If you have a typical inner city lawn of even a small suburban plot, we would always advocate a Cordless Lawn Mower as your most convenient port of call; they’re just so practical and quick to get the job done. However, cordless mowers aren’t really suitable for larger-than-average lawns since they may soon run out of charge and very long grass can bog some models down. And that’s where the good old-fashioned petrol option comes in.
With an engine-powered mower you can mow the mow for hours on end – or as long as you have a can of unleaded fuel to hand (or better still some Aspen fuel which you can read about at the bottom of this guide).
Petrol-powered lawn mowers are perfectly suited for use on suburban and country lawns which are invariably bigger than the average urban sward. They are also much cheaper to buy than their cordless brethren, especially those with large cutting decks.
Most petrol mowers are easy to use and some even come with self-propulsion for effortless mowing. The vast majority are also more than powerful enough to tackle even long damp grass that might flummox some cordless models.
Believe me, once you’ve pulled the start cord you’ll soon come to appreciate the power it has to cut through practically any height of grass, not to say the near endless amount of time the engine is capable of running, even on a single tank of fuel.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, then we also have guides to the best robot lawn mowers if you’d rather not do the heavy lifting yourself, the best strimmers for tidying up those edges and best chainsaws for tougher jobs.
The best petrol mowers to buy in 2023
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The Stihl RM 448 C is a brilliant 4-stroke petrol mower that comes with a foldable mono handlebar system for easy grass container emptying. As you may have spotted on numerous occasions when passing contractors clearing verges, cutting down trees and mower public areas, Stihl is the brand of choice among the pros, so if the brand is good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.
This model comes with a 46cm polymer cutting deck – suitable for lawns up to 1,200 square metres – and a large and admittedly bulky 55-litre plastic grass collector with rear opening for easy emptying. Stihl also sent their mulching kit that comprises a mulching plug and a special twin blade setup that cuts the grass into finer clippings for more effective lawn fertilisation and better lawn aesthetics.
The cutting height system is one of the best I’ve come across. In fact it took a minute for me to find the lever which isn’t so much a lever as a sprung finger pad under the rear carry handle that you pull up with your fingers to raise or lower the cutting deck accordingly. The six position deck has a cutting height range of 25-75mm.
Unlike every other mower on the market which uses a standard handlebar system, the RM 448 C is equipped with a unique height-adjustable mono handlebar that makes emptying the grass container super easy. The bar itself is as solid as a rock and really well engineered and, what’s more, it folds over for easy storage, too.
Most petrol mowers these days come with self propulsion – a necessity given the weight of petrol mowers. However, where most cheaper petrol models have just one speed, this model features variable self propulsion that moves the mower from a slow to a brisk walking pace with a simple push or pull of the lever on the handlebar. You access the self propulsion via a metal bar on the handlebar.
The RM 448 C runs on a Stihl-branded 166cc 4-stroke engine that’s pretty quiet for a petrol mower and more than powerful enough to tackle the longest grass without breaking into a sweat. The first thing you need to do is fill it with oil – Stihl doesn’t provide any oil so be sure to add it at check out – and unleaded fuel. I don’t use unleaded forecourt fuel anymore because it goes off after a few months and the ethanol in it attracts moisture which can play havoc with small engines. Instead I now use Aspen 4, an over-the-counter alkylate petrol that is virtually free from harmful substances such as benzene and hydrocarbons. It also lasts for about five years. You can read more about Aspen fuel at the bottom of this page.
At first I had an issue starting this engine from new but then realised that this mower’s engine engagement lever is the opposite to the Cobra that I’m used to. So I switched levers and, blow me down with a feather if it didn’t start on the very first pull of the starter cord. Moreover, the act off starting it was one of the most effortless I’ve experienced. Really smooth.
As I didn’t have the longest grass to test it on, I did manage to find a local field and this mower’s high-lift blade performed exceptionally well, blasting the cuttings towards the back of the grass box in the process. I then gave it the leaf test on my own lawn and it sucked up the leaves like a vacuum cleaner. It also chopped them up so more could be forced into the grass collector. Top marks all round.
While I still rate the slightly larger Honda-powered Cobra I review below very highly, I think this model is easier to use, lighter in the hand and much easier to store away. It’s a doddle to set up, it starts first time and it’s not too noisy. And given the 5 year warranty and Stihl’s reliability record, I’d expect this ubiquitous orange and white sward scythe to last many years.
