Healthy and loose soil is an unquestionable necessity in any garden. Unfortunately, transforming hard, compacted soil into the growing environment that plants crave can require a lot of manual effort—especially if it’s a brand-new garden plot that’s never been graced by a gardener’s loving touch. That is, unless you use a rototiller.
A rototiller or garden tiller uses a series of blades to loosen and aerate hard soil, allowing for proper drainage to keep the soil moist and plants hydrated. These garden tools also create a favorable environment for symbiotic organisms like beneficial bacteria and worms.
Unlike a garden cultivator, a tiller “breaks ground.” That is, it digs deep into soil that the gardener’s hands have never worked to prepare a new or neglected garden for planting. Powered tillers can often serve in place of a cultivator for seasonal soil preparation, for mixing in soil amendments, like fertilizer, and for weed control.
To get the benefits of these versatile gardening tools, find out how to choose the best electric garden tiller for your gardening needs, then explore some of the top-performing units below.
- BEST OVERALL: Sun Joe TJ602E 12-Inch 8-Amp Electric Garden Tiller
- RUNNER UP: Greenworks 8 Amp 10-Inch Corded Tiller, 27072
- BEST BUDGET: Sun Joe TJ603E 6-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller
- BEST CORDLESS: Greenworks 40V 10 Inch Cordless Cultivator
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Sun Joe TJ600E Joe 14-Inch 6.5 Amp Electric Tiller
- BEST MINI: Black+Decker 20V Max Tiller (LGC120)
- BEST CULTIVATOR: Sun Joe TJ599E Aardvark 2.5-Amp Electric
- HONORABLE MENTION: Earthwise TC70025 7.5-Inch 2.5-Amp Corded Electric
- ALSO CONSIDER: LawnMaster TE10116M Corded Electric Tiller
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Electric Tiller
There’s no one-size-fits-all garden tiller for every type of garden. Several factors may impact the overall performance of an electric tiller. A tiller’s size, power and speed capabilities, power source, and ease of use, among other factors, play a big part in how well it operates in certain conditions. Keep the following considerations in mind when choosing from the best electric tillers.
Corded vs. Cordless
Electric powered tillers come in both corded and cordless (battery-powered) models. The more common corded tillers beat their battery-powered counterparts in price and power. They also offer virtually unlimited run time unlike cordless tillers whose run times depend on their battery capacity. But, of course, corded tillers only cover as much ground as the power cord can reach, and dragging a cumbersome electrical cord around the work space can be, well, a drag.
To address these limitations, retention hooks on corded tillers keep the cord away from the tiller’s wheels and blades. Still, cordless tillers offer unbeatable portability and maneuverability, despite their shorter run times, reduced power and higher price tags. A cordless tiller usually runs about 30 to 60 minutes, but gardeners can extend that time with a few spare batteries.
On a garden tiller, a set of blades, or rotating tines, churns the soil. While tillers may include two, four, or six individual tines, most tillers come with four tines, either at the rear of the tool, on the front, or in the center, directly under the motor.
- Rear-tine tillers usually pack the most power and can cut deep into soil. This makes them the ideal choice for heavier and more compacted soils.
- Front-tine tillers, the most common type of tiller, bring less power than rear-tine tillers, but that reduction in power tends to make them easier to push and maneuver.
- Mid-tine tillers offer a combination of the power of a rear-tine tiller and the ease of use of a front-tine tiller, which makes them a popular general-purpose option. However, mid-tine electric tillers are rare.
A tiller’s size refers to the cutting tines’ width and their depth of penetration into the ground. As a general rule, the wider the tiller, the fewer passes you’ll need to make to till the desired area of soil. The size of the tines determines the maximum depth a tiller can penetrate into the soil. Larger tines go deeper into the soil, but make the gardening tool more difficult to maneuver.
The width of electric tillers’ cutting tines typically runs between 6 and 20 inches. Some tillers include adjustable tines to manipulate the width, which makes the tiller more versatile. Although wider tillers cover more ground, the bulkier size makes them more difficult to maneuver in small and narrow spaces. Narrower tillers do great work in raised beds and between rows of plants.
