The 4 Best Gas-Powered Lawn Mowers

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

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Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

Updated:

With gas prices sky high, now might be the time to look for an electric lawn mower. However, if you have your heart set on gas, these mowers are the most fuel efficient and eco-friendly.

Choosing the best gas-powered lawnmower for 2024 was no easy feat. For a start, there are huge differences between different types of gas mowers and a load of fantastic mowers that would top the list if only they were for sale in the US (looking at you, Stihl!).

None of the mowers get more than a 2 or 3 Leaf Score from me. This is because they run on fossil fuels and create a heck of a lot of air and noise pollution. For a more eco-friendly and ear-friendly lawnmower, go for a rechargeable electric cordless mower. These mowers can run on clean energy and can be just as powerful as gas engine mowers.

Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.

Our top picks

1

Toro Recycler 22-inch Self-Propelled Lawn Mower 21464

Highlights: Efficient mower that is quieter and easier to start and maintain than most gas models. Best suited to 1/4-½ acre yards.

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What we like

  • Push-button electric start (with back-up recoil start)
  • Efficient 22-inch steel cutting deck
  • 4-point adjustment system for cutting height
  • Rear-wheel drive (10-inch) allows efficient and precise mowing for lower fuel consumption
  • Vortex Technology efficiently cuts and mulches
  • Personal Pace self-propulsion system adjusts to your speed
  • Doesn’t require oil changes – less waste, maintenance, and fuel spills
  • Easy to switch between bagging and mulching (don’t need to remove bag)
  • Side discharge option
  • Super bagger design allows easier lifting, emptying, and cleanup
  • 6.25 ft-lb Briggs & Stratton® EXI 150cc engine – high quality
  • CARB compliant – less air pollution than many gas mowers

What could be better

  • Larger cutting deck too wide for some spaces
  • Needs more storage space
  • Only a 2-year warranty
  • Heavy! 83 lb.
  • Annoying to fold up for storage

The Toro Recycler is a self-propelled gas lawn mower that is powerful and efficient. It’s also but quieter than many Honda mowers and similar gas mowers and offers easier maintenance and less opportunity for messy oil spills.

Toro’s self-propulsion Personal Pace technology works well, requiring no adjustments with levers, paddles, or knobs. And given the weight (83 lb.) of this beast, you’ll want to use the self-propulsion.

The larger rear wheels and RWD system make for excellent maneuverability and traction, even on slopes. So, if your yard is large and hilly, the Toro is a great choice.

Hard to store

One of the biggest issues I have with this mower is that’s it’s very fussy to fold up. Unless you have lots of storage space and can keep it as is, you’ll want to fold up the handle to save space. To do this, you have to:

  • Remove the electric-start button
  • Remove and save the two handle knobs and two carriage bolts from the handle brackets.

If your family’s anything like mine, those two knobs and bolts will soon disappear, despite everyone’s best intentions. So, if you have limited storage space, this Toro might not be for you.

Overall, though, the Toro Recycler offers an efficient and largely hassle-free mowing experience and is a great choice for medium to large lawns.

2

Craftsman M220 Lawn Mower

Highlights: Affordable, versatile choice ideal for smaller yards. Self-propelled with adjustable cut heights and discharge options.

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What we like

  • Impressive fine mulching capacity
  • Smooth discharge even in side discharge mode
  • 6.25 ft./lb. 140cc Briggs and Stratton engine
  • 3-in-1 bagging, side discharge, and mulching options
  • Steel deck adjustable to 1.25-3.75 inches (6 height options!)
  • CARB compliant

What could be better

  • Front wheel drive – less maneuverability and traction versus RWD models
  • Pull start
  • Single-speed (but not too fast!)

The Craftsman M220 21-in. self-propelled mower is a single-speed mower that gets the job done fast and well for smaller yards. If you have tricky terrain to navigate, including slopes and sharper turns, this front-wheel-drive model might not quite cut it. But if your lawn is neat and tidy and in need of a simple trim, this is just the ticket.

The 3-in-1 mower lets you bag, side discharge, or mulch grass clippings, and the blade is shockingly good at mulching for such an inexpensive model.

The craftsman also offers a simple dual-lever feature to adjust the steel cutting deck to one of six heights, so you get the perfect cut for your lawn.

If you are particular about your lawn but not quite as mobile and strong as you’d like, this is a top choice for a gas mower.

3

Toro Timemaster 21219

Highlights: Powerful mower with a 30-inch wide cutting deck to make short work of lawns 1/2-acre and larger.

