Push mowers vs ride on mowers

man riding bobcat

Before you get to a certain brand and individual features, you first need to decide if you need a ride on or a push mower. This will be determined by the size and terrain of your lawn, obstacles to mow around (eg. trees, gardens), and maybe also your budget and personal preference. Let’s go through your options and give you a rundown on the benefits and things to consider with each.

Which mower is right for your property? Find out everything you need to know before you start. Get your free guide now.

Push Mowers

Also know as walk behind mowers or rotary mowers, these are better for smaller lawns, ½ acre or under (unless you love the exercise). Push mowers can be petrol-powered, electric (plug-in or cordless) and manual.

Petrol powered


  • Lots of power
  • Wide cutting width
  • Long runtime
  • Reasonably manoeuverable around obstacles
  • Handles thick and longish grass with ease
  • Can attach mulching or bagging add-ons deal with clippings


  • Cost more to run (although not a huge cost) than other push mowers
  • Need the right fuel for optimum performance (follow manufacturer's requirements)
  • Require maintenance (eg, regular oil, air filter and spark plug changes)
  • Can be messy
  • Noisy



  • Quieter than petrol mowers
  • Cheaper to operate
  • No emissions (but they do consume energy so they’re not 100% ‘eco-friendly’)
  • Can be corded or cordless
  • Cordless mowers can mow any distance (as long as the battery lasts)
  • Batteries for cordless mowers are sometimes interchangeable with other power equipment from the same manufacturer
  • Can attach mulching or bagging add-ons deal with clippings


  • Cordless mowers need a back up battery or you could run out of juice before finishing the job; charging time ranges from 30mins to 3 hours depending on the type of battery
  • Corded mowers have limited reach (if using an extension cord, follow the manufacturer's specifications and safety tips)
  • Not suitable for hilly terrain
  • Smaller mow width than petrol powered
  • Not as powerful as petrol if you have long grass

Manual reel mowers

These are reasonably cheap to buy and virtually cost-free to run and maintain (aside from the occasional blade sharpening). They’re also eco-friendly with zero emissions. However, they’re only suitable for small, flat lawns under 50 square metres. Because they need a bit of speed to activate the blades properly, you need a small amount of fitness. Most don’t come with bagging or mulching attachment options and they can really struggle with long grass so you need to mow more often.

Self-propelled mowers

Both petrol and electric mowers also comes as self-propelled versions. This doesn’t mean they do the work for you but they will give you that extra push over bigger areas and/or hillier terrain. They will either be single or variable-speed (which means you can set your own pace). The also come in front-wheel drive (FWD) for level terrain, rear-wheel drive (RWD) has more traction at the centre of the mower to help you mow hilly terrain more easily, and all-wheel drive (AWD) offers the a bit of both.

Field and brush mowers

These are seriously heavy duty mowers built to cut down and chop up tough, springy, hardwood saplings as well as long field grass, tough weeds and dense brush. Field and brush mowers are good for places such as overgrown properties or mowing in orchards and vineyards.

Trimmer mowers

These are also designed to mow long grass and weeds but in tricky spots like up against a fence line, around trees, edges or in orchards, for example. They have around 6x more power than a standard commercial brushcutter so it does the job much faster and easier.

Rotary vs reel

Both ride on and push mowers can vary in the way they cut.

Rotary mowers have a blade (some sometimes there are a few blades) that spins horizontally at very high speeds, chopping the grass on impact. These mowers work best on a medium to high cut.

Cylinder or reel mowers work a bit like scissors. The blades (of which there can be many) are exposed at the front of the mower and spin vertically trapping and slicing the blades against a fixed bottom plate. The more blades the better the cut. Reel mowers are designed for precision mowing of very short grass. This means frequent mowing to get that pristine cut. Golf greens are a good example of a reel mower’s finish.

Ride On Mowers

Ride on mowers are best suited for large lawns, however, if speed of mowing is your key driver, you could go for this option even with a medium size lawn. As a guide, if it takes you more than two hours to mow your lawn with a push mower, you need a ride on. Ride on mowers come in three main types – lawn and garden tractors (which are very similar) and zero-turn mowers.

Lawn and garden tractors


  • Familiar, easy steering wheel operation
  • Work well for lawns from 1/2 acre to 2 acres or more
  • Powerful engine
  • Fast mowing
  • Very wide cutting deck so it covers more ground with every sweep
  • Excellent hill mowing capabilities

Garden tractor specific benefits

  • More powerful engine and transmission
  • Slightly larger cutting deck
  • Very versatile, accepts a larger variety of attachments than a lawn tractor (eg, chipper, tiller, earth-moving blades)
  • Suitable for hauling
  • Very heavy duty
  • Locking differentials for better traction (garden tractor)


  • Not great for getting in or around tight spots
  • Sizeable initial investment (compared to push mower)
  • Requires regular servicing and care
  • Lawn tractors are mainly used for mowing only
  • Greater power and heavier weight means it can damage wet lawns

Zero turn mowers


  • Incredible speed (up to 13km/h) halves mowing time
  • Uses less fuel
  • Crisper cut
  • Better mulching
  • Ideal for large flat lawns with obstacles to mow around (eg, trees, gardens, ponds)
  • Cuts in close to edges
  • Front caster wheels pivot at sharp angles


  • Some are not suited for hilly terrain as can lose traction easily if the slope is moderate and/or slippery.
  • Controlled by lap bars or lever which can take getting used to, although most owners will be able to drive with ease within around 1 hour of use.
  • Sizeable initial investment (compared to push mower)
  • Requires regular servicing and care
  • Greater power and heavier weight means it can damage wet lawns

If you’re in the process of deciding what kind of mower is right for your property, download our free guide for more info.

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