Scotts Reel Mower Review

Summary of Scotts Reel Mower Review

This review is pretty long and in depth. If you don’t feel like reading the entire review here is a brief summary covering my conclusions:

Pros:

  • Lightweight, Easy to use (for regular mowing), stores nicely
  • Environmentally friendly, won’t use gas or pollute, saves you money
  • Cheap price, sturdy construction, good value

Cons:

  • Takes forever to mow large lawns
  • Mow at least once a week or suffer the consequences
  • Weeds can escape mowing if too tall

Review Conclusion: A good cheap real mower that works phenomenally when conditions are right (grass isn’t too tall, yard isn’t bumpy or too many weeds). It takes longer to mow with the Scotts reel mower than other push mowers so, while doable, it’s probably better for smaller yards and is ideal for small suburban and city plots. If you do purchase the Scotts classic reel mower, you definitely need to buy a reel mower blade sharpener as sharp blades make all the difference in the world (and it’s pretty easy to sharpen the blades too).

A few years ago now, I bought the Scotts 2000-20 20” Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower from Amazon.  My wife and I had just purchased our first home and I was a bit of a green crusader.  Being younger and full of idealism, I thought that it was my duty to do the right thing and purchase a reel lawn mower.  I had used one of the extremely old, vintage variety at my grandmother’s house years ago as a kid and found the technology ingenious yet cumbersome; however, I had read that modern reel mowers were unlike the old clunky ones.  So armed with my ideals and a handful of research I purchased the Scotts classic reel mower for just over $100.  Now that I have a few years of using the mower under my belt (yes, I stuck to my convictions although they’ve eroded some) I felt that it’s time I give my perspective on the unit and provide a Scotts reel mower review.

Scotts Reel Mower Description

I thought I’d start out by providing a brief description of what the Scotts 20” Classic Lawn Mower features.  This is the stereotypical reel mower that everyone thinks of when you mention push mower: The 5 rotating blades, the hourglass handle, even down to the green mowing deck and orange tires.  The blades encompass a 20 inch mowing width and the tires are 10” and hard plastic. There’s also a pair of supporting 6” wheels that control cutting height and allow the mower to stand upon its own.  There are easy to use sliders on each side that lets you choose one of 9 height settings that range from 1 inch to 3 inches.  The mower weighs close to 35 pounds and is very easy to maneuver and pick up when necessary.

Scotts Reel Mower Performance

This mower is terrific in some situations and horrific in others and to try to illustrate this I will tell you about my experiences. My yard is a slightly larger than average suburban yard. Our plot is ¾ of an acre and once you take out the house, driveway, trees, etc. it’s probably close to 0.6 acres. There are a few obstacles but not many and there’s a large level spot in front of the house and a fair size hill behind the house.

Being a new homeowner, you have quite a lot you’d like to get accomplished and mowing the lawn isn’t terribly important (not to mention I’m not very fond of lawn care and try to keep it as low maintenance as possible). I would try to get out at least once every week to ten days to mow the grass. This would result in some substantially tall grass (much to the chagrin of the neighbors). In the beginning this wasn’t a big issue, it would just take me a little longer because I’d have to overlap a little to get the ends and make sure that everything was even (so I wasn’t getting the full 20” mowing width). Over time this became more of an issue because the blades would dull as I would have to overlap more and more to ensure that the grass was getting cut evenly.

Take Home Message:

  • Mow the Lawn Frequently (at least 1/week)
  • Keep the Blades Sharp

To remedy this situation I did three things: I mowed more frequently, I split my mowing into 2-3 times (taking my mowing time from 1.5 hours to 3-30 minute sessions), and I ordered a blade sharpening kit to keep the blades sharp.

Scotts Classic Reel Mowers are Good for

Small yards - If you have a small yard (less than 0.5 acre) it shouldn’t be that difficult to knock out a mowing in 40-45 minutes. That being said, you can still use them on larger yards if you don’t mind being bored or dealing with half mown lawns.

Flat yards - Having a flat, rolled, non-bumpy yard will make mowing E-A-S-Y. I have to say that when I hit the parts of my lawn where it’s flat and the grass is just the right height it cuts like butter.

Lawns with many obstacles - Because the Scotts reel mower is lightweight and maneuverable, it’s easy to mow around trees, flowerbeds and other obstacles that may be in your lawn. It also works well as a secondary mower for places that are difficult to mow with a riding mower.

City plots - If you have a small plot of lawn and not a lot of space to store a mower the Scotts classic 20” reel mower is ideal. It can be hung in a storage shed or slid under a deck easily as it doesn’t take up much space.

This helped but I still found that I was taking a long time to get the grass cut. Being the environmentalist that I was, I wanted to have a naturally lush lawn without any chemical fertilizers (I still don’t believe in fertilizers). This resulted in dealing with weeds that would come along. So every May and September my lawn would be flush with dandelions. I had read somewhere that if you keep the grass high (between 3-4”) that they would shade out and otherwise outcompete the weeds and that you’d have a naturally weed free lawn. Sounded good to me. Seeing as the mowing deck would only get up to 3 inches I kept it at its highest settings. While it is true that a healthy height for grass is 3 inches and that reel mowers are better for grass because they sheer the grass instead of tearing it (tearing grass can lead to bug infestations and makes it harder for the grass to recover; this is what happens with motorized rotating blade mowers), it also contributed to thicker healthier grass that grew more requiring me to mow even more frequently.

Take Home Message:

  • Mow Lower (between 2 and 3 inches is OK)

So out of frustration I went ahead and lowered the mowing deck, 1 setting at a time until I found the height that I liked best. I haven’t measured it but I’d guess that it’s probably closer to 2.25-2.5 inches. I’ve found that the cut is a lot more even, which means I don’t have to overlap (which means it takes less time to mow), and the grass is still healthy it’s just shorter and honestly I think it looks better.

