Last updated on October 12th, 2023
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I’ve used petrol rotavators for well over 20 years professionally, mainly on my family’s local nursery for cultivating large beds before planting, landscaping jobs for removing lawns or breaking up compact ground, and on the occassional allotment. Even though you can get some very good electric tillers and cordless tillers, and I’ve tried a few of these over the years, you still can’t beat cultivating the soil with the best petrol rotavator. Now, we own a big old orange Howard rotavator pictured below that we’ve had for over 20 years, and we still use it today.
However, these days, you can get some great pieces of kit from companies like Mantis, Hyundai, Honda and The Handy that are much more compact, suitable for larger areas, but just as at home on smaller vegetable patches as smaller gardens.
Something to keep in mind is there is a difference between tillers and rotavators. Tillers such as this The Handy THPMT Petrol Tiller pictured above are much smaller and compact, usually powered by smaller 25 to 45cc 2-stroke engines and ideal for breaking up soft soil or compact soil that you have already turned over with a fork but you need to cultivate the soil to a fine tilth. They are also usually much lighter, maybe 10-15kg and have a working width of up to 30cm (12 inches) and as narrow as 20cm or less. This makes them ideal for working between vegetable rows or small beds and borders. These are ideal for small allotments, raised beds in the garden or working small areas in general. These are a great all-rounder.
When I think of rotavators when compared to tillers, I think of them as being a little bigger, usually powered by a more powerful 4-stroke engine, for example, a 150cc engine like the one on the Hyundai 150cc Petrol Garden rotavator or Honda Rotavator pictured above. They tend to bounce a little less when cultivating the soil as they are heavier, and this extra weight helps keep the tines pushed into the ground as it cultivates the soil. These petrol rotavators usually have wider working widths with more tines. They are excellent for larger areas and more compact soil or overturning lawns. They are great for larger jobs and will turn over even the most demanding compact soil. I also own a Hyundai self-produced mower and Hyundai petrol scarifier, and they have both been incredible pieces of garden machinery. I really do like my Hyundai garden tools, they offer excellent value for money!
Just be careful not to go too small; I often hear gardeners saying they wish they had ordered the larger 4-stroke rotavator the first time around, so choose carefully and think about what you need it for. When used correctly they can make a job done by hand go from a whole day of a job to an hour’s work. Not to mention save your back!
Before I get into the detailed reviews of each rotavator, I want to touch on some of the favourite petrol rotavators quickly. There are two or three that stand out, which I recommend. The first is The Handy THPMT Petrol Tiller, a British brand above. For the price, this is a great piece of kit! This is one of the smaller tillers, and it’s perfect for allotments, cultivating beds and just general cultivating of the soil on your garden. At 15kg, it is not too heavy but still heavy enough to force the steel tines into the ground. If you have compact, hard soil, it may need quickly turning over with a decent garden fork first, as this gives something for the tines to grip into.
Something else I also like about this tiller is that you can remove the tines from each end and use just the two centre tines to cultivate narrow rows between plants. It has a working width of 30cm (12 inches), but you can remove the outside tines, reducing the working width even more. In terms of cultivating depth, it’s about 20cm deep. The trick with this tiller is to run it forward to break up the soil and then pull it backwards to get finer soil, so you go over each run twice. Overall, it’s well worth considering for smaller areas. If you have a larger area to cultivate or want to use it for removing a grass area, go for something bigger with more power.
If you need a bigger rotavator for larger areas or more compact soil, perhaps clay, maybe you have an overgrown lawn to remove? You can’t go wrong with this Hyundai HYT150 150cc 4-stroke petrol rotavator. For the price, this is a great piece of kit.
To give you a comparison, the Mantis 4-Stroke Deluxe Petrol Tiller pictured above is also a good comparable rotavator but is almost twice the price. Don’t get me wrong, Mantis is probably the best, but the Hyundai isn’t far behind, and last time I checked, it was nearly half the price and wider. It has a wider 56cm working width and a cultivating depth of 26cm, which is adjustable so you can start shallow and go over the area again deeper on the second run, which can be useful. You also have the transport wheels, which are needed as this rotavator weighs a hefty 29-30kg, twice as heavy as the Handy THPMT and Matis tillers. Let’s just say it’s a heavy piece of kit, but thats what makes it such an effective rotavator for more demanding jobs.
