which lawn mowerTrying to work out which lawn mower to buy can be a bit of a pain.

Should I choose a rotary mower or a cylinder mower are just some of the questions you might have.

To add to the confusion, is the large variety available to choose from which certainly doesn’t help.

Don’t worry, help is at hand to clear up some of the confusing features of grass mowers. I have done an in-depth article about these two cutting mechanisms to help you determine which mower would suit your particular needs best.

You’ll find 3 helpful lists at the foot of this page.

Rotary Lawn Mower and Cylinder Mower Confusion

Many people who are new to buying grass mowers are being confused with certain issues. They want to know basic things like the difference between a rotary mower and a cylinder mower.

I believe this is due to the word “rotary”. Both blade types rotate yes, although they rotate on a different plane. Let me try and clear up the confusion.

The cylinder Mowers

The cylinder mower has a series of blades attached to a horizontal shaft. Gears on two large wheels at the front of the mower turn the shaft. There is generally a roller at the rear which keeps the machine stable.

They can cut the grass using electric power
They can cut the grass using petrol power
They can cut the grass using battery power
They can cut the grass using man power

The early powered cylinder lawn mowers were mainly petrol as used by professionals. Then the arrival of the mains powered electric versions became available for the more affluent.

Although both of these versions are very well built and made to last, they are not cheap.

The Rotary Mowers

The rotary mower has a vertical drive shaft to which the cutter blade is attached. This spins the blade in a parallel plane to the lawn.

They can cut the grass using electric power
They can cut the grass using petrol power
They can cut the grass using battery power

Notice the elimination of the ability of using “man power” in the rotary version.

The rotary lawn mowers can cope better with situations when stones and twigs from trees stray onto the lawn than the cylinder versions can. Read more about the various rotary models available at the link above.

They simply hoover them up or throw them to the side, sometimes in a dangerous fashion. Not so with a cylinder mower, where the stone or twig can jam or offset the blades which is a bit of a chore to re-set them.

The rotary and cylinder mowers can also be broken down into other categories.

Hand push lawn mowers


Self propelled mowers.


Petrol driven


Electric driven.

We go into these other options below.

Rotary and Cylinder Hand Lawn Mower Options

cylinder mowerThe push lawn mower, or what is often referred to as the hand lawn mower is a mower that is pushed along the lawn by hand. Meaning, that it doesn’t use petrol, electric or batteries to drive it along the lawn.

There is an abundance of this type of mower to choose from. Which is good news for you if you feel that the push mower is for you. Mostly the cylinder type, although there are a variety of rotary versions available too.

Just as the choices are many so too are the prices which range from £30 to around £170 for the cylinder push versions. The VonHaus 30cm manual cylinder being the cheapest. And the Fiskars 113880 momentum mower being the most expensive of these versions. These are example prices found on the Amazon shopping site at the time of writing this article.

The push rotary mowers are available in both electric as well as petrol. Electric push models as you would imagine will be lighter to push than the petrol engine versions. They are also cheaper with prices starting at around £60. Petrol push rotary mowers can start at around the £120 – £130 mark.

rotary lawn mowerThe push lawn mower is fine when the job can be completed in just a few minutes. And the grass isn’t very long. Self propelled rotary lawn mowers make more sense for those with a larger area of lawn to cut. As well as the occasions when the grass has got out of hand.

Incidentally, the cheapest self propelled petrol lawn mowers can sometimes be just as affordable as some of the dearest push cylinder models. Just a point to bear in mind in your quest to discover which lawn mower to buy.

Another version of push mower I suppose, is the hover mower. These are the easiest to push since they ride on a cushion of air making them very light to handle.

Flymo are still the main name in the hover mower division with a lot of versions to choose from. Sovereign, Draper and Qualcast are other options that are available.

Self Propelled Cylinder Lawn Mowers

self propelled cylinder lawn mowerSelf propelled cylinder mowers are expensive and used mainly by professionals and those who really take a pride in their lawns.

If you come under any of the above categories then you have the choice of electric or petrol models to choose from.

That being said, options are pretty thin on the ground but quality is the norm with these machines.

