A reel mower is an ideal solution to mow your lawn without noise, pollution, or hassle. Although they’re operated manually, these lightweight mowers give you more control when cutting the grass. Not to mention that they’re more cost-effective and easy to maneuver.
It’s true that a motorized mower shoulders the burden of mowing, trimming, and collecting the grass. But they also come with their own headaches. From high maintenance to fuel and engine breakdown issues. Moreover, because of their bulky size, you have less control over them. There will always be batches around narrow corners and near the edges that you cannot get to. But a reel mower is easy to operate and gives you access to every inch of your lawn. And with proper maintenance, it will serve you for years.
We tried out the top reel mowers in the market and shortlisted those eight products for you. In our best reel mower reviews, we compare the key features as well as the disadvantages of each product. We also include a buying guide to help you get the most out of your reel mower.
Best Reel Mower Reviews
1. Editor’s Choice: American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 Lawn Mower
Simple, elegant, and efficient, are the three words to come to mind when you evaluate the American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 Lawn Mower. With four blades covering a 14-inch area, the 1204-14 makes mowing the grass a lot easier and more satisfying.
As a mechanical push lawn mower, the 1204-14 has adjustable blades that give you varying heights between a half-inch to 1.75 inches. This comes in handy when you have different turfgrass species growing in your lawn. It also allows you to vary the cutting height for freshly seeded patches that haven’t caught up with the rest of the lawn yet.
The mower uses a scissor cutting action to achieve neat and professional-looking mowing. The four blades crisscross in a fast motion and catch the blades of the grass between them. As a result, you won’t have missed spots or uneven grass where some patches are shorter than others.
The blades of the mower are made of heat-treated steel alloy. They have a high resistance to rust and erosion. And they stay sharp for a long time so you will always get a neat and clean cutting action out of them. Even if you have to deal with a neglected spot in your lawn where the grass has grown to up to 4 inches. The 1204-14 can handle such unusual grass height and tame your wayward lawn.
On the downside, your lawn needs to be both even and debris-free for the mower to work efficiently. Any sticks lying between the grass could disrupt your mowing as you need to dislodge the stick wedged between the blades. The tires don’t have much traction if the ground is not level either.
- 4 heat-treated steel alloy blades.
- 14-inch width coverage.
- Scissor cutting action.
- Adjustable blade heights.
- Cuts grass as tall as 4 inches.
- The wheels get stuck on uneven grounds.
- Debris causes the mower to lock up.
2. Best Budget: Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower
More blades and more area coverage are what this mower from the Great States promises and delivers. The Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower has 5 blades with a coverage area of 16 inches. That means you will mow your lawn faster, with less effort, and with better results. And all for an affordable price tag that doesn’t break the bank.
The 415-16 also gives you a wide range of heights to adjust the blades and accommodate the various turfgrass needs in your lawn. You can lower the blades as low as a half-inch above the ground to a close cutting or raises them to 2.5 inches high. Different grass species have different cutting heights and this mower from Great States was designed to accommodate that.
As a manual push mower, the wheels need to facilitate the movement of the mower so that you don’t put a strain on your back and arms. The 10-inch composite wheels have good traction and don’t get stuck even if the ground is uneven. This good traction allows you to mow even wet grass and keep a steady grip on the mower at all times. The T-style handles with their cushioned grip contribute to this superior control over the mower even on slippery grass and less-than-perfect ground conditions.
Despite all these good features and the low price tag, the 415-16 has a few flaws. One of them becomes obvious when you try to cut tall grass. The mower will just glide over tall grass and weed stems as if they don’t exist.
- 5 steel alloy blades.
- 16-inch coverage area.
- Adjustable blade heights between 0.5 to 2.5 inches.
- 10-inch composite wheels.
- T-style handles with cushioned grip.
- Affordable price.
- Doesn’t cut tall weed stems or grass above a certain height.
3. Premium Pick: Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower with Grass Catcher
Cutting the grass is one thing and collecting it is a totally different matter. And so far the reel mowers we have reviewed all did a good job cutting the grass, but somehow left the task unfinished. That’s where the Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower with Grass Catcher with its rear bag comes in. It literally catches the grass you cut and keeps it in the bag for mulching or disposing of safely afterward.
With a 16-inch covering area, the Greenworks makes short work of your mowing duty. And to make it even easier and faster, it comes equipped with two sets of wheels. The two front wheels are 10 inches in diameter and are supported by two 2-inch rollers for better mower mobility. The rear rollers also keep the mower balanced and even on the ground for cleaner grass cutting.
The rear bag is undoubtedly a convenient feature but it’s not the only one that makes the Greenworks stand out. The blades are adjustable and can go as high as 2¼ inches or as low as 1⅛ inches. If you have tall weed stems that you want to trim close to the ground, you can lower the blades’ height to the lowest setting. And with the bag collecting the weed seeds, there’s a lower risk of contaminating the soil.