Another reliable mini petrol rotavator
Petrol Rotavator Reviews
1. The Handy 43cc THPMT Petrol Tiller
The Handy THPMT Petrol Tiller is a mini petrol tiller. It has a 43cc 2-stroke engine, so you do have to fuss a bit mixing the fuel and oil together before you put it in the engine. This is a compact, lightweight tiller coming in at 15kg and is suited for those who have small to medium vegetable and flower beds to look after.
The tilling width of this tiller is a generous 30cm. This is a decent width. It’s not so narrow that you have to be forever making passes on your uncultured land.
The tilling depth is surprisingly deep for a mini cultivator – at 20cm. That’s 50% deeper than the Webb WEPT560MM, one of the heavy-duty rotavators I review. And take note that in this model there are four tines, each with six blades for a total of 24 rotors churning up your soil. That’s more than in some of the larger tillers in this review.
This may seem counterintuitive – why do the same job twice? But you only need to break up the soil that’s clinging together in big lumps before you use the tiller.
- Petrol mini cultivator with 43cc 2-stroke engine.
- Tilling width is 30cm.
- Tilling depth is 20cm.
- Retractable transport wheels at the back.
- Folding handles for ease of storage.
- Weighs 15kg.
- Two-year guarantee.
The Handy THPMT Petrol Tiller is a mini tiller that works well as long as your soil isn’t too lumpy or clay-y. You need to break up the big clumps of soil before you can use this tiller. That said, for a mini tiller, the Handy THPMY has a fairly wide tilling width of 30cm. and a useful tilling depth of 20cm, deeper than some of the more powerful rotavators in this review.
All of the controls are in their standard places on the ergonomic handles. And the handles fold down for storage and transport, without the need for any tools to accomplish this.
I recommend this lightweight and well-designed petrol mini tiller if you just need to cultivate your vegetable and flower beds seasonally.
2. Mantis 7265 4-Stroke Deluxe Petrol Tiller
Another lightweight but extremely reliable model is the Mantis 7265 4-Stroke Deluxe Petrol Tiller that weighs in at 12kgs. This tiller is light but powerful, possessing an efficient 4-stroke 25cc Honda engin/imagee that supports a maximum speed of 200rpm. You can control the speed of the tiller through the throttle which is nice, and also includes the shut-off switch for easy accessibility.
The durable reversible tines have a working width of 23cm making the machine ideal for small gardens. You have control over how deep the tines go by adjusting the working width provided too. The maximum depth the tines can go is 10 inches which is around 25cm, but you can reverse to shallow cultivate at a depth of 2-inches (5cm). So overall you have more flexibility than most models.
You also have the option to adjust the height of the handles to suit your height, again this is something you cannot do with cheaper models. There are three levels of handle height adjustment, and these handles are foldable to create a compact size for storage.
Finally it comes with a 5-year warranty but the tines themselves are actually backed by a lifetime guarantee It comes with a free bottle of Engine Oil, a hardware bag, and a kickstand attachment. All you need to do is spend 30-40 minutes setting it up, add some petrol, the oil and is ready to use.
- Possesses a 4-stroke 25cc Honda engine to power variable speeds.
- Lightweight machine with carrying handle for easy portability.
- Comes with height-adjustable handles that can be folded for storage.
- Offers a working width of 23cm and an adjustable working depth.
- Operates quietly compared to 2-stoke models.
- Accompanied by accessories and a 5-year warranty and lifetime guarantee on the tines.
- It is pricey but your’e paying for quality and reliability.
Those looking for a powerful yet lightweight machine will find the Mantis 7265 4-Stroke Deluxe Petrol Tiller a good choice. This tiller is equipped with a 4-stroke 25cc Honda engine that I find operates relatively silently compared to 2-stroke alternatives. There is something about 2-stroke engines that makes them much noisier than 4-stroke models.
This model supports variable speeds to break into the ground easily, and the serpentine tines are durable; hence they won’t bend or need replacement frequently and there even backed by a lifetime guarantee.
Admittedly, this tiller is costly, but when it comes to reliability and built quality, only Honda comes close and Mantis even use a honda engine. Overall your first impressions might be it’s a little smaller than you might expect. However, you won’t regret buying this machine, its compact while being very powerful and it won’t let you down. You even have the option to buy separate attachments such as a lawn edger, trench digger and some other cleverly designed attachments for gardening. Don’t forget it also includes that 5-year warranty and a lifetime guarantee on the tines.
