Robot lawnmowers are becoming increasingly popular as homeowners realize their convenience and cost savings. If you’ve ever thought about how much time you spend mowing your lawn and grimaced, and would like to get your weekends back, then buying a robot lawn mower might be a good idea (if you have the right type of lawn). But are robot lawn mowers any good, or is it just going to get stuck under the deck repeatedly or worse, scalp your lawn and ruin your grass?
Let’s explore the good, the bad, and the ugly in today’s article to help you decide if a robotic lawn mower is the right choice for you (they’re not for everyone).
Robot lawn mowers are good … for some people. An autonomous mower can help homeowners reduce their lawn maintenance workload, but they’re not for everybody. They work best for small, well established lawns that are pretty level. Some models can handle large spaces and hills, but you have to have realistic expectations about what these machines can do (and what they can’t) or you’ll probably be disappointed.
Robot lawnmowers offer other advantages over traditional mowing methods as well.
Nearly all robot mowers are self-charging, removing the need to have to refuel them regularly.
Robot mowers are also much quieter than traditional mowers and can be programmed to activate at certain times (like when you’re not using your lawn).
My Pick for the Best Robotic Mower
If you’re looking for the perfect robotic lawn mower that offers a balance of performance and price, the WORX Landroid WR165 is my #1 recommendation.
Its brushless motor and excellent navigation means you’ll enjoy great performance, and it costs less than its competitors.
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What is a Robotic Lawn Mower, Exactly?
Robot lawnmowers are designed to work independently of human input. The mower uses a combination of sensors and GPS technology in order to detect obstacles, edges, and boundaries that the robot must avoid while cutting grass.
Think of it as a Roomba that has broken free of the mundane work of clearing your kitchen, hallways and living room of pet hair, and is now able to terrorize your pet in the great outdoors.
They are usually very compact in size and operate on battery power.
Most robot mowers will automatically return to a docking station when the battery is low, meaning that manual supervision isn’t needed for charging or refueling.
These devices usually come with an app that allows you to customize your mowing schedule, set boundaries, adjust speed settings and even receive notifications if there’s a problem.
Understanding the benefits of these mowers can help you decide between some of the best models available, which I have also addressed in a separate guide here.
What Is Some Of The History Behind Robot Lawnmowers?
In 1995, robotic lawnmowers made their official debut with the Husqvarna solar automower.
This was the first consumer-grade robotic lawn mower and achieved widespread success. Over the years, Husqvarna took to developing its technology to meet customer demands.
Followed by the release of the solar automower in 1995 was the 1st generation automower, which came to market in 1999.
This model was much more efficient and accurate than the initial solar automower and also ran on batteries ( also returning automatically to its station to recharge).
Since the 1990s, Husqvarna has improved its technology at an incredible rate. Since then, they released more than a dozen models that have been widely praised by homeowners and critics alike.
Once Husqvarna had perfected reliable power and AI technology, the entire range of mowers became more focused on consumer needs.
Many mowers are now designed to be efficient in different terrains and locations, and some are even designed for specific cutting heights. Many Husqvarna models made my list of the best robotic lawnmowers for sale this year.
As a result of the popularity of robot mowers, other companies have also developed their own models to compete with Husqvarna. WORX in particular has done a nice job creating extremely cost-effective options that work well with their Landroid line.
The Worx Landroid WR165 (Amazon link) is my pick for the best overall option in this space for many homeowners due to its solid performance and excellent price point.
Competition has also resulted in more competitive pricing, even when looking at the top-tier models available in this space.
Are Robot Lawn Mowers Safe?
While it sounds quite dangerous to have a bunch of spinning blades driving around your yard, robot mowers are actually quite safe, especially when compared to traditional mowers (which account for about 37,000 injuries to Americans every year).
All models come with safety features such as blade-braking sensors, automatic shut-off systems, and bumpers that sense objects in their path.
This is tech your traditional mower doesn’t offer, and these safety features ensure the robotic mower does not cause any serious harm to anyone or anything in its surroundings.
If a problem is detected during operation, the mower will either come to a stop or retreat back to its charge station and alert the user.
Over the years, manufacturers have developed these mowers with safety as the main priority.
Manufacturers understand that consumers must have peace of mind when using these devices, and that’s why they were all forced to watch Terminator several times before they began developing these machines.
Before buying a robot mower, it’s still a good idea to double-check that the model meets all the necessary safety standards and certifications.
I also don’t recommend that you purchase a used model.
What Security Do Robot Mowers Have?
Due to the size (and price) of robot mowers, security is a major issue for consumers. All models come with some form of PIN code authentication or password protection that you must enter in order to use the mower.
This ensures that nobody but the user can access and operate the device, helping to ensure your lawn is safe from theft.
