Mowing the lawn on hills and steep slopes creates unique challenges. The best zero-turn mower for hills should be a product that features a performing motor, a strong transmission, and wheels that deliver plenty of traction.
These features are a few of the things I looked for when testing different zero-turn mowers. I tried several commercial and residential models to determine which ride-on mower is the best buy for those who need to negotiate hilly terrains.
- Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills
- Choosing a Zero Turn Mower for Hilly Terrain
- Mowing Slopes with Zero Turn Mowers
- Best Zero Turn Mowers for Hills and Slopes Reviews
- Driving Zero Turn Mowers on Hills
- Do Zero Turn Mowers Work on Uneven Ground?
- Verdict: Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills
Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills
If you’re in a hurry then I can say with a high level of confidence that the Ariens Ikon XD below is the place to start looking. This mower is built to last and designed to handle hills and slopes up to 15 degrees, with ease.
Choosing a Zero Turn Mower for Hilly Terrain
A zero-turn mower is a significant investment, and there are a few features you should consider to pick a product adapted to your needs and budget. It’s worth pointing out that a zero-turn mower is a slightly different machine in terms of its general handling of terrain than more general lawn tractors and riding mowers. Zero-turn mowers typically have faster ground speed, smaller wheels, and obviously zero-turn capabilities usually by way of the steering controls. If you’re not sure what mower is best for you maybe take a look at Best Riding Lawn Mowers For Hills And Slopes.
Here are some of the most important things to look for if you’re dealing with hilly terrain on a zero-turn mower.
Safety Roll Bar
One of the things you have to worry about when mowing the lawn on an uphill surface is that the steep terrain could cause your mower to roll over.
I recommend choosing a zero-turn mower with a safety roll bar, also known as a rollover protective structure or RPOS, that will prevent the mower from crushing you if it were to tip backward.
Zero Turn Tires for Hills
Zero-turn mowers are different from lawn tractors because they have a cutting deck in front of the operator rather than underneath. This design improves maneuverability and allows you to get into narrow spaces.
The increased maneuverability allows you to cut lawns faster, but you need to make sure the tires will handle slopes and hills.
Zero-turn mowers sometimes have smaller casters to increase speed and maneuverability. However, you’ll get more stability and traction with wider casters. You should also look for larger rear wheels with deep grooves that can propel the mower forward.
Comfort & Controls
It’s important to select a mower that is easy and comfortable to operate, especially if you will operate it for long periods.
Seat & Seat Belt
A high-back seat with plenty of cushioning is a must-have feature. Operating a zero-turn mower can get tiring after a while. An ergonomic seat will reduce fatigue and prevent issues like back pain.
Reducing fatigue is essential because, as an operator, you need to be alert and aware of your surroundings when operating a mower.
The seat should feature a seat belt or lap bar. This feature ensures that you remain in the seat if the mower were to tip over. Ride-on mowers cause over 36,000 accidents each year, and a seatbelt isn’t a feature you should overlook.
Good Steering Controls
A good zero-turn mower should have precise and responsive steering so you can execute zero turns and get the mower into tight spaces if needed.
Note that operating a zero-turn mower can require some getting used to, but it will be much faster to get used to your new mower if you pick one with controls that feel intuitive.
Belted transmissions eventually fail due to wear-and-tear on the moving parts. If you look at zero-turn mowers in a higher price range, you’ll find that they all use a hydrostatic transmission.
Hydrostatic transmissions use fluids and pumps and provide smooth gear changes. There are fewer moving parts, and the smooth transmission increases comfort. Besides, smooth gear changes translate into an even cut for your lawn.
Engine & Power
You can get an idea of the kind of performance a ride-on mower will deliver by looking at its horsepower rating, engine displacement, and other specs.
The horsepower rating reflects how much power the engine can produce, while the engine displacement rating will tell you how much fuel the motor can potentially burn.
You will also have to look at the maximum speed of the mower, both going forward and in reverse. Note that engine horsepower can be high, but a heavy frame can limit the maximum speed of the mower.
Looking at the maximum speed gives you an idea of how powerful the mower is, but keep in mind that you’ll get a more precise cut if you drive slowly.
Fuel Capacity and Run Time
The size of the fuel tank is an important consideration. Is it large enough to allow you to mow an entire yard without having to stop for a refill?
Mowing Slopes with Zero Turn Mowers
There are a few tips to keep in mind when mowing slopes. You should control your speed with the transmission instead of relying on the brakes.
It’s best to go slow, especially if you’re not familiar with the terrain. It’s safer to mow up and down slopes rather than to drive parallel to them. You should also watch out for bumps and holes.
Getting a Clean Cut
A slow speed will help you get a clean and even cut. So will a well-maintained blade. You should inspect the blade after each use and clean any remaining debris caught in it.
You will also need to adjust the deck height to cut the blades of grass to the desired length.