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What we like

  • Incredibly efficient for larger mowing jobs
  • Powerful 10 ft.-lb. Briggs & Stratton® 223cc OHV engine eats through thick and tall grass
  • Great on sloping and uneven terrain
  • Adjustable deck height
  • Adjustable handle
  • Blade brake for efficient, safe mowing
  • Personal Pace self-propulsion, so it matches your speed
  • Deck washout port for easy cleaning and longer lifespan
  • Excellent fine mulching capabilities
  • CARB compliant
  • Rear-wheel drive with great traction and maneuverability
  • Quick stow storage handle
  • Huge 2.5 bushel collector bag

What could be better

  • Very loud
  • Very expensive
  • Very heavy (145 lb. / 65.8 kg)
  • Only two deck height options
  • Pull-start only (not push-button)
  • Requires oil changes and top-ups

The Toro TimeMaster 21219 is a gas-powered self-propelled lawn mower designed for residential use but more than capable at handling bigger jobs.

Weighing more than me, this mower is hefty and hard to maneuver without that self-propulsion technology. Thankfully, Toro includes a blade brake stop with this model, meaning you can keep the mower moving around obstacles and towards storage without damaging the blades.

Maintenance needs

Note that this Toro model requires full oil changes, which necessitates turning the mower on its side. Toro recommends you change the oil after the first 5 hours, again after 50 hours and then yearly, with top-ups before each use.

If you’re not able to lift a decent amount of weight, you may find the maintenance of this model rather onerous, if not impossible. In which case, I’d highly recommend the smaller, lighter, and easier maintenance Toro Recycler line.

4

Honda HRX217HZA

Highlights: A compact, high performance, durable, user-friendly gas-powered mower with blade brake clutch. Great for large lawns!

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What we like

  • Keen mulcher even at high speeds in long grass
  • 21-inch Nexite cutting deck resists high impacts, dents, rust, corrosion, and sun exposure degradation
  • Lifetime warranty on the cutting deck!
  • Easy switch between cutting modes (bag, mulch, etc.) – built-in knob (not key to lose!)
  • Easy reach paddles and ergonomic adjustments for self-propulsion
  • 3 handle height adjustments using a wingnut
  • Rear wheel drive, for easier maneuverability
  • Robust wheels with good grip
  • Easier maintenance – easy access to spark plugs and oil drain
  • Honda mowers tend to be very robust, with few repair needs
  • 5-year warranty
  • Excellent overall customer satisfaction with Honda

What could be better

  • No side discharge option
  • Strangely heavy (39 kg vs. 27 kg for the Stihl)
  • Noisy (Measured mean value n/a – loud, likely 90 dB or more)
  • Collector bag mesh and hard plastic are difficult to clean

At a glance:

  • Power: 4.2 kW (at 3,600 rpm)
  • Cutting width/Deck size: 21 inch (53 cm)
  • Cutting height: 19-100 mm (0.75 inch to 4 inch) (7 step)
  • Weight: 40.3 kg (89 lbs.)
  • Control vibrations: Moderate
  • Tank volume: 0.9 L (.24 gallons)
  • Fuel consumption (L/hour) at continuous rated output at 3,600 rpm: 1.4
  • Motor: GCV200 200cc OHC 4-stroke

The HondaHRX217HZA boasts a ton of functions.

My favorite function, as someone with a lot of lawn obstacles, is Honda’s Roto-stop® system. This lets you stop the blades while leaving the engine running, so you can move the mower or empty the grass bag with ease. This blade brake crutch is the biggest difference that sets the HRX217HZA apart from the otherwise similar HRX217VKA.

Both models discharge from the rear, however, with no side discharge option.

Side discharge is a more energy efficient choice; I really wish Honda made more side discharge mowers.

Thankfully, Honda’s Versamow™ system does let you switch between the following modes with a flick of a lever:

  • Mulch
  • Bag
  • Rear discharge
  • Shred leaves
  • Mulch and bag in tandem.

The Honda HRX217HZA has a super durable NeXite® composite plastic cutting deck, making this a more sustainable mower option than many others.

The Honda GCV200 engine weighs less than the GCV190 but delivers more power and more torque. The newer engine is more streamlined and more compact than other engines in the same class, featuring the CycloFlow design, which strengthens turbulence in the cylinder and provides:

  • More stable combustion for ease of starting
  • Greater resistance to lower quality fuel
  • A smoother idle.

This engine also has the anti-choke, auto-start system that uses a self-recharging electric battery and enables easy starts even in hot and cold weather.

The GCV200’s larger fuel tank also means less topping up and fewer spill opportunities.

The Honda HRX217 is very heavy, however; without the self-propulsion function most users would struggle to move this mower. This in spite of the Honda’s plastic chassis and the GCV200, the lightest engine in its class.

Despite its weight, it’s easy to adjust the HRX’s cutting height with a quick button press.

Honda is known for doing better than basic emissions standards for smaller engines. It has around 50 years’ experience making high performing mowers and the HRX217 is part of its core high performance range.

In summary, the Honda HRX217HZA is a great option if you’re looking for a compact, high performance, and super user-friendly gas-powered mower with self-propulsion for a larger garden.

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