Want to make the most of summer in your garden? The best tillers help you to prepare the ground for a whole season of beautiful blooms. A tiller does the tough job of turning the soil for you so can focus on enjoying all the garden has to offer.
The best tillers or rototillers help you to break up established roots and loosen the soil. They do this with special rotating tines that dig over the soil so you can give your garden a new lease of life. They’re ideal for people looking to prepare their soil for the first time.
When selecting the right tiller for you, there are a few things to consider. You can choose between gas or electric tillers. Gas options boast maximum power though an electric model may be better for you if you want to avoid the hassle of refilling the fuel.
Consider the needs of your plot when picking your tiller. If you’re lucky enough to have soft soil, a no-frills tiller should be sufficient and will save you money. If the soil is tougher and denser, however, you may want to invest in a high-powered option. Most tillers turn the soil at a depth of between six and eight inches which is enough for the average garden. A more important dimension to pay attention to though is the pan width. The wider models allow you to cover more ground quickly.
Looking for a budget-friendly option? A hand tiller offers good value though bear in mind that will mean more physical work for you.
For now, let’s dig into our picks of the best tillers.
6 best tillers to buy now
1. Craftsman C410: Best tiller overall
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If you want a crossover between a cultivator and a tiller, the Craftsman C410 is a top choice. This gas tiller is super powerful and has a 4-cycle engine that runs clean and doesn’t require you to mix gas and oil for it to run. This tiller has six inch tines, which isn’t as deep as some other tillers in our roundup, but it is powerful enough to break up dense, rocky, and waterlogged soil and turn it into fresh and loamy ground, ready for planting. It is also suitable for maintaining your yard, and because it’s not too heavy for a gas tiller, it will make easy work of even dense and large spaces.
Of course, the Craftsman C410 is a pretty expensive option. It has a 4-cycle engine, which is an instant price-booster, and it also offers an adjustable tilling path of up to 12 inches. Its electric start cable is designed to make it easier to turn on than many gas alternatives, and it also comes with a variable speed throttle.
- Read the full Craftsman C410 Gas Tiller review (opens in new tab)
2. Sun Joe TJ604E: Best electric tiller
There are many benefits of investing in an electric tiller, especially if you’ve got a smaller garden to tend to. While they’re known for being less powerful than gas alternatives, these tillers are great for maintaining soil and can be a lot cheaper, too.
The Sun Joe TJ604E is great for those with already loose soil and can effectively aerate your garden for perfect plants and thriving vegetables. With a depth of eight inches, this is also a top pick for those with deep yards. It’s also 16 inches wide, which is impressive for an electric model.
The Sun Joe TJ604E is corded, but its smart design allows the cord to leave through the handle, so you won’t get tangled up in this tiller. It also has a safety switch and an instant start button, making it both safer and easier to start than most gas alternatives. This tiller is covered by a two year warranty, and folds away easily when you’re ready to store it again.
- Read the full Sun Joe TJ604E Tiller review (opens in new tab)
3. Remington RM4625: Best cultivator
The Remington RM4625 is the best lightweight cultivator we found, and while it may be a little too lightweight for your tilling needs, its six inch tilling depth is not too far off many of the gas tillers in this guide. At only 29 pounds, this cultivator is easy to use and plenty maneuverable. It also has an adjustable tilling width between six and nine inches, and a variable-speed throttle that lets you work at the right speed for you.
You'll need to assemble this machine before you can start working in the garden. However, it's easy enough to put together that it should take you only a few minutes. You simply assemble the handlebar and shaft, then affix those items and the wheel assembly to the main tiller. Among its other convenient features, the Remington is easy to clean, and its folding handle makes it easier to store compared to other tillers.
We suggest buying one of the tillers in our guide if you want to turn up new soil, but the Remington RM4625 is a perfectly suitable cultivator and will keep your garden weed-free and loamy all through the year. Because it’s a 2-cycle cultivator you do need to combine oil and gas to make it run, but you can always buy this premixed and save yourself the hassle.
- Read the full Remington RM4625 cultivator review (opens in new tab)
4. Earthwise TC70001: Best tiller on a budget
The Earthwise TC70001 is the perfect tiller cultivator combo for those on a budget. It’s electric and corded, which is the major drawback of this model, but it boasts a deep 8.5 inch tine depth and a decent 11 inch tilling path width. This tiller starts with the press of a button, and it also has a safety button for quick emergency shut offs.
