Overwhelmed with weeds? Sick of breaking your back trying digging the garden?
If you want to take away some of the strain of maintaining your garden then a good quality garden tiller can make all the difference.
Garden tillers have come an awfully long way in recent years, with a number of brands becoming household names thanks to their reliability and ease of use. All the same, while there are some fantastic tillers on the market, there are also some real stinkers too that are best avoided.
But where do you even start? In this guide we’re going to look at the best garden tillers, helping you make the right decision first time.
Troy-Bilt Pony ES 250cc Gas Powered Tiller
Troy Bilt have a strong reputation in the garden equipment marketplace, having been established since the 1930’s. Since then they’ve carefully refined their designs with a view to offering the most reliable machinery possible.
The Troy-Bilt Pony ES is a great example of this, and offers a range of handy features that will make your life easier when tilling. To start with there’s the electric push-start feature, which means no more frustration or strain with pull cords trying to get your garden tiller started.
More than that, though, is the first impression of this garden tiller; it’s a complete beast capable of dealing with almost anything you throw at it. It is one of the heaviest tillers featured in this guide – at a hefty 200 pounds – but this should be seen as a pro rather than a con.
This bulk helps to keep the Pony ES tiller sturdy and stable, and allows it to dig down deeply into the earth and easily till even heavily weeded or grassed areas of earth. This is contrast to some lighter models, which can jump around uncontrollably during use and/or may struggle to tackle more serious jobs.
If you want a garden tiller than deal with anything you throw at it then this is the baby for you. With a 250cc engine, the Pony ES has a tilling width of 16 inches and a variable tilling depth of up to 7 inches, perfectly acceptable for most domestic purposes.
Unlike many other garden tillers the Pony ES also benefits from both forward motion and a reverse gear. When you’re busy tilling your garden, turning around with a heavy tiller to head back in the other direction can be fraught with difficulty. The reverse gear on this Troy Bilt model however eliminates much of that hassle, allowing you to easy walk back with your tiller or turn on a hairpin.
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
Mantis 4-Cycle Tiller Cultivator 7940
The Mantis 7940 is one of the most impressive garden tillers on the market. While it benefits from the same Mantis pedigree as the 7924 this particular model has a few surprises up it’s sleeve.
Firstly, this is a 4-cycle model, which therefore means you can do away with the need to mix gas and oil together in the right ratios. Instead, simply fill the tank with plain-old gas and get digging.
For ease, this model even includes a handy kickstand, rather like one might see on a motorcycle, allowing you to steady the machine when not in use. While this is a small difference between the two Mantis models featured here it is just one more step towards being the most practical tiller around.
Despite the addition of a 4-cycle engine this has barely added anything to the overall weight, which clocks in at 24 lbs; only a couple of pounds heavier than its cousin.
This 25cc engine, which is made by Honda, is attached to a finger-controlled throttle, which allows you to speed up or slow down constantly. This simple feature gives you exceptional levels of control when tilling, and means that irrespective of your level of experience you should quickly adapt to using the 7940 tiller with ease.
The engine also affects the tines themselves, allowing you to dig down anywhere from 2” in depth down to an incredible 10” with ease. It offers a tilling width of 9” which is quite standard for garden tillers.
Lastly the handle folds down when not in use so that it takes up minimal space in your garage or shed.
Quite possibly this is one of the very best garden tillers on the market.
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
Mantis 7924 2-Cycle Plus Tiller/Cultivator
Mantis is probably the best-known name in garden tillers, and for good reason. They have a long pedigree and are known for their sturdiness and reliability. Just one indication of the level of manufacturing that goes into Mantis tillers is that they offer a lifetime guarantee on the tines. You’ve got to be pretty sure of your product to offer such a bold promise to your customers.
The Mantis 7924 garden tiller is an undoubtedly impressive piece of kit with a thoroughly “predatory” appearance. It offers a huge level of control in use, with digging depths of anything from 2” just to remove surface-based weeds right down to 10” deep for serious cultivating. This is all powered by a 21cc 2-cycle motor which uses the patented “Fast-Start” technology to get your Mantis running as quickly and easily as possible.
It is important to note that the Mantis 7924 does have quite a narrow tilling width, which depending on your circumstances may be either a benefit or a hindrance. On the one hand digging larger areas may take time with such a small width. On the other hand, this beautifully lightweight tiller (just 20 pounds) is incredibly easy to lift, carry and control even for older individuals, and the narrow tilling width means it can be gently and precisely used around bushes, or running along narrow rows between vegetables.
General reviews from readers of this site have been incredibly positive, with many people pointing to the exceptional build quality, power and reliability of Mantis tillers in general, and this model in particular. It seems that once you’ve tried a Mantis tiller most people are so impressed that they become a Mantis owner for life.
