Are electric mowers worth it?

Retailers are pushing electric mowers hard so far this year. When I walked into Home Depot at the beginning of March, I saw more electrics on display than gas-powered mowers. Even Harbor Freight, of all places, has two electric mowers on prominent display. But are electric mowers worth it? Let’s look whether a gas or electric mower makes more sense.

If you’re in the market for a mower anyway, an electric mower makes a ton of sense because it’s cheaper to operate than a gas mower. If you have a working gas mower, the numbers are murkier but electric may still make sense.

Gas or Electric mower?

Gas or Electric mower - are electric mowers worth it?
Are electric mowers worth it? An electric mower costs about $160 a year less to operate. So if you’re trying to decide between a gas or electric mower, keep in mind the electric mower pays for itself in 2-3 years.

Let’s look at the economics of a gas or electric mower first, because that’s what it takes to figure out if electric mowers are worth it.

The cost of operating a gas mower

For me, a cut needs about $2.50 worth of gas to accomplish.

We mow our lawn a minimum of 26 times a year. But a more typical number is probably closer to 40. Anymore, the mowing season starts in mid-March at the latest, and extends into mid-November, if not a bit later. And there are some months when cutting once a week doesn’t get the job done.

Realistically, we probably spend $200 a year on gas to mow our lawn. With electric, we’d spend $20 on power.

What about hidden costs? I spend about $5 a year on oil, $5 a year on Marvel Mystery Oil so I don’t have to get the mower serviced every single year, and $5 on a spark plug. Then there’s the cost of 20 trips to the gas station but we have a hybrid and probably fuel it up anyway while we’re there, so we won’t count that.

About every other year we have to get the mower serviced. The work it needs varies, and it depends whether it happens at the start of the year or the middle of the year. But it’s a hassle and it costs about $50 each time. Call it $25 a year.

So the cost of running a gas mower every year is about $240.

The cost of operating an electric mower

The cost of electricity is harder to estimate, but the estimates I found said 38 cents. Let’s round it up to 50 cents a cut. So that’s $20 a year if we cut the grass 40 times.

The electric mower has a hidden cost. Batteries don’t last forever. The batteries have a 3-year warranty. Let’s assume a battery lasts about 4 years if they warranty it for 3. So that’s $62.50 a year to keep batteries in it.

That works out to $82.50 a year to operate an electric mower. The mower itself should be nearly zero maintenance since it doesn’t need oil changes and doesn’t have a carburetor to gum up. Until it dies at least.

The mower itself should last about 10 years. I’m happy if I can keep a gas mower working that long, even getting it serviced every other year. Call that a wash.

So the electric mower saves you about $160 a year.

Cost of an electric mower vs a gas mower

You can get a gas mower for less than $150. You don’t want it. Those are throwaway units that last 1-2 seasons. You can fix them, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it for a featureless, low-power mower with only a side discharge. Any gas mower worth having costs between $200 and $300. Or if you want to pay more to get a nicer one, you can.

You probably don’t want any electric mower that costs less than $200. Those models have 13- or 16-inch decks, compared to the standard 19-21 inches. That means you have to make three passes with that mower for every two passes you’d make with a standard mower. It’ll take 30% longer to cut your grass. You may be able to live with it if you have a small yard, but most people can’t.

The electric mower you want probably costs around $399, minimum. And you can pay more to get more features, more power, or longer runtimes. A $399 mower comes with a $250 battery with about a 45-minute runtime. If it takes more than 45 minutes to cut your grass, you have to decide whether to step up to a more expensive mower that either has a bigger battery or a more efficient motor to get more runtime, or supplement the $399 mower with an additional battery.

Of course, if you’re not happy with a $399 electric, you won’t be too happy with a $200 gas mower either. You’ll be stepping up to a beefier gas mower, spending more on gas, or both.

In the first year, the gas mower is about $40 cheaper, since the mower costs half as much. But the electric mower pays for itself in year two. That means electric mowers are worth it if you’re buying new. Very much so.

Is it worth it to upgrade to an electric mower?

