Who Makes The Most Small Engines For Lawn Mowers?

Here’s a fact that might surprise you: 95% of lawn mower engines are made by “the big 4”.

The “big 4” companies making all the lawn mower engines are:

  1. Briggs & Stratton
  2. Honda
  3. Kawasaki
  4. Kohler

In 2019, these companies combined to make 16.46 million small engines bound for the best lawn mowers in use in push mowers, ride-on mowers, pressure washers, concrete mixers, portable generators, water pumps and other power equipment.

Take Note: All information and data on this page was gathered from company publicly available SEC Filings, Annual Reports, Financial Presentations and from paid access to statistics and comprehensive study reports on the global lawn mower markets.

Here’s a breakdown bar graph of how many small engines each company produced in 2019:

Who Makes The Most Small Engines For Power Equipment Bar Chart

Briggs & Stratton makes the most small engines that end up on lawn mowers (nearly 8 million), followed by Honda (6.3 million), then Kawasaki (1.25 million) and Kohler (nearly 1 million).

It should be noted all of Briggs small engines are small engines whereas companies like Kohler also make a ton of larger diesel, propane and marine engines for use in large generators and boats.

At this point – you may be wondering – what portion of these small engines end up on lawn mowers?

Good question. Because these small engines also end up in portable generators, pressure washers, snow blowers and other power equipment.

Here’s a graphic showing the percent of small engines ending up in lawn mowers vs. other power equipment.

Lawn Mower Share of Small Engine Market Graphic
  • 42% of small engines made by “the big 4” end up in lawn mowers.
  • 58% go to other power equipment.

Do you find this crazy?

Out of 16.5 million small engines made almost half are going to lawn mowers – push and ride-on versions.

Amazing.

We love our lawn mowers – that’s for sure.

Everything you need to know about each small engine manufacturer:

Briggs & Stratton

Briggs and Stratton LogoBriggs & Stratton filed for bankruptcy on July 20, 2020.

They were wholly bought by private equity firm KPS Capital Partners on September 23, 2020. KPS Capital Partners also owns LifeFitness (and others) and used to own Taylor Made Golf (and others).

On the customers facing side nothing changes. But now they have solid financial footing and no debt worries.

How did Briggs & Stratton go bankrupt?

In the next bar chart you will be able to get a picture why they went bankrupt.

From 2009 to 2020 they have received less small engine orders every single year. And engines are what they do.

First, realize Briggs & Stratton only makes engines once they have received an order for them.

So if a lawn mower company orders 100,000 small engines – only then does Briggs start manufacturing them.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011 they received orders for between 11.29 and 11.37 million small engines each year.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 order for Briggs small engines had declined to between 9.6 and 9.7 million engines.

And the final dagger came when Covid-19 hit and companies and people stopped buying things. In 2020, Briggs & Stratton only received order for 6.9 million small engines – almost half of their 2010 production.

Check out the decline in the below chart:

Briggs and Stratton Number of Small Engine Units Made 2009 to 2020 Bar Graph

Briggs & Stratton small engine facts:

B & S make 4 types of engine:

  1. Small vertical shaft
  2. Horizontal shaft
  3. Large vertical shaft
  4. Commercial engines

Small vertical shaft engines (12 models)

B & S most popular engines are their small vertical shaft engines used on walk-behind lawn mowers.

  • Models on offer from 125cc to 223cc

Horizontal shaft (4 models)

The horizontal shaft motors are used for small garden tractors, generators and pressure washer systems.

  • Models on offer from 127cc (3.5 HP) to 420cc (13.5 HP)

Large vertical shaft engines (4 models)

Used on all types of machines but mainly riding mowers.

  • Models on offer from 344cc (11.5 HP) to 810cc (27 HP)

Vanguard Commercial engines (24 models)

Vanguard Engine Comparison

The premium offering from B & S is their Vanguard brand of engines. These are for commercial-duty power equipment and come with premium specs like cast iron cylinder sleeve and extended warranty.

  • Models on offer from 169cc (5 HP) to 993cc (40 HP)

Briggs & Stratton power product sales

Briggs & Stratton reports financials in two segments:

  1. Engines
  2. Products.

Engines are small engines and Products are Briggs branded equipment like pressure washers, snow blowers and portable generators.

The Engines Division is usually about 60% of sales.

Also, some Briggs products may use (from time-to-time) Honda, Kohler or Kawasaki engines. Mainly though, the Product Division buys Briggs small engines from the Engines Division.

Here is a chart showing the total Briggs & Stratton powered product sales (in billions of USD) including small engine sales.

Briggs Stratton Powered Products Sales 2009 to 2020 Bar Graph

Again you can see the decline in sales leading up to bankruptcy in 2020.

