8 Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Rough Terrain 2020 + FAQs

In a perfect world, our lawns would be as flat as a football field.

Alas, that’s not always the case, which makes cutting the grass a real chore when you’re on uneven ground.

This is especially true if you’re blessed with the task of maintaining a large area of land. A push mower is literally not going to cut it.

And not all riding lawnmowers are necessarily going to be able to handle all the humps and bumps either.

With that in mind, I’ve put together this review of the best riding lawnmowers for rough terrain.

A full buyer’s guide with FAQ section will follow to bring you up to speed on these amazing adult toys.

Because let’s face it – cutting the grass has never been so much fun.

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The 8 Best Riding Lawnmowers for Rough Terrain (2020)

Husqvarna Briggs & Stratton Intek V-Twin Hydrostatic Mower

Astonishingly, the Swedish manufacturer of outdoor power products has roots as far back as 1689 when they made rifles. Today, they’re more famed for their forestry tools and equipment but also turn their experienced hands to lawn and garden machines.

This riding lawn mower features a 17.5 horsepower Briggs and Stratton Intek engine that offers powerful performance, and a foot pedal-operated hydrostatic transmission that allows you to change speed and direction, which lets you keep both hands on the steering wheel for better control while driving.

You can mow in reverse with a simple flick of a switch, and if offers a 38-inch cutting deck with air-induction for a clean cut. This lawn tractor is also fully customizable with a range of towable accessories.

Reward: The best affordable riding lawn mower for rough terrain.

Pros

  • Great price.
  • Compact size for easy storage.
  • Adjustable seat.
  • Ergonomic steering wheel.
  • Name to trust.

Cons

  • Not really suitable for larger areas.

Conclusion

A quality ride-on lawnmower that is offered at a great price point considering the pedigree of the manufacturer.

Snapper Classic RER Rear Engine Riding Mower

Snapper Inc was founded way back in 1890 and they built the first self-propelled rotary mower in 1951. As you might expect, they know a thing or two about lawnmowers.

This compact ride-on mower boasts an 11.5 horsepower Briggs & Stratton power built 4-cycle OHV engine that sits at the rear of the vehicle.

It’s an easy-to-use design, ideal for first-time riding lawnmower users, and offers a 28-33 inch cutting width which is suitable for most lawns.

There’s a five-speed shift-on-the-go disc drive system, a 28-inch turning radius, and a super-convenient stand-on-edge capability that makes cleaning and maintenance a breeze.

Reward: The best small riding lawn mower for rough terrain there is.

Pros

  • Suitable for all lawns.
  • Comfortable drive.
  • Easy-to-use controls.
  • Simple operation.
  • Excellent storage capability.
  • Name to trust.

Cons

  • Not ideal for very large areas.
  • Might struggle on really rough terrain.
  • Not as powerful as other options.

Conclusion

A terrific, entry-level ride-on mower that is a cakewalk to operate and should suit all but the largest and roughest lawns and landscapes.

Troy-Bilt 540cc Intek Automatic Riding Lawnmower

Revolutionizing rotary tillers in 1937, US company Troy-Bilt has been producing some of the best farming and landscaping equipment for over 80 years.

This garden tractor is their Bronco model, with a 19 horsepower 540cc Briggs & Stratton Intek engine for powerful mowing, single-cylinder automatic transmission, and 46-inch side discharge mowing deck.

You can mow in reverse with ease and be comfortable throughout with a mid-back seat, patented soft-touch steering wheel, and step-thru frame for easy access.

The sturdy wheels are just right for lawnmowing on uneven ground at speeds of up to 5.2 miles per hour.

Reward: One of the best riding lawn mowers for uneven ground available.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Integrated deck-wash system.
  • Deck wheels to help prevent scalping.
  • Five-position height adjustment.

Cons

  • Not ideal for smaller users.

Conclusion

A beautifully designed riding lawnmower that has everything you need to keep larger unruly landscapes in order. It even has a built-in cup holder.

Craftsman T225 Gas-Powered Riding Lawn Mower

This Craftsman riding lawn mower boasts a 19 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine with a ready-start, so there’s no need to prime or choke before you get going on your mission to tame your yard.

The supportive, high-backed seat provides optimum comfort, while you’re in total control with the foot-adjustable hydro transmission.

The 46-inch cutting deck has a deck wash included, which saves loads of time when you need to clean your baby.

