Petrol lawn mowers
Buying a petrol lawn mower online
Petrol lawn mowers are more powerful than electric mowers, can make much lighter work of a large lawn and give you a better finish at the same time.
Choosing the right lawn mower will save you time and frustration
The additional power of a petrol lawn mower can make them the better choice for most mid sized and bigger lawns. In this guide we explain what to consider when buying a petrol lawnmower, the pros and cons of each choice and reviews of websites where you can buy petrol lawn mowers. Choosing the right lawn mower will save you time and frustration, so we'll also explain when you might want to consider an electric lawn mower or a larger ride on mower.
- Choosing a petrol mower
- Types of petrol mowers
- Rotary petrol mowers
- Cylinder petrol mowers
- Hover petrol mowers
- Lawn size & mowing width
- Cutting height & lawn finish
- Things to consider
- Rear rollers & striped lawn
- Cheapest petrol mower?
- Where to buy?
Choosing a petrol lawn mower
A rotary petrol mower
The same considerations apply to choosing a petrol lawn mower as to electric lawn mowers or manual ones, the main factors are the size of your lawn and the finish you require.
What size lawn do you have? Light, manoeuvrable lawn mowers are suited to small lawns while larger lawns will need a more substantial mower with a wider mowing width and more powerful engine. Choosing the right sized mower for your lawn will save you time and frustration.
What finish do you require? If you have an uneven lawn or a utility lawn which sees considerable use over the year you'll want a mower with higher cutting settings which leaves grass slightly longer.
Show lawns requiring a fine finish need a lawn mower that cuts the grass much shorter and you'll probably want a cylinder mower for a clean cut and a rear roller to flatten the grass and create perfect stripes.
Additional factors such as a grass collection box, electric or pull cord ignition, maintenance and so on should also be considered but getting the right mower for your lawn size and required finish are key.
There are 3 types of petrol lawn mowers - rotary, cylinder and hover. The names refer to the way they cut grass, but broadly speaking each mower type is suitable for a particular type of lawn.
Types of petrol mower
There are rotary, cylinder and hover petrol mowers, each suitable for a different type of lawn.
Rotary petrol mowers
Rotary petrol lawn mowers are particularly suited for most family utility lawns that see a lot of use and lawns which are uneven. Since most lawns fit into this category you'll find the vast majority of petrol lawn mowers are rotary mowers.
Rotary petrol mowers move on four wheels and are good for medium to large lawns. They are less manoeuvrable than hover mowers making them less suitable for small lawns or lawns with many intricately shaped edges.
Rotary blades rotate like a fan and spin parallel to the ground
Rotary mowers get their name from the movement of their blades which is very much like a fan rotating parallel to the ground. The cutting action results in a slightly more untidy cut than cylinder mowers but to most gardeners this difference is irrelevant and normally unnoticeable, especially if games like football are being played on the lawn.
A lot of petrol rotary mowers are available with a rear roller so a striped lawn is still easily achievable. However, the nature of the cut and the high cutting settings make rotary mowers less suitable for a very fine finish.
Almost all rotary petrol mowers have adjustable cutting heights with this feature missing from only the cheapest models.
The cutting height range on a rotary mower is normally 25mm to 100mm (1" to 4") compared to an average range of 6mm to 40mm (1/8 to 1.5 inches) on cylinder mowers.
Because the range they cut to is higher than cylinder mowers, rotary mowers are much more suitable for utility lawns (where the grass should be left longer) and for lawns where the ground is not bowling green flat.
In the UK Mountfield, Atco Admiral, Atco Viscount are leading brands. Compare petrol rotary mower prices in our shop section.
Cylinder petrol mowers
Cylinder petrol mowers are for those wanting the perfect lawn with a fine finish and Wimbledon stripes. They are available in widths to suit any lawn but aren't suitable for everyone.
Rotating cylinder shaped blades
Cylinder mowers get their name from their set of rotating cylinder shaped blades that roll forward and cut the grass between two blades in a scissor-like action. This action creates a cleaner cut than a rotary mower resulting in a neater lawn.
They're often used by professional green/lawn keepers on golf courses and tennis courts and give a better striped effect as the grass is always cut in the same direction and they have a heavy rear roller.
