Are Zero Turn Mowers Good On Hilly Terrain?

Special equipment is needed to handle large yards, so when your property falls into this category, you have two choices for riding mowers: a tractor mower or a zero turn mower. The size of your yard will determine which is best, and when hills are factored in, it will depend on their slope whether you should use one or the other type of mower.

Lawn Size And Terrain

Smaller yards can usually be covered with a push mower, but large yards that reach a half-acre in size and upwards are more efficiently cared for with a riding mower. When it comes to uneven and hilly ground, a push, tractor, or zero turn mower will handle inclines differently.

Depending on your landscape, one or another will be most appropriate.

Push Mowers

For small yards and tight areas that need manual attention, push mowers’ average blade diameter of a foot and a half to 2 feet (18 to 24 inches) is sufficient for the job. These are easy handled on hilly terrain, but the generally smaller blade size is inefficient across large yards.

Tractor Mowers

Riding tractor mowers are great for medium to large sized yards, and although they are slower and less agile than zero turn models, their design helps them handle rough terrain well.

Tractor Mowers

The front wheel drive of tractor mowers gives them especially good power to go up inclines and grip well on descents. Their compact form allows the rider to adjust the center of gravity as necessary by leaning to redistribute weight.

The deck size, or blade diameter, of a tractor mower, is between 3 to 4 1/2 feet (36 to 54 inches). Tractor mowers take hard turns and require doubling back to cover uncut grass.

Zero Turn Mowers

Unlike tractor mowers, zero turn mowers don’t need to re-cover ground since they can pivot in place to turn. Their design reflects this ability, where the body is flatter and wider than a tractor. They can have the widest decks of all mowers, usually between 3 1/2 and 5 feet (42 to 60 inches).

Zero turn mowers have a two handle directional system, whereas tractor mowers are more familiar with a steering wheel. They are more agile than tractors, able to take tighter turns and trim around trees, decks, buildings, and other obstacles. These models are also faster than tractor mowers, able to cover large areas in less time.

Zero Turn Vs Riding Mowers On Hills

Zero Turn Vs Riding Mowers On Hills

A few factors set tractor mowers apart when it comes to handling sloping ground.

  • Types of tires – tractor and zero turn mowers differ in the arrangement and style of their wheels. Since zero turn models need to pivot in place, their rear tires tend to grip very well, while their front wheels are small and smooth. This means zero turn mowers don’t grip well in front like tractor mowers do, and on steep slopes, this might lead to tipping or flipping over.
  • Transmission – A good transmission is important for any mower because it performs the gear changes that will deliver more or less power as the machine goes up and down inclines. Being able to control the power can mean the difference between a gentle, careful descent and one that is too fast and dangerous. It also can mean whether or not your machine can make it up the incline.
  • Center of gravity – The size and design of tractor and zero turn mowers also contributes to their respective capabilities to handle sloping land. Gradual hills over several acres might not cause a problem, but steep inclines can pull the heavy machine down a hill. Tractor mowers are compact and dense, whereas zero turn mowers are wide and might become bottom heavy on a slope. For this reason, many zero turn mowers come with a roll bar to help insulate against potential tipping or flipping.

How Steep Of A Hill Can A Zero Turn Mower Handle?

How Steep Of A Hill Can A Zero Turn Mower Handle

Inclines of more than 10 or 15 degrees will be dangerous on any mower, but with caution, slopes of angles less than 10 degrees should be manageable for your zero turn mower. Be sure to take steeply sloping land slowly and maintain your engines in good condition so they won’t give out when they need to give more power.

Avoid mowing when the grass is wet and muddy, as this will make hills slippery and more dangerous.