American Lawn Mower 1204-14 Review

This is the smallest version of Sun Joe’s range of manual reel mowers, with a 16” cutting width. The range also features 18” and 20” versions. If you’re looking for a low cost mowing solution that offers you the capacity to catch the clippings as you go, this one may have caught your eye. In this Sun Joe MJ500M review we’re going to do our best to reveal what consumers really feel about this reel mower, touching on both the things it does well and its weaknesses, as well as discussing the “ideal match” scenarios for this particular model.

Sun Joe MJ500M Mow Joe Review - Specifications

TypeManual Push
ManufacturerSnow Joe LLC
Cutting Width16 inches
Cutting Heights0.79 – 1.81 inches
No. of Blades5
Weight22 lbs
Our Rating6/10
Pricefrom $77.61
Buy on Amazon

Last update on 2019-07-01 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

Sun Joe MJ500M Manual Reel Mower w/Grass Catcher | 16 inch

Sun Joe MJ500M Mow Joe Pros: What People Like About this Mower

Let’s start with the things that this mower does do well according to consumers that have bought and used it on their lawns:

  • Setup is a Breeze – First impressions are important in life in general, and so it’s nice that when you open the box, you won’t be left cursing the MJ500M's existence right from the start. Setup is very straightforward and you won’t need any tools to complete it either. A good start!
  • Very Easy to Use – This is true for most manual push mowers, but it still an advantage that is definitely worth mentioning. I can’t tell you how often we get contacted by irritated homeowners that are sick to death of their gas or electric mower, and are desperately searching for an alternative. And providing your lawn is not too big, the Sun Joe MJ500M will almost certainly make your life easier, as there really is nothing to it.
  • Mowing Doesn’t Get Any Cheaper – Everything seems to cost an arm and a leg these days. And with gas and electricity prices on the rise all the time, you might be wondering how you can keep your lawn maintenance costs down. Well you’re not likely to find a cheaper solution than buying this mower. Its upfront cost is very low, and after that there’s no real ongoing costs; just your time and effort to push it along. Even if you end up buying a new one every couple of seasons, it’ll still keep your costs very, very low.
  • Ok Cut in Limited Conditions – Now I know we’re putting this in the “pros” section but the general consensus about the quality of the cut with the MJ500M isn’t one to write home about. It seems to do ok so long as your grass variety is not too thick and the grass is kept to a reasonable length. If you try to use it in conditions that fall outside of those just described, you’ll likely be left quite frustrated.
Sun Joe MJ500M Manual Reel Mower w/Grass Catcher | 16 inch

Sun Joe MJ500M Mow Joe Cons: What People Complain About

Now we’ll move on to the part of our MJ500M review where we discuss the weaknesses of this manual mower. It’s important that you’re aware of both the pros and the cons before you make a decision. So here goes nothing:

  • Build Quality – This is the most common weakness that consumers seem to point to in terms of what they don’t like about the Sun Joe MJ500M Mow Joe. In particular, the two “weak links” appear to be the wheels and the handle. There are many cases of consumers reporting the wheels locking up while mowing or even falling off completely. Obviously not what you want when you’re trying to get the job done efficiently! And the handle is fairly regularly criticized by consumers, whom report that it often becomes loose while rolling the mower up and down the lawn. The vibrations that invariably result from pushing it along seem to eventually loosen the locknuts that secure the handle in place.
  • Issues with Blades on Arrival – In addition to the build quality issues, several consumers cited problems with blade sharpness upon arrival of the product. It was said that the blades simply weren’t sharp enough to do an efficient job when the mower arrived, and that it was necessary to either take them somewhere to have them professionally sharpened, or to buy/utilize a blade sharpener themselves. Not something you can’t fix, but why should you have to when you buy it brand new?!
  • Grass Catcher Less than Effective – A lot of the other manual reel mowers available at a similar price point don’t come with a grass catcher. But if you are interested in this one because it does have this feature, not so fast. Because unfortunately a lot of people that have bought and used the Sun Joe MJ500M ended up listing the grass catcher as one of the main weaknesses of this model, saying that it’s not all that user friendly and that it’s not that effective at actually catching the clippings. Several consumers experienced just around 50% of the clippings actually landing in the grass catcher.
  • Forget it with Sticks and Thick Grass – If you’ve ever had a gas mower or a well powered electric mower, you probably know you don’t have to think twice about running over a patch of weeds, and even the presence of a stick or two will likely not stop you in your tracks. You will need to erase those thoughts with this mower though, as weeds and sticks will stop you dead in your tracks. There’s just no way you’re getting through. The best solution is to rake your lawn beforehand to clear it of debris, and either manually shear or use a string trimmer on the patches of weeds too.

Conclusion of Our Sun Joe MJ500M Mow Joe Review

While our Sun Joe MJ500M review might not seem all that positive, this manual mower is still suitable for a certain type of scenario, namely if you’ve got a small lawn, are prepared to clear it before you start and then keep on top of maintenance throughout the growing season. Please do be aware of the known build quality issues with this model too. However, if that’s the case, you’ll probably be quite satisfied with the MJ500M and you’ll be able to take care of your lawn for an incredibly low price.

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Ideal Match
  • Shorter Grass
  • Regular Mowing
  • Don’t Want to Spend Much
Leave it on the Shelf
  • Looking for Something that Lasts
  • Infrequent Mowing
  • Want to Cut Long, Overgrown Grass
  • Need to Cut Weeds