7 Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Rough Terrain

Our top Pick: The Simplicity 2691337 Broadmoor Mower

Our pick for the best riding lawn mowers for rough terrain is the Simplicity 2691337 Broadmoor Mower. It has some key features that make it well suited for use on rough terrain and uneven ground including power steering and enhanced rear suspension.

Rough terrain can cause strain on your riding mower and lead to a very uncomfortable mowing experience. We tend to prefer riding mowers that have good suspension, strong traction on their tires, and power steering to ensure it’s easier and more comfortable navigating rougher terrain.

So, in this review we’ve selected a range of examples of riding mowers and examined their suitability for rough terrain.

Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Rough Terrain

The best riding lawn mowers for rough terrain are:

  • Best Overall: Simplicity 2691337 Broadmoor Mower
  • Best Brand: Husqvarna YTH18542 Hydrostatic Riding Mower
  • Value for Money: Craftsman T225 Riding Lawn Mower
  • Best Zero Turn: Ariens 915223 IKON-X Zero Turn Mower
  • RedMax RZT Riding Zero-Turn Mower
  • Husqvarna Z254 Zero Turn Riding Mower
  • Troy-bilt Horse Lawn Riding Mower

This information is shared as personal opinion for our situation only, and does not constitute professional advice to you – so make your choice wisely and if in doubt, consult your nearest gardening shop!

First, we’ll provide a comparison table, then under this we’ll do a detailed review of each product.

Reviews of the Best Mowers for Rough Terrain

1. Simplicity 2691337 Broadmoor Mower

Quick Review: Best overall. The Simplicity Broadmoor mower has some key features that make it well suited for use on rough terrain and uneven ground which include power steering and enhanced rear suspension.

Our Rating: 9.5/10

The Broadmoor mower from Simplicity is an excellent mower in our opinion and has numerous high-end features that happen to make it well suited to use on rough terrain.

Firstly, the suspension is top class and heavy-duty. The rear suspension system is aptly named “suspension comfort system” and helps provide comfort when used on hills, slopes, and rough terrain.

Mower control is also enhanced thanks to power steering and auto controlled traction providing excellent traction and control during use. The dashboard controls are also centrally and ergonomically located in allowing you to easily control the mowers functions from one position.

Chris Says: “The great suspension and good traction control meant the Simplicity Broadmoor mower rose to the top of our list of riding lawn mowers for rough terrain.”

The feature we like most about this mower however is the free flowing deck which is both heavy-duty and adjusts to the contours of your lawn during use which will be ideal when using this in rough and uneven terrain.

When specifically looking for a mower that is well suited to rough terrain then we can see a lot of key benefits with this mower. The only potential downside is that it has quite a high cost when compared to some of the more inexpensive mowers on this list.

You can’t, however, expect some of these features at a bargain price and therefore we still feel that it more than justifies the cost.

Pros

Cons

Enhanced Suspension: The enhanced rear suspension system provides maximum comfort when traveling at speed and over rough terrain.

Power Steering: The power steering functionality gives optimal control during use, particularly on rough terrain that may otherwise be hard to control.

Free Flowing Deck: Perhaps the most suitable feature for use in rough terrain is the free flowing deck which adjusts to the contours of your yard during use.

Price: While we wouldn’t consider this mower to be expensive by any stretch, it’s certainly in the more premium priced bracket.

2. Husqvarna YTH18542 Briggs & Stratton Hydrostatic Riding Mower

Quick Review: The Husqvarna YTH18542 is an easy to handle and sufficiently durable mower that is capable of handling well on rough terrain.

Our Rating: 9/10

We like the Husqvarna YTH18542 as a compact and easy to handle mower but don’t be deceived by these features as it’s well suited to and capable of use on rough terrain.

The key determinant of the functionality on rough terrain is how the deck holds up after use and we think it’s fair to say that the heavy-duty, reinforced steel deck is durable and solid enough for heavy-duty use.

It isn’t a zero-turn mower (which has the best handling) however, foot pedal-operated hydrostatic transmission means you can keep both hands on the wheel for added control when being used over rough terrain.

The air induction technology helps with grass lift and cutting quality whilst the range of towable accessories (sold separately) is particularly useful when working in rough terrain with logs and debris.

Chris Says: “I’m a big fan of Husqvarna and most riding mowers I’ve used over the years are from this respected brand. The YTH18542 is one of the better riding mowers on the market today.”

The only drawback we can see for using this mower on rough terrain is the compact size and smaller 48” deck mean that work could take longer when compared against mowers with more commercial grade specs.