3. Hyundai HY150 Petrol Garden Tiller
The Hyundai HY150 Petrol Garden Tiller is one of the heavy-duty rotavators in this review. The four-stroke engine is a massive 150cc of power. One of the online reviewers remarks that his first two motorcycles didn’t have this much power. This is the tiller to get if you have a smallholding or an acreage to whip into shape.
And the width and the depth of the tilling match up to this amount of energy. The tilling width is an impressive 56cm, the widest of the models I review. You can make short work of a large area of soil you need to turn with the four tines, each with four angled teeth.
And you decide how far down to dig. The tilling depth is adjustable down to 26cm. Just use the rear depth control rod to make the necessary adjustments.
In fact, everything is conveniently placed on the ergonomic handle. The Start/Stop trigger is on one handle and the speed throttle on the other – you’re in control of all options on this Hyundai rotavator.
Of course, all this power does come at the expense of weight. This is a fairly heavy rotavator, coming in at 30kg. However, when you’re faced with a large field of unturned soil, you’ll be glad that you have this formidable cultivator along with you.
- Petrol garden rotavator with self-propelled Hyundai OHV engine.
- Has 150cc, 4-stroke engine.
- Four rotating tines each have four angled teeth.
- Tilling width is 56cm.
- Tilling depth is adjustable to 26cm.
- Retractable front wheel for easy manoeuvrability between jobs.
- Start/Stop trigger on right handle; throttle on left handle.
- Soft grip holds on handle.
- Three-year domestic warranty.
The Hyundai HY150 Petrol Garden Tiller is just the petrol rotavator that you need if you’re faced with expanses of unturned soil. It has a powerful 4-stroke 150cc engine (more powerful than some scooters!) and a wide tilling width of 56cm. It doesn’t matter if you need to just turn the topsoil or go far down as you can adjust the tilling depth up to (down to) 26cm.
I like that the controls are ergonomically placed on the handles so that you know where to reach for them. You can keep your eyes on where you’re going instead of looking for the throttle or Stop button. With four rotating tines (each with four blades) to churn up the soil, you won’t be overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do.
4. Honda FG205 4-Stroke Petrol Mini Tiller
The Honda FG205 4-Stroke Petrol Mini Tiller is a low-vibration model with a slower speed than most other rotavators, I think this helps cultivate the soil better but it still has all the raw power needed for tough soils.
With a slow speed of 135rpm, the tiller can penetrate all soil types without straining the engine thanks to the reliable honda engine, as many gardeners know, you don’t get much better when it comes to engines than Honda. There reliable, powerful, easy to maintain and start and will often outlast the machine itself if looked after correctly.
The tiller is powered by a 4-stroke OHV GXV50 engine that is easy to start, but what I really like when you compare it to a 2-stroke model, there is no oil to mix so it just makes refuelling so much easier and faster. It also produces fewer emissions and is highly fuel-efficient too. Personally, I prefer 4-stroke engines, I also think there more reliable but they are usually only fitted with premium machines too.
You can control how deep you want the 45cm wide tines to penetrate the soil by maximizing the 26cm working depth. It’s also worth mentioning that is almost twice as wide as our best pick which makes it more suitable for larger plots too and if you’re using it professionally, as you know, time is money in this game, litterally.
Although the machine is a tad heavy ergonomic handles make it easier to steer the machine and I like that it features foldable handles that take up less space during storage and carry handles for easy transportation.
The 24kg model is durable as it is accompanied by an unbeatable 5-year domestic warranty so for all you home gardeners that 5 years of peace of mind. However, for trade use, professional gardeners and landscapers, it only comes with a 1-year commercial warranty but this is pretty standard with most brands.
- Features a low vibration and powerful 4-stroke GXV50 engine.
- Lower tilling speeds of 135rpm so you have more control.
- Offers a wide working width of 45cm for larger plots and a maximum working depth of 26cm.
- Operates rather quietly compared to some other alternative models.
- Comes with foldable handles for easy storage and carry handles.
- Offers good value for money combining reliability and build quality.
- Accompanied by an unbeatable 5-year domestic warranty and 1-year commercial warranty.
- The instruction manual could be better (how many times have I said that).
- No variable speeds.
The Honda FG205 4-Stroke Petrol Mini Tiller is a premium machine that is ideal for both the home gardener and professionals alike. If you’re looking for a high-quality build, reliable machine that is built to last, then this is what you need. It may be expensive but it will never let you down if looked after correctly and will probably be the last rotavator you need.