Most devices now also have an anti-tamper system that will discourage anyone who tries to move the mower while it’s in use. If the device is tampered with, the mower will automatically shut off and alert the user.
In addition to these features, some top-tier models now also come with GPS tracking systems that allow you to locate your mower if it gets stolen. This allows for much faster retrieval and greatly reduces the risk of theft.
On top of the security and safety benefits that are built-in to robot lawnmowers, there are also a number of other benefits that come with having one.
What Are Some Major Benefits Of Robot Lawn Mowers?
Avoiding mowing manually and freeing up your time are the biggest advantages of a robotic lawn mower.
Determining a benefit that works for you can largely depend on the size of your lawn and how much time you have to devote to mowing it.
Other benefits include:
- Energy efficiency – Many robot mowers use less energy than traditional models, resulting in lower electricity bills.
- Reduced water usage – Robot lawn mowers can actually help reduce overall water consumption. These mowers cut grass more precisely and regularly than normal mowers. As a result, grass growth may slow, and your lawn may require less water. You also won’t be as thirsty because you won’t have spent an hour sweating in the blazing sun.
- Reduced noise pollution – Robot lawnmowers are much quieter than traditional models, resulting in fewer disturbances for your neighbors.
- Safer for pets and wildlife – Automated mowing drastically reduces the risk of injury to pets and wildlife that may be in the area.
- No emission levels – Robot lawn mowers produce no emissions and are more environmentally friendly than traditional mowing methods.
- Less labor – With a robot mower, the hard work comes during set-up. Set the boundaries, turn it on, and let it go. No more pushing a heavy mower around the lawn on a hot day in summer.
While robot mowers weren’t very impressive a decade ago, the advances that have come forward over the past few years have made them much more sophisticated and reliable.
They’re not perfect, and if you have a particularly bumpy or uneven lawn, or you’re someone who loves stripes in your lawn then you probably won’t love the results a robotic mower can deliver.
But if you hate to mow and want to buy back some of your time on the weekends, the price tag isn’t as bad as you think when you start to calculate how much time you’ll get back in the first season of ownership.
What Factors Should You Consider Before Buying A Robot Lawn Mower?
Finding the best robot lawn mower for your needs requires understanding the features and capabilities of each model, including battery life, terrain navigation and slope performance, size, and noise level.
The most expensive model may not work well for your lawn. Conversely, for some people a budget-friendly offering may not cut it (pun alert!).
Factors to consider include:
- Cost – Robot mowers range from under a thousand dollars to several thousand, depending on the model. If you have a small lawn, it may be best to opt for a lower-priced model.
- Size of your lawn – Smaller yards require smaller machines, and vice versa. Make sure you understand the size of your lawn area and the capabilities of each mower to ensure it will be able to cover the entire area. I have a free tool you can use to map your lawn with satellite imagery and get an accurate square footage measurement.
- Terrain – Some models handle hilly or uneven terrain better than others. Take this into consideration when shopping for a robot lawn mower.
- Battery life – Most robot mowers come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and can last up to two hours on a single charge.
Weighing up the major benefits and understanding the capabilities of each model will help you find the best robot lawn mower for your needs.
While these futuristic mowers will allow most homeowners in the suburbs to avoid manual mowing, remember that there are a few shortcomings as well.
What Are Some Major Downsides To Robot Lawnmowers?
Robot lawn mowers aren’t perfect, and anyone who says they are is probably a salesman.
You need to be aware of and carefully consider their shortcomings before you decide whether it’s the right option for your lawn.
Robot lawnmowers are more expensive than traditional models and require certain technical knowledge to set up and operate.
They also tend to be slower than manual mowers, which can make them less efficient if you have a large area to cover.
Larger or more complex yards will cost extra. You’ll need more sensors to set boundaries and guide the mower. You’ll also need more powerful batteries to handle longer run times.
While battery technology has come a very long way, they’re expensive, and if you love your mower you’ll still have to replace them at some point – so that’s something you need to consider as well.
Robotic mowers also may not be suitable for uneven or bumpy lawns or difficult slopes, so you may still need a manual option for those areas of your yard.
Their size and shape really isn’t conducive to mowing uneven surfaces well. You can get a model that can handle hills (this is the best option for hills in my opinion), but a bumpy and uneven lawn is something you’ll want to fix before buying a robotic mower.
Is My Lawn Suitable For A Robot Lawnmower?
Although the idea of a robot lawn mower is appealing to nearly anyone, which is pressed for time, in special circumstances, it may be completely unsuitable.
Reflecting on the size, terrain, and condition of your lawn is the only way to know if a robot lawn mower is right for you.
Size Of Your Lawn
Opportunities to mow a lawn can be scarce if you live somewhere that has frequent rainfall or longer winters with short days.
