Best rototiller reviews 2018
Southland SRTT196E Rear Tine TillerThe absolute best
A powerful 4-cycle engine delivers sufficient power for pulverizing soil and loosening the terrain.
Southland SRTT196E Review
The Southland SRTT196E is a workhorse designed to handle tough garden jobs. Powered by a reliable 196cc 4-cycle engine, this machine loosens the soil and removes weeds in both forward and reverse tilling modes, thanks to the rear tine design.
A generous tilling width and depth, of 18-inch and 10-inch respectively, bring the convenience of tackling the toughest terrains in a breeze. Furthermore, a tine regulator lever gives you full control of adjusting the tilling depth.
This powerful tiller is up to any gardening task, from crushing tough soil to preparing your garden for planting or removing the weeds. Ideal to use in all states, the machine also comes with a CARB-compliant certification.
Tough and reliable, the Southland SRTT196E is the best garden tiller in its class.
Earthquake MC43 Mini Cultivator TillerBest for the money
A versatile rototiller perfect for mixing, aerating, and weeding the soil in a breeze.
Earthquake MC43 Review
The Earthquake MC43 is one of the most versatile garden tillers on the market, appealing to most users thanks to its compact dimensions and capabilities.
Powered by a 43cc 2-cycle engine, this high-performing tool boasts a walk-behind design and is easy to maneuver on all terrains.
A variable tilling width ranging from 6 to 10 inches make this tiller ideal to use in wider or narrower spaces, while the 8-inch tilling depth is ideal for most gardening tasks.
Not as heavy-duty as our best-in-class pick, this machine is perfect for the homeowner and amateur gardener looking for a reliable tool.
Easy to control, powerful, and adaptable to most gardening tasks, the Earthquake MC43 is one of the best rototillers your money can buy.
Mantis 7940 4-Cycle Tiller CultivatorPowerful but expensive
Unique curved tines allow you to switch from garden tiller to cultivator effortlessly.
Mantis 7940 Review
More powerful than our best-value, the Mantis 7940 is perfect for the avid gardener in need of more muscle, or for the homeowners living in an area with tough soil.
This tiller is powered by a 25cc 4-cycle Honda engine that delivers a rotating force up to 240 RPM to the tins. The infinite speed control adds versatility while the unique tines are designed to be used for either tilling or cultivating.
Another nice feature is the 9-inch machine width, which allows for easy maneuvering in tight spaces, while a handy kickstand the machine comes with keeps the tiller steady when not in use.
Perfect to employ for heavier-duty jobs, compact, and easy to maneuver, the Mantis 7940 is a great alternative if you don’t mind it’s slightly higher price.
Earthwise TC70016 13.5-Amp Corded Electric Tiller/CultivatorBest electric tiller
Environmentally friendly design perfect to use in all states and neighborhoods.
Earthwise TC70016 Review
The Earthwise TC70016 proposes itself as a great alternative for the environment and budget-savvy homeowner. Powered by electricity, the tiller comes in corded and cordless variants, with the 13.5-Amp corded model being perhaps the most popular.
This convenient tiller is equipped with six adjustable tines and has an adjustable width from 11 to 16 inches. Like our best-value pick, this machine has a working depth of 8 inches, just right for loosening or aerating the soil before cultivation.
Easy to maneuver thanks to its comfortable, ergonomic handle, this electric garden tiller fits perfectly it tighter spaces, and compared to the gas-powered tillers, it is quieter and cleaner to operate.
Perfect for most gardening tasks and coming at an unbeatable price, the Earthwise TC70016 is the best electric tiller you could find.
2. 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.
3. 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)
4. Rototiller power
Garden tillers 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.
5. 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.
6. 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).
7. Other optional features
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.