Let’s now look at Honda small engine units made and power product sales over the years.

Honda

Honda Motors LogoHonda’s revenue breakdown in 2021 was as follows:

  • Cars: 65%
  • Financial Services: 19%
  • Motorcycles: 14%
  • Power Products: 2%

And that 2% Power Products Division was around $3 billion USD. Yeah, Honda big.

Honda’s Power Products division includes: 

  • Honda general purpose engines
  • Lawn mowers
  • Generators
  • Water pumps
  • Snow blowers
  • Tillers
  • Trimmers
  • Outboard boat motors

Honda documentation tells us how many general purpose small engines Honda makes per year.

In this bar chart from 2003 to 2022 we can see how many small engines Honda made each year.

Honda Small Engine Units Made 2003 to 2022 Bar Graph

Keep in mind motorcycles are a separate division within Honda. So these small engines are all for power equipment and have nothing to do with scooter or dirt bike engines.

In the graph you can see Honda engine production fluctuated quite a bit between 2003 and 2011. Then between 2011 and 2022 have had steady small engine production between 5.5 and 6.5 million units per year.

Upon further digging it looks like the 2010 drop in production

Honda small engine facts:

Honda small engine lineup

Honda makes 7 different series of engines:

  1. GC/GCV – Residential – 160cc – 20cc
  2. GS/GSV – Light commercial – 187cc
  3. GX/GXV – Commercial – 7 different sizes: 98.5cc – 389cc
  4. V-Twin – Commercial – 688cc
  5. iGX – Commercial – 2 models: 270cc and 389cc
  6. iGX/V-Twin – Commercial – 2 models: 688cc and 770cc
  7. Mini 4-Stroke – Residential – 4 models: 25cc – 50cc

Honda has a relatively small lineup of small engines with only 20 total models available. They do this so they can focus on those 20 and make them better each year.

Honda power product sales

Honda power equipment is known for its durability, reliability and price tag – it costs the most because it is the highest quality.

We surveyed 29 landscape/lawn care and rental shop companies (via email, instagram and website contact forms) to show what power equipment they used and trusted.

Every single rental shop owner said they would not buy and rent out any other brand than Honda.

Why?

Because with regular maintenance they would never break and cause downtime – losing them money not being able to be rented out.

The landscape company owners were less united and mentioned brands like Toro, Scag and John Deere.

Regardless, Honda makes great equipment and it shows in their multi-billion dollar power products business.

See the bar chart below the sales from 2012 to 2022.

Honda Powered Product Sales Chart Graph

Compare this progression to the Briggs & Stratton chart above.

In 2012, Honda and Briggs powered product sales are identical. Then Honda starts to pull away and Briggs & Stratton is in decline.

Interesting stuff.

Now let’s look at Kawasaki – the Japanese brand famous for the Ninja motorcycle and Jet Ski personal watercraft.

Kawasaki

kawasaki engines logoKawasaki is a diverse company. Here is their sales breakdown for the 2021 financial year :

  • Aerospace Systems: 25%
  • Motorcycle & Engine: 23%
  • Energy & Marine Engineering: 21%
  • Precision Machinery & Robot: 16%
  • Rolling Stock: 9%
  • Other: 5%

And that Motorcycle & Engine division (23% of Kawasaki sales) is $3.34 billion USD.

Kawasaki Motorcycle & Engine division – unlike Honda – includes their motorcycles. And motorcycles/scooters/ATVs are all more expensive than general purpose small engines. So although it may seem Kawasaki is on par with Briggs and Honda in small engine production, they are far behind in terms of unit sales per year.

Check out this bar graph showing the progression of Kawasaki small engine production from 2010 to 2022.

Kawasaki Small Engines Units Sold 2010 to 2022 Bar Graph

Some quick facts:

  • Kawasaki engines are used in about 60% of riding mowers for professional use in the U.S.
  • 90% of Kawasaki general purpose small engines are sold to U.S. mower manufacturers
  • In 2019, it is estimated nearly 2 million riding mowers were sold in the U.S.

Looking back at the chart of Kawasaki small engine units made: Even though they are far below Briggs and Honda in units sold, they still dominate the riding mower market. Briggs and Honda focus more on the push mowers and other power equipment.