Easily negotiate troublesome spots with the mow-in-reverse feature, while the front and rear turf-friendly wheels have excellent clearance that’s just right for driving over uneven or rough terrain.

Reward: The best riding lawn mower for comfort.

Pros

  • Extra-wide cutting width.
  • Cast iron front axle.
  • Large capacity gas tank.
  • Deck wheels.
  • Foot transmission.

Cons

  • Be careful when purchasing – multiple product options might be confusing.

Conclusion

A super-comfortable, quality ride-on mower from Craftsman that’s one of the top-rated riding lawnmowers on the market. Just make sure you carefully choose the correct model for your needs.

Ryobi RY48110 Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower

Japanese company Ryobi offers excellent consumer tools and equipment, and this battery-operated riding lawnmower is certainly cutting edge.

Fully electric, it has zero emissions which is ideal for gardeners who are especially environmentally conscious (which we all should be).

On a full charge, it will give you up to two hours of run time which is around the equivalent of two acres of mowing. No smells, fuel or fumes, and a machine that isn’t likely to need nearly as much maintenance as gas-powered models.

And with a 38-inch deck and 12-position manual deck adjustment, you can be sure you can adapt this mower to the landscape you need to mow.

Reward: The best riding lawnmower for the environment.

Pros

  • Quite cutting.
  • Cruise control.
  • USB charging.
  • No belts, spark plugs or filters.
  • Three brushless motors.
  • Two-blade deck.
  • LED headlights.

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as other mowers.
  • Limited use time.
  • It doesn’t really have the power of a gas version.

Conclusion

Zero emissions is a lovely dream, and you can do your part with this environmentally friendly riding lawnmower from Ryobi. You’ll need to have the grass cut in two hours, though – otherwise you’ll run out of juice.

Snapper 360z Riding Zero-Turn Mower

This is the first of our zero-turn mowers in this review, another entry from Snapper.

This mower features an integrated rear cargo bed for extra versatility, as well as being adaptable with plenty of available accessories and add-ons.

There’s a heavy-duty mowing deck, a foot-adjusted cutting height system, built into a fully-welded steel frame, with a high-performance Briggs and Stratton professional series engine. It’ll give you 3600 RPM with 23 horsepower over a grass-leveling 48-inch cutting width.

Packed with commercially inspired features – this option will take your lawn mowing to the next level.

Reward: Best riding lawnmower for cargo hauling.

Pros

  • Tough and durable construction.
  • Name to trust.
  • Highly versatile.
  • Choice of cutting deck sizes available.
  • Hydro-gear transmission.

Cons

  • Some versions don’t come with the cargo hold – make sure you’re adding the right one to basket.

Conclusion

A multi-function mower that’s ideal if you want to graduate to zero-turn models. The cargo bed at the back is a useful inclusion.

Husqvarna RedMax RZT54 Deck Riding Zero-Turn Mower

Acquired by Husqvarna in 2007, Redmax has a history way back to 1910, but they now build commercial-grade outdoor power equipment for today’s landscaping professionals.

This is their RZT54 riding lawnmower, which offers a 54-inches of cutting deck backed by a Kawasaki engine that provides 24 horsepower.

It features a choice of cutting methods – collect, mulch or side discharge, with a hydro-gear transmission, a super-comfortable high-backed seat and a tubular frame that is extremely durable and long-lasting.

There’s an ergonomic control panel that keeps everything at your fingertips and a non-slip footrest area for added safety and comfort. The RZT can handle tough terrain with minimal fuss.

Reward: One of the best riding lawn mowers for uneven ground available.

Pros

  • Top-quality construction and premium materials.
  • Electric clutch.
  • Large fuel tank volume with reserve.
  • 10 gauge fabricated decks.

Cons

  • Not as well known as other brands.

Conclusion

A solid zero-turn mower for uneven terrain, there’s a lot going for this model by Redmax. Time will tell if being brought under the Husqvarna umbrella is a good thing for the company.

Husqvarna MZ61 Hydrostatic Zero-Turn Riding Mower

Husqvarna closes the reviews out with this beast of a riding mower which packs a punch with its statistics.

It features a Briggs and Stratton 27 horsepower engine for power and speed and a whopping 61-inch cutting deck for particularly large areas of land.

