The Swedes have brought the world many a great thing over the years — the Vikings, Abba, IKEA, and oat milk are just a few. One other invention that merits its place on any list of Swedish success stories is the hover mower, which was first introduced to the world by Stockholm-based brand Flymo in 1964.
These days, the number of hover mower models out there runs into the hundreds, and this once very European turf-trimming tool is now finally starting to take off in North America, too. In this article, we take a look at why you might want to consider buying a hover mower and introduce you to our selection of the best hover mower out there.
Top 4 Hover Mower
1. California Trimmer RC190 Hover Mower: Our Top Choice
- Gas-powered motor
- Two engine models available: Honda GCV160 OHC Briggs & Stratton 550EX OHC
- 19-inch cutting width
- Hard-wearing, tough, ABS injection-molded plastic deck
- Wide-ranging 52″ adjustable handles provide extra reach
- Durable steel blades
- 2-year warranty for residential use
Buyers in the market for a mower that offers the perfect combination of power and maneuverability might not need to look any further than California Trimmer’s RC190.
This hover mower isn’t ever going to find itself on any featherweight podium, granted, but for those willing to handle a few extra pounds in return for oodles of power and a machine that offers Ferrari-like performance with tank-like build and durability, the RC190 is well worth serious consideration.
What we like most about the RC190 is that, in spite of its ponderous weight, when it gets moving it offers incredibly smooth and easy handling.
We found it easy to work with in tighter areas around features on the lawn and a vast improvement on wheeled mowers on slopes. On uneven patches of lawn where a regular mower would be leaving alternately bald and barely trimmed patches, moreover, the RC190 left a pleasingly level, uniform cut.
Other attributes that win this machine our vote are its cordless design, 19-inch cutting width, and its ability to mulch as it cuts.
The bottom line? This isn’t the cheapest hover mower out there, nor the lightest, but for those with larger yards, sloping terrain, or who simply prioritize power and precision over price and weight, this machine merits its place somewhere very near the top of your shortlist.
What We Like:
- Very maneuverable despite the heavy weight
- Mulches as it cuts
- Works very well on slopes up to 45 degrees
- Tough, ABS injection-molded plastic deck
- Adjustable cutting height (0.75” to 3”)
- Reasonably priced
What We Don’t Like:
- The weight — at a whopping 43 lbs with the Honda engine, this machine is considerably heavier than most of its competitors
- Gas-powered motor
- 20-inch cutting width
- Powerful Honda GCV160 engine
- 3-year warranty
- Durable High-Density Polyethylene (HPDE) deck
- 5 to 3-inch cutting range
- 3 choices of blade
An ever-more popular choice with greenkeeping teams on golf courses nationwide, this exceptionally well-made mower is one that packs every feature and design characteristic required for the perfect cut.
The HM 200 uses a beefy Honda GCV160, gas-powered, 4.4 HP motor that is capable of powering through even the most unkempt of lawns. It comes with three choices of the blade and boasts a 0.5”-3” cutting range that together allows you to dial-in the mower’s configurations to your needs.
While weighty (36.5 lbs), the HM 200 retains good handling, with the potent Honda engine allowing the decking and blades to glide freely even in sub-optimal cutting conditions (damp, on clumpy or long grass, in bumpy terrain).
Barring its heavy weight, the HM200 is essentially a flaw-free machine, but the price tag is hard to justify given the similar performance offered by much cheaper models from other brands (see above and below). That said, this is a heavy-duty machine and if you envision putting it to pretty heavy use, then it may well be worth every penny.
The bottom line? This is a machine that ranks among the finest we’ve ever come across in terms of build and final cut quality, but its rather exorbitant price will rule it out for all but the most scrupulous yard owners.
To see the HM 200 in action, check out the following clip from BlueBird:
What We Like:
- 20-inch cutting width
- 3-year warranty for residential use
- 3 choices of blades: reversible stainless steel, reversible nylon, or triple-edged co-polymer string
- High-Density Polyethylene (HPDE) deck with a steel handle
- Extensive cutting range
What We Don’t Like:
- The price…!
- The weight — at 36.5 pounds before adding gas, this one’s likely to be a little too heavy to handle for some users
- Exceptional cutting width (21 inches)
- Very strong ABS injection-molded deck
- 14” (35.5 cm) impeller for maximum lift and smoother mowing
- Powerful 4-stroke, 160cc Honda GCV E-spec engine
- Great handling in spite of heavy weight
With a 90-year history of producing mowers that have become the go-to turf trimmers of championship golf courses the world over, Minnesota-based brand Toro knows a thing or two about making extremely efficient and high-quality grass-cutting gizmos.