On even ground, however, the flaws of the Greenworks design come into view. Although the wheels keep the mower stable, the rear bag tends to miss the grass clippings. If the lawn is not even, you might leave a trail of grass cutting behind you.
- Rear bag to catch grass cuttings.
- 16-inch coverage area.
- 10-inch front wheels supported by 2-inch rollers.
- Adjustable blades between 1⅛ to 2¼ inches.
- Easy to assemble and maneuver.
- Lightweight and portable.
- On uneven grounds, the rear bag spills grass clippings.
Since this is a push reel mower we’re reviewing here, then the bigger the coverage area of the mower the quicker you get the job done. But bigger usually means heavier which is undesirable for a mower that you have to push yourself. The Fiskars Stay Sharp Max Reel Mower solved this dilemma by providing 18-inch blades while still keeping the mower lightweight.
The operative word here is plastic. Apart from the blades, the rest of the Fiskars is almost entirely made of plastic. The advantage is to have a more portable and easy to maneuver mower that doesn’t make your shoulders and back sore.
As for the wheels they’re designed for all types of grass. The InertiaDrive reel handles all the tough spots in your lawn including those where thick weeds grow or where the ground dips or rises. And the StaySharp cutting system reduces the friction of the blades as they cut the grass which means the blades will stay sharp and deliver good cutting efficiency for longer.
The reversible grass chute is another feature we liked about the Fiskars. You can adjust the direction of the chute so that it throws the grass clippings forward instead of backward. And with the adjustable inset wheels, you have full access to the blindspots under the mower so that no grass nor weeds would escape the reach of the sharp blades.
That said, the blade height settings seem to have a high discrepancy between the lowest two settings. The second to last setting seems to cut the grass a lot higher than the lowest setting. The mower also doesn’t allow you to get closer to the edges of flowerbeds to cut the grass there.
- Weighs only 51.7 pounds.
- StaySharp cutting system that protects the blades.
- InertiaDrive reel handles difficult spots in the lawn.
- Adjustable inset wheels.
- 18-inch coverage area.
- The lowest two blade settings have a larger height difference between them than the rest of the settings.
- Not easy to get close to edges to trim the grass.
As we have seen, a reel mower with a large blade width can get the job done quicker, but it doesn’t give you as much control and maneuverability as you’d like. The lightweight American Lawn Mower Company 1304-14 Push Reel Lawn Mower went the opposite direction to solve this issue. It provides a 14-inch coverage area but allows you to cut the grass near the edges and in narrow corners. That makes it more suitable for small lawns.
But having a smaller coverage area doesn’t mean you’ll have fewer blades. The 1304-14 comes with 5 sharp blades made from a steel alloy. The blades use a scissor action cutting design for faster mowing. You can adjust the height of the blades between 1 to 1.75 inches high. Granted the number of height settings is limited and limits the types of grass you can use the mower with. However, the 1304-14 was designed for higher maneuverability, not wide coverage.
In addition, you can cut grass and weed stems as tall as 4 inches. So if you have been using a mower that left the grass on the edges of the lawn to grow wild or the narrow corners were inaccessible for you before, the 1304-14 will shine in those situations.
As we mentioned, the mower is not for large lawns. It will certainly take more time and effort to finish mowing a large area due to the limited coverage area and blade height settings. Moreover, it is not designed for all types of grass and will only work on even ground.
- Weighs only 21 pounds.
- Better maneuverability and control.
- Cuts grass near edges and in narrow corners.
- Steel alloy blades.
- Cuts 4-inch tall grass.
- Limited blade height settings.
- Not suitable for large lawns.
Sun Joe is a company with a lot of experience in lawn mowers both manual and motorized ones. The Sun Joe MJ501M 18-Inch Manual Reel Mower builds on that experience and delivers an efficient and sturdy mower. With its 5 blades and 18-inch coverage, you’ll have a good trim without putting in a lot of effort.
The 5 steel blades are certainly one of the key features that make this reel mower stand out. But we also liked the 9 height settings of the blades. It gives you more control over how tall you want the grass to be trimmed. The maximum height is 2.44 inches which is the standard for most turfgrass types.
The grass catcher bag hangs behind the blades and has a wide opening so you won’t have spilled grass. The bag’s capacity is 6.6 gallons and that is large enough to keep you going without regular interruptions to empty out the bag.
The MJ501M rolls on two sets of wheels. The front and rear wheels are of the same size to keep the mower level and balanced. This allows the blades to give the grass an even and smooth cutting. And since the mower only weighs 28 pounds, it is easy to manage and rolls on the grass without much effort.