The cutting deck is the main body of your mower. It’s where you’ll find the blades. Zero-turn mowers typically use heavy metal decks that lower their center of gravity and provide you with the stability you need to mow slopes.
You should consider the size of the cutting deck, how many blades it houses, and where the discharge is.
Stamped Vs. Fabricated Deck
The fabrication of the cutting deck can differ. Some manufacturers use a single piece of steel and mold it into a stamped deck.
You can also find mowers with a fabricated deck. These decks use several pieces of steel welded together.
While stamped decks tend to be lighter, a fabricated deck can use heavier steel plates suitable for commercial and heavy-duty uses.
Deck Width & Height
A large deck can reduce the maneuverability of your mower. However, it will help you cover a large surface, which means you could finish mowing the lawn faster. It’s about finding the right compromise between coverage and maneuverability.
Zero-turn mowers come with adjustable decks. You’ll have to raise the deck when going uphill and lower it when you go down a slope. Make sure you choose a mower with a deck height setting that is easy to adjust. Having more height settings to choose from will help you get a more precise result.
Best Zero Turn Mowers for Hills and Slopes Reviews
Out of the different products I tested, these five options stood out as the best zero-turn mowers for hills. All of them have the design and manufacturer specifications to operate on hilly terrain or slopes.
My criteria are based primarily on my experience using these mowers across a variety of applications, from flat to hilly terrain. Their maneuverability, build quality, and reliability play a huge part in my decision-making, and then of course all of them are designed to handle the uneven ground. So let’s get on with it and review the best zero turn mower for hills.
Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills
- Type: Zero-Turn
- Engine: Kawasaki 726cc
- Power: 23hp
- Cutting Path: 52-Inch
- Max Cut Height: 4.5-Inch
- Transmission: Hydrostatic
- Top Speed: 7mph
- Price Range: $3,500
- Features 11-inch front and 20-inch rear tires capable of handling hills and uneven ground comfortably
- Robust 52-inch fabricated cutting deck, constructed with 11-gauge tubular steel chassis
- Features the excellent Kawasaki 726cc engine, 23hp
- None at this price
Ariens Ikon XD is a 52-inch Zero Turn mower loaded with features, that offers residential users exceptional value for money. Constructed around the brilliant Kawasaki 726cc engine this mower is designed to offer plenty of horsepowers to take command of your hills and slopes, but moreover, it is built for reliability.
The chassis is11-gauge tubular steel with a high-quality 52-inch fabricated deck with casters. The deck adjusts through 13 height settings between 1.2”-4.5”. The Ikon XD ships with 11-inch front and 20-inch rear tires to provide excellent traction over uneven terrain even in wet conditions.
A high back seat and armrests make for a comfortable ride, as you work allowing a full day of cutting without any discomfort or fatigue. This really is a great mower to ride in. It’s not the fastest machine at 7mph flat speed, but it is very comfortable and extremely well built for hills and rough terrain.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Ariens Ikon HD as the best zero-turn mower for hills and uneven terrain.
- Cutting Width: 50 inches
- Horsepower: 23 hp
- Engine displacement: 726cc
- Speed: 7.5 mph forward
- Fuel tank: 3.5 gal
- Weight: 570 lbs
- The motor is performing and reliable.
- The hydrostatic transmission provides a smooth ride and requires less maintenance.
- The mower uses wheels that deliver the traction you need to navigate hilly terrain.
- The blades give a clean and even cut.
- Similar mowers have a larger fuel tank.
- This mower doesn’t have a safety roll bar.
- It’s a gas-powered mower that produces emissions not compliant with California’s CARB requirements.
I believe that first impressions matter. The first impression I got when trying the Cub Cadet Ultimate ZT1 was overwhelmingly positive.
I could tell right away that the manufacturer put a lot of thought into the design and construction of this performing mower. As I learned more about its different features, I found that my first impression was right. The Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 is a zero-turn mower packed with features that will make your life easier.
Let’s start with the engine. The twin-cylinder 23 hp engine from Kawasaki is an impressive piece of machinery. Its 726cc capacity allows you to operate the mower at a speed of 7.5 mph and 3.5 mph in reverse.
Adjusting the speed is easy thanks to the dual hydrostatic rear-wheel transmission. Equipping this mower with a hydrostatic transmission results in a smooth feeling and reduces the need for maintenance.
The tubular steel frame was another feature I liked right away. The 2” tubes feel sturdy, and there is a special coating that will prevent corrosion. The mower features a comfortable seat with a high back that delivers an ergonomic feeling. I found that the seat and thick rubber mat did an excellent job of absorbing shocks and bumps.
The three blades are also worth mentioning. They are high-quality blades with an anti-corrosion system to protect them. My experience with this Cub Cadet mower is that it produces fine clippings and even results. I liked the high lift deck with its sturdy edges and the convenient pedal and kob control to adjust it from 1 to 4.5.”
