Zero-turn mowers are becoming more affordable and accessible to the homeowner.
And there’s no doubting their benefits, saving you time and money in the long run – especially if you have a lot of obstacles to negotiate in your yard.
But how do they fare on hilly or uneven terrain?
Let’s take a look at the best zero-turn mowers for hills, and find out if any are actually capable of tackling a rolling lawn.
Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a wild ride.
- What is a Zero-turn Lawnmower?
- Are Zero-Turn Lawnmowers Suitable for Hills?
- The 8 Best Zero-turn Mowers for Hilly Terrain 2023
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
- Husqvarna MZ61 Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Dewalt Z260 Commercial Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 Zero Turn Mower
- Ariens IKON XD Zero Turn Mower
- Snapper 560Z Zero Turn Lawn Mower
- Troy-Bilt Mustang Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower
- Dewalt X548 Commercial Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
- How to Choose the Best Zero-turn Lawnmower for Hills
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you shop through the links on YardThyme, we may earn an affiliate's commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. For more information, read full disclosure here.
What is a Zero-turn Lawnmower?
The first commercially available zero-turn mower came onto the market back in 1949.
As the name suggests, they are designed to turn with zero radius, which can save so much time when negotiating obstacles, tackling curved garden designs, or cutting larger lawns.
They work by having a hydraulic system that can independently control each drive wheel, enabling the machine to spin on the spot, and are controlled by two levers as opposed to a traditional steering wheel.
Most zero-turn mowers are gas-powered machines, but rechargeable battery options are becoming more popular and accessible.
When choosing a zero-turn, you need to consider its power capabilities, cutting deck size, safety features, and seating, comfort, and control options.
For more information, read this article on the different types of lawnmowers – and find out if a zero-turn model is right for you.
Are Zero-Turn Lawnmowers Suitable for Hills?
Yes and no. Put it this way – they’re not ideal.
It’s easy to lose traction on sloping terrain with any riding lawnmower, and so great care must be taken if you’re attempting to use these machines on such a landscape.
Rolling a riding lawnmower is not unheard of, nor is sliding the vehicle down the hill and into the duck pond.
However, with the right mower, and utilizing a few crucial techniques, you should be able to mow large, hilly areas safely with your zero-turn.
But you can forget it if the gradient is any more than 10-15-degrees. If you have these kinds of slopes, you should check out this review on the best riding mowers for uneven terrain, and you’ll want to look for something with a front-wheel drive.
Watch the video below for some tips and tricks on how to control a zero-turn mower on hills, in order to minimize sliding and prevent rolling.
And read on to discover the best zero turn mower for steep hills – if one exists at all.
The 8 Best Zero-turn Mowers for Hilly Terrain 2023
Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
Not only is this Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 deemed suitable for tackling slight rolling hills, but it’s also one of the cheapest zero-turn lawn mowers out there – and you can follow that link for more.
Not only that, but it’s one of the best zero-turns period, with an innovative, award-winning design that has rightly garnered some serious praise. The 22 HP V-twin Kohler engine and dual hydrostatic transmission provides hill conquering power and control, with a silky-smooth ride to boot.
A 42-inch deck offers a selection of cutting heights, with a 2×2 tubular steel frame for added strength and durability. And at 7.5 MPH, it’s also one of the fastest zero turn mowers out there, and well worthy of anyone’s consideration.
- Award-winning design.
- Very highly rated.
- Foot-operated deck lift.
- High-backed, fully adjustable comfort chair.
- Great price point.
- Adjustable ergonomic lap bar.
- Mulch and bag kit sold separately.
It’s almost impossible to fault this machine from Cub Cadet, and I truly feel they’ve knocked it out of the park with this one. One of the best zero-turn mowers on the market today – hills or no hills.
Husqvarna MZ61 Zero Turn Riding Mower
The Swedes are never far away when discussing any “best of” outdoor power tools and equipment, and this commercial-grade zero-turn mower is a prime example of that quality.
Backed by a powerful 24 HP Kawasaki engine, you have hydrostatic transmission for a smooth ride and the very best control over hills and rough terrain. The ergonomic deck lift system is intuitive to operate, adjusting the 11-gauge steel design with ease.
You have a choice of clipping disposal, with side discharge, bag, and mulch capabilities, and the roll bar is on hand for extra peace-of-mind when tackling unruly landscapes.
Join the reviewers commenting that this beast handles hills with no problems – and pick yourself up a Husky today.
- Reliable start system.
- High back seat and armrests.
- Vibration-dampening technology.
- Easy-access maintenance hatches.
- Large, grippy wheels.
- Commercial-grade hydraulics.
- Bagger and mulch kit sold separately.
Death, taxes, and a Husqvarna product being in an outdoor power equipment review – you know it’s pretty much guaranteed. And check out this article when they go up against Cub Cadet and John Deere in a lawn tractor standoff.
