Whether pushed or self propelled, gasoline-powered lawn mowers have long been the traditional go-to for lawn care. But robotic lawn mowers, easy to use and battery operated, have become more and more popular in recent years.
Very few people enjoy mowing the lawn, and even fewer have the time and motivation to keep up with the constant maintenance of an engine-powered lawn mower, as well as the upkeep required for a gorgeous lawn. It can be a big relief to purchase a robotic lawn mower, program it, set a mowing schedule, and let it run on its own, taking the responsibility off your shoulders.
What are Robotic Lawn Mowers?
Robotic lawn mowers are autonomous machines that mow your lawn without human interaction. They have self learning programing that allows them to cover your entire yard on their own. Most models come with custom smartphone apps to easily adjust settings and mowing schedules. Once programmed, these robots need almost no human interaction.
You can think of robotic lawn mowers like Roombas, but for your lawn. Both Roombas and robotic lawn mowers fit into the category of “autonomous robots”. These are intelligent machines, capable of performing tasks by themselves, without constant human control. Once set up and programmed, these robots won’t need to be constantly supervised, or controlled via remote.
How Do They Work?
Using a robotic lawn mower requires the owner to set up border wire to define the area that needs to be mowed. Think of it like the electric wire fence some dog owners use. The border wire establishes where the robotic lawn mower can go, preventing it from mowing your flowerbeds or escaping your lawn. This wire is low-voltage, making it safe for humans and pets. And, depending on the size, shape, and landscape of your property, it’ll take about half a day to set up the wires.
The border wire will also guide the robot back to the charging dock when their job is done. Robotic lawn mowers are battery-operated, and most can mow the average-sized lawn on a single charge. To charge their batteries, the robots require a charging station, which will need to be plugged into a power outlet outside the house.
How Much Do They Cost?
Most models range from $1,000 to $4,000. This may seem expensive, especially for such a small piece of machinery, but the cost is due to the technology the robot uses. If you’re willing to give up some of the fancier features, you can choose one of the cheaper models, starting at $500.
Robotic lawn mowers use Lithium-Ion batteries, which last an average of 2-3 hours, or around 300 to 500 charges. The battery life will vary from model to model and can change depending on how well you take care of the robot. If you do need to replace the battery, the average cost is about $50. The price of a battery will vary depending on the brand you use, but they shouldn’t be much more expensive than that.
To prevent having to constantly replace the battery, you can opt to purchase a docking station. The average cost of a dock is about $100, but some models of robotic lawn mowers come with a docking station, included in the standard price.
Although you can easily keep your robotic lawn mower and charging dock outside, many users chose to purchase or build a little structure to provide shelter, like a dog house. If you want to cut the cost of making or buying a shelter, you can easily keep the robot and docking station in your own garage.
You also have to consider the indirect cost of the electricity it’ll take to charge your robot. Charging will increase your electricity usage and drive up your monthly electricity bill. The cost of electricity varies from area to area, so it’s impossible to give a general cost for this extra charge. But the typical mower only takes about 3.5 watts to recharge, so the cost won’t be too high.
After the initial purchase, a robotic lawn mower should only cost about $25 a year in costs, including annual maintenance.
Pros and Cons
Robotic lawn mowers are self-docking, meaning there is little need for human interaction. Most models come with custom apps, making it easy to adjust settings, schedule mowing times and frequency, and check on your lawn from anywhere, using your smartphone.
All models come with sensors, allowing them to automatically mow around obstacles, like a Roomba vacuum. Many models also have rain sensors, which allow the robot to return to its docking station and turn off when it starts to rain. Sophisticated safety measures have been programmed into each model, making it safe to use around children and pets.
Most models are capable of maintaining 320,000 square feet, at least a fourth of an acre, on a single charge. This is plenty of charge for most lawns. Because the robots are programmed to keep an even cut, the grass of your lawn won’t suffer a too-short, scorching cut. This means that robotic lawn mowers can keep your lawn much greener than an engine-powered mower can.
Robotic lawn mowers require little need for human supervision and interaction. Most models are self-docking and come with custom apps, making it easy to adjust settings, schedule mowing times and frequency, and check on the status of your lawn from anywhere, using your smartphone.
These small robots are more eco-friendly, too, because they don’t require oil or gasoline to run. They’re much quieter, which means mowing your lawn will be less disruptive for your family and neighbors.
Sophisticated safety measures have been programmed into each model, making it safe to use around children and pets. Robotic lawn mowers are arguably much safer to use, due to blade guards and extensive safety programming.
Robotic lawn mowers can only cut in a designated area, so you have to be very particular with where you place the border wire. The robot can’t move past the border wire, so if there is a part of your lawn cut off by the border wire, the robot won’t mow there. On the other hand, if you forget to cut off access to your flowerbeds, your robot will mow them down. The need for a border wire makes it impractical to use one robot on multiple properties: whereas it’s simple to pack up an engine-powered mower and take it to mow a neighbor’s lawn, it takes more preparation to use a robotic lawn mower.
