Do you have rough terrain in your yard? Are their hills, rocks, or other impediments? If the answer is yes, you don’t need to worry. You can still purchase the best riding lawn mower for rough terrain. You may just have to search a little longer.
If you are not sure what a riding lawn mower for hills is, that’s fine. That exact topic is what this article discusses. We will even review ten of the top products on the market. When you’re done, you should have no trouble finding a great riding lawn mower for rough terrain.
- What is a riding lawn mower for rough terrain?
- Features to look for when buying a riding lawn mower for rough terrain
- Top 10 Best Riding Lawn Mower for Rough Terrain – Comparison table
- Best 10 Best Riding Lawn Mower for Rough Terrain On The Market Reviews
- 1. Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52’’ Zero Turn Mower
- 2. Husqvarna MZ61 Mower
- 3. Snapper 2691319 Mower
- 4. Snapper 2911525BVE Classic Mower
- 5. Husqvarna Z242F Mower
- 6. Husqvarna TS354XD Lawn Tractor
- 7. Swisher ZTR2760BS Response Mower
- 8. Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP Lawn Mower
- 9. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT15 Mower
- 10. Troy-Bilt Mustang Fit Lawn Mower
- Tips and tricks for sharpening lawn mower blades.
What is a riding lawn mower for rough terrain?
Both zero turn and tractor mowers for rocky terrain can cut almost anything. Several different products will work. You just have to know what to look for. All riding lawn mowers for rocky terrain will have a few common features.
Most importantly, these are typically large machines. They should have the power to go up and down hills. A riding mower with a locking differential may be needed to keep you safe on the hills.
You also want to look for a riding lawn mower that is comfortable to drive. This means it has a good suspension. You should not be bounced all over the place as you mow. A good seat is a great way to stay comfortable.
If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks riding lawn mower for rough terrain:
- Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52’’ Zero Turn Mower
- Husqvarna MZ61 Mower
- Snapper 2691319 Mower
- Snapper 2911525BVE Classic Mower
- Husqvarna Z242F Mower
- Husqvarna TS354XD Lawn Tractor
- Swisher ZTR2760BS Response Mower
- Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP Lawn Mower
- Cub Cadet Ultima ZT15 Mower
- Troy-Bilt Mustang Fit Lawn Mower
Features to look for when buying a riding lawn mower for rough terrain
Let’s look in-depth at the features you need when buying a riding lawn mower for rough terrain.
First of all, there is a size. We touched on the importance of size in your riding lawn mower in the previous section. Size refers to the deck. It also refers to the overall weight of the riding lawnmower.
The size of the deck is one of the most crucial things you will decide. There are three main categories of deck size. Keep in mind that these are deck sizes for riding lawn mowers. The deck on a push lawn mower for rough terrain will be smaller.
- 28-39 inches: These are the smallest decks out there. They are ideal for smaller yards. You really wouldn’t want to use them on more than an acre. You would be spending a lot of time mowing your yard. You should not use this size riding lawn mower on rough terrain.
- 40-49 inches: If you have a medium yard, this is the size for you. It can handle one to two acres with ease. Many riding lawn mowers for rough terrain fall in this category. You shouldn’t use them on the roughest terrain. Slight hills or gentle declines are fine.
- 50-60 inches or more: These are the largest and most expensive deck sizes. Riding lawn mowers with extra-large decks are the heaviest duty as well. They can be used on any type of terrain.
As the size of the deck increases, the weight of the overall mower increases too. On rough terrain, you want a heavy mower. Large and heavy products resist tumbling down hills. They are much more durable on rocky and steep yards.
Riding lawn mowers have transmissions like a car. There are three different types of transmissions to choose from. Two of these—manual and automatic—will be familiar to most. Manual and automatic transmissions are the same as in vehicles.
In manual transmissions, you have to change the gears yourself. There will be a clutch. People unfamiliar with popular model of sets, there is one piece of advice, you definitely should try black golf clubs.
Automatic transmissions use a belt and pulley system. These riding lawn mowers change the gears without input from you. Unless you are very familiar with manual transmissions, you may want to choose this option. You won’t have to concentrate on driving and instead can focus on navigating your rough terrain.
