Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - featured

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills

Mowing on hills can be a pretty scary event when using a riding mower of any type. Safety should always be at the front burner when handling a mower at any angle. Mowers can flip quickly if they are traveling at high speed, and control will slip through the operator's fingertips if the slightest mistake is made. 

It can be intimidating and catastrophic if an inexperienced operator uses the mower on a hill and feels uncomfortable. All it takes is one slip up, and the mower will go down much faster than anticipated and not the way the operator hopes. For these reasons, we will go through a list of the best riding lawn mower for hills.   

Types of Riding Lawn Mowers 

man riding a lawn mower

There are three different types of riding lawn mowers, and each handles differently on level ground and on hills. All operators should take precautions and put common sense before taking a chance with any mower on a hill. The bottom line is some hills are too steep. The three types are zero-turn mowers, lawn tractors, and rear-engine riders, and each has its pros and cons to handling hills. 

Zero-Turn Mowers 

Zero-turn mowers are mowers that turn in a complete circle or 360 degrees. Out of the three, I would have to say these are the best at handling hills due to the wide wheelbase and easier controls. These mowers are sensitive to turns, and overcorrecting a turn is easier to manage. However, it becomes more challenging to keep the mowers on a straight path with sensitive turns. It takes practice and experience.

Lawn Tractors

Lawn tractors have a more narrow base and smaller decks. The possibility is more significant for them to flip when handling on a hill. They do not turn on a dime like zero-turns. Lawn tractors have the engine in front with a steering wheel instead of a joystick or two hand levers to operate. The steering happens from the front on lawn tractors rather than the back tires steering like zero-turns. 

They come in automatic or manual transmissions. The good thing is they move slower than zero-turns, and the operator can move at a more comfortable pace to avoid roll-overs. The bad points are the time it takes with both hands to turn the steering wheel. It also takes more time to press the brake than to pull back on the handles of a zero-turn. The wise thing is to operate a manual lawn tractor in first gear on inclines or pressing a hydrostatic lightly to keep the mower moving slower. This will help maintain control. 

Rear-Engine Riders

Rear-engine riders are found in smaller lawn tractors; usually, Snappers or an older John Deere, just to name a few. These have steering wheels, and some come in electric while others are gas-powered motors. 

It does make a difference whether the engine is in the front or in the back. The weight shifts and the steering may be awkward with the rear-engine riders. Wherever the engine is, that is the heaviest part of the mower. Gravity pulling harder on the heaviest part affects the steering and the incline in which the mower can handle. The engine is under the seat or close to the back of the seat. Everything is compact, so these riders are small.  

Size of Your Mower Deck 

The deck has a lot to do with the angle the mower can endure. If the deck is bigger, it serves as covering more ground for the mower to remain sturdy. More oversized decks stick out further than the wheelbase. There are also wheels on the deck to keep the deck from cutting into the ground on turns and the incline of hills. 

Small mowers will have a more significant problem because the decks can go as small as 30 inches. This scenario leaves little to no base for a narrow wheelbase mower to handle much of an incline. Bigger mowers with a broader wheelbase have decks that go out as far as 60 inches for zero-turns and 52 for lawn tractors. 

How big of a deck depends on the size and layout of the yard. It also determines which one is better, a lawn tractor or a zero-turn. If you have a yard with gates or a smaller yard, there is no reason to have a 60-inch deck. A 30 to 42-inch deck would be sufficient. 

Tire Size    

Tire size makes a difference when operating on a hill. The broader and more tread and grips, the better the handling will be. These are some of the tires we recommend for hills on zero-turn mowers. The front tires can have the regular for what size the mower calls. The back tires are where the drivetrain is working.

  • Carlisle AT 101 Tires: Width of 7″ / 12×12 rim and have massive grips on them
  • Wanda P332/4PR-13040 Tires: 4-ply tires with massive tread and grips width is 7″
  • Kenda 500 Super Turf Lawn Tires: 4-ply tires with massive tread and grips width is 7″
  • Antego Tire: These are regular 4-ply back tires. We find they hold traction reasonably well. 
  • OTR Zero T26 Tire: These are standard 4-ply back tires. We also find they have traction reasonably well on hills and steep inclines. 

