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A robot lawnmower or a gardener: Which is the better deal?

We've spent the past few weeks reviewing the Robomow RS612, a $1,600 robot lawnmower. Though this is one of the least expensive robot lawnmowers, it could be cheaper to hire someone to take care of cutting your grass.

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Whether you choose man or machine, it takes a lot of money to avoid mowing the lawn.

I've spent the past six weeks reviewing the Robomow RS612, a robot lawnmower that can automatically cut your grass and rescue your summer afternoons. This model costs $1,600 (Robomow doesn't offer this model in Australia or the UK but that price works out to AU$2,079 and £1,226), and other Robomow models that can cover larger yards can cost as much as $2,100 (AU$2,729 and £1,610). Sound expensive? Brace yourself: some models from other brands such as Lawnbott or Husqvarna's Automowers cost $3,000 (AU$3,900, £2,300) and more.

A less-expensive option for bowing out of lawn care is to hire a professional, which can cost less than $1,000 a year. So why would you splurge on a robot lawnmower when a real-life person is so much cheaper? After spending quality time with the Robomow, I have some ideas:

The Robomow RS612 is a $1,600 robot lawnmower that is battery-powered and equipped with Bluetooth.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
  • Less human interaction. Sometimes, you just don't want to talk to other people. But if you're in the market for a professional gardener, you're going to have to ask around to find the right person or business that meets your needs and fits your budget. Then, you have to tell them exactly what you want for your yard and make the occasional small talk. With a robot lawnmower, you don't need to talk to anyone to get started. Neighbors might want to stop by and admire the gadget cutting paths through your yard, but you can stay inside and chill in the AC.
  • Autonomy. When you hire a professional, you trust them to come to your home when they say they will and do the work they promised. With a robot lawnmower, you get set the parameters of what you want the mower to do and when it will run. And a robot lawnmower could be a game-changer for folks with a physical limitation that keeps them from cutting the yard on their own.
  • The cool factor. It's fun and impressive to see a robot lawnmower zip across your yard, and to remote control it with an app. It brings some appreciable novelty to lawn care, at least at first.

But there are still reasons why hiring a professional or paying the kid down the street is a better option than a robot lawnmower:

  • Lower cost. In the US, an adult who hires a professional for landscape maintenance and care (which includes mowing and edging) spends an average of $600 a year on those services, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (formerly the Professional Landcare Network), a national trade organization for landscape professionals. I'm sure you have free to cheap labor in your own home if you're the parent of a robust teenager, though you would have to provide your own mower and trimmer.
  • No equipment. Most professionals have their own mowers, trimmers and other equipment, so you don't need to buy anything. Meanwhile, I still needed to keep my own weed whacker handy with the Robomow because it didn't reach some of the outer edges of my yard.
  • More skills. A robot lawnmower has one job: It cuts your grass. Now, that makes up a huge portion of taking care of your outdoor areas, but there are other aspects of lawn care that you'll still have to perform on your own or find someone to help with. A professional can address gardens and hedges, whereas a robot lawnmower can only avoid them.

No matter what you choose, outsourcing the worst part of yard work is going to be pricey. If you're not willing or able to mow, get ready to pay.