The final type of transmission on a riding lawn mower is hydrostatic. Hydrostatic transmissions are the most powerful of the three options. They use fluids instead of a belt and pulley system to change gears. Hydrostatic lawn mowers provide a smoother experience. This type of transmission is best for rough terrains. It will, however, cost more than the other two transmission options.
The suspension is different than transmission. This system controls how much bouncing occurs as you mow. The suspension absorbs shock. Riding lawn mowers with more suspension re more comfortable to use.
A good suspension system is recommended for lawn mowers for uneven yards. Rough terrain can cause a lot of bumps. You want the riding mower for the uneven ground to absorbs that shock. Otherwise, you will be very uncomfortable as you work.
All lawn mowers should come with safety features. Put on rough terrain, a good amount of safety is even more important. Each brand will have its safety requirements for their lawn mowers. Riding lawn mowers require different safety features than push mowers for rough terrain.
Look for a discussion of safety in the user’s manual. A riding mower with a locking differential could be useful. On rough terrain, the extra traction could be a lifesaver.
When you have a yard with rough terrain, you need an adjustable deck height. We’ve already discussed the importance of the deck size. Deck height determines how high the decks stay off the ground.
You never want to cut too much grass. This is called scalping. It could ruin your yard. You should, instead, look for a lawn mower with an adjustable height. Then you can raise and lower the height as the terrain changes.
You will be sitting in your riding lawn mower. When cutting large yards, the time spent could be quite long. More than anything, you need to remain comfortable. The best way to do this is to find a great seat.
Riding lawn mowers come with a wide variety of seats. Older mowers may just have a generic bucket seat. Newer riding lawn mowers for hills have more comfortable seats. A good seat can help the suspension keep you comfortable as you mow.
Some of the seats features you should look for include a high back and padding. You may also want a cup holder. Extra legroom will be essential for long-legged people.
For rough terrain, power is an important feature. You will likely need a riding lawn mower with a lot of power. More power gives you great control over the mower. It also allows you to cut a wider variety of surfaces.
Riding lawn mower power is measured in horsepower (HP) like a car. Most mowers will range from 13-30 HP. As you will notice in our reviews below, the higher HP range is preferred.
You can get away with less HP if you have a smaller yard. People not as familiar with using a riding lawn mower for hills may also want less HP. More power helps the mower cut the grass. It can create an unsafe situation if you don’t know how to handle all the power. Try to stay at the higher end of the HP spectrum. But only purchase a riding lawn mower with the power you can handle safely.
A final consideration when purchasing a riding lawn mower for rough terrain is the price. Riding lawn mowers are not cheap. They will be much more expensive than push mowers for rough terrain.
You can generally figure on spending between $1000-$6000. This price range is for a newer mower. You can find used riding lawn mowers for rough terrain for less. They will still be expensive. Depending on the quality, they may cost between $500-$3000. Make sure you have room in your budget for a riding lawn mower for steep hills. Creating a mower fund may help you save enough to purchase your ideal product.
Top 10 Best Riding Lawn Mower for Rough Terrain – Comparison table
|Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52" Zero Turn Mower 23hp Kawasaki FR691 Series||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Husqvarna MZ61 61 in. 24 HP Kawasaki Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Snapper 2691319 360z Mower, Riding, Zero Turn, Red||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Snapper 2911525BVE Classic RER 28 inch 11.5 HP 344cc Rear Engine Riding Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Husqvarna Z242F 42 in. 18 HP Kawasaki Hydrostatic Zero Turn Riding Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Husqvarna TS354XD (54") 26HP Kohler Lawn Tractor 960430290||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Swisher ZTR2760BS Response 27HP 60-Inch B&S ZTR Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP Riding Lawn Mowe||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 in. 23 HP Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin Dual Hydrostatic Zero Turn Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Troy-Bilt Mustang Fit Riding Lawn Mower||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
Best 10 Best Riding Lawn Mower for Rough Terrain On The Market Reviews
1. Ariens 915223 IKON-X 52’’ Zero Turn Mower
Ariens may not be a yard equipment company you know. However, their 915223 IKON-X 52-inch Zero Turn Mower is a very high-quality product. It comes in new and refurbished options. The refurbished mower is just as good as the new version. It looks and works like new.