We recommend the Maxthon Pneumatic tires for Lawn tractors, which are all-terrain tires for any setting, including hills. 

Mower's Transmission Type 

There are three different types of transmissions for mowers. There are gear-driven transmissions, automatic transmissions, and hydrostatic transmissions. Each one fairs differently on hills. 

Gear-Driven Transmissions

These are the transmissions that operate manually and are found mostly on lawn tractors. Each gear has a different speed and is controlled by the operator. Some have as many as seven speeds or gears. These are the most traditional style of transmissions and have a lower cost than the rest. Some have gears speeds with a different reverse speed on the same shift, while others have the gear speed with forward and reverse options on an extra shift. On lawn tractors, the gear set is the same speed the operator will handle the mower on a hill. We recommend the lowest gears for slower speeds. 

Automatic Transmission

These mowers have a belt and pulley system that operates as an automatic vehicle. As the mower speeds up, the gears automatically change. These would take a bit more getting used to on hills. The foot pedal would control the speed, and pressing it lightly to move slower is the better option for safety.

Hydrostatic Transmission

These transmissions or hydraulic transmissions are the most powerful of the three and have the latest technology. We recommend mowers with these transmissions for hills due to the power and smooth operation. The operator feels more in control, and some even have cruise control. However, it is best not to use the cruise control options on a hill of any angle. 

3 Best Zero-Turn Mowers for Hills  

Several zero-turn mowers can handle hills very well. We chose the top three that many are familiar with, along with some of the features that make them the best for operating and maneuvering on hills. 

1. Cub Cadet ZT1

Cub Cadet has drastically improved their mowers over the past few years. The ZT1 is a great residential grade mower for hills. It has a fairly wide wheelbase and large drive tires to help with stability on hills. Check out our full review of the Cub Cadet Ultima lineup.

Cub-Cadet_ZT150_1 (1)
  • Comes in different size decks (42-54 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
  • Broad wheelbase
  • Dual hydro-transmissions
  • All-terrain back tires with the option for steel chains for better traction
  • 22-24 horsepower motor able to handle rolling hills
  • Lap bar controlled for better steering

2. John Deere Z300 Series (Z355, Z365, Z375)

John Deere, of course, features a great lineup of residential zero turns. They are also pretty good at mowing slopes as well. To see this entire lineup, check out our John Deere Z300 Series article.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - john deere z3000
  • Comes in different size decks (42-54 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
  • Broad wheelbase
  • Dual hydro-transmissions
  • 18-20 inch All-terrain back tires 
  • 20-22 horsepower motor able to handle rolling hills
  • Lap bar controlled for precision and on the go traction

3. Hustler Raptor

The Hustler Raptor is one of my favorite residential zero turns. Besides looking awesome, this mower has a wide footprint, large drive tires, and large castors that will drastically help with stability on slopes and hills. Check out our full review of the Hustler Raptor in this article.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - hustler raptor
  • Different lineups in the series (X, XL, XD, XDX)
  • Comes in different size commercial grade decks (42-60 inches) that add to the stability reaching out past the wheelbase
  • Broad wheelbase
  • Dual hydro-transmissions
  • Exclusive 20″ BigBite back tires (One of a kind)
  • Bigger Transmissions Hydro-Gear® ZT-2800®
  • 18-24 horsepower Kawasaki motor able to handle rolling hills
  • Lap bar controlled for precision and on-the-go traction.

3 Best Lawn Tractors for Hills

Like the zero-turns, we picked the top three best lawn tractors for hills. Listed below are the features that make them easy and safe to operate while cutting on hills. 

1. Cub Cadet Lawn Tractor (XT1, XT2, XT3, LT42E)

Cub Cadet's lawn tractors are my favorite, especially for holding hills. Their XT3 model is probably one of the best riding tractors on hills on the market. Each of their mowers has large tires and a ton of other features. Their entire lineup is very good.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - Cub-Cadet_XT1
  • All meet the need for the traction, control, and stability needed for cutting on hills.
  • Steering wheels instead of lap bars or joysticks
  • The XT Enduro Series steering system offers responsive handling.
  • XT3 series has the rear differential lock that adds to the traction when cutting on slopes or hills
  • XT1 and XT2 go up to 54″ decks
  • XT3 series goes into the 60″ decks, which add to the wheelbase for stability
  • 18-25 horsepower motors for the XT series 
  • The LT42E has a 56 Volt MAX, 60Ah, 3000Wh, and runs off a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. 

