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Comparison of robotic and reel mowers

Is it even possible to compare these two machines? In the following text, we are going to attempt to explain the key differences between the two approaches to lawn mowing. One philosophy is based on the premise that the lawn will be mown by a machine instead of the owner. At the same time, you are not focused on the quality and a long-term sustainability of the lawn. On the other hand, there is a reel mower with a perfect cut, collection of the cut grass blades in a bin and a long-term effect and creation of an English-style lawn.

We sometimes face a dilemma of some customers when they are deciding between a reel and a robotic mower: Why would I buy a reel mower, when the price difference from a robotic mower is minimum and the grass is mowed with no effort?

Robotic vs reel mower

Difference no. 1: Time consumption and costs

Manufacturers of robotic mowers appeal to the most expensive commodity in the world. No, it is not gold. It is time.

If you have ever taken care of your lawn, you know that in order to achieve good results, you need to invest some (or quite a bit) of your time. That time does not only mean regular mowing, even though that is obviously very important. For decent results, one must include fertilising and regenerative activities. A robot will not do this instead of you.

When developing Swardman Edwin, we constructed the mower in the way that with the help of regenerative cartridges it can be transformed into a scarifier, a verticutter and a rotary brush for application of sand into the lawn. You can manage the entire basic lawn care with just one machine. Moreover, you will save space that all the machines would take up. You do also not have to invest into services of external gardening or landscaping companies. With time, you will save a substantial amount of money.

The total costs also include investments into guidance wires around the lawn, and their maintenance. Service costs are inevitable with any type of mower requires service. In the case of robotic mowers the remoteness of service points may be a problem, as well as high cost of spare parts, if the warranty is expired.


Difference no. 2: Quality of cut

Robotic mowers operate on the principle of rotary mowers – there are three rotating blades underneath that cut the grass blades without support. The grass is shredded; the tips of the blades are torn and the regeneration of grass blades takes up to 72 hours. Compared to that, reel mowers cut grass like scissors – every grass blade is cut cleanly and gently. The regeneration takes 24 hours at most. The grass is less stressed, regenerates quicker and has more time to grow thicker. We made a video on differences between rotary and reel mowers called “Swardman reel mowers vs. rotary mowers”.

Difference no. 3: (Ir)regular mowing

In spite of advanced technologies, such as GPS (accuracy ± 10 m), a robotic mower rides mostly in a random pattern, and contrary to a hand-led mower, it runs over the same places a number of times. This results in a crumpled and damage grass that is overly stressed and instead of growing and thickening, it puts all its energy into regeneration. The movement on wheels (unlike on rollers in the case of a reel mower) stiffens the soil more and prevents the air, water and nutrients from reaching the roots. The compression of the soil is up to 7 times smaller with a roller than with a mower on wheels.

Stripes on a lawn

Difference no. 4: Mulching vs. collection of grass into bin

Mulching is a glorified feature of robotic mowers. Many people think that mulching equals beautiful lawn. That is a mistake. The decomposition of grass blades takes weeks, sometimes even months. Thus, a layer of thatch is created on the grass, which prevents the absorption of water, access to nutrients and sunlight. Imagine an isolation layer on a house. But you absolutely do not want to isolate your lawn. You want it to breathe. When mowing with a robotic mower that does not collect grass into a bin, but is mulching, you need to verticut and brush or rake out the thatch every two to three weeks. This, however, puts stress on the already weakened lawn.


It is always necessary to set you priorities and determine, how much time you want to spend on your lawn care and what results you want to achieve.

If the quality of the lawn and its long-term prosperity is not a priority for you, you do not enjoy mowing it and you just want to “get it done” and save time, then a robotic mower is an ideal solution for you.

If, however, you want a beautiful English-style lawn that everyone you know will admire, invest a bit of your time into mowing it and get a reel mower. We can promise you that you will not regret your decision.

Hand on a lawn

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