Personally, I think it’s not too big, so can be used on smaller plots whether that be a small garden border or allotment, but it’s also not to smaller thanks to the wider 45cm cultivating width so its also useful for those who have larger plots to cultivate.
Although the user manual could be better (not uncommon for garden machinery), this mini tiller is pretty straight forward to get up and running and there plenty of Youtube videos. It is a bit heavier than our best pick buts it’s also in a different league and it’s not really fair to compare the two side by side. They’re both good machines but if you looking for reliability and a machine you only buy once, this is the sort of model you need to consider. If I had the budget, it would be between this model by Honda and our next pick by Mantis which is also powered by a Honda engine, that’s going to throw a spanner in the works.
5. Webb WEPT560MM Front Tine Petrol Tiller
The Webb WEPT560MM Front Tine Petrol Tiller Cultivator Rotavator is another heavy-duty rotavator in this review. The four-stroke 161cm engine makes it suitable for medium to large areas of ground that need cultivating.
The width of the tilling path fits in with the power of this cultivator. At 56cm, this is the same width as the Hyundai HY150 Tiller reviewed above. That’s a large swatch of garden to till in one pass.
However, you can’t go as deep with this Webb rotavator as you can with the Hyundai model. The Webb WEPT560MM only lets you rotavate down to 13cm, compared to the 26cm for the Hyundai. As such, the Webb model is best for aerating the soil, digging out weeds, or preparing the soil for adding compost. It won’t work for bringing up deep stones to the surface for manual removal.
But one advantage of this Webb model over the Hyundai one is that the Webb model is self-propelled – you don’t have to push it. Just wheel the tiller to where you want to turn the soil, lower the handlebars, and move the throttle upwards. The turning tines then propel the tiller forwards without any force from you. You just need to keep the rotavator pointed in the right direction.
Another feature that I like is the crop protection guides. These are wheels at both sides of the tiller. These protect whatever is at the side of the tiller’s path from being chopped or churned. They also create a nice, neat edge.
The controls for this unit are in the regular places on the handles. And the handles have soft grips on them for your comfort. You don’t have to hold hard metal. But with the self-propulsion, you won’t be tightly gripping anything.
- Petrol rotavator with 161cc engine.
- Tilling width is 56cm.
- Tilling depth is 13cm.
- Four tines with four blades each.
- Retractable front wheel for ease of movement when not cultivating.
- Start/stop on right handle.
- Speed trigger on left handle.
- Soft rubber grips on handles.
- Crop protection discs.
- Weighs 34kg.
- Two-year guarantee.
If you have a medium to large area to till and don’t need to rotavate deeply, the Webb WEPT560MM Front Tine Petrol Tiller is a good choice. In some ways, it’s like to the Hyundai HY150 model – similar power and width of tilling.
But this Webb model is self-propelled which means that you don’t have to push it. Just guide it in the direction it needs to go to do the work. And the crop protection discs protect any plants to the sides of the area to be cultivated as well as leave a tidy edge.
I recommend the Webb WEPT560MM Front Tine Petrol Tiller if you need to rotavate already existing flower and vegetable beds.
Look for a mini petrol tiller for small plots? – Check out my guide where I reviewed the best mini tillers which include one petrol model by Honda
How to Buy a Petrol Rotavator that’s Suitable for You
When looking at the marketplace, there is usually some confusion between tillers, rotavators, and cultivators. Knowing the difference between these types of machines is essential because you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong model.
A rotavator features rear blades to go deeper into the soil, while cultivators have front blades for light turning of the soil. A tiller that is typically smaller in size features a non-rotating blade that digs through, ploughing the soil. Unlike rotavators and cultivators, tillers rarely spot wheels because they have a lightweight body that is easy to manoeuvre. In the end, though, they all cultivate the soil.
Types of Rotavators
Although this review is specific to petrol rotavators, there is no harm in knowing the other types available. There are three main types of rotavators which include manual, electric, and petrol-powered models.
Electric rotavators are available in cordless and corded forms; it is up to the buyer to choose which is suitable. Cordless models cost more due to the need for sizeable battery packs to provide decent running time. Those who are environmentally conscious tend to select electric rotavators because they pollute the environment less.
Check out our review where we reviewed some of my favourite electric rotavators, usually suitable for small gardens.