2. Husqvarna Lawn Tractor

Husqvarna has been a trusted manufacturer of lawn tractors for a long time. They really build a quality product and their tractors do well on hills. They have a pretty wide range of mowers with different features and benefits.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - husqvana
  • The Briggs & Stratton engines are designed to handle constant slopes and ditches.
  • Powerful hydrostatic transmissions
  • 42-54 inch decks add to the stability. 
  • The K66D has an electric locking differential for added traction
  • 18-20 horsepower motors
  • Steering wheels instead of lap bars or joysticks

3. John Deere Lawn Tractor

John Deere has a solid lineup of tractors that do well on hills. They have a pretty large range of mowers that have different features and benefits that can help with hill stability. One of the big features is the rear differential. This can help a lot with traction on hills. To see the entire lineup of tractors check out our John Deere riding tractor article.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills - John Deere
  • 17.5-25 horsepower motors OEM branded engines
  • Powerful hydrostatic transmissions
  • 42-54 inch decks for added stability when cutting on hills.
  • Steering wheels instead of lap bars or joysticks

3 Best Rear-Engine Riders for Hills

Rear-engine riders are a classic type of mower and one of the first riding mowers made. It is historically known for doing well on hills because of their low center of gravity. These are usually pretty small mowers that don't weigh a lot. They are the perfect little mower for a homeowner with a small yard.

Listed below are the features that make our top three pics of rear-engine riders easy and safe to operate while cutting on hills.

1. Ryobi 48V 38in 100 Ah Electric Rear-Engine Rider (RY48111)

Ryobi's new electric rear-engine rider is really an impressive mower. If you have a small yard and want to make quick work of it, this may be the mower for you. This mower does well on hillsides as well for such a small mower and deck size.

Ryobi 48V 38in 100 Ah Electric Rear-Engine Rider (RY48111)
  • Three brushless motors for performance and superior power
  • Offers intuitive handling 
  • 12 gauge reinforced steel deck 38 inches. 
  • Has a rugged frame able to handle cutting on hills and rough spots 
  • Maintains control with steering wheel 

2. Cub Cadet CC30E

The new Cub Cadet CC30E is a new mower that has just been released. Overall, it does pretty decent on hills. The seat sits up a little high but the center of gravity is still relatively low. This mower was impressive with it's features and has an automatic transmission.

Cub Cadet CC30E
  • 56 Volt MAX, 30Ah, 1500Wh lithium-ion battery
  • Charges on a 110-volt outlet
  • 30-inch single blade deck
  • Automatic transmission able to handle cutting on hills
  • has a single brushless motor
  • Maintains control with steering wheel 

3. Troy Bilt 30 in Rear-Engine Rider

The Troy Bilt rear engine rider is the best in terms of price. It also has a very low center of gravity. Since it has a manual transmission you are able to stay in a low gear to mow on hillsides. Overall, this mower does well on slopes.

Troy Bilt 30 in Rear-Engine Rider
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Able to hold a low gear and safe speed on hills
  • Able to shift on the go for speed adjustment
  • Power in performance 
  • Maintains control with a steering wheel that is soft to the touch
  • Troy Bilt Engine 382 cc auto choke
  • 30″ cut with a single blade

Conclusion

As you can see, all of these mowers had safety in mind and the engineering to build the mowers for cutting on hills. The technology has come incredibly far in getting the best incline cut on today's mowers. The main thing to remember is there is no guarantee the mower will not flip over on a hill. When driving on a slope, anything can happen. 

It is best to walk the area before driving the mower to ensure there are no holes in the ground or anything that can cause a loss of control. The features should help with any decisions on which mower works best on hills. Once again, the only way to tell the best is to drive it and see for yourself. We hope this information can help shed light on any thoughts or doubts you may encounter when operating any mower on a hill.

What Do You Think?

What do you think is best riding lawn mower for hills? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on reviews of the latest mowers sign up for our newsletter below!

Leave a Reply

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