This article may contain affiliate links. We get paid a small commission from your purchases. More Affiliate Policy
A healthy lawn is an important feature of any garden. The United States, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory program, has three times more lawns than irrigated cornfields. Lawns function as a carbon sink, absorbing the equivalent of about 37 billion pounds of carbon each year – the weight of about 147,000 blue whales.
Manual reel mowers have no negative impact on the environment. In addition, the cut action of a good, properly adjusted reel mower is superior to any achievable with a rotary mower – slicing the top of each grass blade perfectly.
Reel mowers are quiet, clean, and effective if you get a good one. With hundreds to choose from, we have selected the nine best ones for you to consider. This article will explain why we chose these specific ones and give you our opinion on the TOP three reel mowers.
Factors to Consider in Choosing a Reel Mower
When selecting a reel mower for yourself, there are six important factors to consider – and none of them is price.
- Grass Type
- Blade Quality and Count
- Cutting Width and Height
- Wheel Design
- User Feedback
Grass Type and Cut Height
If you simplify it, there are two types of lawn in the United States; warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses. There are also transitional hybrids, but we’re not getting into that now.
|Grass Type||Mowing Height||Frequency||Mower Preference|
|Common Warm Season Grasses|
|Bermuda Grass||0.75 to 1.5||very high||reel/rotary|
|Centipede Grass||1.5 to 2||low||reel/rotary|
|St Augustine Grass||2.5 to 4||moderate||reel/rotary|
|Zoysia Grass||0.75 to 2||moderate||reel/rotary|
|Bahia Grass||3 to 4||high||rotary|
|Buffalo Grass||1.5 to 4||moderate||reel/rotary|
|Seashore Paspalum||1 to 1.5||medium||rotary|
|Bent Grass||0.5 to 1||moderate||reel/rotary|
|Dichondra Repens||0.5 to 1||moderate||reel/rotary|
|Common Cool Season Grasses|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||2 – 2.5||high||reel/rotary|
|Perennial Ryegrass||0.5 to 2.5||high||reel/rotary|
|Fine Fescue||1.5 to 4||high||reel/rotary|
|Tall Fescue||2.5 to 3.5||high||reel/rotary|
We hope this consolidated information helps in showing you that a reel mower can cut all lawns except Bahai turfgrass. That’s because it seeds, and even a rotary mower struggles to get it level with one pass-through.
Another consideration with grass types is the preferred mowing height. When choosing your reel mower, consider the available height setting. Cutting lawns more than a third of the blade length at a time weakens the plant and gives pathogens an opportunity.
The limits for a healthy lawn inform the suggested mowing height; cutting lawns shorter than suggested is not advised. Long grass is a weak spot of reel mowers, though there are ways to work around that. Ideally, you want your lawn not to require more than a third-off trim.
Blade Quality and Count
Reel mowers make use of a rotating reel (or cylinder) fitted with multiple blades. The number of cutter blades required depends on the grass type (again), and the number of reel rotations per inch traveled forward.
The blade quality is a factor of harness and cutting angle. By arching the blade on the reel, like a helix coil, the cutting angle changes from a slap to a snip. Think of a pair of scissors cutting a piece of paper vs. an ax cutting the same paper. Both will work, but the energy required differs.
Regarding hardness, a metal with high tensile strength will stay sharper longer, even with the occasional stick or acorn. All the blades in the review are made of tempered steel.
The limits for a healthy lawn inform the suggested mowing height; cutting lawns shorter than suggested is not advised. The reviewed reel mowers range from 0.5 to 4-inches, with the Fiskars Staysharp max covering the broadest spectrum – from one inch to four. Fiskars achieves this by adding inset wheels that lift the from of the unit off the ground.
The wider you can cut with a single pass, the less energy you need to cover the yard. But a wider curring edge reduces maneuverability and increases weight. Warping of the reel is the main reason why even big machines like the Toro Reelmaster make use of 5 cutting heads to cut 8 ft. 4-inches per pass for this very reason.
We review reel mowers from 14- to 20-inches.
