News center
Our exceptional lineup of products and services is sure to satisfy even the most discerning customers.

Gas vs. Electric Lawn Mower: Which Is Better?

Dec 20, 2023

Purely on cutting performance and upfront cost, gas is a better bet. But for less maintenance, ease of handling, no emissions, and less noise, go electric.

When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.

While gas tractors still rule for multi-acre lawns, Consumer Reports’ rigorous mower tests reveal you can now find many strong electric competitors. That's because electric walk-behind and riding mowers have improved markedly in performance in recent years, especially in how much ground they can cover on a single charge. We’ve even identified electric zero-turn riding mowers with batteries that are long-lasting enough to mow nearly two acres.

Can we say, then, that electric mowers are now as good as gas mowers? Or maybe even better?

We decided to look at our tests to find out. Before we look at performance, let's consider some key differences:

Maintenance and storage: Gas mower tanks need to be refilled periodically, and the units require seasonal maintenance, including draining or winterizing the fuel; checking or replacing the spark plugs; and changing the oil and filter. Short of occasional blade sharpening, electric mowers are largely maintenance-free, though you can't store the battery in extreme heat or cold. Many electric mowers also can be stored vertically, saving you room in your garage.

Run time: Gas mowers are unbeatable in this arena. As long as there's fuel, your mower can keep on going. But our tests show that two-thirds of the electric walk-behind mowers in our ratings should be able to mow the average-sized American lawn—a quarter-acre—on one charge. And because batteries continue to improve, you can find several electric zero-turn riding mowers that can cut more than an acre of grass on a single charge, and a couple with run times of nearly 2 hours, enough to mow nearly two acres of grass.

Find eco-friendly products and smart strategies for a green home.

Environmental and noise concerns: Many communities—plus the state of California—are effectively banning gas outdoor power tools to curb the air and noise pollution they generate. If you live in one of these communities, the decision to go electric may have already been made for you. If you’re simply sick of your gas mower's smell and din—or your mowing noise disturbs nearby neighbors—an electric mower offers a solution. They do make considerable noise, but they handily beat out their gas competitors in those tests.

Cost: There's a decent argument to be made that electric walk-behind mowers, both push and self-propelled, are cheaper to own in the long run than gas mowers when annual maintenance and gas prices are taken into account. We found that to be true when comparing lower- and average-cost electric and gas models. But electric models are still generally more pricey upfront. And prices for electric mowers could in fact increase in the near future, according to Courtney Pennicooke, the CR market analyst who covers outdoor power equipment, due in part to higher demand for these products when California's zero-emissions mandate rolls out next year.

Batteries: Charging the power source before every use—and replacing it every few years—aren't issues for gas mower and tractor owners. With an electric mower, you’ll need to do both. Charge times are improving to less than an hour and a half for most batteries in CR's lawn mower and tractor ratings. That's still not an insignificant time, so you need to factor that in when planning your mowing.

Batteries for electric mowers are getting better and lasting longer, but replacing them—at $100 to $300 and sometimes more—still adds to the cost of operation. "The added benefit, though, is that most manufacturers offer other tools that can share that battery," says Misha Kollontai, the CR engineer who heads mower and tractor testing. "You’re getting multiple benefits from the same battery."

Most manufacturers sell those compatible tools on their own, without the batteries and chargers—and their associated costs, Kollontai adds.

Every February our testers head down to Florida, where we put that year's crop of new lawn mowers to the test on 500,000 square feet of grass at our testing grounds. We test each mower for how well it handles mulching, side discharging, and bagging (collecting 3,000 pounds of clippings in the process). We also see how each mower handles varied terrain by running it over slopes and ditches as well as level ground. And we assess its convenience features.

Then we combine the results of our field testing with CR members’ feedback on reliability and owner satisfaction from our annual member surveys. This data enables us to arrive at the Overall Score you’ll find in our ratings.

For this article, our engineers took years’ worth of lawn mower testing data to build a tool that allows us to compare scores from dozens of models, both gas and electric. We compared average scores for gas and electric walk-behind mowers in performance tests of cutting evenness, side discharging, mulching, bagging, and handling. The scores have a numeric value from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). We also looked at charge times and cut times for every electric model, and across electric models in general.

One thing to note: Averages can be misleading because they include outliers that are either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Bell curves show where a majority of models of each type fall in terms of performance. Keep in mind that we devised this head-to-head to compare models across categories. In your own yard, the only thing that matters is the performance of the specific mower you choose. For that reason, we’ve included some top-rated models of each type at the bottom of this article. Here's how they compared in our tests, and which came out on top:

Our evenness of cut score reflects how close a mower comes to leaving behind an even, carpetlike surface on your lawn.

