Overall, zero turn mowers are designed for going fast on flats and making tight turns. You’ll usually find only professionals using zero turn mowers because they’re more expensive than lawn tractors and they’re generally designed for speed on large areas like football fields.
But sometimes you just want one of those premium ‘zero turn’ models, so we decided to take a look at a sample of 5 and see which is best for hills!
Are Zero Turn Mowers Good on Hills?
Generally, zero turn mowers are not known for being effective on hills and rough terrain – or at least, not as effective as lawn tractors. This is because they don’t generally have as effective tires (especially front tires) as lawn tractors. Lawn tractors also often have more clearance from the ground, allowing them to handle changes in gradients more effectively.
But, there are some exceptions. It’s important to make sure you get a zero turn mower that’s got a powerful motor and strong traction on their tires.
If you’re open to get a lawn tractor for your hilly terrain, feel free to check out our review of the best riding lawn mowers for hills.
Best Zero Turn Mowers for Hills
The best zero turn mowers for hills are:
- Best Overall: Husqvarna MZ6 Zero Turn Mower
- Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52″ Zero Turn Mower
- Ryobi RY48ZTR100 Electric Zero Turn Mower
- Husqvarna Z254 Zero Turn Riding Mower
- Craftsman Z525 Zero Turn Gas Powered Lawn 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! It’s also important to note that there are some inherent dangers of mowing on hills – and we outline some of them later in this article.
First, we’ll provide a comparison table, then under this we’ll do a detailed review of each product.
Top Zero Turn Mowers – Full Reviews
1. Best Overall – Husqvarna MZ6 Zero Turn Mower
Our Rating: 8/10
The Husqvarna is a bit of a hybrid between a residential and commercial grade mower and will work equally well for a homeowner as it would for professional use.
Firstly, the 61” deck gives a huge surface area when mowing and gives great space for your feet for added comfort during use.
While on the subject of comfort, the seat is comfortably padded, has spring suspension and the rear tires all contribute to a comfortable and easy ride especially on hills.
The build quality is solid and of commercial grade for long lasting use. The castors and fittings are solid and the front frame and axle are built like a tank and this is combined with a powerful 27HP Briggs and Stratton motor.
Maintenance is also very quick and efficient with this mower. The removable footplate allows easy access to the belt and deck whilst a built-in deck wash system means you can easily maintain your mower for added longevity (or to maintain resale value).
We can’t find too many faults with this product at all, the only minor issue is that many people claim you will always need to choke it to start but this really is a minor point.
This is a commercial grade product that is tried and tested by professionals in lawn care and is a bit of an industry standard as a result. If you want more of a premium model at a more affordable price then we feel that this is a really great mower.
|Ergonomic Deck Change: The spring assisted deck change comes courtesy of an ergonomic foot pedal combined with a quick changing pin.|
Dedicated Maintenance: Easy access to the deck and a built-in deck wash system makes maintenance both quick and highly efficient.
Solid Build Quality: A commercial grade build quality is solid and the 27HP Briggs and Stratton engine is reliable and long lasting.
|Engine Startup: Many claim that the engine needs to be choked for startup regardless of whether it is hot, cold, or in use.|
2. Good Torque – Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52″ Zero Turn Mower
Our Rating: 7.5/10
The Ariens Ikon-X is an incredibly well rated zero turn mower that can easily be confused as being a commercial model due to some of the high-quality components that you’ll find with this mower.
A powerful 23HP Kawasaki engine powers this compact 52” mower and provides a powerful level of torque even when running at low speeds which is ideal for use on hills.
The height adjustment is incredibly quick, ergonomic, and simple as a result of the dial deck adjustments combined with the foot release lever on the front of the mower. This foot release allows for a quick height adjustment during use or alternatively you can temporarily raise the deck to avoid any high roots or stumps to protect your blade.
While on height adjustments, the ¼” increments range from 1-½” to 4-½” offering great flexibility in cut height and you’ll find that this mower will power through acres of land in only a few hours (depending on grass length, hills, etc..).
The 52” deck is sufficiently large for a residential mower, however, one of the key things we’ve noticed is that the build quality is solid and with steel construction throughout.