Bigger lawns take a lot longer for robotic mowers to cut compared to a traditional mower that can cover the same size lawn in a fraction of the time.
If your lawn is too large, robotic mowers will have difficulty mowing it well, especially if the window for cutting the grass is shorter than the time it takes for a robot mower to cover the entire area.
As the moisture in the grass is one of the biggest obstacles for robot mowers, the window for mowing can be a lot smaller, especially in the cooler months, when the sun comes up much later in the day.
Use my free lawn size calculator and buy a mower that’s right for the size of your yard.
The Surface Of Your Lawn
As I’ve mentioned, the surface of your lawn is perhaps the most important indicator of a robotic mower’s performance.
If your lawn has a lot of obstacles, is particularly uneven, and areas that are too difficult for the robot mower to navigate, this is a major red flag.
The design of robot lawnmowers allow them to work well on level ground and small hills. But they may struggle with areas that have sharper inclines or rough patches of grass.
If your lawn has dips, ditches, or other features, it’s probably best to set your dream aside and opt for a traditional mower – even if that means hiring someone to cut your lawn for you.
Traditional mowers can also mulch well. This can help break down the grass clippings into smaller pieces that are easier to dispose of.
Robot mowers with true mulching features are on their way. But for now (despite claims by just about every manufacturer) robotic mowers don’t mulch in the same way that a high quality mulching mower does.
They basically just cut your grass more often so the pieces are shorter. It’s not really the same.
The slope of a lawn can also be a sticking point for robot mowers. Many of them are designed to navigate slopes, but too steep an incline may cause the device to lose its grip and slide down the hill.
If you have any areas of your yard that are especially prone to eroding or sloping, you may want to consider a mower that is better for hills.
Alternatively, you can still buy a mower, and just geo-fence off the troublesome parts of your property as “no-fly zones.”
Leaving a few edges to mow manually can save you a lot of time, but if your lawn is mostly on an incline, you’ll definitely want to stick with manual options, or invest in an AWD option like the Automower 435X from Husqvarna.
Considering the condition of your lawn is also important when deciding on a robot mower.
Since robotic mowers rely on sensors to navigate, anything that can interfere with them, such as long grass, weeds, or other debris, could cause major problems for the device.
If you have spots in your yard where there’s a lot of overgrowth or wild grasses, you’ll want to stick with a traditional mower or a powerful string trimmer.
Robotic mowers mow well-maintained lawns really well. Yards with high quality turf and relatively free of any obstacles or obstructions are ideal.
As the robot mower cuts the lawn quite regularly, it may be cutting weeds before you have a chance to notice the problem or apply lawn weed killer to address the problem area.
It’s important to always keep an eye on your lawn to ensure that it’s in the best condition possible before you introduce a robotic mower.
After considering these factors, if you still feel a robotic mower could be a good fit, go for it!
They provide the same convenience as other robot vacuums and mops and even with a hefty price-tag you’ll find they offset their own up-front cost quickly with the time you save.
What Are Some Common Variations In Robot Mowers?
Robot mowers come in all shapes and sizes, and nearly all variations serve different purposes.
Some of the most common variations you’ll see are in power source (battery vs solar) and when it comes to the cutting height available.
- Solar mowers have the advantage of not adding to your power bill each time they recharge, and thanks to advancements in solar technology, they are also becoming more reliable.
- Battery-powered robot mowers also have the advantage of having a charging station to which they return.
As for cutting heights, most robot mowers will range from two inches to four inches, and some even have multiple cutting height settings that you can adjust.
Generally speaking, the taller the grass, the more power and time it will take your robot mower. So some types of lawn grass work better for an autonomous mower than others.
Robot mowers with a much taller cutting height can handle much larger yards in about the same amount of time as a regular mower, as there is less resistance to the grass.
Ultimately, robot mowers can come in many different shapes and sizes just like traditional mowers.
If you take your time and do your homework, you can find a model that will suit your yard’s unique needs.
Keep these factors in mind when shopping for the right one, and make sure you find the perfect fit for your own yard. My list of the best robotic lawn mowers is a good place to start.
What Is The Best Choice For You?
Knowing what to look for when considering a robot mower can help you pick the best choice for your lawn.
It’s important to consider factors such as the size and terrain of your lawn and any obstructions or overgrowth that could interfere with the robot mower.
If you’re someone with a smaller lawn which needs mowing frequently, then a robot mower is the perfect choice to keep things nice and tidy.
On the off chance that your lawn is just a little too big or too unruly for a robot mower, there is a huge range of great mowers that may work well for you.
Owning a traditional mower will also offer you helpful features like bagging, improved mulching capabilities, and more.
But if you do decide to make the switch to a robotic mower and you have a suitable lawn for this type of machine, you’ll find it’s a great way to save time. Owning one is a cool conversation piece as well.
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