Best Reel Lawn Mowers of 2023
Top-Rated & Best-Selling Reel Mowers
Today's reel mowers are not like my father's; they're easier to use, cheaper, and can provide the cleanest cut of any type of mower—while also giving you a great workout. So it's not surprising more people today are returning to the "old ways" of mowing the lawn. Besides, some of today's reel mowers are self-propelled and have gas engines!
Reel mowers create a healthier lawn and give it a superior cut with scissor-like precision, so if you like to exercise and want your lawn to look like a baseball field or a finely manicured golf course, then look no further. I've used my decades of power equipment expertise to hand-pick the best reel mowers around, so continue reading below and see if any of these are right for you. Don't forget to click on the reel mower images to view the product page filled with more features, specs, reviews, and other great resources.
The Best Reel Mowers
|Best Push Reel Mower||Best Powered Reel Mower|
How We Picked the Best Reel Mowers
When recommending reel lawnmowers, we take five features into account.
Reel mowers are as powerful as you are. We judge a reel mower's power by the level of exertion it takes to operate it. Reel mowers are designed to be easy to push, however, some models have better features or designs that make moving them easier than others, without solely relying on raw strength.
Durability impacts your reel mower's resistance to threats like rust, dents, rocks, and other damage from yard debris. One key factor is the type of material used for components that wear over time, like the torsion bar, wheels, handles, and rollers for larger reel mowers. For powered reel mowers, we also consider the engine build and the belt/chain drive system. The heavier-duty quality of the parts, the higher rating we give.
Great reel mowers are not only durable and easy to use, but they are also comfortable for anybody to operate for long periods of time. For great usability, we look at comfort features like handle grip cushions, quiet operation, and low vibration on powered models, and also ergonomic controls for setting the mowing height.
We use the term 'versatility' to measure characteristics like variable speed control, cutting height adjustments, and the ability to attach other accessories, such as a grass catcher or a new blade. We also look at what specific types of grass a reel mower can handle, since they are designed for coarser grasses found in different parts of the United States.
We prioritize performance over price, so instead of evaluating a reel mower on just price-point, we look at what you're getting for the price, convenience, and overall effort of upkeep.
Best Manual Reel Mower: Earthwise 7-Blade Reel Mower
The Earthwise 16-inch 7-Blade Push Reel Mower is my top pick for a manual reel mower. It's lightweight, simple to use, durable, reliable, and doesn't require anything more than the energy you use to push it around. This no-frills model is designed to put as little between you and your perfectly-cut lawn as possible.
This model was specifically designed to cut low-growing creeping grasses like St Augustine, zoysia, Buffalo grass, Kentucky bluegrass, bent, and Bermuda grasses. It features a heat-treated alloy steel ball-bearing wheel, 7 blades, and a cutter bar for high durability and wear. The 1-inch welded torsion bar assembly has a virtually-unbreakable steel side plate.
This manual reel mower has ergonomic features that keep your fatigue at a minimum, has a T-style handle with cushioned grips, and also has an easy cutting-height adjustment option for its 7-section roller for heights of 1/2" (golf course height) to 2.5" for super-fine precision cuts. You can push this frame around your lawn for as long as it takes to finish the job and you'll get a great workout while doing it.
As long as you don't mind the exercise, you can easily use this reel mower to manicure your lawn for decades without the extra costs of fuel and upkeep.
|Exertion||Manual powered. Just you and the reel mower. No self-propelled assistance.||☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||Heat-treated alloy steel blades and cutter bar.1-inch welded torsion bar and steel side plate. 10-inch composite wheels with 2.75" molded hub caps.||☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||Comfortable handle grip cushions, quiet operation, and ergonomic controls for setting the mowing height.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Easy height adjustments. Handles all low-growing and thick grasses. No grass collection options. Can be challenging to get level cuts on uneven hills.||☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||For the price, you can't get a better precision cut if you're willing to put the elbow grease in. No gas. No noise. No problem.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Small to medium lawns, most terrain (less than an acre)
- People who want a precision-cut lawn as short as a golf-green
- People who want to push a mower to get exercise
- People who don't want to deal with gas, oil, or charging batteries
Who It's Not For:
- Larger properties (more than 1 acre of grass)
- People who don't want to walk with a manual push mower
- People who can't mow more than once per week as needed
Best Powered Reel Mower: California Trimmer Power Reel
When the gas-powered reel mower was first introduced in the 1930s, it was considered a revolutionary advance in lawn care. This 7-blade 20-inch RL207H-GX160 California Trimmer is a byproduct of that reel mower evolution. Hoisted atop this self-propelled push reel mower is a dependable commercial-grade Honda 163cc engine that makes reel mowing easier than ever. The simple hand lever blade engagement makes this power reel mower safer than other models.