Some tests show that robotic lawn mowers don’t cut as well as engine-powered lawn mowers. Because the blades can only cut certain measures of grass, it can require the robot to mow more often.
Robotic lawn mowers can’t stripe a lawn. This is because robotic lawn mowers use a “random” mowing system; they bounce around the lawn like a pinball, hitting the boundary of the border wire and changing directions, keeping an even cut across the lawn.
The Bosch manufacturer’s “Indego” model creates a map and uses a systematic mowing system, but doesn’t create the striping pattern. At some point, there may be a robotic lawn mower that can produce an eye-catching striping pattern. This is a cosmetic problem, not a problem with the programming or the equipment itself.
Although robotic lawn mowers require very little human interaction, you may need to rescue your robot more often than you’d think. Robotic lawn mowers can get caught on obstacles in your lawn, as well as getting stuck in holes. Most models can’t handle steep hills, either.
Of course, the advantages and disadvantages will vary depending on the model.
Safety: There is a minuscule chance of harm to children and pets. Robotic lawn mowers are programmed with extensive safety measures. The blades will automatically stop if the mower is picked up; in addition, blade guards keep curious children’s fingers safe. Robotic mowers are also programmed to stop when they meet another object, stopping the blades until the mower can maneuver around the obstacle.
Theft Prevention: Most robotic mowers require a PIN code to prevent theft– the robot will only work if the PIN is entered, whether directly into the programming or on the app. Some models have a custom app for your smartphone, where you have the option to set an alarm, which is triggered when the mower is picked up. You’ll have to enter the PIN to turn off the alarm. The same app will let you track your mower’s location.
Rain: Robotic mowers can work in the rain, but cutting the grass when it is wet is unhealthy for your lawn. Wet grass can clog the mower, leaving behind clumps of grass clippings on your lawn. Wet grass is also slippery, which can cause the mower to slip and cause damage to the lawn, or the robot itself. Most manufacturers recommend docking the mower when it rains and continuing to mow after the grass has dried.
Longevity: Depending on the type of grass and other circumstantial conditions, most robotic lawn mowers will last 10 years. If properly maintained, the robot may have a much longer lifespan.
Best Robotic Lawn Mowers
Below are just a few of the options you have for robotic lawn mowers. There are also new versions coming out every year with newly invented options. However, the choices we have listed below are all great options today, for many different budgets and needs.
Husqvarna Automower 430XH Robotic Lawn Mower
The Husqvarna 430XH is proven quality, as Husqvarna is one of the top names in the robotic lawn mower business. This model will cover up to .8 of an acre yards. For every 145 minutes of use, it will have to charge for approximately 50 minutes.
What I like about the 430XH (and a few other Husqvarna models) is that you can control the mower from your smartphone, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home devices, as well as set up mowing schedules. The downside of this mower is the price tag that comes in a little high. But, for the person who wants top of the line, this is it.
Available on Amazon
Redback MowRo Rm24
The Redback MowRo Rm24 is perhaps the most affordable. It’s easy to set up and program, with plenty of safety features, including a blade guard and safety sensors. It can handle a 30-degree slope, which is better than most other models. This model is perfect for small lawns: it can mow 1/4 of an acre on one charge of its 28-volt battery. It mows once every 48 hours.
Some customers have complained of the build quality of the plastic, so if you are looking to save money, just know that it comes at the cost of quality parts.
Available on Amazon
WORX WR150 Landroid L
The WORX WR150 mower can handle yards much larger than the Redback model, up to half an acre on a single charge. This model is more technological than others, with an app for your phone that lets you check the mower’s progress and create a custom mowing schedule, choosing to cut every day, every other day, or whenever you decide. This model can even recommend a schedule based on the size and conditions of your lawn. However, this model will not run in the rain, even though its cover is waterproof.
This model maneuvers obstacles well, and can get out of tight spots on its own. Out of the models on this list, it has a much more precise cut. Although it maneuvers well, it can get stuck in thick grass; some users reported that the model takes a while to learn to navigate the yard and needs to be supervised for the first few runs. Other users have also reported difficulties installing the boundary wire.
This model is considerably more expensive than the previous one on the list, but if you want to upgrade, this may be the mower for you.
Available on Amazon
Husqvarna Automower 115H
If you want the Husqvarna name, but don’t want to go all out for the 430XH, then the Husqvarna Automower 115H would be perfect. You get the quality from the top line brand, and a more affordable price (still not cheap).
This option comes with many of the same smart features that other smart mowers come with. The downside to this mower is that it needs to charge for 60 minutes for every 60 minutes it runs. If you have a smaller yard and want a high quality robotic lawn mower, this is the one I would get.
Available on Amazon
If you don’t enjoy mowing your lawn, then a robotic lawn mower is the most cost effective way to deal with cutting the grass. They are good for the environment, quiet, low maintenance, and after the initial cost, cheaper than any other options.
If you enjoy mowing the lawn, then a cordless electric lawn mower is probably a better option. There are many that come in under $1000 and also are quiet and great for the environment. Be sure to check out our recommended mowers page for the best electric mowers on the market.