Asking which is the best reel mower for 2018 sounds like a bit of an odd question. You may as well ask which steam-powered engine rated highest this year. However, contrary to that opinion, reel lawn mowers are becoming more popular every year.
You'll find a very limited number of companies producing reel mowers. However, these mowers are far more efficient and better engineered than the ones you may have used as a child. In the case of the best reel mower on this list, you'll find they are so efficient that they require little more effort to push than a typical power mower.
Why Should You Own A Reel Mower?
Most people who own one cite cost as the primary reason. They're less expensive to purchase than a gas or electric-powered lawn mower. They also cost less to operate and maintain. There's no gas, motor oil, or long heavy-duty extension cords to buy (and avoid running over). The simple mechanism makes them easier to maintain, with no filters or gasoline to store.
Best of all, because they run on “people power” alone, they leave no carbon footprint. According to the EPA, a new gas-powered lawn mower produces as much pollution in one hour as 11 new cars.
They produce a minimum of noise and will not sustain (or cause) considerable damage if you hit a rock in your yard. Add to that the fact that most gardeners agree that reel mowers are better for your grass. Each blade precisely slices your grass like a pair of scissors without ripping and tearing the ends as power mowers can do. Did you ever notice that famous golf courses and Major League Baseball stadium grasses are cut by tractors with multiple reel mowers attached?
Choosing The Best Reel Mower
When selecting the best reel mower for your situation, there are a few things to consider. Just like any other product, not all reel mowers are the same. Differences in models of reel mowers are like the difference in power mowers. They fundamentally do the same thing, but there are a few variables to keep in mind.
The first thing to look for in a reel mower are sharp, quality blades. The best ones have stainless steel, heat-treated blades that cut the grass as evenly as a pair of scissors. They should cut straight and smooth with no tearing or chopping.
Heavier mowers bounce and shift far less that lighter weight ones. This will produce a more even and consistent looking lawn. This seems to run counter to the idea that a lighter mower requires less energy to push. If pushing heavy weights is an issue for you, you may want to forgo the accuracy in favor of ease of movement. This shouldn't prove much of an issue, since all the mowers on this list are engineered to push easily. However, it may be something to consider.
Most lawn specialists agree that the “magic 3-inch” height is preferable for most lawns. However, the more height adjustment on your reel mower, the more versatile it is in different cutting situations. While you may not need it to adjust from exactly 3-inches to “down on the deck,” as long as it is close to those parameters, you should get good results.
Finally, you should consider the blade width for a quick and straightforward reason. As with power mowers, the wider the blade cutting area, the faster you will finish the job.
How We Chose The Best Reel Mower Available
In addition to the reasons listed above, we also considered customer feedback and ratings as a large part of our criteria. The logic is simple: if a particular model is not deemed worthy by a large number of users, no matter what the specs, we have to think there is a problem. Conversely, if one gets an enthusiastic response, it must be worth considering.
We also relied on sales figures and maintenance reports to determine a model's popularity and durability. However, we considered pricing in any overall evaluation. For example, we came across a few gas-powered or battery-powered reel mowers. While they are a bit easier to push, they cost a great deal more than the models listed here. And they don't actually do a better job at cutting the grass. The cost-to-benefit factor alone eliminated them from our list.
Choose The Best Reel Mower From These Premium Models
These are the models we deemed worthy of our "best of" list. You'll find a range of prices to fit neatly into any budget. Hopefully, you'll find your next reel lawn mower among them.
Fiskars, mostly associated with high-end scissors and garden clippers, has applied the same quality engineering in designing their reel mower. While the most expensive on our list, it will do a better job than most power mowers costing twice as much. They boast a sterling reputation around the world, and some have described the Staysharp Max as the “Cadillac” of reel mowers.
- Make lawn mowing enjoyable with an advanced reel mower that's 60% easier to push than other reel mowers
- InertiaDrive reel is designed for all grass types, delivering twice the cutting power to glide through tough spots and StaySharp cutting system cuts without unwanted contact, greatly reducing wear for long-lasting performance
- New reversible grass chute can be positioned to direct clippings forward, away from your feet, or backward and downward
- StaySharp cutting system cuts without unwanted contact, greatly reducing wear for long-lasting performance without costly annual blade sharpening
- Inset wheels allow the blades to extend across the mower's full width, eliminating uncut strips and edges near foundations and fences
The “InertiaDrive” technology employs a larger cutting reel and heavier blades to create more inertia when turning. This inertia results in more cutting power and consistent motion that cruises through thick grass with ease. Their website claims that this gives the Staysharp Max “twice the cutting power of standard reel mowers.” While we tend to be skeptical of manufacturer's claims, in this case, it makes sense.
