Thinking about buying a robotic lawn mower so you don’t have to fool with cutting the grass anymore? Me too. I’m not a huge fan of mowing the lawn. It’s a chore.
I don’t want a sloppy, weedy, dying lawn, and I’d really like to avoid the sweaty, dirty chore of mowing it every 5-6 days. I’m guessing if you’re here reading this, you probably feel the same way.
While robotic lawn mowers are still a work in progress, they can generally do a good enough job to free up a few hours on your evenings and weekends.
Keep reading and I’ll fill you in on what I think are the most important factors to consider when buying one of these “cutting edge” devices (and yes, that super-lame and obvious pun WAS intended).
4 Major Benefits of Owning a Robotic Lawnmower
1. Simplify your lawn care
This is the most obvious benefit. Let a robot do your chores for you.
Since I don’t particularly care for mowing the lawn, I set the height on my gas mower to cut the grass quite a bit shorter than I should. Then in between cuttings, I let it grow a little bit longer than I should. By using this method, it cuts down the number of times I have to mow the lawn by about half.
That’s one way to cut down on the time you spend caring for your lawn. Unfortunately, there’s some serious problems with my method (as explained in the next section).
A better way would be to use a robotic mower.
You’ll probably need an afternoon to go through the initial installation and setup, but once your robot mower is installed, you can sit back and relax, because the robot will take care of the bulk of the mowing work.
2. Perfect length all the time
Cutting the lawn too short occasionally causes brown spots and gives weeds a chance to sprout up. And, letting it grow too long looks somewhat sloppy, especially when there’s a few weeds mixed in.
Luckily, a robotic mower is a slave to your whims. You can send it out every single day to keep your lawn at the perfect length all the time. The result will be a healthier, greener lawn with fewer weeds and a lower watering bill.
3. Free up your yard
If the robot mower is out there every day keeping your yard in tip top shape, you might wonder when you can actually use your lawn without worrying about tripping over the mower?
Well, robotic mowers don’t need light to navigate, and they are usually quiet enough to mow at night. So, you can program your mower to do its lawn maintenance while you’re sleeping.
With the right robotic mower, you will have virtually zero time when your lawn can’t be used due to mowing.
4. Take it on vacation
As long as there’s no moose around, a robot mower is great for a cabin.
You go to the family cabin for the weekend and what’s the first thing you have to do? Mow the lawn.
Instead of doing lawn chores during your vacation time, just set down Mower McMowypants (obviously, that’s the name you give your robot mower) and let it do its thing. Then, pull up a chair and crack open a beer.
9 Important Questions to ask before you buy
You may want your mower to be compatible with Alexa or be able to cut on steep slopes. Whatever your preferences are, take a look at the following questions you should ask yourself before buying a robotic mower.
1. How much lawn can it cut?
Standard lawn mowers are built with blades like a machete so they can hack through your grass. That’s fine when you have a powerful gas engine to run them.
On the other hand, robot mower blades are designed like razor blades instead of machete knives. Instead of roughly hacking your grass, they mince it up into itty-bitty pieces that leave your yard free from clumps (that is, unless you try to cut grass that’s too high for your robot mower to handle).
Therefore, robot mowers are designed to be out there every day or other day keeping the lawn trimmed to the perfect length. For this reason, it’s best to stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines when matching a robot mower to the size of your lawn.
If your lawn gets so long between mowings that the mower needs to chop off 1-2 inches, it’s going to have a tough time. At the very least, you will end up with trails of grass clumps that the mower leaves in its wake.
2. What is the cut height?
Make sure you are aware of the ideal cut length for your grass in your climate, and make sure any robotic mower you buy can cut to the height you need.
You want to keep your grass long enough so that the grass doesn’t burn up and turn into a crusty brown eyesore. However, you don’t want it so long that it looks sloppy. Somewhere in the middle is where you want to be.
Cut height is a major limitation that I’m not used to when comparing robotic mowers to traditional gas powered mowers. Push mowers usually have those notched levers that let you easily adjust the cut height from really short to really long.
You can adjust the cutting height on your robotic mower too, but in most cases robotic mowers are limited to a much lower maximum cut height than you’re used to.
3. Is it able to learn my yard?
Most robot lawn mowers have poor navigation. Except for the Terra (coming soon), they’re unable to map out your lawn to create an efficient mowing pattern and you can’t program them to stay within your yard’s boundaries. If you don’t want them wandering off into the neighbor’s yard, you have to set up a physical boundary wire (that comes with your mower) to keep them inside.
