Schiller Grounds Care Mantis 7940 4-Cycle Tiller Cultivator
Best gas powered garden tiller
This lightweight rototiller packs heavyweight performance and is suitable to use in all gardens.
1 Schiller Mantis 7940 Review
If you’re struggling with tough soil, this powerful rototiller could be a great option for you. It’s small enough to fit in tight spaces but powerful enough to break up clumps and compact dirt.
This tiller is powered by a 25cc 4-cycle Honda engine that delivers a rotating force up to 240 RPM to the tines. The infinite speed control adds versatility while the unique tines are designed to be used for either tilling or cultivating.
The curved tines allow you to till up to ten inches deep, making it perfect for both raised beds and groundwork.
Weighing just 24 pounds, it’s easy to carry and maneuver around even in smaller gardens. With all these features, it’s easy to see why the Schiller Mantis 7940 is our best-in-class.
It’ll take about 45 minutes to put together but easily folds down to carry and store and features a kickstand for when you need a break.
If you’re looking for a powerful tiller to power through tough prep work, our best-in-class will be the perfect tiller for you.
Sun Joe TJ604E 16-Inch 13.5 AMP Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator
Best garden tiller for most homes
This powerful electric garden tiller is perfect for prepping the soil in small to mid-sized gardens.
2 Sun Joe TJ604E Review
It might not be as powerful as our gas-powered best in class, but the Sun Joe TJ604E packs a punch. This garden tiller is operated by a reliable 13.5-amp motor that delivers sufficient torque to break in the toughest soils.
With 16 inches of tilling width and a depth of 8 inches, this machine will help you get the job done quickly. Not only it pulverizes soil in a breeze, but the height-adjustable wheels also improve maneuverability on all terrains.
We also like the collapsible handle that allows for easy transport and storage, as well as the quick start and easily accessible safety switch. Excellent for gardens of up to half-acre, this garden tiller brings great value for money.
Earthwise TC70040 11-Inch 40-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Electric Tiller/Cultivator
Best cordless garden tiller
Gas-like power and unlimited freedom of movement make it perfect for larger yards and gardens.
3 Earthwise TC70040 Review
The Earthwise TC70040 is proof that eco-friendly tools can be just as powerful as gas ones. It’s a tad more expensive than our best value, but as powerful as our best in class, thanks to the 40V lithium-ion battery included in the pack.
In terms of performance, it impresses with an 8-inch tilling depth – like the Sun Joe TJ604E – and a tilling width of 11 inches. At first glance, the swath may seem narrow, but the truth is that it allows you to create narrower trenches for your seeds, and it’s also easier to maneuver around flowerbeds and obstacles.
Ideal for mid-sized to large gardens, it also comes with flip-down wheels for easier pushing and a soft grip handle for comfortable operation. All that you need for a fast, efficient, and eco-friendly soil preparation and weed control.
Earthwise TC70001 11-Inch Corded Electric Tiller/Cultivator
Best budget-friendly garden tiller
A lightweight, budget-friendly tiller for light-duty gardening needs.
4 Earthwise TC70001 Review
Coming in at an affordable price, the Earthwise TC70001 is a great tiller for smaller plots and small budgets. It features an 8.5-amp motor and four durable steel tines that deliver superior power and durability.
Small but mighty, it can deal with all kinds of ground, including clumpy clay. It’s also easy to run and, like our best value, it impresses with an 8-inch tilling depth.
Perfect for small to mid-sized gardens, powerful and reliable, this dependable tool is the best garden tiller for homeowners on a tight budget.
Garden Tiller Buying Guide
1. Garden tiller vs. cultivator
Many people use garden tiller and cultivator interchangeably despite the two terms referring to different types of machines. Cultivators are often defined as mini tillers, and this only brings further confusion. In broad terms, a rototiller is used to break the lawn or garden soil, and the cultivator is used to loosen or aerate the soil before cultivation.
- Garden tillers: Are heavy-duty machines, typically gas-powered like zero turn mowers, designed to dig and mix hard soil. These machines are often used to loosen the soil after winter and have a poor weeding performance. Rototiller come in front tine and rear tine designs.
- Garden cultivators: Look similar to the front tine garden tillers but are much smaller, and their main role is to mix loose soil, fight weeds or blend compost into the soil. These units are powered by either gas or electricity and are ideal to use for lawn and garden care, but are too weak to use for heavy-duty tilling.
