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Would you swap your lawn mower for a robot?

Robotic lawnmower

Robotic mowers have made their big debut, but with a price tag in excess of the smartest petrol mower, very few have taken the plunge. Could you be tempted to buy a robotic lawn mower or is mowing a pleasure?

Honestly, I don’t mind mowing the lawn. It’s a quick and satisfying job for my 1930s semi garden which makes a huge difference to how my garden looks. My lawn’s mossy, weedy and lumpy but I can still get a decent stripe with my corded electric lawn mower in less than 30 minutes.

But when I tried out the John Deere Tango E5 and then the Honda Miimo robotic lawn mowers it did get me thinking. Obviously the price of these machines, both around £2,000, makes them ludicrously expensive for anything other than massive lawns. But if the price came down, would I be tempted?

Robotic mowers – fuss-free lawn maintenance

Robotic lawn mowers are quiet and fuss free. They trundle around your garden on a schedule to suit you and keep your lawn under control come rain or shine. They don’t use much electricity, making them cheap to run and if you have flat lawn edges, you wouldn’t need a grass trimmer either.

The only downside for my lawn would be the loss of stripes, as these mulching mowers mow randomly to avoid making wheel ruts in the grass. Still, I’m sure I could bear the deprivation.

Robotic mowers – neither cheap nor convenient

But how far would the price have to come down before I would consider a robotic mower? Well, it would have to be at least half the price before it was even close to the price of a top-end petrol mower.

Then if I really want to make the most of it, I’d have to get rid of my front lawn and get a new flat border around the lawn so I didn’t get left with messy edges. And then I’d have to get a mower flap installed in the shed so it wasn’t a permanent feature of my garden, like an overgrown lawn ornament.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more likely I’ll be mowing for some years yet!

Would you be tempted to give up the pleasure of mowing your lawn for the convenience of a robotic mower?

Comments

I imagine that it could be very restful watching one of these robotic lawnmowers in action. I don’t have a big enough lawn or lots of spare money, so I will stick with a conventional mower.

LayZ Boy says:
18 January 2014

These seem awesome. They appear smaller than I expected and look compact. I could spend more time enjoying the lawn if I had one. I agree, the price has to be half for me to consider it.

I remember the first demonstration of one of these over 12 years ago when some East Enders star used an early version winning a sort of faked TV contest. I knew I would be hooked to something one could leave and let it do the job since my gardener (who takes my Gardening Which home) does tend to avoid the lawn even if the plants are fantastic.

I noticed all those years ago that there had to be a periphery wire which had to remain in place come winter, mini floods or shining sun, and this may still be required today despite the ever fantastic growth in electronic memory capabilities which never seem to end.

Over the years I have occasionaly taken a peep using Google at current prices and seen some at around £700 but one does get what one pays for even if the robotic version I witnessed on TV all those years ago was not much over £1100. Clearly, the price of these robotic lawnmowers are not totally dependent on the falling price of computer memory chips! It would be interesting to see if they have moved well away form using Ni-Cad type batteries too, which must also add to the manufacturing costs.

Anne Casey says:
10 November 2014

I invested in a robotic law mower as I have a home in Ireland with a large garden. I got the John Deere Tango and it is fabulous when working, mowing the lawn in Ireland while I live in London. I had it for two Summers. However, I have had ongoing problems and have had the after sales team out on numerous occasions and despite them replacing internal software and same in docking station, problems continued and I have now asked for my money back. Hopefully, I will get my money back and will certainly purchase another brand of robotic mower..Great to arrive there to find mowed lawn, then everything else looks good. The John Deere after sales service was excellent.

Hi Anne, thanks for keeping us up-to-date with this complaint, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve received your money back, from the latest comment sent to us 🙂 .

I’ll be sure to share your feedback with the Which? Gardening Team for their consideration.

Mike Douglas says:
26 April 2015

One of the earlier comments sums up these units: great when working.
I have owned 2 Mowbot 200 deluxe units, the second and current being supplied at half price because the first was so bad.
The first had wheel motors replaced twice, blade motor replaced, motherboard replaced, charger replaced and new NiCad batteries every year. The second with LioOn batteries is on its 3 rd in 4 years. The UK dealership was given to an Irish person who has a reputation which is bad and has had the dealership taken away. There is still one dealer over them but of course carriage is £50 before you start. End of last year, cost £150 to be told nothing wrong with it and it arrived back damaged and was told the problem is the ground cable. I replaced that over the last 2 weeks, and it still does not work. The best spare part I have is a petrol lawn mower.