Dewalt Z260 Commercial Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
When it comes to power tools, Dewalt is one of the best in the business, synonymous with job-sites, professionals, and DIY-enthusiasts alike all over the world.
And it just so happens that they do a mean line in the best commercial zero-turn mowers for hills. This monster has a 60-inch deck that’s backed by a 24 HP Kawasaki V-twin engine, offering dual hydrostatic transmission for that all-important power and control to tackle rolling terrain.
And speaking of rolling, a safety bar comes as standard, just in case you decide to push it beyond its pretty extensive limits. Specifically designed to tackle hills and obstacles, this is capable of taking 4-10 acres in its stride, and comfort is at a premium with a cockpit you can fully adjust to your needs.
- Outstanding build quality and design.
- Large 5.5 gallon gas tank for bigger jobs.
- Super-fast nine miles per hour top speed.
- Offset castor wheels for an improved trim.
- Seat belts for safety.
- Wide foot pan for comfort.
- Very powerful torque.
- It’s on the more expensive side of zero-turn mowers.
- Not particularly suitable for residential use.
You just have to recognize that iconic yellow and black livery to know you’re getting a quality machine here. Rock solid, powerful, and offering plenty of creature comforts, this ride will put a smile on anyone’s face.
Cub Cadet Ultima ZTX4 Zero Turn Mower
The ZTX4 from the Cub Cadet Ultima range is for anyone looking for a more commercial ride than the machine we featured at the top of this review.
It takes everything that model offers and makes it large, with a 60-inch fabricated cutting deck, and a 24 HP V-twin Kohler pro series engine. Also adding roll-over protection, CC recognizes what this animal is going to be used for and has equipped it accordingly.
With an isolated castor suspension system and vibration-dampening technology, you’re in for a much smoother ride altogether, especially when paired with the padded armrests and polymer seat suspension.
- Adjustable 20-inch high backed seat.
- Turf damage prevention.
- LED headlights.
- Fingertip blade engagement.
- Large 5.5 gallon fuel tank.
- Full range of attachments.
- No undercarriage cleaning port.
Cub Cadet continues to impress with some of the finest zero-turn mowers available on the market, and this commercial-grade model is no exception. Top-drawer stuff from CC yet again.
Ariens IKON XD Zero Turn Mower
Wisconsin-based Ariens enter the fray now with one of their very reliable zero-turn mowers from their IKON range. This is a commercial-standard machine designed for the homeowner, with a 42-inch deck and a 22 HP Kohler engine.
The cutting deck is fully adjustable – with no less than 13 height options and designed with advanced airflow technology, so you can get a better lift on the grass for an improved cut and finish.
The high back seat offers all-day-long comfort, while the large tires provide excellent traction for tackling all kinds of terrain as smooth as possible.
- Durable, reliable construction.
- Good balance of performance and power.
- Very comfortable to operate.
- Large tires for improved traction.
- Responsive transmission.
- Excellent cut quality.
- Reports of the oil change system being a little awkward.
Ariens continues to show why they’re one of the best brands in the business when it comes to outdoor power equipment – come sun or snow – and correctly maintained, their machines are likely to last much longer than you will.
Snapper 560Z Zero Turn Lawn Mower
Backed by an impressive 25 HP engine from Briggs & Stratton (who purchased Snapper back in 2004), this commercial-grade zero-turn lawnmower has got a lot of muscle under the hood.
A 52-inch deck is ideal for handling larger properties, with hydrostatic transaxles that ensure a super-smooth ride when you need to change speed and direction – essential for tackling hilly terrain. It’s one of the fastest mowers out there with a top speed of nine miles per hour, all with a 10-gauge steel deck that has been welded and reinforced for longevity.
A safety roll bar comes as standard, with intuitive controls in easy reach and the capability to fully adjust the cutting deck height between 1.5 to 4.5-inches. And for anyone who struggles to top things up, a wide-mouth gas tank helps prevent costly spills.
- Powerful performance.
- Top-quality engine.
- Fuel-level indicator.
- Choice of models and engines available.
- Cargo bed option.
- No armrests in the cockpit.
Snapper is still going strong thanks to Briggs & Stratton, and they continue to make some excellent lawn-care machines in the US – and this model is no different. You can even choose one with a cargo bed for transporting anything you need around your yard.
Troy-Bilt Mustang Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower
Also having the firepower of a Briggs & Stratton engine is this Troy-Bilt offering, which has 24 HP under the hood and a dual hydrostatic drive transmission system.
The chassis is built with a two-inch tubular steel frame for added strength and durability, which can also absorb any impact you might experience when driving over uneven terrain. A high-backed seat with vibration dampening technology ensures you can have a comfortable ride, and a dash-mounted blade engagement control allows you to effortlessly start or stop the cut.
