Rotary Vs Cylinder Mower: Which Is Right For Your Lawn?

You might have noticed that some hover mowers are sold without grass boxes, which poses the question: can hover mowers mulch grass?


We’ve answered this question in the below guide.

✅Key Takeaways:

  • The main difference between rotary mowers and cylinder mowers is that rotary mowers use a horizontally spinning rotary blade to cut grass with a chopping action, while cylinder mowers use vertically spinning cylinder blades against a fixed cutting bar to cut grass with a scissor-like action.

  • You may prefer a rotary mower if you want a more affordable mower that’s easier to maintain and works well on thicker, longer grass.

  • If you have a bigger budget, you’re willing to mow your lawn regularly, and you prefer the look of a perfectly manicured lawn, you might think it’s worth paying the extra cost of a cylinder mower.

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🤷‍♂️ Are Cylinder Or Rotary Mowers Best? Short Answer

There’s no definite better option between cylinder and rotary mowers – the right mower for you depends on your situation. With that said, rotary mowers are by far the most common option amongst UK gardeners – at least 80% of all lawnmowers used in residential gardens are rotary mowers.


Rotary mowers are best for anyone who wants an affordable, powerful, low-maintenance mower that efficiently and quickly mows grass, while cylinder mowers are best for anyone with a bigger budget who’s happy to dedicate more time to regular lawn mowing and wants to achieve a closely-cropped, golf green-like lawn.

🧐 What Are Rotary Lawn Mowers?

Rotary lawn mowers are mowers that cut grass with a single blade that spins on a horizontal axis. Most electric, petrol, and battery-powered mowers sold for domestic use today are rotary mowers.


A rotary mower cuts grass with a chopping or smashing action, ripping the tips off the blades with the sheer force of the spinning horizontal blade.


Most rotary mowers are conventional push mowers and generally cost between £100 and £450, depending on the mower’s size and power source.

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Rotary Lawn Mower

👍 Pros of Rotary Lawn Mowers

  • Rotary mowers are the more affordable option. The smallest rotary mower models cost as little as £60-£75 upfront and have low maintenance costs because the blade is durable and can be sharpened on multiple occasions before needing to be replaced.

  • There are plenty of rotary mowers to choose from. Because most mowers for domestic use have rotary blades, you can have your pick between tens of different mower sizes and power types, with a variety of different features.

  • They can mow in most conditions. A rotary mower’s sturdy, powerful blade can rip through even tougher, thicker, or long grass, so if lawn mowing often goes by the wayside in your home, a rotary mower is the best companion for you.

  • Rotary mowers are both durable and adaptable. The heavy-duty blade is built to last, and you can choose the right rotary mower to suit your situation.

  • Maintaining a rotary mower is easier because there’s only a single blade that needs to be maintained.

👎 Cons of Rotary Lawn Mowers

  • Rotary mowers might be efficient, but they don’t produce the neatest lawn. Cutting grass with a chopping action means you don’t get the neat, clean cut of a cylinder mower.

  • Most rotary mowers only have a minimum cut height of around 25 millimeters, too, so you won’t be able to achieve a very short cut with this mower type.

  • Your grass health might suffer slightly as a result of mowing with a rotary blade, which rips the ends off grass blades rather than snipping them away with a scissor action.

🤔 What Are Cylinder Lawn Mowers?

Cylinder mowers are mowers that cut grass with a series of vertically spinning blades and a fixed bottom plate to cut grass with a scissor action.


Most cylinder mowers sold in the UK are intended for use on sports fields and golf greens, although there are some more affordable manual and electric cylinder mowers intended for use on home lawns.


The average price range of a professional-grade cylinder mower is £1,150-£1,800 (no, you didn’t read that wrong!). Cheaper manual mowers and electric mowers cost between £45 and £150 on average.

