How to buy the best gas powered rototiller

For many gardeners, there is no more useful implement than a gas powered garden rototiller.

These garden tillers are able to transform portions of your yard in just a few passes and they do so with a minimum of effort on your part.

Different types of gas powered rototiller

There are numerous different sizes and styles of gas powered garden rototillers available these days, from low horsepower units featuring front-tine operation to giant monsters with big engines, counter-rotating tines and separate drive systems.

Although all of these tillers use gasoline engines, many important differences exist among the available models.

Just beginning your garden tiller research? You may want to start with our definitive guide on how to buy the best garden tiller.

The cultivator or mini tillers

At the low end of the spectrum are gas powered mini rototillers, or cultivators, designed for light-duty work. Mantis tillers are typical of this type of machine.

These machines usually come with either 2 cycle or 4 cycle 20 to 50cc engines rated at less than five horsepower. The engine is usually located above the tines.

Notwithstanding this, the tines on these units are classified as front tines and they rotate in a forward direction, pulling the machine forward as it works. These rototillers will typically till a swath between about 8 to 16 inches wide and to depths of 6 to 10 inches.

Units like this are relatively small and lightweight and easily portable. They are typically best suited for loosening dirt and preparing existing garden plots. Although some are capable of some sod busting, they may not be ideal for such purposes if the soil is heavy, highly compacted or rocky or if you have large areas to work. Expect to pay $200 to $600.

Best rototiller cutivator: Mantis

Cultivator or mini rototiller by Mantis

The front tine rototiller

The mid range gas powered garden rototillers feature 4 cycle engines ranging from about eight to twelve horsepower (up to about 220cc). These units usually feature guide wheels but still rely on the tilling tines for propulsion. Front tine rototillers range in tilling width from about 10 to 24 inches.

These models are most often purchased for homeowner use. They are relatively inexpensive but they do require some effort to operate as you need to tilt the tines into the soil as they turn.

It is also quite hard to till at a consistent depth with front tine tillers. And, because the tines turn relatively slowly, they may not be able to produce a fine-tilth seedbed or enable you to dig in composted materials as efficiently as a rear tine model.

Expect to pay $350 to $600 for one of these.

Best front tine rototiller Husqvarna FT900

Front tine rototiller by Husqvarna

The rear tine rototiller

The rear tine rototiller is heavy duty operator amongst garden tillers. An excellent model in this class is a Troy Bilt tiller: the Pro-Line FRT.

The tines on these machines are located at the rear of the unit for better balance and greater tilling power.

Additionally, some of these machines feature counter-rotating tines, which turn in the opposite direction of the drive wheels. This makes it possible for the tiller to generate more digging power.

Rear tine rototillers feature engines between 200 and 340cc and may be up to 26 inches wide.

These tillers are for deep tilling in hard soils. They are good for tilling at consistent depths and for more controlled tilling than front tine models.

Since the times rotate more quickly than on front tine models they are also better for composting.

The larger gas powered rototillers can be very heavy, so it is necessary to make sure you can handle such a machine before you buy one. Also, you should make sure that you have enough storage space in your garage or shed. This is especially important if you opt for a larger, rear tine tiller.

Expect to pay anywhere between $600 to $3,000 for a rear tine tiller.
Best rear tine rototiller Troy Bilt Horse

Rear tine rototiller by Troy Bilt

How do gas powered garden rototillers compare to electric rototillers?

Gas powered tillers are significantly more powerful than electric tillers. There are some jobs that should not be attempted unless you plan to use a gas powered machine. Because of their powerful engines, these machines are able to work much more quickly than their electric counterparts.

Though gas powered tillers are able to do more than electrically powered machines, they have some drawbacks, as well.

First, you must keep gas, or a gas oil mixture on hand to fuel gas tillers. Secondly, gas tillers are much louder and less environmentally friendly than electric machines. Thirdly, gas tillers are generally more expensive than electric units.

If these factors are important to you, you should consider an electrically powered tiller. However, if you need sheer power for the jobs you intend to accomplish, perhaps only a gas powered garden tiller will suffice.

Features to look out for in gas powered garden tillers

If you are purchasing a cultivator rototiller, you should look for a unit that is light and easy to handle. Look out for a good ratio between weight and clearing width/depth.

If you have decided that you require a larger tiller to help you complete your tasks, it is also important to find a unit that will be well-balanced and easy to operate.

Rear tine tillers are undoubtedly better at breaking up new or hard ground and are therefore particularly suitable for landscaper or professional use.

Front tine tillers can do the same job, it just has to be done in stages – a few inches depth at a time.

Counter rotational tines are also more often used by professionals. They do allow deeper aggressive tilling. However, it is hard to till a consistent depth.

Also, on well tilled soil, traction is a problem with types of tillers because the tines and the wheels work against each other. There is also a heightened safety risk with counter rotational tines, since there is more chance of them working back towards the operator’s feet.

Best uses for gas powered garden rototillers

These machines are best for breaking up soil when you are ready to prepare a garden plot. The mini tillers are perfect for preparing existing plots at the beginning of the season, plus they are great for cultivation. Larger tillers are wonderful for sod busting and preparing large areas for planting.

Tips on using your rototiller

Summing up

Gas powered garden tillers are some of the most powerful outdoor power equipment implements available. They are used to keep soil fresh and to turn lawns into fertile plots for planting. Though they are louder, and less environmentally friendly than electric tillers, they are much more powerful. If you are ready to transform part of your property into a garden paradise, a gas powered tiller can save you significant time and effort.


If you are in the market for a good all round, mid-size rear tine tiller, the Troy Bilt tiller, the Pro-Line FRT, is an excellent option. This tiller features the outstanding Honda OHV GX engine and is a tough and effective machine. Read our detailed review of this Troy Bilt tiller here.

The best cultivators/mini-tillers are probably Mantis tillers. Read our full overview of the Mantis tiller range here and our full review of the 2-cycle Mantis rototiller models here.

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