Written By Tijana Sredanovic
Published Dec. 30, 2020

There is something oddly satisfying about seeing a freshly tilled plot of earth that’s ready for planting. The scent of newly overturned soil that’s rich in texture and nutrients and the anticipation of planting seeds that will grow to be beautiful veggies, fruits, or even flowers are great sensations that so many gardeners love and appreciate.

Before you get to plant your seed crop, however, you have to till up the soil, which can often be a frustrating, back-breaking, and exhausting task without the right tool. That’s why we’ve got you covered with this informative and educational buying guide for the best cultivators. 

The ideal cultivator for you is out there, and once you find it, you’ll never dread tilling your garden again. Who knows? You may even look forward to it!

The Best Cultivators

When it comes to the best overall combination of function, reliability, and price, the Tacklife Advanced Tiller gets our vote. At only 22 pounds, this is a lightweight electric tiller that can be switched from either six tines to four tines and vice versa without having to use any extraneous tools. It features a working width from 18 inches down to 12.5 inches, making it a versatile cultivator that will suit the needs of most home gardeners.

This cultivator also features a clever folding design that allows you the ability to store it in compact or tight spaces. It’s equipped with a powerful 13.5 amp copper motor that’s capable of generating up to 380 RPMs. Its working depth is 8 inches, which is ideal for flower bed and vegetable garden prep. One drawback to this cultivator is that there is no reverse direction option, so you have to pull it back by hand when it gets jammed up on roots and debris.

Key Features
  • 13.5 amp motor
  • 6 or 4 tine configuration
  • Manganese steel tines for durability
  • Safety buttons and brake switch help prevent accidents and injuries
Specification
  • Brand Tacklife
  • Model TGTL01A
  • Weight 22 pounds
PROS

A lightweight, easy to use cultivator

Affordable

Foldable design for compact storage

CONS

No reverse direction

Larger roots and debris get easily jammed

Assembly instructions can be confusing

Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t get a good quality, reliable cultivator like the Scotts Outdoor Power Tools Corded Tiller/Cultivator. This little tiller features a durable 10.5-amp electric motor that is great for tilling up smaller gardens and flower beds. It comes equipped with four adjustable tines that are constructed from rugged alloy steel that is rust- and corrosion-resistant.

Flip-down rear wheels allow you to transport this tiller easily. An adjustable cutting width of 7 to 11 inches lets you not only use the tiller for planting but also weeding and garden maintenance throughout the year. Our one hang-up with this cultivator is that it’s not strong enough to effectively till up soil with lots of rocks or roots. You’ll need a larger unit with a more powerful motor for a job like that.

Key Features
  • 10.5 amp electric motor
  • Adjustable tilling height of 7-11 inches
  • Simple push-button start
  • Four tempered steel alloy tines are rust-and corrosion-resistant
Specification
  • Brand Scotts
  • Model TC70105S
  • Weight 25 pounds
PROS

Lightweight and easy to use

No need for oil or gas to have it function

Affordable

CONS

Not as powerful as some models

Can get roots and rocks stuck in the tines

Some concern over long-term durability

If it’s power and strength you need to break through tough earth effortlessly, check out the Tazz 35310 2-in-1 Front Tine Tiller/Cultivator. This super rugged tiller and cultivator is equipped with a very powerful 4-cycle, 79cc gas-powered Viper engine that is designed to tackle larger jobs with ease. It has a wide 21-inch tilling path and either 11- or 16-inch cultivating paths, thanks to the easily removable forged steel tines.

This model features a low center of gravity that is simultaneously stable and maneuverable to ensure easy handling. The steel handlebar has four position options that the user can customize to his or her comfort. With a maximum tilling depth of 11 inches, this is a versatile machine. Be warned, this is the heaviest cultivator on our list, but that’s one of the things that allows it to effectively till deeper soils.

