Last updated on July 9th, 2021
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Don’t bother turning your garden soil by hand to prepare it for planting – use a powered rotavator instead to save you time and effort. We look at the best of the electric and petrol powered rotavators (aka tillers) and list each one’s pros and cons. We go into more details about their individual features and give our recommendation about who and where they’re best suited for. Our Buyer’s Guide and our FAQ section both give advice about how to choose and use the ideal rotavator for you.
Best Petrol Rotavator
Looking for just petrol rotavators? – Check out our review of the 5 best petrol rotavators
Top 8 best rotavators that we review in this guide
- T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator – BEST PICK
- BMC 1400 Watt Electric Tiller – RUNNER-UP
- Mantis 4-Stroke Petrol Deluxe Tiller – BEST PETROL PICK
- The Handy Electric Garden Tiller
- Hyundai 4-stroke Petrol Rotavator
- Honda F220 Garden Tiller
- VonHaus Electric 1400w Tiller
- TACKLIFE Electric Tiller, 1500W Rotavator
Top 8 Best Rotavators
1. T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator
The T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator is powered by a 2-stroke, 3HP engine, with all its advantages and disadvantages compared to the 4-stroke petrol models we review. This T-Mech model gives an impressive performance of 9,000rpm, which is much faster than the other petrol (4-stroke) models. But you do have to fuss with the oil and petrol needing to be mixed. To help, you receive a fuel mixing bottle and a funnel with your purchase so it’s easy enough for those who have never done it before.
This T-Mech tiller weighs just 17kg, which is closer to the average weight of an electric rotavator than to the weight of other petrol models. Even with this lighter weight unit, there are two rear wheels for easily pulling it around the garden when you’re not using it.
The cultivating width is also on a smaller scale at 20cm, compared to a usual width of somewhere around 30cm. This makes this T-Mech model suitable for those who have narrow flower and vegetable beds or those who don’t mind making a couple of passes. The tilling depth is also shallower than usual at 15cm.
Many people buy their rotavator and then don’t bother to splash out on proper safety equipment. We don’t recommend this! But this T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator comes with CE-certified protective wear of leggings, glasses and ear protectors. Be sure to use these when you operate this tiller – after all, that’s the only effort you have to put in to be safe.
- Petrol rotavator with 3HP 52cc 2-stroke engine for small to medium gardens and allotments.
- Includes tool kit, funnel and fuel mixing bottle.
- Includes CPE certified safety clothing of leg guards, safety glasses and ear protectors.
- Four tines each have four steel blades.
- Working width is 20cm and tilling depth is 15cm.
- Two wheels for easy mobility.
- Weighs 17kg
The T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator is our Best Pick in this review. This petrol rotavator is just the right size and power for the average domestic garden. The free stuff with your purchase makes it easy for you to deal with the 2-stroke engine and also to be safe when operating this tiller. If your looking for something with power but is also not to large, this is a great model to consider.
2. BMC 1400 Watt Electric Tiller
The BMC Electric Garden Tiller Cultivator 1400w is a heavy duty tiller than handles most types of soil. Its six steel tines are strong and sharp and use the power from the engine efficiently. As well as cultivating your soil, this model digs small holes for you, so you don’t have to do manual labour even for transplanting saplings or potted plants.
Safety is front and centre with this BMC rotavator. The on/off switch has a safety feature so kids can’t easily turn it on. There’s an automatic overheat protection element that kicks in if the tiller becomes blocked or hung up on a large stone and just stands there, churning away. And just so you don’t mark up your garden unintentionally when you move your tiller from place to place, the two rear wheels flip down so you can wheel it around safely.
The tilling width is a generous 40cm, though the sales blurb gives a range of 16cm to 40cm. We were unable to track down from the manufacturer’s information how this is achieved, but some other brands of tiller let you remove the outside tines and just use the inside ones for a narrower width. The tilling depth is a fairly standard 22cm.
- Electric rotavator with heavy duty 1400W motor.
- Six steel tines each with four blades.
- Working width is 40cm, and working depth is 22cm.
- Automatic overheat protection kicks in if the tiller becomes blocked.
- Safety on/off switch.
- Foldable handles for compact storage.
- Ability to dig small holes for planting saplings.
- Power cable is the standard 10m length.
- Two rear wheels for wheeling the unit around when it’s not in use.
- Weighs 22kg.
The BMC Electric Garden Tiller Cultivator 1400w is a powerful electric rotavator with a choice of two working widths for those who have a variety of soil areas to cultivate. We chose this as our Runner-up Best Rotavator for its power and its affordability for those who are just starting out in this field. It’s also very low maintenance when compared to petrol alternatives.
