Tillers are made for cutting up the soil, usually done in advance of planting in the spring or at the end of the planting season to mulch the soil before winter. These are extremely practical machines that will turn tilling the soil into a labor of love without all of the drudgery and backbreaking work of turning the soil by hand. Although once considered a luxury, tillers have become the darlings of gardeners everywhere, from hardcore garden enthusiasts to weekend warriors in the suburbs. Depending on the type of garden plot you have, you'll find a tiller for your needs in a price range that you can afford. You can also check out our tiller buyer's guide below which provides useful information on these useful machines.
Best Gas Tiller:
Gas tillers are a mainstay for serious gardeners everywhere. They’re portable, come in a wide variety of sizes to accommodate any size garden, and they will till the hardest of solid without batting an eyelash. Of course, you'll pay for this added convenience, and in these environmentally conscious times we live in, these tillers tend to spew massive amounts of exhaust into the air.
That said, sometimes there's just no alternative except to use a gas powered tiller. For larger gardens, a gas powered tiller is almost essential since a corded electric tiller might mean hauling around hundreds of feet of expensive extension cords. Likewise, a powered tiller probably won't have enough juice, or power, to get the job done.
Perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a tiller is the size of your garden. A small tiller will be totally inadequate for a large garden and a big tiller will be massive overkill for a small garden. This list will be your guide to finding the right tiller for you and your garden. The best gas tillers on this list were chosen based on their horsepower, light weight frames and their ease of use.
The Mantis 4-Cycle Tiller/Cultivator never needs a gas and oil mix of fuel. It comes with a 5 year mechanical warranty, and a lifetime tine warranty, both of which are the best in the business. It weighs 23 pounds and is best for small to medium sized garden or garden plots. Read Full Review
The Masport Home Gardener (17") 3.5HP Forward Rotating Front Tine Tiller can be adjusted to till at 17-inches or 12-inches. It features a 2 year warranty and an out-front tiller design that aids in maneuverability. Powered by a Briggs 4-cycle, no gas and oil mix motor, it will till down to 6-inches and weighs 83 pounds. Read Full Review
The Cub Cadet RT65E (18") 208cc Dual Rotating Rear Tine Tiller w/ Electric Start comes with nearly 7 horsepower to till the most compact soil. The rear tine design will chop up the hardest dirt and it comes with a 3 year warranty. For larger gardens, this is the tiller you need. Read Full Review
The Earthquake 3365PS (21") 190cc Pro Style Forward Rotating Front Tine Tiller comes with a Briggs engine rated at about 6 horsepower. It features 3 tilling diameters, and big 11-inch tires that let you roll over the toughest terrain. Read Full Review
Best Electric Tiller:
Tillers aren’t often thought of as being electric as they are generally considered to be heavy-duty gas powered units for chopping up thick dirt and smoothing out the soil in large garden plots. However, most suburban gardeners don't need the brute force and power of a gas powered tiller. They need something lightweight, compact and capable of tilling the soil in smaller household garden plots. That's exactly where an electric tiller comes in.
To that end, many of the tillers on this list double as cultivators, which might be considered as either a power weeder or a tiller-lite. These best electric tillers are capable of tilling the soil to a lesser depth and they won't break up extremely hard chunks of soil. The best picks on this list focus on being lightweight yet pack sufficient power and greater amperage. After all, weekend will gardeners want to get in and get out of the garden as fast as possible, so we’ve included a best bang for the buck model too. And the best way to do this is with a lightweight yet powerful electric tiller.
The Sun Joe Tiller Joe Max 9 AMP Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator - TJ601E looks and acts just like a gas powered model. It comes with a two year warranty, a safety button to engage the tines, and features an 18 inch tilling width. Read Full Review
The Mantis Electric Tiller/Cultivator features a five amp motor and a five year warranty. It will till down to 10 inches, and offers three different speeds. Heavy-duty and solid, it weighs 21 pounds and is best for smaller gardens or garden plots. Read Full Review
The Earthwise TC70001 (11") 8.5-Amp Electric Tiller/Cultivator is the best bang for the buck tiller on this list. Price, performance and ease of use all add up to a decent tiller that anyone, with a smaller garden, would be thrilled to own. It comes with a two year warranty and tills down to eight inches deep. Read Full Review
The Troy-Bilt (6-12") 6.5-Amp Electric Forward Rotating Front Tine Cultivator allows you to till a 6 inch swath or a 12 inch swath. It weighs 35 pounds and comes with a two year warranty. It will till down to eight inches deep. Read Full Review
Rototiller Buyers Guide
Tilling the soil for planting has been done as long as humans have been sowing seeds. The first manual tillers used were wooden sticks, with durable metal blades eventually added for increased effectiveness. Eventually the blades were mounted and fixed in one position which allowed tillers to be pulled along by oxen and horses until the advent of steam engine powered units in 1857 and the first small engine gasoline powered rototiller in 1936.
