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The 5 best push mowers: Top gas, electric, and manual walk-behind lawn mowers

What is the best push mower? ZDNet's top pick is the gas-powered Honda HRN 166cc. Push mowers are great options for anyone with a yard on the smaller side. We also reviewed battery-powered and manual reel push mowers for anyone looking for a more eco-friendly option.
taylor-clemons1.jpg
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Push mowers are ideal for smaller yards since they have more narrow cutting decks and are more stripped-back than their ride-on tractor cousins. Along with traditional gas-powered models, you can find a wide variety of electric and manual reel mowers if you're in the market for a more eco-friendly way to care for your lawn. 

Electric mowers use rechargeable batteries to power the blades and any self-propelled transmissions, and they have comparable power to their gas-using counterparts. The downside is that they have relatively short run times -- often just up to an hour -- so you'll have to keep a back-up battery charged and ready to go if your yard is on the larger side or has a lot of obstacles to mow around. 

Manual reel mowers have seen an uptick in popularity with homeowners who have very small lots, often under .25 acres. With smaller cutting decks and no need to keep fuel or batteries on-hand, they're perfect for more compact storage when not in use and during the off season. They also can help you reduce your carbon footprint since they don't expel any sort of exhaust or require any electricity, just some good, old-fashioned elbow grease. 

To help you find the best push mower for your yard, I've rounded up five of the best you can buy. I broke down their features, power sources, and price points so you can choose the one that best fits both your budget and your lawn care needs.

Must read:

Honda HRN 166cc

Best push mower overall

Honda HRN 166cc push mower sitting on a well-manicured lawn in front of a stone house
Honda

Cutting width: 21 inches | Power source: gasoline | Self-propelled: Yes | Bagger included: Yes | Variable speed: Yes

The Honda HRN 166cc push mower snagged a spot in our list of the best lawn mowers you can buy, and it takes the crown as the best push mower available. The 166cc engine uses a mix of two-cycle oil and gasoline for power, while the 21-inch cutting deck works has two blades for ultra-fine clippings that either go into the included bagger attachment or re-feed your lawn with the side discharge chute. You can also adjust the cutting height to seven different positions with the easy-to-use levers for the perfect lawn every time. 

The rear wheels work with the mower's self-propelling drive train for an easier mowing experience, and you can control the speed with the intuitive push throttle to match your natural walking speed. You'll also get peace of mind with the three-year warranty to replace damaged and worn out parts from regular use, so your Honda HRN push mower will last season after season.

Pros:

  • Self-propelled
  • Twin cutting blades
  • Variable speed throttle
  • Bagger attachment included

Cons:

  • Rip-cord start may be frustrating for some users
  • Requires an oil/fuel mix 
  • Does not fold for storage 

Ego Power+ 56V

Best electric push mower

Ego Power+ 56V push mower on a black background
Ego Power

Cutting width: 21 inches | Power source: 56V battery | Self-propelled: Yes | Bagger included: Yes | Variable speed: Yes

The Ego Power+ 56V was named our number one pick on our list of the best electric mowers, and for good reason. The rechargeable battery gives you up to an hour of run time with full power, which is perfect for yards up to half an acre. A push-button start eliminates frustrating rip cords for near-instant engine turnover, so you can get started mowing your lawn seconds after you set up the mower. 

It comes with a bagger attachment to collect grass clippings, but you can also use the mulching feature to create ultra-fine cuttings to re-feed your lawn between professional treatments. The bagger holds up to two bushels of cuttings, so you can spend more time getting yard work done and less time emptying the container. 

The 21-inch cutting deck can be set to six different heights with the simple lever, and you can control the self-propelled speed with the intuitive squeeze throttle to go as slow as .9 MPH or as fast as 3.1 MPH. The deck is made of durable molded plastic to resist rust and corrosion that can ruin traditional steel cutting decks. And the entire mower folds down for more compact, vertical storage; which is perfect for garages and tool sheds that are on the smaller side. Dual LED headlights illuminate your cutting row for safer operation if you need to cut your grass in the early morning or late evening.

