Keeping your grass trimmed doesn’t have to spoil your weekend; the best robot lawn mowers will do the job for you
Robot lawn mowers are one of the best garden tools to emerge in the last few years and they’re perfect for people who want to spend less time on chores. These robotic mowing machines are designed to trundle around your garden, skimming the top off your grass as it grows, so you don’t have to traipse up and down with a traditional mower.
How intelligently these devices perform the job varies from one model to the next, however. Unlike robot vacuum cleaners, you can’t leave them to find their own boundaries and bounce off your herbaceous borders on their own; they all need a boundary wire laying down around the perimeter of your lawn to stop them wandering off and cutting down plants you would prefer to keep.
As a result, there are a few factors that you need to consider before you go out and buy a robot mower, and we will look at a few of the most important considerations below. Further on, you will find a list of our favourite robot mowers, all thoroughly tested in our own gardens.
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How to choose the best robot lawn mower for you
Mechanically, most robot lawn mowers are surprisingly similar. In your garden they look a bit like a tiny car, about the same size as an upturned washing-up bowl, with two large wheels to control movement and one or two coasters to add stability. They tend to cut the grass with sharp steel blades that closely resemble razor blades, which you will find attached to a spinning disc on the underside of the mower’s chassis.
Are they difficult to set up?
Alas, you can’t just plonk a robot mower down in the middle of your lawn and expect it to know where to mow. All robot lawn mowers need a docking station, which they return to in order to recharge their battery. This sits on the edge of your lawn and needs to be within reach of an outdoor power supply, as it’s always switched on and ready to charge your mower.
You also need to lay a boundary wire around the edge of the area you want your robot to mow. This is usually supplied on a reel, is connected to the charging station at both ends and carries a low voltage, which the mower uses to detect when to stop and turn around. You can bury this wire, or peg it down and eventually it will bed down into the grass.
Most robot lawn mowers then require you to set up a scheduled mowing time, which is either done on the mower itself or by using an app.
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How much should I spend?
With the basic design essentially the same, the differences in price usually indicate whether mowers come with extra features and the size of lawn they can cover.
At the cheaper end of the scale – around £400 – the simplest mowers are programmed using a control panel on the back. From here you can set a simple schedule, usually based on mowing for a certain number of hours per day. When in operation they mow in a straight line until they reach their boundary wire, then they will perform a turn so they can head off in another direction.
The boundary wire is the only guidance they have, and they will move around your garden for a set period or until they need to return to their base station for a recharge.
The sky’s the limit at the upper end of the scale but, for a top-of-the-range mower with the smartest sensors, the most sophisticated control apps and enough equipment to mow a large lawn, you can expect to pay thousands of pounds.
Other features to look out for:
- Object avoidance: A feature that all robot vacuums have but rarely seen on robot mowers, certainly at the lower end of the price spectrum. A good safety feature for those with pets or kids who play in the garden unsupervised.
- Maximum incline: If you have a particularly steep slope in your garden, then be sure to check out the maximum incline a robot is capable of climbing.
- Adjustable cutting height: You can choose the grass height on most robot lawn mowers, but if you prefer your grass ultra short or left quite long, check it’s within your mower’s range.
- Maximum lawn size: Larger lawns tend to need a smarter and more expensive mower, so measure your garden before you buy, to the nearest 100 square metres.
- Replaceable battery: With regular recharging and a life outdoors, you can’t expect your robot lawn mower’s battery to last forever. Check that it can be replaced and that a dead battery won’t turn your mower into a useless garden ornament.
- Edge cutting: No robot mower can edge your lawn as well as you can but some can trim closer to your flower beds than others. To reduce secondary mowing, look out for models with offset blades.
- Rain detection: It’s better to let your grass soak up excess moisture before mowing it. A rain sensor will send your robot home if it starts to rain, and can delay mowing until it’s dry again.
- Security features: Robot lawn mowers aren’t cheap, so some come with additional security features, from PIN number controls and movement alarms, through to tracking devices that can help you trace a stolen mower.
