Green Living: Abandoning the Gas-Powered Lawn Mower

I have owned a home now for a little over a year. One “joy” that most homeowners have is that of mowing the lawn. In the Midwest anyway, grass-mowing season usually begins in April and can last until October. When it rains frequently, I usually have to mow my grass at least once a week.

The Problem

my_reel_mower.jpgAs I am sure you know, gas prices have steadily been on the rise for a long time now, so why waste extra gas money each week on a lawnmower? Last year my wife and I decided to buy a “reel” mower instead.

Yes, a reel mower is like those “old-timey” mowers that your great, great grandfather complained about, but they have advanced much since then. When I bought mine last year (like the one pictured), the checkout clerk surprisingly swore that I would hate it. Well, I admit that it took me a while to get used to it, but now I have no desire to go back to the gas-powered kind.


The model I bought is the 5 Blade 16″Reel Mower (pictured). It has a 16-Inch wide cutting blade. For a residential area, my lawn is medium-sized. It takes me roughly 60 – 75 minutes to mow my entire lawn. With a gas-powered push mower, it took me roughly 45 minutes to mow my lawn. Considering that I’m not burning any gas, I’m alright with a few extra mowing minutes each week.

Does it cut well? Yes and No. For starters, you have to make sure that your lawn is free of most debris, such as sticks, because the blade will lock if it encounters something that it cannot cut. Provided that the lawn is clean, it cuts like a charm. I very rarely have to go over a section again. When I first bought it, I was skeptical that it would cut grass at all, but I was pleasantly surprised at how effective it was.

Is it hard to push? Not really. It’s certainly more difficult than a self-propelled push mower, but its light weight is an advantage. If I skip a week or two of mowing and the grass is really thick, then it’s more difficult, but I’ve never had to give up in frustration.

Really Tall Grass

The main difficulty with a reel mower is cutting grass taller than about eight inches, such as bahaya grass, or grass stalks that are seeding. These tall stalks just tend to bend over while the blade goes over them. The first time I encountered this, I rolled over a patch, then watched helplessly as the stalks rolled back up to their original posture. Thankfully my grass only seeds for a couple of weeks each spring, so I just attacked the stalks with a pair of shears.


Gas in my area is currently about $3.30 a gallon. My little reel mower cost me at least $50 less than a decent gas-powered push mower, plus I’d estimate that it saves me at least two gallons of gas a month. If each mowing season is roughly six months long, that means I’m saving roughly $35-40 each year in gas alone. Plus, I never have to worry about oil changes in the mower, or changing the spark plug, and other common maintenance tasks.

When I bought my reel mower, I simply walked into a hardware store and bought the cheapest one I could find. If I could do it again now, I think I would opt for one with a wider cutting blade, such as this Scotts 20-Inch Push Reel Mower. It has a 20-Inch cutting blade, which should trim the time it takes to cover my lawn versus my current 16-Inch mower.

As a side benefit, I get some exercise as well as the comfort that I am not spending any more money on gas.

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