Topper Mowers Vs Flail Mowers; what do I need?

Topper Mowers Vs Flail Mowers; what do I need?

If you've got a large grassy area to mow, you'll know there two types of mower on the market - flail mowers and topper mowers. In summary, topper mowers are more cost-effective, simpler and easier to maintain, and will handle most tasks, including grass, kikuyu and weeds; flail mowers might be an option for extremely thick vegetation, woody material etc.

It’s fair to say, that as the home of Smokey Goat mowers, we have a fairly strong opinion which one is best! But have a read of this article and decide for yourself.

What is a topper mower?

A Topper Mower is a mower that uses a rotary blade fastened to a carrier. The blade swivels, allowing the blade to swing back if it comes across unwanted objects. The disc acts as a further ‘fuse’, protecting the engine from any potential damage.

Topper mowers are very simple, generally more cost-effective, and easier to maintain. We offer the Smokey Goat topper range, which have proven themselves as excellent value and straightforward topper mowers for your ATV, UTV, ute etc.

Topper mowers are also manufactured for use behind a tractor.

What is a flail mower?

A flail mower has a large horizontal rotor. A number of Y-shaped flails are fitted to the rotor. The rotor is driven by belts which are powered by a petrol engine. The flail spins at high speed, giving the flails the momentum needed to cut the grass.

ATV Flail mowers are derived from their tractor powered cousins. A flail mower consists of a large horizontal rotor with many Y-shaped flails mounted on the rotor. The engine is usually mounted on the top of the flail body. A set of belts runs from the engine down to the rotor, and are usually geared so that the rotor spins several times faster than engine RPM. This leads to a high tip speed on the Y-shaped flails, thus giving enough speed and impact to mow the grass.

Flail mowers are a European idea, and are commonly used behind a tractor. ATV flail mowers can be purchased in NZ too.

Toppers vs Flails; The Comparison

The table below compares some of the differences between flail mowers and topper mowers.

Common Questions about Topper Mowers vs Flail Mowers

Q. I have kikuyu. Will a topper mower mow kikuyu?

A. The short answer is – YES!. Kikuyu is just a grass. The fast blade tip speed of the Smokey Goat Toppers cuts the kikuyu cleanly, and there is little to no risk of the kikuyu wrapping around the shaft, as topper mowers generally have an effective way of discharging the longer grass out the back.

If you have very long kikuyu, and will always be mowing it very long, a flail mower may be a better choice as they tend to cut the long material up finer. However, a couple of passes with a topper mower will get long kikuyu under control – and once it’s under control you can just keep on top of it (no pun intended).

Q. I have Rushes. Will a topper mower mow rushes?

Yes - a topper mower will mow rushes. In fact a topper mower is better than a flail at handling rushes as it cuts the stalky stem more cleanly.


In most situations, a topper mower will be the most practical and reliable mower for keeping your pasture under control.

  • Topper mowers are significantly easier to maintain and cheaper to own
  • Topper mowers tend to perform better on hilly terrain and in most situations
  • When comparing good quality machines topper mowers are cheaper to purchase as they are a simpler machine

Flail mowers are more suited to very heavy mowing conditions; a good quality flail mower tends to be more expensive.

Also, many of the flail mowers on the NZ market are low-quality Asian-manufactured machines which really aren’t designed for NZ conditions. Some common comments we hear from owners of these machines include;

“Belts are burning out all the time”

“The flail keeps on clogging up”

“Build Quality is not that good”

Save yourself the hassle today!


Contact us today to discuss your options!

Alternatively you can contact our friendly team today.

Phone - 0800 200 744

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