Push versions are available which certainly will keep the costs to a minimum. Pushing these is not as big a problem as you might imagine providing, as mentioned earlier, a keen gardener. Users of these mowers will generally mow their lawns more frequently, meaning easier cuts.

Petrol and Electric Rotary Lawn Mowers

This group of mowers provides by far the largest selection to the gardener, be it the home gardener or professional. Although you will find that electric rotary lawn mowers are in the main push versions.

Not to big a problem since they are fairly lightweight and meant for quickly running over a regularly maintained lawn.

Bosch Rotak 43 liElectric can cover battery powered as well as mains powered. Battery powered mowers as with a lot of power tools today have become very popular. No doubt mainly due to the improvements in battery technology.

A range of wattage power is available as is the width of cutting to choose from in the mains electric models. The same applies to the range of cordless rotary mowers.

The Lithium-ion batteries are the newer versions and much preferred. The higher the voltage rating of these the more power and longer lasting they will be.

The best cordless lawn mower certainly as far as user reviews go, is the Bosch Rotak 43 LI Ergoflex. This has proven to be a very popular model with gardeners. My review of that mower you can read at the link above.

The Best Self Propelled Lawn Mower

Without a doubt, the best self propelled lawn mowers especially so for the larger gardens are the petrol models. They are capable of tackling most jobs, within reason, that you throw at them.

I have had situations where uncultivated ground has become overgrown with tall grass and tough weeds. Knowing that there were no protruding stones in the area I have taken everything down to the same level as the surrounding lawn.

Lowering the cutting deck in stages was all that was required for this beast to turn a jungle into something more acceptable. It has often saved me from having to pull out my petrol strimmer to do the job. Plus having to rake up all the cuttings afterwards.

Go Anywhere Mower, but Not for Everyone

self propelled rotary lawn mowerAlthough not the choice of everyone, self propelled petrol lawn mowers have always been my preference. They can go anywhere without being shackled to a cable. They will work all day long and take a lot more abuse than anything else out there.

Engines are generally 4 stroke these days. Which mean fuel and petrol are added separately as opposed to the 2 stroke engines where fuel and oil were mixed together. Maintenance is easy and can be performed by the user at home with no problems.

All that it involves is keeping an eye on the oil level throughout the cutting season and a bit of maintenance at the end of the season. An oil change, filter cleaning, spark plug check and an undercarriage clean are all that’s required.

Which Lawn Mower for Small Lawns

Depending on your outlook having a small garden is a blessing for many people for all sorts of reasons. Others who are keener would love to have a larger area which they could work and spend more time in.

The amount of free time available is probably the main reason people either appreciate the smaller garden or wished it was bigger. Retirement is a perfect example of this when so many people start to enjoy gardening now that they have more time on their hands. Providing that is, they have no health problems in which case the opposite might be true.

Having a small garden is not the only reason people will want to know which lawn mower for small lawns would suit them best. Many larger gardens may only have a small area of grass. Perhaps used as a drying green or for young children to play in.

Either a hand push cylinder mower or an electric rotary push mower will be all you would need for maintaining small lawns. These would be the cheapest options if buying new. Although if you have a powered version anyway then they could still be used.

best small lawn mowerOr even treat yourself to a battery powered rotary push mower. This will save you having to hook up to the electric mains system and pulling out extension leads. Going one stage further with the battery idea you might want to consider a Robotic lawn mower.

As we touched on at the beginning of this section of the article, not everyone has the time or the inclination for caring for their garden lawns no matter how small. The Robotic mower might just be the best small lawn mower for them.