The wheels determine the cutting height and also drive the mechanism that rotates the reel. The ratio of the wheels’ rotation to the reel rotation is essential. Also, the wheels need to have the required grip to activate the initial reel rotation. Once the blades are in motion, the momentum reduces the strain on the gears.
Fiskars has a patented system to ensure the start is more fluid. Wheel sizes in the review are either 8.5-inches or 10-inches – all are made of a composite polymer.
A unit that is too light will not be able to drive the reel, as traction is dependent on grip, of which weight is a factor. On the other hand, who wants to push a tank around their yard? Getting that balance right is key – enough weight to drive the blades without fatiguing the gardener.
Finally, we can have all the data, but it would be wise to heed what the owners of the products say. Our review will look at three factors – the number of reviewers and the percentage of both happy and unhappy customers.
Our Choice of the 9 Best Reel Mowers
|Reel Mower||No. of Blades||Cut Height||Handle Type||Cut Width||Wheel Diameter||Weight (Pounds)|
|American Lawn Mower Company 1204-14||4||0.5 to 1.75||Tee-Style||14||8.5||20|
|Greenworks 14-Inch RM1400||5||1.06 to 2||Tee-Style||14||10||24|
|Earthwise 1715-16EW 16-Inch 7-Blade||7||0.5 to 2.5||Angled-Tee||16||10||26|
|Fiskars StaySharp™ Max Reel Mower||4||1 to 4||Racer Loop||18||10||51|
|Great States 815-18 18-Inch 5-Blade||5||0.5 to 2.75||Loop-Style||18||10||27|
|Scotts 2000-20S 20-Inch 5-Blade||5||1 to 3||Racer Loop||20||10||2.2|
|Einhell GE-HM 38||5||0.5 to 1.5||Adjustable||15||10||22|
|American Lawn Mower Company 1304-14||5||1 to 1.75||Tee-Style||14||8.5||22.5|
|American Lawn Mower Company 1815-18||5||1 to 2.75||Loop-Style||18||10||27|
The Earthwise 1715-16EW 16-inch 7-blade reel mower is ideal for denser lawns. Of the 456 reviewers, 397 were fully satisfied with their purchase. That is the best score of all the reel mowers reviewed.
This mower is ideal for Bentgrass, Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, St. Augustine, and Seashore Paspalum. Due to the seed pods that stand proud of the rest of the lawn, Zoysia is a difficult grass to cut. We suggest using a 4 or 5-blade reel mower for grasses like Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, and Crabgrass.
Reel mowers are lightweight and easy to maneuver. They’re perfect for today’s smaller lawns (I’d say up to a 1/4 acre) and fast-paced lives. They’re always ready when you need them, nearly maintenance-free, and easy to store. They’re environmentally friendly and lawn-friendly, cutting your grass to a clean, precise trim.
Generally, a really good reel mower – even the price will make you smile.
At the time of writing, this affordable, lightweight reel mower had 1,665 reviews on Amazon. Eighty-four percent of these sang the praises of this smaller-wheeled unit.
The 1304-14 can cut Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, and Crabgrass just under 2 inches tall. The mower is simple to put together and can be adjusted to cut grass to the desired length. The soft padded handle is robust and provides a secure grip. The American Lawn Mower Reel Mower delivers vigorous cutting action while releasing no hazardous gases into the atmosphere. The eco-friendly mower is lightweight and low-maintenance, making grass mowing a breeze.
Before using a reel mower, take the time to fully rake the yard and remove sticks and debris that may have accumulated. This will make the actual mowing easier. This mower is light, very easy to push, maneuvers well, and easy to put away – but still does a fine job on the lawn. Assembly is a breeze too.
The American Lawn Mower Company has a wide range of reel mowers. Though the branding is American, the company sources some of its mowers from abroad.
This 4-blade unit differs from the 1304 in blade count, weight, and pricing. It can also cut down to half an inch, where the 1305 can only go down to 1-inch.
