Skip to main content

How do robot lawn mowers work?

Although not quite as mainstream as robot vacuums, robot lawn mowers are becoming increasingly popular. These nifty devices make it easy to maintain a beautiful lawn without lifting a finger — although you’ll need to make a pretty hefty upfront investment, as robot lawn mowers don’t come cheap.

But how exactly do robot lawn mowers work? Here’s a closer look at these innovative devices so you know what you’re getting into before making a purchase.

The basics of robot lawn mowers

The Robomow RS630 on a lawn.
Robomow RS630 Image used with permission by copyright holder

Robot lawn mowers are remarkably similar to robot vacuums. But instead of sucking up pet fur and dust, these powerful gadgets trim your lawn and turn the clippings into finely chopped particles that serve as makeshift fertilizer for your grass. They often come in a rectangular or triangular shape, with three to four wheels and a series of adjustable blades to accomplish cuts of varying heights.

Robot lawn mowers are charged by a docking station, which allows them to run automatically without any input from the user, and they’ll return to the dock when their battery is running low before heading out to finish up their chores. Some also include a rain sensor and will head back to their dock if they detect inclement weather.

Hills can pose a challenge for some robot lawn mowers, as it requires a lot of horsepower to propel these heavy devices up steep inclines. They don’t, however, have issues with uneven terrain, as many of them are designed with a blade and wheels that can modify their performance on the fly to avoid clipping into the ground.

Robot lawn mowers are guided by boundary wires

A person installing a boundary wire for a Husqvarna product.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the worst parts of robot lawn mowers is the installation process. Unlike robot vacuums, which automatically map your home, the vast majority of robot lawn mowers require you to install boundary wires. These must be placed (or buried) at the edges of your property to ensure the robot doesn’t wander into your neighbor’s yard — or into your flower bed.

This might not be an issue if you have a small backyard just outside the city, but if you’re sitting on close to an acre, be prepared to be setting down boundary wire for quite some time. If your yard is really large, some products require an additional guidewire to be installed that helps the lawnmower find its way back to the docking station as quickly as possible.

Some robot lawn mowers require a clear view of the sky

A Husqvarna robot lawn mower on a lawn with a grid draw on the grass.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Select robot lawn mowers might also make use of GPS navigation skills to maneuver around. However, these require unimpeded access to the sky, and are less than ideal for lots with tree cover. So if your property is largely located under mature trees, you might want to think twice before springing for certain types of robot lawn mowers.

Requirements like this are typically listed on the store page — be sure to check these closely if your worried about a robot lawn mower’s performance.

Robot lawn mowers run on their own

While there’s certainly a lengthy setup process for robot lawn mowers, the positives typically outweigh the drawbacks. After your installation is finalized, you’ll be treated to an immaculate yard year-round without having to get your hands dirty. Many models also offer an impressive level of customization, allowing you to choose how often they cut the grass, how low they trim the grass, and which regions of your yard they’re responsible for.

So, if you don’t mind the upfront cost or labor, a robot lawn mower might be a great addition to your home.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Bitner
Jon Bitner is a writer covering consumer electronics, technology, and gaming. His work has been published on various websites…
Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra vs. Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo: Which premium robot vacuum is best?
The Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra placed in its dock.

Roborock and Ecovacs are two of the biggest names in the world of robot vacuums. The companies have been producing some of the best robot vacuum and mop combos for years, and that trend has continued into 2024 with the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra and Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo. Both are ultra-premium devices that clock in at over $1,000, and we awarded both of them impressive scores in our reviews. In short, it's hard to go wrong with either robot vacuum.

However, there are some key differences between the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra and the Ecovacs Deebot X2 Combo. From suction power and mopping skills to pricing and additional features, here's a comprehensive look at the two robot vacuums to help you decide which is best for your home.
Pricing and availability

Read more
The Narwal Freo X Plus is an entry-level robot vacuum loaded with premium features
The Freo X Plus vacuuming pet hair.

Narwal launched the Freo X Ultra earlier this year, and we found it to be an exceptional robot vacuum and mop combo -- though its $1,400 price tag made it a luxury item for most shoppers. Thankfully, many of the Freo X Ultra's best features can be found on the newly launched Narwal Freo X Plus, which offers an affordable alternative to the flagship vacuum and mop combo.

The Freo X Plus should be much more appealing to frugal shoppers, as it clocks in at just $400. That's a full $1,000 cheaper than the Ultra, yet it still holds up to seven weeks of dust, can lift its mopping plate when traveling on carpet, and produces up to 7,800 Pa of suction to pull out dirt and debris from your carpets. It can even apply 6 Newton units of downward pressure while mopping, allowing it to tackle tough stains with ease.

Read more
How to save Ring Doorbell video without a subscription
Ring Doorbell mounted outside a front door.

Take a walk through any neighborhood, and you're bound to see a few Ring video doorbells installed next to front doors. The brand is increasingly popular, thanks to an ever-growing product lineup that makes it easy to find a device for all budgets and security needs. But one of the peskier features of Ring is the need for a Ring Protect Plan -- a monthly subscription service that unlocks the majority of the camera's most useful features.

One such feature locked behind a Ring Protect Plan membership is the ability to save Ring doorbell videos. Without a plan, you'll really only be allowed to view a live feed of your video doorbell. The plans are pretty generous, with the Basic plan costing $5 per month and offering video history for up to 180 days, making it a worthwhile investment for homes worried about their security.

Read more