Once the go-to choice for lawnmowing, reel mowers’ silent operation, zero emissions and easy use means they’re enjoying a comeback. So if you want to get in on the action, which one do you choose?
Read on for our review of seven of the best reel mowers out there today. And then check out our buying guide to help you pick the one that’s right or you.
Quick Glance: The Best Reel Mower on the Market
The Best Reel Mower Reviews 2021
1. Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower (Our Top Recommended)
The StaySharp Max from well-known garden tool manufacturers Fiskars has a range of excellent features.
First up is the 18 inch cutting width. That’s generous for a reel mower, and the inset wheels allow you to cut right to the edges.
You can cut your grass anywhere from one to four inches, and selecting the height is easy. Just use the lever to raise or lower the cutting deck. You’ll only need one hand to do it.
It’s lightweight and easy to maneuver. If you gave up on old-fashioned reel mowers years ago, you’ll be amazed at the improved mowing experience.
Fiskars say the design means it’s 60 per cent easier to push than other reel mowers. We’ve no idea how they’ve come up with that figure – but there’s no denying this glides cleanly over the grass.
The reason for that is the clever chain-drive design. That’s a big improvement over mowers that use plastic gears. The gearing ratio is good too – you’ll be able to get those blades spinning even at a gentle walking pace.
The heavier blades also mean there’s less friction as you’re cutting. And unlike some other reel mowers, they don’t come into contact with the central reel. As well as keeping the mower moving forward smoothly, that also means the blades stay sharper for longer.
The handle is adjustable, so it’s comfortable to use for people of different heights. And maintenance is very easy. You won’t have to adjust the blades more than once every three months or so. And when you do, it’s the work of just a few minutes.
We think this is a brilliant mower, but there are a few things to bear in mind.
The first is that it doesn’t work well on longer grass. Anything over six inches tall will be hard work – so hard, in fact, you may need to use a different mower altogether. So if you don’t plan to mow regularly during the growing season, this may not be the best option.
And while you’ll get a nice, clean cut, it won’t get every blade of grass. If you want a perfect finish, be prepared to go over your lawn twice.
There’s no collection basket here either, so you’ll need to rake up your cuttings afterwards.
All in all, though, this is a quality reel mower. And if you’ve got a garden with a steep slope, it will handle it with ease.
What I Like
- Generous 18 inch cutting width
- Heavy, friction-free blades stay sharper for longer
- Chain-drive design makes this very easy to maneuver – even on hills
What I Don’t Like
- Doesn’t cope well with longer grass
- No collection basket
2. Great States Hand Reel Push Lawn Mower (Budget Pick)
American manufacturers Great States produce a range of reel mowers, but one of our favorites is the 204-14.
This uses four blades to give a cutting width of 14 inches. The height is adjustable too, from 1.75 inches all the way down to a manicured half an inch.
The blades are made of alloy steel. They’re heat treated to help them stay sharper for longer. There are only four of them though. They won’t power through thicker grasses the way reel mowers with six or seven blades can.
One of the best things about this mower is the quality of its wheels. They’re 8.5 inches in diameter, making it easy to maneuver the machine, even on bumpier terrain. And they’re hard-wearing too. If you have to cross concrete or paving to get to your lawn, they’ll stand up to the challenge well.
The handle is t-shaped, and the cushioned grip makes it comfortable to hold.
That handle is the one bit of the mower that requires a little assembly. It comes in three parts, and they’re easy enough to put together.
The manual suggests making up the handle completely before attaching it to the mower. We found, though, that it’s easier to join together the top two parts, then attach the bottom section to the mower. The top two sections will then attach to the bottom, and the whole thing is less fiddly.
As with other reel mowers, the scissor action of the blades here give a noticeably clean cut. And your grass will be healthier as a result.
The downside is that you will need to go over your lawn a couple of times. Some grass will miss the blades the first time around.
This mower will cope well with longer grass – as long as it’s fine. But if you have woody stems or debris, you’ll find you need to stop and remove them from the blades. And there’s no collection basket here, so be prepared for a bit of raking.