Their “VersaCut” technology allows the blades to cut all various types of grass with uniform consistency while minimizing internal friction. The hardened steel blades can last for years without sharpening with normal use. The blades cut easier, and the mower rolls more efficiently. This makes the Fiskars Staysharp Max 60 percent easier to push according to the manufacturer. While, as we said, we take manufacturer claims with a grain of salt, this claim seems to hold up under testing.
The height of the Fiskars Staysharp Max adjusts from 1 inch to 4 inches. This should be enough for any lawn. To make edging more accurate, the wheels sit inside the area of the cutting blades, providing a close cut around sidewalks and trees. Also, you can adjust the discharge chute to eject the clippings behind the mower or forward.
Reviews and Pricing
Customers mentioned how simple it was to assemble out of the box and that you can begin mowing in about 10 minutes. They said that the handle was comfortable and that adjusting the blade height was quick and easy. While some mentioned that it was harder to push in thicker and taller grass, they also said that only one pass would complete the job.
You can find it online listed for an average market price. However, some retailers may provide a seasonal discount, with an affordable price.
The American 1815-18 comes in a close second in our review of the overall best reel mowers. It also comes with a modest price. The American Lawn Mower Company, founded in 1895, enjoys a quality reputation forged over the last 120 years. The sturdy construction and a wide cutting path allow you to tame an average sized lawn to perfection in no time.
- 14" Cutting width, polymer wheels with a 4-blade ball bearing reel, and 8.5" Composite wheels
- Adjustable cutting Height of 0.5"-1.75" For a clean, scissor-like cut every time
- Blades are made of quality, heat-treated alloy steel for staying sharp longer
- Eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered lawn mowers; no oil, low maintenance, easy assembly
- 4-Blade reel offers supreme versatility for multiple Common grass types- Fescue, Bluegrass, Rye, and mixed weed/crab grass
Its five tempered alloy steel blades, matched with the ball bearing design, lets you cut consistently and efficiently. The 10-inch wheels permit you to tackle less-than-level terrain and make it very easy to push and maneuver. The cutting height is adjustable from 1/2-inch to 2-3/4 inches, and the folding handle makes for easy storage.
Reviews and Pricing
Customers who commented said they appreciated the ease of maneuvering and the light weight of this model. They also liked the padded handle and that the blades held their sharp edges. Most negative comments centered on its inability to chop through sticks and small branches.
You'll find it available online for an affordable price.
The Great States 415 16-inch reel mower not only rates as among the best reel mowers because of several positive factors. Being affordable, reliable, and rugged would almost be enough. But it also shines for delivering a precise and consistent cut. Lightweight and easy to maneuver, the Great States is the perfect reel mower for someone with a small to medium sized lawn to tend.
- Manual push reel lawn mower features quick, adjustable cutting height of 0. 5"-2. 5" for a clean, even cut every time
- 16" cutting width, 5-blade ball bearing reel, and 10" composite wheels make using this manual hand push reel lawn mower easy
- Blades of the manual hand push reel lawn mower are made of quality, heat-treated alloy steel for staying sharp longer
- T-style handle with cushioned grip and lightweight design for comfort when using this manual hand push reel lawn mower; Easy, tool-less assembly
- Clean and quiet way to maintain your lawn; Great States manual hand push rotary reel lawn mower requires no gas or oil
The heat-treated blades and reel both consist of alloy steel. They are more durable and, thus, stay sharper longer for many years of reliable service. The 10-inch ball bearing wheels allow for easy navigation, and a steel side plate offers more protection and ruggedness. The T-style handle has a cushioned grips and powder-coating to fight rust.
Reviews and Pricing
Customers praised the Great States 415-16 for its simplicity of use and affordable price. Many commented on the lightweight maneuverability, and others appreciated the ruggedness and precision of the cut even on sloping terrain. There were some comments, however, on the difficulty mowing exceptionally thick or tall grass with this model.