Bagging and mulching capabilities are offered, and a generous 3.5 gallon gas tank affords more time mowing and less time refueling but is translucent, so you know when you’re running low.
- Great price point for what you get.
- Tough, durable construction.
- Foam grip lap bars.
- Deck wash port.
- Rear hitch option.
- Parking brake.
- Cup holder.
- Battery-level indicator.
- Non that stand out.
Designed for use on hilly terrain, the Mustang from Troy-Bilt should be set free to run the open spaces of your property. Rugged and durable, you’ll see many seasons of use from this highly-rated beast, perfect for lawns that are four or more acres in size.
Dewalt X548 Commercial Gas Zero Turn Lawn Mower
The military called – they want their tank back. If you’re looking for the best commercial mower for hills, you could well have found it, with this absolute monster of a zero-turn machine from Dewalt.
A unique stand-on design, it has a 26 HP Kawasaki V-twin engine, with a premium 12 cc hydro-gear pump and electronic throttle control. Available in a choice of 48 or 54-inch deck sizes, it can tackle just about anything, designed for use on all kinds of terrain.
An adjustable hip-pad keeps you comfortable all day long, and the ergonomically designed, finger-tip controls improve efficiency and speed when mowing. And the triple-blade design ensures you can get the cleanest cut possible.
- Solid, durable construction throughout.
- Premium features.
- Five gallon gas tank.
- Wide platform for space and comfort.
- Rust-resistant deck.
- Hour meter.
- Huge pneumatic tires for traction.
- Translucent fuel tank.
- Very expensive.
- Mulch and bagging kits not included.
We’re talking some serious power and performance with this stand-on, commercial-grade zero-turn mower from Dewalt, and every inch of it smacks of quality. And surely it must – to match that eye-watering price tag.
How to Choose the Best Zero-turn Lawnmower for Hills
Below, you’ll find a handy, in-depth guide on all the things you should be considering before buying a zero-turn mower.
This is what you need to be looking out for.
There are plenty of review websites out there that will tell you that mowing hills with zero-turns is perfectly acceptable and safe – without backing it up with any evidence.
The fact is, zero-turn mowers are not generally designed to tackle hills, with the vast majority aimed at flat or near-flat terrain.
Their big selling point is that they’re the best machines for negotiating obstacles, or mowing unusually-shaped and/or particularly large lawns.
So, when considering safety, it’s important to understand that not every zero-turn mower is capable of handling hills and slopes, and you should only be looking at those that can if this is what will cater to your needs.
As such, I’ve not just included a random selection of “the best zero-turn mowers” in this review – every single one is marketed as being suitable for hills and slopes.
However, some are better than others at handling tricky terrain, so make sure you do your research depending on your own set of circumstances.
It’s not just about how heavy-duty a machine is or if it comes with a roll bar, and I won’t sit here and write that you can use any old mower to tackle any kind of yard.
Deck Size and Height Adjustment
Once you’ve established your zero-turn is capable of handling your yard’s terrain, you should be considering the deck size next.
The larger the deck, the faster you can get the job done.
As a rule of thumb, for anything up to 1/2-acre, a 40-inch deck side should have you covered. You can also check out this article on the best lawnmowers for smaller yards if that’s more suitable for your needs.
For 1/2-acre to two acres, look for models that offer a 40-50-inch cutting deck.
And if you have to maintain anything above two acres, you should pick up a zero-turn lawnmower with a cutting deck over 50-inches.
Take a look at this piece on the best commercial zero-turn lawnmowers if you have an industrial-sized area of land you need to cover.
Don’t forget about the height adjustment, as you’ll want to have the most control over how much you clip your grass – particularly if you’re seriously into lawn care.
You don’t ever want to scalp your turf, as it can cause serious damage to the grass – so make sure your choice of zero-turn mower comes with a good selection of cutting heights.
For more information – including tips on how and when to cut your grass – read this article on how to mow like a pro.
Engine and Power
While it’s commonly more advantageous to look for the fastest zero-turn mower out there, when negotiating hills, speed isn’t always your friend.
But you still want a mower that has enough under the hood to tackle rolling slopes and hilly terrain – if that’s what your backyard calls for.
All the mowers in this review have been chosen because they fit the bill, and come with the power needed to get the job done.
While they vary when it comes to horsepower and speed, for the most part you’re looking at engines anywhere between 22-26 HP – which is more than enough for most yards and gardens.
So, look for machines that are on the higher end of the horsepower scale, with reliable engines that won’t let you down when you most need them.
Riding lawnmowers come with three types of transmission – manual, automatic, and hydrostatic.