Pros:

  • Folding design for compact storage
  • Two-bushel bagger attachment included
  • Self-propelled and variable speed
  • Weather-resistant cutting deck

Cons:

  • Plastic deck may not do well with rough terrain
  • Very heavy (63 pounds)

Craftsman M110

Best push mower for smaller yards

Craftsman M110 push mower cutting grass on a small lawn
Craftsman

Cutting width: 21 inches | Power source: Gasoline | Self-propelled: No | Bagger included: Yes | Variable speed: No

If your lawn is on the smaller side, the Craftsman M110 push mower is the perfect option for you. It features a 21-inch steel cutting deck that lets you use a traditional side discharge chute, bagger attachment, or mulching kit to suit your needs. You can adjust the blades to six different heights to handle mowing all season long. 

The 140cc Briggs and Stratton engine uses a mix of two-cycle oil and gasoline for enough power to handle lawns up to .25 acres. The mower is covered by a two-year warranty, so you can replace parts like belts, blades, and spark plugs if they become worn or damaged during normal use.

Pros:

  • Perfect for small lawns
  • Six cutting heights
  • Bagger and mulch kit compatible

Cons:

  • Not self-propelled
  • No variable speed
  • Rip-cord start

Snapper XD 882V

Best commercial push mower

Someone replacing the battery in the Snapper XD electric push mower
Snapper

Cutting width: 21 inches | Power source: 82V battery | Self-propelled: Yes | Bagger included: Yes | Variable speed: Yes

The Snapper 82V electric push mower is the perfect option for landscaping professionals. It comes with two 82V rechargeable batteries and a charging station, so you can have a backup power source ready to swap out with a depleted battery for uninterrupted power. A fully charged battery gives you up to 90 minutes of run time, which is great for mowing lawns up to .5 acres -- or using it as an auxiliary mower to handle tricky areas around garden beds, lawn ornaments, or steep ditches. The brushless motor works with the rear-wheel drive shaft to give you control over how fast the mower moves, so it can perfectly match your natural walking speed for safer operation. 

The 21-inch cutting deck can be set to seven different heights and uses load-sensing tech to adjust power levels when mowing tall or thick grass for maximum efficiency. It comes with a 1.7-bushel bagger attachment to collect trimmings for easier cleanup, or you can convert the cutting deck to a mulching machine to re-feed the lawn with ultra-fine cuttings. 

A push-button start eliminates frustrating rip cords for near-instant power. The Snapper 82V push mower is covered by a five-year warranty, so you can have peace of mind while you work with clients knowing your mower will last season after season.

Pros:

  • Self-propelled
  • Bagger included
  • 90-minute run time
  • Intelligent mowing

Cons:

  • No blade stop system
  • Push handle isn't adjustable

Troy-Bilt 16-inch reel mower

Best reel mower

Troy Bilt reel mower cutting grass next to a sidewalk
Troy Bilt

Cutting width: 16 inches | Power source: Manual | Self-propelled: No | Bagger included: No | Variable speed: No

Reel mowers have seen a surge in popularity with homeowners who have very small yards, and the Troy-Bilt 16-inch reel mower is an excellent option. Since it is powered by a person pushing it, you don't have to worry about keeping extra fuel on-hand or keeping track of batteries to recharge. 

The 16-inch blade barrel cuts grass super fine to re-feed your lawn between professional treatments and can be adjusted to nine different cutting heights from as short as .75 inches up to 2.5 inches. The frame is all steel for strength and durability season after season, and the 10-inch wheels give you better traction on uneven terrain for a consistent cut. The compact design of the Troy-Bilt reel mower is perfect for garages and tool sheds where space is at a premium, and the adjustable handle makes it easy to find a safe and comfortable height for mowing.

Pros:

  • No gas or batteries to worry about
  • Mulches clippings
  • Compact steel design

Cons:

  • Takes a lot of effort to cut grass taller than three inches
  • Not suited to lawns larger than .25 acres.

What is the best push mower?

In my opinion, the Honda HRN 166cc is the best push mower you can buy. It's self-propelled for easier mowing and includes a bagger attachment to make cleaning up clippings a breeze. The 21-inch, dual-blade cutting deck can be set to seven different heights to handle mowing all season long. The adjustable throttle lets the mower match your natural walking speed for safer operation on just about any terrain.

