5 Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Hills

AS-Motor_AS_1040_YAK_4WD

Have a small yard? Check out our guide to the best lawn mowers for small yards

If you’ve got a yard with hills or uneven terrain, then you want to find the best riding lawn mower for hills. But what features should you look for when choosing your mower?

We’ve rounded up a list of 5 of our top choices for the best riding mowers for uneven terrain and created a guide to help you make an informed decision. These are the mowers we’ll be taking a look at in this article:

Top Pick: Craftsman T225 Riding Lawn Mower Review

Best electric: Ryobi RM480ex Electric Riding Mower Review

Best for the money: Troy-Bilt 382cc Riding Lawn Mower Review

Best zero turn mower: Husqvarna MZ61 Zero Turn Riding Mower Review

Best garden tractor: Husqvarna TS 354XD Garden Tractor Review

Top 5 Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Hills


This Craftsman riding mower is an excellent option for quickly cutting uneven terrain. With a 19 horsepower Briggs and Stratton Gold gas engine, the T225 lawn tractor has enough power to make large yards a breeze.

The T225 sports a set of large rear wheels providing it with added stability and superior maneuvering capability. The added traction these wheels provide keeps this mower from slipping or skidding. It can easily handle rough terrain and won’t damage your lawn in the process.

The large 46-inch cutting deck of the T225 provides great coverage with each pass, reducing the amount of time it takes to finish mowing. A tight 5-inch turning radius makes mowing around obstacles is easy. Plus, the added ability to mow while in reverse lets you continue to cut while weaving in and out of any trouble spots around the yard.

This mower has some great ergonomic features including a supportive high-back seat. Together with the smooth driving hydrostatic transmission, it makes this mower comfortable to ride for hours at a time. 

Pros:
  • Hydrostatic transmission provides a smooth and comfortable ride.
  • Tight 5-inch turning radius
  • Comfortable high-back seat
  • Mow in reverse feature
  • 2-year warranty
Cons:
  • Bagger sold separately 

This electric-powered rear-engine mower from Ryobi promises all the power of a gas-engine mower with none of the hassles. In a lot of ways, it delivers on that promise providing some great performance. It needs virtually no maintenance beyond charging the battery and keeping the blades sharp.

Able to run for 2.5 hours on a full charge, the RM480ex is excellent for handling small to mid-sized lawns. It can reach an impressive 5mph while cutting, faster than many similarly sized gas-powered competitors. A 38-inch cutting deck provides good coverage for a rear-engine mower. With a 16-inch turning radius, it’s easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

The electric motor of the RM480ex is much quieter than a gas motor at only 70 dB. The quieter mowing makes for a more pleasant experience when cutting the grass. It also lets you get out mowing early in the day without worrying about irritating the neighbors.  It has an adjustable mid-back seat and plenty of foot room.

This mower is a great choice if you have limited storage space. It’s compact enough to easily store in a shed or garage without taking too much room.

While this mower might be battery-powered, but it doesn’t feel cheap. A rugged steel frame and cutting deck give the RM480ex a durable feel despite the plastic outer shell. Ryobi also covers it with a 3-year warranty.

Pros:
  • Incredibly low maintenance, saving you time and money in the long term.
  • Runs super quietly
  • Small enough to easily to store
  • 3-year warranty
Cons:
  • A lack of padding on the seat means a bumpy ride on rough ground.
  • Limited by battery life to up to 2.5 hours of cutting time.

An excellent choice for small to mid-sized yards, the Troy-Bilt 382cc riding lawn mower is hugely popular, and it’s easy to see why. Compact enough to easily store, but with plenty of power, it feels like the perfect small riding mower.

The 30-inch cutting deck on this mower is on par with wide-cut walk-behind mowers and makes mowing modestly sized yards a breeze. With five different height adjustments for the blade, it’s easy to cut your grass to the exact right height.

This smaller cutting deck not only makes this mower easy to store but also lets it fit where larger mowers cannot. This contributes to the overall maneuverability of this mower, which sports an 18-inch turning radius. It also comes equipped with a larger set of rear wheels that provide more maneuverability and a sturdy grip when turning.

The adjustable seat on this mower is raised to mid-back height, and the steering column can also be easily raised or lowered to a comfortable height. It’s easy to adjust the for a comfortable position and this makes it comfortable to ride for hours at a time.

