Gas Lawn Mower Buyers Guide

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Buying a gas lawn mower for your yard can be an overwhelming task, and there's no shortage of models available to choose between. Chances are you need to make a decision fast . . . before your grass grows! Finding the best gas lawn mower doesn't need to be complicated, especially if you know what you want and how to compare models.

This article will help you find the best gas lawn mower that fits your yard's needs. We'll cover the benefits of why gas lawn mowers are typically your best choice, and factors you should consider when making your buying decision. We'll even show you our top three favorite picks!

Freshly Cut Lawn

Advantages of a Gas Lawn Mower

There are four main types of lawn mowers: Gas, corded electric, battery powered, and riding lawn mowers. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but gas lawn mowers are a popular choice for many homeowners and offer a number of important benefits that should be considered.

Longer Service Life

If regular maintenance is completed, a gas lawn mower will typically have a longer service life.

The key difference between gas powered lawn mowers and electric types is the fact that gas models use a small capacity engine, similar to what you'd find in a gas generator or even a chainsaw.

The internal combustion engine can be reliable, robust, and can even last a lifetime, just as long as it gets the right care and maintenance. 

However, it's important to note that gas mowers require more maintenance and parts than electric mowers, but the maintenance steps aren't too difficult.

The average homeowner would simply need to replace the gas and oil, change or clean a filter, and replace the spark plug every year or two. Or, you could always take your mower in for an annual tune-up service and have a professional do it for you.

More Power

Gas lawn mowers have plenty of power.

Whether the grass is long or wet, a gas lawn mower can easily get the job done. And the high-torque motor can run for hours.

Most gas-powered lawn mowers have 1-gallon fuel tanks, which should be adequate for a good-sized lawn, but larger mowers are equipped with larger tanks that can hold up to 2-gallons.

A typical gas mower is more powerful than its electric equivalent, and it can run at maximum power without putting excess strain on the motor.

Although electric motors can provide exceptional amounts of torque, a lawn mower requires more power at high RPM. With a gas mower, you're less likely to cause damage from running the mower at maximum power. In addition, any intensive clearing work is always better suited to gas lawn mowers.

Not Limited by a Cord or Battery

A corded electric lawn mower is limited to the length of the extension cord, which is typically no further than 150-feet from the outlet.  The cord can be cumbersome and could even become a tripping obstacle, or worse, a hazard as you may accidentally run over it when you're mowing.

Battery powered lawn mowers allow you to use an electric mower without the concerns of running an extension cord, however, they're still not as portable as a gas lawn mower. Once your battery pack is out-of-juice, there will be a long charge time before you can finish your mowing.

Even if you purchase multiple battery packs, it can be expensive and inconvenient for a large property.

Since gas lawn mowers aren't tethered by a power cord, they can go virtually anywhere, and because they maintain a constant level of power throughout their gas supply, you'll always have the same amount of power. 

For professionals and homeowners with large lawns, a gas mower is more convenient and practical. A quick refill of gas, and your mower is back up and running with very little downtime.

While electric lawn mowers can be compelling for smaller properties and light domestic use, any heavy work on longer grass or a larger property will always be easier with a gas mower.

Overview of man mowing a lawn with a gas lawn mower

Disadvantages of a Gas Lawn Mower

Even though a gas lawn mower is an excellent choice, they do have their disadvantages:

Heavy - Gas mowers almost always outweigh electric mowers. Their engine block is made of iron or aluminum, the chassis is made from steel or iron, and the body is usually made from some type of metal alloy. Each component adding more weight.

Manufacturers have designed self-propelled mowers, and other features to help overcome the added heft,  which allows you to benefit from a more robust mower, without needing to take a break every few minutes.

Loud - Since gas mowers use combustion engines, they're definitely louder than electric mowers. Your neighbor will know when you're mowing your lawn. 

It's a good idea to wear ear protection to protect your hearing, since a gas lawn mower will have a decibel level of around 95, which could cause hearing damage. 

Maintenance - A gas-powered lawn mower may have a longer service life, but it'll also require more maintenance.

Regular engine maintenance is a must to keep your mower running at it's best.

Pull Cords - Many gas mowers use a pull cord to fire-up the motor. In some cases, this can make them difficult to start.

Environmentally Unfriendly - The EPA estimates that gas lawn mower emissions make up as much as 5% of the US air pollution. In fact, operating a gas mower for an hour generates the same amount of VOC's (volatile organic compounds) as driving a car 350 miles!

Little boy mowing lawn with a gas lawn mower

Gas Lawn Mower Propulsion Type

Gas lawn mowers use two different types of propulsion:

  1. Manual push
  2. Self-propelled 

Manual Push Lawn Mowers

With a manual push lawn mower the user provides the power.

The motor won't propel the mower forward so you'll definitely be doing the work. But they'll give you plenty of power and efficiency at a budget-friendly price.

Here are a few things you should consider:

  • If you have a flat yard a push mower could be a good option. But if your yard is on an incline then you may want to think about purchasing a self-propelled lawn mower
  • The size of your yard. If your yard isn't too big you should be fine with a push lawn mower
  • Your physical condition should also be a consideration. You'll be providing the horsepower, so if you're out-of-shape or small in size, operating a manual push lawn mower may give you a bigger workout than you'd like
  • Manual push mowers are less expensive, so if you're on a budget you can still buy an excellent mower at a decent price. You'll just need to provide a little more effort when mowing your lawn

Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

Self-propelled lawn mowers are easy to operate, work well on all types of terrain, and can easily maneuver around obstacles in your yard.

