Updated: Oct 12, 2016
Garden Tiller Reviews:
- What is a garden tiller?
- Benefits of using a tiller
- How much do garden tillers cost? Which should I buy?
When it comes to gardening and getting soil prepared to plant things, a good tiller will come in handy. Garden tillers are also excellent at knocking down weeds while they turn the soil. Today, renting a tiller will cost about $60/day compared to owning one for about $300-$1000. Tillers work well in breaking down heavy soil or working in compost to get your gardens soil in perfect condition.
What features should you look for in a new tiller? Firstly, you'll need to inspect your soil to determine if it's hard or soft. If you have soft soil you can probably get a mini-tiller or lightweight, portable tiller to do the job. For those of us with hard, clay like soil that may have rocks in it, a heavy-duty tiller with more horsepower is what you should consider buying.
The video below shows the basic functions of a Troy Bilt Bronco Tiller:
Choosing the right garden tiller:
Nearly half of all tillers are sold by Lowes (Troy-Bilt, Bolens/MTD), Sears (Craftsman), or Home Depot (Honda, Yard Machines, Ryobi). The tilling width ranges from 8 to 24 inches on most and the horsepower rating is critical since you will need more power on larger yards with hard soils. The two basic types of tillers are front-tine tillers and rear-tine tillers.
The front-tine tillers have the tines located in front of the wheels and underneath the engine. Small front-tine tillers are often referred to as mini cultivators by manufacturers. As for rear-tine tillers, the digging tines are located behind the wheels and there are 2 main types - standard rotating tines and counter rotating tines. Some tillers let you actually reverse your digging direction for the best tiller performance. All tillers let you adjust the depth of the tines so you can choose how deep into the soil you will work.
Experts agree that rear-tine tillers are best suited for larger areas in your yard and provide strong digging power for hard soils. If you are working with a smaller area, consider the front-tine tillers that work best on soft soils. In gardens less than 1000 sq feet with soft soil take a look at the mini cultivators. The newer 4 stroke engine designs are preferable to the older 2 strokes in that they run cleaner with less exhaust emissions.
Gas tillers are the best in terms of horsepower and performance, but if you are near a power outlet, you can always buy an electric tiller. Gas tillers are loud and noisy (85 decibels and higher) while the electric models tend to be quieter. Gas tillers require more maintenance than their electric counterparts, but they perform better overall. If you are not into fueling, pull starting, or all the exhaust, then perhaps the electric tiller is for you.
Electric tillers work fine on light-duty tasks and most have a swath of about 10 inches wide. In terms of features to look for in any kind of tiller, you'll want one with a handle mounted switch so you can quickly stop the engine if need be. Find models that have easy to remove tines in case they get jammed or bent.
As for online garden tiller reviews, we found some excellent consumer feedback and opinions on Gardenweb.com in their forums. Popular Mechanics always has some expert advice on buying the best brands in tillers. Consumer Reports did a comparison of tillers and it was more helpful as a buying guide than for choosing a specific product. Amazon.com lists some tillers on their website with limited owner reviews.
Other top brands of tillers include those by Mantis and Yard-Man. One word of caution to California buyers, we found several models that aren't available in California due to noise regulations. You can browse the up-to-date browse the up-to-date list of best-selling garden tillers here.
Best Garden Tiller:
For the best overall performance and durability, owners consistently agree that the Honda tillers and BCS tillers are the best on the market. Which model will do you well? We found some great head to head reviews from owners who have bought both types at Gardenweb.com in their forums.
The BCS 710 Gardener ($2000) is a good 18" rototiller that works great on "breaking new ground, tilling sod, and power composting". There are no belts on the BCS tiller which means more power. The power reverse feature allows for getting into tight spots and the versatility of this machine is what owners appreciate. It can handle a sickle bar attachment or even run as a lawn mower. For medium sized yards with occassional use, the BCS tiller will do just fine.
Honda tillers definitely have the best reputation amongst tillers that we could find. You will pay a premium for Honda tillers, but you get quality parts and performance that is second to none. Their rear-tine tillers like the FR600 will churn earth with incredible efficiency. The Honda FR600 retails for $1859 and offers a chain drive transmission, 3 forward speeds and 1 reverse. The tilling width is more than ample at 20 inches and the tine diameter is 12".
They are heavy (207 lbs) and can be a real workout when trying to go through hard, compact soil. The engine is a 4 stroke Honda 5.5 HP GX160 OHV. Some of the other popular brands use Honda motors since they are so durable and reliable. GOOD ALTERNATIVE - We suggest looking at the Troy-Bilt Horse 21A-682P766 - a 12-Inch 305cc Briggs & Stratton 1450 Series Horse Forward Rotating Rear Tine Tiller.
To check out how to use a rear tine tiller - click the image below to go to video.
Rear Tine Tiller:
The Troy-Bilt Super Bronco Rear Tine Tiller family ($250-$1500) gets good reviews from owners on Amazon as well as in gardening forums online. The Tecumseh engine OHV engine gives you 6 HP and a limited lifetime warranty. The blade size is 10 inches but cut-in width is 16 inches. Maximum tilling depth is 6 inches and the Super Bronco is meant for cultivating medium to large sized gardens.
The power reverse feature allows for smooth maneuverability and the counter-rotating bolo tines will work your soil over. The handle adjust to your desired height level and there is the Troy-Bilt Just One Hand operation mode. Owners say it works great on breaking up hard-packed soil and they especially like the tine shield so your legs remain protected from debris. This is an MTD machine.
BEST - As mentioned above, the BCS name is well recognized in this field and they produce heavy-duty machinery that lasts. The BCS Tiller Rear Tine Tiller 340CC - gets great reviews from experts and owners alike. The Honda engine and all gear transmission allow any homeowner or landscaper to use the 26" tiller with ease. The HP engine referred to as both "reliable and powerful" per owners. The rototiller has 3 forward gears. They also offer a 160cc model for a little over $2200.
In our search for the best mini-tiller, all reviews and experts pointed us towards the Honda Mini Tiller FG110 ($430). This size tiller is also considered a cultivator. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver, and does wonders in gardens. The integrated folding handles make for easy transport and the 4-stroke engine starts easy and provides quality fuel efficiency. Owners say the FG110 is quiet compared to other larger models and the tine speed is very fast.
Optional attachments on the Honda mini tiller include aerator, edger, de-thatcher and digging tines. Most gardening equipment professionals say that buying attachments for mini-tillers is not a "value" purchase. Instead, buy those machines separately for best performance. Consumers say this tiller works well in flower beds, around trees, and in tougher soils. You can read up on more details online http://powerequipment.honda.com/tillers.
Best Electric Tiller:
The Mantis 120-Volt Electric Tiller ($249) is a lightweight tiller best suited for smaller gardens and yards. The 120-volt engine offers 3 speeds and comes with a 1 year warranty. The tines have a lifetime warranty. In terms of electric tillers, the Mantis is by no means a powerful machine, but it will work on smaller backyard jobs. It digs down 10 inches (in soft soil) and this model comes with a free border edger.
Mantis may be more famous for their television advertising than any other tiller company, but they do sell 1000's of them. Some owners reported the Mantis corded electric tiller was unable to dig through their soil and garden. Electric tillers have mixed reviews that we could find and when in doubt, go with the gas powered versions of tillers instead. RECOMMENDED FOR SMALLER TILLER JOBS.
More videos and resources are here on our Tiller Resource Page.
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