If you’re currently in the process of shopping for a new lawn mower, self-propel is maybe one of the features you had in mind. But now you’re not sure if it’s “must-have” or a luxury that you don’t really need. In this article, I’m going to run through the main pros and cons of self-propelled lawn mowers so that you can look at what a self-propelled lawn mower can offer you and whether it really aligns well with your needs, or whether it’s an expensive add-on that won’t really make much of a difference to your mowing experience.
Pros and Cons of Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
There are a number of pros and cons of self-propelled lawn mowers. On the plus side, they make the job easier, help you mow your lawn faster, are great for hills and slopes, and can result in a more even cut. On the downside, they’re heavier, cost more and it’s just one more thing to go wrong.
Pros of Self-Propelled Mowers
Forget about companies trying to upsell you on certain features because they “look cool”. Below I’ll talk you through the real, tangible benefits that you’ll experience if you choose to purchase a self-propelled mower over a push mower.
They’re Easier on Your Body
Most of the time, if you get a self-propelled mower, it’ll be a gas mower (although battery mowers do offer this feature too). Gas mowers are heavy! Pushing a heavy mower around a large lawn is quite a workout and can be quite taxing on your body, particularly if you’re not that physically strong.
A self-propelled mower carries that weight for you most of the time you’re out on the lawn. You’ll still need to put some effort in on the turns, but the rest of the time all you’ll need to worry about is steering your mower in the right direction.
As already mentioned, this is super beneficial if you’re concerned about the weight of the mower you’re interested in buying. It can also save you some energy, so you don’t need to take a nap after mowing the lawn.
Help You Cover Large Spaces Quicker
Personally, self-propel is a feature I’d consider if I had a medium-large sized lawn. For a small lawn, it’s usually not necessary. You likely won’t be using a big, heavy mower on a small lawn anyway, as reel or electric mowers are more than capable and are much lighter.
On medium-large lawns, there’s no doubt that another significant pro of self-propelled lawn mowers is the time they can save you. Pushing a mower manually around a large area is not just more tiring, it takes longer too. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think I mow my lawn at least 30% quicker since “upgrading” to a self-propelled mower.
I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to time – according to my wife – so any opportunity I see to save some is an opportunity worth taking in my opinion. You probably wouldn’t end up saving too much time on a small lawn though as a) small spaces don’t take long to mow anyway, and b) there are more turns in smaller yards. Big open spaces are where you’ll see the greatest time gains with a self-propelled lawn mower.
Hills and Inclines Get a Whole Lot Easier
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a perfectly flat lawn. Many homeowners have to deal with dips, inclines, and even hills on their property. If that’s the case for you, self-propelled mowers offer you a significant benefit.
Pushing a heavy gas or battery mower around isn’t that much fun at the best of times. But when you have to push it up and downhill, it can become a chore you really don’t look forward to. A self-propelled lawn mower makes this scenario so much more manageable. Instead of you bearing the full weight of the mower as you go uphill, the front or rear-wheel drive (the latter is what I’d recommend for hills) takes a lot of that weight for you.
The result? Fewer pains and aches, a more enjoyable mowing experience and likely a better quality of cut in those areas too!
A Smoother Overall Cut
What has the self-propel got to do with the quality and smoothness of the cut you might be thinking? Quite a lot actually. You see, if you buy a push mower that is really a little bit too heavy for you, the way you move it over the surface of your lawn will likely be quite erratic at some point. Maybe not initially, when you’re full of energy. But once you start to tire a bit or are struggling on a sloped surface, you’re likely to fight against its weight, take more and more little breaks, as well as change speeds at which you push the mower.
All of this results in a less uniform cut. In an ideal world, you’d pass the mower over each part of your lawn at the same speed. Consistency is the order of the day. And a self-propelled mower helps you get this consistency. It will allow you to move your mower at the same speed, no matter if your lawn is 1/2 an acre or 3 acres, whether it’s completely flat or full of slopes and dips. This helps to ensure a better cut and a smoother appearance.
Cons of Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers
Not everything can be sunshine and rainbows. Even if you buy a self-propelled mower. Now I’m going to run you through some of the downsides to owning one of these units. It’s important to have a balanced overview when making this decision.
This is kind of ironic given the fact that the whole point of getting a self-propelled lawn mower for a lot of people is the fact that without it, the lawn mower they want would be too heavy. But the self-propel drive, belt and everything it needs to run adds weight to the mower.
When you have the self-propel engaged, this extra weight isn’t a problem at all. It just becomes a problem when you’re not using the self-propel drive. Like when you’re getting it out of the shed or garage and walking it to your lawn.
This is often something overlooked. How far do you need to push the mower to your lawn before you start it up? If it’s a significant distance, is that extra weight going to be an issue?
There’s More to Go Wrong
The more gadgets and features you add onto a mower, the more there is to go wrong. That’s one thing I really loved about owning a reel mower previously when I just had a city lot to take care of. They are so simple and barebones that there’s almost nothing that can go wrong.
Getting a self-propelled gas or battery-powered unit adds an extra feature, and it’s one that can be costly to fix should something go wrong with it.
While this is a “con” of getting a self-propelled lawn mower, it is looking on the black side of life somewhat. You might own a self-propelled mower for years and never have anything go wrong with it!
They Cost More
This is unfortunately what happens when you start adding extra features to your mower. They all add to the cost, and self-propelled units in particular can cost quite a bit more than an equivalent push mower.
For this reason, it’s vital that you figure out whether you actually need a self-propelled mower, particularly if you’re on quite a tight budget. If any of the following apply, self-propel is good to have:
- You have a medium-large size lawn
- You have slopes and/or hills to mow
- You think you’d struggle with the weight of the equivalent push mower model
If none of these things apply to your situation, you can probably do without a self-propelled lawn mower and save some money in the process.
Every single type of lawn mower has its pros and its cons. Self-propelled lawn mowers are no different. It can be a very useful feature to have in certain situations, whereas other times it’s just an expensive add-on. Carefully comparing the push mower vs self propelled mower is something everyone should do before laying down their money.
If you need more help deciding between these options, leave a comment below.