Overall, this is a great option for someone with a small to mid-sized yard and limited storage space. I wouldn’t recommend it for homeowners with a larger property as the modestly sized cutting deck would make mowing more time-consuming.

Pros:
  • Great value for the price
  • Compact and easy to store
  • Provides an even consistent cut
  •  2-year warranty
Cons:
  • A 30-inch cutting deck means mowing large yards with this mower could take a long time.

The Husqvarna MZ61 is a beast of a mower with a powerful 24hp Kawasaki engine and a tremendous 61-inch cutting deck. As a zero-turn mower, it offers way more control than other riding mowers with the ability to turn in place.

With this monster mower, you can cut the grass in no time with Husqvarna boasting it can tackle up to 4.2 acres of flat land in an hour. But how does it hold up on hills and uneven terrain?

With a pair of 6-inch wide pneumonic front wheels and two massive rear wheels, the MZ61 cruises over uneven terrain. A comfortable seat and oversized chassis keep the ride stable and comfortable for the operator.

It features a sturdy steel rollover protection system and a secure seatbelt. This is an incredibly useful safety measure to protect the rider. Despite all this, the owner’s manual for the MZ61 suggests restricting it to hills with a 10-degree slope.

The MZ61 is an incredibly comfortable machine to operate. It has a high-back seat that offers excellent back support with two attached armrests. The steering levers are vibration reducing and padded with foam grips for comfort. It all adds up to a comfortable riding experience that doesn’t strain your back or arms.

Pros:
  • Fast and powerful
  • Included Roll-over protection system (ROPS)
  • A massive 61-inch cutting deck
  • High-back seat provides excellent support
  • Incredibly comfortable to operate
  • Covered by a 3-year warranty
Cons:
  • An expensive mower at an intimidating price, but worth the investment if you need this level of performance.
  • Limited to hills with a mild slope.

Garden tractors are heavy-duty pieces of equipment more powerful than lawn tractors and able to be used with ground-engaging attachments like cultivators and plows. Husqvarna makes some of the absolute best riding mowers around. Their TS 354XD is a top of the line garden tractor built to make even the most difficult lawn work a breeze.

Equipped with a powerful 24hp Kawasaki V-Twin engine, the 354XD has enough power to handle any job you can throw at it. Despite its power, the pressure-lubricated runs deceptively quietly. Outfitted with a massive 54-inch cutting deck it drastically shortens the time it takes to mow a large property.

The TS 354XD can be safely operated on hills with up to a 15-degree slope. Its broad tires and cast iron axel provide great stability and balance when using it on rough terrain. The cutting deck also features anti-scalp wheels, which prevent scalping when mowing an uneven lawn.

Equipped with an adjustable extra-high back seat with armrests, the TS 354XD is incredibly comfortable to operate. Its hydrostatic transmission allowing the mower to shift gear smoothly, so speeding up and slowing down is always smooth. It also features an ergonomic steering wheel with a padded interior along with some other great ergonomic features that make this tractor simple and comfortable to operate.

This durable workhorse is built to last with a solid steel hood and a fabricated steel cutting deck. The welded 10-gauge steel cutting deck also features further welded reinforcement strips for even greater durability. It’s just as reliable under the hood, and Husqvarna covers it with an impressive 3-year warranty.

Pros:
  • Powerful and reliable Kawasaki V-twin engine
  • A large 54-inch cutting deck with anti-scalp wheels
  • A high-backed seat offers great support
  • Works with ground-engaging attachments
  • Covered by a 3-year warranty
Cons:
  • An expensive mower only worth the investment if you need a reliable garden tractor. If you just need to mow the lawn then this isn’t for you.

Buyer’s Guide Section

Why Use a Riding Mower for Hills?

Mowing the lawn uphill can be exhausting, and the more grass you have to cut, the more strenuous it can be. Using a riding mower for hills instead can make getting an even cut on your yard almost effortless.

Plus, riding mowers designed with uneven terrain in mind can more easily provide you with an even cut. This makes these mowers the best tool for the job when you have a large yard with uneven terrain.

What Are the Types of Riding Mower?

Zero Turn Mowers

Combining speed and maneuverability, zero-turn mowers are the cream of the crop when it comes to riding mowers. With a dual-lever control and the ability to turn a full 360 degrees, they are perfect for mowing around obstacles. The speed and control offered by a zero turn mower can cut the time it takes to mow a lawn in half compared to other options. However, these mowers do tend to be very expensive.