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Cylinder Mower

👍 Pros of Cylinder Lawn Mowers

  • Cylinder lawn mower models produce a better quality of cut due to their scissor-cutting action, so you can enjoy a neater, more even lawn.

  • This mower type is also less likely to harm your grass health, so you can maintain a green lawn with fewer dead patches, and no yellow ends.

  • You can tailor your cylinder mower’s cut height to your exact preferences, and lower the cutting deck further down than with a rotary mower, giving you a golf green-like lawn appearance.

  • There are a few different cylinder mower types to choose from, including the superior professional-grade models and the more affordable manual and electric mowers.

  • Plus, you have the choice between plenty of features, including rear rollers and various grass collection options.

👎 Cons of Cylinder Lawn Mowers

  • The main disadvantage of cylinder mowers is their lack of availability. Most cylinder mowers are designed for commercial or professional use, which limits your options if you’re looking for a mower for your lawn.

  • Price is another setback of this mower type. If you have your eye on a commercial model, you’ll likely have to pay £1,000+ upfront. Maintenance for the blades is also more expensive and requires more effort.

  • You’ll need to establish a more frequent mowing routine with a cylinder mower. You can’t use this mower type on long grass, which means mowing at least once a week, regardless of the weather.

🤼‍♂️ Rotary Vs Cylinder Mowers: Main Differences

Let’s take a look at the main differences between rotary and cylinder mowers.

🏎 Performance

Performance is the key factor that differentiates rotary and cylinder lawn mowers.


While a rotary lawn mower has a single blade that spins horizontally at a high speed, a cylinder lawn mower has several vertically rotating blades that snip grass against a cutting bar.


Verdict: Rotary lawnmowers offer a more basic but reliable performance, whole cylinder lawnmowers are more precise and intricate but struggle more in certain conditions.

✂️ Cut Quality

The performance differences between rotary and cylinder lawn mowers also affect the quality of cut.


A rotary lawn mower produces a poorer cut quality because it cuts grass with a chopping action. A cylinder lawn mower produces a cleaner cut because of its method of snipping grass, scissor-like, with multiple cylinder blades.


Verdict: Cylinder lawn mowers produce a better cut quality and a neater, more even lawn than rotary lawn mowers.

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💰 Cost

There’s a significant difference in cost between a rotary mower and a cylinder reel mower.


Rotary mowers are generally the more budget-friendly option, with a starting cost of around £65-£110 for a basic electric mower.


Cylinder mowers are generally sold for commercial use, with a minimum price of £1,000+. However, manual mowers with cylinder blades are affordable, costing around £50.


Verdict: Rotary mowers are usually the better choice for smaller budgets, while cylinder mowers are more expensive in general.

📡 Features

There are a few differences between rotary and cylinder mowers when it comes to mowing features.

Rotary mowers typically offer the greatest range of add-on features, like mulching plugs, rear rollers, grass combs, and self-propulsion.


The features of a cylinder mower depend on the model, but most cylinder mowers come with a rear roller and self-propulsion by default. Cylinder mowers also allow for more precise adjustment of the cut height, so you can cut exactly to your requirements.


Verdict: Rotary mower models tend to have a bigger variety of features to choose from, but cylinder mowers have the advantage when it comes to cut height adjustment.

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🤏 Size & Design

You can buy both rotary and vertical mowers in a variety of sizes and designs – but there’s a difference in the offerings available for each mower type.


Rotary mowers are powered by electricity, petrol, or rechargeable batteries. They’re usually four-wheel mowers, but hover mower models are also available with rotary blades. You can find these mowers with cutting decks ranging from 30 to 52 centimetres.


Professional-grade cylinder reel mowers are usually petrol-powered, although you can find electric and manual mowers available for domestic use. The cylinder mower deck width ranges from 30 to 61 centimetres or wider, depending on the mower’s intended use.


Verdict: Both mower types come in different designs and sizes, but rotary mowers give you more choice for mowing a garden.