It is lighter, probably due to having one less blade, but it is about $20 more expensive. Still, it’s obviously well-loved. With 8,109 reviews on Amazon, eighty-four percent of them said they were well pleased with 1204. That’s a lot of love.
If your lawn is Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, or Crabgrass, this is a good buy. From some of the reviews read, this is a little beast with those lawns, munching its way through effortlessly.
A fact not often considered is the impact that noise has on people and animals. For people living with autism, a reel mower is a game-changer. It is so much quieter than a gasolene of an electric mower.
For many reviewers mowing the lawn has changed from a dreaded task to a pleasure. They put their headphones on and treat the time as a workout – good for the body, good for health, good for the environment.
There are two extremes in reel mower blades counts; four blades on the one end of the spectrum and seven blades on the other. As mentioned earlier, The blade count is relevant to the grass types. The Great States 815-18 is a lovely middle-of-the-road option.
The 18-inch width means that you cover more ground than any of the previous machines reviewed. It is also, according to reviews, the best 18-inch unit. Amazon recommends the product (Amazon’s Choice), something they do not do lightly.
The double rollers at the back will contribute to some striping effect. Striping happens when grass blades bend and either absorb or reflect light – depending on the sun’s angle to the grass blade. The rollers contribute to bending the blades, as does the 27-pounds this unit weighs in at.
One of the reviews said this about their purchase: “If you already know you want to switch to a reel mower, you can stop reading and buy this one. Heavy quality has worked smoothly for an entire season so far. Great price. Classic design that doesn’t need improvement.”
5. American Lawn Mower Company 1815-18
In response to the Great States 815-18, American Lawn Mower Company brought out this 1815-18. The Great States is almost identical but has one difference in the specification – it can’t reach as low as the Great States 815-18.
1815-18 only goes down to 1-inch. It weighs the same, is also 18-inches wide, but costs a bit more. Also, the rating for the reviews is lower, but not by much.
One of the most important considerations to remember when getting a reel mower is that it cuts the lawn well, but it won’t give you the effect of a motorized reel mower. That said, you won’t need the extra space to store it; it is quiet, and there’s no need to set it up.
While some see using a reel mower as an opportunity to exercise, many comments show that it doesn’t take much more energy than pushing a powered unit. Of course, if you are used to a walk-along mower, this will make your scale happier.
This unit almost made it to the top three, but the finalists were just too strong. With its patented StaySharp and VersaCut technologies, Fiskars’ reel mower is a good investment.
This unit almost made it to the top three, but the finalists were just too strong. With its patented StaySharp and VersaCut technologies, Fiskars’ reel mower is a good investment. The Fiskars StaySharp is the most expensive of all the units reviewed, but there’s a good reason for this. It mows like a pro.
As long as you do not allow your grass to turn into a jungle, the Fiskars take no more energy than pushing a standard gas, or electric mower does. If, however, your lawn is already out of control, expect the first cut to take some effort.
If you are unavailable to attend to your garden at least weekly, then a reel mower is not a good idea. The more you mow, the easier it is with a reel mower. If you extend the time between cuts to ten days and the lawn has grown, the Fiskars has some nice features and upgrades from other reel mowers.
The handle is adjustable to multiple heights. The blades cut to the outside of the wheels, so you get a nice wide cutting path. Blade height adjustments are easy; just one lever chooses the height of the cut.
Blade adjustments are easy. It simply takes turning four bolts to adjust. Using a strip of standard printer paper, test your gap. If the blades neatly slice the paper, the settings are correctly set. This should only be necessary once a season.
An outstanding feature of the Fiskars is that it is chain-driven. All the other evaluated units have a plastic gearing system. Plastic stands a greater risk of being damaged. The ratio between the 10-inch wheel and cylinder is excellent, and the 5-blade reel spins fast, even at a normal walking pace.
It is good practice to do a double-pass over your lawn, straight and diagonally – even with a powered mower. The clean-cut produced by the scissor-action of a reel mower will improve your lawn quality.
