Self-Propelled Lawn Mower vs. Push Mower - Backyard Boss
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Self-Propelled Lawn Mower vs. Push Mower

Do you need a self-propelled lawn mower or is a classic push mower good enough? This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when buying your first mower or replacing an old one. Choose the kind you really need and you’ll have no regrets; you might even enjoy mowing your lawn.

We’ll help you make the right decision by contrasting the differences between self-propelled and push mowers, including advantages, disadvantages, and all the little factors in-between.

Self-Propelled Mowers vs. Push Mowers

The two main types of walk-behind mowers are self-propelled and push. Push mowers are exactly what they sound like; lawn mowers that you need to manually move forward. Self-propelled mowers on the other hand don’t move forward until you engage the bail; that’s the bar on the end of the handle, that you need to squeeze as you mow. Pressing the bail signals the transmission to switch gears.

Both mower-types are extremely popular in North America and are more commonly found than other sorts such as small riding mowers, zero-turn machines, and robotic units. Let’s explore the details for both types. We’ll start with the pros and cons of each one.

Pros and Cons of Self-Propelled Mowers

A shiny silver self-propelled lawn mower sitting on the lawn in front of some outdoor children's playground equipment.

Self-propelled mowers are excellent machines for those who seek an easier machine for mowing their yards. Likewise, for lawn care specialists, self-propelled mowers can reduce the amount of energy it takes to get the job done.

Here are a few of the most significant advantages and drawbacks of self-propelled lawnmowers:


First and foremost, the fact that you don’t need to push the mower up, down, and all around the yard is one of the biggest and most obvious advantages of this type of mower. But, there are more pros to self-propelled mowers than the self-driving system they are built with. For example, this type of mower allows you to finish passes without having to stop. That means that your grass gets cut smoother and results in a more uniform appearance than many push mowers create.

Another crucial benefit is that self-propelled mowers are very much senior-friendly as well as for those with bad backs and other physical setbacks that would otherwise make it nearly impossible to mow. Many of these machines come with bigger back wheels than most push mowers have, which makes them even more highly maneuverable. Lastly, self-propelled mowers are generally much easier to use on rough and uneven ground as well as for cutting taller-than-normal grass and weeds.


For as much as they are beneficial, there are several downsides to self-propelled mowers as well. The biggest of which is that they typically use more gas due to their self-propulsion system. On the other hand, some of them are no different than push mowers, gas-wise, but instead, require a dedicated battery for the drive system. Either way, the self-propulsion system must be fueled and fuel is not free.

An often-overlooked disadvantage of these mowers is how heavy they are. Sure, they drive themselves, for the most part. But, before and after these mowers are running, you will need to lug them around and position them. Another con, albeit technically a safety feature, is that once you let go of the handlebar the mower shuts off. That means you could start and stop numerous times, whereas a push mower will run even when you let go and walk away for a second.

Pros and Cons of Push Mowers

A close-up view of a silver and blue push mower cutting grass under a cloudy blue sky.

Push mowers have been a staple in lawn care for the better part of a century. In the United States, almost every garage or garden shed has housed one at one point or another.

Here are the biggest pros and cons of push mowers:


Most push mowers are a good deal lighter than self-propelled mowers. They also take less fuel as well as require fewer repairs and oil changes. Not only are they easier to push than self-propelled, but they are also altogether much more simple. That means that they are easier to work on as well.

Another big advantage of push mowers is that they are more affordable than just about any other sort of mower. This is due to the simplicity of their design; they are not cheaper because they are less useful, it simply takes less advanced parts and components to put one together.


This type of mower lacks the sophisticated drive-system that makes self-propelled machines so appealing, which means you have to push it the entire time. With classic push mowers, you will also need to prime the engine before starting it up by pushing a button two or three times and then adjust the choke once it is started. That said, some of the newer models do come with electric start buttons which do away with this con.

Thankfully, most push mowers are quite a bit lighter than self-propelled units. But, for some reason, they tend to have the same size wheels on front and back, whereas self-propelled mowers tend to have larger wheels on the back. This makes it less ideal to use a standard push mower up hills and over bumpy and uneven ground. There may also be a real lack of safety features such as automatically shutting off when you let go of the handle.

Personal Pace vs. Self Propelled

Woman mowing her lawn with a HRX NeXite self-propelled lawn mower.
Honda self-propelled lawn mower via HomeDepot

You already know all about self-propelled mowers at this point, including how they work. Personal Pace is an advanced self-propulsion system offered by Toro. The main difference between a standard self-propelled mower and a Toro mower with Personal Pace is that the mower with Personal Pace adjusts to your walking speed. As long as you keep your walking pace under 5 mph, the mower will automatically adjust to you.

Do Self-Propelled Mowers Last?

There is no hard rule as to how long a self-propelled mower should last. Generally speaking, the product life expectancy of most gas-powered versions is marketed for a lifetime of at least ten years or more. Electric versions are rated for about half the lifespan of their gasoline counterparts.

A Final Word About Self-Propelled vs. Push Mowers

There is no absolute winner of the self-propelled vs. push mowers debate. Both of these popular walk-behind mowers have clear advantages, and both have drawbacks.

Self-propelled models are possibly more convenient, especially for yards that are larger than average or bumpy and uneven lawns. But, for small to medium size yards, without any real rough terrain, a walk-behind push mower is more than enough.

As far as which is best for you? Let your needs, the size of your yard, your budget, and your personal preference be the deciding factors.