A Reel Mower vs A Real Mower

Last year, when we moved into our place, I picked up a Scott Classic reel mower. It seemed like a quiet, environmentally conscious, energy efficient solution. It was the wrong tool for a number of reasons: the Siberian Elm that sheds its branches like a cat, the odd divets perfect for twisting ankles, and dandelions just laugh at it. By the end of the hour it took to mow, I was cursing both the lawn and the mower.

Then, the handle snapped off. Leaving me with a mower unusable by anyone over 4 feet tall.

This morning we picked up a new mower from Home Depot. Gas, oil, pump-to-prime, pull-string start, whole deal. In comparison to the Scott, this one’s a tank – leveling everything, shredding the Elm’s branches and those pesky dandelions.

On the plus side, the lawn is mowed. In record time and I’m not frustrated. On the down side, it’s way too loud to catch up on my podcast listening.

25 thoughts on “A Reel Mower vs A Real Mower

  1. I have two reel mowers, one of which was purchased new, which I used for about two years before switching to a gas mower. Even with a sharp blade and weekly mowing, I found that it took me twice as long to mow with a reel mower as it does with a gas mower. And while the reel mower handled grass well enough, it left behind an unkempt lawn full of tall weeds and such.
    I don’t particularly care if my lawn is unkempt but after a neighbor was cited for tall weeds in his yard, I realized that others (city inspector) were concerned about the appearance of my lawn. From that point forward, I used the gas mower to the exclusion of the reel mower.

  2. I replaced my reel mower (which I used for many years) with a Black & Decker cordless electric mower. It can mulch or bag, and cuts my average-sized suburban yard on a single charge. The mower is quieter and signficantly less polluting than a gas model. My neighbor and parents now own one, after seeing mine in action.

    Take it from Bob with the American Lung Association of Minnesota — two-cycle engines are not only loud, they are very polluting.

    PS: I also use a cordless electric string trimmer.

  3. My husband and I just purchased a reel mower today… then I find this! OH dear… what have we gotten ourselves into!
    You’re right about those dandylions… they just laughed at him. We have an enormous yard.
    I think it’s going to be a long summer.

  4. I purchased a Sunlawn EM-1, an electric reel mower, two weeks ago. It cannot cut any significant height of grass. I had to borrow my friend’s gas rotary mower to get my lawn to a reasonable length.

    The blade system continually fails to discharge the grass all of the way into the bag or at least beyond the blades. As a result, when enough grass gets close to the motor, the blades lock up—a horrible sound.

    Now that I’ve gotten my lawn to a reasonable length, I’ll attempt to use the Sunlawn on a regular basis. If it doesn’t work, I’m returning it and getting a mulching mower.


  5. I have to second what Ames posted. I bought one of these robotic lawn mowers and I have to say that my knees never felt better. I used to use a reel mower and if you are physically able, they are a great yet often overlooked option. That is unless you have a large lawn or lots of sticks. Unfortunately for me, those days are over. I have a neighbor on one side that uses a rechargeable and struggles along. On the other side the guy has a corded electric lawn mower and has already cut the cord more than once. My robot just quietly does its thing.

  6. All I can say is THANKS!!! My husband was dead set on getting a reel mower… that is until I made him read the blog. So for the honest comments, Thanks!

  7. I’ve been using a push-reel mower recently, and have been very happy with it. Sure, I have to go over certain spots a second time, but I had to do the same thing with my gas-powered mower as well. With this push-reel mower, I can listen to music or podcasts without going deaf from the roar of an engine, and at current gas prices, my $90 locally made mower will pay for itself within a couple years, I think. Granted, my yard is only about 160’x70′ or so, but if I had a larger yard, I could always buy another push-reel and draft my wife to help out πŸ™‚

  8. I have a reel mower manufactured by the Brill company. I mow our very small yard, 4750 sq ft, in 90 degree Texas mornings once a week. I’m thinking 2X a week just to make it easier. I love the cut, the look, and the “green” thing that the mower offers, but it busts my butt. When you hit your late 50s, a reel mower can leave you a bit winded. I was on the net looking for a gas/electric reel mower while I was cooling off after cutting the front yard. Sorta cancels out the green thing doesn’t it?
    BTW…while surfing the net I found out that the Brill doesn’t work well on bermuda grass. My lawn is bermuda. I’m just lucky that way..

  9. I think the reel mowers are great I am trying to look for a good one right now with 7 blades. My dad has a riding lawn mower because we have a big yard, but I do parts of it with the reel lawn mower. I try and do 3 lawns a week with it. I have lost over 30lbs and put over 1 inch on my arms since using the reel mowers. Get your workout in and your lawn done all at the same time

  10. I’ve been using a reel push mower for a few years. Yes, it requires you to go over some spots a couple of times, but it is actually easier to push and maneuver around a small yard like mine. I’m 60 years old and have no trouble with it. Who cares if it misses a blade of grass here and there. It’s cheap, quiet, green and fun to use. It’s just a lawn people.