Scotts Classic Reel Mowers will Challenge your Resolve if

You have a Large lawn like me; you can still do it but it seems like it takes forever. Anything smaller than a half acre will work nicely, and they’re especially efficient in smaller, city-like plots.

You are obsessive about your lawn’s appearance. Because the mower doesn’t always get the weeds, you’ll be spending a lot of time digging them out or spraying each one. However, if you have your lawns sprayed or just have a 1-in-a-million weed-free lawn this might not be a problem.

You can’t mow frequently. If you’re somewhat lackadaisical about taking care of your lawn and end up putting it off like I do, you’re going to be in for a challenge once the grass grows too high. I will say that I have tackled some pretty high grass after a few weeks off and it’s doable but you just have to mow over the same area for awhile.

While the grass did grow thicker when I was letting it grow longer, it didn’t shade out or otherwise seem to affect the weeds. As I mentioned twice a year my lawn would be covered with dandelions (it doesn’t bother me that much) and I would find all sort of miscellaneous weeds that pop up all over (buckhorn plantain, some sort of trefoil, even a pretty purple flowering one). The reel push mower did a good job at tackling weeds so long as they were within a half inch of the mowing deck. Otherwise the mower would miss them if they were too short, or the front part of the mowing deck (the part that covers the blades) would bend them over and they would not get sucked into the rotary blades and pop back up on the back side. As you can imagine this really tested my determination and when things got completely out of control I would resort to using my back up mower (a large snapper gas-powered mower).

Take Home Message:

  • Attack weeds often (which means more mowing)
  • Keep Blades Sharp

There wasn’t a whole lot I could do to beat the weeds. I would try to mow more often but that went against my low-maintenance lawn philosophy. The other thing that helped was keeping the blades sharp I’ve found that sharpening the blades about once a month kept them sharp enough to overcome a majority of the issues I would have. While it’s not my favorite thing in the world, sharpening the blades is fairly easy and takes about 20 minutes (but probably saves around 2-3 hours in mowing time).

The last thing that I’ve found that I’d like to bring up in this reel mower review is that the weight of the mower is a double edged sword.  Being light is one of its best features because it is easy for me to hang up on a wall and lift over some of the other things in my shed, it’s easy to push (especially compared to the Snapper back-up mower; that thing is a bear) and it’s real easy to maneuver around.  That being said it’s terrible on uneven terrain.  If your lawn is very bumpy and you try to go fast, the Scotts mower will bounce around and you end up getting an uneven cut; sometimes missing patches completely.  Adding about ten pounds to the mower would make a tremendous difference and I feel would add to the quality of the reel mower.  I’ve learned to just take my time when I’m mowing (I wish I didn’t have to) and accept this shortcoming.  I suppose you could strap some weights onto the wheels or front of the mowing deck, but it’s never bothered me that much. 

Scotts Reel Mower Review Conclusion

Over the past four years of using the Scotts reel mower I’ve developed some practices that work for me.  They include breaking up the mowing into separate and more manageable chunks, sharpening the blade more often, mowing lower and living with some of the shortcomings I can’t change (weight of the unit, weed mowing ability).  As I’ve mentioned above, keep the blades sharp is probably the biggest single improvement you can make if you choose to use a reel mower as even the best reel mower will dull quickly.  The blade sharpening procedure is easy yet monotonous and sometimes I’ll push the envelope to see how long I can go without.  Inevitably I’ll end up getting frustrated with the cutting and take it in to be sharpened.  I should mention that it is probably the best environmentally friendly solution for mowing grass; it doesn’t use any gas and doesn’t produce any pollution so you end up saving money and the planet plus you get a good workout.

Scotts Classic Reel Mower from Amazon

I purchased both the Scotts Classic reel mower and the sharpening kit from Amazon.  I was able to get free shipping on the mower (but not the sharpener because I ordered them seperately).  If you do decide to get a Scotts reel mower, Amazon has the lowest prices I've found on the internet.  I would suggest purchasing the two together so you get the free shipping and because you really will need to the sharpener to make the reel mower worthwhile.

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Comments 1 comment

Shannon 5 years ago

Much of what you speak of here is due to the fact that your choice of reel mowers seems to have been less than optimal. The Scott's brand isn't one of the ones that gets high reviews.

The best of the reel mowers is made by Fiskars - the Momentum. 18" cutting swath, but it fixes almost every problem you had/have otherwise:

It's heavier (35 pounds) so it doesn't bounce around, and handles dense grasses easier.

It positions the blades between the forward and back wheels, so you get a cut even where the wheels are, making the most of the 18" cutting swath.

It uses a chain driven gear to double the speed of the blade, which means it's much easier to cut grass in general, and especially thick grass.

It has a height that is adjustable from 1" to 4", allowing you to cut a much wider variety of grass heights.

It throws the grass forward away from you, so no more green shoes and socks.

It uses a non-contact blade design, which means the blades don't make physicl contact with the swathknife. They miss it by some ridiculously small amount - the thing can cut paper still. This means it's virtually silent, and needs sharpening about every 5 to 10 years.

Most people buy this mower and it's cousin from Scott's because of the 20" swath, but they're really a 3rd or 4th tare choice compared to other options. Brill puts out some great machines, too, and so do a few others. But as much as Scott's brand is touted, it's really far from the best available.

Oh, and by the way, this isn't coming from a seller of these things. I own a Momentum. And I bought it after spending a couple days solid doing research on reel mower options. I couldn't be happier. I can get outside, get a little exercise, mow my lawn, talk to my neighbors, get some sun, sleep in all I want (because nobody is waking me up with a power mower anymore) and it doesn't terrify my dogs. Great stuff. Look into a Momentum.

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