Fiskars 362050-1001 StaySharp Max 18″ Reel Mower
Best for all grasses
An easy to push reel mower designed to handle larger lawns and all types of grasses.
1 Fiskars 362050-1001 Review
The Fiskars 362050-1001 is designed to turn lawn mowing into your favorite summer afternoon pastime.
The adjustable cutting height and InertiaDrive reel will help you handle whatever grass you have quickly and easily. Set the blade at the desired height between 1 and 4 inches and enjoy the unrivaled cutting power delivered by the sharp cutting system.
Undoubtedly, this mower is a beast capable of transforming tall grass into mulch clippings in a single pass. You can even choose where to dispose of the resulted vegetal material thanks to the reversible chute.
One of the nicest features is the possibility to extend the blades across the mower’s full width, so you can ditch the edger and use this for both mowing and lawn manicuring. Certainly, you can’t expect it to cut anything else than grass, and it doesn’t come cheap, but the 18-inch cutting swath will help you finish your chores fast, and it can easily counterbalance these facts.
American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 Push Reel Lawn Mower
Best for the most popular grasses
A nice heft and durable blades make it a perfect choice for most homeowners.
2 American 1204-14 Review
Whether this will be your first-ever mower or you’re switching from a motorized walk-behind type, the American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 will be perfect for you.
With a 14-inch cutting swath, this workhorse is ideal for most backyards. It has an adjustable cutting height between 0.5 and 1.75 inches and is just perfect for most common grasses, such as rye, crabgrass, fescue, and bluegrass.
But this mower’s main advantage is its maneuverability. It is extremely lightweight and easy to push with just one hand.
Furthermore, four quality blades made from heat-treated alloy steel will slice through most grasses like a knife through melted butter, and you won’t even have to worry for the maintenance.
Great States 304-14 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
Also great, but more expensive
T-style handle and 8.5-inch composite wheels enhance maneuverability on all terrains.
3 Great States 304-14 Review
If you don’t mind dropping more dollars on a mower almost identical with our best-value, the Great States 304-14 will bring slightly more cutting power. The tool still has a 14-inch cutting swath but comes with a 5-blade ball bearing reel that helps you mow faster.
Apart from this, most specifications of the American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 apply to the Great States 304-14 as well.
You’ll get an adjustable cutting height between 0.5 and 1.75 inches, a cushioned T-style handle, and lightweight design. Just what you need to maintain your lawn beautiful in all peace of mind.
DuroStar DS1200LD 5-Blade Height Adjusting Push Reel Mower
Perfect for starters
A compact push reel mower ideal for small yards and beginners.
4 DuroStar DS1200LD Review
The last on our list of the best reel mowers, the DuroStar DS1200LD is an inexpensive but reliable option. It has a 12-inch cutting swath and is perfect for the quick mowing of the smaller yards.
An adjustable cutting height between 0.5 and 2 inches will help you get great results time after time. We also like the heavy-duty 9-inch wheels designed to improve handling on all terrains.
The cutting quality could be a bit inconsistent, but this mower is easy to use and resistant. No doubt, it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t have very high demands and a low budget.
Best Reel Mower 2021 Buying Guide
Manual push mower vs. motorized mowers
When it comes to maintaining a lawn, you can pick between manual push mowers and motorized mowers.
- Manual push mowers: Are the simplest models. Their name is pretty self-explanatory. You will have to push the mower, and during this motion, a rotating mechanism will spin the blade system. The blades act like scissors, cutting the grass as the system passes above it. Performance is determined both by the quality of the cutting system and by your pushing force. These mowers are ideal for lawns of up to 1/4-acre.
- Motorized mowers: This is a vast category of mowers that comprise push or self-propelled machines powered by either electric (corded and cordless) or gas motors. Electric mowers are often preferred by homeowners with yards larger than 1/4 acres, while gas mowers are usually employed by landscapers and professional gardeners. Lawn tractors and zero turn mowers are motorized vehicles suitable for lawns larger than 1 acre.
Why invest in a push reel mower?
Although an electric or gas walk-behind lawn mower can help you mow faster, push reel mowers are a much more convenient solution for smaller yards. Here are some advantages to expect:
- They are smaller and lighter than motorized mowers, thus easier to handle. They are also easy to store.
- They are cheaper and need almost no maintenance.
- Due to their smaller size, they are easier to maneuver in tight spaces and are ideal for yards with tight corners or awkward shapes.
- They are eco-friendly, almost noiseless, and suitable to use in all states.
