Reel Mower Buyer's Guide

Reel Mower Buyer's Guide

How to Pick the Perfect Reel Lawn Mower

Jake, the Lawn Mower Expert
Lawn Mower Expert

Reel lawn mowers are sometimes thought of as old-fashioned, but they're making a comeback.

Think about it: scissors and string trimmers both cut grass. They just do it differently. A reel mower performs less like a string trimmer and more like a pair of high-performance scissors.

Reel mowers use several blades that turn like the blades of a paddleboat, pulling the grass into the mower so the cutter bar can clip it. The result is a clean cut that leaves the tips of your blades of grass fresh and green, not ragged in brown. In fact, some reel mower users like to compare their lawns to the manicured greens at their favorite golf courses!

Choosing the right reel mower comes down to looking at three details:

  • The way the mower is propelled forward
  • The number of blades
  • The mower's width

Propulsion System

So, do you enjoy a little bit of a workout, or would you prefer a mower with some power behind it? You have two choices when it comes to moving your reel mower: a manual reel mower and a powered reel mower.

Manual Reel MowerThe manual reel mower is the classic kind of lawn mower. Because it has no engine or motor, all of the power needed to push it across your lawn will come from your legs. 

It might require more work to use, but a manual reel mower offers several benefits:

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Quiet operation
  • No fuel emissions
  • No gas tank to refill
  • No engine to maintain

Powered Reel MowerHowever, if you want to get the fine cut of a reel mower without having to provide all the power yourself, you have the option of a powered reel mower.

Some people might not realize that powered reel mowers exist. The most popular models, however, use gas engines similar to those found on other types of walk-behind mowers. This allows people to use a reel mower on larger lawns and properties without the physical strain that a manual mower would require.

Number of Blades

Types of Grass for Reel Mowers

Reel mowers are available in three different styles:

  • Four blades
  • Five blades
  • Seven blades

The type of grass you mow will determine how many blades you’ll need. For bent, heavier grasses such as Bermuda or St. Augustine, get a seven-blade mower. For finer, thinner grasses such as fescue or Kentucky bluegrass, four-blade and five-blade mowers work well.

Mower Width

Reel Mower Widths

Reel lawn mowers come in different widths, ranging from 14 to 20 inches. The wider the mower, the faster you’ll mow. A 20-inch mower will cut a lawn 30 percent faster than a 14-inch mower.

Because you will be providing the “horsepower” for your manual reel mower, you might break a little sweat no matter how wide your mower is. Don’t worry. The heaviest manual reel mower is only 50 pounds.

Reel Mower Accessories

Reel Mower Grass Catcher

Reel lawn mowers are great for being so simple to use. However, adding an accessory or two can help you get even more from your mower.

Reel mowers leave behind nutrient-rich grass clippings, which fertilize your lawn. But if you want a tidier-looking yard, consider a grass catcher. Attach it behind the power, and while you walk, the catcher will collect the clippings for easier disposal. 

As with any mower, maintenance is a must. One detail you're sure to love about your reel mower, though, is how easy the blades are to sharpen. Just apply an abrasive paste to the blades and push the mower. The blades will sharpen themselves as they spin.

NEXT: Top-Rated and Best-Selling Reel Mowers

Jake, the Lawn Mower Expert
Lawn Mower Expert
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