You'll find it only at big box stores and hardware outlets for an affordable price.
The Sun Joe MJ501M also makes our list of the best reel mowers. It's affordable, reliable, and another healthy alternative to gas or electric-powered lawn mowers. This maintenance-free mower works best for someone with either a small or medium yard to mow. Both durable and lightweight, this unit also stores easily. More home improvement centers and department stores offer the Sun Joe MJ504M than any other mower on this list.
- Best use: Small to medium lawns
- 4-Rugged all-terrain wheels make it easy to push and maneuver
- Manual levers with 9 settings for quick and easy height adjustments
- Tailor your cutting Height settings from 1. 1 in. To 2. 9 in
- Full 2-year
The four-wheel design allows you to push this mower over a stable center of gravity more easily. The Sun Joe MJ504M connects to an optional 6.6-gallon grass catcher. This option lets collect the clippings for compost or mulching while leaving your lawn clean and beautiful. A full 9-position blade height adjustment of the 18-inch blades allows for smooth and even cutting to almost any type of grass.
Reviews and Pricing
Customers most praised the Sun Joe MJ501M for rear grass catcher option and the padded handle. The 9-position height adjustment and excellent customer service received high praise as well. As with most reel mowers, including those on our list, there were some complaints related to issues with thick and tall grass.
You'll normally find this Sun Joe mower priced an affordable price online. We did, however, note several outlets offering reduced price specials.
Honorable Mention: The Scotts 2000-20 Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower
Longevity and reputation make the Scott brand one of the most recognized and widely trusted lawn care names in history. Though the Scotts 200-20 Classic comes in just slightly below our required threshold for customer ratings, we include it on this list as an honorable mention. After a bit of discussion, we decided to add it based on high sales, longevity, dependability, and availability. It also seems to appear on almost every “Top 10” list of reel mowers out there. Additionally, the yard and garden experts we have consulted also rated it highly.
When you think of a reel mower, you most likely picture the Scotts Classic. While less robust than the Fiskars, and engineered to slightly fewer exacting tolerances, the Scott Classic does a good job on most lawns. It also weighs about 20 pounds less and costs less than half as much.
- Classic Scotts 20 inch push no-motor manual reel rotary lawn mower features 20" cutting width, 5-blade ball bearing reel, and 10" dual tracking wheels
- Quick-snap 1"-3" cutting height adjustment for a clean, even cut every time with this Scotts classic hand push reel rotary 20 inch lawn mower
- Blades on the Scotts classic hand push reel rotary 20 inch lawn mower are made of quality, heat-treated alloy steel for staying sharp longer
- Ergonomic handle with cushioned grip for comfort when using the Scotts 20 inch 5-blade manual hand push no-motor reel lawn mower; Easy, tool-less assembly
- Lightweight and easy to operate; This engine-free, no-motor, classic manual reel hand push lawn mower requires no gas or oil
The 2000-20’s greatest attribute is a 20-inch cutting width. With the wheels outside of the blades, edging becomes more difficult. You will, however, finish your yard faster and have more time for edging precision.
With five heat-tempered steel blades in a ball-bearing assembly, the wider cutting blades do not seem to make it more difficult to push. The blades are all inclined to different angles. This reduces friction and helps to improve the quality of their cut. The nine settings ranging between one and three inches change easily.
Reviews and Pricing
Customers spoke positively of the quick assembly and simplicity of the “Quick-snap,” positive height adjustment. The positive customer service experiences also earned this model a favorable mention. One problem with even the best reel mower is that if you don't mow frequently enough, you'll experience difficulty using one.
Is Even The Best Reel Mower Right For You?
Although some customers reportedly use reel mowers on lawns up to one-quarter of an acre, that seems the exception. If you own property with an extensive yard, even the best reel mower may not be for you. You may prefer something self-propelled or even a riding mower. Reel mowers can be difficult to use on steep grades, and you may still need to buy an additional trimmer to finish the job.
They also aren’t designed to slash through the grass at warp speed. Use your reel mower more like a vacuum cleaner and go over the same spots a time or two before you move on. You will notice a much more consistent and beautiful cut. You can sit in your lawn chair relaxing with a nice refreshing drink admiring your beautiful yard as you decide what to do with all the money you saved.