The 52-inch cutting deck on the 915223 IKON-X is at the large end of the spectrum. This is a zero-turn type of mower. It has the expected two small wheels in front. There are two large wheels in the back.
Being a zero-turn mower, the 915223 IKON-X has a lot of legroom. The seat is very comfortable. It has a high back and is padded. The 915223 IKON-X is gas-powered. It makes 23 HP. This is a large and durable riding lawn mower for rough terrain.
2. Husqvarna MZ61 Mower
Husqvarna is a much better-known equipment manufacturer. The Swedish brand has a long hundreds year old history. Their MZ61 Mower illustrates what makes Husqvarna so great. The MZ61 has a 61-inch cutting deck. The deck is made from 11-gauge steel for durability.
The roll-over protection system (ROPS) is extremely useful on the MZ61. It keeps the mower from rolling. Even when you use the MZ61 on rough or hilly ground, it will not roll.
The seats on the Husqvarna MZ61 are comfortable and high-backed. This is a zero-turn mower. It has a lot of legroom. It is easy to use. It will also provide a quick and efficient cut. For large yards or rough terrain, you need the MZ61.
3. Snapper 2691319 Mower
Snapper products come up a lot in lists of the top riding lawn mowers for rocky terrain. While expensive, they are less so than other brands. You still get a lot for your money. The Snapper 2691319 Mower is a very powerful riding lawn mower.
The 2691319 is a zero-turn mower. It has a 48-inch deck and makes 23 HP. You can also choose from three other smaller sizes for this model. The choices alone make the Snapper 2691319 good for homeowners.
What sets the 2691319 apart are the rails and cargo bed behind the seat. The rails allow you to use aftermarket ATV accessories on the product. There are even cutouts for a wooden 2×4 tailgate. The molded rear cargo bed provides you a place to put yard equipment even without the tailgate. If you want a versatile tractor mower for rocky terrain, this is it.
4. Snapper 2911525BVE Classic Mower
Snapper is such a great brand that another of their riding lawn mowers has made it onto our list. The 2911525BVE Classic Mower is smaller than the others on this list. It only has a 28-inch deck. It also only makes 11.5 HP.
While we mentioned that larger riding lawn mowers are better for rough terrain, the 2911525BVE is an exception. Its Briggs & Stratton Engine is durable. The included vertical stand-on-edge capability keeps you safe. This is a riding tractor. It has four large wheels, which increases its stability. With the vertical stand-on-edge system, it is very hard to tip this product over.
People with a small yard will love the Snapper 2911525BVE. It is easier to store than a larger mower. Its Briggs & Stratton engine also requires very little maintenance.
5. Husqvarna Z242F Mower
Husqvarna is back on our list. Their Z242F Mower is another great product of the zero-turn variety. It also uses a hydrostatic transmission system. This is the best-of-the-best in terms of transmission.
The Z242F is smaller than the first Husqvarna product on the list. It only has a 42-inch deck. It also only makes 18 HP. However, this smaller size does keep the price down. It is not nearly as expensive as other Husqvarna riding lawn mowers.
The park brake system on the Z242F ensures that the riding lawn mower remains safe. It automatically activates and deactivates as you use the machine. Husqvarna sells a mulching kit and bagger attachment for this mower. You just have to purchase them separately.
6. Husqvarna TS354XD Lawn Tractor
The last Husqvarna riding lawn mower for rough terrain we want to mention is the TS354XD Lawn Tractor. This mower is in between the price and size of the other two Husqvarna’s reviewed. It has a 54-inch cutting deck. The deck is made of 10-gauge steel with welded reinforcements. It will be more than strong enough for any rough terrain.
The TS354XD makes 26 HP. That is a lot of power for the size of the cutting deck. But, the mower is very easy to drive. It is a lawn tractor. This means that it is slower and safer than a zero-turn mower.
The four large wells keep the balance well. The TS354XD is ped-operated. It has a hydrostatic transmission and a locking differential. Essentially, all of the safety features you need for rough terrain are included in this product.
7. Swisher ZTR2760BS Response Mower
Swisher’s ZTR2760BS is another zero-turn mower. It has a large, 60-inch deck. The deck includes three Gator mulching blades. You will get a lot of work out of this deck. Rough terrain is no problem for it.