If there is a weakness to the Mantis 7924 garden tiller it is the 2-cycle engine. While this shouldn’t put you off buying this otherwise exceptionally high quality tiller it does mean that you’ll need to add a gas and oil mixture to the tank. While this isn’t the end of the world, it will be a minor frustration for some gardeners, though hopefully won’t be enough to put you off this fantastic little cultivator.
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
Honda FG110 Tiller 4 Stroke 25cc Engine
Honda are known for the reliability of their machinery. I should know; we own a 20+ year old Honda Civic which continues to go from strength to strength with only the most basic of care. Their garden machinery generally follows the same vein, with their tillers being known for their reliability and long lives.
The Honda FG110 tiller is no different, and offers a decent 25cc 4 stroke engine that digs to around 2-3” with ease. It is therefore ideal for breaking up big clumps of earth before planting flowers or vegetables, though isn’t really designed to go too deep or handle too much in the way of resistance.
One real benefit of the Honda FG110 are the removal travel wheels. While this model only weighs 30 pounds anyway, so can be carried easily by many adults, if you’re less physically able the wheels can allow you to easily wheel your tiller around the garden without having to lift it.
Lastly, this is quite a modestly-sized model, and the handles quickly fold down so that it takes up very little space when not in use. This would therefore be an ideal tiller for anyone with minimal storage space available, such as those of us (like me) with only a tiny shed.
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
Earthquake 20015 Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator
In contrast to many of the garden tillers discussed here, the Earthquake 20015 Versa is a heavy duty tiller intended for serious garden work. In evidence of this the Versa offers an incredible 99cc 4-cycle engine that is capable of handling almost any task thrown at it. Owners report that it is able to easily tackle heavy stones and thick mounds of grass without breaking a sweat.
The Earthquake Versa garden tiller has been designed specifically to have the lowest center of gravity possible, but what does this mean in reality? Firstly, it means that the Versa hugs the ground, helping it to be one of the most stable tillers around, and this same property also makes it easy to manoeuvre despite its 85 pound weight.
Further evidence of how serious Earthquake were when they designed the Versa is the variable tilling width – which can vary between 11” for narrow spaces right up to an astonishing 21” to allow tilling of large areas very quickly indeed. Tilling to a depth of 11” in almost any soil type there is no denying that this a serious piece of kit worthy of your consideration.
Lastly the Earthquake 20015 tiller comes with an impressive 5 year warranty, which really helps to illustrate how confident that the manufacturer is about the power and reliability of this tiller.
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
Sun Joe TJ604E Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator
In contrast to all the other garden tillers discussed in this guide, the Sun Joe TJ604E is the only electric tiller featured here. There are of course reasons why most tillers are gas-powered: serious tillers require a serious engine. The TJ604E tiller is therefore more suited to lighter work than many of the competing products discussed here. All the same, for anyone looking for a more modest tool then this model is certainly worth considering.
Powered by an electric cable, it offers a variable tilling width of up to 16”, and has the ability to dig down to 8 inches. Being electric it tends to be much quieter than the gas-powered tillers and of course saves you messing around with gas or dealing with the smell of a combustion engine.
Like many other models, the Sun Joe TJ604E garden tiller folds down for storage so that it takes up minimal space. It’s also very reasonably priced indeed, and with a weight of just 27.1lbs it is light enough for almost any gardener to lug around their yard.
For the occasional light use it would be difficult to beat this tiller for price or practicality. However, for heavier use you would likely do better with one of the gas-powered models discussed here.
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
Troy-Bilt TB146 EC 29cc 4-Cycle Cultivator
In many ways the Troy-Bilt TB146 EC can be seen as the “baby brother” of the Pony garden tiller, being smaller, lighter and offering a folding handle so that it takes up less space in your garage or shed.
It has been redesigned recently, with the latest model being both lighter and slightly smaller than its predecessor.
In comparison to the Pony ES, also produced by Troy Bilt, this is a much, much lighter weight model and weighs in at just 37 pounds.
The TB146 EC garden tiller, being smaller in size, also offers slightly less in terms of tilling capacity.
It features an adjustable tilling width of 6-12 inches, meaning that it is ideal for tilling between rows of corn or beans, but if you have a large area that needs tilling it may not be the most suitable option. The tilling depth is also rather less than its big brother, clocking in at roughly 5 inches in depth.
Of benefit, the Troy-Bilt TB146 tiller offers a 4-cycle engine which means there is no need to mix oil and gas together before use.
While in many ways one might think that this garden tiller would be ideal for the occasional light user, we should point out that this model seems to be mired by reliability issues. Many users report that even after the lightest of use they find that their TB146 won’t start next time. This should be a major concern when you’re spending so much money, so despite the potential benefits of this model we’re unable to recommend it to you.
