Although gasoline-powered mowers may be small, they are extremely inefficient and loosely regulated. With no gasoline or harmful emissions, we were happy to do our part to keep the great outdoors great.
On our first mow, I took the extra effort to perform the beautiful, diagonal cut only to find that reel mowers don't leave the manicured lines. No fresh cut smell and no clean back-and-forth lines, after a cut our yard doesn't look overgrown but it also doesn't look freshly cut...a pretty disappointing feeling after spending 2 hours pushing a dinky mower around the yard.
Then there's the noise pollution. While this was never a concern for us, other reel owners brag about being able to talk on the phone while they cut the grass. Without the deafening roar of the engine rattling your eardrums, reel mowers have their own uniquely embarrassing sound.
We live next door to a professional landscaper whose yard is the same size as ours but his mower could eat ours. When we cut the grass at the same time it looks like a toddler playing with a toy mower next to his daddy...and it sounds like it too. Similar to the rhythmic popping of our two-year-old's push toy, the repetitive chopping sound notifies the neighborhood just how slowly we are pushing.
On the one hand, no gasoline or oil makes reel mowers a dream for someone trying to keep it low maintenance. We felt a sense of relief without fears of the engine giving out or the mower not starting. Simple and reliable.
However, the reel mowers become very high maintenance when it comes to the terrain. Are you an early morning mower? Your reel isn't. Morning dew or wet grass will leave your reel doing more skidding than cutting. Does your property have a lot of trees? Those hand-powered blades can't blast through twigs the way gas-powered mowers do. You'll be at a standstill until you eject every twig (...or woodchip) by hand. Hilly yard? The blades dig into even the slightest hills to leave you immobile yet again until you wedge your way out.
It shouldn't be too hard to tell which way I lean from my own experience, but which one is right for you? Let us know on Twitter! If you're thinking reel, you can have ours.
CMO - Kujo Yardwear