How we test robot lawn mowers
Every robot lawnmower we review has gone through the same series of Expert Reviews tests. We mark out an area of test lawn, lay down the boundary wire and connect the charging station to the mains supply. We then test the control panel and app to see how much control each mower gives you. We set the mowers off on their schedules and note how well the mower manages the lawn it’s caring for – that is, the evenness and comprehensiveness of the trim and the number of times (if any) we need to intercede to get the mower to complete the task.
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The best robot lawn mowers to buy in 2023
1. LawnMaster VBRM16: Best drop and go robot lawn mower
Price when reviewed: £350 | Check price at B&Q
Robot lawn mowers are traditionally fiddly to set up, requiring an outdoor power supply and a boundary wire laid around the edge of the lawn to stop the robot disappearing off into your flower beds. The LawnMaster VBRM16 is different, though, and can be ready to start mowing as soon as you’ve brought it home and charged its battery.
Instead of being guided by a wire, the mower uses a camera mounted on the front of the device to scan the lawn in front of it. If it sees a surface that isn’t grass, it turns round and heads off in a different direction. Because of this it doesn’t need a perimeter wire or a charging station – when it’s cut enough you simply switch it off and put it away. The battery is removable and is charged in a separate charging unit.
Key specs – Size: 425 x 350 x 220mm (WDH); Weight: 6.6kg; Cutting height: 20-60mm; Maximum lawn size: 100m²; Maximum incline: 35%; Replaceable battery: Yes
2. Yard Force EasyMow 260B: Best budget robot lawn mower
Price when reviewed: £348 | Check price at Amazon Competition between robot lawn mowers is fierce, with manufacturers battling to keep prices down without cutting too many corners. The Yard Force EasyMow 260B is a good case in point: from the outside it looks like a simple set and mow model that can work for either three or six hours daily, depending on the size of your lawn.
However, you can add additional functions and take greater control over the mower using an app on your smartphone. This lets you start and stop the mower remotely (though it only supports Bluetooth, so you still have to be in the vicinity). More crucially, it lets you control exactly when the robot should head out for a run, with two programmable mowing slots available for each day of the week, so you can really fine-tune your mowing.
Key specs – Size: 370 x 450 x 220mm (WDH); Weight: 11.8kg; Cutting height: 20-55mm; Maximum lawn size: 260m²; Maximum incline: 30%; Replaceable battery: No
3. Bosch Indego S+ 500: The most efficient robot lawn mower
Price when reviewed: £809 | Check price at Amazon While many robot lawn mowers bumble their way around your lawn randomly, the Bosch Indego S+ 500 takes a vastly more intelligent approach. Once you’ve laid down your perimeter wire, the Bosch follows it around and stores a map of the area. Then, when it’s time to mow, it starts in one corner and methodically mows your lawn in stripes, changing direction each time it goes out.
This doesn’t mean you will get the light and dark green stripes you would get from a traditional manual mower with a roller, but it does mean that the Bosch will only pass over your lawn once and shouldn’t miss anything. As a result, even quite large spaces can be mowed in minutes rather than hours, leaving the mower spending more time neatly tucked away on its charger and less time wearing out your grass. It does sell for a range of price points though, sometimes as low as £630, so do grab an Indego S+ 500 if its any lower than its RRP.
Key specs – Size: 445 x 364 x 202mm (WDH); Weight: 7.7kg; Cutting height: 30-50mm; Maximum lawn size: 500m²; Maximum incline: 27%; Replaceable battery: Yes
4. Gardena Sileno City: Best robot lawn mower for difficult-shaped gardens
Price when reviewed: £731 | Check price at Amazon When you lay the perimeter wire of the Gardena Sileno City, you also have to lay another guide wire. This goes from the middle of the base station to the far end of your garden, and needs to be spliced into the perimeter wire. When you’re laying the wire, this seems like a lot of hassle, but if you have an unusually shaped garden with areas that might be difficult to access, this guide wire will make all the difference, as the robot can be instructed to start mowing at the far end, effectively steering it into your garden’s trickiest spot before it starts.