While this may not be the most heavy-duty or largest of mowers, it’s one we feel is capable of handling rough terrain if needed.

Pros

Cons

Pedal-Operated Hydrostatic Transmission: This allows both hands to be kept on the steering wheel at all times for added handling and control in rough terrain.

Air Induction: Air induction technology allows for better grass lift and cut, especially over rough or damp grass.

Heavy-Duty Deck: The heavy-duty, reinforced steel stamped deck is designed for strength and durability when used in rough or uneven terrain.

Towable Accessories: The range of towable accessories (sold separately) is ideal for use in rough terrain to help clear paths and speed up work.

Compact Size: A compact size and 48” deck mean that this mower won’t be the quickest on rough terrain, especially compared to mowers with more commercial grade specs.

3. Craftsman T225 19 HP Briggs & Stratton Gold Gas Powered Riding Lawn Mower

Quick Review: The Affordable Option. The Craftsman T225 is a tight turning mower with great handling.

Our Rating: 8.5/10

The Craftsman T225 is an inexpensive and reliable mower from a reputable American manufacturer.

A 19HP Briggs and Stratton engine is both powerful enough for large jobs and reliable and quick to start thanks to the ready start technology. It may not be the most powerful mower on the market but it certainly holds its own in this category.

While this mower is not made specifically for rough terrain, it has some useful features that we feel will hold up well when used in this environment. A front bumper for a start is a clear safety feature to indicate that this mower has features outside of typical residential use.

It has mow-in-reverse capability and a sharp 5’ turning radius for ease of handling and maneuverability in tight and awkward areas and also features a built-in in deck wash port for fast and effortless clean down of the deck after use.

Chris Says: “While the Craftsman T225 topped our list of mowers for 5 Acre blocks, when it comes to rough terrain, the steering and suspension features of the Simplicity Broadmoor meant this one fell down our list a little.”

One thing we will point out is that due to a relatively competitive and inexpensive price, you shouldn’t expect too many high end features with this mower, it’s a solid and reliable product that has some useful features to utilize on rough terrain if needed though it will operate just as well in a standard residential home.

Pros

Cons

Front End Bumper: The included front end bumper is an added safety feature when using this mower in rough terrain.

Self-Cleaning: The built in deck wash port is ideal for quick and effortless cleaning after use.

Shipping: This mower is shipped in a heavy-duty crate and 95% pre-assembled for instant use.

Mow In Reverse: The mow in reverse feature combined with a 5” turning radius is great for maneuvering in tight areas.

Basic Features: This mower is more of a basic model and does not come with many additional or upgraded features.

4. Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52″ Zero Turn Mower

Quick Review: Best Zero-Turn. The Ariens IKON-X is a commercial grade mower. We feel it is both solid and durable, and for a zero turn mower we feel it’d hold up pretty well on various terrains.

Our Rating: 8.5/10

What you are getting with the Ariens IKON-X is a mower from an incredibly reputable and respected, high end manufacturer.

The main selling point with this mower is the commercial grade build which many would agree, makes it well suited for use on rough terrain. A solid steel, tubular frame is built for robustness and durability while the large 52” fabricated steel deck is one of the most solid in class.

A powerful 23HP Kawasaki engine is reliable and solid for use. This engine has a solid reputation for quality. One minor annoyance, however, is that the oil cap is awkwardly located, making oil changes more work than need be.

Chris Says: “I’m not usually too keen on zero-turn mowers when it comes to rough terrain, but if I were to choose one zero turn for variable conditions, I’d lean toward this one due to its solid build quality.”

If we were  concerned about using this mower in rough terrain, the 3-year manufacturer warranty is a great addition that gives us peace of mind for the quality and support of this mower.

While there is no reason for this mower to not hold up well on rough terrain, it’s worth stating that it is not the best zero turn lawn mower for hills (anything greater than 15 degrees). Overall though, it’s a good quality mower with very few downsides.

Pros

Cons

Powerful: A 23HP Kawasaki is powerful and reliable and arguably one of the best engines in class.

Commercial Grade Quality: The frame has a solid steel construction and the deck is also a heavy-duty fabricated steel making it incredibly solid and durable.

Highly Rated: This model is highly rated and that is reflected by the reputable and high quality Ariens brand name.

Warranty: A 3-year warranty is a great add-on with this product and provides peace of mind for those planning to test it on rough terrain.

Not Suited for Hills: The manufacturer states that this mower is not intended for use on hills with gradients of 15 degrees or higher.

5. RedMax RZT Riding Zero-Turn Mower

Quick Review: This is another commercial grade zero turn mower that could handle variable terrain during residential use. We’ve featured the RedMax RZT on other reviews too, and we tend to like its quality and reputation.

