Tillers are invaluable pieces of machinery, particularly if you grow your own food and want your growing space to be as productive as possible. Can you do it all by hand with your spade or fork? Yes, absolutely! And if you’re totally committed to doing that way, then good for you! But for those of us that like to speed up the process and make it a little less back-breaking, getting the best tiller for your soil and space saves time, labor, and pain. I’m not going to go over what a tiller is, or how to buy one – I’ve already got that covered in my tiller buying guide, and I figure if you’re here to find out which are the best tillers, you already know the basics.
Do You Really Need a Tiller?
If you’ve only got a few square feet to grow in, then I’d say no, you don’t need a tiller. However, any more than a couple of feet, and a tiller makes life much easier. So, the answer is – it depends. How much space do you have? How much do you plan to grow? I know that I’d struggle to grow even half of what I harvest each year without a tiller to help me prepare my soil. If you’ve got more than a couple of feet to grow in, I firmly believe the right tiller is a solid investment. And if you take good care of it, a well-maintained tiller will last for years.
The Right Type of Tiller
Notice I keep saying you need to choose the right tiller? That’s because buying the wrong type of tiller is worse than digging a whole acre by hand. It’s frustrating, painful, and time-consuming. But choosing the best tiller for your needs lets you rapidly turn even heavy earth into beautifully fine soil that’s ready for planting. The tiller you need depends on a range of factors, including:
- How you want to use your tiller – whether you just need to refresh existing beds or break new ground
- The type of soil you have – whether it’s heavy clay or light and loamy or somewhere in the middle
- How much growing space you need to till
The Best Gas Tillers of 2020
For our best gas-powered tiller reviews, we looked at a range of factors and specifications, including tine width, tilling depth, the weight, whether a tiller will break new ground, the tiller motor, and the overall weight. We also considered what each tiller was best suited to, tine position, and more to deliver a selection of what we consider to be the best gas tillers for a range of gardening needs.
|Tilling Width||9 inches||16 inches||12-26 inches||17 inches||13-24 inches|
|TIlling Depth||10 inches||6 inches||6.5 inches||6.5 inches||7 inches|
|Break New Ground||Only loamy/light||Yes||Light to moderate||Yes - all soil types||Light to moderate|
|Motor||25cc Honda 4-cycle engine||208cc Craftsman||208cc Husqvarna||208cc Husqvarna||208cc Troy-Bilt OHV 4-cycle|
|Weight||24 pounds||165 pounds||100 pounds||200 pounds||136 pounds|
|Guarantee||Multiple||2-year limited||Multiple||Multiple||2-year limited|
|Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
Mantis 4-Cycle Plus Tiller 7940
Best Lightweight Tiller for Small Gardens
Mantis is well-known for its lightweight, compact tillers, and the Mantis 4-Cycle Plus Tiller 7940 is an impressive small gas tiller that offers a nice combination of efficiency, power, and ease of use. This model comes in as the best lightweight tiller in our gas tiller reviews for small to medium gardens. It’s a great little all-rounder, offering a nice mix of power and compactness. For small to medium areas, this little gas tiller is more than enough as, with its unique tine design and engine placement, it may be small, but it’s fierce, too. However, I wouldn’t want to tackle a large homestead with this compact garden machine.
- 4-cycle 25cc Honda engine
- No fuel and oil mixing required
- 9-inch tilling width for compact, easy handling
- 10-inch tilling depth for deep cultivation
- Reverse tine function allows for shallow cultivation up to 3 inches
- 24 lbs for lightweight maneuverability
- Uniquely angled tines for maximum efficiency and soil fineness.
- Comfortable, ergonomic handles
- Comes with a kickstand for safe, easy positioning
- Tines have a lifetime breakage warranty
- Handle-to-tine five year warranty
- Engine warrantied by the manufacturer
- Not well-suited to tilling large areas
- Cannot easily break heavy, compacted, or dry clay ground
- Struggles in very rocky soil
- Gas tank isn’t that large
It’s got a quiet 25cc 4-cycle Honda engine that’s easy to start and doesn’t require any fuel mixing. Instead, you put your gas in one chamber and your oil in another. The tines achieve speeds of up to 240 rpm, which gives enough power to finely grind most soil types and cope with the occasional large stone. The recoil starter is comparatively easy, too, and doesn’t require excessive strength.