2. Types of garden tillers
Garden tillers, or rototillers as they are also referred to, can have a front tine or rear tine configuration.
- Front tine tillers: Are mid-duty machines designed for both ground breaking and cultivating. They look similar to the garden cultivators but are bigger and capable of digging deeper. Most front tine tillers are gas-powered, and they are ideal for breaking moderately hard ground or loosening firm soil.
- Rear tine tillers: Are true workhorses designed to break or loosen the very hard ground and rocky soils. They can also be used for digging larger gardens, although they are rarely employed for cultivation purposes. These machines are perfect for loosening the soil before working it with a front tine or mini tiller.
Do you need a rototiller or a cultivator?
To make sure you pick the best rototiller for you, consider the type of soil and the size of your plot. Below, some general guidelines you should follow.
Front tine tiller
Rear tine tiller
Compact or rocky
Under 1,000 sq. ft. (90m²)
Up to 5,000 sq. ft. (465 m²)
Over 5,000 sq. ft. (465 m²)
3. Rototiller power
The best rototillers are gas-powered machines equipped with 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines capable of outputting between 5 and 7 horsepower. Gas-powered mini tillers come with much smaller engines, typically of no more than 2 horsepower.
Two-stroke vs. four-stroke engine
There is a never-ending debate on which type of engine is more effective. The truth is they both have their advantages.
- Two-stroke engines: Typically use a 50:1 mixture of gas and oil as fuel and the absence of a separate oil tank makes their structure much simpler. These engines are easier to maintain and less expensive, and they are also much lighter than a four-stroke engine. They output a lower power though and are recommended for light and mid-duty work.
- Four-stroke engines: Come with separate tanks for fuel and oil, and typically use unleaded gasoline or propane. The separate lubrication improves the engine’s capabilities and fuel consumption, and these motors generate sufficient power for heavy-duty jobs. However, they are bigger, heavier, and need more maintenance.
Electric mini tillers
Garden cultivators can also be powered by electricity. These units are either corded or cordless and ideal for light-duty tilling of the pre-loosen soil, weeding, aerating, and soil mixing. Electric garden tillers come in various sizes, with motors ranging from around 2.5 to 13 amperes or over.
Like most cordless lawn and garden care equipment, including lawn mowers, chainsaws and string trimmers, the cordless cultivators are typically equipped with lithium-ion batteries in the 20-40 volts range, although some models have weaker or more powerful batteries.
4. Rototiller tilling depth and width
The tilling depth and width vary from one rototiller to another, depending on the size of the machine.
- Rear tine tillers usually have a fixed tilling width between 14 and 20 inches (35-46 centimeters) and an adjustable tilling depth up to 10 inches (25 centimeters). They are ideal for large areas and for working hard soil.
- Front tine tillers have an adjustable tilling width, typically between 12 and 16 inches (30-41 centimeters), and a working depth of 10 inches (25 centimeters). Usually used on mid-size properties and on semi-hard terrains.
- Most mini tillers have an adjustable tilling width between 11 and 16 inches (27-41 centimeters), although some models have lower widths up to 9 or 10 inches (23-25 centimeters). These machines can usually work at a depth of 8 inches (20 centimeters). They are perfect for small plots and loose soil.
5. Build and maneuverability
Garden tillers can be cumbersome, heavy machines, that’s why it is important to check their overall build and maneuverability. Two things to check are the wheels and the balance.
A balanced machine is easier to maneuver and control in tight spaces, while sturdy, all-terrain wheels improve the unit’s stability. Ergonomic handles are also important, considering the heavy-duty rototillers can often weigh more than 200 pounds (90 kg).
6. Other features to look for in the best rototiller
Besides the features above, there are a few other optional features that can improve your user experience or increase your safety.
- Drag bar: Is a metal bar that runs behind the tiller and keeps the digging depth consistent. This feature is important especially if you want to use the tiller for cultivation.
- Counter weight: A safety feature designed to prevent the heavier rear tine machines from jerking during use.
- Electric starter: Helps you start your engine effortlessly even in colder weather.
- Power take off: Another feature available on some rear tine tillers, the power take off allows you to use the machine’s engine to power various attachments.
- Adjustable control handle: Allows you to move the tines from side to side or up and down to adjust the tilling width or depth.
- Folding handles: Most cultivators and front tine tillers come with folding handles for easier transport and storage.