Key Features
  • 4-cycle, 79cc, gas-powered motor
  • Wide tilling path with adjustable cultivating path widths
  • Height-adjustable handlebars
  • Three-year warranty
Specification
  • Brand Tazz
  • Model 35310
  • Weight 83.8 pounds
PROS

Powerful enough to till harder and more rugged terrain

Push-button start for easy use

Tilling depth is easily adjustable

CONS

Heavy

Pricey

The gas-powered engine is loud and requires maintenance

The Earthquake 31635 MC33 Mini Tiller Cultivator gets an honorable mention for being a powerful and compact cultivator that’s suitable for weeding, mixing, and aerating. It’s equipped with a strong 2-cycle, 33cc gas-powered engine that is strong enough to break up pre-tilled earth. While it’s not the strongest cultivator on our list, it’s a very compact and useful tool that’s perfect for garden maintenance.

It features a practical design with an overhand grip and throttle arrangement that reduces jumping and bouncing and allows you to easily push it forward or pull it back to deftly maneuver around delicate plants. Tines are easily removable and adjustable between 6-10 inches. On-board adjustable wheels ensure easy transportation. As a bonus, this durable little cultivator comes backed by an impressive five-year warranty.

Key Features
  • 2-cycle, 33cc gas-powered motor
  • Tines are adjustable between 6-10 inches
  • Five-year warranty
  • Easy to use push-button start
Specification
  • Brand Earthquake
  • Model 31635
  • Weight 33 pounds
PROS

Compact

Good for weeding and aerating

Easy to maneuver in tight spots

CONS

Heavier than some models

Noisier than electric cultivators

Not powerful enough to till hard earth

We like the Sun Joe 16-Inch 13.5 AMP Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator for its ruggedness and durability. It’s also got a very reasonable price point that makes it even more attractive. It’s equipped with a 13.5 amp electric motor that requires almost no maintenance and is capable of cultivating a path up to 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. With an impressive 370 max RPMs, this tiller can efficiently pulverize dirt and soil.

It has six heavy-duty steel tines that are angled for maximum performance. For convenient storage and transport, this cultivator comes with three-position adjustable height rear wheels and a collapsible handle. It comes backed by a respectable two-year warranty to protect against any unforeseen manufacturer defects or function issues.

Key Features
  • 13.5 amp electric motor
  • Two-year warranty
  • Three-position, height-adjustable wheels
  • Six heavy-duty steel tines
Specification
  • Brand Sun Joe
  • Model TJ604E
  • Weight 27.1 pounds
PROS

Maintenance-free motor

Wide cultivation path

Easy to transport and store compactly

CONS

Not powerful enough for tilling crabgrass or wetter soil

Struggles to get deep down in the ground due to its lightweight construction

Questionable customer service response time

The Mantis 7940 4-Cycle Gas Powered Cultivator is a high-quality, rugged tiller that is equipped with a powerful Honda 4-cycle, 25cc engine that is capable of spinning tines twice as fast as many other cultivators on the market, helping you make short work of tilling up your garden. Weighing only 24 pounds, this cultivator is easy to control and transport.

It features a compact 9-inch width, which is ideal for getting into tight spaces. The throttle is finger controlled and super responsive. The uniquely shaped tines can till as deep as 10 inches, or be turned to cultivate as shallow as 2 inches, making this one of the most versatile cultivators on our list. Because it’s gas-powered, it does require more maintenance than an electric cultivator, as well as producing more fumes during use.

Key Features
  • Honda 4-cycle, 25cc gas-powered motor
  • 9-inch tilling width
  • Tilling depth is adjustable from 2-10 inches
  • Maximum tine speed of 240 RPM
Specification
  • Brand Mantis
  • Model 7940
  • Weight 24 pounds
PROS

Lightweight and easy to maneuver

Foldable for compact storage and transportation

Strong motor is powerful enough to cut through soil with roots, rocks, and debris

CONS

Pricey

Gas-powered function emits fumes during operation

Requires more maintenance than an electric cultivator

Best Best Cultivators Buying Guide & FAQ

What makes a great cultivator and how do you know you’re getting the best bang for your buck that will provide years of reliable and durable use without letting you down? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive buying guide that will answer all your questions and teach you exactly what to look for in the best cultivators.