Our Rating: (3.5 / 5)
Earthquake 12802 MC440 Mini Cultivator
The Earthquake 12802 MC440 refers to itself as “mini cultivator” which is quite a fair claim. It weighs just 32 pounds and offers a variable tilling width of 6” to 10”.
With a four-stroke 40cc engine it is certainly not the most powerful model on the market, and while it will handle turning over reasonably light earth, it can struggle with more serious work, such as tilling heavy clay soil, earth with heavy stones or thick patches of grass. That said, for those lighter jobs it really does have quite an impressive tilling depth of 8” which is considerably deeper than many other more expensive competing models.
It also offers variable speed digging, which often isn’t found in garden tillers, which can make this model rather easier to control than some other “fixed speed” models.
The Earthquake 12802 garden tiller also prides itself on its air filtration system, designed to keep dirt out of the engine housing, and subsequently extended the engine life. That would be a great idea if discussion forums weren’t full of stories from owners who struggle to get their Earthquake 12802 started in the first place.
While it doesn’t affect every unit, sadly it seems that this garden tiller is more prone than most other models to suffer from issues in this regard. In response to these starting issues we have had to downgrade an otherwise quite nice little garden tiller.
Our Rating: (3 / 5)
Features to Look for in the Best Garden Tillers
One of the problems when buying a garden tiller is trying to figure out what features really matter. After all, what should you be looking for when perusing the wide selection of tillers currently on the market? In this section we’ll therefore help to shortcut your search for the best garden tiller for your circumstances.
Due to the power required from garden tillers the vast majority of models on the market are gas-powered. To start them, many require you to pull a starting cord just like many gas-powered lawn mowers. While this is no issue for many people, if you are less able-bodied there are a handful of models that offer an “electric start” option. Simply press the button to start the engine and off you go.
Each garden tiller is powered by a motor, but of course not all motors are created equal. In the garden tiller reviews included in this guide you’ll find a wide range of different engine types.
Generally speaking engines with a higher cubic capacity are capable of producing more power. This means that if your earth is particularly stony or rocky, or you plan to use your garden tiller to dig up thick grass or weeds, then selecting a model with a higher CC engine is likely to be beneficial.
2 Cycle versus 4 Cycle Engines
One simple division when it comes to garden tillers is those that have 2 cycle (or 2 stroke) engines versus those with a 4 cycle (or 4 stroke) motor. So what – if anything – is the difference?
Let’s start with 2 cycle engines. Such engines tend to be cheaper to produce and lighter in weight, which can make for a more practical option in the garden. The downsides of a 2 cycle engine are two-fold. Firstly you’ll need to mix the gas that you put into the fuel tank with the right oil – and at the correct ratio. For some people this can be pretty inconvenient.
Secondly, 2 cycle engines generally won’t produce as much power as their bigger cousins with the 4 cycle engines. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind the impracticality, therefore, a 2 cycle engine should be perfectly acceptable.
If you’re looking for a “meatier” tool with a higher power output then you might be better to select a 4 cycle model. While these can be heavier and slightly more expensive to buy, you can fill the gas tank up with no mixing of oil being required. Additionally the power produced by such a tool can make them ideal for tougher jobs like tilling through grass or earth that has plenty of stones in it.
The weight of your tiller is of little importance when it is in use; the spinning tines mean that your cultivator will propel itself forward with little or no effort from you. Where weight does become a consideration is when you need to transport your tiller from the shed or garage to the area of your yard in which you’ll be working. If you’re of a slighter build, therefore, you may want to consider a slightly lighter model.
Tilling Width and Depth
Each garden tiller has a tilling width associated with it, though this is flexible in many models. Think about exactly how you’re planning to use your tiller before you decide on the best option for your needs. For example, a large tilling width can speed up the cultivation process when working on large pieces of land.
In contrast, a smaller tilling width can be tremendously useful for fitting into smaller spaces – such as when tilling between rows of vegetables. So consider how you plan to use your tiller and make a decision based on this.
The tilling depth is equally important. All garden tillers included in this guide will happily till the top few inches of soil in your yard, but some are able and willing to dig much deeper.
For people who are looking to properly dig over their soil ready for planting deep-rooted fruits, vegetables or flowers this can be particularly handy. After all, loosening compacted soil up to 30cm down can really help your corn, carrots or squash to get the very best start in life.
A folding handle might not sound like the most exciting feature to find on a garden tiller, but the reality is that they can make storing your tiller much easier. Garden tillers are often quite big and bulky objects that can take up a surprising amount of space in your shed or garage.
Consequently, selecting a model in which the handle folds down can mean that your tiller takes up much less space.
As we have seen, there are a huge number of different garden tillers on the market, but which is best? For the serious gardener you would struggle to do much better than the Troy-Bilt Pony ES, though of course you will pay for this pedigree. For the average garden user, however, it is likely that the Mantis tillers are going to be your best bet, with the Mantis 7940 arguably taking the award for best garden tiller.