Professional cylinder mower
Cylinder mowers have adjustable cutting heights like rotary mowers but the ranges are much shorter. An average cylinder mower will have a height adjustment range of about 6mm to 40mm (1/8" to 1.5") compared to an average range of 25mm to 100mm (1" to 4") for rotary mowers. The shorter and neater cut makes cylinder mowers suitable for high quality lawns requiring a fine finish but makes them less suited to lawns that require longer grass and lawns which are uneven as they're likely to ground.
There are far fewer cylinder petrol mowers to choose from than there are rotary ones and fewer manufacturers. The main brands are Atco Balmoral, Atco Club, Atco Royale, Masport, Lawnflite, Mountfield and Qualcast. You can browse petrol cylinder mower prices in our shop section.
Hover petrol mowers
Hover mowers use a rotary blade but get their name because their rotary blades create a cushion of air that lifts them off the ground much like a hovercraft. No wheels and the cushion of air allow the mower to be moved from side to side making them ideal for small lawns and complicated shaped borders.
Because they cut grass in the same way as rotary mowers, hover mowers also leave a slightly untidier finish than cylinder mowers. They have variable cutting heights normally ranging from 10mm to 40mm (1/2" - 2"), putting them between the low cylinder mowers and high rotary mowers.
There isn't a wide selection of petrol hover mowers but they are available. The vast majority of hover mowers are electric mowers.
Compare petrol hover mower prices in our shop section.
Lawn size and mowing width
Lawn size is the biggest consideration when buying any lawn mower. It affects your choice of cutting width, power and whether to buy a self propelled or push mower.
The mowing width of a mower is the width of one stripe of mowed lawn. Choosing a width which is too narrow will result in you spending a lot of time going up and down your lawn. However, bigger is not necessarily better as trying to manoeuvre a very large mower around a small lawn is awkward and frustrating.
The product description for a mower usually has a recommended lawn size it is suitable for. These tend to be given in square metres (m2), acres, or in relation to the size of a tennis court; to give a rough idea, one tennis court is about 640m2 or 1/6 acre.
When you know the rough size of your lawn, bare in mind that the stated lawn size far a mower is often the maximum; if you find your lawn is close to the maximum you might want to consider a larger mower.
Cutting widths for rotary mowers range from around 40cm (16") to 53cm (21"). However, cylinder mowers range from as narrow as 35cm (13") up to 75cm (30").
Lawn size will also affect how much power your lawn mower will need but it's useful to have a rough guide to lawn size and a suitable mowing width:
|Lawn size||Mowing width|
|Less than 1/2 tennis court||40cm - 45cm (16" - 18")|
|Up to 2 tennis courts||50cm - 55cm (20" - 22")|
|2-4 tennis courts||52cm+ with more power (21"+)|
|More than 4 tennis courts||Consider a ride on mower or lawn tractor|
Cutting height and finish
How long or short you mow your lawn depends on what finish you want and how you use your lawn.
Almost all petrol lawnmowers come with adjustable cutting heights. Given in millimetres, these represent the length they cut the grass to; a typical range would be 20mm to100mm (1" to 4") but these vary depending on whether it's a rotary, cylinder or hover mower.
Rotary petrol mowers have the longest settings and a typical rotary mower will have a cutting height which can be adjusted from 25mm to 100mm (1" to 4"). These are ideal for family utility lawns as the longer grass recovers better from heavy use and the high cutting height prevents the mower from grounding on bumps in the lawn.
A longer cut is also better for low maintenance lawns. Generally speaking you shouldn't cut more than a third off your grass in one mow. Since grass doesn't grow any slower if you cut it short, a shorter lawn means you need to cut it more often - up to 3 times a week in summer to maintain a very fine finish.
Cylinder mowers are intended to create a fine finish and have much lower cutting heights than rotary mowers. A typical cylinder mower can be adjusted from 5mm to 40mm (1/4" to 1.5"). To keep a healthy lawn at lengths as short as 10mm means you need to mow your lawn very regularly. Cutting at such low heights doesn't give your mower much clearance so you'll need a smooth lawn and probably one which gets rolled.