Types of reel mowers
Manual push mowers may look all the same at first glance, but there are two types you can choose from:
- Contact mowers: Their blades make contact with the bed knife. They have excellent cutting capabilities but tend to rip rather than cut some types of grasses. You will also have to sharpen the blade every few years to maintain them in the best conditions. The main drawback of these blades is that they wear out quite fast and are a bit noisy.
- No-contact mowers: The opposite of the contact, they come with blades that make no contact with the knife bed. Thanks to this design, they don’t need any sharpening and are quieter than the contact kind. However, you will have to adjust the spacing between the blades and the knife bed at least once a year. Despite the more maintenance though, these blades have a much longer lifespan than the contact ones.
Reel mower cutting swath
The first thing to decide before buying a reel mower is the cutting swath (or width) you need. Most models come with cutting widths between 12 and 18 inches, although there are some exceptions.
As you can expect, the larger the width, the larger the area you can cover in a single pass. However, large is not always better. Depending on the type of your yard, you might need:
Recommended cutting swath
Regular shape with no or few obstacles
Regular shape with some obstacles
Irregular shape, tight corners, or many obstacles
Besides yard considerations, smaller swaths are usually better because:
- Smaller push mowers are lighter, thus easier to maneuver; this translates into better mowing results on a single pass.
- Are easier to store in a shed or garage, especially when you don’t have a lot of available space.
- Smaller mowers are more suitable for people with reduced physical abilities, such as the elderly or those who suffer from various bone or muscle diseases.
Reel mower cutting height adjustment
If choosing the cutting width is mostly a matter of preference and convenience, being able to cut the grass at the right height is essential. Cutting your grass too long or too short will not only impact the aesthetic factor, but it can actually influence the health of your grass.
To help you understand the importance of adjustable cutting height, let’s take the example of the three most common grass types used by homeowners.
- Bermuda grass: Is a heat and drought resistant grass that pairs well with both acidic and alkaline soils. It thrives at heights between 5 and 1.5 inches.
- Kentucky Bluegrass: Is a cool season grass preferred by homeowners in the northern states, and looks its best when cut at a height between 5 and 2.5 inches.
- Augustine: Is a warm season grass majorly used by homeowners in the southern and coastal states due to its ability to tolerate shade and saltier soils. This grass must be maintained at a height between 2 and 4 inches.
Because each type of grass gives you some wiggling room when it comes to height, an adjustable mower can give you the possibility to cut it shorter, so you won’t have to mow your lawn too often.
Reel and number of blades
Another important thing to check is the quality of the reel and the number of blades it comes with.
Regarding the quality of the reel, heat-treated alloy steel is usually the best material due to its strength and overall resistance to wear and tear. The blades made from this material are known to stay sharper for longer and need little maintenance. Make sure the reel and blades are powder coated with anti-corrosive and anti-rust paints.
Also check the number of blades on the reel, as this will determine the compatibility of the mower with your type of grass.
How many blades do I need for my type of grass?
Lawn grasses can be roughly divided into fine and thin, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, and bent and heavier, such as Bermuda or St. Augustine. Based on this consideration you will need at least:
N° of blades
Type of grass
Fine, thin grass
Bent, heavier grass
Push reel mower maneuverability
Because you will be the driving force of your push reel mower, it is also important to check its maneuverability. There are three things to consider, handle, weight, and wheels.
- Handle: It must be ergonomic and easy to hold. A cushioned grip can enhance your comfort and prevent the formation of blisters.
- Weight: A lighter mower is easier to push and maneuver than a heavier one. Some of the best reel mowers don’t exceed 20 pounds, and you can even find models that are lighter than this.
- Wheels: Regardless of their size, the wheels must be robust and easy to push on all terrains. Larger wheels tend to have a better performance on bumpy terrains though.
Grass clippings management
Last but not least, you should also consider the grass clippings management. Most push mowers come with simple guards that prevent the clippings from ending on your feet but offer no other management options.
However, some of the best reel mowers come with a reversible chute that lets you direct the vegetal material either forward and away from your feet or backward and downward. These chutes are ideal if you want to use the clippings as mulch because directing them backward and downward favors their penetration into the lawn.
On the contrary, directing them forward will leave the clippings on top of the freshly cut grass, so you can later gather them in a collection bag.
Manual reel mower with grass catcher
Know that even for reel mowers there are models available that come with a grass catcher attachment, which can bag the grass clippings immediately, which can be handy if you don’t want to leave the grass clippings on the lawn.