Petrol rotavators are the most powerful making them suitable for heavy-duty work. Cords do not limit them; hence they can be used in remote areas where many people find there allotments. They are not as affordable as electric but they are now some great affordable models as the price has come down over the last few years.
They offer unparalleled durability lasting for decades with proper care and maintenance. The best petrol rotavator is not only powerful but fuel-efficient. Some models even come with lifetime guarantees on the tines.
Other considerations to make before purchasing a rotavator
Finding the right model for you is a fairly easy task if you take into account the considerations I outline below:
Type of soil
Different places have different soils, and understanding the soil you are working with can help you pick the right model. Heavier soils need more power to penetrate; thus, heavy-duty models are suitable. Lightweight rotavators can easily break through light soils; hence there is no need to purchase a heavy-duty model.
2-stroke vs. 4-stroke engine
Petrol rotavators mostly feature a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine, and each has its own benefits. In terms of torque at high speeds, 2-stroke engines win; however, 4-stroke engines provide more torque at lower speeds which I think is generally better for cultivating soil.
Notably, 2-stroke engines are quite loud when compared to 4-stroke engines that run much more silently but models with 4 stroke engines are nearly always more expensive but thet also tend to be more reliable and have longer warranties. Personally, I just prefer 4-stroke engines, there also easier to fuel up.
The working width determines how much ground the rotavator can cover at a go. A wider working width will cover more surface area than a narrow width. If you want to work on a large area, then a rotavator with a broad working depth will take a shorter time to work through. An excellent example of a model with a broad width is the Honda FG205 4-Stroke Petrol Mini Tiller. Remember though, narrow models are may be better for smaller plots and storage.
Whether it is lawn care or preparing the allotment for planting season, a rotavator with an adjustable working depth is a much really. You can turn the soil as deep or as shallow as you require. However, it is important to note that not all models come with an adjustable working depth. Always confirm if the feature is available before purchasing the rotavator.
Unless you want to spend hours assembling the rotavator, select one that is easy to assemble. You can determine if the rotavator is easy to assemble by looking at customer reviews. With many rotavators, the common complaint regarding assembly is that the instructions provided are poor.
If you find yourself with a set of inadequate instructions, just look online for videos that simplify assembly or patiently figure it out on your own. Most rotavators are pretty simple to put together.
Rotavators need handles for easy manoeuvrability while working and during transportation. Rotavators with soft grip handles reduce the chances of your hands developing blisters while working for long periods. Another convenient feature is the handles that can be folded for compact storage or can be removed to create a smaller footprint.
When working with blades, a safety switch is vital in avoiding unnecessary accidents. If the blades hit something that they shouldn’t, the safety switch should be located at the handles for easy accessibility to stop the motor from operating. In most cases, certified rotavators like the SwitZer Heavy Duty 6.5 HP Petrol model come with these safety features as a requirement, so be sure to be on the lookout. Also, remember to wear safety glasses and ear protection.
Rotavators with long warranties are preferable because it shows that the manufacturer is confident in the product. A rotavator usually comes with a warranty between 1-5 years or more, depending on the brand. Most cheaper models will only give a 1 year warranty and theres a reason for that, expensve models that are reliable such as those made by Mantus and Honda nearly always include a 5 year warranty.
Our Recommendations When Rotavating
There are a few guidelines available to make your experience using rotavators more effective. These guidelines are not set in stone, but they go a long way in simplifying matters.
- Make the rows as long as possible to save time. This is because making multiple short rows can consume a lot of energy and time.
- Space the rows according to the size of the rotavator to avoid missing out on some sections, which will require re-working.
- Once the soil is cultivated, avoid walking over the soil severally as this will compact it again.
- Do not penetrate the soil too deep as this will result in large pools of water when it rains.
- You can leave cut plant matter that is not destined for the compost in the soil to provide valuable nutrients resulting in fertile soil.
- Avoid planting the same crops more than twice in the same allotment. Each time you rotavate, try and plant different things so that the soil can maintain its fertility.
- After working, dislodge any dirt from the tine/blades to avoid them from becoming blunt and providing a shoddy performance.
The best petrol rotavator is not the most expensive model ever made; it is all about functionality, who is using it and for what. If the rotavator meets the demands of the work that it is meant to do, you are getting value for money. This is why our best pick is also one of the most affordable.
Last update on 2023-11-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API