The RL207H-GX160 model is best suited for southern-type grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and Bent that are kept under 1-1/2” in height. If you have an uneven lawn, an optional front roller is available (installed before shipping) to add stability and reduce scalping. There is also a high-cut Briggs and Stratton powered model for taller, northern grasses like Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass, RL205HC-BS550, that will give you a great cut up to 2-1/4”.
I highly recommend that you give either California Trimmer model a try. Your lawn will thank you and your neighbors will envy you.
*NOTE: Choose the model that is best for your grass type and get a much healthier, better-looking lawn. Give us a call and we can help you select which type you need prior to purchasing.
|Exertion||Commercial-grade Honda GX160 engine for an easy start. Offers a variable speed self-propelled chain drive system. No pushing, just walking along with it.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Durability||Heavy duty belt and chain system. Heat-treated carbon steel mower reel. Grass catcher has a high-density polymer design.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Usability||Wider cutting width (20"). Simple hand lever engagement. Self-propelled. Low vibration design with oil alert. The extra wide roller offers great traction.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Versatility||Easy height adjustments. Handles all low-growing and thick grasses. 9-inch deep drive roller to smooth out lawn. Durable 2-bushel grass-catcher is available. Can cut, catch, and mulch grass.||☆☆☆☆☆|
|Overall Value||Offers variable speed self-propelled chain drive system. No pushing, just walking along with it.||☆☆☆☆☆|
Who It's For:
- Small to medium lawns, any terrain (less than an acre)
- People who want a golf-grade precision-cut lawn with minimal exertion
- People who want to prioritize healthy grass cutting
Who It's Not For:
- Larger properties (more than 1 acre of grass)
- People who don't want to walk with a push mower
- People who prefer riding lawnmowers
Reel Mower FAQs
Is a Reel Mower Right for Me?
Reel mowers have been around for over 100 years and continue to be enjoyed today for their simplicity and superior scissor-like precision cuts. If you enjoy mowing for exercise and don't want to deal with typical upkeep costs like gasoline, oil changes, or engine maintenance, then a manual reel mower might be perfect for you. They are the least expensive of all mower types but are the easiest to use and often last decades due to their simple but durable designs.
That being said, if you want to enjoy the precision cutting of a reel mower on your lawn but are worried about the physical exertion of pushing it, a powered reel mower offers that solution. They are often self-propelled so you simply need to hold onto the handlebars and let the reel mower walk you along. They also typically have wider cutting widths and offer more options like mulching, collecting grass clippings, or attaching a roller that can level your lawn while cutting.
Overall, reel mowers are for lawn enthusiasts who care about a low-cut, well-manicured lawn and also don't mind spending extra time walking and exercising while mowing their yard. Reel mowers offer better-looking lawns and healthier grass—but at the cost of spending more time and exertion mowing than other types of lawn mowers. For a more comprehensive look, check out our reel mower buyer's guide.
Do Reel Mowers Need Maintenance?
Manual reel mowers need very little maintenance apart from sharpening the blades ahead of each season for the best cutting results. In addition to that, powered reel mowers will also require the normal amount of engine maintenance, which includes regular oil changes and using 87-octane gasoline that has been fuel stabilized to prevent the engine from gumming up after a season of storage. You can also choose to lubricate your reel mower at any of the joints as needed.
Do Reel Mowers Work on Tall Grass?
Reel mowers outshine the rest when it comes to maintaining well-manicured lawns that are shorter than 3 inches tall, but they will typically handle grasses up to about 6 inches tall with some effort. Reel mowers can be more challenging to work with on overgrown grass and are not recommended for use on thick weeds and shrubbery.
Reel mowers are designed to cut all types of short, thicker grasses and have special engine and blade configurations to suit each type of grass found in different regions across the United States. To ensure you have an easy time using a reel mower, mow as often as the lawn needs it, and remove sticks, stones, and debris from your yard prior to mowing for the best results. That may be multiple times per week in peak growth seasons or after heavy rain. As always, the best mowing results will come from a dry lawn.
Dale has been involved with gasoline-powered engines, especially small engines since he bolted the first one onto his Schwinn bike at 12 years old. After high school, he spent 19 years in the automotive parts industry, working for retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.
In 1994, Dale entered the small engine and power equipment industry, offering product and technical assistance to power equipment dealers and their customers. Since 2016, he has been a full-time sales and product expert at Power Equipment Direct, where he largely focuses on helping customers select the best lawn and garden equipment for their needs.
In his off time, Dale enjoys working on his own cars and power equipment. He is a go-to resource for friends, family, and coworkers who need a hand diagnosing or repairing their broken lawnmowers or string trimmers. When not around engines, he is a drummer in a local Chicago-area band. Hockey dominates his TV time during the NHL season, and he enjoys relaxing on his pontoon boat during the summer months.