The Advantages of Owning a Cultivator

Having your cultivator means never having to wait to prepare your garden or flower bed. Not having to rely on a rental company means you won’t get stuck with a substandard machine that will struggle to do the job right. Not having to wait to borrow a friend or relative’s cultivator means you have the luxury of doing the job on your schedule, whenever it’s most convenient timing-wise or weather-wise. 

Owning your cultivator also makes garden and flower bed maintenance easier and less time-consuming. Weeding, replanting, expanding can all be done whenever you want and at a fraction of the time of doing those jobs by hand.  

  • Having your cultivator means never having to deal with pricey rental companies that might have substandard equipment.
  • Owning your cultivator can motivate you to plant a larger garden or flower bed, thanks to the ease of prepping the soil.
  • It allows you to work on your schedule, never having to pass up a great time or weather window because you’re waiting for someone else’s cultivator.
Owning your cultivator also makes garden and flower bed maintenance easier and less time-consuming

Types of Cultivators

When it comes to selecting the perfect cultivator, you have several different types to choose from. All have their pros and cons and various selling points. The ideal cultivator for you depends on several factors, including garden size, budget, terrain type, and more, which we will cover in the following sections.

Gas-Powered Cultivators

As the name implies, this type of cultivator features a gas-powered engine, either a 2-cycle or 4-cycle, that rotates the tilling blades. They’re the most powerful type of cultivator, but are also the heaviest ones as well, although often not by much. They’re still much lighter than regular garden tillers.

Because they are more powerful than the other types of cultivators, gas-powered cultivators are ideally suited for cultivating medium to larger garden plots, blending dense soil, and working far away from electrical outlets. 

The drawback is that gas-powered cultivators produce more noise and fumes during operation and they require more maintenance than the other types of cultivators available. 

Electric-Powered Cultivators

Electric cultivators are often a favorite because they’re very lightweight and super easy to use. They’re great for small to medium gardens, confined spaces, and quicker jobs. They’re also very compact and easy to store and transport.

While less powerful than gas-powered cultivators, electric cultivators run cleaner, quieter, and require a lot less maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts. This makes them less expensive and more environmentally friendly.

The drawback to electric cultivators is that depending on your soil type or terrain, they may not be powerful enough for the job you need to be done. Let’s not forget about the fact that unless you get a cordless model, you need to have an electrical source relatively close by to be able to plug them in to run.

Manual Cultivators

These are the most basic types of cultivators and are just a regular garden tool. They’re great for small weeding jobs since their tines are usually very short and not adjustable. 

Very narrow and compact, manual cultivators are great for small spaces and light soils with little to no roots, rocks, or debris. They’re super inexpensive and zero maintenance. Their power and range are quite limited, however. 

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What to Consider When Buying a Cultivator

When choosing the ideal cultivator, you need to consider several factors, one of which is the size of the garden or flower bed plot you will be working in. You don’t want to use a manual or electrical cultivator for larger gardens that require more efficiency and power to get through in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a smaller garden or a few little flower beds, then electrical or manual cultivators are great, inexpensive, and easy to use options.

Consider too the type of soil you will be working with. If you live in a climate where the soil is very hard or very wet, a gas-powered cultivator that offers strength and durability will be your best option. You need enough power to get through the soil, grass, and weeds to properly mix it up. If your soil is light and loamy, then an electric or manual cultivator will suit you just fine. 

The Most Important Features of a Cultivator

There are certain features to look for whether you’re considering a gas-powered or an electric cultivator. Checking these boxes will guarantee that you get a rugged and dependable cultivator that won’t break the first couple of times you use it. 

A Solid Warranty

Look for a cultivator that is backed by a reasonable warranty to protect your investment from unforeseen manufacturer defects or function issues. Read online customer reviews to ensure you’re not going to get put off by poor customer service and that you’re buying from a well-reputed company that’s known for producing high-quality products.

