The Reel Mower

When most people think of a reel mower, they likely picture a quaint, rusted item they once saw in the back of their grandparent’s garage. They may have given it a push to hear the whirring hum of the blades and wondered how people ever made do with such a simple contraption. Despite its place in the history of lawn care (reel mowers have been around for 175 years), homeowners with a small yard might find that reel mowers provide clean, quiet, affordable and, yes, modern alternatives to gas-powered mowers.

Clean, Green Mowing

Reel mowers have seen a resurgence with the growth of environmental awareness. While gas-powered mowers alleviate some of the strain of lawn care, that ease comes at an environmental price: gas engines produce air pollutants, and gas-powered lawn mowers are second only to automobiles in the amount of nastiness they belch into the air. Reel mowers, on the other hand, produce no air pollution, and, as an added benefit, don’t make the amount of noise for which gas-powered mowers are famous (just ask anyone who’s been awakened by an early-riser mowing his/her lawn). Reel mowers’ lack of an engine also means convenience: no trips to the gas station for a single gallon of gas, and no oil, belt or hose checks or replacements. Reel mowers require only an occasional sharpening of the blades, and are otherwise maintenance-free.

Real Mower
Real Mower

People-Powered Mowing

Depending on homeowners’ fondness for yard work, reel mowers’ lack of propulsion may prove a joy or a frustration: if they view lawn mowing as a source of exercise, they’re a great choice; if they want quick and sweatless, they may want to look at other types of lawnmowers. Homeowners with steep-sloped yards may decide that reel mower aren’t feasible for the time and/or energy they want to devote to lawn care – pushing reel mowers up slopes or hills can be tiring. While reel mowers don’t necessarily move any slower than any other non-self-propelled mower, homeowners with medium-sized or large yards may find that the time needed to mow with reel mowers is prohibitive. A final downside to reel mowers is the lack of any kind of vacuuming action created by rotary blades. Because of this, reel mowers don’t work well on very long grass and don’t produce quite as uniform a cut as rotary blades.

A “Reel” Bargain

If potential buyers find that the health and environmental benefits of reel mowers appeal to them, though, another pleasant fact remains: reel mowers are, by far, the least expensive option available among lawn mowers, costing as little as $100. Reel mowers can also help save on other lawn care expenses, as left-behind grass clippings provide moisture and organic matter for the lawn (contrary to myth, clippings do not contribute to thatch growth).


While our grandparents had few other options for lawn-care (who wants to swing a scythe?), a reel mower is still an attractive option for many homeowners who want a well-maintained lawn with little cost or fuss.