Riding this mower around was a pleasure, thanks to the robust rear wheels that provide plenty of traction and stability, even on uneven terrain. The front wheels feature a smooth tread and pivot with ease without digging into the turf.
It’s a mower I can see myself using in the long term. I think the quality motor and hydrostatic transmission will significantly reduce the need for maintenance. Still, the mower has an open frame design that makes its different components easy to access.
I also appreciated the extras and attention to detail. There are many small features that will come in handy, like the LED headlights, the casters that keep the blade in line, the electric start, or the three-way lap bar.
It’s hard to look past the ZT1 is my top recommendation as to the best zero turn mower for hills. You can find the latest prices for the Cub Cadet ZT1 here at Home Depot online
- Cutting width: 48”
- Horsepower: 24 hp
- Engine displacement: 726cc
- Speed: 8 mph forward
- Fuel tank: 5.5 gal
- Weight: 1,184 lb
- It’s a reliable mower suitable for commercial use.
- DeWalt offers an excellent warranty and additional services to reduce downtime.
- The hydrostatic transmission and wide wheels provide a smooth riding experience.
- The 5.5-gallon fuel tank expands the range of the mower.
- It’s a heavy mower at over 1,000 lbs.
- The deck width isn’t larger than most residential models.
I was excited to get on my hands on this commercial mower from DeWalt. Would it perform better than mowers designed for residential use?
At first sight, the DeWalt Z148 mower is heavier and bulkier than residential options. However, the engine is similar to what you’ll find on the Cub Cadet mower I reviewed above.
But don’t let this detail fool you. This DeWalt mower is ideal for professionals, with its 5.5-gallon fuel tank that enables you to mow up to 10 acres of terrain.
I feel confident in claiming that this product is the best zero-turn mower for hills for professional landscapers because DeWalt truly stands behind its products. You’ll get access to a service called pro support hub that helps you find replacement parts or troubleshooting information. It’s a feature that can reduce downtime, and DeWalt offers a comprehensive four-year warranty.
Getting started with this mower was easy thanks to the electric start feature and the blade that engages automatically. I was able to adjust the deck height easily with the dial-in controls.
The first impression I got while testing the mower was one of comfort. The seat is similar to what you would find in a car. There is plenty of cushioning, and the wide foot pan helps with comfort. I think it’s a zero-turn mower that can significantly reduce fatigue for those who maintain lawns for long hours.
I liked the wheels because they felt highly maneuverable and suitable for a zero-turn mower. The front wheels have a slight offset to help you get a clean cut, and they stay properly aligned when mowing in reverse. The hydrostatic transmission also helped make the mower feel smooth. The safety roll bar made me feel more confident about riding uphill.
The 48” deck features 10-gauge steel construction. It makes the mower heavy, but it’s a durable part that is suitable for commercial uses. The 17 different positions for the deck height make this DeWalt ride-on mower very versatile and ideal mower for hills and slopes. Check the latest price of the DeWalt Z148 here at Home Depot.
- Cutting width: 48”
- Horsepower: 24 hp
- Engine displacement: 725cc
- Speed: 7 mph forward
- Fuel tank: 2.8 gal
- Weight: 850 lb
- It’s smaller and lighter than the other mowers I tested.
- The gas and brake pedals feel very intuitive.
- I loved the smooth feel of the hydrostatic transmission.
- The seat is extremely comfortable and features armrests.
- There are only eight cutting positions from 1 to 4” for the deck.
- The mower lacks safety features since it doesn’t have a seat belt, lap bar, or roll bar.
- The fuel tank is smaller than on other models
This Cub Cadet mower feels like a smaller version of the other product I tested from this manufacturer. The deck is a little narrower at 48” instead of 50,” but the V-twin motor is similar. The rear-wheel-drive propels the mower forward at up to 7 mph.
The mower also comes with three blades. There is a simple control for adjusting the deck height from 1 to 4,” and it was easy to get a clean and even cut. The wide tires provided the power and stability I needed to mow the lawn with speed and precision.
One of the things I immediately felt made a difference was the armrests. It made the seat feel more supportive and comfortable and made me wish more zero-turn mowers came with this feature.
I like the smooth feel and simple controls of this mower. The rear-wheel dual hydrostatic transmission feels very smooth when riding up and down hills, and it allowed me to nail my zero turns effortlessly.
This mower is very intuitive with gas and brake pedals that feel like driving a car. It also comes with a Synchro Steer feature that enables you to control the front and rear wheels simultaneously. I think this product could be the best zero-turn mower for hills for novice operators because it’s so easy to drive.
A great mower with very simple steering wheel controls is a great option for anyone struggling with lever-controlled machines. Check the latest price for the Cub Cadet mower here at Home Depot.