Weight and Handling
Weighing in at just 24 pounds, this Mantis tiller is lightweight enough that it’s easy to use, even for those who don’t have the strength and stamina for a huge beast of a tiller. It’s also a super-compact tiller, being only 9 inches wide. The weight of the body sits directly over the tines, giving you a high degree of control and making the tiller more stable and maneuverable when running. The weight sitting over the uniquely angled tines also helps them bite down to more effectively break up soil and get deeper to more easily achieve a maximum tilling depth of 10 inches.
The Mantis 4-Cycle 7940 Tines
Curved tines help this Mantis tiller bite into even heavy soil, rather than bouncing and skipping across the top. They’re also comparatively easy to remove, and you can turn them around to use your Mantis as a shallow cultivator. To increase versatility, you can remove the tines altogether and use one of Mantis’ attachments, such as the planter/furrower attachment that lets you easily create 6-inch furrows in tilled soil. You can also use the aerator or dethatcher attachments. We also like that Mantis offers a lifetime guarantee on their tines – if one ever breaks, they’ll replace it free of charge, even if you’ve had the tiller for a decade or more.
Will the Mantis 4-Stroke 7940 Break Up Soil?
Yes. In some cases. This little gas tiller obviously isn’t a garden tractor or a huge walk-behind rear-tine tiller, so it won’t break up heavy soils. It will go through loamy, light soils that aren’t particularly rootbound. But it won’t go through heavy clay, parched, rock-filled, or compacted soils, and it won’t go through areas of dense thick roots, either. However, if you break the ground up a bit with your spade first, this Mantis 4-cycle will rip through those chunks and give you beautifully fine soil, but it’ll take work. However, this tiller isn’t really designed for that – it’s designed for folks who need a lightweight tiller or small garden tiller that will produce finely tilled soil that’s ready for planting.
Comfort and Convenience
The Mantis 7940 features over-molded comfort-grip handles that have an ergonomic flared design. This provides healthy wrist and hand positioning and facilitates reduced muscle fatigue, allowing you to till for longer without discomfort. This compact garden tiller even folds down, making storage easier. The handles simply unscrew and fold backward, making it easy to get the Mantis in your car or to tuck it away for the winter in a small space.
We do like the warranties that come with new Mantis 4-Cycle tillers. As I mentioned above, the tines have a lifetime breakage guarantee, which is fairly impressive. You’ll also get a five-year handle-to-tine warranty, and the engine comes with its own manufacturer’s warranty. There are also third parties who will offer extended warranties if you think you need one. It’s important to note, however, that a refurbished one may not carry the same or any warranty, so check before you buy.
The Mantis 7940 is a brilliant small garden tiller, offering a robust combination of efficiency, power, and lightweight ease of use. It’ll go through any soil if you break it up a bit first, but it won’t easily break new ground if that ground is heavy clay, compact, or excessively rocky. This lightweight gas tiller is ideal for small to medium gardens, and is an absolute blessing for busy home growers preparing their beds for planting veggies in the spring, or turning back in organic matter at the end of the season. If you’ve got a more substantial homestead or larger growing area, then you’d be better off getting a larger tiller with a wide tilling width. But if you want something small, lightweight, and that represents good value, the Mantis 4-cycle 7940 is the best tiller for you.
Craftsman 208CC 16-in RT
Best Reliable, Heavy-Duty Gas Tiller for Medium to Large Areas
The Craftsman 208cc 16-inch rear tine tiller is a reliable workhorse. It’s not the lightest or the cheapest, and it’s not the most flashy, but this powerful gas tiller is a good choice as a mid-budget, go-all-day tiller that should last for years with a little bit of regular care and maintenance. It’s got plenty of nice features, like counter-rotating tines, a solid build, tine guards, and a front bumper, the price isn’t outrageous, and the weight helps it bite into the soil. Unless you’re trying to till acres and acres in a single session, this medium-weight gas tiller from Craftsman is a great choice.