Which is better? Gas mowers score ahead of electric for even cutting, with an average of 4.7 to electric's 4.4. As a group, all gas mowers we tested scored in the top half of our scale. (The lowest evenness score for a gas mower was still a solid 3.5.) Electrics fell into a broader range (from 5 down to 2). The takeaway: There are plenty of electric mowers that match the best gas models when it comes to even cutting (just over half of the electric mowers we tested earned an excellent score in this regard), but the odds of selecting a random gas mower that gives a precise cut is much higher.

CR recommends leaving your mown grass clippings on your lawn to fertilize it. We look at how far and how evenly those clippings are dispersed from the guide chute.

Which is better? No winner. Scores for side discharging are pretty close to neck-and-neck, though several electrics in our tests did miserably enough on this test to bring down an otherwise solid average. The lion's share of both types ended up in the top tier in this test.

Grass clippings are good. Grass clumps are not. Our mulching test reflects how fine the clippings are after cutting, and how well the mower distributes them over the lawn's surface.

Which is better? Gas, by a sliver, with an average score of 4.6 vs. 4.3 for electric. As with cutting evenness, the bulk of electrics scored in the 4 range, with some under-performers scoring as low as 2. But all of the gas mowers we tested ranked at least at a 4.

If you prefer to bag your clippings, you’ll want a mower that fills its bag to the max so that you don't have to empty it as often. Our test measures how much the bag held before it was filled completely or the chute clogged.

Which is better? Gas edges out the electrics here, too, with a few models attaining a score of 4.9 against the electrics’ top score of 4.3. But for both types, the truth lies mostly in the middle: The bulk of models of both types settle in the area of "good," ranging from 2.8 to 3.5 for electrics and 3 to 3.8 for gas.

This judgment includes ease of operating drive controls (on self-propelled models), pushing and pulling, making U-turns, and maneuvering the mower in tight spots.

Which is better? Electric takes the lead in ease of handling, with an average score of 4.5 to gas mower's 3.9. There were also some real dogs in the gas group when it came to handling, with the lowest score coming in at just 1.9. No electric mower scored lower than 3.3 in handling.

We measure mower noise at the ear and at 25 feet away to represent a neighbor's exposure. Models scoring fair or poor in our tests exceeded 85 decibels at the ear, a measure at which hearing protection is recommended. Unlike the other scores, the noise score runs from .5 to 5.5.

Which is better? If you value your hearing and neighborhood tranquility, you’ll switch to electric at the speed of sound. Here we find the biggest spread between average scores: 5.1 for electric against—wait for it—2.4 for gas when measured at the ear. The gas models that were noisiest scored 1 (poor) against the noisiest electric models, which scored 3.3 (good).

The story is even more compelling at a distance of 25 feet, with an average score of 5.4 for electrics and 3 for gas models. The quietest gas model scored 4.2 to the quietest electric's 5.5, and the noisiest gas scored 1.6 to the noisiest electric's score of 4.9, meaning the noisiest electric mower surpassed the quietest gas model by 0.7 point.

Purely on cutting performance, gas walk-behind mowers slightly outmatch electrics. And pricewise, you’re more apt to find a great gas machine for a lower upfront cost.

But when it comes to factors including noise, smell, maneuverability, and ease of maintenance, electric mowers have the advantage. Over the long term, models at lower and average prices also can be more cost-effective than gas, even more so if fuel prices rise and batteries continue getting better and cheaper. And if the environment is important to you, this type of mower is the only way to go.

These two Honda mowers, a push and a self-propelled model, are recommended by Consumer Reports for their solid overall performance.

Both of these battery-powered mowers have earned the CR Green Choice designation. That means they have a lower environmental impact than other battery mowers and tractors based on their energy usage, rechargeability, deck size, noise production, and other factors.

Tobie Stanger

Tobie Stanger is a senior editor at Consumer Reports, where she has been helping readers shop wisely, save money, and avoid scams for more than 30 years. Most recently, her home- and shopping-related beats have included appliance and grocery stores, generators, homeowners and flood insurance, humidifiers, lawn mowers, and luggage—she also covers home improvement products like flooring, roofing, and siding. During off-hours, she works on her own fixer-upper and gets her hands dirty in the garden. Follow her on Twitter @TobieStanger.

Maintenance and storage: Run time: Environmental and noise concerns: Cost: Batteries: Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? Which is better? s