In addition, you'll be able to get your lawn mowed faster and with less effort. You won't need to push the mower, you'll simply be able to walk behind and guide it around the yard.

You can find self-propelled lawn mowers in both single speed and variable speed models:

Single Speed - These mowers use a mid-range speed that works for most individuals and cutting conditions

Variable Speed - These models are designed to allow the operator more choices. You'll be able to set it to your preferred walking pace and adjust it up and down for specific cutting conditions

How Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers Work

A self-propelled lawn mower will move forward without assistance when the speed control level is engaged.

Depending on the model and manufacturer, the speed control lever could be an attachment to the handle or a separate lever.

You can find self-propelled mowers in a variety of drive options. Selecting the right option for you depends on your yard and your budget.

Here are three drive options:

  1. Front wheel drive
  2. Rear wheel drive
  3. All wheel drive

Front Wheel Drive

These models are excellent for flat lawns, and are easy to operate. 

The operator can simply lift the front wheels off the ground (by tipping the mower backwards) to turn and maneuver the mower.

Rear Wheel Drive

Rear wheel drive mowers are a good choice if you have slopes or hills in your yard.

They provide better traction when mowing in a back-and-forth pattern which is the safest method to cut grass on hills (instead of going up-and-down the hill).

Also, if you typically use a rear bag to collect your grass clippings, a rear wheel drive mower tends to be more effective. This is because the weight of the bag can lift the front end of the mower as the clipping bag fills.

All Wheel Drive

These mowers offer added traction and better balance which makes them excellent for any type of mowing. Hills, slopes, and wet grass, are all easily handled with an all wheel drive mower.  

However, maneuverability can be more challenging since you'll need to manually disengage the drive or change speed to turn the mower.

In addition, they are more expensive and frequently require more maintenance. Some all wheel drive mowers are designed with the option to use front and/or rear wheel drive, which gives the operator plenty of options.

Mowed Grass

Deck Size of Gas Lawn Mowers

Gas lawn mowers have more power than electric or battery powered lawn mowers. More power means they're able handle a wider cutting swath. 

The wider the cutting swath, the fewer passes you'll need to make when you're mowing your lawn. This is important because it'll not only save you time and energy, but you'll also use less gas, so you'll save money. 

But it might surprise you that buying the mower with the largest cutting swath isn't always the best move.

Mowers with large cutting swaths require a bigger engine, so they're heavier and require more effort and strength to operate. 

Finding the right balance between the cutting swath and the amount of effort you'll need to exert is a decision only you can make.

The majority of gas lawn mowers have a cutting swath of 20-inches or more. As a general rule, a cutting swath between 20 to 24-inches is typically a good choice for most home owners.

Wash-Out Ports

Cleaning the blades and the inside of the deck after every use increases the service life of your lawn mower.

Wash-out ports make this job easier to do. Simply attach a garden hose to the wash-out port and turn on the water, the grass clippings from the inside of the deck and blades will be rinsed away and you'll stay clean and dry. 

Wash-out ports are extremely helpful and we highly recommend buying a lawn mower with this feature.

Red Gas lawn mower

Selecting the Right Engine

The heart of a gas lawn mower is its engine, and selecting the right one is a critical decision.

Walk-mower engines range between 140cc to 200cc. The larger the engine the better the mower will cut through tall and wet grass, but it'll also be heavier and more expensive.

Walk-mower engines come in several different styles:

  1. Traditional Side-Valve Engines have the valve on the side of the engine block. These are the most basic and least expensive engines available 
  2. Overhead Valves and Overhead Cams are designed with the valves and cam in the cylinder head in the same way a car engine is designed
  3. Direct Overhead Valves provides better fuel consumption, lower emissions, quieter operations, and less vibration. Although, they are more expensive

Drive Control

How your lawn mower controls it's drive system affects how easily you'll be able to maneuver the mower around corners and obstacles, as well as your comfort. 

Gas lawn mowers have four ways to control their drive system:

  1. Bail - A bail is simply a metal rod that is squeezed against the lawn mower's handle. Bail drive control systems are best suited for mowing areas without many obstacles
  2. Lever - Press the lever with your thumb. If you need to do a lot of back and forth maneuvering in order to mow around obstacles, then either the lever or handle lever are good choices since they'll stop the mower's drive system
  3. Handle Lever - Similar to a hand brake on the handle bars of a bike, a handle lever is squeezed against the lawn mowers handle
  4. Telescoping Handle - Increase the speed by pushing the telescoping handle forward, decrease speed by releasing the pressure
Gas lawn mower with bin of cut grass

Handling Grass Clippings

Each lawn mower has a system for handling grass clippings.

How a mower manages the grass clippings is often overlooked and it's a critical part of mowing your lawn.

Many lower-end models only offer one way to discharge the grass clippings. In these models, the clippings are discharged through the side of the mower and left on the cut lawn. If this method works for you, they're a good choice, especially since they're typically less expensive than other models.

The majority of mowers are designed with two methods of handling grass clippings. The clippings can be discharged through the side of the mower, or bagged on the rear of the mower.

Bagged clippings not only leave your freshly mowed grass looking fantastic, but also allows you to dispose of them where ever you choose without a lot of extra effort.

Higher-end lawn mowers offer a mulching option which mulches the clippings and returns them to the lawn to provide nutrients for the grass and soil. These mowers are frequently called 3-n-1 mowers.

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