The ZTR2760BS will go up to 8 MPH forwards and backward. That is quite fast for a riding lawnmower. Make sure you are familiar with zero-turn mowers before purchasing this product.
The seat is very comfortable on the ZTR2760BS. It has a good suspension. There is even a built-in cup holder. That may not seem like much. But, it provides comfort and hydration for large cutting jobs. This product is made in the USA. You know it’s high-quality.
8. Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP Lawn Mower
Troy-Bilt has made a great zero-turn riding lawn mower with its Super Mustang XP. It has a 724cc OHV engine. You can convert the CC to HP. When performing the conversion, you find that the Super Mustang XP makes about 24 HP. That is the most of any riding lawn mower so far on this list.
The powerful engine is not the only great thing about the Troy-Bilt Super Mustang XP. It also has a 50-inch dual blade cutting deck. It will get any job done. Even rough terrain is not a problem for this machine.
The three-gallon fuel tank holds a lot of gas. The Super Mustang XP comes with a comfortable, padded seat. It is high-backed. There is a lot of included legroom in this lawn mower.
9. Cub Cadet Ultima ZT15 Mower
If you want a great zero-turn hydrostatic mower, try the Cub Cadet Ultima ZT15 Mower. It has a 23HP 726CC Kawasaki engine. Even though this is a zero-turn mower, it is great for hills. It will cut up to four acres without any issues.
The transmission is controlled by a lap bar. There is no steering wheel on this mower. The lap bar is comfortable and easy to use. Plus, it creates a lot of legroom. The lap bar themselves are ergonomically designed.
The open-frame design on the Ultima ZT15 Mower does not have the bracing of some of the lawn tractors. It will still keep you safe though. There is even a hinged/removable floor pan. This feature makes it easy to service the blades. Sharpening them will be a breeze.
10. Troy-Bilt Mustang Fit Lawn Mower
The final product on our list is the Troy-Bilt Mustang Fit Lawn Mower. It has a powerful 452CC engine. While the engine is powerful, it is a little smaller than the other riding lawn mowers on the list. This is to be expected, however. The side cutting deck is only 34-inches.
For smaller yards with rough terrain, the Mustang Fit Lawn Mower will work perfectly. You will love that is a zero-turn product. It allows you to mow in reverse. That feature is operator controlled.
The seat is high-backed and padded. There is a large amount of legroom in this product. It also has dual suspension springs. Those springs ensure a very smooth ride as you cut your lawn.
Tips and tricks for sharpening lawn mower blades.
When you cut grass over rough terrain, you are putting wear on your lawn mower’s blades. The blades are the part of the mower that cuts the grass. These should be sharp to provide the cleanest cuts. If you mow over rocks, the blades can get dull. Dull blades are not very efficient.
Follow these steps for sharpening your lawn mower blades.
- Determine if your blades need to be sharpened. You know it’s time to sharpen the blades if the cut on your grass is uneven. You may even be able to tell that the blades are dull.
- Remove the power source and spark plug. This ensures the mower cannot start as you remove the blade. Do not skip this step. It is essential for keeping you safe.
- Remove the blade. You cannot sharpen the blades without first removing them from the mower.
- Clean grass and debris from the blade. This step makes it easier to sharpen the blade.
- Use a file, chisel, and punches, or bench grinder to sharpen the blade. Choose the method that you are the most familiar with. You want a sharp blade that cuts like a butter knife. It does not have to be outrageously sharp to get the job done. Ask for help if you are unfamiliar with sharpening tools.
- Put the blade back on the mower. After the blade is installed, you can reinstall the spark plug.
- Double-check that everything is reattached correctly. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work by using your riding lawn mower when it is not 100%. Inspect the equipment and wires before turning the mower back on. Mowing rough terrain causes a lot of wear and tear. Use this time to ensure your mower is in tip-top shape.
Riding lawn mowers are not familiar to everyone. You may still have a few questions about this topic. It is those questions that we answer in this section.
- What do we mean by rough terrain?
We’ve used the term “rough terrain” a lot in this article. By “rough terrain” we mean any ground that is not smooth. Rocky, steep, filly, bumpy, these are all types of rough terrain.