Hi Mike, in the off chance that you might see this I am keen to know about your dealings with the Irish dealer. I don’t expect you to name him on here, but even the area he is in would be useful. I am in Ireland and having problems with a dealer here. I believe he may have had the dealership taken away, but we didn’t know it at the time.

Bob384 says:
12 August 2015

I bought a Husquvarna 320 in April and have not cut the lawn since. Yes I have to do the edges but I had to do that with my walk behind mower. My lawn has really tough slopes in places and mowing was playing hell with my ageing ankle joints. It would take 5 hours to do the job including collection. Mulching was never an option because with our climate a few rainy days keep you indoors and then the grass is too long for mulching. The 320 is brilliant. It goes out rain or shine, is totally programmable and deal with virtually 45 degree slopes. A ride-on which would have been risky on the slopes would have cost me twice as much. Well worth getting someone to bring one in for you to demonstrate on your lawn.

Naturelover says:
3 September 2016

My neighbours have a robot lawn mower. It has killed two hedgehogs in less than a month, despite manufacturer assurances that they are safe for wildlife.

Naturistlover says:
9 September 2019

Yes …. plus three babies, the local milkman and a Yodel delivery man!

Caroline says:
20 September 2016

I love my Husqvarna robot! Commissioned in June, it has played a big part in improving the lawn this year. I was worried that the tight spaces and not-very-flat surface in my odd-shaped garden would defeat it – but not a chance. Blades is agile and determined – and such fun to watch! worth every penny.

I agree with Caroline. My Husqvarna 430X is brilliant. It copes with narrow passages, steep slopes, rough ground and odd-shaped areas. It’s near-silent and never damages anything left in its path. The condition of the lawn has improved significantly because of the microscopic cuttings being constantly deposited on it (the mower is programmed to run twice for a couple of hours, most days). It doesn’t take space in my garage – in winter, it hangs on the wall. I don’t have to buy oil or fuel, cope with a cable, or charge a very expensive Rotak Li battery. We don’t need a grass heap and our green bin is now free to take other garden waste. We just came back from a 4-week holiday and the lawn looks just as we left it, except perhaps some of the edges. We LOVE it!

My lawn takes about an hour to cut each time with a petrol mower. Then there are the cutting to get rid of. That is two or three half full dumpy bags – any more and they are getting too heavy to lift. Then if we go away for any length of time in the growing season, which in Cornwall pretty well stops after Christmas and starts again 1st January, I need to get someone in to do the cutting – you must not abuse friends too much!
Option 1: carry on like I am and pay a gardener to cut the lawn sometimes. OK for now but soon option 2 or 3 will have to happen.
Option 2: Engage a gardener say 2 hours at £17.50 per hour for 30 weeks a year = £1050 per annum.
Option 3: Robot mower. Say £1000. Annual maintenance & replace battery say £500 per annum.

Year 1 break even, year 2 £500 up, year 3 £1000 up, year 4 replace.

Just which one to get?

Which one? I’d strongly recommend a Husqvarna, if you can afford it (double your £1000 figure), based on my experience.

Margaret says:
27 May 2018

Maybe it is time for Which? to review robotic lawn mowers. I have just got a Viking for my large area of grass (not a lawn!) and I love it to bits. The grass has never look better.

Margaret says:
27 May 2018

I have just got a Viking for my large area of grass. I love it, despite the cost.

Sue cutler says:
13 August 2019

I add my vote to Margaret’s. A review of robotic lawnmowers would be great. We have had a Robomow for 18 months which we use to keep the lawn under control while we are abroad – sometimes for up to six weeks. We have had lots of trouble with it – it never seems to work for more than a week without something going wrong or it just getting stuck and needing to be put back on track. So it doesn’t really help us with long term care while we are away. I don’t know if this is because of the make of mower or if it is just that you cannot really expect them to operate ok for 6 weeks without attention. Looks great when it works though

Diane says:
7 July 2020

I need to get a robotic mower as I’m disabled so really struggle to cut my lawn.
My son does it sometimes but it’s usually knee high before I can get him to come and do it despite only living a few miles away.
Part of my lawn is on a slope so one I was hoping to get may not be suitable so I’m probably going to have to buy a more heavy duty mower just to deal with the slope

Hi Diane – Which? has some useful advice here: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/lawn-mowers/article/what-is-a-robot-lawn-mower

It might be worth looking at having it cut as an alternative to a robotic mower, or take your son in hand. 🙂

Diane, rather than struggle to cut your lawn or spend a lot on a robot mower that may not do a good job, particularly on a slope, I’d find someone local who could regularly cut it for you.

