Lots of people are making the switch to electric mowers. Electric mowers are easier to maintain, more environmentally friendly, and much quieter than traditional mowers. If you’re thinking about getting an electric model, you may have noticed that there are two types: corded and cordless. What are the advantages of each one and which is better for you?
Cordless vs Corded Mowers
Are corded or cordless electric lawnmowers better? A cordless mower is best for most people as the average sized yard in the United States is about 1/4 an acre. However, if you find yourself with a yard much smaller that doesn’t stretch more than 100 feet past the house, a corded mower might work best for you.
Lawn size is the most significant factor in determining which mower to get, but it isn’t the only factor. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both systems?
Corded Lawn Mowers
A corded mower is going to plug directly into an outlet. You’ll want to be sure that you have accessible outdoor outlets or a way to string an extension cord from outside. Corded mowers are more reliably powered, weigh less, and cost less than their cordless counterparts. That power cable can really get in the way though. Let’s break it down.
Corded mowers are ideal if you have a small yard that’s easily within reach of an outlet. If you’ve got a small enough yard to accommodate a corded mower, they have a lot of advantages, including the following
- A constant, reliable power supply
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Lower cost
Constant Power Supply
A corded mower is always ready to go when you are. There’s no charging necessary; you don’t even need to have gas in the tank. Simply plug in and start mowing.
Not only do you always have power available but you also always have enough power. Corded mowers tend to have an easier time dealing with especially thick or tall grass because there’s a steady stream of electricity to power the motor. If your mower is running, you know it’s running at full power.
Never needing to worry about battery charge is a major luxury over cordless models.
Corded mowers are light! With no big gas engine or bulky battery to weight the mower down, you are going to zoom across the lawn.
Less weight means that the mower is easier to push, easier to handle, and easier to transport. With a corded mower, mowing may begin to feel more like going for a pleasant stroll around the yard than an actual chore. Say goodbye to aching shoulders, a tight back, and tired legs.
No battery might make your mower lighter, but it’s going to keep your wallet heavier. A power cable is significantly less costly than a big, powerful battery. You’ll save somewhere in the ballpark of two to three hundred dollars by using a corded mower. To put it another way, corded mowers are generally about half the cost of a cordless mower.
The disadvantages of a corded mower all revolve around that pesky cord. Being physically tethered can make mowing more complicated in a number of different ways, such as
- Limited range
- Difficulty navigating obstacles and getting tangled up
- Making sure you don’t run over or damage the cord
With a corded mower, you can only reach as far as your cable will allow you to go. Now you may be thinking, “Well, that’s easy. I can just get a massive extension cord and then I’ll be able to go as far as I need to.” Unfortunately, not the case. Anything longer than about 100 feet will limit the amount of power to the mower because of the electrical resistance from the wire.
If you can’t reach the edges of your yard with a 100-foot extension cord from an outlet, you may be out of luck. Having multiple outdoor outlets may give you added range. Ideally, you’d have one in the front and one in the back.
If you’ve got a small enough yard, this isn’t going to be an issue, but if your yard is too large a corded mower simply may not be possible for you.
If you’ve ever gotten a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around a table or chair, you can imagine trying to manage your mower cable as you navigate around trees, rocks, a swing set, a shed, and whatever else you’ve got in the middle of your lawn. If you aren’t careful, you can even get tangled up in your legs.
As you get used to the corded mower, you’ll learn to keep track of where obstacles are and where your cord is in relation to them. Don’t wrap around something without wrapping back and always keep clear lawn between you and the outlet.
Speaking of obstacles, you’re not going to need to be more cognizant of any obstacle more than the cord itself. Running over the cord could ruin mower or potentially cause injury. You’ll also have to be careful not to get the cord tangled around your own legs.
One trick to keeping the cord away from your blade and free of your feet is to hold a small bit of cord up by the handle, allowing it to spool off to one side of you. Switch hands every time you turn the mower around and step over the cable. That way, you can always keep the cable facing towards the house, free of the blade and away from your feet.
Mowing with a cord does take some getting used to, and a lot of people steer away from corded mowers because of it, but once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t anything to be concerned with.
Cordless Lawn Mowers
A cordless mower avoids many of the difficulties of corded mowers. Cordless mowers use a battery to stay powered as you buzz across the yard. There are a wide range of batteries and a few important things to pay attention to.
Mower batteries typically come in 40- to 80-volt ratings, with some being slightly more or less. The higher the voltage, the higher the power. Battery runtime is determined by amp hours. The higher the amp hours, the longer the mower will run off a single charge.
Batteries come in two types: sealed lead-acid and lithium-ion. Sealed lead-acid batteries are durable and affordable. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter, cheaper, have longer lifespans, and don’t decrease in power as the charge decreases. Make sure you select a mower with a battery suitable to your needs.
Overall, cordless mowers give you increased range over corded mowers. You won’t ever have to worry about getting wrapped around a tree either. However, cordless mowers come with their own drawbacks, mostly revolving around the need to keep a battery charged and ready to go.
Cordless mowers offer the benefits of an electric mower with an experience far more similar to that of a gas-powered lawnmower. If you don’t want to worry about running over your own wire, cordless is the way to go. Cordless mowers offer these advantages
- Increased range
- Added mobility
- Familiar experience
Going with a cordless mower means that you won’t be leashed to the side of your house. Feel free to roam wherever the grass needs trimming. If you need to cut grass that is further than 100 feet from an outlet, a cordless mower is the way to go.
Cordless mowers are ideal for medium-sized yards. If your yard is too massive, you’ll have a hard time getting enough juice out of your battery to get the job done. However, you can still get out a lot farther than a corded mower. I always recommend having a spare battery on hand, then you should never have to worry about runtime.
