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Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills and Regular Terrain | Buyers’ Guide 2023

In this article we cover the best riding lawn mowers, including pros and cons for each riding mower review. Having a large, beautiful lawn will make you the envy of the neighborhood – until it comes time to mow it! 

This is when you'll need the help of the  best riding lawn mower for hills. A riding mower is a great solution, especially if you have hilly terrain where gardening is really challenging. 

Read our buyer’s guide and find the best riding lawn mower for hills that delivers performance, power and value for money.

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Riding Lawn Mower Buyers' Guide

Here is a some important information to help you choose a riding lawn mower to best suit your own needs.

How to Choose the Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills

While there are a lot of mowers on the market, it’s particularly challenging to find a riding lawn mower that will perform on hilly or uneven terrain. 

Here are some of the most important features to consider.

1. A High Quality Engine

How to Choose the Best Riding Mower for Hills

You want a high-quality engine from a well-known manufacturer like Kawasaki, Briggs & Stratton or Kohler, as these are built to be durable and last even in tough conditions. 

In terms of power, a good engine usually offers 15-17 horsepower which is sufficient for the job. Remember, a more powerful engine won’t make you faster, but they are a good choice if you plan of hauling a cart or snow blade.


2. Electric vs Gasoline Riding Mowers

Riding mowers can run on gasoline or electricity. While both options are powerful, there are pros and cons to consider.

Electric riding mowers  

An electric riding lawn mower is battery-powered, which makes it eco-friendly, easy to maintain and very quiet. However, it will need to be recharged every 30-45 minutes, which can be frustrating if your lawn takes longer to trim.

Gasoline riding mowers

Gas powered riding lawn mowers emit fumes and are pretty noisy to run, but they’ll keep running as long as you have fuel for them.

Although they need more maintenance than electric mowers, they are much more cheaply priced.


3. Size Of Your Mower Deck

This is the width you will be able to cut as you drive your riding lawn mower. Compact mowers can cut as little as 30 inches wide, while larger mowers can cut up to 50 inches wide. The size you need depends on the size and layout of your lawn. 

A large, fairly open lawn can manage a 50 inch cutting deck, while a smaller lawn with obstacles such as trees, shrubs and gates will be more easily maintained with a 30-40 inch cutting deck, as it is more maneuverable.


4. Mower's Transmission Type

Riding lawn mowers transmission types

Source: Amazon

Riding lawn mowers come in a range of transmission types, including gear-driven, automatic and hydrostatic. As with the fuel types, there are pros and cons to the different transmission types.

Gear Driven Transmission

This is manual transmission, where you have to use the gears yourself to send power to the wheels and move the mower. It’s the most basic and traditional transmission style, and makes these machines very durable and long lasting as well as affordable to buy.

They can be a bit of a learning curve for anyone unfamiliar with manual gears, however, and they are not always as comfortable to use if you have to mow lots of turns and corners due to the constant gear shifting you have to do.

Automatic Transmission

These mowers use a belt and variable pulley system to change the gears for you, operating in the same way as an automatic vehicle.

They’re a lot easier to drive, especially on smaller lawns with lots of trees and obstacles to mow around, and shift quickly between forward and reverse. Automatic Transmission do tend to be a bit more expensive to buy and maintain.

Hydrostatic Transmission

This is the newest and most powerful transmission technology available, and is a great option for any size lawn. It’s a very simple technology to use, which makes the mower very easy and smooth to operate, making these one of the best riding mowers for hills and uneven terrain.

You can also usually get a great cruise control option that lets you set the speed and sit back and relax. They are more expensive than other options both to buy and maintain, but the results and ease of use win many people over.


5. Your Lawn Terrain

If your lawn is sloping, uneven or hilly, then you should look for a riding lawn mower with a wide stance, low profile, good traction and a low center of gravity. This will be the best riding lawn mower for hills because it will be able to tackle the uneven ground without sliding, slipping or tipping.