If you have a large lawn, consider the self-propelled Cobra MX534SPH. It comes fitted with a reliable 167cc 4-stroke Honda GCVX170 engine that is easily started in a standing position by using the cord conveniently attached to one side of the handlebar. Like all mowers, there is some assembly involved and the trickiest part is fitting the two cable nipples. Hint: unclip the power and propulsion bars first and then fit the nipples. I learned that the hard way. To start it all up, fill it with lawnmower-specific 4-stroke engine oil and just under a litre of unleaded fuel – or better still Aspen 4 – and start mowing.
The Cobra MX534SPH’s four-speed self-propulsion system is a joy to use even if the gear stick is a bit clunky. Just select your preferred walking pace – from a slow amble (2.5kph) to a brisk stroll (3.9kph) – and let the mower do all the hard work for you. You won’t even need to visit the compost heap all that often with this model because the blade’s integrated suction system literally flings the grass clippings way back into the huge 65-litre grass collector, compressing them in the process.
This mower comes with a 52cm cutting deck so it’s a perfect size for large lawns up to and well beyond 700m2. The large lever on its rightful, meanwhile, provides six stages of cutting height, from a low 25mm to 75mm. The Cobra performs supremely well, cutting grass really effectively no matter how long or damp it is. It also leaves a really neat and tidy finish in its wake.
Yes, the engine is pretty loud but it’s so reliable and so immensely powerful that noise levels sink into insignificance. Furthermore, this model lets you mow in three ways: conventionally using the 65-litre grass collector; downwards mulching where fine grass cuttings are forced back on to the lawn; and sideways mulching where the cuttings are thrown out of the side using the included chute. When you’re done mowing for the day, simply attach a hose to the fitting on the top of the chassis, turn on the tap, start the engine and the deck is given a good water thrashing.
Petrol mowers are usually the best option for homes in the countryside where noise isn’t as much of an issue. In this regard, the Cobra MX534SPH is a terrific contender that should provide years of reliable cutting with very little effort.
We think this large decked mower is the best for most people, but to see if you'd be better off with a different system, be sure to check out our Cobra MX534SPH vs Honda HRG 416 PK (opens in new tab) comparison feature.
This is one of the best-value self-propelled mowers we’ve come across. Powered by a 99cc Einhell single-cylinder 4-stroke OHV engine that is surprisingly quiet for a petrol mower, this Germanic lawn slayer impressed with its cutting skill and exceptional manoeuvrability. Granted, the self propulsion speed is fixed at a spritely pace but as long as you’re even moderately fit, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The Einhell comes with a 40cm deck (suitable for lawns up to around 300m2), a 45-litre grass catcher and a cutting height range of 25-60mm in seven increments. Assembly and set up was a doddle and, after pumping the fuel feed, it started on the second pull. At a smidge over 21 kilos it isn’t ridiculously heavy either. If you want or need self propulsion but can’t afford an expensive cordless version, then this one’s well worth a punt.
The great thing about Cobra gear is that it’s British so spares are easy to come by, and that can be a major consideration when opting for a petrol-powered garden machine, not least because petrol machines need more TLC than their cordless counterparts. Another good reason for buying a Cobra is because they have far and away the best selection of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube.
This top value 40cm model was easy to assemble and comes with a fixed height, foldable handlebar for easy storage. The bar isn’t foam covered – just bare painted metal – but that’s to be expected at this price level. Thankfully, it folds over on itself for easy storage.
The Cobra M40SPC also comes with self propulsion but you only get one speed – 2mph – which could be considered fairly fleet footed if you’re not as mobile as you used to be. At 28kgs, it’s also exceedingly heavy for the size, possibly too weighty to carry up even a few steps. But on the plus side, this mower cuts exceptionally well and comes with a large 50-litre mesh grass bag that’s easy to store. At 25 - 75mm, its 10-stage cutting height range is also worth shouting about.
As instructed, I filled the M40SPC with the supplied Cobra oil and Aspen 4 alkylate fuel which I bought at my local garden machinery shop, closed the choke and it started on the third pull. I then slowly opened the choke and the 135cc Cobra DG450 OHV engine settled comfortably into its rhythm. Despite the weight, this mower’s self propulsion made it easy to push around and it cut the grass as well as most other models I’ve tested.