We did have trouble keeping the grass catcher bag in place as it kept slipping. Although that’s a minor issue, it will interrupt your work so you can reattach the bag again. The mower also has trouble cutting grass on the edges.
- 5 steel blades.
- 18-inch coverage area.
- 9 height settings with the maximum height set to 2.44 inches.
- Grass catcher bag with a 6.6-gallon capacity.
- Weighs only 28 pounds.
- The bag keeps slipping and needs to be reattached.
- The mower doesn’t cut grass on the edges well.
We liked the first Fiskars mower we reviewed so much we decided to try another product from the same brand. The Fiskars 17 Inch Staysharp Push Reel Lawn Mower has an advanced design that cuts down on the manual push effort by up to 30 percent. That means it’s easier to push this mower than other reel mowers of the same caliber and weight.
The ergonomic design of the mower is what really makes it stand out and is the reason for its popularity. Combine that with its patented InertiaDrive Reel technology that gives you 50 percent more cutting power. For a push mower, there’s a lot of technology behind the building and design of the 6208.
You’ll also appreciate the long-lasting sharpness of the blades. Powered by StaySharp technology, the precision ground blades along with the stationary reel give the mower full access to the grass and allow for cleaner and more efficient cutting.
The coverage area of the 6208 is 17 inches and the adjustable blades can go all the way up to 3.5 inches or all the way down to 1.5 inches. Although most turfgrass species have a recommended 2.5-inch height, there are times when you might need to cut it a little higher for ornamental purposes.
Despite all the wonderful features of the 6208 and the innovative technology powering it, the smallest twig in the grass could cause it to lock up. The lawn needs to be debris-free and clean before you start mowing it. Getting a stuck twig or a toy out of the mower is no easy feat.
- Ergonomic design.
- Requires 30 percent less energy to operate.
- 50 percent more cutting power.
- 17-inch coverage area.
- Adjustable blade settings between 1.5 to 3.5 inches.
- Gets locked up easily on small debris or twigs on the lawn.
Simplicity is not a flaw especially when you’re going for a push reel mower that doesn’t make noise or run on fuel. And if simplicity and efficiency are what you’re after, then you’ll like the Earthwise 1715-16EW 16-Inch 7-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower. It has a deceptively simple design that hides a lot of power behind it.
For starters, the Earthwise comes with 7 steel blades that cut through grass with ease and efficiency. While most other reel mowers are content with just 5 steel blades, this mower added two extra blades to make sure no single blade gets left out.
And with standard height settings, the blades can be adjusted between 0.5 to 2.5 inches. That makes them ideal to cut all popular types of turfgrass including Centipede, Bermuda, Seashore Paspalum, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. Even long and bent grass will not escape the power and swift cutting of the 7 blades of the Earthwise.
The slim and graceful mower runs on just two wheels. But since it only weighs 26 pounds in all, the 10-inch wheels are more than enough to keep the mower stable and balanced over the grass. Another advantage for the two wheels is that they glide over bumps in the lawn easily and don’t get stuck on uneven surfaces.
On the downside, the mower finds it difficult to navigate let alone cut tall grass. It gets jammed with small twigs and needs a clean lawn to perform its best. If you don’t mow your lawn regularly and allow the grass to get tall and wild, the Earthwise will not work well for you.
- 7 steel blades.
- 16-inch coverage area.
- Weighs 26 pounds.
- 10-inch wheels.
- Height settings between 0.5 to 2.5 inches.
- Doesn’t do well against tall grass and weeds.
Reel Mower Buying Guide
After getting an in-depth look at the qualities that make each of the above reel mowers stand out, let’s see why you might need a reel mower and how to use them efficiently.
What Is a Reel Mower?
Before motorized mowers became the norm, the previous generations of lawn mowers were push mowers that were operated manually. You adjust the blades of the mower according to the type and height of the grass and push the mower to cut the grass.
To make it easier for you to operate the reel mower, it has two wheels and a handle at the end of the shaft. Besides its ease of operation and maneuverability, the mower is also lightweight. That makes it easier for you to push over slopes and around tight corners.
The result is often a well-manicured lawn with even and fresh-looking cut grass. Since you have more control over the reel mower, there’s less room for patch work or missed spots.
Features to Look For
When all the reel mowers have more or less the same design, then the features of the mowers are what will make it stand out. When you are looking for the best reel mower to buy, the following features should make it easier to find the mower you’re looking for.
- Adjustable Blade Height: Different grass types have different trimming heights. And since some lawns have more than one turfgrass species growing in it, you’ll need the reel mower to have different blade height settings. A mower such as the Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower gives you settings ranging from a half-inch to two and a half inches to choose between.