Advantages of Using a Riding Lawn Mower for Hills

Best riding lawn mower for hills comes with a number of benefits. The key benefits are listed below.

  • Riding lawn mowers are ideal for anyone who has a health problem or difficulty standing and pushing a mower for a significant amount of time.
  • They are easy and enjoyable to use, as the technique is much like driving a car.
  • Riding lawn mowers are able to tackle hilly and uneven terrain that can be challenge with push mowers.
  • Best riding mowers are push or key-start, so you don’t have to wrestle with a pull cord and strain your back
  • They come with useful accessories like sunshades, helping to make the job of mowing the lawn much easier in the summer months.

Why Choose a Riding Mower for Hills?

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, riding mowers are an especially good choice for lawns that are sloped, hilly or uneven.

  • They are powerful and durable, able to take the strain of less even terrain.
  • Riding lawn mowers can do the job much faster than a regular push mower.
  • They make it much easier to mow difficult terrain, where the risk of strains, overexertion or injury are higher.
  • They make a job that usually involves taxing manual labor easy, relaxing and even fun.

Now that we have answered the "why", you should also know when is the best time to buy a riding lawn mower.

Best Riding Lawn Mower For Hills For 2023

Ryobi 38 inches 100 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower RY48111

Ryobi 38 inches 100 Ah Battery Electric Rear Engine Riding Lawn Mower RY48111

Source: Amazon

If you want a green alternative to the usual gas-powered mowers that can handle hills with 10-15% incline, this 100Ah electric Ryobi Riding Lawn Mower is perfect for you.

It is equipped with two 38 inches blade decks that can be easily adjusted in 12 positions. Achieve your desired grass length by adjusting the height from 1.5 inches to 4.5 inches using the lever. 

Maintenance is way easier than other traditional mowers. Since it is battery powered, it does not need as much maintenance, unlike the other traditional mowers.

There’s no need to rinse the mower, change the belts, spark plugs, or filters. It also doesn’t have gas fumes. The mowers runtime can reach up to 2.5 hours or 2.5 acres per charge.  

You can mow even during the night without disturbing your neighbors. If you have neighbors close by, you won’t have to worry about the noise this mower will create. 

It cuts quietly and only emits 70 dB. Such feature is perfect for nighttime mowing, plus it has an LED headlight to help you see if there are obstructions. Mowing in reverse can be done with just the press of a button.

Ryobi RY48111 Additional Features

Other notable features are its cruise control that makes mowing convenient for you, and its ability to mow in reverse using the reverse button.

Although some users reported that it’s inconvenient to always search for the button whenever you have to change from forward to reverse and vice versa. 

Its seat is quite comfortable and can easily be adjusted. Working while using your phone won’t be a problem since it has a media holder and a USB charger too. 

Do not expect a smooth ride, as some users have said the ride can be bumpy, plus the blades have lower power compared to other mowers.

Pros
  • Can handle hills with 10-15% incline
  • 38 inches blade decks that can be adjusted to 12 positions
  • Low maintenance
  • Doesn’t make that much noise
  • Can mow in reverse
  • USB charger, cup holder, media holder
Cons
  • Ride can be bumpy
  • Lower powered blades
  • Searching for the reverse/forward button can be inconvenient

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Regular Terrain for 2023

Here is a quick look at our top picks for riding lawn mowers for regular terrain. Below this table we review each riding mower in detail.

Product


Our Rating

Price

1. Bad Boy ZT Elite Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Bad Boy Zero Turn Lawn Mower ZT Elite

2. Troy-Bilt TB Pony 42K RIDER17HP Kohl Riding Lawn Tractor

Troy-Bilt TB Pony 42K Kohl Riding Lawn Tractor RIDER17HP

3. Toro 42 in. TimeCutter Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Toro TimeCutter Zero Turn Lawn Mower 42 in.

1. Bad Boy ZT Elite Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Bad Boy ZT Elite Zero Turn Lawn Mower

With exceptionally sturdy build quality and an emphasis on high-quality, reliable performance, Bad Boy riding lawn mowers have become very popular in recent years.