What I Like
- Adjustable cutting height goes as low as half an inch
- Hard wearing wheels
- Comfortable grip on handle
What I Don’t Like
- You’ll need to stop and remove any woody stems from the blades
- No collection basket
3. Gardena Silent Push Reel Lawn Mower
Great for those with a smaller lawn, this reel mower from Gardena offers a 12 inch cutting width and variable cutting heights. The handle can also be folded down, making it very compact for storage.
Cutting is friction-free, as the fixed blades and rotating cylinder never come into contact with each other. The blades will stay sharp for ages, and the mower will move smoothly over the grass.
The cutting cylinder is made of toughened steel, while the blades are ground steel. The cylinder has a non-stick coating too, keeping the grass moving through the mower, even when it’s damp.
There are five blades here, and the distance between them is narrow. That means fewer opportunities for grass to sneak through the gaps. And you’ll get a good, sharp cut, without any of the bruising that can encourage pests and disease.
This is another mower with a good set of wheels. They’re large enough to keep it steady on bumpy surfaces, and there’s an effective non-slip tread.
You’ll need to do a bit of assembly, but it’s very simple. And the whole mower weighs in at only 16 pounds, so it’s easy to push around.
So is there anything not to like?
Well, we’ve heard some complaints that the blades here don’t work particularly well with finer grasses. And take care with the adjustable cutting height. The maximum is 1.65 inches – very similar to other reel mowers – but the minimum is very low. Take care, or you can easily scalp your lawn.
Overall then, if you’re looking for a clean cut on a small lawn, this one is worth a look.
What I Like
- Five blades provide a sharp, clean cut
- Handle folds down for compact storage
- Good quality wheels mean it’s easy to maneuver over uneven surfaces
What I Don’t Like
- Take care mowing at lower cutting heights – it’s easy to scalp your lawn
- Blades aren’t the best with finer grass
4. Scotts Ultra Cut Reel Lawn Mower
This is another mower from Scotts that aims to eliminate contact between the reel and cutter bar. The result is a machine that’s easy to maneuver, and where wear and tear on the cutting edges is minimized.
A grass chute at the front keeps the cuttings away from your feet as you mow. You won’t have to spend ages dusting yourself off before you head back inside!
There are five blades here, and they’re good and sharp. Be warned though: you may find that finer grass bends rather than being sliced off. Be prepared to give your lawn a few passes if you want a precise finish.
The cutting width here is 18 inches and there are no fewer than nine different cutting heights to choose from. Start with the maximum three inches for your first cut of the season. Then take it all the way down to the minimum of an inch after a few cuts.
The reel and blades are made of tempered steel, so they’re strong and resilient.
The handle is a V-shape that’s designed to be comfortable and easy to hold. And it’s covered in foam padding. We’ve heard that foam tended to peel away on earlier Scotts models – but no complaints with this one so far.
There’s no grass collection basket here. Scotts do make another reel mower with a 20 inch cutting width which has a basket included. Check that one out if you want to avoid some raking!
What I Like
- Five sharp blades for a precision cut
- Grass chute helps keep cuttings away from your feet and legs
- Choice of nine different cutting heights
What I Don’t Like
- Tends to miss finer blades of grass
- No grass collection basket.
5. Greenworks Reel Lawn Mower
This reel mower from Greenworks combines a 16 inch cutting width with a rear collection bag. If you want to collect cuttings for mulching, or just don’t want to spend ages raking them up, it could be a great choice.
The wheels here are extra large – 10 inches in diameter. And there are another two rollers at the back. The combination makes this mower exceptionally easy to maneuver.
You can choose from four different cutting heights. The maximum is 2.25 inches, while the minimum is 1.125 inches.
The mower comes with an impressive four year warranty. And Greenworks have a commitment to zero carbon emissions from their production processes. So if environment credentials are important to you, this is well worth moving to the top of your shortlist.
You’ll need to do a bit of assembly before the first use. It’s easy to do, and shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. And you won’t need any tools for the task.
So what are the negatives?
It’s worth bearing in mind that these mowers aren’t designed to cut larger lawns. So while you’ll get a grass collection basket here, it isn’t huge. For our money, though, it’s still an enormous improvement on having to rake up your cuttings.
