Choosing between a gas and electric mower depends on your needs and your landscape. The best choice depends on the size of the lawn, whether or not it has hills, and whether or not there are neighbors who might object to noise. There are also questions of cost, convenience and the environmental impact.
Gas mowers make more noise than electric mowers. Neighbors may get annoyed by gas mowers running in the morning when they are trying to sleep or in the afternoon when they are trying to take a nap.
Electric mowers with batteries are more expensive than those that run off cords. Cordless models are a more expensive than gas mowers. LawnMowersWorld.com estimates that it costs somewhere between $3 and $5 per year to operate an electric mower versus about $3 a gallon for gasoline. The need for oil filters and tune ups add to the expense of owning a gas mowers. The Union of Concerned Scientists says that electric mowers are up to 50 percent cheaper to operate over a lifespan of 10 years.
Many models of electric mowers fold down to fit small spaces in a garage; gas mowers usually require more storage space. Electric mowers are easy to start. Having to drag the cord of an electric mower over hills, irregular landscape and large lawns can be frustrating. Unless you use an extension cord, most electric mowers can only go 100 feet from the nearest electrical outlet.
If a gas mower gets out of tune, it may take a lot of yanking on the cord to get it to start. Changing the oil of gas mowers raises the question of where to dispose of the oil. Many city ordinances require that oil be taken to special oil disposal sites.
Cordless electrical lawn mowers cost more and have a limited running time before the battery has to be recharged. The battery makes them heavier. A cordless mower may be better for large lawns where a cord won't reach.
Two-stroke gas mowers require mixing oil with gas and they are noisier. Four-stroke engines cost more, but they are more powerful than two-stoke engines, generate fewer pollutants and are more efficient.
Electric mowers clog more easily than gas models when they are mulching grass or bagging clippings. Electric mowers have a hard time with tall grass; lawn owners can't let their lawns get overgrown.
Gas mowers, more powerful than electric mowers, are better able to cut weeds. For those who habitually let their grass get too high, a gas mower is better than an electric mower. Gas mowers also handle wet grass better.
The Environmental Protection Agency says using a gas mower for one hour generates as many pollutants as driving a car for 350 miles, reports "Scientific American." The EPA estimates that the 54 million Americans mowing their lawn every week accounts for up to 5 percent of country's total air pollution. About 17 million gallons of gas are spilled every year in fueling lawn mowers. Newer models of gas mowers produce fewer pollutants, but they still are not equipped with catalytic converters required for cars and trucks.
Because of air quality concerns, many cities are urging owners of gas lawn mowers to use them in the evening on summer days and to avoid using them at all on hot days. Using gas mowers in the evening risks complaints about noise.