If you have a gas mower and it works, or you can get it working again for 50 bucks, the economics are a little tougher. It’ll take about 3 years for the electric mower to pay for itself. If the gas mower has any resale value, maybe that will help you pay for the electric a bit sooner.

If my gas mower wasn’t very old, I’d be inclined to hang onto it. Our gas mower is old.

Then again, the electric mower will pay for itself right around the time the gas mower was going to start to give you trouble. That’s compelling.

In many cases at least, upgrading to an electric mower is worth it.

Gas or Electric mower for quality of life

The other question is quality of life when it comes to a gas or electric mower. Gas mowers are a hassle. I complained to a lawnmower mechanic that I bought a Toro that was billed as guaranteed to start, and three years later it would barely run. “No one likes their lawnmowers,” he said.

My coworker bought an electric mower last year. He knew I do some DIY stuff so he asked if Ryobi mowers would be OK. I said their power tools are pretty good and they have a very nice selection of yard tools. So he bought a Ryobi mower. He raved about it. Nobody raves about lawnmowers. Except people who own electrics. From the research I’ve done, EGO mowers seem to be the very best, but customer satisfaction with Ryobi is really high too.

With gas mowers, there’s always a spring ritual. You get the mower out, put gas and oil in it, and struggle to start it. Until the weather warms up and it’s used to running again, it takes 10-12 pulls to get the stupid thing started. Then there’s keeping gas in it. How often are you in the middle of a cut, run out of gas, and realize the can is empty? Then you’re off to the gas station. Then, at the end of the season, you have to winterize it.

With electric mowers, they start when you push a button. You charge the battery when you’re done. And every once in a while you need to balance and sharpen the blade, or replace it. That’s something you have to do with a gas mower too.

The up front cost for an electric mower is higher, admittedly. For a lot of people, $399 is a not insignificant amount of money. But if you can afford it, in the long run, an electric mower is worth it. The economics totally make sense.

3 thoughts on “Are electric mowers worth it?

  • March 15, 2021 at 7:34 am
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    If you have a small lawn, one of the old school corded electric mowers may make sense. Even less maintenance, as there are no batteries to wear out, and the mowers themselves don’t break. About all you ever need to do it sharpen the blade once in a while. But it’s really a viable option for small city yards; the cord gets to be too much of a pain if you need more than 50 feet of it.

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  • March 16, 2021 at 11:30 am
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    This is definitely a good idea for those with a small yard and an outside outlet. I’ve been using an electric corded mower for years, and it pretty much needs no maintenance outside cleaning and blade sharpening that you’d need to do on any other mower. There isn’t really much to go wrong, as it’s really just power up to a switch and then down to the motor, with no circuit boards or additional parts to get damaged and nothing but the motor to wear out.

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  • March 24, 2021 at 1:52 am
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    I had one like that but unfortunately it seem to be the only model to be made out of metal! So after loaning it to a neighbor I got back a rusted piece of bolts. If anyone is disabled like me and has severe back problems I suggest what I purchased to replace that. I got a 40volt ryobi 20” self propelled mower. I love it! Had it 2yr now. With Home Depot credit card you can get no interest for a time frame but also you get 365 day to return items. I also got a weed eater that’s a power head was cheaper than buying an extra battery. The mower folds super small. The handle folds in half then it folds up against the mower and can sit upright like on its rear and take up limited space. It has led headlights so I can mow n the dark and is super quiet so it won’t bother anyone. One shocking plus is the mulching option is just as good as a bagged option but better for the lawn. You literally can’t tell it wasn’t bagged. And ollies sells a blower similar to one Lowe’s carries for 79.99 but cost 9.99! It attaches to power head. I found a cultivator, edger, and extra weed eater attachment used for 45.00. I do have a small yard but the 2 batteries is plenty to use self propelled and has cruise control. Cleans off super easy. I do use lubricant and I messed up a blade hit something like concrete it sharpened right out but replacement blade is 20.00 from Home Depot. Found these on special and so glad I purchased them. It’s so easy even without self propelled option. I’m 45 but have spine fracture and rupture discs and have no issues with maneuvering this mower: hope this helps

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