Zero-turn mowers are also not designed to work on slopes greater than 15 degrees and shouldn’t be used to mow steep hills.

Lawn Tractors

Lawn tractors have powerful engines but don’t offer the speed or control of a zero-turn mower. They are well suited for mowing large open lawns with few obstacles. While suitable for uneven terrain, these mowers are generally top-heavy.  Many are not well suited for steep hills, although there are exceptions. They can pull lightweight attachments like rear baggers or carts and can also be used to spread fertilizer or seeds.

Garden Tractors

Garden tractors are like beefier lawn tractors, offering more power and heavy-duty transmissions. Most of these tractors are suitable for use on uneven terrain. But like lawn tractors, they can have top-heavy designs. They can also be used with ground-engaging attachments like lawn aerators, cultivators, or plows.

Rear Engine Riding Mowers

Rear engine mowers are the smallest riding mowers. Their compact size makes them a good choice if you have limited storage space. However, that smaller frame also means a smaller cutting deck. Because of that, it will take more passes making mowing take longer.

What makes rear engine mowers an excellent choice on uneven terrain is their low center of gravity. The placement of the engines in these mowers makes them far less likely to flip than tractor style mowers. This factor makes them a safer option to use on steep inclines.

What Should You Consider When Choosing?

Property Size, layout, & slope

The most important factor in choosing a riding mower is the layout of your yard. Your yard will tell you a lot about what kind of mower it is that you want. Since you found your way to this article, we already know your yard has at least one hill, but how steep is the slope? How large is the yard? What about the overall layout, are you going to have to make tight turns?

Answering these few questions is going to tell you a lot about what it is you’re looking for in a mower.

Hills

When it comes to hills, its a balancing act between safety and power that comes down to how steep the hills are and how large your yard is. Rear-engine mowers are a great choice if you have steep hills because of their low center of gravity. However, they are much smaller and less powerful than tractor style mowers. The larger your yard, the more you’ll notice how much longer they can take to finish mowing. Those tractor style riding mowers are usually more top-heavy though, and on steep hills, there’s a risk they could flip.

Layout

If your yard is crowded with trees, sheds, or swing sets, then a small turning radius would be an important feature for you. You might do well to pick out a zero-turn mower if this is the case, it will give you complete steering control that you don’t get with other options.

Set a Realistic Budget and Don’t Overspend for What you Don’t Need.

A riding mower is something that can seem like a luxury that would demand a high price. However, a rear engine riding mower can be surprisingly affordable. Still, you should be wary of anything that seems like too good a deal because it likely is. Make sure to do your due diligence before committing to any purchase.

There isn’t any reason to break the bank on buying a more powerful mower then you need. If you have a modestly sized yard, then at the end of the day you don’t need a top of the line garden tractor. I know the appeal of wanting to have the best you can get of anything you buy, but there’s no sense in paying for what you don’t need.

Warranty

Planning for something going wrong isn’t fun, but it’s smart. The last thing you want when making a large purchase like a riding mower is to be hung out to dry if anything goes wrong. The longer the warranty period on your mower, the more likely it’ll end up saving you money.

I’d also recommend choosing a brand with a reputation for good customer service. That way, you know that warranty will be honored without having to fight for it.

User-friendliness (ergonomics/ease of use)

Odds are you’re going to be using your mower frequently for years to come, so you want it to be comfortable to ride. Look for ergonomic features like high-backed adjustable seats, rubber floor mats or footpads, padded steering wheels and adjustable motion-control levers. I’d suggest not skimping here; the more comfortable your mower is to operate, the more you’ll end up loving it.

What Features Should You Look For?

Engine Type & Power

When you’re mowing uphill, engine power is one of the biggest concerns you’ll want to take into consideration.  The steeper the hill, the more you’ll be fighting gravity. You need a strong engine to avoid stalling or rolling backward (or worse, flipping).

Electric Motors

Battery-powered electric riding mowers are becoming an increasingly popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. They need much less maintenance than gas-engine mowers and are more eco-friendly. They also tend to be cheaper both in the short and long term.

