Any recommendations on electric mowers?
March 12, 2008 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with electric lawn mowers? I am looking for brand recommendations, pros and cons, etc. ...

Do they last a long time? Do the blades need sharpening? One other question I have is about storage -- I don't have a garage, so I am wondering if I can store it outside under a tarp or if that is a dealbreaker.

I need to mow about 3/4 of an acre (I have a small house on a large-ish lot). I have a bad back, so I am trying to make it a little easier on myself. Also, the yard has many pine trees -- this is why a reel mower won't work (pinecones keep getting stuck in the blades).
posted by Jane Austen to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We've had one for about two years that sees irregular usage. We keep it close to the house, under the awning, and that seems to be sufficient. I think keeping it under a tarp would be fine.

I've never done a touch of maintenance to it, but I suppose eventually I'll need to have the blades sharpened. The manual specified that there's no oiling to be done.

Dealing with the cord is pretty annoying. If you have a bad back, you might consider getting a model that is self propelled. I don't know if they have electric self-propelled mowers. Let me repeat that dealing with the cord is annoying.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:56 AM on March 12, 2008

My dad has run over the cord on his mower, oh, at least 3 times now. Definitely be careful of that.
posted by katemonster at 7:08 AM on March 12, 2008

3/4 of an acre is a rather large yard for an electric. I believe the average electric mower holds it's charge for about an hour. You are going to need to mow at a quick jog to get through 3/4 of an acre in an hour. My back yard is 1/2 acre, almost a perfect rectangle with only a few trees and it's a 45 minute job on a riding mower, 90 minutes with a self propelled gas mower.
Especially in light of your back, I think you should be looking for a rider for that size yard.

Good lawn tractors run forever and you should be able to find a used riding mower for a few hundred bucks. You'll need a top of the line electric or gas mower to tackle that sized yard anyway, I think you'll be able to find a used riding mower for not much more money. Paying $3 a gallon to mow the yard does suck, but it sucks less than back pain.
posted by COD at 7:12 AM on March 12, 2008

I have a Black & Decker cordless electric mower; my lawn is slightly over 1/4 acre.


a) Very, very low maintenance. Blades still sharp (after two years), no oiling, etc.
b) Hey, it's electric. No need to fool around w/gasoline--just plug it in after you're done.
c) It does a clean job of mowing the lawn under good weather conditions.


a) It weighs seventy pounds. For a small person like myself, there's definitely an exhaustion factor--I have to take two days to mow the lawn, front and back.
b) Vibrations, and not of the good kind. Enough to jog the knobs that hold the handles together loose--and, sometimes, to numb your wrists. (A colleague was so bothered by the vibrations that she wound up returning the mower.)
c) Not what you would call good in tight turns. If you've got to mow around lots of trees or flower beds, I wouldn't recommend it (she says, thinking about all the trees on her property).
d) Theoretically, the battery will last a full 1/4 acre. In practice...not really.
e) Very, very bad after rain or when the grass gets long.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:18 AM on March 12, 2008

With 3/4 acre, you're going to have two choices with electric mowers:

1) Get a cordless, and mow your lawn in stages, recharging in the middle.
2) Get a corded model and a really long extension cord.

The blades will need sharpening on an electric mower whenever they get dull, same as with a gas mower. Storage outside shouldn't be a problem, as long as it's protected from rain; a cordless model might have other restrictions (i.e. don't let it freeze), but I'm not sure.

I've used a corded mower, and really didn't like it. The cord is really annoying, as spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints notes.

With a large lot to mow, and a sore back, you'd probably be better off getting a self-propelled gas model. Electrics are good for small yards, but the cons outweigh the pros on larger yards.
posted by gwenzel at 7:39 AM on March 12, 2008

I have a Black & Decker corded electric mower, and I love it, although my yard is quite a bit smaller than yours. Yes, you have to make sure not to run over the cord, but to me it just feels a lot like running a vacuum cleaner. I enjoy not having to deal with the gas and the exhaust, and I like that as soon as you let go the mower stops.

