Self-Propelled vs. Push Mower – Which Is Right For You?

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Self-Propelled vs. Push Mower1

Self-propelled and push mowers have impactful differences that may help you determine the lawn mower that suits your needs. For a push mower to move, you must use your effort. It is less heavy, and you determine its speed by how fast you push it. It is not suitable for mowing an uneven landscape. On the other hand, a self-propelling mower drives itself and can cut grass over hilly terrain. It can also cut through tough grass with ease. However, it is more costly than a push mower.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider self-propelled mowers for more extensive lawns, up to one acre.  
  • Self-propelled mowers are suitable for hilly terrain.
  • Push mowers require you to use much effort to push and move them around.
  • Push mowers are ideal for smaller lawns with tight spaces.

Comparison of Features: Self-Propelled vs. Push Mowers

Self-propelled and push mowers are the main walk-behind mowers you’ll come across. Let’s examine some properties of the two:

  • Operation Mode

In push mowers, the motor only drives the cutting blade. You must use force to move the mower forward and cut the grass. 

It differs from a self-propelled mower, which mechanically pushes itself forward. It has a gearbox connected to the wheels (either front or rear), which moves the mower. Your work is to guide it where you want it to go. 

  • Cutting Width

The cutting width determines how fast you can cut your lawn. The wider the width, the less time it will take. 

Typically, a self-propelled mower has a wider cutting deck than a push mower. A push mower has a cutting width of around 15 to 20 inches. A self-propelled mower has a cutting width of 16 to 30 inches. 

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  • Speed

A self-propelled mower cuts grass faster than a push mower. Push mowers’ speed depends on how fast you can move them. Since you use energy pushing it around the lawn, the speed may reduce as you get fatigued.

Some self-propelled mowers have a standard speed, while others have adjustable speeds. That means you can increase the pace to complete the job faster. 

  • Propulsion System

You need to know that the push mower relies on your effort to push it forward. If you get tired halfway, the work will not be done. 

Self-propelled mowers have a transmission that powers the wheels. Once you engage the bail, it signals transmissions to switch gears. You walk behind it, guiding it where to cut the grass.  

Factor Push Mower Self-Propelled Mower
Operation mode
  • You do most of the work pushing and directing yourself
  • The mower cuts the grass mechanically
Cutting Width
  • It can go up to 20 inches
  • Usually goes up to 30 inches
  • You determine the speed by how fast you push 
  • Some mowers have a preset speed, while others have adjustable speeds
Propulsion System
  • You push to move the wheels
  • You press the bail to power the wheels

Related: What is a Self Propelled Lawn Mower and What Does Self Propelled Mean?

What to Consider When Choosing Between Self-Propelled and Push Mowers

You don’t just wake up and settle for a push or self-propelled lawn mower. You must consider some factors to ensure you pick a mower that best suits your needs. Make your decision based on the following factors:

  • Size of the Lawn

You wouldn’t want to push a mower over a one-acre lawn piece. It will be almost impractical because of the effort you must put in to cut the grass. A push mower is suitable for lawns under ½ an acre. 

Since self-propelled mowers will only need you to guide them as they do all the work by themselves, you can use them on a lawn of a relatively larger size. Furthermore, you can adjust the speed when you want them to operate faster. Get a self-propelled mower if your lawn is between ½ an acre to 1 acre. 

  • Terrain

The terrain of the lawn determines the amount of work required to mow it. A push mower is suitable for a flat yard with softer grass. You will find it easier to push the mower and ensure the grass is evenly cut on all lawn areas. 

For hilly terrains with uneven ground, consider getting a self-propelling mower. Also, check the engine’s power because such landscapes require mowers with high power. Most walk-behind mowers have engines ranging from 140-cc to 190-cc. 

A self-propelling mower is suitable if your lawn has tough grass (like Bermuda). 

  • Deck Size

The deck size is the area under your lawn mower where the blades are present. So, a larger deck means wider cutting blades. Such blades cut wider paths as you mow the grass, meaning you’ll complete the work quickly. 

While the time you’ll work matters, you also want to consider the obstacles on the lawn. If it has many trees and other obstacles like rocks, you want a smaller deck size to allow you to maneuver easily. 