- CRAFTSMAN 208cc OHV engine
- Aluminum-encased gear drive transmission for long-lasting durability
- 4 10-inch counter-rotating steel tines for improved performance and greater torque
- 16-inch tilling width, making it suitable for medium-large areas
- Up to 6-inch tilling depth, with adjustable depth stake for versatility
- Bites reasonably deeply into even hard, compacted, or clay soils because of its weight, engine placement, and counter-rotating tines
- Tine guard to protect your legs from the tines and flying debris
- Front bumper for extra protection
- Adjustable, padded handle for comfortable use and a sure grip
- Has a reverse option for maneuverability
- No fuel mixing required as it has a separate oil tank for 4-cycle oil
- 13-inch pneumatic rubber tires for solid traction and ease of use
- Not well-suited to tilling small gardens
- Heavy, so not the best choice for those with strength or mobility issues
- Large, so requires suitable storage space
- Not the cheapest
The Craftsman CMXGVAM1144037 Engine
This heavy-duty gas tiller is powered by a 208cc OHV Craftsman engine, so you know you’re getting a durable, high-quality motor that’ll last season after season. The bronze gear transmission is encased in aluminum for added reliability and to help keep temperatures cool, allowing you to safely run the tiller for longer, without fear of it overheating.
You don’t need to mix fuel, either, which is always my preference when it comes to tillers. Instead, this large gas tiller has an oil reservoir with a capacity of 20 ounces for 4-cycle oil. The fuel tank has a capacity of 74.4 gallons, so it’ll hold enough gas to keep you tilling comfortably for hours.
The standard recoil starter is relatively easy to use. It has forward and reverse gears for easy maneuverability, which is particularly useful on this gas tiller as it’s 165 pounds.
Weight and Handling
There’s no denying it – the Craftsman 208cc 16-inch rear tine tiller is a bit of a beast. It weighs in at 165 pounds. However, as long as you’re reasonably fit and healthy, you’ll be able to maneuver this gas tiller just fine. With a 16-inch tilling width, it’s not made for tight spaces and tiny garden flower beds, but it is made for medium to large areas.
The heavy weight of this piece of garden machinery actually works in your favor when you’re dealing with heavy, hard, or otherwise difficult soil. Being so heavy, it bites deep into the soil and doesn’t bounce or skip across the surface like many lighter, cheaper tillers, so you get a stable machine that quickly breaks through tough ground. It’s easier on your arms and more effective overall.
Will the Craftsman 208CC 16-in RT Break New Ground?
Yes, thanks to four counter-rotating steel tines that deliver extra torque, a 208cc Craftsman engine, and the 165-pound weight, this Craftsman tiller will break new ground and create fine, workable soil from heavy, compacted earth.
Comfort and Convenience
This heavy gas tiller isn’t the easiest to maneuver if you have strength, mobility, or fitness issues because it is weighty. However, it does have 13-inch pneumatic rubber tires that keep it stable while in use and make it pretty easy to move from A to B.
The maximum tilling depth isn’t the best on this list of best tillers, but it should be enough for most people, even if you’re breaking new ground. Six inches should still get you deep enough to properly aerate the soil, improve the structure, and enhance drainage. It has an adjustable depth stake, too, so you can lightly till the surface when necessary, rather than going deep.
For your peace of mind, Craftsman have included a rear tine guard to protect your legs from flying debris and stones, and from the tines themselves. There’s also a front bumper to stop you going too far or knocking and damaging the engine.
A loop and bail handle with comfort-grip padding reduces the risk of blisters and lets you work comfortably for extended periods. It’s adjustable, too, so whatever your size, you can find a comfortable handle position that relieves muscle and back strain.
Craftsman offer a 2-year limited warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. Note that the warranty doesn’t cover expendable parts like spark plugs and tines, and does not cover normal wear and tear.
The Craftsman CMXGVAM1144037 is a smart choice if you’re looking for a mid-budget, heavy-duty gas tiller will stand the test of time. It’s not particularly flashy, but does everything you need it to. It’ll cut through new ground, even in heavy or compacted soils, and it’s got a medium tilling width of 16 inches, so it’s suitable for medium to large areas. Adjustable tilling depth is a useful feature that increases versatility, and the four counter-rotating rear tines deliver plenty of torque, making this a powerful, versatile gas tiller. The warranty is a little limited, but that can be remedied by purchasing an additional warranty from a third party. Overall, we recommend this tiller if you’ve got a medium to large area to till, need to break new ground, and want a reliable, stable workhorse that will continue to perform year after year. We also think it represents reasonable value for money.