Because most robot mowers can’t map out your lawn in an efficient manner, they just randomly bounce around inside your boundary wire until they eventually hit all the spots.
The Husqvarna mowers do have a GPS that does a somewhat better job of guiding them to the unmowed spots in your lawn and the Robomow can map out your yard in zones, but it’s definitely a work in progress.
4. How loud is it?
Robot mowers run off electricity (battery-powered) rather than gas, so they’re much quieter than a standard lawn mower. Plus, their smaller, lighter blades help cut down on noise too.
A typical robot mower runs at about the 60dB sound level. That means it runs about the same noise level as a conversation. Therefore, if necessary, a robot mower could easily be used at night without any fear of annoying the neighbors.
This is a great option because it frees up the yard for normal use during the day.
So it’s convenient that they’re pretty quiet, but at the same time, you’ll still want to give yours a test run to see if it’s quiet enough for you.
5. Does it trim edges?
Exactly where the mower goes will depend on where you put the boundary wire.
The lighter blades don’t operate with the violent intensity of a standard lawnmower. Because of that, there’s less danger if part the mower rolls over rock beds or wood chips. So, it is possible to get the mower right up next to places like the one in the picture above.
However, it won’t do well if there’s any sort of edging or landscaping block that creates a vertical barrier.
The blades of the robotic mowers are significantly narrower than the bodies (I assume for safety reasons?). That means if you have to cut next to a vertical barrier, it will always leave a path several inches wide that will have to be trimmed.
6. Can it handle wet grass?
Not surprisingly, most robotic mowers will have issues cutting a wet lawn. The grass gets sticky and forms unsightly clumps to be littered all over your yard. The dirt beneath it turns to mud and the mower might get stuck.
It’s hit or miss with this one. Some robotic mowers can mow in the rain, while others have a built-in rain sensor that sends it straight back to their charging base when it starts getting wet.
If having your grass cut in the rain is important to you, you’ll limit your options when it comes to choosing a robotic mower, but at least your grass will always look nice – rain or shine!
7. What sort of theft prevention does it have?
If you have this cool, expensive machine cruising around your yard at night, what’s to stop someone from simply picking up your mower and walking off with it?
This is a major concern people often have about a robot mowers. Fortunately, manufacturers have done a decent job of addressing this issue.
Most robot mowers include an alarm that goes off when it’s lifted up. Plus, they all have a PIN verification system that would disable the mower for anyone but you.
Unfortunately, not much can keep a determined thief from picking it up and running away with it. It wouldn’t be of any use to them without a working PIN. But, if they just wanted to be a real jerk, the lift alarm is really the only thing stopping them.
8. How long does the battery last?
Each robot mower has the ability to go back to its charging station and re-charge when its battery gets low. So, you might think that battery life is a non-issue.
However, because batteries degrade over time, your robot mower’s battery life will likely decrease over time as well. So if you want to get as much “mow time” as possible over the course of its life, you’ll want to buy one that has the most battery life to start out with.
Plus, buying one with more battery life means it’ll mow more grass at one time, and might be able to fit the mowing into a smaller time window.
9. What do the smart features look like?
Every robot mower comes with an app. Depending on the app, you can use it to adjust the cutting height, create a mowing schedule for your robot to stick to, send it to certain areas of your yard, and help it navigate obstacles.
Besides the standard app they all come with, some are compatible with Alexa, fitting right into your smart home’s ecosystem. Only one (the Terra) is smart enough to learn your yard, mow in straight lines, and stay inside your boundaries without needing a wire to contain it.
Top Robotic Lawnmower Models
Because of how many similarities there are between each of these robotic mowers, I’ve listed everything they share in common here first. The differences between them are listed underneath their names.
(Some mowers don’t list certain features, such as their noise level or how long they take to recharge. You may have to contact the company in order to get that information.)
All of the following robotic mowers have these features in common:
- A security PIN you have to punch in before you can use it. It won’t keep anybody from stealing it, but it will keep your mower from being useful to them.
- Automatic shut-off when it’s lifted up or tilted. This protects kids if one of them happens to start playing with it.
- Takes itself back to base to re-charge. It won’t die in your yard and you don’t have to carry it.
- You can set different cutting heights for it to cut your grass.
- Requires a perimeter wire to know the boundaries of your lawn (except the Terra).
You can use your phone to monitor and control the Husqvarna Automower. Plus, it works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home or IFTTT. Depending on how you’ve programmed it, it will also change its cutting pattern to get each spot in your lawn.
