Reel mowers are making a comeback for good reason. Maybe you have a small lawn that doesn’t require a massive lawnmower, or perhaps you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint. Whatever your reasoning, there’s plenty of excellent reel mower options on the market. Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know to find the best reel mower for your home.
4 Best Reel Mowers Reviewed 2019
If you’re looking for a classic no-frills reel mower, model 1204-14 from American Lawn Mower should be right up your alley. This well-built mower certainly harkens back to a simpler time, and it’s ideal for small lawns or anyone who’s looking to do their share to reduce carbon emissions.
This mower features a 14” cutting path and four tempered alloy cutting blades. American Lawn Mower also manufacturers larger mowers with more blades and wider cutting paths, if you find that the 14” model is a bit too narrow for your lawn.
The 8 ½” high impact polymer wheels are built to stand the test of time and will roll over any terrain with ease. At only 19 pounds, this mower is also very easy to maneuver. The height of the mower blades is adjustable, allowing you to cut to a height of anywhere from ½” to 1 ¾” depending on the needs of your lawn.
While the assembly process can be a bit time consuming, once you’ve managed to put everything together, you should be in for an enjoyable mowing experience and reliable operation from your new mower.
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Quality, sharp cutting blades
- Difficult to assemble
- Reel jams easily on sticks and brush
Since reel mowers have a cutting action that’s similar to a pair of scissors, it’s no surprise that one of the leading manufacturers of scissors also makes one of the best reel mower options on the market. The StaySharp Plus from Fiskars makes use of several innovative technologies to avoid many of the pitfalls that are common with other reel mowers.
One major plus of this mower is it’s StaySharp blades. These hardened steel blades significantly reduce friction during the cut, which helps to preserve blade life, eliminating the need for annual or biannual sharpening. This mower also uses a patent-pending inertia drive reel that makes this mower up to 75% more powerful than the competition, while also managing to be up to 40% easier to push than other mowers.
In addition to the large front wheels, smaller back wheels help this mower traverse any terrain, which is a significant benefit for uneven lawns or areas where rocks and debris are common. The cutting length is adjustable from 1-4”, which is a broader range than most other mowers.
Unlike most reel mowers, which throw grass backward, so it ends up all over your feet, this model from Fiskars sends the cut grass forward and to the side, keeping it away from you, and making less of a mess in the process.
- Easier to push and more powerful than competitors
- Industry-leading 3-year warranty
- Blades need to be sharpened far less often
- Easy to assemble
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While their parent company undergoes significant restructuring, Craftsman has managed to continue to produce top quality tools and equipment that many homeowners rely on to keep their home and yard looking beautiful.
The Craftsman model 37664 reel mower provides reliable operation and a common sense solution to one of the major issues inherent to all reel mowers: grass collection.
The first thing you’ll notice about this mower is that it features a grass collection bag as you’d see on a gas or electric mower. This 9 ¼” gallon bag keeps all your cut grass in one place where it can easily be disposed of later.
This mower features all-steel construction and five helical steel cutting blades. It’s 18” cutting path is ideal for mid-sized yards. The depth of cut has nine different adjustments from ½” up to 2 ½”, which should be sufficient for most lawns.
Similar to the Fiskars model above, this Craftsman features 6” trailing wheels in addition to the 10” main wheels, which make it easy to push across any terrain, which helps to reduce fatigue as you mow.
This model also features a three-year warranty, which is among the best in the industry. The assembly process is easy and straightforward. If there’s one knock on this model, it’s that the handle isn’t adjustable, so you’re stuck with one handle height whether it’s comfortable for you or not.
- Includes collection bag
- Easy to maneuver
- 3-year warranty
- Easy to assemble
- Handle height is non-adjustable
- Blades require regular sharpening
Great States is part of the same parent company that produces American Lawn Mower and Scotts reel mowers, so if it looks familiar to already, that’s why.
This mower features an 18” cutting path with a four-spider ball bearing five-blade cutting system. According to Great States, the four-spider ball bearing system makes the mower easier to push, which helps reduce fatigue.
This mower is also one of the lighter 18” mowers available, and it weighs in at only 27 pounds, which further helps to reduce fatigue.
The 815-18 is made of high-strength alloy steel and has an unbreakable steel side plate for added durability. The mower itself is heavily powder coated to help reduce rust and premature wear.
You may have also noticed that this mower has a virtually identical design to the American Lawn Mower 1204-14 model. As you’d imagine, it falls victim to some of the same issues, as well. This mower isn’t easy to assemble, and it has a hard time dealing with weeds and tall or thick grass.
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Cutting blades require sharpening less often
- Difficult to assemble
- Doesn’t cut weeds or high grass well
Whether you opt for one of the mowers we covered above, or you choose to purchase a model we haven’t discussed, it can be challenging to ensure that the mower you’re buying is the best one for your needs. There are some important points and key features you’ll want to be aware of before you decide on a mower. These factors can help ensure that the mower you choose is the best mower for your needs.