Gardena’s app lets you carve your garden into areas, so you can set it to mow some sections more than others. This includes CorridorCut, which reduces the intensity of the mow in small, narrow areas that don’t need as much repetitive mowing. If you don’t like watering, either, you can also control Gardena’s automated irrigation system (not included) using the same app.
Key specs – Size: 550 x 380 x 230mm (WDH); Weight: 7.3kg; Cutting height: 20-50mm; Maximum lawn size: 300m²; Maximum incline: 35%; Replaceable battery: Yes
5. YardForce Compact 400Ri: Best robot lawn mower for avoiding obstacles
Price when reviewed: £481| Check price at Amazon Most robot mowers at the lower end of the price scale just bumble around randomly for a set period of time, only stopping and turning if they reach their boundaries and bump into things. The YardForce Compact 400Ri is a bit more intelligent than that, and can ‘see’ obstacles in front of it thanks to an ultrasonic sensor. The benefits of this are significant, as it’s much less likely to damage things you’ve left on the lawn and it’s much safer around children and pets.
The control app is less sophisticated than most, though, with the bare minimum of features for scheduling and manual starting. It’s sufficient, though, saves you trying to work out the buttons on the back of the machine, and is arguably a worthy compromise for the reasonable price and the advanced onboard sensors.
Key specs – Size: 440 x 384 x 206mm (WDH); Weight: 7.4kg; Cutting height: 20-55mm; Maximum lawn size: 400m²; Maximum incline: 30%; Replaceable battery: Yes
6. Worx Landroid M500 Plus WR165E: Best robot lawn mower for edge cutting
Price when reviewed: £949 | Check price at Amazon The most annoying thing about most robot lawn mowers is that they don’t cut right up to the edge of your lawn. Instead, they leave a strip of uncut grass next to any border that drops away into a flower bed or rises up to a patio or decking.
This is because the cutting blades are usually positioned centrally, tucked safely away beneath the mower, and the device itself can’t be allowed to get too close to features that might cause it to fall or get stuck.
The Worx Landroid M500 Plus WR165E reduces this problem. The spinning disc that the cutting blades are attached to is offset from the centre, closer to the side of the mower, which lets it cut closer to edges. It doesn’t eliminate the problem completely, but if you lay your boundary wires carefully, you can minimise the extra work that’s left behind.
A few other innovations have filtered down into this model from other Worx mowers, including a self-levelling deck that helps ensure your lawn doesn’t get scalped by the spinning blades, even when it passes over lumps and humps. Its base is also waterproof, so you can now clean off the grass clippings with a hose.
Key specs – Size: 580 x 403 x 208mm (WDH); Weight: 9.5kg; Cutting height: 30-60mm; Maximum lawn size: 500m²; Maximum incline: 35%; Replaceable battery: Yes
7. Honda Miimo 70 Live: The most advanced robot lawn mower
Price when reviewed: £1,119 | Check price at Just Lawnmowers
Most robot lawnmowers have to be connected to Wi-Fi if you want to control and schedule their activities using a smartphone app. The Honda Miimo 70 Live is a bit different because it has a mobile internet connection built in.
It comes with a SIM pre-installed and the cost of the service is included in the price. The great benefit of this is that it doesn’t need Wi-Fi, so it doesn’t matter if your signal doesn’t reach your garden. However, you still get all the benefits of a connected app, so you can set your mower going from your armchair.
Honda’s Miimo is also more efficient at mowing than most rivals. It cuts in a sensible pattern, breaking the lawn down into sections, then cutting in stripes, much like you would if you were mowing manually. This means the risk of it missing a bit is significantly lower than with mowers that move around your lawn randomly.
Key specs – Size: 445 x 364 x 202mm (WDH); Weight: 7.6kg; Cutting height: 30-50mm; Maximum lawn size: 700m²; Maximum incline: 27%; Replaceable battery: Yes