push mower vs self propelled

Push Mower vs Self Propelled: Which Is Better?

Are you in the process of buying a new lawn mower? If you are then you have probably noticed just how many options there are and this can leave you wondering where on earth to start. One of the things you’ll need to consider is whether you want a push or self propelled mower but what’s the difference?

In short, push mowers are tools that require the user to push them around the lawn while self propelled mowers do the hard work for you. There are pros and cons to each type and they’re generally suited to different applications.

If you aren’t sure which one you should go for, this guide will help you weigh up your options and make the best decision for your garden.

What Is A Push Mower?

A push mower is a type of lawn mower that the user pushes; it’s not hard to see where they get their name, right? You walk behind the mower and use your own force to propel it forward and direct it where you want it to go.

When many people hear the name push mower they instantly think of one of the old manual lawn mowers. While these do fall into the category of push mowers, they certainly aren’t the only type so don’t let that put you off.

The old reel push mowers were a staple back in the day and they’re still on the market today. They have no source of power and totally rely on effort from the user. Instead of spinning blades that you’d find on a gas or electric mower, there is a cylinder with scissor-like blades. These mowers are simple, effective and affordable.

american lawn mower push mower under 300

But there are also electric push mowers which have the benefit of being super lightweight but don’t totally rely on the user as the blades are powered by either a cord or batteries. All the user has to do is push the mower around the lawn and guide it in the right direction.

There are also gas push mowers which are much more powerful than their electric cousins but they have a massive downside in that they’re very heavy so much harder to push around. On top of this, you’ll find that they cost a lot more but their performance is second to none.

What Is A Self Propelled Mower?

A self propelled mower tells you everything you need to know with its name; you don’t need to use any force to push it as it’ll move itself around. All you need to do is direct it on the path you want to mow.

The wheels have a transmission that turns them but as with the push lawn mower, there are options in terms of power; either electric or gas. That said, gas powered self propelled mowers are more common but a lot of manufacturers are launching battery powered self propelled tools that are very popular.

Another thing you’ll have to choose between when selecting a self propelled mower is whether you want a front wheel or rear wheel drive.

Front wheel drive means that the front wheels of the lawn mower are the ones that drive themselves. This is usually a more affordable option as it’s simpler to manufacture with less complex mechanics. These mowers are typically better for lever lawns.

On the other hand, you might choose a rear wheel drive where it is the back wheels that are driving the machine. This is a slightly more complicated design so will cost a little more but if you have sloped or hilly terrain then it’s an invaluable feature.

check fuel tank - cub cadet mower

Pros Of Push Mowers

A lot of people are put off push mowers when they realize that they’ll have to do most of the work. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to buy one. In fact, there are a lot of great advantages to using this type of lawn mower.

Lighter Than Self Propelled Mowers

While you do have to push the lawn mower yourself, these tools are a lot lighter than their self propelled counterparts so you won’t be having a massive work out. This is even more true if you go for a reel mower which is incredibly lightweight.

Less Can Go Wrong

With a self propelled lawn mower, there is an additional system that stands to go wrong or suffer faults. This isn’t the case with a push lawn mower since they have a very simple design that not a lot can go wrong with. This means that you’ll spend less money on repairs.


Push lawn mowers are, for all intents and purposes, more affordable than self propelled models. However, that doesn’t mean that all of them are super cheap. As with anything, there is a broad spectrum in terms of price with some push mowers costing a lot more or less than others.

However, when you compare this to the price of self propelled models in the same class, you’ll pay a lot less. So if you’re looking to save money then it’s a viable option. Note that electric push mowers will be even more affordable than gas models owing to the more complex engine and improved power.

Lower Fuel Costs

Self propelled lawn mowers are heavy and guzzle up gas like it’s going out of fashion. This means that, not only are they more expensive to buy but the running costs will be higher as well. But with a push lawn mower, you don’t have this problem as the tool won’t consume anywhere near as much fuel. Plus, if you go for a reel or electric lawn mower then the running costs come down even more as they don’t require any gas at all.

Pros Of Self Propelled

Self propelled mowers are the best choice for people with large or uneven lawns. There’s a lot of good reasons to invest in one of these tools so let’s take a closer look.

Easier On Your Body

If you own a very heavy lawn mower then pushing this around the lawn can really take it out of you, especially if you’re having to tackle hills and inclines. But a self propelled mower takes that weight for you so you aren’t putting as much strain on your body. The only time you’ll really feel the weight of the machine is when you turn it but this accounts for a minimal percentage of your total mowing time.

Easy For Slopes And Hills

Mowing season falls in summer and that means it is hot and uncomfortable; certainly too much for lugging a heavy gas mower around the garden when there are lots of slopes.

But that isn’t an issue with a self propelled mower as it makes light work of inclines and drastically reduces the amount of work you have to do.

Faster And More Efficient To Use

When mowing a large lawn with a push mower, you’ll find that it takes a considerable amount of time. I don’t know about you but I’d rather spend my weekend doing the things I enjoy over tending to yard chores so the quicker I can mow the lawn, the better.