7 Reasons Why a Rotary Mower Is Better Than a Cylinder Mower

  1. Rotary mowers in general use a single blade sharpened at both ends which is less prone to damage. Small stones and twigs are simply thrown to the side or into the grass catcher bag. These same items can snag and off-set the blade settings on a cylinder mower.
  2. Sharpening the single rotary blade can be done easily by yourself. Whereas cylinder blades need to be taken to a lawn mower maintenance store and set up on a jig for grinding.
  3. Rotary mowers are ideal for taller grass and weeds. Anything over 6 to 8 inches is simply going to be flattened with a reel mower. While a rotary mower will actually cut it down with a few height adjustments.
  4. It takes less time to mow a lawn using a rotary mower. Which means you have more time to do what you desire.
  5. You’ll expend less energy with a rotary mower. You’ll still have the energy to go fishing, shopping, have that barbecue or whatever you desire.
  6. Rotary blades will mow closer to walls and edges of flower beds meaning less need for edging afterwards.
  7. You can find rotary mowers that are ride-on versions and suitable for the larger gardens. These are ideal for anyone who is handicapped or physically challenged.

7 Benefits of the Cylinder Lawn Mower

  1. The fact that the cylinder mower uses a scissor like cutting motion will no doubt provide a healthier cut than what the rotary mower can provide.
  2. You just need to look at the finish on sports areas and parks etc. These grassed areas cared for by professionals have a first class finish provided by a cylinder mower. The regularly mowed greens on golf courses for example by the greenkeepers are always in beautiful pristine condition.
  3. The cylinder hand lawn mower is more environmentally friendly. No pollution from petrol engines or electric power generated from non-green methods.
  4. No further running costs such as paying for petrol or electricity.
  5. Enjoy a workout? There are those who prefer the experience of pushing their mower. Back to nature if you like.
  6. Safety should always be a factor to consider when using any sort of tool. There is less chance of an injury with the cylinder than with a powered version. You only need to be aware of the sharp blades of the cylinder at the front of the machine. With the powered version, you need to respect using petrol, touching hot engines and ovoid running over live cables.
  7. Experience a more peaceful sound from push style cylinder mowers. The harsh sound of a petrol engine and the speedy whirr from electric motorized machines are not as relaxing as the snip, snip, from cylinder push mowers.

Which Lawn Mower Have You Chosen?

which lawn mower do i needAs you can see both the rotary and cylinder mowers have their own plus points as well as the negatives. Of course much will depend on personal preferences of the user. This and the type of grass you have, amount of lawn, the type of finish you prefer, time limitations and terrain such as slopes.

Also take into consideration the likelihood of twigs falling from overhead trees. Plus the possibility of stones thrown onto the lawn by small children. Take into account the need for access to fuel or electrical power.

Now that you understand the differences and are aware of which lawn mower has the main benefits that will suit your needs best you can begin your search for that perfect mower.

I have attached a list below of the rotary mowers and cylinder mowers available as well as their suggested use.

Cylinder Mowers Available

  1. Cylinder hand push mower – for small to medium sized lawns, wide selection available, inexpensive and expensive models depending on your preference.
  2. Electric cylinder push mower – for small to medium sized lawns, not a great selection, gives an excellent finish but can be more expensive.
  3. Electric cylinder self propelled mower – suitable for most lawn sizes, easy to use, not a great selection, gives an excellent finish, will pay extra for these drive versions.
  4. Petrol cylinder self propelled mower – suitable for most lawn sizes, easy to use, not a great selection, gives an excellent professional finish, large models are expensive.

Rotary Mowers Available

  1. Electric rotary push mower – for small to medium lawns, good selection to choose from, least expensive of the rotary models.
  2. Electric rotary self propelled mower – for most lawn sizes, needs long extension leads for long gardens, more expensive, poor selection to choose from.
  3. Petrol rotary push mower – for small to medium lawns, good selection, more expensive than electric, go anywhere mower.
  4. Petrol rotary self propelled mower – for medium and larger lawns, suitable for professional use, good selection, great workhorses, tackle most jobs, go anywhere mower, pay more for these driven models.
  5. Petrol ride on rotary mower – for the largest lawns and professional use, most expensive.

Other Types

Hover mower – for small to medium lawns, easy to manoeuvre, good selection.

Petrol Hover mower – for larger grassed areas, not a lot to choose from, heavy to move around although transport wheel kits are available, expensive.

Robotic Lawnmower – battery powered, for small to medium lawns, easy use, bit expensive.

Filed under: Rotary Lawn Mowers