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Are Robot Mowers Worth the Expense?

Most people associate summertime with the smells of barbeque, sunscreen, and freshly mown grass. And while some of these smells may trigger nostalgia, others can trigger dread. Whether it’s allergies, labor, or heat, mowing the lawn can sometimes be miserable.

However, technology may have the answer. With robot vacuums becoming commonplace in America’s homes, it’s not too far of a leap to robot mowers. Robot mowers might sound like science fiction, but the truth is they’ve been around since 1969.

How Do Robot Mowers Work?

Robot mowers are battery-powered. While this feature is fiscally and environmentally friendly, the greatest benefit of a battery-powered mower might just be how quiet they are. Some models are so quiet they can even run at night. The majority of models self-charge. When battery power is low, the robot mower returns to its base to charge. Depending on the size of the battery, charging takes anywhere from .5 to 2 hours.

Most robot mowers allow you to schedule when you’d like your grass trimmed. Depending on the model, you can set the trim time on the robot mower itself or via an app. That said, robot mowers are most effective when used a few times a week, trimming a small amount (around 1 inch) with each pass. This frequency also helps to feed your grass, as robot mowers are mulching mowers. The clippings return to your yard and provide nutrients to your growing grass. If you want more control of your lawn’s cut, some models even offer a “digital joystick,” allowing you to mow via an app on your phone.  

Most models do well when cutting wet or long grass. Of course, it’s best to schedule trims when it isn’t wet and more often to mulch the clippings, but most are capable of handling the demand if the need arises. You can even adjust the height of your robot mower to account for the length of your untrimmed grass or rainy weather. To maintain your robot mower, you’ll want to make certain to clear any built-up clippings before your robot mower makes its next sweep of the yard.

While most models are recommended for lawns around .5 acre, models that can handle up to 1.25 acres are also available. Most robot mower models can handle a 20 degree slope. You’ll pay a bit more for a model to handle up to 30 degree slopes. The majority of models are resistant to the elements. Some models can even sense moisture and return to their base to charge and wait out the inclement weather.

Most importantly, almost all robot mowers have built-in safety features, using sensors to detect and avoid unexpected obstacles in your yard, whether it’s your daughter’s bike or your son’s soccer ball.

Many are protected from theft with different safety features available, including being individually matched to a charging station, PIN codes, alarm systems, geofence mechanisms, or GPS tracking data.

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to robot mowers.

Robot mowers require a relatively labor-intensive setup. Most require the installation of a boundary wire along the perimeter of your lawn. This wire keeps your robot mower in your yard and, for some models, guides your robot mower back to its base. Some models require you to bury the wire a few inches below the soil, while others direct you to simply stake the wire around the perimeter. This task could be labor-intensive depending on the layout and size of your yard. You’ll need to consider any flowerbeds, shrubs, or trees.

Some companies will install the boundary wire for you. Standard installation is sometimes even included in the price of the mower; when you purchase the mower, the company contacts you within 48 hours to schedule the installation. There are some robot mowers that use an app and GPS to set the boundary of your yard, but again, this setup still takes some time.

Almost all robot mowers require you to trim the edges of your yard yourself. While this may seem like an inconvenience, even a riding mower demands you do trim work. In addition, the majority of models mow randomly, so if clean lines are important, the robot mower may not be for you.

Three Major Brands to Consider

If research and development is important, a Husqvarna mower may be the robot mower for you. Additionally, Husqvarna offers nine different models to suit the needs of different yards and budgets. Husqvarna robot mowers almost always receive the best reviews, but you will have to pay for quality.

Robomow is probably Husqvarna’s largest competitor, as this brand also has a long history of research and development and quality products. Robomow reviews rival Husqvarna reviews, but again, you’ll have to pay for a quality product.

If you’re looking to try out a robot mower, a Worx mower may be the best choice. Worx mowers tend to receive good reviews at reasonable prices.

How Much Do They Cost?

Basic models begin at $600. Depending on advanced features, robot mowers can cost as much as $3500. However, you can purchase a well-reviewed robot mower with many of the bells and whistles you may need for about $1,600. This price point often includes standard installation, which will save you the time of a labor-intensive setup.

Is a Robot Mower Worth the Expense?

The answer to this question certainly depends on your needs. Do you need a new mower? Do you need more time to work or spend with family? Are you often out of town? Then, yes, a robot mower is worth the cost. Robot mowers may be particularly helpful for households with physical disabilities, from aging parents to individuals recovering from surgery.

Bottom line: If you have a lawn that is less than an acre and slopes no greater than 20 degrees, an average robot mower ($1,600) would pay for itself in one summer.

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