There’s an ergonomically designed deck lifting system for quick and easy adjustments from the operator’s seat, while grass clippings can be discharged, mulched or collected. The super-comfortable high-backed chair includes armrests, foam-padded handgrips, and vibration dampeners.

This is commercial quality available for residential use – although you really need to have the space to use it.

Reward: The best zero turn mower for uneven ground and for cutting larger areas.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Top-quality construction.
  • Very comfortable to use.
  • Durable six-inch castor wheels to prevent scalping.
  • Excellent power and stability.

Cons

  • Mulching kit and bagger attachment sold separately.
  • Expensive.
  • Too large for most residential users.

Conclusion

Probably the best ride on mower for uneven ground in this review – you certainly get what you pay for.

How to Pick the Best Riding Lawn Mower for Rough Terrain

Man on a riding lawn mower

There’s a lot to consider before making a purchase of this size and price, so let’s take a look at some of the factors that might influence your decision.

Cutting Deck

The cutting deck refers to the section of the mower that is going to do the job you’re buying it for – cutting the grass.

This is the section that contains the mower blades, and possibly other features depending on the particular model.

It’s the cutting deck size that’s most important, which will indicate the width of cut on your lawn.

Obviously, the larger the cutting deck, the fewer passes you’ll have to make over the grass to get the job done. For larger lawns and land, you’re going to need a mower with a larger cutting deck.

As a rule of thumb, follow the guide below:

For mowing anything up to half an acre, 40 inches or less is suitable.

For between half to two acres, you should be looking at a 42-48 inch mowing deck.

For anything larger than three acres you really need 50-inches or above.

Transmission

Ride-on mowers are like go-karts with blades. Which is awesome.

Depending on the model, the type of transmission is likely to be different. The possible types are outlined below:

Manual Transmission

It’s like riding stick. You have to change the gears yourself as you put the mower through its paces with speed.

While manual can offer you more power and speed control, it can be difficult to turn or operate around obstacles – especially if you’re not familiar with how it works.

For that reason, many people prefer alternative options. However, manual transmission mowers are considerably cheaper than any other type.

Automatic Transmission

Again, like motor vehicles, automatic transmission lawnmowers make your life much easier by changing gears by themselves.

They use a belt and pulley system to transfer power to the mower’s wheels.

This means you’re free to concentrate on the actual mow itself, negotiating obstacles, or simply not worrying about taking your hands off the wheel giving you great control of the mower’s direction.

You’ll likely save more time with an automatic transmission, and if the mower is blessed with cruise-control, then you can really sit back and enjoy the ride.

Hydrostatic Transmission

Of all the variations of mower transmission, hydrostatic is by far the most powerful.

They don’t need a clutch, nor a belt or pulley system. They work by using fluids to transfer power to the mower’s wheels.

You’ll enjoy a smoother ride, with a more durable transmission that shouldn’t need half the maintenance other types will require.

The downside is that this type of transmission is clearly the most expensive and will put a heavy dent in your wallet.

Adjustable Deck Height

Mowers that have an easily adjustable deck height are ideal for rough terrain, as you can change the blade height depending on the type of ground you’re traveling over.

This is a huge weapon in the fight against scalping – so you can avoid shaving off too much grass and exposing the earth below.

Practice makes perfect, and it might take you a bit of time to figure out the correct deck height for different parts of your land.

So, it’s important that this is easy to use, fast and efficient, and ideally able to be operated while you’re piloting the machine.

Deck Castor Wheels

Keep a lookout for mowers with deck castor wheels for mowing rough terrain. They’ll help guide the deck and give you an even cut.

They’re also just very useful to prevent scalping, or taking large clumps out when you’re trying your best to get an even finish.

Suspension

More so for your own riding comfort than anything else, but the best riding lawnmowers for rough terrain will have a decent suspension system as standard.

It might not actually make much of a difference to the finish cut, but it will certainly make your life so much easier and you’ll step off the machine not feeling like you’ve been in an earthquake.

Seat Comfort

As with the suspension, seat comfort won’t do anything to improve the lawn finish, but it will ensure you have a more pleasant riding experience over uneven terrain.

Look for high-backed chairs that have armrests – or that at least can adapt to have arm-rests built-in if you so desire.

Mowers with vibration dampening technology are also highly recommended for rough terrain – it will make all the difference when you finish the job and disembark – you’ll really feel the benefits through your body.

Steering Wheel Versus Zero-Turn

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but when it comes to choosing which is the best for rough terrain, it really is down to personal preference.