It isn’t the quietest reel mower on this list either. The blades make a whirring noise as you cut, in contrast to other mowers that are all but silent. It’s still much quieter than a gas mower though, and you’re unlikely to disturb your neighbors with early morning mowing.
And while this might not be the quietest kid on the block, it’s among the most effective. Few weeds or grasses will escape these blades.
What I Like
- Clean cut through most weeds and grasses
- Rear collection bag
- Four year warranty
What I Don’t Like
- Not the quietest
- The collection basket could be bigger.
6. American Lawn Mower Company Push Reel Lawn Mower
This four blade mower from the American Lawn Mower Company is a good all-rounder.
It has a 14 inch cutting deck, and adjustable cutting height from one to 1.75 inches. Choose your preferred height using a simple lever near the wheels.
The reel is made of tempered steel, so it’s good and strong. The wheels are composite and 8.5 inches in diameter, and there’s a rear roller bar too. They’ll keep the mower moving smoothly over your lawn.
You’ll need to do a bit of assembly to fix the handle together and attach it to the mower. It’s easy as pie – just three bolts and two small clips to put in place – and you won’t need any tools. Expect to be done and dusted in about ten minutes.
When it comes to mowing, this is very lightweight and simple to use. Just be prepared to stop and pull out any sticks that get caught in the blades. The mower won’t work again until you do. An easy way to do it is to use your foot to reverse the blades. Most of the time those pesky sticks will just drop out.
Tougher grasses – crabgrass and the like – can also be tricky to deal with. If you’re cursed with patches of the stuff in your lawn, try tackling it from different angles. Once the cut has started, the crabgrass will give in – but it will take a bit of effort.
As with most reel mowers, the longer the grass, the more hard work you’ll have to do to cut it. Keep on top of the situation with weekly mowing, and this little mower will give good results.
What I Like
- 8.5 inch wheels and rear roller bar help make this easy to maneuver
- Strong tempered steel reel
- Easy assembly
What I Don’t Like
- Will struggle with coarser grasses
- Even small twigs will stop it in its tracks.
7. Sun Joe Manual Reel Mower with Grass Catcher
Sun Joe’s MJ503M is one of the larger reel mowers to make our list, with a 20 inch cutting width. If you’ve got a slightly bigger lawn, it’s a worthy contender.
There are five blades, and they’ll cut at nine different heights from 1.2 to 2.4 inches. That gives you plenty of versatility throughout the growing season.
It also comes with a grass collection basket. We know we’ve said it before – but we think these things are worth their weight in gold. Who wants to finish mowing the lawn, only to have to spend ages raking up the cuttings? Not us.
Even better, that basket is more generous than many. The 8.5 gallon capacity means you won’t need to stop and empty it every five minutes.
This is a bigger mower than others on our list, and that means it’s heavier too. It weighs in at over 30 pounds. If you’re looking for a lightweight option, other models will suit you better.
It’s also a bit noisier than some other reel mowers. Not as noisy as a gas mower, but definitely not silent.
And the handle isn’t the best. It’s a bit on the flimsy side, and the foam padding is prone to coming away from the metal.
But if you’re looking for a mower able to handle a medium-sized plot, it’s well worth a look. And you won’t have to spend time raking up grass cuttings when you should be relaxing with a cold drink!
What I Like
- 20 inch wide cutting deck
- Choice of nine cutting heights, from 1.2 to 2.4 inches
- 8.5 gallon grass collection basket
What I Don’t Like
- The handle is a bit flimsy
- It’s heavier and noisier than some.
So you’ve looked many reviews, but you’re still not sure which mower to choose. Stand by for our guide to selecting the right model for your needs.
Is a reel mower right for you?
A reel mower is a simple, low-maintenance and environmentally friendly option for mowing your lawn. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you.
All the power here comes from the person doing the pushing. There are some great, lightweight models on our list, but they still require more effort than self-propelled versions. So if physical fitness is an issue, you may be better with a gas or electric mower.
The amount of exertion will also increase the longer your grass gets. If you mow your grass religiously once a week, you’ll have nothing to worry about. But if that’s not realistic, be prepared to have to put in a lot more work with a reel mower. Or borrow someone else’s mower for the first cut.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that you won’t get a perfectly uniform finish after one cut. If that’s what you want, you’ll need to be prepared to go over your lawn twice, or probably more.