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Pros and Cons of Self-Propelled and Push Mowers

Like any other machine, self-propelled and push mowers have advantages and disadvantages. You must weigh them both before making your choice. 

Self-Propelled Mower Pros

  • Highly Effective: Since you don’t have to push a self-propelled mower, it completes its work faster. Depending on the model you purchase, you can adjust the speeds for the shortest possible time. It allows you to cut through thick and tough grass without extra effort.
  • Safety: The fact that you can choose the speed with which to operate means that you only settle for the speed that best suits you. The mower also has a pedal on which you can step to prevent it from moving faster ahead of you.
  • Easy on your body: A typical self-propelled mower is battery or gas-powered. It can be heavier than the push mower. However, you do not feel the weight because it does the job itself. You only use your effort when making turns. 
  • Easy to mow hilly terrain: Because the front or rear wheel drives the mower, it is easier to cut grass on uneven terrain. You will not feel the mower’s weight and may enjoy the mowing experience on even and uneven surfaces.
  • A smoother overall cut: Mowing your lawn at a uniform speed ensures that the overall cut is uniform. Self-propelled mowers provide this advantage because you don’t need to take breaks or adjust speeds frequently. 

Self-Propelled Mower Cons

  • They are costly: Anyone operating on a tight budget will find a self-propelled mower expensive. You must also factor in the fuel cost if you buy a gas-powered mower. Only settle for a self-propelled mower if:
    • The size of your lawn is medium or large
    • You’ll struggle with the weight of an equivalent push mower
    • You have a hilly lawn
  • Noisy: Unless you buy an electric-powered mower, your neighbors will complain about the noise from your gas-powered mower. The smoke from the engine also has an unpleasant smell and releases toxins into the atmosphere.

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Push Mower Pros

  • They are inexpensive: The cost of a push mower is relatively lower than a self-propelled mower. It also does not have additional costs, except for the lubrication oil. 
  • They are quieter: Since they don’t have a running engine, you won’t hear complaints from your neighbors about noise or emissions. You can perform your work peacefully with no interference. 
  • Safety: You determine the speed by how fast you push the mower. As a result, you will have fewer accidents. 
  • Suitable for tight spaces: A push mower is best for your lawn with tight corners or obstacles. The narrower cutting width makes the mower ideal for this job. 

Push Mower Cons

  • Mowing can take longer: It’s you pushing and directing the mower. So you’ll get slow as fatigue sets in. You’ll also need to take breaks and adjust speed more frequently to your convenience, stretching the time to get the job done.
  • It is harder to cut tougher grass: You will use more energy if the grass is too long or tough, thus lessening your effectiveness due to exhaustion. If you are not used to this strenuous activity, you could experience muscle aches.

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Self-Propelled vs. Push Mower FAQs

  • Is It Worth Getting a Self-Propelled Lawn Mower?

It is worth getting a self-propelled lawn mower. It will make the mowing process faster and doesn’t involve a lot of physical labor. If you have a lawn of more than one acre, consider getting a self-propelled mower. The mower will also make it easier to mow a hilly lawn. 

  • Is a Self-Propelled Mower Better?

In many aspects, a self-propelled mower is better than a push mower. While it can mow a larger area faster than a push mower, it is also easier on your body. You won’t experience muscle pain after completing the job since it isn’t labor-intensive.

On the other hand, a push mower will be suitable when cutting grass over a smaller area. They can also work well in tight spaces or areas with trees since they have narrower cutting widths.

  • Can a Self-Propelled Mower Be Used as a Push Mower?

Yes, a self-propelled mower can be used as a push mower. Pushing won’t damage the transmission. However, you must be ready to use more effort. Self-propelled mowers are typically heavy since they are designed to drive themselves. 

  • How Long Do Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers Last?

A self-propelled lawn mower can last from eight to ten years. The life expectancy of your lawn mower will depend on the maintenance and overall care you give it. Make sure that all moving parts are lubricated and that you sharpen the blades regularly. 

Related: Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – 5 Models For All Budgets And Terrains

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mower – 5 Models For All Budgets And Terrains

So Which is Better, Self-Propelled or Push?

A self-propelled mower will provide more benefits than a push mower. If you have a larger lawn or want less effort, a self-propelled mower is right for you. It will also do the job faster. Consider a push mower if your yard has many trees, tight spaces, and is below half an acre. 

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