Cylinder Mowers vs Rotary Mowers

Cylinder Mowers vs Rotary Mowers, which to choose?

When it comes to choosing a lawn mower, it can feel like your options are endless and this can be overwhelming. If it’s not having to decide between the type of power, you’re left thinking about cutting width and mowing functions. Even before all of that, you need to decide whether a cylinder or a rotary mower would be best for your garden.

But what’s the difference and how do you know which to choose? I’ve been asked this a lot so I have put together this guide on the differences, the pros and cons of each and which you should choose.

What Is A Cylinder Mower?

What Is A Cylinder Mower?

A cylinder mower is the more traditional of the two types I am comparing here today and they date as far back as the 1830s. However, the design wasn’t originally intended for cutting grass but rather used to trim wool in the old weaving mills.

A cylinder mower, sometimes called a reel mower in the US, features a cylinder that has a series of curved blades which rotate and come into contact with a fixed straight blade. The result is an action that is not all that dissimilar to scissors. The obvious benefit of this is that the cut is much cleaner and neater.

Moreover, most modern cylinder lawn mowers benefit from a rear roller which makes things even more well presented and even. However, you should keep in mind that a cylinder mower will need regular blade adjustments if you want to maintain the ability to create a precise cut and keep the blade sharp.

Why A Cylinder Mower Is Good

There are a lot of reasons that people choose to purchase a cylinder mower. Most notably is the cut quality which is far superior. This is down to that scissor like action I talked about before and results in a very sharp cut. Not only does this make your lawn look better but it also lessens the healing time as less damage is done to the grass. The obvious benefit of this is that the grass becomes less prone to disease.

Moreover, a cylinder mower is great if you want a very short lawn. They are far superior when it comes to lower cutting heights with some specialist models going as low as 1/16 of an inch! That’s perfect if you want a very manicured garden especially when you couple this with the rear roller that’s likely attached to the reel mower.

You’ll be creating those lovely stripes on your lawn but you won’t need to worry about wheel marks. Because the mower sits on two rollers, there are no tyres to leave impressions in your lawn. The pressure applied by the rollers is extremely even so these won’t leave any unwanted marks either.

When you’re mowing the lawn, you want your equipment to be convenient and that’s where a cylinder mower really excels. Why? Well mostly because the grass catcher is at the front of the mower rather than the back. This is good because you will always have a good view of the clippings allowing you to better understand when to empty. What’s more, depending on the model, you may be able to get your hands on several attachments allowing you to complete various maintenance jobs all with one piece of equipment.

Reasons Not To Get A Cylinder Mower

Reasons Not To Get A Cylinder Mower

The cylinder mower is sounding like an excellent option and for the most part, that is the case. However, there is always a downside to everything and if you are considering getting a cylinder mower, you should be aware of this.

If you have a sloped, bumpy or otherwise uneven garden, this type of mower won’t be suitable. They are very prone to damage from debris on the ground such as pebbles which can dull the blades extremely quickly.

What’s more, since these mowers don’t work very well with longer grass, you need to be willing to cut it when it needs it and not when you get a spare moment. This means you need to have a more dedicated mowing schedule which for many of us, just doesn’t fit in with busy modern life.

What Is A Rotary Mower?

The rotary mower was only invented back in the 1950s yet this is the more popular type out of the two. Invented Down Under in Oz, these mowers feature a disc, onto which, one, two or more blades are attached. This disc spins around, moving the blades over the surface of the grass to cut it. Instead of the scissor-like action of the reel mower, this is more of a chopping motion.

Why A Rotary Mower Is Good

Why A Rotary Mower Is Good

Rotary lawn mowers are the go to product for a lot of homeowners all over the globe and one of the main reasons for this is that they are very affordable. Owing to their simple design, there’s no need to overcharge for this equipment so you can pick one up for a very handsome price.

The rotary mower is also very easy to use and does not require anywhere near as much maintenance as its cylinder cousin.

What’s really good about them is that they are more convenient for modern gardeners as you don’t need to tie yourself into a strict mowing schedule. They handle long grass very well and come with a range of longer cutting heights to meet this demand. If you don’t get around to cutting the lawn for a couple of weeks, this isn’t going to be a problem for your rotary mower.

On top of this, you will find that a rotary lawn mower is also great at clearing leaves from the grass and it is better able to cope with uneven lawns or any debris that may be present. They are fitted with wheels which makes them much easier to move around although some may leave marks.

Reasons Not To Get A Rotary Mower

As with the cylinder mower, the rotary lawn mower isn’t perfect and there are some things you will need to think about before making your final decision. The most obvious thing is that a rotary mower cannot achieve the same low cutting heights as a cylinder mower so it’s not ideal if you want a very short, well maintained lawn. While many come with rollers, they still have wheels which can affect the final appearance of the grass.

Moreover, you have to consider that the way these lawn mowers cut is much more aggressive and so it will not be as clean a result. Also, this aggressive cutting method means that the grass will take longer to heal and this can cause the ends to turn brown, making the lawn look less tidy.

Which Should You Choose; Cylinder Vs Rotary Mower

Which Should You Choose; Cylinder Vs Rotary Mower

Much of this decision will rest on your personal preference. Far be it from me to tell you which type of mower you feel more comfortable using. However, when it comes down to practicalities, there is some advice I can offer you.

If you are willing to stick to a strict mowing schedule and want to be able to achieve a very well manicured lawn then I would absolutely recommend the cylinder mower. However, if it’s convenience you’re after and a mower you can whip out of the garden shed whenever you get a spare moment, the rotary mower will be the better option.


There are lots of things to think about when buying a lawn mower. One of these things is deciding between a rotary and a cylinder mower. A cylinder mower uses blades that perform more like scissors while a rotary mower uses a chopping action. These are the more common type although they don’t give as clean and neat a result.

I know I have mentioned a number of functions and features in this article. If you would like to find out what mower is best suited to your needs, you can use my lawn mower selection tool on this link


Mark Haley Author
Lawnmower Product Expert, Reviewer and Author at | 01284 615144 | | Website

As a seasoned expert in the field of garden power tools, I have dedicated over a decade to working with and reviewing a wide variety of lawn mowers. My extensive experience has allowed me to gain a deep understanding of the benefits and limitations of different types of mowers and garden tools.

Over the years, I have honed my skills in writing informative articles and creating helpful videos for various blogs and publications. This has given me the ability to not only recognise what makes a good lawn mower, but also to help you choose the perfect garden tool for your specific needs and requirements.

With my wealth of knowledge and expertise, I am confident that I can provide you with valuable insights and recommendations when it comes to selecting the right lawn mower for your lawn. So, whether you're looking for a battery cordless, electric, petrol, or robotic mower, you can trust in my expertise to guide you towards the best option for your garden.

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