We did firsthand comparative testing of 7 of the best cordless lawn mowers on the market so that you can easily find the optimal machine for your needs and budget. As consumers ourselves, we understand that there are dozens of cordless lawn mowers to choose from and that marketing claims can be inconsistent and confusing. To remedy this problem, we bought the most promising machines and subjected them to a rigorous direct comparison analysis. We hope this review will simplify the market for you, making the selection of a cordless mower a breeze.
Few lawns are too demanding for the Ego LM2102SP. With a 5 amp-hour, 56-volt battery and a mammoth cutting deck, this machine can mow down the toughest of turfs and mulch with the best of them. The Ego has all the important features you want in one of these products — like self-propulsion, a wide range of cutting heights, and easy folding and storing — to make cutting your lawn that much easier.
We have little to criticize this burly machine for other than its size — it's massive. This means it's going to require more storage space. Additionally, for those with smaller lawns, this is probably too much machine. And though it's not astronomically expensive, it's certainly not the cheapest model out there. These are minor gripes, and we feel that this electric marvel is far superior to its gas-powered relatives and rules the roost among cordless mowers.
This economical machine is a good choice for those with moderately demanding lawns and modest budgets. Unlike some other affordable models, the Greenworks 25322 is not burdened with a short runtime (we clocked 73 minutes of runtime per charge). Nor does the mower suffer from a long recharge interval (we topped its battery off in an hour). To round things out, this machine packs enough cutting power to mulch well-managed lawns.
There are some negatives worth mentioning. The Greenworks isn't self-propelled, which can be a pain if you have a sloping lawn. Also, it has a meager 13 ¾" cutting deck compared to the competition, which means you'll make more passes to cut the same amount of turf. And, surprisingly, this slim mower is not as easy to maneuver as we expected. A plus to its small size is that it's easy to fold and store.
The Black+Decker CM2043 is not a high-end mower, but it has several characteristics that make it worth consideration. First, the price is well below average. Second, it's maneuverable, excelling in tight spots such as inside corners. Finally, it supplies enough power for moderately demanding jobs, which is good because the cutting deck covers a wide range.
On the other hand, it disappoints in several key areas that negate its usefulness for high-demand lawns. Of chief concern is this mower's short battery, which is only capable of cutting ~6,457 ft² (~80' x 80' area). Exacerbating this issue is a prolonged recharge interval of 300 minutes. We should also point out that the Black+Decker is not self-propelled. But if you have a small lawn, perhaps one with an irregular shape, then this little guy can get the job done while leaving enough money in your wallet to do something fun when the chores are all done.
We're passionate about evaluating the full range of battery-powered tools, from string trimmers and pressure washers to chainsaws, leaf blowers, and drills. Our Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer has been tearing apart electronics with an eye for quality design and engineering for most of his adult life in our laboratory and the field.
Our testing of cordless lawn mowers is divided across four different metrics:
Mowing tests (35% of overall score weighting)
Battery tests (25% weighting)
Handling tests (25% weighting)
Ease of Use tests (15% weighting)
Also contributing to this review is Senior Review Editor Nick Miley, who draws on his research experience in university laboratories to build a predictive runtime/cutting square footage model for the mowers. He draws on 10 years of product testing, not to mention the half-acre lawn that he mowed as a kid, to analyze these machines.
Analysis and Test Results
We devise a comprehensive set of testing categories or metrics to standardize and quantify all of our product evaluations. To determine the best cordless lawn mowers for each user, these metrics are mowing (35%), battery (25%), handling (25%), and ease of use (15%).
There are two ways of looking at value. The first is assessing which models offer more to the consumer. This more could be features, quality, or aesthetic appeal. The second is to identify two or more products that offer the same features and compare their cost. The Makita XML03 and the Greenworks 25322 offer comparable features and performance but sell for markedly different prices. The Greenworks offers significant value over its peers.
The performance of the mowers while they're in use is the meat and potatoes of this review. It includes cutting efficiency based on the maximum cutting width minus the minimum overlap required to eliminate a cutting gap. (The cutting gap is the space between the end of the blade and the outer edge of the cutting deck). This metric also covers the range of cutting heights compared to the claims of the manufacturer. Last, we field-tested the mowers' ability to power through shaggy and weedy knee-high grass while mulching. Mulching is the recutting of clipped grass repeatedly so that the clippings can be deposited deep into the turf.
The mowing metric makes up a whopping 35% of the overall score for each mower, and each model's performance here mirrors its final ranking. The Ego topped the class.
These cordless lawn mowers run on lithium-ion battery cells, and we consider performance here second only to mowing. We measured runtime as the time it takes a stationary mower with the blade spinning to exhaust a fully charged battery. Recharge time is simply the time it takes for a dead battery to regain its full charge. Interestingly, some models with the longest runtimes (like the Makita) also displayed the shortest recharge times.