The HoverPro 550 continues Toro’s long tradition of almost peerless craftsmanship and makes our shortlist on account of a number of factors, but most notably bang for our buck. This model costs around half the price of the HM200 (above) but packs very similar features and comparable construction quality, power, and cutting capacity.
It is powered by the Honda GCV E-spec engine, which has been specially developed for continuous use on inclines and hilly terrain, packing a 4-stroke motor and cam belt oil transport system that maintains lubrication on even the most serious slopes.
The only downsides to this machine are its hefty weight and limited cutting range, both of which are easily forgiven for anyone keen to have a pro-quality cut without paying through the nose.
The bottom line? A nicely priced beast of a machine that’s a little on the heavy side but built to blitz inclines, overgrown grass, and take on bigger lawns.
See the HoverPro Series in action here:
What We Like:
- Very reasonably priced
- Excellent performance on sloping turf
- Easy handling
- Excellent power-to-weight ratio
- 2-year warranty
- Sturdy, durable steel blade
What We Don’t Like:
- Limited cutting range (0.7-1.2″)
- Very heavy (42lbs)
4. Flymo TurboLite 400 Hover Mower
- Powerful: blade hub spins at up to 7000 RPM To create a cushion of air to skim across the lawn
- CUTTING BLADES: 3 rotating cutting blades provide a crisp, 11-inch wide, wheel-free cutting path – in any direction
- Versatile: ideal for sloped lawns, and Small yards
- Replacement blades: quick easy cutting blade replacement – includes 30 replacement blades
- We’ve got you covered! : your new lawn mower is backed by the snow Joe + Sun Joe customer promise. We will warrant New, powered products for two years from the date of purchase. No questions asked. Contact snow Joe + Sun Joe customer Support at 1-866-766-9563 for further assistance.
Last update on 2020-12-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- Weighs just 14.3 lbs
- 30-foot cable
- 13-inch cutting width
- 1150-watt motor
- 4 cutting heights
This mower has essentially the same design that Flymo has used on its top-selling product for the best part of fifty years. And there are plenty of reasons why this design has withstood the test of time…
First up, the TurboLite 400 ticks the four biggest boxes that need ticking for your average domestic lawnmower: it’s lightweight, affordable, easy to use, and wonderfully efficient.
One of the greatest benefits of any hover mower is maneuverability, and the TurboLite offers this quality in spades. Weighing in at just 14.3 lbs and with a narrow, 13-inch cutting width, this mower can negotiate tight spaces like almost no other and is an absolute cinch to use on slopes.
On the downside, the TurboLite has a few limitations that will make it a less attractive option to some prospective buyers, particularly those with larger lawns. These include the short (30ft) cable length, its narrow cutting width, and the lack of a collection box.
The bottom line? Ideal for owners of smaller lawns and those looking for an efficient, fuss-free cutter that’s cheap, light, and superbly easy to use; not so ideal for owners of larger lawns or those in need of a powerful machine that can get the job done quickly.
What We Like:
- Very easy to maintain
- Great value for money
- Easy handling
- Ideal for smaller lawns
What We Don’t Like:
- Limited cutting power
- Relatively narrow cutting width
- Short cable length
- No collection box
Things to Look for in a Hover Mover
In the next few sections, we’ll be providing you with everything you need to know about hover mowers to equip you with the knowledge to make the best decision for you.
Hover Mower or Rotary/Wheeled Mower?
The Advantages of a Hover Mower
The main benefit of choosing a hover mower over a wheeled mower is maneuverability. While with wheeled mowers you are restricted in terms of movement to the direction in which the wheels are facing and mowing in straight lines, hover mowers can be steered in any direction (backward, forwards, and sideways) with ease.
This is especially important if your lawn happens to be of an irregular shape and/or has features (walls, ponds, rockeries, flowerbeds, etc.) that make turning tricky and require a little better handling and agility.
Hover mowers are also generally a better bet on sloped or undulating lawns, mainly because the ‘air cushion’ created by the mower gives it a lighter feel when negotiating ups and downs in your lawn and allows for a smooth cut were wheeled models might bite into the turf.
Last but not least, hover mowers are, for the most part, simplicity defined. While most other types of mower require assembly and prep before use, with a hover mower you’re good to go as soon as you get the thing out of the box and plugged into a power source (if electric) or filled with gas.