Built in the USA, each mower gets a 112-point check before being shipped to customers. The Elite is a great middle-ground mower, combining performance and value for money.


With a 60-inch fabricated steel cutting deck, this machine offers one of the widest cutting widths on our list, and the zero-turn mechanism means it’s still very easy to maneuver.


The 4-stroke Kohler engine supplies 747cc and 26 horsepower for a 7MPH top speed, and the adjustable Ogura PTO clutch brake delivers 200 ft. per lb. of torque for smooth blade engagement.


Mowing height is adjustable to 13 different positions between 1.5-4.5 inches.

Pros
  • Adjustable left or right side deck lift pedal
  • Industry-leading 3/8 steel front forks
  • Independent front suspension
  • Suitable for large yards of around 5 acres in size
  • 2-year limited warranty
Cons
  • Bag kit not included
  • Not suited to small yards
  • Lowest mow height limited to 1.5 inches

2. Troy-Bilt TB Pony 42K RIDER17HP Kohl Riding Lawn Tractor

Troy-Bilt TB Pony 42K RIDER17HP Kohl Riding Lawn Tractor

Known for solid performance and power, this Troy-Bilt riding lawn tractor is built in the USA with globally-sourced parts.


It has a powerful 4-cycle 541cc Kohler engine offering 17 horsepower and a 7-speed shift for smooth, effortless driving.


With all-steel construction, it’s built to last, and the 42-inch 13-gauge steel cutting deck has 5 levels of adjustment between 1.25 inches and 3.75 inches.


It will work in all weather conditions on flat or bumpy terrain with gentle slopes, and the Step-Thru frame allows for more legroom and easier access. It’s ideal for lawns of around 2 acres in size.

Pros
  • Headlights for increased visibility
  • More leg room/easy access
  • Side discharge
  • 2-year limited warranty
Cons
  • Not zero-turn – 18-inch turn radius
  • Difficult to monitor fuel usage

3. Toro 42 in. TimeCutter Zero Turn Lawn Mower

Toro 42 in. TimeCutter Zero Turn Lawn Mower

This riding lawnmower is fast and efficient, capable of handling slopes, tough grass and bumpy terrain with ease.


The concept here is to make the job of mowing your lawn as fast as possible, and with a ground speed of 7MPH in mow mode, the Toro cuts down average mowing time by up to 50% compared to competitors.


It’s designed to be tough and durable, built with high-quality 50 grade steel and powered by a rear-wheel drive Toro V twin 708cc engine that supplies 22 horsepower.


Cutting heights are adjustable to 13 levels between 1.5-4.5 inches and the cutting width is 42 inches.


The 11-inch front wheels offer good stability on tougher terrain and slopes, and the 3-gallon fuel tank means fewer stops to refuel as you work. It’s ideal for lawns of around 2 acres in size.

Pros
  • Good build quality
  • Fast mowing time
  • Zero-turn
  • Cup holder and padded seat
  • 3-year warranty
Cons
  • Lowest mow height limited to 1.5 inches
  • No grass collection – only side discharge and mulching

How to Use Riding Lawn Mowers

Here’s how to use a riding mower to mow your lawn for the first time.

  1. Check the gas and oil levels and add any fluids as instructed in the manual.
  2. Sit in position on the seat of the mower and start the engine. A manual model may require you to press on the brake and clutch as you activate the ignition in order to start the engine.

    Automatic and hydrostatic models will start when you turn the key or switch on the ignition, just like an automatic vehicle.
  3. Drive to where you want to start cutting your grass and set the blades to your preferred cutting height. When you are ready, touch the blade engagement lever or switch to start the blades.
  4. Mow your lawn, steering as you go. Make slightly overlapping paths as you progress. 

You can also check the following video to get the full details of using a riding mower efficiently on a sloping land.


Accessories for Riding Lawn Mowers

  • Stripe kits - If you want to get those stripes you see on sports fields, you can attach a striping kit to your riding lawn mower.