If you’re in the market for a very keenly-priced, smaller-bodied self-drive petrol mower that does the job well, I suggest you make a beeline towards this one.
Such is Honda’s excellent reliability record in all things engine related, we’re guessing this mower’s powerful pull cord-operated 160cc OHC 4-stroke will go on performing till the cows come home – or at least until the next blue moon. Your neighbours will like it too because its noise level is allegedly 30% below the current EU standard.
The HRG 416 is equipped with a 0.91-litre unleaded fuel tank for lengthy sessions in the rough while its 41cm steel cutting deck and 50-litre grass collector are of a decent enough size to handle half a tennis court’s worth of sward without having to make too many trips to the compost heap. Its cutting height range is marginally better than some others in this roundup (20mm to 74mm) so perhaps contemplate this model if you have different lawns made up of both long and short grasses.
This mower doesn’t have self-propulsion so you’ll just have to put some back into it. However, at 29kgs, it’s not overly heavy to handle. Overall, we prefer the similarly-priced Cobra mower reviewed above, mostly because it has multi-speed self propulsion and is capable of mulching. But this is still an excellent alternative.
If you find the thought of pulling multiple times on a cord to start an engine just too much hard work, consider this superb electric start model which fires up with a simple push of a button. Hyundai has really pushed the boat out with this model because it also has variable speed self propulsion and a rear roller that lays a clean Wimbledon stripe in its wake. And because the roller is split down the middle, it’s really easy to turn at the end of each pass.
Hyundai recommends using Aspen 4 fuel which you can read about at the bottom of this feature. So, following its instructions, I filled it up with Aspen 4 and the supplied four-stoke oil and pushed the start button, half excepting it to take ages to start from new. But against all odds it fired up instantly and I was immediately impressed by how quiet the engine was. And I mean really, really quiet.
The Hyundai HYM480SPER is equipped with six self-propulsion speeds – from a gentle stroll to a brisk walk – and the 139cc engine’s revs increase with each speed setting. Its 48cm cutting deck is ideal for medium sized lawns while its large 70-litre grass collector ensures fewer trips to the compost heap.
You get five adjustable cutting heights with this mower – from 25mm to 75mm – so it’s a great option for most grass types. And as an added quirk you also get two cup holders so you can sip on an iced coffee while you mow the mow.
Like many petrol mowers, you can’t easily fold the handlebar system over for storage so you will need a decent sized shed to store it in. But in the pantheon of petrol mowers, this one is the bee’s knees. It cuts grass of any length superbly well while leaving a really neat stripe, it’s a doddle to start, pretty manoeuvrable given its 41.5kg weight and it’s one of quietest petrol mowers money can buy. It also comes with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.
Want more details? Then read T3's full Hyundai HYM480SPER review.
If you have a lawn of around 40m x 40m and can’t be bothered with pulling on a cord to start your engine, have a gander at this well-specced model from UK brand Mountfield.
There's no huffing and puffing with this high-end model because it features electric key start; just fit the supplied lithium starting battery, push the start button and the 166cc Mountfield 4-stroke ST170 OHV engine fires up in an instant.
This model is equipped with a 46cm cutting deck, a large 60-litre grass collector with indicator to show it’s full, an especially wide range of cutting height positions (from 22mm to 80mm) and, as you’d hope for a mower that weighs a fairly hefty 27 kilograms, single-speed self propulsion (a suitably stately 2.23mph) for effortless navigation through the apple grove. It also comes with a mulching plug for those who prefer to have the cuttings fertilise the lawn. Petrol mowing doesn’t come much easier than this.
Hayter is the brand of choice among many professional groundkeepers so if you have a huge showcase lawn of around 1,000 square metres that you wish to keep beautifully manicured, then this is the brand to put at the top of your shopping list. This professional-spec monster has many plus points, not least the fact that it mows a lawn to near perfection while its 190cc 4-stroke, air-cooled Briggs & Stratton 850E engine thunders on for ages on a single tank of unleaded. What’s more, because it’s so heavy (a whopping 59kg) and comes with a rear roller, it lays an elegant lawn stripe, too – just like the wicket at Lords.