Hover mowers have ranges slightly higher than cylinder mowers, typically between 10mm and 50mm (1/2" to 2") and can handle all but the most uneven lawn.
As well as choosing the right range of cutting heights, you also want a mower with a mowing height that is easily adjusted because grass should be cut to different lengths throughout the year.
Grass should be cut slightly longer in colder months when it doesn't re-grow as quickly, and be cut shorter over summer. The exception to this is in drought when leaving your grass longer will help it retain moisture. If you've let your grass grow particularly long over winter, the first cut of the year should also be high.
Things to consider
Petrol engine power is stated in horsepower and is typically between two and seven horsepower, the higher the number the more power.
You'll find that once you've chosen the right type of mower and cutting width, the range of powers available is narrowed down for you as larger mowers naturally need a more powerful engine.
Once you've decided on the mowing width and type of mower you need, buying one with more power will make mowing quicker and easier - especially for large lawns.
Self-propelled mowers use engine power to not only cut the grass but to move the mower forward as well. Most large mowers are self-propelled as they can weigh over 50kg (8 stone) and are much too large to be pushed.
Websites will clearly say in the product title or description if a mower is self-propelled. Even if you're buying a smaller petrol mower, a self propelled one will make mowing easier and faster.
Some of the larger cylinder mowers have an optional seat attachment which turns a self-propelled lawn mower into a ride on mower.
Grass Collection Box
Mowers can come with or without grass box attachments to collect the grass clippings. Without a grass box the clippings will need to be collected. These days you can also get "Mulching lawnmowers" that chop the grass into fine bits that can be left on your lawn to be processed by worms, returning nutrients to the soil.
An attached rear grass box for collecting the cut grass
Grass boxes save time as you don't have to clear the grass clippings after mowing. If your lawn hasn't been cut for a while a grass box can fill up quickly but even with regular emptying they're less hassle than raking up cuttings. Their sizes are stated in litres and range from 40 litre on smaller mowers up to 80 litres on some of the largest.
Almost all rotary and cylinder petrol mowers come with grass collection boxes, but none of the petrol hover mowers do. If you need a hover mower with a collection box, there are electric hover mowers that have them.
Petrol lawn mowers are going to need filling with petrol and oil. On the older 2-stroke engines you need to mix petrol and oil in a ratio of 25 to 1 (but this can vary so do read your manual) before filling your mower. These days most petrol mowers on the market are 4-stroke and have a separate oil sump so you no longer need to mix your petrol and oil.
This might sound obvious, but petrol mowers will need filling with petrol!
Some models will list having a throttle which is used to control the speed of the blades. Many models have fixed operational speeds which is said to improve the life of the mower by preventing over revving of the engine.
The engine on a petrol mower is usually started with a pull cord. Starting the mower with a pull cord can get more difficult as your mower gets older. Most size of mower is available with an electric ignition but normally on the more expensive models.
If you don't want to pull a cord to start your petrol mower look out for electrical ignition
Rear rollers and striped lawns
The striped lawn effect is achieved when light reflects differently off grass mowed in different directions. The effect is caused by the rear roller of a mower flattening the grass as it's mowed forcing to all lie in one direction.
Petrol mowers tend to be nice and heavy so you are more likely to get a nice striped effect because they flatten the grass more. Make sure you buy a model with a rear roller and stay away from the Hover models as although some have rollers, the effect is not as good. Cylinder mowers are said to give the best striped effect because the cylinder blades cut the grass blades in the same direction.
Cheapest petrol lawn mowers
Petrol mowers are heavy, cost more to buy, cost more to run, are noisier and less environmentally friendly so don't buy one if any of these reasons put you off. You may want to consider reading our electric lawnmower buying guide.
Where to buy petrol lawn mowers
These products have been popular with our community. If you are the thorough type, browse and compare all Petrol Mowers from loads of different merchants.
Atco Admiral 16 S Self Propelled Rear Roller Lawnmower
£398.99 at Mow Direct
Atco Royale 20 E Petrol Cylinder Lawn Mower (With Manufacturer's Pdi)
£2,399.00 at Mow Direct
Mc Culloch Titanium M46 500 Cdr Self Propelled Petrol Rear Roller Lawnmower
£299.00 at Mow Direct
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