If you’re shopping for the best zero-turn mower for hills and rough terrain, you’ll want to choose a hydrostatic machine.
They will offer the most control and power, all while ensuring the smoothest ride possible while tackling challenging terrain.
This is an essential requirement – so don’t settle for anything less if you want to safely negotiate anything other than a flat yard.
For more information, check out the video below on how hydrostatic transmission works, and why it’s the best choice for this situation.
As zero-turn mowers have become more popular for the homeowner market and not just for the school groundskeeper, power-tool brands have been falling over themselves to get on board.
Whereas once there was only one or two, now there are several manufacturers offering this technology to potential buyers.
So, which is the best and who do you go for?
Like all power tool brands, it will probably just come down to personal preference and/or brand loyalty.
You have a reliable Dewalt drill – so it stands to reason they’ll make a reliable zero-turn mower, right?
And while this is true for the most part, don’t overlook brands like Cub Cadet, Ariens, and John Deere – who specialize in outdoor power equipment and vehicles.
I think Cub Cadet in particular seem to be pulling away from the competition when it comes to top-quality (and affordable) zero-turn lawnmowers – their recent award-winning designs and reviews speak for themselves.
To each, their own, but any of the brands featured in this review are more than capable of building a top-quality zero-turn mower that will last you for years to come – with proper use and the right maintenance.
Zero-turn mowers aren’t cheap, and are notably more expensive than their lawn-tractor counterparts.
And when you start looking at the larger, more powerful machines that are capable of handling hills, then the price tag really shoots up, as they’re designed for more commercial-grade use.
I always recommend suiting the purchase to the job it’s being bought for – that way you’ll have a sound investment that you will last – even if it means spending a little more cash to begin with.
And you can always check out this article on the best budget-friendly zero-turn mowers if you can’t quite stretch to commercially-priced machines.
Are zero-turn mowers good for steep hills?
Not particularly – especially if they don’t have hydrostatic transmission and are on the weaker side when it comes to power.
Zero-turn lawnmower are designed for flat terrain with obstacles, or yards and gardens that have an unusual design, as they offer the best possible control and maneuverability for such needs.
That’s not to say you can’t use a zero-turn mower on hills – you just need to choose the right one. Which is why articles like this one exist.
What kind of mower is best for steep hills?
Push/walk-behind mowers are best for steep hills, but if your property is simply too large for that to be practical, then choose a suitable zero-turn mower or garden tractor to do the job.
Remember, it needs to have a hydrostatic transmission, large tires with good lug to offer traction, and enough power under the hood when you need it.
Are zero-turn mowers good on rough terrain?
So long as you choose a machine that has been designed to handle rough or hilly terrain, then you should be fine.
Just remember that zero-turn mowers are not suitable for handling hills with a gradient over 10-15 degrees.
Some are better than others, and it might well be possible to handle such terrain safely providing you have the right driving technique, remaining fully in control of the vehicle at all times.
It’s important you learn how to mow hills with any kind of riding lawnmower, so do your research, watch some videos, take your time and practice in order to achieve a nice finish – safely.
Are zero-turn mowers bad on hills?
Truth be told they’re not the best. Their wheels and castors are designed for turning on a dime and negotiating obstacles, not really for handling hills.
As such, they can slide easily – or even tip over in a worst-case scenario.
If you are going to use a zero-turn mower for hills, make sure it’s one from this review, you learn some driving techniques for hilly terrain, and you install and use a safety roll bar.
Of course, you can watch plenty of YouTube videos on these mowers handling slopes with ease (as well as a fair few cautionary tales of them not being so successful).
I’m just covering my bases by suggesting you should err on the side of caution, and don’t go beyond your own limits, or the limits of the machine.
What mower is best for cutting uneven or hilly terrain?
You need something with grippy tires, hydrostatic transmission, and enough horsepower to tackle a challenging landscape.
You also need to make sure your deck clearance is fully adjustable – the more options the better – as you don’t want to risk scalping your lawn when driving over humps and bumps.
Check out this article for the best lawnmowers for hills – or browse back through this piece for the best zero-turn models capable of doing the job.
How to mow hills with a zero-turn mower?
There are a number of driving tricks and techniques you can utilize in order to successfully use a zero-turn mower on hills and sloping terrain.
Check out the video below for a demonstration, but remember that it’s not recommended to drive a zero-turn mower on hills that are over 10-15 degrees.
Cutting the grass on large, uneven, or hilly terrain can be a bit of a headache, and you need to make sure you have the right machine to do the job safely and effectively.
The best zero-turn mowers for hills will be marketed as such, so make sure the model you’re considering is capable of handling the landscape before purchasing.
Let me know which product you’ve gone for and why – or if you have any stories or experience of zero-turn hill driving you’d like to share with the community.
Stay safe out there – and happy mowing!