As far as maintenance, mine has a single blade like most gas mowers, and I took it off and had someone sharpen it once, which was easy.
posted by thejanna at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2008

Echoing previous posts, a 3/4 acre lawn is A LOT to mow without a self-propelled mower. But if you have time and plenty of extension cord footage, it's possible. You also mention encountering pinecones. I suspect that using any hand-pushed power mower is not going to work out too well; it'll be overmatched by the debris, you'll need to sharpen the blade with greater frequency, and the motor will be taxed. To say nothing of the physical challenge of pushing the mower and clearing any debris that is too big for the mower to deal with.

That said, I've had a corded electric mower, MTD brand, for about 7 years. I'm very happy with it (note: my application is a standard flat lawn of moderate size). It's basically a switch, a bridge rectifier, and an electric motor direct-driving a standard rotary mower blade. The blade needs sharpening as often as that of a gas powered mower of similar design (i.e. whenever I realize that I haven't done it in the past year). A few years ago the bridge rectifier failed (no smoke, no fire, just a dead mower), and I replaced it with a higher-voltage version ($6-$10); otherwise it's been 100% trouble-free. NOT having to mess with gasoline, and changing oil (or: forgetting to, and having the engine self-destruct), and never experiencing starting hassles, has been WONDERFUL. And (compared to a battery-powered model) it always runs at full power. For me, dealing with the cords is no biggie, it just takes getting used to (you adapt your mowing pattern/route to minimize the amount of cord-handling).
posted by knobby_berry at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2008

I have a Black and Decker I bought about 15 years ago. The great thing about it is I haven't had to do any maintenance except for cleaning and sharping the blade, I do the blade once every spring. It's easy, I just take it off and run a file over it. The mower store down the street will sharpen it for $10 if I couldn't.

It is corded, which at first was a pain. You get use to it. I cut from near the plug to away, so I'm always pulling away from the cord.

But 3/4 acre is big... maybe just do a section a day.

I don't think you'll want to store a rechargeable outdoors, batteries don't like cold.
posted by Marky at 9:58 AM on March 12, 2008

I have a Black & Decker electric (corded) and it has a flip handle. It's way awesome. Unfortunately, I don't think they make the flip handle anymore. I have no clue why -- it eliminates the possibility of mowing over the cord. Maybe see if you

Hey! They do still make it! Woo-hoo! Okay, so that's what you should get, the one with the flip handle. It's lightweight, which is good for the amount of space you have. (Yeah, 3/4 acre is a lot to mow with a non-self-propelled push mower, but think of it as exercise.) The flip handle, seriously, rocks.

About storing it outside: If you have to store it outdoors, I think you want to steer away from the cordless models to begin with. Otherwise your charging station would have to be outside too, and that's asking for trouble. I have a garage, but it's too full of junk right now for lawnmower parking, so I store mine on the side of the house, and have for several years. Covering it with a tarp is a good idea, but the real problem you'll face is moisture seeping from underneath. This is the only problem I've ever had with the mower. During one particularly wet winter, the blades (or the shaft the blade is on) rusted to the point of freezing up. I could have fixed it if I'd known it was a problem, but I made the mistake of trying to run the mower first. There's a big magnet in the motor, and a chunk of it broke off when the rust blades froze. Buying a new magnet or motor was actually about the same price as buying a new electric mower, which is what I ended up doing. (I bought another B&D mower at an outlet store and robbed it of its motor, then put it in my mower with the flip handle.)

So anyway, keep the bottom dry. Park it on concrete if you can, and spin/oil the blades periodically when it's not in use.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:39 AM on March 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. When I mention the bad back, I think the real problem is that I'm short and have a bad back -- it's starting a regular mower that is the biggest problem; pushing it isn't as much of a problem.
posted by Jane Austen at 12:06 PM on March 12, 2008

I would say that if you are just having problems with starting the mower, and not with pushing it, then a push-mower may be a good option for you. I believe the newer models are not heavy, and can be stored easily. Not having to worry about charging or running over the cord is great too. I know a couple of people who use these, for their large backyards (I don't know the exact measurements) and like them just fine.
posted by nikksioux at 1:07 PM on March 12, 2008

knobby_berry, I've got the same MTD electric lawn mower and replaced the same rectifier at about the 10 year mark. So about $5 of maintenance in 15 years.
posted by JackFlash at 1:11 PM on March 12, 2008

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