Rough terrain is especially hard to mow. Traditional lawn mowers were designed to cut grass on smooth yards. Older products will not handle hills or other rough features well. Rocks, also, can cause havoc with riding lawn mowers.
If you have rough terrain in your yard, you need a special kind of lawn mower. The riding lawn mowers for rough terrain reviewed here are ideal for that job.
- Riding tractor vs. zero-turn mower
All riding lawn mowers are called riding tractors. That is not exactly accurate, however. Some riding lawn mowers are zero-turn models.
Zero-turn mowers have a turning radius of zero. They typically have a hydraulic transmission. The shape of a zero-turn mower is very familiar. There will be two small wheels in the front. The back has two larger, drive wheels. Zero-turn mowers steer better and turn more efficiently than riding tractors.
The problem with zero-turn mowers on rough terrain is that they do not work well on high grass or slopes. If you have a lot of elevation changes in your yard, you should not choose a zero-turn mower.
Riding tractors are larger and typically more comfortable. They do not have the zero-turn radius of the zero-turn mower. These are the products with the large deck sizes. They will cut quickly and efficiently. They also work well on steep slopes.
If your yard requires a lot of maneuvering, don’t choose the riding tractor. It does not turn as well as the zero-turn mower. It also takes longer to cut your yard with this type of lawn mower for uneven yards.
- Riding lawn mower vs. push-behind lawn mower
Can’t I just use my push behind mower on rough terrain? There are some push mowers for rough terrain. They will be smaller than riding lawn mowers. They will also not work as well on some types of terrain.
If your yard is rocky, a push-behind lawn mower could work. It is easy to maneuver. Small yards can also be cut by a push mower. If you have a large yard or a lot of hills, don’t choose the push behind mower. They are not safe to use on hills.
These types of mower also take a long time to completely cut your grass. Those with large yards that want to be done cutting quickly should choose a riding lawn mower.
- Can any lawn mower be used on rough terrain?
Technically, yes. Some lawn mowers are just safer on rough terrain than others. If you use a lawn mower not designed for your rough terrain, you can hurt yourself. You could also break the machine.
Riding lawn mowers are very expensive. It can be tempting to purchase a smaller and cheaper mower. That is a bad idea. Get the largest and more durable lawn mower you can for your budget.
Also read through the buyer’s guide above to choose the product that is best for your rough terrain. Some riding lawn mowers are better for hills. Some are better for rocks. Some are even mowers for soft ground.
- Are there attachments for riding lawn mowers?
Not all riding lawn mowers for rough terrain come with attachments. So do, however. If you want to use your riding lawn mower for multiple purposes, you need attachments.
You can find a bagger, aerator, spreader, or utility cart as attachments for a riding lawn mower. Sometimes even tillers can be found for tractor mowers for rocky terrain. A bagger collects the grass clippings. It saves you time cleaning up your yard.
The aerator is dragged behind the lawn mower. It opens up holes in your yard. Seeds, water, and fertilizer can better reach the plant roots through these holes. Spreaders spread fertilizer. A utility cart is fairly familiar. It allows you to use the riding lawn mower as a vehicle to move equipment around your yard. All of these attachments are great for people with large yards or who like gardening.
The best riding lawn mowers for rough terrain are not that hard to find. They will, however, cost you a little bit more than normal. These heavy-duty items are much more expensive than a push mower for rough terrain. They have more functionality and durability that a small, typical mower.
You need specialized riding lawn mowers to correctly cut grass on rough terrain. Try one of the ten products reviewed in this article. Use our buyer’s guide to choose the mower that’s right for you. You will not regret finding a great riding lawn mower for rough terrain.
Sarah Eberle qualified and became a member of the Landscape Institute in 1980. Over the last 26 years she has practised landscape architecture and garden design, running her own business in Devon.
During the 1990s, Sarah joined Hillier Landscapes as Design Director, where she is still a shareholder but also runs her own practice in Hampshire.
Sarah has an esteemed record in RHS shows, having won eight Gold medals, Best in Show and the George Cook award for innovation twice at Hampton Court. Sarah has also exhibited at Tatton Park and BBC Gardeners’ World Live.