Between the increasing cost of gas and the wide variety of electric lawn mowers on the market now, you might be curious how much it costs to own and operate one compared to a gas model. Here’s what you need to know.
What We’re Comparing: Push Mower vs. Push Mower
Electric mowers have come a long way in just a short few years and there is quite a variety of them on the market. You can find everything from petite and inexpensive 13″ push mowers all the way up to 54″ zero-turn riding mowers suitable for mowing multiple acres.
As much as we’d love to compare everything across the whole range of the electric lawn mower market, that would make this article a wee bit long to read in a sitting. Instead, we’re going to focus on comparing the most common kind of lawn mower when used on an average lawn. For American readers, the most common mower type is the push mower, and the average lawn size is around a quarter of an acre.
On top of that, we’re also limiting our comparison to battery-powered electric mowers and excluding corded electric mowers. Even in small yards, corded mowers are an unbelievable hassle and battery-powered mowers are now so cheap and efficient that there’s just no reason to bother with the nonsense of being tethered to the wall of your garage.
If you’re curious about larger mowers and larger lawns, don’t worry. The way we’re comparing gasoline-powered push mowers to electric push mowers can be easily adapted to other sizes. The general concepts are the same.
How Operating Costs Compare Over Time
When comparing operating costs, it’s not just about how much it costs to charge an electric mower’s batteries vs. filling the gas tank on a traditional mower. There are quite a few extra variables at play that tip the scales in favor of the electric mower—especially for folks with small urban and suburban lawns.
We won’t be comparing the purchase price of the mower itself. The cost of basic electric push mowers and basic gasoline push mowers are on parity now (around $200-300,) and the price scales pretty evenly into the premium model territory, too. Starting with the premise that you need a mower for your average lawn, we’re going to build out the operating cost over time from there.
Our stand-in for the average electric push mower will be the Ryobi 40V Brushless 20″ Cordless Push Mower. It’s currently a Home Depot best seller, frequently on sale for $249, and the 6.0A 40V battery offers about the same run time as the small gas tank on a similarly sized gasoline push mower. You’ll get about 45 minutes of run time from the battery and about 45 minutes of run time from a tank of gas on your average push mower.
Cost Per Mow
First, let’s look at the cost per mow using our average quarter-acre yard as a reference point. We’ll look at other related costs in a moment.
Mowing a Quarter-Acre with a Gas Push Mower
While there is a decent amount of variability between gas push mowers in terms of engine size, how well the engine is tuned, how thick or wet the grass is, and such, we can talk in terms of averages.
The average push mower tank is 0.25 gallons and should last for roughly half an acre worth of mowing, at least. With the current gas prices sitting at a national average of $5 per gallon in June 2022, that means we’re spending $0.63 on fuel for every quarter acre. Even if gas prices were to tumble to half that price, all the way down to $2.50 a gallon, your cost per quarter acre would still be $0.33.
Mowing a Quarter-Acre with an Electric Push Mower
The Ryobi’s 6.0A 40V battery has enough juice to mow a quarter of an acre twice per charge. The capacity of a 6.0A 40V battery is 240Wh and at the national average energy price of $0.14 per kWh in June 2022, that works out to $0.03 per charge.
If you’re curious about the math on that, check out our guide to calculating battery charging costs—we even used this exact battery as an example if you want to see the math!
Depending on the cost of gasoline, it’s safe to say that you’re spending 1/10th to 1/20th of the amount on “fuel” when you’re refueling lithium-ion batteries from the wall socket instead of pouring gasoline in a tank.
As an aside, we want to note that a lot of the estimates you’ll find online for the cost of charging an electric lawn mower are wildly out of date or just plain inaccurate. They’re either referencing old battery technology that was significantly more inefficient and cost more to charge—or they’re based on significant misunderstandings about how much energy is stored in the battery (and required to charge it).
The extremely low cost of charging a modern lithium-ion push mower sounds almost absurd, but we assure you that it really does cost pennies to mow (and we’ve been doing so all season).
Maintaining an electric mower is so easy it almost feels like cheating. Ryobi
How much it costs to fill the tank up or charge the battery is just a portion of the operating costs to consider. There’s a substantially higher ongoing maintenance cost associated with a gasoline engine.