The Harrier 56 PRO comes with a massive 56cm aluminium cutting deck, a cavernous 70-litre fabric grass bag and the wherewithal to propel itself via fixed-speed Autodrive system, so you can mow one-handed while sipping on a G&T. It's a perfect choice for bowling green style lawns because the cutting height goes down to just 13mm; way lower than the vast majority of lawnmowers.
At 59kgs, this mower is far too heavy for one person to lift so make sure you have an under-cover storage space that provides easy access. Mind, if you’re looking at a mower of these dimensions and professional specifications, chances are you will have a groundskeeper to do all the hefty work in the first place. To see how this petrol mower stacks up against our number one choice, then take a read of our Cobra MX534SPH vs Hayter Harrier 56 Pro (opens in new tab) comparison feature.
This is the petrol mower to grab for large stretches of long unruly grass, overgrown verges and inclines of up to 45˚. Like a Flymo, the AirMow51 hovers on a cushion of air and pretty much scythes through anything, even straw-like grasses. It’s exceedingly good for mowing steep inclines because its floaty nature means you can simply sweep it from side to side. The included wheels, meanwhile, are especially handy for keeping it on track on difficult terrain and for moving the mower from one area to another. However, it only has three height settings (17mm and 25mm) and no grass collector so everything will be spewed back onto the turf.
The AirMow51 Pro is equipped with a huge 51cm (20”) ABS cutting deck and powered by a reliable pull-start, four-stroke Honda GCV160 engine that’s relatively quiet and unyieldingly powerful. If you have a relatively large swathe of elongated grass that needs a good seeing to, this red grass mobster will do the deed. After all, if it’s good enough for professional golf course maintenance staff, it’s good enough for you.
Will E10 unleaded fuel work in my petrol mower?
You may have noticed that all standard unleaded pump petrol in the UK and Europe has changed from E5 to E10. E stands for Ethanol and the numbers that follow are percentages of ethanol in any given measurement of petrol. Since ethanol is a renewable fuel, governments are keen to introduce higher ratios of it to help tackle climate change. E10 doesn’t affect the majority of cars on the road since most modern car engines are built to run quite happily on it. However, E10 fuel does affect most classic cars and some older petrol mowers.
The problem with ethanol is that it is hygroscopic, which means it attracts and absorbs moisture like a sponge. According to Mowers Online (opens in new tab), "when you add fuel that contains ethanol to your fuel tank, any moisture in the air inside a fuel tank will mix with the ethanol in the fuel which eventually results in water and ethanol being sucked through into the fuel system causing components to deteriorate and engine starting/running problems. In conclusion, ethanol causes multiple problems for small petrol engines and you shouldn't leave it in the tank."
If you’re concerned about your petrol mower’s ability to run on E10 fuel, your best course of action is to add a fuel additive or stabiliser every time you top up your fuel can. This won’t remove the ethanol but it will coat the engine’s internals with a protective barrier, helping it to run more smoothly. It will also increase the life of the petrol itself, whether it’s stored in the shed or in the mower’s tank.
Having learned the hard way, this writer would absolutely advise always adding an additive to the fuel because I too have suffered from a jittery, surging lawnmower engine after using fuel that’s well past its prime (believe it or not, after just two months of storage). An additive should help forecourt fuel last for up to three years.
But there is another fuel solution which I recently learned about from a reputable lawn mower engineer. It’s called Aspen (opens in new tab) and it’s available for both four-stroke and two-stroke engines. Aspen is an ethanol-free alkylate fuel that contains 99% fewer harmful hydrocarbons, which results in a dramatic reduction of exhaust fumes. It also lasts for up to five years in storage. Yes, you read that correctly - five years! This is great news for the environment and your health but it’s also much better for your lawn mower’s engine. You can learn more about Aspen fuel by heading over to the pros at Mower Magic (opens in new tab).
However, there is a small catch with Aspen – it’s over twice the price of unleaded E10 fuel, roughly £21 for five litres. Nevertheless, given that a lawnmower runs for ages on a five-litre bottle of fuel, chances are you’ll get more than a full summer’s use out of a five-litre container. Given Aspen's Holy Grail properties, that's twenty one quid well spent in my book.
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