Look for a mini tiller for small gardens? Check my review of the best mini tillers
3. Mantis 4-Stroke Petrol Deluxe Tiller
Best Petrol Pick
The Mantis Deluxe 4-Stroke Tiller/Cultivator is one of four excellent models, which are manufactured by Mantis, a renowned company for quality garden machines. This model is powered by a 25cc Honda 4-stoke engine and produces plenty of reliable power for turning over even the most compact soils, including clay.
All models from this manufacturer have the Mantis patented serpentine tines that are virtually unbreakable. They even come with a lifetime guarantee again breakages for your peace of mind. They spin at up to 200 RPM which is twice the speed of most other tillers on the market. It will easily till to a depth of 25cm, at a width of 22.5cm, creating a very rich loamy soil.
Other features include a trigger-style throttle for a more precise and easier to control machine and a solid worm gear system transmission. This rotavator is engineered for controlled power and maximum torque.
An extra feature in this deluxe model are the adjustable height, ergonomic handles. Gardeners of all heights can use this tiller in comfort and with fatigue-free control. The rotavator is lightweight at only 12kg and has a front handle, making it easy to move, carry around and transport. The quick-release folding handles also make it easy to store and it does not take up too much space.
One thing we do like about all Mantis tillers is that you can get attachments, purchased separately. Their attachments include lawn aerators, a plough blade for making furrows, a border edger, dethatcher, planter for digging planting holes or trenches and even an attachment for turning your tiller into a crevice cleaner for cleaning weeds out of cracks in patios.
- Petrol rotavator powered by a high-quality Honda 25cc 4-stroke engine.
- Patented Mantis tines come with a lifetime guarantee that covers breakage.
- The working width is 22.5cm and depth is 25cm.
- Precise control through trigger-style throttle and transmission system.
- Handles are height adjustable and ergonomically designed.
- Optional attachments for many other garden tasks.
- Weighs 12g.
Without doubt, Mantis produce some of the best garden machinery available and their tillers are up there with the very best models, which is what helped the Mantis 4-Stroke Petrol Deluxe Tiller win our Best Petrol Pick.
If you want to invest in a quality petrol-powered tiller that’s convertible to many other powered garden tools, then the Mantis 4-Stroke Petrol Deluxe Tiller is definitely worth a long look.
4. The Handy Electric Tiller
The Handy produce some good garden machinery and this Handy Electric Tiller model really does offer value for money. It’s an excellent rotavator for small gardens and allotments, and is a great starter model for those new to this mode of gardening.
This little machine is powered by electricity and is ready to go within a few minutes after you receive it. It’s mostly maintenance free except for giving it a good brush off after use.
The tines are powered by a powerful 800-watt motor and till to a depth of 20cm with a width of 30cm. This narrower width makes it suitable for getting into smaller spaces and in between plants and down rows. Just make sure that you remove any large stones from this rotavator’s path as they can flick up and hit the plastic cover and damage it.
This model comes with a 10-meter cable giving you plenty of reach which you can increase with an extension lead if needed. As this is one of the smaller models we review, it’s not designed for extended or very frequent use.
- Electric rotavator with a 800W motor.
- Working width is 30cm with a 20cm depth.
- Power cord is 10m long.
- For small to medium gardens.
- Foldable handles for storage and transport.
- One-year guarantee.
The Handy Electric Tiller is a compact model that’s suitable for small to medium gardens and does it’s job well, all at an affordable price. We recommend it as a great starter rotavator or for those who only need to till their flower beds at the start and end of the growing season.
5. Hyundai 139cc 4-Stroke Petrol Rotavator
The Hyundai 139cc 4-Stroke Petrol Rotavator is an affordable petrol rotavator built to Hyundai’s usual high standards. The heavy-duty gearbox efficiently translates all that power down into the tines.
The reliable engine powers four tines that will cultivate a width of 37cm, which is wider than most other tillers. The controls for the speed and gears of this tiller are literally at your fingertips. There’s also a control for a choice of three working depths, again a feature that most other rotavators don’t offer. Don’t worry about having hard and compacted soil, this rotavator handles that with ease.
At 31kg in weight, this is about standard for a petrol model and it’s also bulky – that powerful engine does add weight to the unit. But don’t worry about having to push this tiller along – it’s self-propelled so all you do is walk behind and gently guide it. The wheel is there for transporting the tiller and you fold it up when you’re actually doing the work.
By unbolting the handle, you reduce this tiller down to a very compact size for storing in a small space and putting into the trunk of your car for transporting it.
- Petrol rotavator with a powerful Hyundai 139cc 4-stroke engine.
- Working width of a wide 37cm and a choice of three working depths (unspecified).
- Fingertip controls for speed and gears.
- Self-propelled so needs guidance only.
