Self-Propelled vs Push Mower – Differences + Choice Guide

Mowing lawn grass is an important part of maintenance to keep the turf thick and healthy. Using the right type of mower is also essential in performing the task. Fortunately, there are several options to choose when buying a mower. Some are self-propelled while other require your muscle to push. So, what is the difference between a self-propelled and a push mower?

The main difference between self-propelled vs push mower is mechanical design. Self-propelled mowers are equipped with a gearbox to propel the mower forward when engaged. It reduce the amount of effort required by the operator. With a push mower, the motor only spins the cutting blade.

Self-propelled vs Push Mower – What’s the difference?

Self-propelled mowers differs from push mowers in terms of mechanical design, cost, speed, engine power, weight, and maintenance cost.

Self-Propelled Lawn MowerPush Lawn Mower           
Equipped with a clutch and gearbox system that effortlessly propels the mower without need to pushEquipped with a motor or small engine that only propels the cutting blade thus require to be pushed manually
Has a large engine that produce massive power which makes both moving and cutting off grass to be easyThe motor is or engine produces little power mainly for cutting grass
Moves faster thus able to cut grass on large area within short period of timeSince it has to be pushed the moving speed is low and only suitable to mowing grass in small lawns
Usually a heavy equipment due to its large engineUsually lighter to make it easy for pushing
Expensive to acquire and maintainUsually less expensive to acquire and maintain

Mechanical Design

This is the main difference between self-propelled and push mower. Self-propelled mowers are fitted with a gear both on either rear or front wheels. When engaged, it propels itself forward. The operator only uses little energy to guide it.

On the other hand, a push mower is fitted with a motor to propel the blade alone. It does not contain a clutch system. Therefore, all movement both forward and backwards require pushing and pulling by the operator. Therefore, it’s more labor intensive in comparison to a self-propelled mower.

Cost of the Mower

Self-propelled mowers are more expensive compared to push mowers. They are expensive due to their massive amount of power. For instance, a self-propelled mower can cost up to $859 on amazon in 2022. The price vary depending on brand.

With push mowers, the prize is a little bit friendly. The reel mowers are the most inexpensive, it cost $96 or less. On the other hand motorized push mower can cost up $256.

Speed of the Mower

Self-propelled mowers have a higher speed as compared to push mowers. They can move at a speed of 3 to 3½ miles per hours. Some models are fitted with a throttle on the handle that is used to regulate the speed. With Push mowers, speed depends on how fast the operator will push.

Engine Power

Self-propelled mowers have a large engine with more power and versatility. It propel the cutting blade as well as the wheels. While a push mower is designed with a simple motor that propel the cutting blade alone. The engine is not connected to the wheels, it depends on the operators muscles to move.


Self-propelled mowers weigh more due to relatively large engine and the propulsion gearbox. Push mowers are lighter in comparison to self-propelled mowers. They can weigh 20 pounds or less depending on brand. The light weight is very important since you have to push it along the lawn when mowing.

Maintenance cost

Self-propelled mowers will require higher maintenance cost in comparison to push mowers. You will incur extra cost of maintaining the gear box and belts. However, if you service it properly and store it in a dry, clean and safe place, it should be able to last long.

Can a Self-propelled Mower be used as a Push Mower?

Yes, you can use a self-propelled mower as a push mower by simply disengaging the drive throttle. You can push it forward, backward, sideways or any other direction you wish to move. However, it will be considerably harder to push it in comparison to a push mower due to its heavy weight.

A self-propelled mower has a drive system that is operated by squeezing a throttle located on the handle. Squeezing the throttle will engage the blade and cause a self-propulsion. The mower will start to move forward while cutting the grass. All the operator has to do is to guide it.

Self-propelled mowers have either back or front wheel drive. In some cases, you may find a four-wheel drive. The front wheel drive has a tremendous advantage of maneuvering easily. You just simply tip the front wheels off the ground and move the mower in any direction.

Push Lawn Mower or Self-Propelled – Which is Better?

When choosing between push lawn mower and self-propelled, there are several factors to consider before purchasing. They include:

1. Lawn Size

The size of your lawn will determine the type of lawn mower to use. Push lawn mower is ideal for small lawn yards measuring less than ¼ acre. It will be a waste of resources to use large engine mower on small lawn yards. A reel lawn mower is ideal for areas that are less than ½ an acre.

If your lawn size is ½ acre to 1 acre, it will be wise to invest in a self-propelled mower to reduce the amount of energy required to mow. It requires a lot of energy to maneuver a push mower in such large lawn yards. However, if you like to have a good workout and a bit of sweat, you can use push mower.

2. Performance

Choose a self-propelled over push mower due to its high performance. Small engine push mower will not handle complicated tasks such as mowing tough grass like Bermuda, cutting wet grass or mulching your lawn.

You need to check the engine capacity to determine its performance. Powerful lawn mower engines have a capacity range of 140cc to 190cc. Higher cc denotes a greater engine capacity.

3. Your Budget

Push mowers are cheaper than self-propelled mowers. If you are on a budget, it’s better to choose a push mower. They are far more economical choice. However, if you’re not restricted to a certain budget you can opt for a self-propelled mower. They are expensive due to the additional features added on.

4. The Type of Terrain

Hilly and uneven lawn terrain require more energy to mow compared to a level terrain. If you are having such terrain, it is ideal to choose a self-propelled mower over a push mower. It will require a lot of energy to use a push mower of hilly and uneven terrain.

5. Availability

Due to evolution in technology, self-propelled mowers are readily available in the selling store than push mowers. Many gardeners prefer to use less energy when mowing their lawn rather than struggling and using a lot of energy to push the mower.

6. Cutting Options

Most push mowers have a 2-in-1 functionality. Meaning that they are able to bag or discharge the grass clippings. On the other hand, most self-propelled mowers have a 3-in-1 functionality. They are capable of mulching, bagging or discharging the grass clippings.

If you are intending to mulch your lawn, it’s better to choose a 3-in-1 functionality mower over a 2-in-1 that lack the versatility to perform various lawn care maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Both self-propelled and push mowers are ideal for maintaining your lawn grass short. However, you will require less energy to control a self-propelled mower in comparison to push mower that require more energy to move it forward and backward when cutting the grass.

A better choice between self-propelled and a push mower depend on various factors such lawn size, engine performance, cost, terrain, availability, comfort and cutting options.

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