Without a cord to get tangled around trees, bushes, and your own legs—you’re going to feel agile and mobile. Never worry about which direction the outlet is or how you need to approach obstacles in the yard. Cordless is also safer for you and for your mower as there’s no chance of accidently hitting the cord with the blade.
Mowing with a cordless electric mower feels essentially the same as mowing with a gas mower. You don’t need to learn any new techniques for cord management or learn to view your lawn as a series of obstacles that you need to maneuver a cable around. You simply mow the way you’ve always mowed. Just charge up a battery instead of filling up a tank.
The ease of use can make a cordless mower much more attractive to someone making the switch to an electric lawnmower.
Cordless electric mowers are the more popular of the two styles, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Cordless has some distinct disadvantages as compared to the corded style. These disadvantages are
- Increased maintenance
- Limited run time
- Heavier weight
- Higher cost
The cordless mower requires a greater degree of preparation and maintenance compared to corded models. If you don’t have a battery charged and ready to go, you aren’t mowing. You’ll have to wait at least an hour or two before the battery is ready to go (and maybe much more depending on the battery).
You’ll also need to replace the battery every five years or so. Batteries wear down over time as they charge and drain over and over and start to lose the ability to hold a charge. If you notice that your mower struggles to get very far, even on a fully charged battery it may be time to swap out the battery.
One way to avoid battery issues is to keep a spare battery on hand and regularly rotate between the two. Splitting the load between two batteries can also help to extend the overall life of the batteries as you won’t be relying on a single battery to carry the entire power burden.
Many cordless mowers will come with a second battery in the box, but you may need to order or purchase a second individually. This is one of the preferable ways to avoid battery charging issues.
While a corded mower will operate at full power as long as it’s plugged in, a cordless mower is limited in how long it can run on a single charge. If your battery runs out halfway through a mow, you’ll need to charge up before you can finish. This can be very frustrating and may cause you to invest more time in a single mow than you’d really like to.
Depending on the size of your lawn and the size of your battery, it may not even be possible to do the entire lawn off a single charge. The easiest way to increase run time is to have a second battery available and charged up before you mow. That way, if you run out of juice halfway through a mow, you can stick the fresh battery into the mower and the drained battery onto the charger.
Also, pay attention to the amp hours on your battery. The higher the amp hours, the longer you’ll be able to run.
Make sure you’ve got two big batteries and plan ahead. You’ll be ready to mow the whole lawn every time.
Batteries are heavy. The addition of a battery adds significantly to the overall weight of the mower. The bigger and better the battery, the heavier it will be. A heavier mower is harder to push and maneuver.
One way to save on weight without compromising on battery length is to make sure to get lithium-ion batteries. They are much lighter than sealed lead acid batteries with the same battery length.
Due to their popularity and the addition of expensive batteries, cordless mowers are much pricier than corded batteries. Cordless mowers are generally about double the cost of comparable corded models.
Why Not a Gas-Powered Lawnmower?
An electric mower sounds well and good, but a gas mower is familiar and commonplace. Is there really a compelling reason to choose cordless or corded over a good, old-fashioned gas mower? While gas mowers have some distinct advantages, especially in larger yards, there are other areas where they simply don’t stack up. For more info on this topic see Electric Vs Gas Lawn Mowers.
Gas mowers are classic. You’ve likely used one before and know how they work. Gas mowers mostly excel in their ability to chop through thick grass over large spaces.
- Run for a long time off a single tank of gas
- Increased power
If you’ve got a big lawn, a gas mower may be your own viable option. Gas mowers can handle much larger yards. You’ll only have to fill up occasionally as a tank of gas goes a long way. Electric mowers still haven’t gotten to the point where they’re ideal for handling large areas that need to be mowed.
Gas mowers also have an easier time with thick or tall grass. There’s a greater amount of power that comes with a gas engine than you can get from an electric power source. Simply put, the blade swings harder and is, therefore, better able to deal with overgrown sections of lawn.
Other than the greatly increased run time and added power, there aren’t many advantages of gas-powered mowers. Here are some of the reasons to avoid gas and go electric.
- Engine maintenance
- Pull-cord start
Gas mowers have an engine and it is noisy. The sound of a gas mower can be deafening. This lowers your situational awareness while your mowing, can be damaging to your ears, and is generally unpleasant for you and your neighbors. Electric mowers are nearly silent by comparison and don’t require any kind of ear protection while mowing.
Just like your car, the engine on your lawn mower will need regular maintenance: oil changes, belt replacements—the whole works. Electric mowers require significantly less costly upkeep.
Starting a gas mower is a pain. You need to prime the engine and then yank the cord hard enough or enough times to get the engine to turn over. This may seem like a little thing, but you’ll be amazed by how luxurious it feels to start your mower with the push of a button.
Gas mowers, like anything else powered by gasoline release carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By switching to an electric mower, you’ll be decreasing your carbon footprint and keeping the air cleaner.
Corded and cordless each have their own distinct advantages. Corded mowers are ideal for smaller yards because of their continuous power supply and lighter weight but get held back (literally) by the need to be tethered to an outlet.
Cordless mowers work best in medium-sized yards because they can move further away from the house and can easily maneuver around obstacles.
Gas mowers may be the only option for larger yards (1 acre or more) as they can go for longer on a single tank. However, gas mowers are loud polluters that require far more maintenance.
Ultimately the decision on which is best for you depends on your lawn and your preferences. All you have to do is decide which way you’re going to go. Don’t take too long though; the grass won’t stop growing while you mull it over.
Interested in the best options in cordless and corded mowers? Be sure to check out our recommended mowers page.