Skip to main content

Push lawnmower vs. electric mower: Which one is best for you?

With gas prices so high, does it make sense to switch lawnmowers? We'll help you make the choice

woman in garden boots mowing
NinaMalyna / Shutterstock

If you haven’t been shopping for a new lawnmower lately, you may be surprised by the number of options available. Home improvement and hardware stores stock a vast array of gas-powered, corded electric, cordless electric, and manual push mowers, any one of which could be a great choice … or a poor choice. So how do you know which is the best?

Close-up of person pushing a lawn mower

Manual push vs. gas-powered vs. electric mowers

Priorities matter. Are you looking for power, economy, low emissions, or quiet operation? Or is there a whole other criterion of utmost importance to you? Most modern mowers include great options that can help keep your yard looking its best for a decade or more, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for all of them. Before picking out your new mower, you’ll need to understand the cost of each (both upfront and in terms of maintenance in years to come), the level of maintenance that will be required for each mower, how long the mower will last, how easy the mower is to maneuver, and the motor power each is able to offer.

We’ve assembled a head-to-head comparison of these popular mowers. Read on to learn more about how they work, what they can do, and which one may be the best fit for you.

Manual push mowers

A manual push mower, or reel mower, operates on human power. As the operator pushes the mower, a cylindrical blade assembly turns against a fixed blade to cut the grass with a scissor-like motion. Reel mowers provide a super-clean and neat, finished appearance. Manual push mowers are ideal for smaller, flatter lawns, but they can handle larger spaces if the grass is in good shape. Coarse weeds and sticks dull the blades prematurely and may stop them from turning. Reel mowers are available in cutting widths between 15 and 20 inches.

Gas-powered mowers

A gasoline-powered mower’s engine turns a vertical shaft connected to the mower blade. The blade has sharpened edges on both ends and makes two cutting passes with each revolution. The combined power and speed of the gas engine allows the mower to cut through herbaceous vegetation, fallen leaves, and small sticks with ease. Gasoline-powered mowers come in cutting widths between 20 and 24 inches.

Electric mowers

Electric push mowers use an electric motor to power a rotary blade. Both plug-in and cordless electric models offer plenty of power to mow and are comparable to gasoline mowers under normal conditions. However, they are subject to bogging down more easily in tall grass. Corded mowers are limited by proximity to a power source and the length of the extension cord. Cordless mowers are limited by battery run time and recharging time. Electric mowers are available in cutting widths between 14 and 21 inches. Electric mowers are a lot more eco-friendly than gas-powered mowers, though, and the cordless versions are especially easy to maneuver, which makes them great for smaller lawns. 

changing the battery in an electric lawn mower

Cost considerations

There are two cost aspects to consider with lawn mowers. The purchase price is a one-time cost and is directly comparable among the different types. The expected lifespan on all of these mowers is about 10 years, so there’s no need to calculate a per-year “depreciation” cost.

The second cost aspect is the ongoing operation expense. Fuel and routine maintenance add to the total cost of ownership over the life of a mower, as shown below.

Purchase price ranges for different mower types

  • Manual push mower: $70 to $200
  • Corded electric: $80 to $350
  • Battery electric: $150 to $500
  • Gas: $175 to $500

Annual operating costs and maintenance for different mower types 

  • Manual: $0 (Sharpen the blades once or twice a year)
  • Corded electric: $15 to $22 (Electricity, extension cord, blades)
  • Battery electric: $11 to $18 (Electricity, replacement batteries approximately every five years, blades)
  • Gas: $20 to $35  (Gas, oil, filters, spark plug, blades)
man mowing grass in front of a white house
pikselstock / Shutterstock

Pros and cons of manual and electric mowers

Manual mowers


  • The cleanest cut
  • Quietest operation
  • No fuel needed
  • Zero emissions.