Best Medium-Duty Front-Tine Gas Tiller
The Husqvarna TF224 is a mid-range, mid-budget gas tiller that’s well-suited to medium gardens with light to moderate soil. I wouldn’t suggest trying to break new ground or work it through large areas of heavy or compacted soil, though. It’s pretty lightweight and is a good compromise between power and ease of use/maneuverability. It’s well-priced, at the low-mid point of the range, and represents good value for homeowners who need a compact, fairly lightweight gas tiller.
- Husqvarna 208cc engine
- Standard-rotating forward-positioned tines and large transport wheels for ease of use
- 12 to 26-inch tilling width to work areas of any size quickly
- Up to 6.5 inches of tilling depth, with adjustable depth stake
- Lightweight for easy maneuverability
- Adjustable drag bar to increase stability in all conditions and terrains
- Forward and reverse
- Comfort-grip carry handles
- Compact for easy storage
- Easy start engine
- Can skip across heavier or stony soils
- Too light for breaking new ground in heavy or compacted soils
- Lacks a rear guard
Featuring a pretty powerful 208cc Husqvarna engine, this medium-duty tiller can cope with most light to moderate soils and has around 6.4 horsepower. It’s an easy start engine, too, so starts quickly and reliably season after season. The engine is mounted in the middle, which adds stability.
Although it has the same engine power as the Craftsman listed above, the tine placement and rotation action result in less torque and less ground-breaking capability.
This is another tiller that doesn’t require fuel mixing, as it has a separate 4-cycle oil tank and a 1.47-quart gas tank, so you won’t need to faff around with fuel to oil ratios.
Weight and Handling
Weighing in at 100 pounds, the Husqvarna TF224 is a relatively lightweight machine. This makes it a great choice if you need a lighter machine. It’s well-suited to light and moderate soils and can work across large areas, with its 24-inch tilling depth. It’s important to note that you’ll experience a certain amount of skipping and bouncing if you go through heavy, hard, or rocky soils. Although with perseverance, this tiller will eventually bite into those soil types – it’s just a bit harder to hold and isn’t as efficient or effective as bigger, heavier machines.
It has foldable transport wheels that make it easy to move it from one place to another, and it’s simple to tuck them out of the way while you’re tilling.
The reverse function adds versatility and convenience and improves handling and maneuverability. To keep the machine steady in varying conditions and terrains, this gas-powered tiller has an adjustable drag bar.
Will the Husqvarna TF224 Break New Ground?
Yes, but only in light to moderate soils. It isn’t powerful enough or heavy enough to break through hard, compacted, or heavy clay soils.
Comfort and Convenience
One of the biggest selling points of this tiller is the adjustable tilling width. You can adjust the tines to till from 12 to 26 inches, letting you work large areas rapidly, or go more delicately between planted rows and work over smaller beds. Therefore, this tiller is one of the most versatile on this list.
The comfort grip handles are adjustable, assuring comfort and ease of use for any user.
To further increase versatility, there’s an adjustable depth stake with 6 steps to choose from. This ensures you don’t till too deeply in areas requiring only light turning. With front-positioned tines and a middle-mounted engine, this gas tiller has a pretty small footprint, so it’s a nice, compact size for storage.
This tiller, like all Husqvarna tillers, comes with a 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. This includes all parts, aside from the tines and engine. The tines have a 7-year limited lifetime warranty, and the engine has a 5-year warranty, so coverage is pretty robust. However, the warranties, like most others, won’t cover faults or damage caused by user neglect or abuse.
The Husqvarna TF224 is a step up from the Mantis and other mini tillers in terms of price, power, and functionality. It represents good value and is a very versatile machine. If you have light to moderate soil, or you’d rather spend longer breaking new ground or working heavy soil than spend extra money, this is a great choice for you. Adjustable tilling width makes it incredibly versatile, allowing you to till between rows or rapidly work large areas. It has a solid, reliable Husqvarna engine and is, in our opinion, the best front tine tiller for the money.