This powerful machine does the job, especially if you have a relatively small garden. This is designed with a 2-cycle Viper engine with substantial power for a garden tiller. Besides tilling the ground, this machine also helps you weed your garden, aerate the soil, and work in fertilizer or compost into the dirt. This results in loose, fresh earth that will cultivate seeds and seedlings, and make it easier for water to reach the plant’s roots.
Its tillers are front-tine, which are more suitable for light use on existing gardens and great for weeding. However, despite the fact that this claims to be an effective tiller, the Earthwise TC70001 is probably not your best bet if you want to turn up new soil.
- Read the full Earthwise TC70001 tiller review (opens in new tab)
Earthquake MC33: Best tiller for small gardens
The Earthquake MC33 is a small and helpful tiller/cultivator that will get your soil in great shape for planting, and keep it that way. This lightweight gas-powered tiller frees you from having to use an extension cord for an electrical hookup, and it slices at either six or ten inches thanks to its removable tines, which is a reasonably good feature for a tiller at this price.
While this machine doesn’t cut as deep or wide as some other tillers on the market, it is more than powerful enough to do the job, especially if you have a relatively small garden. This is designed with a two-cycle Viper engine with substantial power for a garden tiller. Besides tilling the ground, this machine also helps you weed your garden, aerate the soil, and work in fertilizer or compost into the dirt. This results in loose, fresh earth that will cultivate seeds and seedlings, and make it easier for water to reach the plant’s roots.
The Earthquake Mini Cultivator has a recoil starting system rather than an electric starter, which means you need to pull a cord to turn it on. This is not a big problem for most people, but it is more challenging than just pushing a button on an electric tiller. The cultivator does not come fully assembled, but the assembly isn’t difficult. You'll also need to mix gas and oil for the fuel according to the directions in the manual.
- Read the full Earthquake MC33 review (opens in new tab)
6. Southland SCV43: Best gas cultivator
For light work on existing gardens, a cultivator is all you need. While they don’t reach as deep as many tillers, cultivators are great for turning up the top layer of soil and making it loose, which makes it easy to add fertilizers and other nutrients in the mix. The Southland SCV43 is our top pick of cultivators because it offers direct gear drive and can be easily transported.
Although it’s heavy, the Southland SCV43 is relatively easy to transport and maneuver. It has a front carry handle and can fold away into three pieces. Its tillers are five inches deep and its tilling path is eight inches, and although the tillers are front-line, this does make it easier to steer and direct.
- Read the full Southland SCV43 cultivator review (opens in new tab)
Best tillers FAQ
Choosing the best tiller for you
So how do you choose the right tiller for you? Consider what you’re looking to achieve and opt for the tiller that can handle the task. Some tillers are designed to help you remove pesky weeds and aerate the soil while others are better for working in compost and fertilizers. If you’re working on a new plot that has never been tilled before, look for a powerful machine with robust tines. This may not be necessary if your soil has been turned before and you’re wanting to refresh it before summer planting. Whatever your needs, there’s a tiller out there for you.
The tiller has stood the test of time and has been used in agriculture for centuries. They’re a proven way of breaking up compact earth and transforming it into loose, aerated soil which makes planting a breeze. Plus, they can be used to add extra goodness to the soil like organic compost and can even remove weeds. Bear in mind though that tilling the soil does have its downsides, as it can result in soil erosion and increase the need for pesticides. You’ll have to consider whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in your circumstances.
Tillers are best suited for preparing large areas of land. They’re also a good choice when you’re looking to prepare a plot for the first time, particularly if it’s been unloved and the soil is compacted and lacking nutrients.
You can find smaller models, often called cultivators. These are ideal for more delicate jobs like weeding between seedlings or adding compost to an empty bed. They may struggle to cope, however, with breaking up stubborn roots and dense soil so in this scenario you’d be better off with a more powerful tiller.
We’ve included a range of different tillers and cultivators in our round-up so you can find out that suits your needs. We’ve scouted out models in all shapes and sizes including ones that are designed for different tasks. You’ll find models you can put together yourself and ones that come fully assembled for ease.
Tiller vs cultivator: Which should you buy?
Not sure whether to buy a tiller or a cultivator? First, you’ll want to consider what task you want it to do for you. Typically, a tiller can make light work of hard, compacted soils and is a great choice for a new plot where the ground has not been turned before. A tiller tends to have a deeper reach than your average cultivator.