However, these electric motors aren’t as powerful, which can be a problem depending on the geography of your yard. If your yard features gently rolling hills or is just a bit uneven, they can be a perfectly fine choice. For larger and steeper hills, a gas engine mower would more often be the better choice.

Transmission

Riding mowers can feature three different types of transmission; manual, automatic, and hydrostatic. Each has its perks, and you should choose the one you think would benefit you the most.

Manual

Like driving a stick shift car, a manual transition mower requires shifting gear while operating it. This gives you more control of the speed and power of the mower at the cost of having more work on your part. Mowers with manual transitions also tend to cost the least because of the simpler machinery required.

Automatic (CVT)

Automatic or continuous variable transmissions do away with the need to shift gears manually. Instead, the mower changes gear to adjust to your needs, just like an automatic transmission is a car. This makes them a popular choice; however, they are also the most expensive transmission type.

Hydrostatic

A hydrostatic transition engine operates by using a hydraulic pump and motor to power the engine. They operate very similarly to an automatic, allowing you to continuously adjust speeds without needing to manually shift gears. What sets them apart is that since they are always firing when in operation, the more energy you need, the more efficiently they run. This makes them an excellent choice if you have a large property.

Runtime

This is something that you may want to take into consideration if you have an especially large yard. Having to stop partway through the job to refill your gas tanks isn’t the end of the world, but it can still be annoying. Where it becomes more of an issue is when you opt for an electric riding mower. In that case, each time you stop might require an hour or more of waiting for a battery to charge before you can continue mowing the lawn.

Rollover Protection (ROPS)

Rollover protective structures or ROPS are a safety feature that protects the operator if the mower becomes overturned. While some manufacturers may include them in their stock models, others might offer them as optional features. In some cases, you may even need to purchase an aftermarket option.

Investing in one of these is a must when you operate a riding mower on uneven terrain. Not using a ROPS and seatbelt greatly increases your chance of injury if your mower overturns.

Braking

A sturdy brake assembly is a must-have when selecting a riding mower to use on an incline. Riding mowers generally use a pedal brake in combination with a clutch. The responsiveness of your braking mechanism is important as well.

Maintaining your brakes is just as important when you own a riding mower to ensure they’re working when you need them.

Ergonomic Design

As mentioned before, comfort is absolutely something you should consider when picking out your mower. Ideally, you want it to last years so you should choose something you’ll be happy with. Here are some specific ergonomic features you should consider:

  • A wide adjustable seat with a high-back for superior lumbar support.
  • Padded floor mats or foot pads
  • A padded steering wheel or control levers
  • Adjustable lever positioning
  • Cruise control settings
  • And a cup holder to hold your drink on a hot day.

Turning Radius

If you have a crowded yard that might require some precise turns, then paying attention to turning radius when buying a mower can save you from a lot of future frustration. Zero-turn riding mowers offer the most control of any riding mower. Yet, they are only safe to operate on slightly uneven terrain posing a risk of flipping on steep inclines.

You should check the manufacturer provided product descriptions of mowers to find out their exact turning radiuses.

Safety tips for using a riding lawn mower for hills:

These are safety tips and guidelines that you should follow when operating a riding mower on uneven terrain:

  • Always wear a seatbelt when mowing uneven terrain.
  • Pay attention to changes in steepness and be aware of any dips or inclines.
  • Only mow up and down hills, never across them. Mowing across a slope can make it much easier for the mower to tip over.
  • Avoid making any sudden stops or turns when mowing on a slope or the mower may tip.
  • Slow down before going down a slope.
  • Never use your mower on a steep enough slope that it would slide down when breaking.
  • Refer to the operator’s manual to learn how steep an incline your mower can be used on safely. Exceeding that recommendation and lead to your mower tipping over.
  • If you have a ROPS, then keep it in the fully upright position. This is the only way they provide protection.

Final Thoughts

Using a riding mower will make lawncare on your hilly yard much easier. They can be a major investment though so it’s important to know what you’re looking for when choosing yours. By putting in due diligence before making your purchase you can select a mower that you will be happy using for years to come.

Our choice for the best lawn mower for hills is the Craftsman T225 lawn tractor. Powered by a 19hp Briggs and Stratton engine, it can meet the demands of cutting a rugged terrain without breaking the bank. Its 46-inch cutting deck is a great size for cutting large lawns. With great ergonomic features, it’s comfortable to ride for hours at a time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *