Gas powered lawn mowers give you power, durability and flexibility.
As long as you’ve got the fuel, these things will keep going, meaning that you can cut lawns large and small, near to or far from your house.
There are various types of gas powered lawn mowers and a range of different features available.
This article therefore aims to guide you through the process of selecting the best gas powered mower for your requirements.
How does a gas lawn mower work?
Gas powered lawn mowers utilize the power of an engine to drive the rotation of a horizontal blade located in the mower’s cutting deck. The blade rotates at high speed and cuts the grass as the deck travel over the lawn.
Most modern gas lawn mowers have 4 cycle (or 4 stroke) engines, although some 2 cycle models are available.
4 cycle engines are generally quieter and longer lasting than 2 cycle engines. They run on pure gasoline and have a separate oil chamber for engine lubrication oil. Two cycle engines run on a mixture (usually 50 to 1) of gas and oil. They can therefore be more troublesome to keep running.
In some models the power of the engine is also used to drive the wheels of the lawn mower. These are called ‘self-propelled mowers’. ‘Push mowers’, those without the benefit of engine drive, rely upon the efforts of the operator alone.
Size and power of gas lawn mowers
Gas lawn mowers usually have engines ranging in power between about 2 and 7 horsepower. Engines have single cylinders with displacements of between about 140cc and 190cc.
Interestingly, tests by Consumer Reports showed that engine size and power made little difference to the performance of most mowers.
A somewhat more significant size factor therefore, is the width of the mower’s cutting deck.
Decks on consumer level gas powered lawn mowers are generally between 18 and 22 inches (45 to 55cms).
How do gas lawn mowers compare to electric lawn mowers?
Trying to find the best lawn mower means comparing the pros and cons of the different types. These are the main gas vs electric lawn mower points of comparison.
Gas powered lawn mowers are noisier than electric mowers and produce direct carbon emissions.
They require more maintenance and, over their lifetime, are likely to be more costly than electric mowers, especially when fuel and oil costs are factored in.
On the other hand, there is no limitation on where a gas mower can be used. This contrast with the limits place on corded electric models by the length of the extension cord.
Similarly, gas mowers are not constrained by length of battery life as is the case with cordless mowers.
Overall, gas lawn mowers probably provide the most versatile lawn mower option.
Features to look out for in gas lawn mowers
I’ve covered the general features applicable to most mowers in some detail on this page on how to compare lawn mowers.
I’ll therefore deal more specifically here with features especially relevant to gas lawn mowers.
As indicated above, an important choice you need to make is whether you want a self-propelled mower or a push mower.
A self propelled mower will be more expensive. For example, the Husqvarna push mMower — 160cc Honda GCV engine, 21in. deck, model# 7021P, pictured at the top of the page, will set you back about $60 more at Northern Tool and Equipment than a self-propelled Husqvarna model with a fairly similar spec.
However, that seems to me to be a fairly small differential when you consider the time and effort a self-propelled mower will save you.
Most gas powered mowers have a recoil (pull) start. These days most mowers start pretty easily and some manufacturers, such as Husqvarna, have introduced easy start systems designed to make starting even more straightforward.
A few of the top of the range models now feature key activated electric starting, just like your car. This is very convenient but the battery that activates the electric start is not charged by your mower, so you you need to remember to recharge it yourself.
Some gas powered mowers have a single drive speed. Some have a throttle controlled variable speed.
Some (e.g. some Toro models) automatically adjust their speed to the pace at which you walk.
And some of the very best models, like the Honda HRX217HZA feature infinitely variable speeds with cruise control, delivered by the kind of hydrostatic drives you find in many lawn tractors.
Wash out port
A wash out port is a very handy feature that lets you attach an ordinary garden hose to your mower’s deck to wash away the clippings, mud and debris each time you finish using it. This keeps the deck in good condition and helps your mower operate efficiently next time you fire it up.
I’ve covered the grass discharge options in detail on the compare lawn mowers page. Suffice to say here that the choices are side discharge, mulching and bagging. Some models offer all 3 options and some just 2 (usually mulching and side discharge.
It is important to determine the discharge method you are likely to want to use most and to choose a model with a reputation for doing that well.
Blade brake clutch
This is a very handy feature, the lack of which, on an old mower I have, really annoys me.
A blade break or blade override clutch allows you to stop the mower and the blade, let go of the controls but still keep the engine running. It’s like having your car in neutral or park.
The beauty of this is that you don’t have to stop and re-start every time you need to move things out of the way or empty you grass catcher. The added advantage is that you reduce engine wear by not constantly re-starting.
Comfort of operation
Padded handles are offered on some models. These can be a godsend when you’re operating the mower for long periods. Also look out for adjustable handles that can be made to suit your height.
Have you ever tried turning a decent sized gas powered mower in a small space?
It’s not easy, unless you have a model with swivelling front wheels. These bring something approaching zero turn capability to the walk-behind mower arena and are a welcome new feature of some models.
Best uses for gas lawn mowers
A gas powered lawn mower will suit you if:
- You have a medium size to large lawn
- You have no noise restrictions to worry about
- You are happy to do a little maintenance, such as oil changes
- You need a powerful machine, for example because you have long, lush or coarse grass
- You need to mow out of the reach of an extension cord or for extended periods
- You want the versatility that a gas powered mower can give you
- You are reasonably strong and fit.
Unless there are particular reasons why a gas mower would not be suitable (e.g. you particularly need a quite or lightweight machine), then I think gas powered lawn mowers are hard to beat.
As always, buy the best quality you can afford – stretch you budget if you have to – and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Top gas powered lawn mowers
When you are looking for the best gas lawn mower, the Honda mowers range is probably the best place to start.
If you are looking for the best of the best, you’ll find it hard to get a better gas lawn mower than the Honda HRX217K3HYA self-propelled lawn mower. Although it has a fairly hefty price tag, its features and qualities are hard to beat. You’ll find a comprehensive review of the Honda HRX217K3HYA here.
A pretty impressive self-propelled mower, much cheaper than the Honda HRX217 is the Lawn Boy mowers 10606 model. This model features a 20 inch deck, electric start and is designed to be an especially effective mulching mower. A full review of this Lawn Boy mowers model is here.
If you are looking for something substantially cheaper than the Honda and a fair bit cheaper than the Lawn Boy, and you’d be happy with a push mower, then the Husqvarna 7021P lawn mower may fit in with your requirements. Check out our full review of this Husqvarna mower here.
If you want to see a side by side comparison of the key features of 7 of the very best gas powered lawn mowers, see the gas powered lawn mower comparison page here.
Here we feature more of the best. These gas lawn mowers are among the best in class. They all boast 4 or 5 start ratings from reviewers on Amazon.com. If you are in the market for a premium brand mower, then one of these will suit you well.
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