    It’s basically a roller that bends the grass in either direction as you make your paths, and it leaves a beautiful manicured result.
  • Mulcher – Mulcher attachments make lawn maintenance a breeze, mulching leaves and grass as you mow and saving you from having to bag it all.

    Some riding mowers come with a mulcher, but most offer them as a separate attachment.
  • Grass catcher – You can also get separate grass catching attachments for riding mowers, so you clean up as you go, making this chore even easier.

    It’s a great way to keep a clean lawn and capture organic materials for composting.

(Check out our guide and find out the benefits of a ride on mower with a catcher.) 

Riding Lawn Mower Safety Tips

Stay safe while using the best riding lawn mower by:

  • Wearing protective eyewear.
  • Mowing only in daylight hours when visibility is good.
  • Removing obstacles from the lawn first, such as children’s toys, rocks, and pet toys.
  • Keeping young children and pets out of the mowing area.
  • Always keeping all four wheels on the ground.
  • Taking hills and uneven ground slowly and carefully, even if you are using the best riding mower for hills.
  • Never leaving the mower unattended or switched on.
  • Turning off the mower when crossing pavements or driveways.
  • Leaving safety settings on.
  • Not repairing a mower while it is running.
  • Staying clear of the engine. They get incredibly hot while running and can stay hot for some time after being switched off.
  • Always reading and adhering to the instruction manual.

How to Maintain and Store Your Riding Lawn Mower

How to Maintain and Store Your Riding Lawn Mower?

Source: Amazon

Maintaining and storing your riding lawn mower properly will help it last longer and maintain great performance. Here’s what to do.

  • Clean – Use compressed air, a vacuum or a leaf blower to remove grass, leaves, debris and dust from the mower.

    Do this after every use of the mower through the season.
  • Refuel – When storing the riding mower for the winter, drain the fuel from the tank or use fuel that has a long-lasting fuel preservative in it.

    Fuel degrades over 4-6 months, and releases moisture that causes corrosion in the engine. Be sure to follow hazardous waste disposal regulations for old fuel.
  • Oil filters – Each season, change the oil and oil filter. You need to make sure you are using the right oil for your mower. If you live in a particularly dusty area, you may need to do this again midway through the season.

    Wipe up any spills on the engine and check oil levels before you run your mower.
  • Air filters – Clean or replace your air filter at the beginning of the season. Your manual should tell you how often you can reuse your filter, as reusable filters can be washed with soap and water a number of times before they need replacing.
  • Spark plugs – Spark plugs should be replaced after 25 hours of use. This will help the mower start smoother and run well.
  • Tires – Make sure the tires are in good condition and are properly inflated according to the manual.
  • Blades – You can sharpen the blades on your own or have it professionally sharpened and balanced. This is recommended for safety purposes.
  • Store – Cover your riding mower with a dust sheet and store it in a shed or garage where it is protected from the elements.

For more lawn mower tips, also read: 

Time to Get Your Own Best Riding Mower for Hills!

We hope our reviews as well as our safety, use, maintenance and storage tips helped you find the right riding lawn mower for your yard! 

Remember, the best riding lawn mower for hills is on that offers a powerful engine and hydrostatic or automatic transmission along with a robust design and a low profile to ensure it doesn’t slip or slide.

They work best for bigger lawns. Should you need one for small to medium size yards, then check out our best corded electric lawn mower review.

We hope you enjoy using your choice of the best riding lawn mower for hills!

Best riding lawn mower for hills

About the Author Pat Moreno

Pat is our gardening tool expert here at Sumo Gardener. Working for many years as a private and commercial landscaper, Pat has used almost every type of gardening tool there is. Along with a vast knowledge for types of plants and putting together an amazing looking and maintainable garden, Pat developed a passion for gardening tools as he found that using the right tools vastly improved the ease and outcome of any landscaping job he undertook. When spending hours, days or years using a particular tool, you want to make sure you’ve got the best one for the job, and Pat is the right guy to guide us to the best gardening tools.

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