The welded deck is a serious plus point in our opinion and should hold up well against an accidental collision with an overgrown root or stump.
Overall, we think that this is a great mower at a very reasonable price, as long as you ensure that the parts are all properly installed upon purchase then this is a great residential mower that should function well over acres of grass with hills.
|Dial Deck Adjustments: The dial adjustment for deck height is a great time saver compared to the pin alternatives on the market.|
Powerful Motor: The Kawasaki 23HP motor is sufficiently powerful and arguably a significant upgrade on the other engines that are available for this mower.
Solid Construction: The steel body and welded deck gives a solid construction and is a key reason why this could pass as a commercial grade mower at a glance.
|Deck Belt: The deck belt can be prone to slipping when assembled in-store. Make sure all parts are assembled properly.|
Oil Change: The oil tank location is awkwardly positioned and something many people do not like dealing with when it comes to an oil change.
3. Best for the Environment – Ryobi RY48ZTR100 Electric Zero Turn Mower
Our Rating: 7.5/10
The Ryobi RY48ZTR is the world’s first electric zero turn mower and is quite a high-end model that surprisingly provides good torque.
4 brushless motors replace the standard belt and can give good torque and grip to the mower which is especially noticeable on hills. Just to further highlight this point, this YouTube review below specifically shows how it is being used on uneven ground for a review.
The fact that it is an electric mower significantly reduces maintenance (no oil changes or filling and no belt adjustments needed) as well as cost with Ryobi claiming that a full charge will only cost $0.06 in electricity.
It’s worth pointing out that even though maintenance is reduced, some people will find cleaning an inconvenience as you can’t hose the deck after use and instead need to use a blower or air hose.
The only real downside to this model is that the battery life is only good for 3 acres. Now for a lot of residential properties, this is more than enough battery life to cut the lawn on a single charge however, there are certainly others that will be put off by this battery life.
The additional features (listed below) are great additions and, overall, it’s exciting to see a quality electric powered residential mower.
|Electric: An electric motor reduces maintenance and running costs as Ryobi claims a full charge will cost roughly $0.06.|
Additional Features: The mower comes with a built-in headlight, usb charging port, and a mulch guard which are all welcome additional features.
Quiet: The mower runs smoothly and quietly with most claiming it sounds like a loud fan at best which is great for noise reduction during use in residential areas.
Ergonomic: The seat and steering handles are fully adjustable to fit users of all sizes comfortably and effectively.
|Battery Life: The 100Ah battery life is excellent and can cut for up to 3 acres, the only issue is if you have a larger lawn then this battery life may not be enough to cut the entire lawn in one go.|
Cleaning: As it’s electric you can’t hose down the deck to clean it and need to use a leaf blower or air hose to clean it.
4. Husqvarna Z254 Zero Turn Riding Mower
Our Rating: 7/10
A zero turn mower can take some getting used to if you are used to a tractor or have never used a ride on mower before and the Husqvarna Z254 does a great job of manufacturing an easy to use and maintain mower.
The initial specs are solid with a powerful 26HP motor offering reliable starts and a cutting capacity of around 3 acres/hr. You’ll also find that the build quality is solid with steel construction for durability and greasable fittings allowing for easy maintenance and product longevity.
The removable footplate comes off easily which allows for easy access to the belt for cleaning and maintenance or for any changes if it becomes damaged without the need to drop the deck.
The tires offer a good level of traction and don’t tend to spin or damage the lawn, however, if you have a yard that is quite sloped with a few hills then they can occasionally struggle for traction which isn’t ideal.
The deck control has 6 height adjustable settings that go up in ½” increments from 1-½” to 4”. While height changes are convenient to make due to the lever location, the ½” increments might not offer enough accuracy for some users.
With a powerful motor, 54” deck, and easy maintenance we feel that this is an excellent entry level zero turn mower, though it might not be best for those with plenty of hills in their yard as the rear tires don’t offer the best traction on slopes.
|Easy Maintenance: The removable footplate allows quick and easy access to the deck and belt for maintenance whilst greasable fittings further help improve mower longevity.|
Powerful Engine: The 26HP motor provides reliable startups and a cutting capacity of around 3 acres/hr for fast and efficient work (making this one of the best riding mowers for 3 acres).