Our Rating: 8/10

While some residential mowers will do a good job on rough terrain, a commercial grade mower is typically better suited and the RedMax RZT has some great features for rough terrain use.

An 18” high back seat might not seem like the most impressive feature to point out, however, it’s well padded, ergonomic, and has suspension for maximum comfort even when used on rough terrain.

The unit itself is made to a commercial grade to withstand heavy-duty use and features a robust steel frame with a cast iron blade housing for added durability.

The deck is of course the feature most suited to use on rough terrain and comes with a 10-gauge fabricated steel finish making it incredibly solid and hard wearing.

Chris Says: “For the price and overall experience, we won’t consider this to be the ‘best’ mower for use on rough terrain but it’s commercial grade quality certainly makes it worth a look, especially for people dead set on getting a zero turn model.”

This is one of the most productive residential mowers on the market in our opinion. A powerful 23HP Kawasaki engine combines well with zero turn steering to drastically improve cutting speed.

There aren’t too many reviews for this product online and it’s not a very well-known manufacturer. However, it uses a commercial grade Husqvarna design meaning that the quality of this mower should hold up.

Pros

Cons

Solid Structure: A robust steel frame and cast iron blade house and both built for durability and robustness for heavy-duty use.

Comfort: An 18” high back and padded seat provide maximum comfort for the user, particularly over rough terrain.

Productive: The powerful 23HP Kawasaki engine combined with zero turn functionality drastically improves cutting productivity and speed.

Few Reviews: This mower is something that we wouldn’t consider a ‘popular’ product and therefore general user reviews are quite limited.

6. Husqvarna Z254 Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower

Quick Review: The Husqvarna Z254 is a powerful mower that also utilizes enhanced handling through zero turn functionality.

Our Rating: 8/10

There are two Husqvarna mowers that we feel are well suited for use on rough terrain and the Husqvarna Z254 is the zero turn and larger option of the two.

This particular mower boasts an incredibly powerful 26HP Kohler engine that is arguably one of the most powerful in this category and offers max forward speeds of 6.5mph for fast and efficient cutting.

The zero turn functionality offers impressive and controlled handling while the included front bumper is an important safety addition to help protect the nose of this mower.

The deck is one of the key selling points with this unit, a 54” deck is sufficiently large and works well with the powerful motor. You’ll also find that the deck is intended for heavy-duty use with a steel stamped structure for added durability.

Chris Says: “The Husqvarna Z254 has a solid front bumper and nice large cutting deck, so we like this mower in general. For rough terrain – I’d probably lean toward a lawn tractor still.”

A robust frame and castors are the finishing additions to create an incredibly solid and durable mower that is well suited to rough terrain use.

The only thing to note is that it doesn’t provide the best traction on hills. As noted earlier in this review, while we’re showcasing a variety of examples, we tend to be more bullish on lawn tractors (rather than zero turn models) for rough terrain.

Pros

Cons

Powerful: A 26HP Kohler engine is one of the most powerful in this category and provides forward speeds of up to 6.5mph.

Durable Deck: A large 54”, heavy-duty steel stamped deck is both solid and durable and is complemented by a robust frame and castors on this unit.

Easy Maintenance: The integrated footplate is removable for easy access and maintenance to the deck and belt.

Front Bumper: The included front bumper is a useful safety addition for use in rough terrain (front headlights can also be added to support this).

Can Struggle on Hills: This mower is designed for residential use and while the handling is excellent, it can struggle for traction when used on hills.

7. Troy-bilt Horse 42 Hydrostatic Lawn Riding Mower

Quick Review: You don’t always need a leading brand to get the job done and the Troy-Bilt riding mower is a great little mower that offers comfort and control in a compact structure.

Our Rating: 7.5/10

When it comes to high cost items, we typically lean towards more established and leading brands however, Troy-Bilt has a great little riding mower that we feel is great if you need comfort and control when working with rough terrain.

As mentioned, comfort is a key selling point and this mower utilizes a padded, high backrest seat, soft grip wheel, and rubber foot pads all offer a comfortable ride during use.

You are also afforded maximum control with this mower as well with a foot controlled automatic transmission providing control during changes in both speed and direction. The 20” rear and 15” front ‘turf saving’ tires also provide excellent traction whilst preserving the condition of your lawn.

Having mentioned comfort and control, we do need to point out what we feel is a limiting factor with this mower and that is the deck. A 42” deck is certainly not the largest and the cutting height is limited to just 5 settings that range from 1.5” – 3.75” which may be too short and not offer enough flexibility for some users.