It has an alarm included as an extra measure against theft. Plus, it has GPS tracking installed, so you can pinpoint exactly where it is (which you can also use to know where it’s at when you’re watching TV and it’s outside mowing your lawn).
Depending on the model you buy, the Automower’s sound is low, ranging from 58 dB(A) to 69 dB(A), as compared to an average gas-powered lawn mower with noise between 95 and 100 dB(A).
The Automower can cut in dew or light rain, but it will also sense when the rain becomes too heavy for it. It can navigate slopes up to 24 degrees, but won’t be able to work its way out of a hole in your yard.
It’ll cut for about three hours before it has to come back in for an hour to recharge.
The top line of the Robomow robotic lawn mowers has a cutting width of 22 inches. If you’d rather have a smaller mower, you can choose a different model they offer with a cutting width of either 7 or 11 inches. It’s cutting height ranges from 0.8 – 3.4 in.
You can also hook it up to Alexa, so when you want your lawn mowed, just say, “Alexa, tell Robomow to mow my lawn.” It’s able to cut for 80 – 100 minutes at a time and takes 90 – 110 minutes to recharge.
Like the others, the Robomow had a rain sensor so it returns back to base when it starts raining. It can also be programmed to separate your yard into different zones. Once each zone is completed, it moves on to the next.
It also has a feature called “TurboMow,” which automatically switches off when it’s maximum grass height is reached. It comes with a child lock system and is able to mow on slopes up to 20 degrees.
This robotic mower also comes with an app you can control and manage your mower from. This app gives you updates on how far along your mower is, lets you program your mowing schedule or send it back to base, and use it to manually navigate your lawn mower around obstacles or flowers.
McCulloch ROB R1000
The McCulloch has the ability to cut your grass when it’s raining without getting clogged up. It can handle inclines up to 25 degrees and comes with an alarm in case of theft.
It takes about 50 minutes to recharge and can cut up to one-quarter of an acre before it’s battery gets too low. Its max cutting height is 1.97 inches and it’s cutting width is 6.69 inches.
Its sound level is a dB(A) of 59, but I didn’t see an option for an app or any smart features available.
The Gardena has a sound level of dB(A) 60. It can also cut the grass in the rain.
You can set the grass cutting height from 20-50 mm and it cuts a width of 17cm. It can work on slopes of up to 25 degrees, takes around 50 minutes to charge, and can cut for 65 minutes before it has to recharge.
Like the McCulloch, I didn’t see any options to control it with an app.
The current available robot mowers are pretty cool, but I think the technology is about to improve tremendously in the next couple years. Here’s a couple models to look forward to.
The Terra t7 is set to be the first robotic mower released by iRobot (the company responsible for the revolution in robotic vacuum cleaners). Without a doubt, they will lean heavily on what they learned making robot vacuums. I suspect the T7 will bring a major improvement to how robotic mowers map and navigate your yard.
From what I found, the Terra is the only robot mower that is able to actually mow your yard intelligently. Instead of like the others, where the most they can do is zone your yard into different areas and then randomly drive around until everything is cut, the Terra learns your yard.
It maps out your lawn so that it cuts in straight back-and-forth lines, with no randomness. It’s also the only robot mower that doesn’t require physical boundary wires. Like some of the other mowers, it also comes with an app that lets you set the mowing schedule and how the height of your grass. That’s all the information I could find on it.
It might be hard to get one though, as it was just released in Europe this year. They say it will be for sale in Germany and as a beta program in the U.S., but you may have to contact them to find out when.
Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD
Husqvarna’s latest model in its Automower line is the 435X AWD. It features an articulated body with all-wheel-drive. It will be able to mow on slopes up to 35 degrees. It will work with the same Automower Connect App the rest of the Automower line works with. You can use the app to allow voice control and IFTTT integrations with your smart home.
The Automower 435X AWD will be released in Europe first and there’s no release date in the US yet. However, it’s expected to make its debut sometime in 2020.
When it comes to mowing your lawn, a robot lawn mower can free you up from doing something you may not enjoy. There are different options available depending on your personal preference.
You may have a home with multiple smart features and want a mower compatible with Alexa. Or you may be satisfied with a simpler version that’s able to cut your lawn every day and return to base when it rains.
While robot mowers aren’t yet the most sophisticated of smart technology (yet), they can work great for some people’s needs, as long as you take a careful look at what each one offers.