But if those disadvantages don’t deter you, a reel mower can be an excellent investment.
They’re easy to store, easy to look after, and easy to use – and even better, your grass will get a clean cut. That means there’ll be no squashed or bruised areas where disease and pests can flourish. You’ll get healthier growth as a result.
And they’re much easier to use than gas or electric mowers if you’ve got a steep slope to contend with.
How big is your lawn?
If you measure your lawn in acres, a reel mower won’t be practical. But there’s still a lot of variation between smaller lawns.
If your area of grass is small and awkwardly shaped, look for a mower with a narrow cutting deck. The narrowest on our list is just 12 inches wide.
And if you need to squeeze between obstacles, don’t forget to measure the full width of the mower. In almost every case, the position of the wheels will add several inches to the overall width. The exception here is the Fiskars StaySharp Max, where inset wheels allow the mower to cut right to its edges.
Conversely, if you’ve got a bigger area, look for options with wider cutting decks – 18 or 20 inches. In that case we’d strongly recommend looking at a mower with a grass collection basket.
Check the capacity of the basket too. We’ve heard of gardeners abandoning theirs because it was more work to keep emptying it than to rake up the cuttings. So look for something big!
What kind of grass do you have?
Is it coarse or fine? Are you plagued with crabgrass, or lucky enough to have a freshly seeded surface?
Not every mower will find fine grass easier to handle than coarse. Finer grass can bend beneath the weight of the blade, popping up again as soon as the mower has passed. We’ve found that’s an issue for the 515-18S mower from Scotts, for example.
On the other hand, mowers with fewer blades will tend to find coarser grass a challenge. If that’s an issue in your garden, look for a model with at least five blades.
When do you mow?
We’ve already learnt that you’ll need to mow regularly to avoid making life difficult for yourself with a reel mower. But it’s also worth considering what time of day you mow.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that reel mowers are quiet – but some are quieter than others. If you mow early in the morning or late at night, a near-silent model will keep your neighbors happy.
The second is that some people find it less easy to see the mowing lines on their first pass. And that can be a particular issue if you’re mowing in bright sunlight.
For an even finish, you’re likely to need at least two passes over your lawn – so seeing where you’ve already cut is a big help! Mowing earlier or later in the day, when there’s some shade, will make it easier to see what you’re doing.
How much maintenance are you prepared to do?
Reel mowers require far less maintenance than gas or even electric mowers. Having said that, they’re not completely maintenance-free.
You may find that you need to sharpen the blades of your mower from time to time. There are kits to help you do this, and it isn’t difficult. But if you want to minimize the effort you expend on this, look for friction-free models.
These are designed so that there’s no contact between the cutting bar and the cylinder. This cuts down wear and tear and significantly increases the time before you’ll need to do any sharpening. The Fiskars, Gardena and Scotts models on our list all have this feature.
Consider assembly and storage
Reel mowers tend to be smaller than gas or electric, so they’re great if you don’t have much storage space. But if you’re really pressed for room, look for options with handles that fold down. The Gardena on our list is a good example.
It’s also worth considering whether you could hang the mower from the wall of your shed. Check out the weight and the shape of the handle to see whether that’s an option.
These are fairly simple machines, so in most cases there’s very little assembly to do. You may have to put a handle together and attach it to the mower, but that’s usually about it.
Even here, though, it’s easy to be caught out by instructions that make life harder than it needs to be. It’s always worth looking at reviews from previous buyers – they’ve often found helpful shortcuts. And look out for estimated assembly times to make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew.
Ready to buy a reel-y great mower?
That brings us to the end of our review of some of the best reel mowers on the market today. We hope we’ve helped you narrow down your search!
Our favorite is the StaySharp Max from Fiskars. The chain-drive design is a cut above most other reel mowers, and you’ll get a great choice of cutting heights.
But if you’re looking to avoid raking up cuttings, the SunJoe MJ502M may be the better choice.
Whatever you decide, you’ll know your grass is getting a healthy cut, and you’re being kind to the environment too. Congratulations on an excellent choice!