For big gardens, a self propelled mower offers a much faster way to get the job done. I’d go as far as saying that you could probably mow your large lawn in half the time compared to using a push mower so it’s great if you want convenience.

What To Consider When Deciding Between A Push Mower vs Self Propelled

When it comes to buying a lawn mower and you can’t decide between a push or self propelled mower, there are a few things you can consider to help make your decision more easily.

what to consider buying push mower and self propelled mower

Size Of The Yard

It’s likely that my lawn and your lawn differ greatly in size. There is such a vast diversity between lawns that no two are the same. This is one of the key things to keep in mind when choosing between self propelled and push mowers.

For a smaller lanw, you aren’t going to need the power and efficiency of a self propelled mower. It’ll be way too over the top whereas a push lawn mower will be easy and convenient to use. What’s more, there’s really very little point in spending a ton of money on a self propelled tool that you aren’t going to get the use out of.

However, if you have a lawn that takes longer than around 20 minutes to cut you might benefit from a self propelled mower. For bigger lawns, they can cut your mowing time in half so they’re definitely worth considering.

Type Of Terrain

Try walking up a hill normally and compare this to walking on flat ground; which is easier? Flat ground, right? Now imagine walking those same stints but at the same time as pushing a heavy lean mower. It doesn’t take me to tell you that going up the hill is going to be a lot more demanding.

If you have a lawn with a lot of slopes or inclines then it’s common sense that a self propelled mower is going to make life much easier. However, if the lawn is level and flat, there’s really no need and a push mower will be just as easy to use.

For gardens with a lot of slopes, I would recommend getting a rear wheel drive model and these are a lot better for uneven ground.

Fitness Levels

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t want to admit defeat when it comes to fitness. Not many of us like to hold our hands up and say that we can’t cope with the weight of our lawn mowers. But it pays to be honest otherwise you may find yourself laid up with a bad back all because you were too stubborn to admit you needed a self propelled mower.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of so if your fitness levels aren’t where you’d like them to be, look after yourself by choosing a self propelled mower.

A lot of people want to use a gas powered lawn mower but are worried about the weight. Going for a self propelled model takes away that worry and you’ll still benefit from their superior power. It’s a win win.

But there are those of you lucky enough to be on top form physically speaking and if that’s you then there’s no reason you can’t show off your skills and go for a push mower. Although, don’t go too over the top and get a mower that’s too heavy; always check the weight before you buy.


Self propelled lawn mowers are always going to cost a little more than push mowers. If you don’t need to worry about money then you can go out there and buy any type of mower you want. However, if you’re trying to stick to a budget then it’s possible to pick up an electric push mower for not much more than $100 so it’s definitely an economical choice.

When To Use A Push Mower vs Self Propelled

when to use push mower and self propelled

Depending on the factors I have discussed in this guide, you may have decided that a self propelled mower is right for you or you might feel that a push mower is the best choice. But here’s a quick reference guide to help support your decision.

  • For small, level lawns use a manual or electric PUSH MOWER
  • For small, unlevel lawns use an electric PUSH MOWER
  • For small lawns with some steep inclines use an electric PUSH MOWER
  • For medium, level lawns use a gas or electric PUSH MOWER or a front wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER
  • For medium, unlevel lawns use a gas or electric PUSH MOWER or a front wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER
  • For medium lawns with steep hills use a rear wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER
  • For large, even lawns use a front or rear wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER
  • For large, uneven lawns use a front or rear wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER
  • For large lawns will steep hills use a rear wheel drive SELF PROPELLED MOWER

How Long Do Push Mowers Last?

When well taken care of, your push lawn mower should last up to ten years. This requires you performing regular maintenance and ensuring that you store your lawn mower correctly. However, do keep in mind that most push lawn mowers come with just a two or three year warranty, although there are some that have extended five year warranties. This may be something you want to look out for when buying.

Do Self Propelled Mowers Work On Hills

Yes! Self propelled mowers are an excellent choice for gardens that feature hills or slopes. However, one thing you should keep in mind is that there is a limit to how steep a hill your mower will work on.

You’ll likely find details of this in the user guide but for the most part, a gas powered self propelled lawn mower won’t be able to handle hills that are any steeper than 45 degrees.

Final Thoughts

Mowing your lawn can feel like a real chore if you don’t have the right equipment. That’s why choosing the right type of lawn mower is really important and it can make all the difference to your mowing experience.

Self propelled lawn mowers are ideal for bigger lawns or where there are a lot of steep hills and slopes. However, they’re also good if you struggle with the weight of a lawn mower, especially heavy gas powered machines.

On the other hand, a push lawn mower is ideal for people who are physically fit or who have a small, level garden without any sloped terrain.

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Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Andrew is a dedicated father of three who really takes pride in his lawn and garden. You'll find Andrew behind the scenes of almost everything Edge Your Lawn produces. When he's not helping readers find all the information they need, he's in his backyard working on his lawn and garden landscaping. This year he hopes to build an outdoor deck and sort out his veg patches.

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