- Cutting width: 42”
- Horsepower: 22 hp
- Engine displacement: 725cc
- Speed: 7.5 mph forward
- Fuel tank: 3.5 gal
- Weight: 492 lb
- This zero-turn mower is smaller and more affordable than other options.
- The 42” cutting width is convenient for tight spaces.
- The deck allows for excellent airflow.
- The wheels and steering system give you precise control.
The safety features aren’t as good as on other mowers.
The raised control bars can cause fatigue.
This smaller ZT1 mower is ideal for yards up to two acres. The 42” cutting width is convenient for getting into those hard-to-reach spots.
I liked the deck of this mower because the design allows for excellent airflow. It’s a feature that will prevent clogs and keep you going when you’re mowing tall grass.
The sturdy frame makes this mower an excellent investment. The tubular steel construction made me feel safe. The front casters were a feature that impressed me because they give you excellent control over the orientation of your front wheels, no matter what the terrain throws at you.
The mower features some protective bars behind the operator seat to protect you in case the mower tips backward. However, these bars aren’t as high as other RPOS systems.
The seat feels very comfortable. It’s a durable polymer seat with a built-in suspension. I also liked the controls of the mower because they were very intuitive. All you have to do is push and pull two levers to go or slow down. The main drawback of these controls is that the position of your arms can cause fatigue after a while.
This mower comes with a performing Kohler motor, a smooth hydrostatic transmission, and some 20” rear wheels to give you plenty of traction. The big brother was my top pick, but this 42-inch model is every bit as good…just smaller, meaning mowing takes longer. Check the Cub Cadet 48″ ZT1 price here at Home Depot.
- Cutting width: 61”
- Horsepower: 27 hp
- Engine displacement: 810cc
- Speed: 8 mph
- Fuel tank: 5 gal
- Weight: 770 lb
- The mower has a powerful 27 hp motor.
- The 61” cutting width allows you to cover a lot of ground.
- The seat is one of the most comfortable I tested.
- It comes with a collection system.
- The mower doesn’t have a protective roll bar.
- It uses handles as controls, which can cause arm fatigue after a while.
This heavy-duty mower was the most comfortable product I tested. I loved the feel of the vinyl seat, and the manufacturer did a fantastic job of using rubber mats and other components to reduce vibrations.
This Husqvarna MZ61 is more than a comfortable ride. It’s a performing zero-turn mower with an impressive cutting width of 61,” which is ideal for stadiums and other large areas. However, the powerful rear-wheel drive can handle slopes and hills as well.
The 27-hp Briggs & Stratton engine is a little more powerful than the other mowers I tested. It’s easy to get it running with the electric start feature, and I liked how the engine maintains an even speed.
There is a sturdy 11-gauge steel fabricated deck. It’s a heavy deck that makes the mower feel stable. You’ll find 12 different settings for adjusting the deck height.
The mower comes with a collection system. It’s worth noting since the other mowers I reviewed are compatible with this type of accessory, but it’s something you have to purchase separately. Check the Husqvarna MZ61 price on Amazon
Driving Zero Turn Mowers on Hills
There are a few safety tips to keep in mind when driving a zero-turn mower on a hill.
The best zero-turn mower for hills should have a transmission that allows you to control your speed with precision.
Maintaining a low speed will help you get an even cut and will give you plenty of time to react if you run into an obstacle and feel the mower becoming unstable. Plus, a slow speed will help the tires grip the terrain to give you the traction you need.
Avoid Wet Grass
Operating a zero-turn mower on wet and hilly terrain isn’t safe. Wait until the grass dries since damp grass won’t give you enough traction.
When Is Steep Too Steep?
Some areas are too steep for you to operate a zero-turn mower safely. You might notice that you don’t have enough control when going downhill or that the front of the mower loses contact with the ground when you go uphill.
Check the documentation for your mower to see if the manufacturer lists any slope inclinations that are unsafe. All items on the best zero-turn mowers shortlist are recommended for use on hills or slopes by the manufacturer.
Do Zero Turn Mowers Work on Uneven Ground?
Yes, you can use a zero-turn mower on uneven ground, slopes, and hills. Features like the performing engine, large tires, and heavy deck will give you the stability you need.
However, it’s essential to watch your speed, avoid obstacles when possible, and always keep your front wheels perpendicular to the slope. Always be sure your mower manufacturer states that the mower is suitable for use on uneven ground and use it as I have described and you will get the best out of your zero-turn mower on hilly terrain.
Verdict: Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills
For me, the best zero-turn mower for hills is the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. Gas Zero Turn Mower For Hills. Being carefully designed and constructed while being packed with some fantastic quality of life features, it’s a quality machine that will serve you well. Consider checking one out.
If you find that mower isn’t right for you, consider the others on this list – there is definitely one on there that will be a good fit for you.