Best Heavy-Duty Rear-Tine Gas Tiller for Large Areas and Tough Ground
The Husqvarna TR317DE is a behemoth. It’s large, heavy, and powerful. It’s the most expensive entry on our list, but it’s also the most capable, and is best-suited to heavy-duty tilling. If you’ve got a lot of ground to turn on the homestead, this is the tiller you want. Yes, it’s rather costly, but it’ll save you hours of work and energy. It can break up the toughest soils is built to last. I wouldn’t recommend you buy this machine just for tilling a small garden. Yes, it’ll do the job, but you’d be much better off saving money and getting a little Mantis, or even a Husqvarna TF224. But, if you’ve got a large area, this is hands-down the best walk behind tiller you could buy.
- Powerful 208cc Husqvarna engine
- 17-inch tilling width to handle large areas easily
- Rear tines that bite deep
- Dual-rotating tines – choice of counter-rotation or forward-rotation
- Large agricultural drive tires that provide stability and traction
- Industry-first electric start
- 6.5-inch tilling depth
- Adjustable tilling depth with 7 steps
- Forward and reverse options
- Stabilizing drag bar
- Rear guard and front bumper for protection
- Easily breaks up tough ground
- Comparatively expensive
This Husqvarna tiller has a 208cc Husqvarna HX208 engine with a chain gear transmission. It delivers 9 lb per foot gross torque which, combined with counter-rotating tines, quickly and efficiently powers through any soil type. It’s a 4-cycle engine, so no need to mix fuel, and the gas tank holds 0.75 gallons. The sealed gear chain transmission has forward and reverse options for easy maneuverability and control. The Husqvarna TR317DE has an electric start that’s considerably easier to use than regular recoil starters.
Weight and Handling
It’s big. The Husqvarna TR317DE weighs in at 200 pounds, so it’s a beast of a machine. At this size, it’s not suitable for those with mobility or strength problems, and it’s not really suitable for small gardens. While it’ll definitely till a smaller garden, it’s too expensive, big, and bulky to make it a good purchase for small areas.
Although it’s weighty and comparatively large, it has strategically placed counterweights and an adjustable drag bar to keep it balanced. Agricultural 13 x 5-inch tires with deep, heavy tread provide solid traction in all soil conditions.
This heavy-duty gas tiller has a fixed tilling width of 17 inches, making it suitable for tilling large areas rapidly, although the comparatively large width means that it’s not suitable for tilling narrow rows between plants. There are 7 depth adjustments between 3.5 and 6.5 inches, letting you choose the appropriate tilling depth.
Another feature that sets this tiller apart from others on this list is the dual-rotating tines. This lets you set the tines to counter-rotating for breaking new ground and deep tilling of all soil types. Alternatively, you can set the tines to forward-rotation for shallower cultivation of light, loamy soil.
Will the Husqvarna TR317DE Break New Ground?
Yes. This heavy-duty gas tiller can break new ground even in the toughest soil conditions. It’ll cut through heavy, hard, and compacted soils relatively easily and, because of the balanced but heavy weight, it will bite deep without skipping and bouncing.
Comfort and Convenience
This tiller features an easy to use electric starter located low on the handle for convenience and simplicity. Although it’s big and heavy, it moves easily and, thanks to the counterweight and adjustable drag bar, is well-balanced in all conditions. Plus, the large agricultural tires provide good traction in all conditions.
To make working this gas tiller easier and more comfortable for all users, it has an adjustable handle that’s easy to set to high or low positions.
With a 17-inch tilling width, this heavy-duty gas tiller makes working large areas fast and efficient. The side guards help to prevent you accidentally tilling into plated rows, bed edging, and similar, and the rear guard protects you from flying debris and the sharp, rotating tines.
This gas tiller, like all Husqvarna machines, has a robust set of warranties. The engine has a 5-year warranty, the machine has a 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, and the tines have a 7-year limited lifetime warranty. That’s pretty impressive, although obviously doesn’t cover normal wear and tear or user neglect and abuse.