There are several great reasons to select a reel mower. For one, they’re much better for the environment. Unlike gas-powered motors which generate harmful fumes (especially if they’re the 2-stroke engine variety) a reel mower requires no power and creates no emissions.
Reel mowers are also less harmful to your lawn. A gas or electric mower has blades which spin parallel to the ground, and as such, they tend to beat up your lawn. While the finished product may look good, using a gas or electric mower results in grass that’s less healthy, and more susceptible to disease and browning.
They’re also much quieter and easier to maintain than a gas mower, and they can be used virtually anywhere, at any time. Of course, a reel mower isn’t ideal for everybody. If you have a large lawn, difficult to manage terrain, or if you have already had trouble pushing a traditional gas mower, you may not have a great experience using a reel mower.
While most reel mowers operate along the same basic principles, there are some important features you may want to look for in a reel mower for your yard.
One of the most important features is the ability to adjust the height of the cut. While all mowers feature some level of height adjustment, some are far more adjustable than others.
At a minimum, you’ll want to look for a mower that adjusts from ¾”-2 ¼”. Depending on how high or low you like to keep your lawn, it may be a good idea to find a mower that offers even more adjustments.
Even the best blades in the world will need to be sharpened from time to time. However, a hardened steel blade will help ensure that you get more out of the life of your blades before you need to sharpen them.
Sharpening blades is a tedious and somewhat dangerous process, and the less you need to sharpen your blades, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Even though a reel mower has far fewer moving parts than a gas or electric mower, things can still break down. The peace of mind that comes with an extended warranty is well worth an extra few bucks when you buy your mower.
While every mower comes with some kind of warranty, the best mowers come with two or three-year warranties.
Some mowers are flat out difficult to put together. Others can be assembled in a few short minutes. Depending on how mechanically inclined you are, it may be a good idea to find a mower that requires very little assembly.
Many of the more modern reel mowers can be assembled and adjusted without the use of any tools, which can help you save time and frustration later on.
One major caveat of reel mowers is that most of them just scatter the cut grass on top of your freshly cut lawn. This creates a look that’s less clean and polished, and within a day or two, the cut grass will turn brown and compromise the clean look of your freshly cut lawn.
A grass catcher makes it easier to collect and dispose of the cut grass, and it helps ensure you achieve the results you were hoping for when you cut your lawn.
Most models don’t include a grass catcher, but nearly every manufacturer makes one that’s compatible with their reel mowers. Consider looking for a mower that includes a grass catcher. If not, it’s a worthwhile accessory to purchase.
To get the most out of your new mower, a few minutes’ worth of basic maintenance after every few uses can go a long way to extend the life of your mower. At least once a month, you should carry out each of the steps below to maintain your mower.
- Wipe down the mower to remove any debris, dust, or clogged grass.
- Ensure that the cutting bar is properly adjusted on each side, and is properly tightened.
- Spray moving parts with a lubricant such as WD-40. The blades themselves, as well as the wheels and bearings of the cutting bar, should be lubricated regularly.
- As needed, use a reel mower sharpening kit to restore the edge to your cutting blades.
Q: Are reel mowers hard to use?
Compared to a self-driving gas mower, sure. In general, it’s easy to use a reel mower, although they do require a bit more elbow grease to use than a gas or electric mower. Depending on the type of grass that grows in your lawn, you may find that using a reel mower is considerably easier than the alternative.
Q: How Should I Set the Cutting Blades?
The length of your lawn is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to keep their lawn extremely short to maximize the time before they need to mow again. However, others prefer the look of long grass. As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to keep your grass somewhere between 1” and 3” long.
Q: How Often Do the Blades Need Sharpening?
This will vary depending on the type of mower you select. Mowers with hardened steel blades or ball bearing cutting systems that reduce friction usually need to be sharpened far less. In contrast, cheaper models require more frequent sharpening.
Most people sharpen their blades at least once a year. If the mower becomes more difficult to use, or you notice it isn’t doing as good a job as it usually does when cutting, it’s time to sharpen your blades.
Q: Why Should I Choose a Reel Mower over a Powered Mower?
Reel mowers have many advantages overpowered mowers. They’re quiet, they don’t contribute to carbon emissions, and they require little maintenance. But, they’re usually not practical if you have a very large lawn or a lawn that’s filled with weeds or uneven terrain.
If you have a small lawn that’s easy to manage, chances are a reel mower would be a great choice for you.
While each of the different models we’ve covered today would make a great choice as one of the best reel mower options available, there can only be one winner.
Thanks to its ease of use, quick assembly, industry-leading warranty, and low-maintenance design, our favorite reel mower is the Fiskars StaySharp Plus. This model brings an impressive array of features to the table. It also provides a polished and manicured look for your lawn.
It’s also one of the more expensive models available, and it may not be in your price range. If you’re hoping to save some money on your mower, we’d recommend opting for the Scotts 415-16S model.
Ready to help the reel mower continue its comeback? Head to you can head to your favorite retailer and pick up your new reel mower today. In your opinion, what’s the best reel mower.