You will usually see riding mower companies sell their mowers in tiers with different pricing. These tiers are usually:

  • Tier A – Best Quality – With Honda Engine – $$$
  • Tier B – Best Overall – With Kawasaki Engine – $$
  • Tier C – Best Value For Money – With Kohler or Briggs & Stratton Engine – $

Kawasaki small engine facts:

Kawasaki Small Engine Range

Kawasaki small engines are purpose built for riding mowers. Here’s there lineup:

  • FX – 14 models – 15 HP – 38.5 HP
  • FT – 4 models – 20 HP – 26 HP
  • FS – 6 models – 14.5 HP – 24 HP
  • FR – 4 models – 18 HP – 24 HP
  • FJ – 2 models  – 179cc
  • FH – 1 model – 764cc
  • FD – 3 models – 25 HP – 31 HP

Kawasaki motorcycle and powered products sales

Kawasaki has a motorcycle and power product division which includes all their fun stuff:

  • Motorcycles
  • Dirt bikes
  • ATVs
  • Side x sides
  • Jet skis
  • General purpose engines

Like other companies they are pushing hard into electric vehicles – battery powered stuff.

Below is a bar graph showing Kawasaki sales of motorcycle and power products from 2010 t0 2022.

Kawasaki Motorcyle and Engine Division Sales 2010 to 2022 Bar Chart

Some quick comparisons:

  • This division inside Kawasaki made $2.51 billion USD in 2021.
  • In 2021, Honda’s power products division made $2.47 billion (not including motorcycles.
  • Honda’s motorcycle division made nearly $15 billion in 2021 (Honda sells massive amount of scooters and lower powered motorcycles to Asia.

Now let’s move on to the final member of the “big 4” lawn mower engine companies: Kohler.

Kohler

Kohler engines logoKohler is the 57th largest private company in the U.S., according to Forbes.

It is estimated they had revenue of $7 billion in 2020.

Given they are a private company and don’t have public records, we have to do some estimation to get their small engine sales data.

We dug deep for this one.

What we found:

  • The key document we found is a 2006 United States Tax Court filing between the grandchildren of Herbert Kohler (the founder).
  • It tells us that Kohler’s business operations are divided into 4 divisions: Kitchen and Bath (70 – 75% of revenue), Power Systems including small gas engines and large generators (15 to 20% of revenue), Interiors (6% of revenue) and finally Hospitality (4%).

Calculating Kohler Small Engine Unit Sales

Key piece of information: the Power Systems division (small engines for lawn mowers etc. and generators) accounts for 15 to 20% of the $7 billion revenue.

Assumptions and calculations:

  • Let’s split the difference and use 17.5% for the Power Systems division portion of total revenue
  • $7 billion x 17.5% = $1.225 billion
  • But this number includes all their engines and all their generators. They sell diesel engines (not used on lawn mowers) they sell marine engines (not small engines for power equipment) etc.
  • Let’s say 20% of their Power System division is strictly small engines for lawn & garden equipment like lawn mowers.
  • $1.225 billion x 20% = $245 million
  • From our other calculations of Honda and Briggs power product sales and small engine unit sales we know the unit cost of a Briggs & Stratton engine is $125 and Honda is $400. For Kohler we will split the difference and say Kohler engine average unit cost is $262.50.
  • $245 million divide by $262.50 equals 933,000 Kohler small engine units sold in 2019.

Yes, this is an educated guess.

But after further analysis we feel it is representative.

Kohler small engine facts:

Kohler small engines

Over the years Kohler has introduced 190 different models of small engines:

  • 59 residential and 131 commercial engine types
  • 83 horizontal shaft and 105 vertical shaft
  • 75 single cylinder and 115 twin cylinder

As of 2022, 104 models have been retired.

Today, Kohler still has the widest range of small engines on offer with 86 different options.

What Brand Of Small Engine Is The Best?

Between Honda, Kawasaki, Briggs & Stratton and Kohler which is the best small engine maker?

The general consensus is all the big 4 are great as long as you do regular maintenance.

But, this is the most common way to rank them from best to last:

Honda – Best quality (High price, high performance) 

Kawasaki – Best overall (mid price, mid performance)

Kohler, Briggs & Stratton – Best value (affordable)

The easiest way to answer this is to look at what lawn mower brands choose.

In this chart we can see a lot of brand overlap.

Many lawn mower brands will have models of lawn mower with different engine brands.

Their premium model may have a Honda or Kawasaki engine and their more cost friendly model may have a Briggs & Stratton or Kohler engine.

Take a look – what surprises you:

Lawn Mower Engines Chart Showing Lawn Mower Brands

(Check out this alternate view of the above chart)

  • Briggs & Stratton small engines are used by the most brands. This is most likely because they make a ton of affordable 2.5 – 5 HP engines great for budget push mowers.
  • Honda makes their own bestselling brand of lawn mower so their engines are most used on their own brand power equipment. Many other brands will have a model with the Honda engine as well as a model with a Briggs or Kohler or Kawasaki engine.
  • Kawasaki are the most popular engine on riding mowers. Brands like Dixie Chopper, Scag and Bad Boy mowers use them the most. Kawasaki are often thought as the middle ground better expensive high quality (Honda) and budget value for money (Briggs and Kohler).
  • Kohler small engines are used on many riding mowers and some push mowers.

