Earlier this year I got a reel lawnmower, or what some people call a manual lawn mower. Before buying it I read several reviews and opinions on reel lawnmowers, which were all positive. While overall I enjoy having the manual mower I found out that not everything I read about reel lawnmowers is true. Here are the positives and negatives of using a reel lawnmower.
- They are quiet- The most obvious advantage is how quite they are. I always disliked mowing when I had a gas mower because it was just a generally unpleasant experience. Gas mowers are loud which might hurt your ears, but at the very least isn’t much fun.
- I can mow early in the morning- There are several reasons why mowing early in the morning is a good thing. In my part of the country, the temperature in the summer time can be over 100 degrees, even well into the evening. The coolest part of the day, and the most comfortable time to mow is early in the morning. In addition to being cool, my schedule is pretty busy and frequently the few hours before work is the only free time I have in a day. Using a reel mower allows me the flexibility to mow whenever I want. If I used a gas mower at 6am, I would have the police called on me by neighbors who are angry about being woken up.
- I can listen to podcasts while I mow- Because of the quiet, I can catch up with podcasts while I mow. If you don’t listen to podcasts, then you could listen to your favorite music.
- Easy maintenance- There is no engine to break down, and there are no gas cans that need to be refilled. I can mow whenever I want to mow and I will know with 100% certainty that my mower will start when I want it to.
- Excersize- Despite what other reviews you will find online say, a reel mower is more work than a gas mower. I consider this a good thing, because I could use the excersize anyway.
- Environmentally Friendly- Even though gas mowers are small, they put out a lot of pollultion. According to this report from ABC news, a lawnmower operating for 1 hour creates as much pollution as a car driving 100 miles. Gas mowers are dirty and smelly, which I find makes the process of mowing unpleasant. Reel mowers are clean and smell like freshly cut grass instead of gasoline.
- Safety- Last year in the United States, more than 234,000 people were admitted to the hospital or treated in a clinic or emergency department for lawn mower-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I can’t find any statistics on injuries from reel lawn mowers, but I believe them to be safer (I did a google search for reel mower injury, and there were no news results). They may not look safer because there are exposed spinning blades, but to somehow get one of your body parts all the way over to those spinning blades while still pushing the mower to keep the blades spinning would be an acrobatic accomplishment I would find difficult. Because I have an elementary aged child I am trying to teach lawn mowing to, the superior safety of reel mowers is a big advantage in my book.
- Save money- Reel mowers are cheaper than gas mowers, and the maintenance costs less. I was able to buy a used reel mower on Craigslist for $30 and subsequently sold my gas mower for $125, which immediately put $95 back in my pocket. If you are unable to find a good one on Craigslist here is the model I found on Craigslist which is on Amazon for about $100.
You can use this calculator to determine how much a reel mower will cost you per year vs a gas mower.
You may well decide the savings are not significant enough for the additional work a reel mower involves, but at least it will save you a little money.
- Reel mowers are more work than a gas mower- Don’t believe the other reviews you might read that say they aren’t more work, they just are. I used to be able to mow my yard with a gas mower in about an hour, and it now takes me about an hour and a half with my reel mower. They are harder to push, and the cutting area isn’t as wide, meaning you have to make more passes back and forth across your yard to cover the entire yard. If you have a small yard or want additional excersize this is fine, but reel mowers should definitely not be used on large lawns.
- Reel mowers don’t work well on rough ground- If you have a nice smooth lawn, this is fine, but if your lawn is fairly rough a reel mower may not be for you. In order to make the blades keep turning, both wheels have to keep rolling across the ground. If one wheel is bouncing around on rough ground, the reels stop turning and grass doesn’t get cut. See pictures below for an explanation.
- Reel mowers don’t cut tall grass well- For a reel mower to cut well, the grass has to be sticking straight up so that the reels catch it when the mower rolls by. When grass gets too tall, it bends over instead of sticking up in the air (Note the longer grass laying horizontally in the 2nd picture below). When this happens, the reel mower doesn’t cut well at all. I never let my grass get too tall and mow as much as twice a week when the grass is growing quickly.
- Reel mowers don’t cut dandelions- Dandelion stems bend too easy so they will just bend out of the way of the reels instead of getting caught in the reels and getting cut like grass will. If you have a lot of dandelions in your yard, mowing won’t help.
Parts of my lawn look like this:
The ground here is nice and smooth, so the reel mower works fine.
Other parts of my lawn have rough areas like this:
That is my review of reel lawn mowers. They aren’t for everybody, but I enjoy mine. If you want your mowing to be quick and easy, you should get a gas mower. But, if you are more interested in your mower being queit, clean, safe, and giving you a good workout then perhaps you should consider a reel lawn mower.
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