We’re not including the cost of replacing or sharpening the mower blade as part of the ongoing costs here, or elsewhere in the article, because you’d do that regardless of what kind of mower you had.
Yearly Maintenance Costs: Gasoline Push Mower
In addition to fueling your gasoline-powered mower, you also need to maintain the engine itself. That includes changing the oil at the start of the mowing season as well as every additional 50 hours of runtime within the season.
Given people are a bit lax on that and 50 hours is a lot of mowing for a small yard, let’s say you change the oil once. Small mower engines usually take around 15-18 oz. of oil or so. A 32 oz. container of small engine oil runs $6-10, so it’s safe to say you’ll spend at least $3 a season on oil changes.
You also need to replace the air filter at least once a season, too, which tacks on around $5-10. (The foam filters are technically washable and reusable, but if you read the manufacturer’s recommendations, they usually encourage you to just replace them.)
You’re also supposed to replace the spark plug once a season. (We won’t turn you in to the small engine protection agency if you don’t, but assuming you treat the engine right, it’ll cost you $3 a season for a new spark plug.)
So assuming you hit the basic maintenance checkpoints of doing all of that at least once a season, you’re spending at least $15 or so per year on maintenance.
If you take the mower into a shop to get it tuned up every spring, the tuneup will cost you $50-75, on average, and include all of the above and more—though not many folks opt for engine tuneups on small push mowers.
Yearly Maintenance Costs: Electric Push Mower
Boy, this is going to be a short section. Sure, you still need to sharpen or replace the mower blade as needed, and you need to do basic cleaning like washing stuck on grass off the interior of the mower deck, but the similarities between gas push mower and electric push mower maintenance end there.
Compared to a gas mower, an electric mower is unbelievably simple. The electric mower might look like, in form factor at least, a traditional mower. But inside it’s pretty much just a big ol’ electric battery-powered “fan” that happens to have super sharp blades. There’s no engine, oil, air-intake, or spark plug. It’s pretty much a battery, a switch, and motor. Other than the blade itself, there are no user-serviceable parts, and you won’t be replacing any internal pieces or taking the mower apart to tinker with it.
The yearly operating cost, blade sharpening aside, is limited to how much money you spend charging the battery.
Projected Costs Over Time
It’s tricky to pick a good year mark to extrapolate costs out to when comparing the two types of mowers as the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries and the expense of replacing them comes into play at different intervals than the cost of yearly routine maintenance for a gasoline engine.
The lithium-ion batteries electric mowers use are typically warrantied for 3 years, but realistically under normal use when charged and stored properly will last about 5 years. They could last even longer, but for the sake of not over-estimating their lifespan or looking like electric mower evangelists, we’ll say it’s reasonable to replace the battery by the 5-year mark to get another 5 years of use out of your electric mower.
With that in mind, let’s break down the costs based on our average quarter-acre lawn and the presumption that the lawn will be mown at least once per week from May to October of each year. Fuel prices are calculated using June 2022 prices for gasoline and electricity.
Projected 10-Year Cost
What’s interesting is that, the more you mow, the greater the savings are. Realistically, a high-quality lithium-ion battery is good for thousands of charge cycles. If you double the number of times you mow our quarter-acre lawn from once a week to twice a week for that entire ten-year span, you still spend less than $10 on “fueling” the mower.
Do the same with the gas mower and you’ll end up spending a little over $300 at current prices (and still spend hundreds even if gas prices were to drop consistently over the next decade).
And if you grimace at the thought of paying $200 for a premium high-capacity battery, keep this in mind. For the basic electric push mowers, the cost of the battery is practically the entire cost of the mower itself—so when it comes time to replace the battery, if you want or need a whole new mower, you can spend $250 instead of $200, or thereabouts, and get a brand new battery and mower all in one.
Electric mowers of all kinds are increasingly competitive and for folks with small lawns, it’s really tough to overstate the savings. You can charge an electric push mower over a hundred times for the same money you’d spend on a gallon of gas. So while it’s still not a viable option for people with huge rolling greens around their homes, the millions of people with smaller mow-with-one-charge lawns should really take note.