The Disadvantages of a Hover Mower
On the downside, the majority of hover mowers are electric and mains powered, meaning your cutting will be limited to the length of your power lead or need to fork out extra for an extension. While this might not be a problem with smaller lawns, if your yard’s packing over 50 square yards of grass, then that means a lot of cables and a lot of extra handling when setting up and putting the mower away again — not to mention the potentially fatal danger of cutting the cord!
‘Domestic’ hover mowers are also typically designed to mow grass that’s reasonably well maintained and no more than 10-12cm long, with more powerful models maybe stretching to 15cm. If you tend to be a bit lax on the mowing front, therefore, and let your grass grow long between cuts, then a gas-powered mower might be a better bet as these tend to pack more power and are better equipped to deal with more unkempt, overgrown lawns.
Finally, one significant difference between hover mowers and other types of mower is the former’s lack of features.
Many wheeled mowers allow you to stripe your lawn (a biggie for the aesthetically inclined) so it looks like the courts at Wimbledon, collect grass in a box as you cut, self-propel (ideal for the lazy gardener), mulch grass for on-the-go composting, and adjust cutting height with the flick of a switch (with hover mowers, the task typically entails a lot of fiddling around that’s sure to see many a quarter go the way of the cuss-jar).
Another of the greatest benefits of opting for a hover mower over a gas-powered or rotary/wheeled mower is cost. On average, hover mowers cost a small handful of $ less than other types of mower, leaving you with plenty of cash for that aforementioned cuss-jar.
Within the hover mower category, there are also significant price differentials and this is where it’s wise to be a more discerning buyer. If you happen to find what appears to be a bargain, be sure to read the specs carefully. Some common flags of poorly performing mowers are lower voltage/power, limited mowing width, non-adjustable blades, or just shoddy workmanship —something you can gauge by reading user reviews, preferably from buyers who have a few months of experience with the mower under their belt.
Again, how much you need to spend will ultimately come down to your yard and your cutting habits. If you have a large yard or tend to be a once-a-month kinda mower, then we’d recommend a more powerful (and expensive), gas-powered machine with a wide mowing width (in the 18-inch range). If you have a smaller lawn that you treat to trim at least once a week, then a cheaper mower with less power and a sub-15-inch mowing width will serve your purposes nicely.
Two materials are used in hover mower blades: plastic or metals.
The choice between the two is fairly simple: plastic blades cut less effectively and need frequent replacing but plenty of spares are usually supplied with the mower; metallic blades cut effectively and don’t need replacing (unless you get a touch clumsy around slabbing or don’t de-stone your lawn prior to cutting) but may require occasional sharpening, depending on how often you cut your lawn.
To have or not to have, that is the question? Many a buyer is apt to think that the extra outlay of $ for a grass collector box on a mower isn’t worth it, usually when sat on their couch surveying the options. Fast forward a few days to when they’ve just finished their first cut and are staring down a slough of unsightly cuttings spread across the lawn and the first pangs of regret usually kick in quite quickly.
While hover mowers with collectors still tend to leave a little mess behind, in most cases this is negligible and will only be worth a second thought for hardcore perfectionists.
The bottom line? Raking up grass clippings after a cut can be time-consuming and an almighty pain in the posterior, and whether or not you choose a mower with a collector or without will come down to how much patience you have, how much time you have on your hands, and how averse you are to doing a job another model of mower could have done for you for just a few more bucks.
The size of your lawn will all but dictate the best type of hover mower for your needs.
If your lawn happens to be around the size of half a tennis court or smaller, then a cable-powered model is probably the way to go—these machines are lighter, easier to maintain, and usually cheaper than gas-powered models, and an extension cord that lengthens your cutting reach shouldn’t cost more than a six-pack of beer.
If your lawn is approaching the size of a full tennis court, however, we recommend going down the gas-powered route. This will allow you to get your mow on without fear of cutting any cables and, in most cases, save lots of time.
- Designed for rugged outdoor use, this extension cord is water resistant, flame retardant, and features a slip resistant design. Its vinyl covering protects against abrasion and direct sunlight.
Last update on 2020-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The cutting width on hover mowers ranges from around 12” to 21” and models at both ends of the size scale have their pros and cons.
Smaller (or narrower) models can only cut small amounts at a time but are, generally speaking, lighter and much easier to handle and maneuver than larger models. In practice, this essentially means it will take you more time to mow your lawn but you’ll have a better time doing it(!).
A direct correlation exists between the motor power your hover mower is packing and its cutting ability. As you might have guessed, the higher the wattage (in electric models) and horsepower (in gas models), the more juice the machine will be able to put into cutting through longer and thicker grass.