Powered rototillers were initially made with an engine mounted above a set of rotating tines, steered by a couple of crude handles. Granted, you would still have to spend some time muscling around a heavy weight unit, but the design allowed greater operator control and a tilling pace unmatched by either manual or animal powered tilling.
Modern powered tillers are extremely useful machines for breaking up soil, tackling tough weeding, and even mixing compost into the soil before and after planting. For more information on the types of power sources driving these machines, you can refer to our lawn equipment power source buyer's guide which gives you a breakdown on what types are appropriate for your landscaping needs.
Front tine tillers are the "do-it-all tillers" which are available in a wide variety of sizes suitable for virtually any garden plot out there. They may still have guide wheels at the back, but these aren’t powered and only serve to add stability when you’re tilling.
These tillers can be light enough to cultivate between garden rows or heavy enough to break up the soil on smaller-to-medium garden plots. They’re a bit more labor intensive to use than rear tined varieties, but their size and lower weight makes them extremely versatile.
There are some specialized front tine tillers available which have drive wheels and are made for huge gardens or acres of land, but for the most part, front tine tillers will work fine for the majority of light-to-medium-duty situations you’re likely to encounter.
Rear tine tillers have drive wheels on the front which help pull the tiller along. This set-up makes these tillers larger and bulkier, so they’re best used for larger plots of land. They're the easiest to use because you literally just hang on and steer while the wheels and tines do all the work.
Because the wheels make these units self-propelled (as well as having larger engines), they come larger and heavier than front tined models. These heavy duty components make rear tine tillers perfect for large gardens or acres of land where you’ll need to break up tough, hard-packed soil.
On smaller mini-tillers, the depth is operator adjustable; the harder you push on the handles, the deeper the blades will dig into the soil. The adjustable depth is the height of the front axle above the ground which typically about 4 inches deep.
On front and rear tine rototillers, the depth should be adjustable at the wheels by lowering or raising them, depending on how deep or shallow you want to till. Generally, higher priced units will have height adjustments on a separate handle, while lower priced models will have manual adjustments located on the wheels themselves.
The tires on a rototiller can either be solid, rubber, plastic, or air-filled pneumatic options. Guide wheels are almost always solid since all they need to do is to keep you on course. The best powered drive wheels are pneumatic because they’ll adhere better to the terrain and cause less slippage during the tilling process.
This feature is found mainly on front drive tillers to add to their versatility. Removing specific tines will allow you to leave one or two on the unit to better cultivate and weed between rows. For example, you can remove the two inner tines on a four tine rototiller, allowing the center of the unit to safely pass over smaller plants while weeding or composting around them.
Counter Rotational Tines
These can be found on higher end rototillers which gives the operator a more aggressive, and therefore a more efficient, rototiller. These are the best tine types for breaking up hard-packed soil, but these are also the heaviest units in their class due to the extra tines and mechanics needed to make them work efficiently.
What's Best for You
The lightest in weight and the least expensive rototillers are electrically powered. They’re all fairly light duty and would be perfect for smaller gardens as long as you are within the recommended cord length of 100 feet. Small, gasoline powered mini-tillers which are lightweight, and easy to maneuver are also suitable.
Most lighter weight rototillers can be used for weeding between the rows, as well as mulching and overall garden care. While these light-duty tillers won’t do break up extremely hardened soil, they’re good for regular spring rototilling of established soil.
Front tined tillers work best here in medium-sized garden settings; those with removable tines are especially useful as they can be converted to till between rows. Since front tined tillers are a bit more labor intensive, operator fatigue tends to set in a little sooner. However, for most homeowners with somewhat larger gardens or areas of land to till, these would be the best types to consider.
Large Gardens or Plots of Land
Rear tined units are made for large gardens or large plots of land. They have the capability of chopping through hardened dirt, and will run and work as long as you can. Although some of these units may have removable tines, rear-tined units are generally much too heavy duty for anything but the most extreme tilling jobs. The larger engines and the overall increased weight make them a better bet for going in straight lines over multiple acres of land. Realistically, they could till acres of land with the least amount of operator fatigue, but if you have that much land, a tractor driven tiller would be a more sensible investment.