  • Narrow cutting path
  • The yard needs to be clean and mostly free of weeds
  • Many models offer only a small range of height adjustments, so you may need to recut certain portions of the lawn a few times to get it to the desired length

Gas mowers


  • Lots of on-demand power
  • Complete flexibility and portability
  • Work even if the grass is really tall or weedy
  • Relatively easy and inexpensive to replace broken parts.
  • Options: self propelled, mulching, bagging, key start


  • Noise
  • Potential issues with fuel storage/spillage
  • Engine maintenance
  • Air pollution
  • Life is notably shorter than electric and manual counterparts

Corded electric


  • Quiet
  • No liquid fuel storage
  • No immediate area emissions (remote emissions at the power plant)


  • Bog down in high or weedy grass
  • Limited to the length of extension cord
  • Extension cord could be a tripping hazard

Cordless electric


  • Quiet
  • No fuel to store
  • No immediate area emissions (remote emissions at the power plant)
  • Easiest option to maneuver


  • Bogs down in high or weedy grass
  • Limited by battery life and recharge time
  • Worn-out batteries must be disposed of properly
  • New batteries are expensive

Red manual push mower

The winners

Most eco-friendly

Manual push mowers are an excellent choice for those who favor clean air, peace and quiet, and a neatly manicured appearance. The upfront cost is very low, and the complete lack of operating expense is a bonus. Skipping a cut makes the job more difficult the next time, but mowing generally is an easy and pleasant task with the manual push mower. 

Most powerful

Gas-powered mowers are the tool of choice for cutting larger landscapes quickly. They provide the most power to cut through taller grass and weeds when necessary, and the widest cutting path.

Most practical

Cordless electric mowers make an excellent choice for small to midsize landscapes. Compared with gas mowers, they offer a competitive purchase price, lower operating cost, and quieter operation. Plus, they release minimal total emissions, and they are free from the cord.


Corded electric mowers offer plenty of power and unlimited runtime with minimal total emissions but without the problem of batteries. They are mostly limited to smaller landscapes due to the extension cord.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
What you need to know about finding the perfect peony fertilizer and how to choose one for lush blooms
Peony fertilizers to buy to keep your flowers thriving throughout the growing season
Pink peony bush

Omens of good fortune and happy marriages, peonies are one of the most luscious and beautiful flowers you can grow in your garden. Luckily, they're pretty easy to grow and have an impressive plant hardiness zone range between zones 3 and 8 — they can truly flourish even in cold environments.

There are 33 known species of peonies ranging in size, bloom color, and care needs, so you're sure to find one that's right for you and your climate. There is an art to feeding any type of peony, though. Ahead, we'll break down everything you need to know about finding and applying the right peony fertilizer.

Read more
Is weed and feed bad for your lawn? 6 things to know before you use it
The pros and cons of using weed and feed
Person pushing a lawn fertilizer spreader

Lawn care can be tricky to get right. Too much of one thing or not enough of another and you might end up with a brown, patchy lawn. There are chemical treatments you can use, and organic weed killers as well, but one common phrase you may see on products is weed and feed. You may be wondering if weed and feed is right for your lawn, or if there is a better alternative.

We'll break down all the facts on how weed and feed works, the pros and cons of using it, and what other options are available. This simple guide will give you all the facts, so you can decide which option is the best for your lawn care routine.

Read more
This is when – and why – you should scalp your Bermuda grass
What to know about scalping your lawn
A person mowing the lawn with a black push mower

To those who are unfamiliar with warm-season grasses, scalping may sound like something to avoid. However, heat-loving lawns actually benefit from the occasional aggressive mowing. When done at the right time of year, and in the right way, scalping is as helpful to the lawn as fertilizer or irrigation. Scalping your Bermuda grass can prevent future problems and improve its overall health when done correctly. To learn how and when to scalp Bermuda grass, keep reading!

Scalping a lawn
Only Bermuda grass and zoysia grass should be scalped annually. This aggressive treatment will damage or kill most other lawn grasses, so avoid the temptation to experiment. Bermuda grass and zoysia grass are resilient warm-weather grasses that can withstand more intense care routines.

Read more