Reel mowers are classic pieces of technology. Unlike other types of mowers, the blades of a reel mower go north to south (or up and over, depending on your perspective) rather than circling above the grass. This means that the act of moving them is also the act of cutting the grass. Although reel mowers aren’t always the best for large swathes of lawns, they’ve maintained a strong position amongst those who like a manicured lawn, cut in a traditional way.
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The most common usages of reel mowers are amongst greenskeepers and other professional lawn maintenance individuals. Reel mowers move at a much more relaxed pace-and this gives the user the ability to ensure an even cut. They can often cut lower than other forms of cutters, and the blade direction allows for a more precise cut.
Reel mowers are – almost by definition – not complex pieces of technology, so you may be fooled into thinking that all the models are more or less the same. However, there is a lot of different types available. In order to best rank the many options available, we considered the following factors: Price, Weight, Build Quality, Ease of use/Ease of maintenance, Precision, and Warranty length.
This helped us to pick our top 5, any one of which would be an extremely solid choice of purchase if you’re in the market for a reel mower.
This mower gets our nod by virtue of being almost perfectly built for convenience. Almost every part of it seems tailored to the user’s specific needs. The polymer wheels make it super easy to maneuver, as does the slick, light design of the mower. It’s also extremely low maintenance, meaning even for the amateur, this mower will be easy enough to use. If you want professional-quality mowing at part-time prices, this model is the best on the market.
Another offering from the American Lawn Mower Company gets our nod for the best budget option. Very much like its (only slightly) pricier cousin, this one is a quality build that represents great value. It has a 5-blade reel and 8.5” polymer wheels, making it an extremely reliable option. The sub-$75 fee is a winner too.
The Fiskars StaySharp hints at its quality even in the name. The blades are designed to remain sharp even after years of wear and tear. The model is designed for whatever you throw at it. The price tag may seem particularly hefty, but given this will outlast almost every other type of mower money can buy, it’s more of an investment than a splurge.
The Greenworks model caught our eye because of its 18” inch cutting path. That is one of the widest paths we found available on the market, and the knock-on effects are huge. It means that you can get through the work much faster without having to make multiple turns. For such a simple innovation, it truly makes a huge difference. The rest of the build is quality too – so this is more than just the lazy option.
This mower manages to feel both modern and historic at the same time. It looks like a classic model, with a simple design. On top of that, it has no motor, meaning you’re providing the power. However, it does its job extremely effectively and allows for an extremely clean and precise cut. It’s a real mixture of the old and the new and works like an old favorite should.
Since there are so many non-reel mowers available on the market, a key question you may have is why buy a reel mower. After all, it’s not much fun to push a heavy mower when you can sit on a ride-on and do the same work with none of the effort. However, for some users, the work is part of the fun. Being able to push the mower, get some exercise, while giving the lawn a precise cut is an incentive enough. The reel mowers without engines are also greener, so if you’re eco-friendly, it’s a solid choice.
There are three main things to consider when finding the right reel mower for you: your grass type, the blades, and the size of your yard.
More details below.
The first thing to consider when buying a reel mower is what type of grass you have. Thick grass types, such as Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses will require a heavier mower. Although the temptation may be to buy a lighter mower, they will not be able to cut the thicker grass. The rule of thumb to follow is that the thicker your grass, the heavier reel you’ll need to buy.
There is some blade maintenance required with a reel mower, so be prepared to buy a sharpening kit that will require use once every few years. The two main types of blades are tempered alloy blades and hardened steel blades. The tempered blades use friction to cut the lawn and will require an annual sharpening. The hardened steel blades can go multiple years without sharpening. If you’re not sure what type you have, listen as you mow. The friction method makes a ticking noise as it cuts, whereas the hardened steel blades don’t.
It may sound trivial, but you should also consider how big your yard is when it comes to buying a reel mower. Different models have different path sizes (widths, effectively) and this can make a major difference over the course of multiple uses. A smaller path size may help to cut the lawn shorter (since the weight over a smaller area gives greater pressure as you go), although you’ll need to make multiple trips back and forth. If you have a non-standard shaped lawn, then a smaller path will be better.
Otherwise, you may struggle to get into all the nooks and crannies. Smaller models also tend to be lighter, so factor that into the information about grass type and so on.