- Number of Blades: Needless to say, the more blades the reel mower has, the more efficient your grass cutting will be. On average, most push mowers come with 5 blades. However, some mowers can achieve neat cutting with only 4 blades. Just keep in mind that the more blades you have the less time you have to spend mowing the lawn.
- Weight: Let’s face it, no matter what shape or fitness level you have, mowing the lawn with a reel mower is not a task you’d relish. You still have to literally put your back behind it and push the mower. So the more lightweight the mower the better in this case. On average a reel mower weighs anything between 21 to 55 pounds.
- Material: The blades are the parts of the reel mower that do the hard work. So they need to be sturdy and durable. Most reel mower blades are made of heat-treated steel alloy that keeps them sharp and efficient. The rest of the mower can be made from plastic to make the mower less heavy and more maneuverable.
- Wheels: The wheel systems on the mower contribute to its mobility and cutting efficiency. Most mowers come with 10-inch wheels with good traction to give you more control over the mower. Traction is also important when you’re dealing with wet grass or uneven ground. A reel mower such as the Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower with Grass Catcher has rear rollers that keep the mower balanced and stable.
How to Use a Reel Mower
As you might imagine, the reel mower works on human power and ingenuity. It’s all under your control. You grab the handles of the mower, steady it on a path you chose and start pushing. Experts recommend you go in straight lines in the same direction. That ensures you have professional results without creating abnormal shapes in the lawn or leaving tufts of grass here and there.
Depending on the turfgrass you have on your lawn, you’ll need to adjust the height of the blades. Some grass looks best when cut at 2.5 inches height, but other turfgrass might need to be cut down to one inch or less. Before you start mowing, you’ll need to adjust the height of the blades using the preset settings in the mower.
Since everything is manual, it falls on your skills to get the lawn cleanly cut. Luckily the whole process is straightforward. As long as you get the blades’ height right and stick to straight lines, you will finish the job quickly.
Most push reel mowers require the lawn to be clean and debris-free. Sometimes, even a small twig will get the mower locked up. So clean the lawn first before you mow it to avoid interruptions and the unsavory task of getting the mower unstuck.
After finishing your mowing job, clean the blades and remove any grime, grass clippings, or dirt on them. Reel mower maintenance is important for keeping the blades sharp and the mower in good condition. Store the mower away in a dry place when you’re not using it.
Is a reel mower good for mowing wet grass?
One of the best features of a reel mower is that you have a lot of control over it. Not just the direction of the mower but also the angle of the blades as you position them against the grass. That control allows you to cut even wet grass. Even though the grass is more slippery than normal due to the moisture, you can still give it a clean-cut by adjusting the angle of the blades.
Of course, it helps if you have a reel mower with 5 blades or more. The more blades, the better cutting power the mower has even on wet grass.
Which is better, a reel mower or a traditional mower?
Traditional mowers are those gas-powered mowers that make a lot of noise and pollute the air. A reel mower, on the other hand, is quiet, environmentally friendly, and gives you a better cut than a traditional mower. They also require less maintenance, are cheaper, and easier to store than gas-powered mowers. And because they are lightweight, you have more control over the direction and positioning of the blades than a traditional mower.
What’s the recommended grass height for a reel mower?
Although different turfgrass has different recommended cutting heights, experts recommend sticking with a 1.5-inch cutting height. Regular mowing is the key to a clean and neat lawn. It also keeps weed problems at bay and prevents weeds from growing seeds. In some cases, you might need to cut the grass below one inch especially if you have a weed problem. But on average, 1.5 inches is an ideal height to cut your turfgrass.
The Last Word
We reviewed eight of the best reel mowers in the market, compared their strengths and weaknesses, and also explored the key features you should consider when buying a reel mower. And now we’re ready to declare the winner.
Our editor’s choice award goes to the American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14 Lawn Mower. With its four steel alloy blades and 14-inch coverage area, it’s ready to take on tall grass. While other push mowers get stuck in tall grass, the 1204-14 uses its scissor cutting action to cut grass as tall as 4 inches. It only weighs 20 pounds so it won’t put you out while at the same time giving you more control over the direction and positioning of the mower.
The Great States 415-16 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower won our best budget award with its affordable price and power. It comes with 5 steel blades and covers a 16-inch path. Running on two 10-inch wheels, it glides smoothly on the grass leaves behind a neat and immaculate path. The T-style handles with cushioned grip allow you to handle the mower efficiently even on wet and slippery grass.
The Greenworks 16-Inch Reel Lawn Mower with Grass Catcher gets an honorable mention as our premium pick. It has a rear bag to catch grass clippings and runs on two front wheels supported by rear rollers. The adjustable blades and 16-inch coverage area make it a hard reel mower to pass.