Unfortunately, the runtime measurement tells us fairly little about the longevity of a battery charge when the mower is actually cutting grass. This is harder to measure. Some of these cordless mowers, like the Ego and Makita, can cut tens of thousands of square feet of turf on a single charge. We didn't have access to a field of grass of sufficient size and uniform length to conduct a cutting-grass battery test. Instead, we used a statistical model based on runtime and the dimensions of each cutting deck to render square footage estimates.
What our model reveals is a fairly wide range of square footage cutting estimates. Unsurprisingly, one of our favorite models, the Ego, crushed the competition with an estimated 14,275 sq.ft. of turf trimmed on a single charge. The average square footage for the class is 9,270 sq.ft.
Ease of Use
This metric evaluates the mower features that are not critical to a machine's performance but make using the mower more enjoyable. It includes the noise level of a running mower, the battery charge meter, battery removal, and mower storage.
One of the big benefits of an electric mower is the lower noise level. Gas mowers roar, electric mowers purr — a significant difference.
Deciphering the Decibel (A) Scale
The A-weighted decibel (dBA) scale measures the pressure vibrations in the air, referred to as sound intensity. The decibel scale is not linear, like measurements of distance or mass. Instead, it's logarithmic and scaled so that an increase of three decibels represents a doubling of sound intensity.
To get an objective measurement of the noise output coming from the cordless lawn mowers, we used a sound pressure level meter that records sound intensity in decibels (dBA). We found a relatively substantial difference in the sound intensity within the class that worked out to a 7.4 dBA spread between the loudest and quietest models. The Makita is the quietest of the group at 70 dBA, with the Ego coming in a close second at 71 dBA. The Federal Aviation Administration describes 80 dBA as what one can expect from a busy urban area during the day. The takeaway here is that these mowers are, in comparison to their gas-powered counterparts, quite a bit less noisy.
Let's move on to look at the battery charge meter and battery removal. Although it may seem insignificant, evaluating these two details is necessary because they frequently come up when we ask people how they like their purchase after a few uses. The Greenworks placed the battery meter under the battery cover, and the batteries themselves require two hands to remove.
Although the battery charge meter and battery removal system may seem like minor details, the folding/ unfolding mechanism is not. These mowers — even the smaller ones — take up a lot of space when stored. Old gas-powered models usually allowed you to fold the handle, but the oil and gas reservoirs prevented them from being stored in a vertical position. This is not the case for the electric models, which can take up far less storage space when not in use. Unfortunately, models like the Sun Joe iON16LM and, to a lesser degree, the Black+Decker make folding and unfolding quite difficult and time-consuming.
The handling metric complements the ease of use evaluation. Both are concerned with the effort required to perform the task of mowing the lawn. The difference is that the handling evaluation focuses on the core task of mowing the lawn and not those aspects of a product that support this function. Specifically, we assess the starting mechanism. Is it easy to engage? Is there a lag in the start-up process? Next, we evaluate how much effort goes into directing the mower around the turf. This is a general assessment of maneuverability. Finally, we dig into the bail — which is the lever that engages the blade — and how it feels when gripped.
As far as starting goes, these machines all start up pretty much the same way. One simply pushes the start button. The difference from one mower to the next is in the starting delay once the button has been pushed. The Ego fires up immediately. Some mowers take longer. Despite some delay, all the models reviewed here start up without a problem.
We saw more variance in the maneuverability of these machines than we did with the starting mechanisms. The first big difference is in the propulsion of the mowers. Some machines, such as the Ego, are self-propelled. Others have to be pushed if you want them to move. Both options offer pros and cons. In general, self-propelled models cost more, but if the lawn is large or inclined, it's probably worth the extra money. On the other hand, some models like the Ego can — even at their slowest setting — be a bit fast for tight spots or corners. While one can simply disengage the drive system in such scenarios, the Ego delivers some resistance when it is pushed.
Whether you are interested in a self-propelled cordless lawn mower or not, activation of the cutting blade is controlled by a component called a bail. This is a spring-loaded bar that is connected to the handle. When the bail is depressed, the blade is engaged. When released, the blade stops spinning. Although this component may seem uniform across mower models, this turns out not to be the case. The shape and resistance of the bail can cause discomfort, especially on longer jobs. As such, we paid close attention to the feel and functionality of the bail during our various field tests.
While most of the bails went unnoticed — which is a good thing — a few were quite stiff and taxing to grip for prolonged periods. The primary offender in this evaluation is the Makita. Its stiffness seems to result from firm springs that return the bail to the off position when one's grip is loosened. It remains to be seen if these springs will loosen in time.
The above review covers every aspect of cordless lawnmowers, from handling to mowing power. We hope that this analysis provided you with all the information to allow you to confidently select the perfect mower. Moreover, we hope that this article will shed a bit of light on some aspects of these machines that will improve your overall experience. We have had a great time testing and writing about these machines and hope that our work will help you better enjoy your time in the backyard.