- Tines able to penetrate hard and compacted soil.
- Handle unbolts for compact storage and transport.
- Weighs 31kg.
- Standard three-year Hyundai warranty.
The Hyundai 139cc 4-Stroke Petrol Rotavator is a heavy duty tiller with a wide working width and a choice of working depths that makes it great for those who have allotments or large gardens with various rotavator needs.
6. Honda F220 Garden Tiller
The Honda F220 Garden Tiller is powered by a powerful GXV57 4-stroke 57.3cc engine that is both fuel-efficient and durable for the most demanding jobs for both professional and domestic use.
The engine powers the tines that penetrate different types of soil with ease, even the most hardened areas. The tiller has a fairly lightweight design in petrol rotavator terms, weighing around 30kg, and therefore it’s fairly easy to manoeuvre and transport from job to job if needed. The wheel at the front is for moving the tiller when you’re not using it.
This model possesses a maximum tilling width of 54.5cm which covers more ground in one lap compared to the average models in the market that tend to be a little narrower. What’s interesting is that you can remove the outer tines on each side if you need to till a narrower flower bed that’s 30cm wide. And you can also adjust the working depth, though the manufacturer’s website doesn’t state what range of depths you can go to.
The Y-handle is comfortable to use as it also height adjustable. But we really like that the handle swings left or right, letting you till the soil and walk to the left or right so as not to trample the newly tilled soil. The handle is foldable for easy storage and transportation too.
This garden tiller comes with a two-year domestic warranty.
- Petrol rotavator with an efficient Honda 4-stroke 57.3cc engine.
- Tilling widths of 54.5cm and 30cm; range of (unknown) working depths.
- Handle is Y-shaped and swings to either side.
- Foldable handle for compact storage.
- Weighs 30kg, standard for a petrol tiller.
- Two-year domestic warranty.
The Honda F220 Garden Tiller is a reliable heavy-duty petrol rotavator that gives you a choice of working widths (two) and working depths (unknown). We recommend this model for those who have a variety of soil types and conditions to turn over.
7. VonHaus Electric 1400W Tiller
The VonHaus Electric 1400W Tiller is one of the most powerful electric rotavators in our review with 1400W of power. It’s at the other end of the spectrum from our Best Pick and works well in larger gardens. And it’s also affordable.
The more powerful motor also adds some weight to this model, ending up at 11kg, which is still lighter than petrol models. But the designers have added two rear wheels to this Vonhaus unit which make it easy to push and to guide this rotavator. If you don’t want to use the wheel feature, just raise them up and use the tiller without them.
They’ve also included safety features for this tiller, which include an electric brake to stop the machine immediately, and an overload protection which also shuts down the unit in case it’s just standing there churning the soil.
To go with the extra power is a wide working width of 40cm which decreases the number of passes you have to make across your lawn area and makes it easier to turn over your wide vegetable beds. The working depth of 22cm is just a little deeper than the standard 20cm.
- Electric rotavator with 1400W motor.
- Two wheels in the rear for ease of guiding the machine.
- Power cable is the standard 10m long.
- Working width is 40cm and tilling depth is 22cm.
- Six blades that are made from durable steel.
- Safety features include overload protection and electric brake.
- Ergonomic handles fold down for compact storage and transportation.
- Some assembly required.
- Weighs 11kg.
If you have a lot of tilling to do and need a little more power in your electric rotavator, then the budget-friendly VonHaus Electric 1400W Tiller is a great choice.
8. TACKLIFE 1500W Electric Tiller Rotavator
The TACKLIFE Electric Tiller, 1500W Rotavator is a powerful machine with an impressive working width of 32 cm to 45cm. It churns up your soil with six manganese tines which you can reduce down to four, without having to use tools, to achieve the narrower width. There’s no problem using this model between rows of flowers in your beds and then for your wide open vegetable garden. The cultivating depth is the usual 20cm.
Safety is considered in this model in two ways in particular. There’s a safety button to prevent accidental or child-directed turning on of the tiller. The electric brake lets you stop the tiller instantly if it becomes stuck in wet soil or roots become entwined in the tines. The manufacturer instructs the buyer to use this tiller by dragging it backwards to ensure safety and to stop the unit bouncing around. This is not something that we encountered on the other models in this review, so we recommend that you pay attention to this.
- Electric rotavator with 1500W of power, the most powerful in our review.
- Working width is 32cm to 45cm and the tilling depth is 20cm.
- Foldable handle for ease of storage and transportation.
- Six manganese steel tines tines can be reduced to four tines without using tools.
- Safety button for starting and brake for stopping are essential safety features.
- Use tiller by dragging backwards.
- Transportation wheels adjust to two positions.
- Weighs 10.2kg.