By contrast, a cultivator is ideal for aerating the top layer of your soil in an established garden. Using a cultivator is a great way to refresh your soil each spring. They struggle with denser soils though so are best avoided in this scenario. Our round-up includes tillers, tiller and cultivator combos, and cultivators, so whatever your needs, we’ve got you covered.
What is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?
So what’s the difference between a tiller and a cultivator? While they may look similar, there are important differences.
Tillers have a much deeper reach than the average cultivator and can handle tough ground. At the beginning of the season, a tiller is a brilliant way to break up hard, compacted earth to create the right growing conditions for your plants to thrive. After your plants are past their best, you can use the tiller to dig the leftover growth deep into the ground so it can decompose and nourish the soil. A tiller is also handy for mixing compost into the soil to add extra nutrients.
At first glance, a cultivator may look similar but they are typically smaller. This gives them an advantage if you’re looking to turn the soil in between narrow rows of seedlings. Cultivators don’t have the same reach as tillers so are best suited to preparing the top layers of your soil. If you’re wanting to dig up weeds before they get established, a cultivator should be your go-to tool. What’s more, they make weeding fuss-free so that you have more time for tending to your favorite plants.
Tiller maintenance tips
The work tillers do is dirty, so it’s no wonder they get strewn with rocks and debris. To maintain your tiller, it’s important to thoroughly hose off the tines and carefully inspect them to make sure all the debris is removed after each use.
You’ll know it’s time to sharpen the tines when they stop slicing through the dirt efficiently. Before you sharpen them, thoroughly clean the tines by scrubbing them with mild detergent. Grime and debris can scratch the tines if they aren’t properly cleaned before they’re sharpened. Once the tines are clean, use a mill file to sharpen each one individually. If the tiller is small, you can simply turn it over and sharpen the tines attached to the machine. For bigger tillers, you’ll want to remove the tines and fasten them into a vice while you sharpen them.
Be sure to change the oil and air filter at least once a year, preferably at the beginning of the gardening season, so you know you are starting out the season with clean fuel. Consult the owner’s manual for the appropriate grade and amount of oil. Also, either use up all the gas in the tank at the end of each season or add fuel stabilizer to whatever gas remains in the tank. Store the tiller indoors, in a garage or shed, to keep it away from the elements.
Rear tine vs front tine tillers
The key component of a garden tiller is the tine design. Tines are the metal prongs that work and loosen the soil. Their length and position determines how the machine operates, how far the machine can cut into the soil and what kind of soil it works best in. In some cases, short tines are sufficient, but for other jobs, you need tines that dig deep. Here are some differences between tillers with rear tines and those with front tines:
Machines with their tines in the back typically do a better job of breaking up soil that has never been tilled and cutting deeply into dense, thickly packed dirt. They have large wheels with deep treads and adjustable depth regulators, so you can till to different depths.
Some rear tines are counter-rotating. Because they move counter-clockwise, they give you even more control to handle the toughest dirt. These tillers create the least amount of vibration when cutting through clay and rocky dirt, and they are great for creating new garden beds where they didn’t exist before.
Generally, tillers that have tines located in the middle are the easiest to control and move while the machine is operating. The rototiller’s engine is usually located above the tines with gives it better weight distribution.
They are not as powerful as rear tines, and are more suited to light maintenance work, over creating new seed beds.
These tines sit in front of the wheels and rotate forward. Front tillers don’t cut as far into the soil and aren’t as effective at breaking up tough, clumpy dirt. Front-tine tillers generally cost less than rear tillers of comparable size and power.
They are much easier to maneuver over dirt that is already loose and doesn’t require quite as much work.
Electric vs gas tillers
Another consideration is the way a tiller is powered. For many people, the convenience of an electric-powered tiller is obvious. They are simple to start, they will run indefinitely since your electricity is always available and they are handy for smaller-sized gardens. However, the drawback is you will need an extension cord if your garden is farther away from the house and without a power source, you’ll be out of luck.
Gas-powered tillers are potent machines that can muscle through tough soil. However, with many of these models, you must mix oil and gas to fuel the machine, and occasionally stop to refuel, which is a chore not everyone likes. Gas powered machines tend to be heavier and harder to push, which could be a problem for some consumers.
As with all tools, electric are generally less expensive than gas-powered. If you prefer electric to gas you will find good, affordable models, but you won’t get the same power gas tillers provide.