Air Induction: The air induction system is great for grass lift and providing clean lines when cutting.
|Seat Comfort: The seat is not the most comfortable on the market, especially if you have an uneven lawn.|
Cutting Height: This mower has 6 height settings with ½” increments, this can therefore be quite limiting for those that are meticulous when it comes to grass heights.
5. Craftsman Z525 Zero Turn Gas Powered Lawn Mower
Our Rating: 6.5/10
The Craftsman Z525 is a great zero turn mower for homeowners and the inexpensive price tag makes for an ideal first-time mower.
The price is the real selling point with this product, you are not getting any particularly high end features however the affordable cost means you can own a great zero turn mower at an agreeable price.
While we mention that there are no ‘high end’ features, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any usable features. In addition to zero turn functionality, this mower can cut in reverse making it even easier to work in tight corners or around trees and stumps.
You’ll also find that this model has an included deck wash for easy maintenance after use and something in particular that we really like about this mower is the auto choke feature which allows for quick and reliable starts regardless of the weather.
As it’s quite a basic model, you won’t find too many supporting videos or reviews online which isn’t too helpful when you just want a quick answer however it’s definitely a decent mower that’s well suited to residential use, especially with the large tires and reverse cutting for hills.
|Price: This is one of the most inexpensive zero turn mowers on the market and does not compromise on quality making it ideal for homeowners.|
Auto Choke: The auto choke feature allows for fast and reliable starts every time.
Reverse Cutting: The zero-turn functionality is designed to make quick turns however the further option to cut in reverse really speeds up cutting time.
|Limited Reviews: There are not too many reviews for this product so you might struggle to weigh up the pros and cons online.|
Is it Safe to use a Zero Turn Mower on Hills?
Mowing on hills has its own dangers. The biggest danger is, of course, tipping the mower on top of yourself. These machines are heavy and certainly could lead to very serious injury or death. Discussing those inherent dangers is beyond the scope of this discussion – and it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re well trained and know what dangers to look out for (and make sure you don’t mow dangerously).
But some key things to be careful about include: mowing across the hill (which can easily lead to flipping) and mowing with the nose facing down hill, which can often lead to losing control and grip. Another concern is carrying a dump cart for a lawn tractor on the hill, which increases risk of tipping.
Below is a great video on some tips on how to use a zero turn mower on hills:
We’re not endorsing this video or claiming it’s professional advice – we’re providing it here ‘as is’.
Don’t forget that there are also inherent dangers in riding on flat terrain as well, especially if it’s rocky or uneven. For more on this, see our review of the best riding lawn mowers for rough terrain.
What we Look for in a Zero Turn Mower for Hills
Engine power matters. It’s one of the key features that helps get a mower up the hill with that added load on the motor as it battles against gravity. We tend to look for mowers with at least 20 HP and a good quality engine such as one made by Briggs & Stratton.
Tires & Torque
One of the many reasons lawn tractors are better at hills (generally) than zero turn mowers is that they have better grip on their tires – especially the front tires. But in general, when looking at a zero turn mower, we like to see ones with strong zero slip gripping tires to ensure traction is maintained on hills.
Brand name matters to us. Chris, our editor, likes Husqvarna for himself. And while there is a good range of brand names on the market, there are also some that are lesser known. We don’t have anything against lesser known brands (so it’s not a deal breaker), but we are a little more cautious due to their lack of established reputation. We’d be inclined to see significantly more positive reviews online for a lesser known brand to offset for our lack of knowledge of their reputation.
Zero turn mowers are usually significantly more expensive than lawn tractors. This is one reason they are generally used for commercial rather than residential purposes. (The other reason, of course, is that they’re designed for mowing large flat areas such as fields and parks). Expect to pay somewhere from $3000 to $6000 for your average zero turn lawn mower.
It’s not easy to find the right zero turn mower for hills. This review of the best zero turn mowers for hills has provided some examples and our ratings of them for our personal circumstances. Personally, we’re quite bullish on the Husqvarna MZ6 Zero Turn Mower for ourselves. It’s got good power and torque as well as decent rear tires for tackling slopes. 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 zero turn mower for hills!
Simon & Chris