The Best Type Of Lawn Mower For Your Hilly Yard (And Which To Avoid)

Whether mowing the lawn is a job you cherish or loathe, you want to be certain you are doing the job as efficiently as possible while also using the right type of lawn mower for the grass in your yard. Maybe you want to place an emphasis on a gas versus battery-powered lawn mower, looking for an environmentally-friendly model or one that delivers plenty of horsepower.

When making those decisions, don't forget to consider the type of terrain over which you'll be using this machine. Typically, the best machines to use on uneven ground or hills are self-propelled push mowers. You can use a zero-turn or riding mower, but you must follow certain techniques to reduce the risk of dangerously tipping the machine on the slope. You also may want to avoid push mowers that do not have self-propelled features, as you'll expend a lot of energy going uphill or could lose your balance and risk contact with the spinning blades.

When you have a hilly property and are constantly changing elevation, you want to be sure that you aren't cutting the grass too close to the ground, which can cause problems with your lawn's health and density. Certain types of machines can also be difficult to use up and down hills, so consider these factors when selecting a unit. Here, we'll spell out some advice you can use to choose your mower.

Best options for using a push mower on a hill

Because you have complete control over a walk-behind push mower, it is a great option for cutting a hilly lawn. The self-propelled walk-behind machine is perhaps the best choice for this type of terrain because it provides extra propulsion power to help you make it up the slopes without tiring yourself out. You can also reduce your risk of going too fast down the hills, which can cause uneven cutting, by slowing down the machine.

If you are using a walk-behind push mower, it's important to maintain your traction by wearing high-quality shoes. If the ground is wet, your chances of slipping become greater, especially on hills, so you may want to put off the work until the space dries. If you fall, the machine could roll backward and over the top of your body. 

When seeking a walk-behind model for hilly terrain, you typically will want to stick with a gas model, rather than a battery model. Gas mowers generate more torque than battery models, which helps them handle the stress of mowing hills better. One of the top self-propelled units for hills is the Honda 21-inch, which costs $549 at Home Depot. It has three variable speeds, which helps significantly when going up and down hills. For a highly-rated push mower that runs on gas, consider the Troy-Bilt 21-inch, which costs $359 at Home Depot. It has large rear wheels that help with traction on slopes.

Considering riding mowers when cutting a hilly lawn

When you want a riding mower for a hilly yard, such designs aren't overly safe. If you are tackling steep terrain with a slope of more than 15 degrees, it's challenging to maneuver either a riding lawn tractor or a zero-turn design safely. If you must mow this type of incline, go slow. Go directly up and down the hill vertically rather than horizontally across the slope to reduce the risk of tipping.

A zero-turn mower allows you to sit or stand at the back and control the unit. You can make extremely sharp turns quickly and can handle tight corners with ease, which ultimately saves you time when cutting the grass. Both the zero-turn and the riding mower, where you sit on a seat high above the deck, could end up rolling over when used on steep slopes, though. 

A few riding mower designs are made for hilly conditions specifically. The Ventrac 4500K Compact Tractor riding mower offers all-wheel drive traction, so the machine can maintain a grip on the steep slope. It also has a dual-wheel kit available that improves its performance on hills up to 30 degrees. It's a pricey model at more than $23,000, though. The zero-turn John Deere Z330R mower uses tires with deep treads to deliver better traction on hills, but it still has some limitations on steep slopes. Expect to pay about $4,000 for this model.