I would consider the number of obstacles on your land – if you have many, then a zero-turn might be a better idea.

But don’t forget that they’re much more expensive.

But if you’re looking for specifically zero-turn type mowers, then read our article on all about the best commercial zero-turn mowers of 2020!

Engine Power

It’s important to have a powerful engine for mowing rough terrain. You need to have that peace of mind under the hood when you most need it.

However, it should also be noted that you’ll need to know how to control it well. Galavanting around your land at full speed is not only dangerous, but it won’t actually save you time on mowing if you’re not being careful over uneven ground.

FAQs

Frequently asked questions

Do I Really Need a Riding Lawn Mower?

Ahhhh the age-old question. How can you tell if you really need a riding lawnmower?

Apart from looking out your windows and judging by common sense, there’s a very simple guide that is ideal in such a situation as this.

If you have:

Up to half an acre of land – you should be using a reel, battery-powered or electric mower to cut the grass.

For between half an acre and an acre, a gas-powered push mower is the tool you need.

And with anything over one acre but no more than four, that’s when you should be investing in a riding mower.

Having said all that, it’s really up to you depending on if you have the storage space, the budget, and if it’s actually practical enough to use on your lawn.

How Do I Avoid Scalping?

Scalping is when you take chunks out of the grass or turf and end up with an unsightly, uneven cut.

This is highly likely on uneven or rough terrain.

In order to minimize this, you should manually adjust the mowing height – depending on the conditions underneath.

It might be necessary to raise or lower the blades, based on the terrain you’re mowing over. Don’t just assume one level will be able to handle the whole lawn.

What Attachments Can I Fit on My Riding Lawn Mower?

Providing your riding lawnmower is versatile enough to be adaptable with accessories, then there’s a whole host of add-ons you can purchase to pimp it out until your heart is content.

Some of these might include grass collectors or baggers, snowblowers, snowplows, armrests, roll bars, trailers or cargo beds, mulch kits, and bad-weather cabins.

Again, check to see if the mower you’re interested in has the capacity to install extras. Note that they are nearly always sold separately.

How Often Should I Sharpen My Riding Lawn Mower Blades?

Just like any other bladed or edged tool, frequent maintenance, repair and/or replacement is required to keep it operating at optimum levels.

But it depends on how much you’re using the blade. If you’re cutting the grass regularly then you’ll need to sharpen it perhaps once a month.

For home use, once a year is usually acceptable.

The best way to decide if you need to sharpen your blades, however, is whenever you notice a dip in performance.

If your mower is struggling to cut the grass, perhaps it’s time to examine the blade for damage or dullness.

For more information on this, read our article on the best lawn mower blade sharpeners to keep the blades cutting effectively.

How Do I Maintain My Riding Lawn Mower?

Like all power tools and equipment, regular maintenance for your riding lawn mower is key to ensuring it has a long life and is performing at the top of its game.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with a riding lawnmower.

For a start, you need to check the oil regularly. One of the main causes of malfunction in riding lawnmowers is because people forget to check and replenish the oil.

Ensure you adhere to the correct amount for that engine – too much or too little can cause serious damage. Replace the oil filter once a year.

Check your air filter for any debris or damage. Replace as and when necessary.

Check and tighten any loose nuts, bolts or screws.

Check the tire pressure. A common cause for an uneven cut is because the pressure doesn’t match in your lawnmower tires.

Replace spark plugs as and when required – usually once a year.

As a general rule, keep the mower as clean and debris free as possible. Giving it a good wash down after every use is considered best practice.

Do I Need a Lawn Mower Cover When It’s Not in Use?

If you want to keep your lawnmower in tip-top condition, I would highly recommend a lawnmower over.

This is essential if you’re leaving the machine parked outside, or if you’re in a region that happens to get very cold during the winter.

Leaving it out and exposed to the elements is not a good idea and you do so at your own risk.

Summary

Choosing from the best riding lawnmowers for rough terrain isn’t an easy task, but I hope this review has helped you at least narrow the field down a little and armed you with enough knowledge to know what to look for.

As a personal favorite, I can’t look beyond the 28-inch Snapper, which is just perfect for most lawns and is really easy to clean, store and maintain.

Of course, it depends on your needs as to the model you eventually go for, so let me know which is your preferred choice and why.

Happy mowing!