I would recommend that as well. Booking a regular mowing service will take a weight off your mind – especially if bad weather makes it impossible for you to do it safely.

Some people just do mowing and have a number of mowers suitable for all situations. A gardener will usually not come with a mower and will expect to use yours. Both types will use your garden waste bin for the cuttings.

Round here the gardening contractors always bring their own mowers, strimmers, etc. If cutting the grass is hard work then it’s best to get the contractor to take away the clippings because a bin full of grass would be heavy for anyone who is disabled.

Grass clippings less than an inch are good for your lawn, and act as a fertiliser for the soil so don’t put them in your bin, unless you are maintaining your local bowling green or tennis courts!

Where I live the open green spaces are maintained by the local council who appear about once every two weeks on a large sit on tractor which mows and leaves the cuttings behind.

The trouble is, and here’s the rub, neighbours let their kids out to play, even though they all have their own gardens, and so pay an annual fee for a private contractor to mow and collect the cuttings which then don’t end up in their homes. I stopped contributing as the volume of kids increased with wig-wams, scooters, bicycles and bouncy castles to boot!

My regular gardener retired last year and hasn’t been replaced and so I have been mowing my own grass. Contractors in my area are not very reliable. They will happily turn up for a ‘one off’ job, charge you a large sum and you are lucky if you see them again.

What you need is someone local who has retired but active and happy to do jobs for sensible money. I might be just round the corner, Beryl?

I have a fair amount of lawn in a longish garden. One of the chores was regularly lugging a full
grass box down to the compost heap. When I decided to ease the mowing job by getting a larger self-propelled mower it also had an optional mulching feature that supposedly chopped the clippings finer and deposited them back on the lawn to feed it, a good thing to do as Beryl points out.

I ignored this at first – tread cuttings into the house? – but now use it routinely unless the grass has grown a little too long. It works well and reduces the cutting time even further. More time for weeding.

In Norwich, the City Council’s waste contractors have a list of elderly and disabled people who need assistance with their bins and they will pull them from wherever they are located to the refuse wagon and return them empty to their original position.

There is also a unit that goes around cleansing and sterilising refuse bins for a payment although I think that is a private company, but they seem to have a lot of clients. That is one job I quite enjoy doing myself.

I remember when I was young that the bin men (as they were known) always collected the bins from the back of the house and replaced them. Those were the days when an attendant would fill your car up with petrol and check your oil, when your doctor would visit you or see you the same day, when a letter posted the night before arrived in the morning, and public transport was cheap……..

I think you are latitude directly paralleled east of me Malcolm or closer than you realise. I know I have actually been in the same room as Wavechange on at least one occasion but chose to remain anonymous as he was otherwise occupied at the time 🙂

Lawns keep better and are easier to maintain if mowed when still short. We have regular visitors from the river which I feed on a daily basis who in return will naturally fertilise the grass at the front of the house.

I’m intrigued, Beryl. I’m happy for Jon or George to pass on my email address and you could let me know more. I hope I was being polite.

I expect that Diane is bemused by these discussions and it would be good to hear from her again.

Which? have a Which? Trusted Trader website who may have a gardener in your local area who have been checked and assessed by Which?
https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/

Thanks for that Catie. I will be looking for a landscape gardener soon to quote for a local council site that is badly in need of attention.

Wavechange, Jon and George or their predecessors will know the venue as it was a Which? event. You were hot on a sugar trail at the time 🙂

Beryl – I must have a double because I have never been to any Which? events. Sorry.

Wavechange, I feel sure you must have been invited to one or two if I have. This was an event held at The Guardian Offices in London a few years ago. If you were not present there must have been another regular there as well as me. If not you then who?

I reckon Which? get enough of me here, and I don’t do well in cities with polluted air.