An electric tiller’s maximum working depth often falls between 6 and 8 inches, with greater depths more suitable for breaking ground. Shallower depths help with seasonal soil maintenance and garden preparation in ground that has been previously tilled to greater depths.
Power and Speed
An electric tiller’s power is measured in amps for corded tillers and volts for cordless ones. Corded tillers usually have power ratings between 2.5 and 14 amps, and cordless tillers usually carry ratings of 20 or 40 volts. Naturally, larger tillers require more power to accommodate the greater demand.
An electric tiller’s speed is determined by how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the tines make when tilling the soil. Tines churn the soil fastest and most effectively at higher RPMs. An electric tiller’s tines can turn at rates of 150 to 400 RPM, but 150 usually isn’t enough. Most soil types need at least 180 RPM to reap the full benefits of tilling.
Ease of Use
Naturally, a larger and heavier tiller will be more difficult and cumbersome to use than a smaller and lighter tiller. Larger tillers cover more ground more quickly, but they require more effort on the part of the gardener to do so. With a tiller with adjustable tines, gardeners can find the ideal middle ground between performance and ease of use.
Many of the best electric tillers include sturdy wheels that help them move with greater ease over hard surfaces. They may also include ergonomic handles to make extended use more comfortable. Some tillers also feature adjustable handles that allow users of various heights to extend or retract the handles to the most comfortable length. Collapsible handles make the tiller easier to store when not in use.
Any piece of equipment with exposed, fast-spinning blades requires special safety considerations. To minimize the risk of injury, look for an electric tiller with safety features, including a push-button motor start, and metal guards behind the tines, which prevent rocks and other potential projectiles from hitting the user.
Keep the following safety tips in mind when preparing the area for tilling and operating the tool:
- Read the provided user manual to become familiar with all the controls and operating procedures before using the tiller for the first time.
- Make sure you know how to quickly shut the motor off in case of an emergency.
- Wear the appropriate safety gear when operating a tiller, including safety glasses, proper footwear (closed-toe and nonslip), long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and earplugs.
- Before tilling the soil, remove stones, sticks, and other foreign objects from its path.
- Be mindful of any gas, electric, or water lines that might be buried in the area to avoid damaging them.
Our Top Picks
This list of tools features some of the best electric tiller models on the market in various categories. Together, these curated picks meet practically any gardener’s tilling needs.
Sun Joe’s corded electric tiller employs an 8-amp motor that rotates its four durable steel tines at 300 RPM for maximum performance. This 12-inch tiller digs up to 8 inches into the soil. Gardeners can adjust the height of the three-position adjustable wheels to till at shallower depths. The two rugged wheels facilitate movement from garden to garage or shed.
A collapsible handle makes this tiller easy to store when not in use. Considering the size, power, and price, this tiller provides a good value that can accommodate most any gardener’s budget.
An 8-amp motor powers the four rotating tines on this corded electric tiller from Greenworks. This versatile tiller holds its own on both wide and open ground and in more confined spaces. Adjustable width settings run from 8.5 to 10 inches, and the depth reaches up to 5 inches. These dimensions work for many gardens, but they do come in a little lower than comparably priced products.
As a finishing touch, Greenworks crafted a cushioned collapsible handle for maximum comfort when the tiller is in use and easy storage when it’s not.
A tiller can slice a big piece from a gardener’s budget. But, Sun Joe’s 6-inch, 12-amp tiller provides an affordable way to add this tool to a gardening arsenal.
This tiller provides ample power at a significantly lower price than that of other garden tillers.
With a powerful 12-amp electric motor and six rotating tines, it digs into soil up to 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. Adjustable rear wheels help make transport from shed to garden easy. A foldable handle brings the tiller down to a more compact size for storage.
While corded tillers offer plenty of advantages, the cord can get in the way during operation and limit gardeners who need to work 100 feet or more from an electrical outlet. Greenworks’ cordless tiller cultivator makes a great alternative that’s just as environmentally friendly and easy to operate as its corded counterparts.
A 40-volt rechargeable lithium battery powers four tines that cultivate to a depth of 5 inches and a max width of 10 inches. At just 21 pounds, its smaller size and lighter weight make it a great pick for smaller gardens. The tiller will run for up to 25 minutes on a single charge and takes about an hour to recharge.