  11. I keep reading about electric mowers being “less polluting” but I’m not convinced. Electric mowers are actually coal powered mowers as “most” electricity comes from burning coal. Add to that the fact that more than one third of the power generated by power plants is lost as heat from the cooling towers, transmission lines, and the mowers motor windings. The difference is that the exhaust isn’t in your own yard, but at the power plant. Ok, so the power plant uses scrubbers to remove ash and soot, but CO2 emmissions are probably about the same. And yes, you don’t have to deal with oil, but used motor oils can be recycled. If it’s pollution you’re worried about use a “reel” mower, but be smarter than the other guy in these posts and pick up the elm twigs and limbs first. If the mower can’t cut a dandelion I would say that there’s a problem. My Sunlawn reel mower cuts em down like hot butter. No one said that cleaning up the planet would be easy, so get your couch-potato butt off of the sofa and get some “real” exercise by using a “reel” mower.

  12. Very good point MtnKjn. Battery powered mowers not only produce the same cabon foot print by the power plant that recharges them but now there is that battery that will one day need replaced. Where do people get that electric power has no emmission any way?

  13. I have been thinking about buying a reel mower for a couple years now. Last year we removed all the grass in our back yard in favor of an inground pool. Seems to me like the perfect answer for a small town front yard… or maybe a smaller battery powered mower with a solar panel on the shed πŸ™‚

  14. I was cutting the grass today for what I believe will be the last time this season.In 1.5 hours I cut 1.5 acres. My experience may sound like heresy and contray to this sites dogma,but I used a 24 horsepower 54 inch cut riding mower. After I was finished I wondered; how much gas had this beast consumed? Well the answer is 1 gallon and 1 pint. These modern mowers,I suspect are much more enviro friendly than those of the past and much more friendly than the lore would have you believe.I’m 65 now and if I’d been using a push mower, I dare say,the grass mowing wouldn’t have been finished, however I may have been.

  15. Electric power plants are about 60 pct efficient in turning gas, coal or petrol into electricity. A small combustion engine on a mower is around 25 pct efficient in turning gas into usable force / labour. Add to that the noise pollution of agas mower and lack of advanced exhaust filters, and I d say for sure gas mowers are less green than electric mowers.

  16. I have a Scotts reel mower, same model as the picture actually. I got it after researching it since I have a pretty small yard, it’s quiet so I can mow any time of day (night? πŸ™‚ and don’t have to worry about being a nuisance, I don’t have to deal with gas and oil, and because I don’t have a garage or a shed so I have to carry it up and down the stairs inside the house, plus I don’t mind a workout if more than a regular mower.

    My handle broke as well. I called them and they sent a new one to me pretty quickly. They actually said over the phone that they know they’re bad steel or something and are working to fix – in a year or so. That’s great if your warranty is out. I’m thinking mine might break again before the warranty is up.

    Also the foam pad on the handle starts disintegrating pretty quickly. I just wrapped it in black duct tape when I first noticed it and that works great.

    I love the mower but there are definitely disadvantages. It won’t get the tall weed here or there so you’ll have random things sticking up afterward. Try not to miss a week or let it get too tall. It is a lot easier if you cut once a week. You can adjust the height, but thick tall grass will be tough and you’ll need to go over it twice. One spot in my yard is especially thick and more difficult to go over even cutting once a week. I have to pick up sticks in my yard before mowing – not really a big deal since you might as well pick them up anyway, but it takes a while if you have lots of big trees and strong storms like here in southern IL. If your yard is really bumpy it won’t work quite as well.

    Back to the advantages, I also love how maneuverable it is. I can just whip the thing around. Also, it cuts faster the faster you walk so you can really go as fast as you want. I could actually compare last week and I believe I cut my lawn faster than my neighbor with his gas push mower. And like I said, I carry up and down my stairs to store it in the basement and that’s not something you can do with any other kind of mower. It’s simple to clean though.

    I looked for it on their site and I don’t see it there, hmm. Maybe they stopped selling them. I know most of them are actually made by the same company – they just have various branding.

  17. I too have the Scott Reel Mower. I have a small yard with Burmuda grass. I cut it at a 3″ height which is the max for this mower. I love the no gas hassel. I use a sythe for any tall weeds that get left behind. I try to mow about ever 5 days. I also use a small wheeled hand edger. I use gloves, and have completely removed the foam that was tearing.
    This type of mower is not for everyone. I love it, and the ability to store it easily also a plus

  18. I have the 16 in Scotts reel mower. I love it. It’s light to push, I can go as fast as I want. I listen to my ipod while I’m mowing. No, gas, no smell, no pulling again and again to start. You need to be careful to overlap a little, sometimes have to go over thick spots a few times. I also let my 9 year old son use it, and I dont’ have to worry, if he stops walking it stops.

  19. You people are pathetic.

    Buy HIGH quality mower like a Fiskars (from Findland), and STOP buying stupid Chinese crap! I have seen people with cheap mowers and the noise they make, and inefficiency is pathetic… and yet that is all they know… cheap crappy mowers from China.

    Get yourself a Fiskas which will blow any electric mower out of the water!

    You people should educate yourselves and spend a little more money on a HIGH quality manual mower instead of jumping to conlusions just because you got a cheaply made Chinese POS for a cheap price. Quality and price are related.

  20. Fiskars – look it up and check what it can do! Quiet and easy to operate!

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