Battery-powered mowers are pushed by marketers as being desirable products for green living. The reason is obvious: "green" sells. But the task taken on here in this review of Stihl's RMA 370 is to evaluate this battery-run lawn mower in terms of usability for the homeowner. Below, the product specs are provided, as well as a listing of the pros and cons discovered during its evaluation. The concluding remarks focus on how easy the product is to use, not on how green it is.
Product Specifications for the Stihl RMA 370 Lawn Mower
Basic product description (for more details, see further below):
- 14-inch cutting deck
- Wheel-height adjustment mechanism offers five options for cutting height
- 10.5-gallon plastic grass catcher
- Weight (with battery): about 30 lbs.
- Runs on a lithium ion 36v-4.5Ah rechargeable battery
It takes about 40 minutes to charge the lithium-ion 36v-4.5Ah battery. One side of the battery is still exposed after you've inserted it into the machine. This is the side with the battery's indicator lights, as well as a button you can push that allows you to check approximately how much of a charge is left at any given point.
Your lithium-ion battery will give you a mowing time of about 30 minutes.
The Pros for the Stihl RMA 370
Beyond its importance from an environmental perspective, cleanliness is a nice benefit simply from a usability perspective. Who wants to get gas or oil all over themselves, right? Yet the cords on corded electrical equipment are bothersome, too. Thus the demand for an alternative to both: battery-powered mowers, which are both clean and easy to use. Throw in the ability to do your mowing without being subjected to the din of a loud engine, and you can easily see why lawn mowers that run on batteries are all the rage.
Of course, with a battery-powered mower, there's no pull-cord, either. That feature alone eliminates a major source of frustration.
In comparison to another battery-powered mower reviewed on this website, what jumps out at one right away about the Stihl RMA 370 is how light-weight it is. It's also smaller than most mowers. Consequently, it's easier:
- To maneuver
- To store away after use
- To transport (for example, if you need to throw a mower into your car and drive off to mow a separate property that you maintain)
In general, its grass catcher is a laudable feature. Here's why:
Instead of the usual mower bag (i.e., the flexible unit used by most mowers to catch grass clippings), the Stihl RMA 370 has a grass catcher made of hard plastic. Not only does its composition make it more durable, it also makes it easier to use. Being rigid, it's a snap to take it off and just as easy to replace it.
There's an indicator flap on top of the grass catcher to let you know when to empty it. When you begin mowing, this flap sticks up; when it's time to empty the grass catcher, the flap falls down and rests flat atop the unit. If you're the type who likes to plunge into work with new equipment without reading the manual, you could easily miss this feature initially, because there's something in your line of vision blocking the feature as you mow: namely, your hands on the mower handle.
Let's conclude the "Pros" section with a look at the ideal way to use Stihl's battery-powered mower:
Kudos to Stihl for the way they set up the reviewer with the product to conduct tests for this review. Not only did they send the unit, itself, along with a battery and a charger, but they also sent a second battery. Having a second battery is definitely the way to go because having two batteries means that you can always have one that's fully charged and, therefore, ready to go. Unfortunately (see below under Cons), consumers won't automatically be set up with this ideal arrangement. And even if they're smart enough to ask for it when they make their purchase, the fact is that all of this doesn't come cheap.
The Cons for This Battery-Powered Mower
First and foremost, note that the Stihl RMA 370 is intended for use on small or medium-sized lawns. Those with very large lawns would probably tire of recharging batteries continually in order to finish the task of mowing. Moreover, it has a relatively narrow cutting swath, so you have to make more passes to cut the same amount of grass than you would with a bigger unit. Nor is it self-propelled.
Furthermore, you shouldn't go too long between mowings with this battery-powered mower. Since it lacks the power of a gas-operated machine, it would simply be too arduous to try to cut tall grass. It shares this limitation with another green product: reel mowers.
A problem found in testing the unit was that the wheel height adjustment mechanism would slip from its setting sometimes -- from high (5) to low (1 or 2). This causes the engine to want to stall out because the blade is practically resting right on the ground when the setting is so low. In a way, this stalling action is good, because it serves as a warning that you're mowing too low. Thus warned, you can immediately readjust wheel height before proceeding. One of the most basic lawn mowing tips is that it's not good for your grass to mow it too low: the proper mowing height is no lower than 3 to 3-1/2 inches.
Be that as it may, it is a nuisance, nonetheless, to have to keep re-setting the wheel height; apparently, this is a product defect on what was, after all, a brand-new product. Presumably, this is a kink that the manufacturer will eventually iron out. Compromising with a 4 setting is workable (the problem occurs only on setting 5), but the defect is still worth pointing out.
The one thing that detracts from the grass catcher (which, as indicated above, deserves an overall thumbs-up) is that it is small. In fact, it's so small that one will usually find oneself ignoring the indicator flap's signal that it is full, simply because it seems that one no sooner gets into a good mowing rhythm than one has to stop to empty the grass catcher.
But perhaps the machine's biggest drawbacks at the time of this writing are that:
- It's expensive ($400 U.S.).
- Since it's new, you may have to order it rather than picking it up immediately at the store, even if you're shopping at a store that's a listed Stihl dealer.
- You have to order the battery, the charger, and the (optional) second battery all separately (meaning not only extra cost but also an extra hassle).
As with any equipment that runs on special batteries, convince yourself prior to any purchase that you will easily be able to acquire replacement batteries as needed. You don't want to be stuck with a piece of equipment that you cannot use when you need it because a battery permanently died on you. If you like how Stihl's battery-powered mower sounds in this review, find a local Stihl dealer and go in there to chat with the folks who operate it. Verify that they're people on whom you can depend.
Sometimes we do not completely do justice to a product by labeling it as "green." That label may give some people the impression that using the product in question entails a sacrifice, a trade-off whereby one places environmental concerns above convenience. Such is not the case here. This lawn mower was evaluated strictly on the basis of its ease of use, and—as you can see from the review above—it earns a good grade on that score, fair and square.
While this battery-powered mower does eliminate the need to use messy gas and oil (thereby making it greener), the high rating assigned to it here is due entirely to the fact that it was a pleasure to use during the trial. True, the consumer will have to take pains to get the ordering right (see above under Cons). But if you can get past that, and if you have a small yard, you will find this lawn mower a godsend.
Mowing will still be a chore (which is why you should consider getting rid of your grass if you find lawns a total bore and prefer to devote your landscape maintenance to gardening), but this battery-powered mower will remove so much hassle from the process that it will no longer be a chore that you dread.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.