Push mower

Price

Cutting deck width

Power

Honda HRN 166cc

$469

21 inches

Gasoline

Ego Power+

$499

21 inches

Battery

Craftsman M110

$319

21 inches

Gasoline

Snapper 82V

$550

21 inches

Battery

Troy-Bilt reel mower

$139

16 inches

Manual

Which is the right push mower for you?

Choosing a push mower can be a long and frustrating process. So to cut down on the stress, it's best to start by knowing how big your lawn is. By knowing how many acres (or fractions of an acre) your lot is, you can narrow down your choices. 

Electric and reel push mowers are best for lawns that are less than .5 acres, due to their shorter run times and manual power, respectively. A gas-powered lawn mower can handle lawns up to .75 acres, but it also requires a regular maintenance routine for optimal performance: oil changes, refueling, filter replacements, and spark plug cleaning.

Choose this push mower…

If you need…

Honda HRN 166cc

A well-rounded gas push mower for yards up to .5 acres

Ego Power+

An electric push mower for yards up to .5 acres

Craftsman M110

A gas push mower for yards less than .25 acres

Snapper 82V

An electric push mower that can handle commercial use

Troy-Bilt reel mower

An eco-friendly lawn care option for very small lots

How did we choose these push mowers?

I chose gas, electric, and manual-powered push mowers to suit a variety of different budgets and yard care needs. I also tried to keep my product picks on the more affordable side, since push mowers (especially battery-powered models) can get quite expensive. I included a manual reel mower for anyone who may be looking for a more eco-friendly way to mow their lawn or who has a very tiny lot and doesn't need a full-sized push mower.

Are manual reel mowers any good?

A manual reel mower can be a great option for anyone who has a very small yard and not a lot of storage space. Their compact designs are perfect for tiny garages and tool sheds, and since they don't need gas or batteries, you don't have to worry about keeping extra fuel or chargers on-hand to do your yard work. 

They're also a more eco-friendly option, even compared to battery-powered push mowers, since they're human-powered; no nasty exhaust to breathe in, oil spills to clean up, or increased carbon footprint from charging batteries. 

They do have some drawbacks, though. You have to mow frequently, since the barrel blades can bind when used on taller grass. And since they're made almost entirely of steel, they can be quite heavy and more difficult to maneuver.

How long should a push mower last?

Whether you have a gas or battery-powered push mower, you can expect the one you buy to last 10 years or more -- as long as you perform regular maintenance. For gas models, you'll want to change the oil, filters (if applicable), and spark plugs at the beginning of every mowing season. You'll also want to use fuel treatments like STA-BIL when you store your push mower for the winter to prevent any extra fuel in the tank or jerry can from getting ruined by moisture. 

Electric mowers don't need quite as much upkeep to stay in good working order, but you should inspect your battery connections and housings as well as all wiring at the beginning of mowing season to make sure nothing has become corroded or damaged during winter storage. 

And no matter what kind of mower you have, you should always sharpen the blades before your first mow. You don't want them razor sharp, but you should make a few passes on each cutting edge with a metal file to bring them back to a true edge. Sharp blades mean cleaner cuts, which leads to healthier grass.

Is it safe to cut wet grass?

If it's from rain or morning dew, it is never safe to mow wet grass, especially with a push mower. Wet grass can be slippery, which can lead to twisted ankles on rough terrain or steeper incline -- and more serious injuries if you fall onto your push mower. Wet grass clumps up in the discharge chute of your mower, making the engine work harder to cut grass, which can lead to burnout, broken belts, and faster-dulling blades. Clumping will also require you to stop frequently to clear chute clogs, which can lead to nasty cuts -- or lost fingers and hands -- if the blades aren't fully stopped. 

Wet grass clumps can also kill portions of your lawn, since they can gather in big piles, cutting off air and sunlight. And you won't be able to get an even cut on wet grass, due to the blades quickly becoming duller in addition to the clumping. You'll get tall stripes and patches like you missed entire passes, which means you'll have to essentially mow your lawn twice. 

In the end, it's best to wait for your yard to fully dry before cutting the grass to keep your push mower in good shape and all of your limbs intact.

Are there alternative push mowers worth considering?

There are many different options out there if you're in the market for a new push mower. Whether you're looking for a gas or electric-powered model, or even a manual reel mower, there are plenty of choices from top brands like Worx, Kobalt, and Craftsman. Here's a short list of other push mowers I thought were great:

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