Sun Joe has put out one of the lightest electric tillers on the market. At under 19 pounds, this little guy makes a solid choice for those who may struggle with larger, heavier tillers.
Despite its lighter weight, this tiller’s 6.5-amp motor packs enough power to operate four tines and till a path up to 14 inches wide and 7 inches deep. Two wide-set ergonomic handles make it easier to operate the tiller while a handy clip prevents the cord from tangling in the tines. Two knobs enable the user to fold the handles down for easier storage when the day’s gardening is done.
With its small profile and user-friendly design, this compact tiller from Black+Decker makes a great tool for a small garden or for tilling around plants. A 20-volt battery powers small sets of tines that oscillate to loosen soil or chop up weeds. It comes with two batteries, each of which till up to 325 square feet on a single charge. The included charger recharges the battery in about 8 hours.
A telescoping pole adjusts the length of the handle, whose large size allows for a firm and comfortable grip while tilling. At just 8 pounds, this tiller is easier to maneuver than full-size models.
Sun Joe’s corded electric tiller cultivator employs a 2.5-amp motor to cultivate a path 6.3 inches wide and 6 inches deep. While its smaller size and lower power rating serve best for cultivating, this tool also capably tills small sections of soil.
A telescoping shaft adjusts the length of the tiller’s ergonomic handle for comfortable operation. Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t include wheels, but the lightweight body makes it easy to handle with minimal effort.
For tilling small sections of soil without breaking the bank, Earthwise’s corded electric tiller offers an incredible value that can satisfy practically any gardener’s budget. This tiller is equipped with a 2.5-amp motor that propels its four tines at 280 RPM at a depth of 6 inches and a tilling width of 7.5 inches.
It’s lightweight and equipped with an ergonomic handle for comfortable and extended use with minimal fatigue. The disadvantages are that this tiller is likely too small and underpowered for tilling large sections of soil, and it doesn’t include wheels that would make it easier to use.
With its comparatively lightweight and compact design, this electric tiller works well in smaller gardens that don’t demand the power and heft of larger, more expensive tillers. The 10-amp LawnMaster weighs just 26 pounds and comes equipped with six tines that can cut 16 inches wide and up to 9 inches deep. Three wheel settings make for smooth transport, while two ergonomic handles ensure a more comfortable grip.
LawnMaster’s tiller also won’t take up much space in the shed or garage, thanks to four quick-release knobs that allow the user to quickly fold up the tiller’s handle for storage.
FAQs About Your New Electric Tiller
Still have questions about electric tillers? Discover answers to several of the most frequently asked questions below.
Q. What is the difference between a tiller and a cultivator?
Cultivators, usually smaller than tillers, are primarily designed to mix and loosen shallow sections of soil that have been tilled previously. Tillers, on the other hand, break up larger sections of harder soil. Tillers aid in creating new garden beds, while cultivators help prepare existing beds for planting.
Q. What is a tiller’s tilling capacity?
The tilling capacity of an electric garden tiller refers to how deep and wide it can till. It’s a measure of the tiller’s width, depth, and power rating.
Q. Can you use a tiller to remove grass?
A tiller can remove grass by freeing the roots from the soil and breaking large sections of sod into smaller chunks. Unfortunately, you’ll still probably have to remove the smaller chunks with a rake or a shovel.
Q. Do I push or pull a tiller?
For optimal ease of use, push smaller, manually operated tillers, and pull larger tillers behind tractors, mowers, and ATVs.
Q. What is the best mini tiller?
One of the best options is the Black+Decker 20V Max Tiller, which weighs just 8 pounds and reaches a tilling width of up to 7 inches.
Q. What is the most powerful electric tiller?
With its large 13.5 amp motor, the Earthwise Corded Electric Tiller is one of the most powerful models on the market.
Though not as powerful as a gas garden tiller, an electric garden tiller has many advantages. They are lighter weight, easier to start and produce no emissions. This makes electric tillers ideal for cultivating smaller backyard gardens.
Electric tillers range in size from smaller models that can till to widths of 6 inches and depths of 5 inches up to larger models with a tilling width of 16 inches and depths of up to 8 inches. With that in mind, be sure to consider the size of the garden when choosing a tiller.