The Husqvarna TR317DE is hands-down the best gas tiller for large areas, hard, heavy soil, and breaking new ground. If you’ve got a large growing area, a homestead, or similar, this is the tiller for you. The dual-rotating tines make this a powerful but versatile machine, hardy enough to cut through the toughest ground, but delicate enough to lightly cultivate a prepared bed at shallow depths. This is not the machine for small gardens. If all you want is to make a few flower beds and a veggie patch nice and fine, save your money and go with something like the Mantis. However, if you need a gas-powered tiller that’ll let you efficiently work over large areas and will last for years, then this is definitely the right investment. It’s well-balanced, bites deep, and is surprisingly easy to handle and maneuver.
Troy-Bilt Colt FT
Best Medium-Duty Front-Tine Gas Tiller for Moderate to Large Gardens
The Troy-Bilt Colt FT is a solid, medium-duty workhorse. It’s not the toughest or the biggest, but it’s a nice compromise between size, price, power, and efficiency. It’s a pretty versatile machine, and a great choice if you’re looking for power and a tiller for medium to large areas on a budget. It’s a front-tine tiller, and the tines only rotate forward, rather than counter, but, with the patented tine design, it still has enough tilling power for general use.
- 208cc Troy-Bilt OHV engine
- 4-cycle, so no fuel mixing
- Compact for easy storage and handling
- 13-24-inch tilling width for versatility
- Adjustable tilling depth up to 7 inches
- Chain drive transmission
- Foldable handle for easy storage
- Adjustable transport wheels for easy portability
- Comfort grip handle
- Light and has front tines so may skip on heavy or rocky soils
- Too light for breaking new ground in heavy, clay, or compacted areas
It has a 208cc Troy-Bilt OHV 4-cycle engine, so delivers plenty of power. And you don’t need to mix fuel, either. Having two separate tanks for fuel and oil is always a bonus. This medium-duty gas tiller has a standard recoil starter and a chain drive transmission for long-lasting durability.
The engine is mounted partially above the tines to add stability and strategically placed weight to limit bouncing and skipping.
Weight and Handling
At 136 pounds, this Troy-Bilt tiller is comparatively light, which makes it a great choice for those who need a lighter walk-behind tiller. On the flip side, the lighter weight means that it can skip and bounce when working heavy soils. It will go through eventually, but it’s not as efficient and can be a little harder to handle while breaking up tough soil. However, it does quickly and efficiently break up light to moderate soils.
This Troy-Bilt tiller features their patented Bolo tines, which have a specific curve and angle design that propels the unit forward, bites deep, and turns under efficiently, helping reduce the number of passes required to finely till a row.
Adjustable tine width increases versatility, making this machine suitable for tilling between rows when set to 13 inches and useful for tilling over large areas when set to 22 or 24 inches.
You can adjust the tilling depth, too, up to 7 inches, so you can deeply till new beds or lightly cultivate prepared beds.
Will the Troy-Bilt Colt FT Break New Ground?
Yes, but it’ll only perform well when breaking new light to moderate soils. While it will till through pre-turned areas of heavy, clay, and compacted soils, it will struggle to break new ground in those conditions.
Comfort and Convenience
Notably, it doesn’t have drive wheels, as it’s a front-tine tiller, and so propels itself, although this can be a little clunky and require more operator pushing than a model with drive tires. It does, however, have transport wheels for moving from A to B.
It does lack a reverse function, which is a bit of a let-down, but at this price point, that’s not a deal-breaker.
It’s a nice, compact little unit, with a mid/front-mounted engine and a foldable plow-style handle, so it’s got a nice, small footprint for easy storage. The handle is padded, too, and has a plow shape for a sure grip and comfortable use.
This Troy-Bilt tiller has a medium-sized rear guard, although no front bumper or guard.
The unit has a 2-year limited warranty, which isn’t the most comprehensive. However, this is easily remedied by purchasing a third-party extended warranty.
The Troy-Bilt Colt FT is a great mid-budget gas tiller. It’s a nice mix of power, efficiency, size, and cost, so if you’re looking for value for money, this is it. The adjustable tilling width accommodates efficiently tilling large areas and lightly cultivating in narrow spaces. It won’t break new ground in hard, compacted areas very well, and it may skip and bounce while tilling in hard conditions. However, it will break new ground in light to moderate conditions. It’s not excessively expensive and is well-suited to most general tilling and cultivating needs. Plus, it’s a Troy-Bilt tiller, so is built to last.
Buying a tiller is going to make your fall gardening jobs a lot easier.
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