Chris Says: “The ‘comfort factor’ on this model means we decided to give it an honorable mention in this list.”

Overall, this is a solid product that offers comfort and control which are key features when using a mower on rough terrain. If you can look past the deck size and limited height adjustments then we feel this could be a great mower.

Pros

Cons

Comfort: A comfortable high back seat and soft grip wheel allow for a comfortable ride, especially for long duration use.

Control: Foot controlled automatic transmission provides control and stability for changes in speed and direction.

Traction: Large 20” and 15” front ‘turf saving’ tires provide excellent traction and grip whilst preserving your lawn.

Deck Size: A 42” deck is on the smaller side when it comes to ride on mowers and could therefore take longer to complete work, especially in rough terrain.

Deck Height: Deck height adjustment is limited with this mower and only has 5 settings ranging from 1.5” – 3.75” which may not offer enough versatility for some users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a riding mower deal with rough terrain?

We generally feel lawn tractors are more effective at working on rough terrain. The main reason for this is that they usually have larger front wheels that have better traction. We also think lawn tractors are the best riding lawn mowers for hills, for similar reasons. The back wheels matter a whole lot, too – but you can get both lawn tractors and zero turn mowers with sturdy 20″ rear tires with good traction.

The next thing worth keeping in mind is how well you can adjust the height of the cutting deck. In rough terrain, you often have to raise the cutting deck to avoid rocks and bumps that will cause your cutting deck to really struggle.

Additionally, if using a dump cart, you’ll want to make sure you get the best dump cart for lawn tractors – and choose one that’s got good suspension. We drive slowly over rough terrain when using a dump cart to prevent it from losing control and flipping.

Lastly, we look at the comfort levels during mowing on rough terrain: if the mower has good suspension, it can be a godsend when you’re riding over rough terrain.

Is it safe to mow on rough terrain?

That all depends on the terrain. It’s important to mow within your limits and only drive over terrain you’re confident won’t cause damage to you or your mower. Follow the suggestions and guidelines in the mower’s manual. In our experience, it’s quite easy to tip a riding lawn mower as their center of gravity moves quickly. We make sure we don’t mow across a hill or up hills that are too steep for the engine to handle.

The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that bumps, sticks and rocks can cause damage to your cutting deck. Again, it’s important to use your judgement and err on the side of caution at all times.

Who makes the most reliable riding lawn mower?

Different people have different brand preferences. We tend to like Husqvarna models because they balance price and quality well, leading to best value for money. Other well-known brands include John Deer, Pouland and Cub Cadet. It’s also worth looking at the make of the engine. Even lesser known brands often leverage the quality of well-known brands like Briggs Stratton, Kawasaki and Honda in their engines.

How long does it take to mow an acre with a riding mower?

We tend to think 1 acre is the tipping point where we would start thinking about getting a riding mower. Our editor, Chris, lives on a 1 acre block, and he’s mown it with both push and riding mowers:

Chris Says: “It will take me about 90 minutes to 2 hours to mow an acre with a push mower. That’s cut to about 45 minutes with a lawn tractor, and 30 minutes with a zero turn mower.”

This all depends, though, on the terrain on which you’re mowing. Chris’s yard is quite hilly, has lots of sticks, and is full of trees. A nice flat football field will take significantly less time. So, it’s really hard to say exactly how long it will take to mow an acre of land. You’ve got to take into account terrain, your machinery, and of course your skill in mowing without having to re-do certain areas over and again.

If you’ve got a large yard, you might be interested in our review article on the best riding lawn mowers for 5 acres.

Should I still get a push mower and brush cutter?

Probably. This depends on the type of terrain your are mowing on. In rough terrain, terrain with many trees, and yards with significant landscaping features, you’ll often find a riding lawn mower won’t be able to access all terrain. We tend to mow the open spaces using our riding mower first, then follow-up with a push mower to get under tree branches and in thinner strips of grass. Last, we use a brush cutter to get in around the smaller, finer areas such as under fences.

Final Thoughts

It’s not easy to find the right riding lawn mower for rough terrain. This review of the best riding lawn mowers for rough terrain has provided some examples and our ratings of them for our personal circumstances. Personally, we’re quite bullish on the Simplicity 2691337 Broadmoor Mower for ourselves. It’s affordable, powerful and comfortable. Of course, none of this constitutes advice – professional or otherwise – for you or your circumstances, so do your own due diligence and consult a professional.

We hope this general information has been useful though as you go about searching for the best riding lawn mower for rough terrain!

Cheers,
Simon & Chris