Having a hover mower with more power will allow you to trim your turf in only one pass and is particularly important for infrequent cutters or those whose lawns have problems with stubborn gatecrashers like rats’ tails or horsetail, which are tougher to cut and might come out of a once-over with a low-power machine unscathed.
As a ballpark guide to required motor power, we’d recommend anything in the 1100-1300-watt range for frequent cutters and anything in the 1400-1800 watt range, or any gas-powered model, for those with less time on their hands or rogue strains of weed in their lawn.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Hover Mower
- Remove any stones or pebbles from your lawn before cutting as these can damage the blade on your machine.
- When you start up your mower, tilt it a fraction backward or to the side. Doing so lets the blade clean off any remnant debris from the last cut and allows the airflow required for the machine to hover.
- If your mower has a collector, try to walk in as straight a line as possible. This way, the grass clippings are deposited in the collector box and not to the side, which can happen with some models if your steering is less than perfectly straight.
- Don’t mow over hard surfaces—if you’re approaching slabs, a path, or patio, save your blades and get the strimmer or weed eater out to finish off the job.
- Watch that cable!
Best Hover Mower Brands
Flymo: This Swedish-based brand has had something of a monopoly over the market for decades. And with good reason…their products are affordable, well made, easy to use and maintain, and superbly efficient.
Black and Decker: This Maryland-based brand has a long reputation of producing high-quality home improvement products and boasts a small selection of functional but, truth be told, unexceptional hover mowers.
BlueBird: This US-based brand’s motto is “Tough. Rugged. Dependable.”, and their products are true to their word. The gas-powered HM160 and HM 200 models cost a pretty penny but are made to last, using HDPE materials and stainless steel throughout their construction.
California Trimmer: This Washington-based brand was founded in 1935 and offers two very heavy-duty hover mower models, one of which is powered by a Honda gas motor and the other by a Briggs & Stratton gas motor.
Toro: This Minnesota-based brand has been on the go for over a century and its HoverPro Series includes a trio of incredibly powerful, gas-powered hover mowers with 16-21″ cutting widths, making them a good choice for anyone with a lawn that’s on the large side.
Hover Mower FAQs
Q: Can I sharpen the blade on a hover mower?
A: If the blades on your machine are plastic, then the chances are you’ll be supplied with several replacement blades at the point of purchase. If they’re metallic, however, there are two ways you can go about restoring your blade’s edge if need be:
Place the blade in a clamp and use a file or grindstone to hone the edge, keeping the blade as close as possible to a 45-degree angle, as seen in the following video:
With a bench grinder
Get your protective goggles on and sharpen the blade by applying pressure to the angle of the cutting edge against the grinder.
In both cases, the objective of sharpening is to restore your blade to factor-degree sharpness, which is, perhaps surprisingly, not razor-sharp but closer to bread-knife sharp.
For more detailed instructions on sharpening your mower’s blade, check out this page from Family Handyman.
Q: How can I adjust the height of the blades?
A: This can vary from the mower to mower, but with most models, you can alter the cutting height by adding or removing the spacers located between the blade and the deck or, in more advanced models, with a height adjustment lever.
Q: Why isn’t my hover mower hovering?
A: Hover mowers work by using air pressure from a fan above the blades to let the mower’s deck glide above the terrain. If anything restricts that flow of air then the mower will hover poorly or not at all. Some common culprits include grass buildup, wet conditions, overly tall grass on your lawn, and clumps of moss or thatch.
The solution? Wait for the grass to dry out if wet, clean out the area around the blades after cuts, de-thatch your lawn with a scarifier or rake, and/or mow your grass more frequently to prevent it from growing too tall (if this isn’t an option, give it a quick once-over with a strimmer before mowing).
Q: How should I store my hover mower?
A: One of the advantages of hover mowers is that they can be folded up or hung on walls and take up very little space. Ideally, they should be stored in a cool, dry location. For more ideas on tool and appliance storage, check out our guide here.
Conclusion: What’s the Best Hover Mower for 2019?
Our review found the best hover mower out there for treating your lawn to a professional-looking trim to be the California Trimmer RC190 Hover Mower. Whether you’re just looking for a highly efficient mower that lets you tick the garden chore box as quickly as possible or grooming your lawn for a backyard wedding, this mower is one that gets the job done with the minimum of fuss and to an exceptionally high standard.
Not only does it pack all the attributes we’d look for in a hover mower for larger lawns — powerful engine, robust design, adjustable cutting heights, and wide cutting width — but also comes in at a reasonable price compared to similar products from competitor brands.
If this one’s a little pricey for your tastes or budget, or you have a smaller yard, then both of the Flymo electric-powered mowers are excellent alternatives.