🗓 Mowing Frequency

When it comes to the frequency of mowing your lawn, cylinder mowers and rotary mowers differ.


Cylinder mower manufacturers recommend that you mow more frequently – at least once a week – to help maintain a neater and more manicured lawn appearance and to avoid overwhelming the blades with long grass.


Rotary mowers can tackle tougher, longer lawns, so there’s less pressure to sustain short grass and you can mow less frequently.


Verdict: A cylinder reel mower requires more frequent mowing than a rotary mower.

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🧰 Maintenance

Finally, cylinder and rotary mowers each have different maintenance responsibilities.


Some aspects of maintenance, like topping up the fuel and oil (when applicable), cleaning the mower deck, and sharpening the blades, are the same for both models. But rotary mowers are easier to maintain because they have a single blade that only needs sharpening around once a season.


Cylinder reel mowers have a series of blades that need sharpening after every 25 hours of use, and there are more blades, so the task is more time-consuming.


Verdict: Rotary mowers are easier to maintain than cylinder mowers, though both need to be maintained correctly for long-term use.

🧏🏻‍♂️ Which Mower Is Best For Which Lawn Type, Size, & Use Points?

Here are our top recommendations for the best mower type (between cylinder and rotary mowers) for different use cases and situations.


Ornamental Lawns: Cylinder Lawn Mowers

A cylinder mower produces a neater, shorter cut, making it the better option for an ornamental lawn. This mower type is better for grass health and cuts grass cleanly, helping you to achieve a carpet-like lawn.


General Grass Cutting: Rotary Lawn Mowers

Rotary mowers are quicker, more efficient, and better for mowing thicker or longer grass, so they’re the more practical choice general grass cutting. If short is more important to you than manicured, a rotary mower should tick your boxes.


Long, Thick Grass: Rotary Mowers

Rotary mowers are best for lawns with long, thick grass because their sturdy blades are strong enough to handle rougher terrain with ease. The mower should have plenty of drive to cut long grass that has been neglected for a few weeks.


Large Lawns: Both Mower Types

You can use both cylinder and rotary lawn mower models for large lawns because both are available in a range of sizes, and both give you the option of features that are more efficient for cutting large spaces (like self-propulsion). Choose a rotary or cylinder lawn mower with a wider cutting deck to cover more ground with every lap.


Commercial Purposes: Both Mower Types

Both rotary and cylinder mowers are good for commercial purposes – the best mower type depends on the job. For mowing golf greens and sports pitches, cylinder mowers are generally recommended. For domestic lawn mowing, rotary mowers are best.

🙄 Should You Choose A Rotary Or Cylinder Mower?

When you’re choosing between a rotary mower and a cylinder mower, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to achieve? If you specifically want to achieve a manicured or ornamental lawn, go for a cylinder mower. If you just want to cut your grass, a rotary lawn mower will do just fine.

  • What’s my budget? If you have less than £200 to spend, a rotary mower or a manual cylinder mower will suit you best. If your budget can stretch to the thousands, you can also consider professional-grade cylinder mowers.

  • What’s my preferred mowing schedule? If you’re happy to mow more frequently, a cylinder reel mower is up for consideration. If you want to mow as little as possible, rotary mowers are the better choice.

  • Which mower type do I most like the sound of? If you prefer the idea of a mower that will give you the greenest, neatest lawn, cylinder mower is your best bet. If you have a smaller budget and prefer a mower that requires more effort to use, then you can’t go wrong with a rotary mower.

Ultimately, most people go for rotary mowers for cutting grass, but the choice is entirely up to you! If you really take pride in your garden and love the look of a green, manicured lawn outside your window, and you have a bit more time on your hands, there’s no reason why you can’t step away from the pack and go with a cylinder mower.


Just remember to make a wise purchasing decision, and don’t buy a mower before reading at least 10-15 customer reviews (the good and the bad), so you know for certain that you’re getting the best value for your investment.