We Do the Math: Will an Electric Mower Trim Lawn Care Costs?

By Dr Penny Pincher on 2 August 2017 0 comments

When the recoil starter on my old walk-behind gas lawn mower broke again this spring, I decided not to spend time and money repairing it, even though I had just changed the oil and replaced the spark plug and air filter. In fact, I decided the best way to avoid problems with the recoil starter in the future was to replace it with a mower that does not have a spark plug, motor oil, air filter, gas tank, or starter!

My new lawn mower is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery instead of gasoline. Running my lawn mower on electricity means I can avoid some of the hassles of maintaining a gas engine, such as:

  • Trips to the gas station to fill the gas can
     
  • Oil, air filter, and spark plug changes
     
  • Pulling the cord and adjusting the choke to get it to start

While there are clear potential benefits of switching to an electric lawn mower, can you also save money? Let's look at the total cost of ownership for gas versus electric walk-behind mowers to see if switching to electric could save you money. (See also: Here's How Much Getting the Greenest Lawn Will Cost You)

Gasoline vs. electric push mower

If you want to replace your gas push mower with an electric push mower, you have two options: a corded electric mower or a cordless electric mower.

Corded electric mowers

You can get a corded electric mower that plugs into an extension cord. Using this can be feasible if you have a small yard that is within reach of an extension cord. Corded electric mowers are the cheapest option for electric mowers in terms of initial cost, and you never need to worry about replacing batteries.

Cordless electric mowers

If you have a larger yard, or if you don't want to mess around with an extension cord, you can get a cordless electric mower. These use rechargeable electric batteries — typically lithium batteries. If you have a larger yard, you may need more than one battery to mow the whole yard in one go. Rechargeable batteries typically have a life expectancy of around five years.

Initial cost

There's a wide variety of push mowers available with different features and levels of capability. Depending on the model you choose, you can find a corded electric mower for about the same price or even less than some gas push mowers. By contrast, a cordless electric model can run $100 or more over the price of a similar gas model. For the purposes of comparison, I've chosen examples of machines with similar capability that could mow a typical medium-sized yard.

  • Poulan Pro 21-Inch Hi-Wheel Gas Push Mower: $235

  • Greenworks 12 Amp 20-Inch Corded Electric Push Mower: $179

  • Black & Decker 60V Max 20‑Inch Cordless Electric Push Mower: $315

Operating costs

The main cost to operate a push mower is fuel — either an average $2.30 per gallon for gas or around 11 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity to run a corded electric mower or to charge the battery. This works out to a fuel cost of about:

  • Gas push mower: $1.50 per half-acre
  • Corded electric push mower: $0.50 per half-acre
  • Cordless electric push mower: $0.10 per half-acre

Let's say you mow your half-acre yard once per week for four months, or 16 times per year. The annual cost works out to:

  • Gas push mower: $24.00
  • Corded electric push mower: $8.00
  • Cordless electric push mower: $1.60

Now, let's say you own your mower for 10 years. The total fuel cost over 10 years works out to be:

  • Gas push mower: $240.00
  • Corded electric push mower: $80.00
  • Cordless electric push mower: $16.00

Maintenance costs

Of course, batteries don't last forever. Let's assume you'll need to replace your rechargeable battery after the first five years, once during the 10-year life of the mower, at a cost of $75.

A gas mower will need regular maintenance that electric mowers do not require. Let's assume you change the oil once per year, and change the spark plug and air filter every other year for an average maintenance cost of $15 per year.

All of the lawn mowers will need to have the blade sharpened or replaced periodically, and let's assume that costs $20 every other year, or $10 per year on average.

10-year total cost of ownership

Here is an estimate of the total cost of ownership of a push mower for 10 years.

Gas push mower: $725

$235 initial purchase + $240 gas + $150 engine maintenance + $100 blade sharpening/replacement = $725

Corded electric push mower: $359

$179 initial purchase + $80 electricity + $100 blade sharpening/replacement = $359

Cordless electric push mower: $506

$315 initial purchase + $16 electricity + $75 battery replacement + $100 blade sharpening/replacement = $506

With either a corded electric push mower or a cordless electric push mower, you will save a significant amount on gasoline and routine maintenance each year. There is a periodic cost to replace batteries as they wear out for cordless models, but the savings on gasoline and engine maintenance outweighs this expense over the life of the mower.

Depending on the model you choose and the size of your yard, a cordless electric push mower can save you money compared with a gas powered push mower. And a corded electric push mower will save you money over both of the other types of mowers.

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We Do the Math: Will an Electric Mower Trim Lawn Care Costs?

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