Ahh, spring! The aroma of freshly mown grass. And gasoline. And engine oil.
There’s a cleaner way to keep your lawn looking good this year. Electric mowers, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries, are now challenging gas mowers with a simple appeal: They start instantly, run quietly, spew no exhaust fumes, and require no regular engine maintenance.
After years of testing electric mowers—with mostly disappointing results due to limited battery life—Consumer Reports now recommends four models. And for the first time, our top-rated electric push mower, the Ego LM2101, $500, is in the same class as its gas counterpart, the Cub Cadet SC100, $250.
Batteries for outdoor power equipment improve every year, which for mowers means longer run times and a better-quality cut. That’s not to say electric mowers are best for everybody or every lawn. For one thing, they cost more than comparable gas mowers. But you can recoup that up-front cost over time by not having to pay for gas, oil, or engine maintenance (see the chart below).
At some point, though, you’ll probably have to replace an electric mower’s battery, and today’s batteries aren’t cheap—they cost about $150 each. That’s especially important to know if you have a bigger yard, because you may want to buy a second battery just to make sure you have enough power to get the job done in one shot.
Cost of Ownership: Gas vs. Electric
The best electric push mower costs about $250 more than the best gas model. It also saves you about $20 per year on fuel and maintenance, so the total cost evens out after about 10 years.
Our methodology: Yearly expenses are based on mowing a 15,000-square-foot yard, or about 1/3 acre, 30 times per year. We used the national average price of $2.31 per gallon for gasoline and the national average for electricity. For gas models, we added the annual cost of replacing oil, spark plugs, and air filters.
“In our tests, we get anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of run time on a charge,” says Frank Spinelli, Consumer Reports’ lawn mower test engineer. That’s enough to mow 12,000 to 15,000 square feet, or about a quarter to a third of an acre, which covers most yards. Houses have been getting bigger over the past 40 years, but lot sizes are roughly the same. So with less lawn to mow, the question becomes: Why wouldn’t you go electric?
Aside from performance and usability, there are the obvious environmental advantages. “Electric mowers produce no emissions at the point of use, compared with gas-powered mowers, which generate carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons,” says Simon Mui, senior scientist and lithium-ion battery expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Mui acknowledges that because batteries have to be recharged, they are responsible for some power-plant emissions. Still, he says, “the level of pollutants generated pales compared to gas mowers, which lack the exhaust control systems found on cars.”
To help decide which mower is right for you, we’ve put together three typical lawn profiles in Mower Matchmaking. Find the yard closest to yours and you’ll be able to see when an electric mower makes sense, when it doesn’t, and when you’ll have to weigh the convenience of an electric against the added cost of multiple batteries to get your yard mowed.
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