Other Notable Companies 

Kubota

Kubota is a multi-billion dollar Japanese company selling heavy equipment, tractors, engines, vending machines and sewage treatment equipment.

Their engines range in size from 250cc to 6 litres with both diesel and gasoline models.

Kubota’s main sellers are large diesel engines for agricultural-duty tractors.

They offer residential zero turn riding mowers with Kubota, Kawasaki and Kohler small engines. In terms of lawn mower engines they are not producing at the same level as the big 4.

Yamaha

Yamaha makes small engines for its power products: Generators, pressure washers, pumps.

They also make engines for their motorcycles, scooters, waverunners, ATVs, golf carts, side-by-sides, outboard boat motors and snowmobiles.

Yamaha acquired Subaru Industrial Power Products from Fuji Heavy Industries in 2017. Subaru Industrial Power Products produces small general purpose engines which brands like Ryobi choose for their gas pressure washer and lawn mower.

Yamaha’s Other Products Division had sales of $500 million in 2021. This division includes golf carts, generators, snow blowers, electric wheelchairs and multipurpose engines. So as you see Yamaha is a major player in the small engine industry – just not lawn mower engines.

Subaru

Subaru small engine brand – Subaru Industrial Power Products – was acquired by Yamaha in 2017. All production was discontinued (Sept 30, 2017) and transferred over to Yamaha Motor Corp.

Generac

Generac Power Systems makes standby and portable generators, and pressure washers. They are the #1 brand for home backup generators.

They are a major player in the engine industry. However, they only make engines to put in their equipment.

In terms of size, they generate around $3 billion USD in revenue per year.

Champion Power Equipment

Champion is a power equipment braking mainly dealing in portable generators. In recent times they have expanded to log splitters, pressure washers, snow blowers and more.

They are popular because they offer budget options and are usually the most affordable product in the category.

They small engines used are made in China and are Champion branded.

Stihl

Stihl is the largest chainsaw manufacturing company in the world. Stihl makes their own 4-stroke petrol-oil mix engine they call the 4-MIX. It combines the advantages of the 2-stroke and 4-stroke and is perfect for their chainsaws and other garden equipment.

They are a private company and do not share their financials.

Kipor Power

Kipor offers 15 models of small engines from 2.5 HP to 16 HP. And you will find some riding mowers with Kipor engines.

But Kipor Power is mainly making engines for their generators and construction machinery.

Tecumseh

The current company called Tecumseh makes HVAC (heating, ventilation and air con) products. However, they used to be a well-known gasoline small engine maker and maker of the Snow King brand of snow blower.

In 2007, Tecumseh sold off their engine and power train businesses to Platinum Equity LLC. Platinum later sold the power train biz to Husqvarna and the engine biz to Certified Parts Corp.

In 2010, Certified Parts Corp. partnered with Liquid Combustion Technology (LCT) to make small engines for outdoor power equipment. And re-introduce the Snow King line of snow blowers. This new partnership produces engines under the Lauson, LCT and Snow King brands.

Liquid Combustion Technology

LCT makes over 100,000 small engines per year ranging in size from 79cc to 420cc.

They have offices in South Carolina, Shanghai and Sydney.

They make engines under the LCT brand as well as the Lauson and Snow King brands.

Sources

  1. Kohler Gasoline Engines. Listing of all Kohler gas engines.
  2. Honda Small Engines. Listing of all Honda gas engines.
  3. Briggs & Stratton Engines. Listing of B & S lawn mower and power equipment engines.
  4. Kawasaki General Purpose Engines. Listing of Kawasaki engines.
  5. Kohler United States Tax Court Filing. Breakdown of 4 Kohler business divisions.
  6. Honda Financial Results. All the financial data from 2013 to 2022 for Honda.
  7. BGG: Briggs & Stratton Corp SEC. SEC Reports for Briggs & Stratton.
  8. Kawasaki Earnings Report. 2022 financial data for Kawasaki.
  9. General Purpose Engine For Lawn Mowers FX850V-EFI. Facts from Kawasaki about their share of the riding mower market.
  10. KPS Capital Partners, LP, Active Investments. Facts about PE firm that bought Briggs & Stratton.

About your guide: Jamey Kramar is a certified Lawn Care Manager and a Mechanical Engineer by trade. He has been writing about outdoor power equipment for 11 years and has been quoted in NYTimes, Popular Mechanics, HowStuffWorks, iFixit, Realtor.com, and more. He spends his spare time disassembling things and also building an off-grid cabin at his 200-acre property.