The TACKLIFE Electric Tiller, 1500W Rotavator produces the most power of all the electric tillers in our review. Its adjustable working width makes it a gift for those who can’t decide which cultivating width they need in their garden.
With many rotavators available, it can be confusing when trying to decide which model is best for you. The main differences between most models are the size (tilling depth & width) and how it is powered (petrol or electric). And, of course, the price.
How to use a tiller
The first thing you need to put some serious thought into is what size rotavator you will need to invest in. This mostly depends on what you intend to use it most for. Most gardeners really need a medium size machine – good for getting into smaller areas but large enough to rotavate larger sized beds. Our best pick is actually perfect for this situation. If you rotavate small beds and borders between plants, you will only need one of the smallest models, whereas if you have a large allotment or garden you will probably need a larger, more robust model with a wider cultivating width.
Or , select one of the models we review that offers both a narrow and a wide width. They usually accomplish this by removing the outer set of tines.
Electric vs Petrol
The most popular rotavators are powered by electricity and are usually the number one choice for home use and smaller allotments. They are generally much cheaper than their petrol counterparts and still do a great job at cultivating the soil.
Most electric models are lightweight. This may be of importance especially for gardeners who are not strong enough to lift some heavier petrol models which can weigh in excess of 30kg. Electric tillers also require less maintenance, no oil changes, refuelling, changing of spark plugs or servicing. They are also much quieter, making them less intrusive to use in home gardens.
Maybe a petrol model is more suitable – Petrol models do have their own advantages. Most dedicated gardeners, specifically allotment gardeners, often choose a petrol rotavator over an electric model.
The main advantage is that they are more portable so that ou can use them where there is no access to electricity which is often the case on allotments or in very large gardens. They are usually more powerful and better for cultivating more compact virgin soil. To till large areas efficiently, you may need a larger rotavator which usually means a petrol model
Some rotavators, which includes all Mantis tillers, have attachments for you to buy separately. The attachments include lawn aerators, a plough blade for making furrows, border edger, a planter for digging planting holes or trenches, a dethatcher, and even an attachment for turning your tiller into a crevice cleaner for cleaning weeds out of cracks in patios areas.
If you’re attracted by this feature, don’t forget to also cost out the total price of purchasing all these tools on their own and compare to the multi-tool.
Warranties & Guarantees
Are these important to you? If you purchase an expensive machine then they should be, and most rotavators come with some sort of warranty. Most models include at least one or two years warranty, with the exception of very cheap models. All Mantis tillers come with a five-years warranty for the whole machine and a lifetime guarantee on the tines for breakages for extra peace of mind.
How deep does a rotavator dig?
This will depend on the model that you choose to purchase. There are models that achieve around 5cm and others go deeper than 40cm. Depending on what you want to plant, make sure the rotavator’s tilling depth is adequate.
Should I remove grass before tilling?
Yes, it is advisable to remove the grass before tilling. By removing the grass you make the tines move more smoothly and you avoid the regrowth of the grass later on. If you need the grass to add nutrients to the soil, just collect the grass and create a compost that you can use later.
Should I rotavate before laying turf?
It is a good idea to rotavate before laying turf. This allows you to remove any rubble, stones and other forms of dirt that may obstruct a perfect turf.
Why do you rotavate a garden?
Rotavating a garden reduces soil compaction and it allows the soil to be aerated. Aerated soil receives water well and allows nutrients to get to the roots of plants. Rotavating a garden also allows the gardener to remove unwanted plant material like thatch and weeds from the surface of the soil.
Which is better, a front or rear tine tiller?
This depends on the size of the allotment. Front tine tillers are easier to manage on small allotments and they generally cost less than rear tine tillers. Rear tine tillers are more suited for larger and more open areas. They are relatively larger and may have more features to work with making them more expensive.
You have enough garden tasks to do by hand, so make the most of a powered rotavator to turn over your soil at the beginning and end of the growing season. Whether you choose an electric or petrol model for your small or large garden, all the products we review are well received for their quality and their features. Our Best Petrol Pick even has optional attachments that turn in into a multi-functional garden tool for many of the essential lawn care chores.
Our Best Pick is the T-Mech 52cc Garden Rotavator. This is petrol rotavator that is lightweight and powerful, and has just the right features for an average domestic garden.
Our Runner-up selection is the BMC Electric Garden Tiller Cultivator 1400W. This affordable electric tiller to a great choice to start out with and gives you a choice of a narrow and wider working width.
Our Best Petrol Pick is the Mantis 4-Stroke Petrol Deluxe Tiller. This investment piece of garden equipment handles any soil type, and transforms into many other types of power lawn care tool when you swap in the optional attachments.
Last update on 2021-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API