The Greenworks 14-Inch RM1400 is a reasonably priced unit, given the fact that it comes with a clippings catcher bag. A word of warning: the catcher bag could increase your mow-time by as much as 50%. Also, leaving your clipping on the lawn reduces your need for nitrogen by half. Take a look at this article I wrote for more information on clippings – Leave or collect grass clippings off the lawn? (The Facts) – Simplify Gardening
This is our third 14-inch reel mower reviewed. It’s also the second cheapest unit – the Einhell is the cheapest. Of the 419 people who bought this product from Amazon and left a review, 335 loved it. Of course, those who gave it less than a 4-star rating could be unhappy with the packaging or delivery processes, not necessarily the product. The Greenworks 14-Inch RM1400 scored 4.2 out of 5 stars.
The Greenworks 14-Inch RM1400 is a good entry-level machine for a smaller yard of Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, or Crabgrass.
So here’s an interesting machine. It’s the only 20-inches reel mower we reviewed. That’s quite a stretch and the widest reel mower we evaluated. It has 5-blades, reasonable cutting heights, and only weighs 22-pounds.
The approval rating is the same as the Greenworks RM1400 at 8.0 out of 10.
This unit’s heat-treated steel 5-blade reel is best for Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, or Crabgrass. This precision blade technology cuts accurately, quickly, and cleanly. The blades spin efficiently as you push the mower through your grass, thanks to smooth ball bearings.
The Scotts 2000-20S gives you complete control over your lawn’s height. The nine quick-snap height adjusters are simple to use and provide you fingertip control over your blade height for precise cuts – from one to three inches.
The Scotts 2000-20S has two 10-inch wheels two six-inch tracking wheels for additional maneuverability. The Scotts 2000-20 mower’s revolutionary dual wheel tracking system reduces drag and makes it simpler to push across even the most difficult terrain. The loop-style handle with foam grip adds comfort to the mower’s operation while also improving maneuverability.
The Einhell GE-HM 38 S-F has adjustable handlebars and includes a quick-attachable 6.9-gallon clippings collection bag. Though it comes in at the lowest review rating, some owners are active in defending their purchase. Here are some comments made in 2021 include:
- Awesome mower, IF you know what to expect.
- Easy to use, lightweight, does the job
- Not bad for the price
- Exceeded expectations
- Does the job
- Small, light and environmentally friendly
- Perfect little push mower!
The Einhell GE-HM 38 S-F is the only 15-inch width mower evaluated. Gardena also makes a 15-inch reel mower, but we did not evaluate it. The Einhell reel mower is good for shorter grass cuts – half-an-inch to 1.5-inch. Height settings are done with a 4-position clip-in lever.
If your plant leaves, especially young plants, look like they have been shot with buckshot, there is a good chance that you’ve got one of the many types of flea …
Our TOP Three Reel Mowers (and why)
The Earthwise 1715-16EW is our Gold Medalist.
The perfect combination of width, strength, and unique 7-blade configuration sets this machine head-and-shoulders above its peers. This is really a lovely piece of engineering and environment-friendly garden tool that works well.
The American Lawn Mower Company 1304-14 is our Silver Medal winner
In our opinion, this is the best 14-inch reel mower on the market – a view shared by thousands of others. The 5-blade unit weighs in at 22.5-pounds and cuts between 1-inch and 1.75-inch – a standard height for most lawns.
The Great States 815-18 is the Bronze Medal winner.
The Great States 815-18 was the most versatile reel mower reviewed. With an 18-inch deck, the broadest height adjustment, and weighing in at only 27-pounds, the third place, in this case, is a rock star – and 5-blades to boot.
Reel mowers, pushed or powered, are the best possible option for a healthy lawn. they provide a clean-cut, something a rotary mower cannot match, even with a very sharp blade.
The reviewed reel mowers are nothing like what grandad used to use. They are engineering masterpieces, able to cut your lawn as easily as any motorized machine could – if you keep your lawn manicured. It’s good for the planet, good for your lawn, and good for you.
If you enjoyed this article and want to receive notifications of new content, you can do so by providing your email below. Enjoy simplified gardening, folks.