Safety Features

Because cultivators have engines, and very sharp, moving parts, it’s important to get one with lots of built-in safety features to minimize your risk of injury or damage. Safety features such as securely attached guards to protect your body and face from flying debris and automatic shut-off sensors for overheating, or accidental release of the throttle are good features to look for. Safety ratings to show that the cultivator has passed independent third-party tests are also a nice feature on some of the better models. 

Solid Construction

Look for cultivators that are equipped with rugged and heavy-duty steel or steel alloy tines that are rust-, corrosion-, and dent-resistant. They’re going to get wet, dirty, bashed by roots and rocks, and who knows what else, so you don’t want to skimp on the quality of the blades. Likewise, the quality of the housing construction for the motor, the construction of the handlebars, and the various components of the cultivator should all be made from durable and reliable materials that won’t rust or crack after just a couple of uses.

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Care and Maintenance for Cultivators

Proper care and maintenance of your cultivator will help ensure long life and reliable use every time you want to use it. Protect your financial investment by taking a few minutes after each use to thoroughly clean your cultivator, especially the tines, which will take the brunt of the wear and tear and damage from running into tree roots, rocks, and debris in the ground. Wash the tines with a high-powered garden hose to remove mud and dirt so it doesn’t dry and seize up rotary mechanisms or get trapped inside mechanical components of the cultivator.

If you have a gas-powered cultivator, make sure to wash the gas cap before taking it off to add fuel. This will prevent dirt, dust, and grass from getting inside and contaminating your fuel tank.

For both electric and gas-powered cultivators, be sure to lube the engine components a couple of times per year. Usually at the start and end of the season. Check connections, lines, hoses, etc. for integrity and replace them promptly if you see any visible damage. The same goes for the tines. If you notice damaged tines, replace them to ensure they don’t break at an inopportune time. 

  • Wash tines after each use with a high-pressure hose
  • Check connections and wires before using the cultivator every time
  • Clean vents and intakes on the cultivator to ensure efficient and long-lasting engine function
Having your cultivator means never having to wait to prepare your garden or flower bed

Best Cultivator FAQ:

Do you still have some questions regarding which type of cultivator is best for you? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding cultivators and our comprehensive answers.

Q: What’s the difference between a tiller and cultivator?

A tiller is often a larger, more heavy-duty machine that is designed to break ground initially for your garden. They’re powerful enough to pulverize hard ground and turn over large amounts of dirt to create the area where your garden will be. A cultivator is a smaller, more lightweight machine that’s designed for tackling smaller jobs, like weeding, garden maintenance, stirring in fertilizers or mulch, and aeration.

Q: What is the best small cultivator?

While there isn’t just one single cultivator that can be considered the best if you’re looking for a small and compact cultivator, we are partial to the Mantis 7940 4-Cycle Gas Powered Cultivator. It’s super compact, lightweight, and can cultivate very tight spaces. 

Q: Can you use a cultivator as a tiller?

If you buy a larger, heavier cultivator, and your soil isn’t too hard or heavy, then yes, you could use a cultivator as a tiller. Most of the time, however, you’ll need a separate tiller for initial ground-breaking and larger garden prep.

Our Top Pick

Now that you know all there is to know about choosing the best cultivator, it’s probably easy to see why we love the Tacklife Advanced Tiller as our top pick. At only 22 pounds, this is a lightweight electric tiller that can be switched from six tines to four tines and features a working width from 18 inches down to 12.5 inches, making it a versatile cultivator that will suit the needs of most home gardeners.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got a garden or flower bed that needs maintenance, having the proper cultivator, whether it’s the  Tacklife Advanced Tiller, the Scotts Outdoor Power Tools Corded Tiller/Cultivator, or one of the other excellent options on our list will make a tedious and frustrating job a lot faster and less stressful. Do you have a favorite go-to cultivator that didn’t make our list? Drop us a comment down below and let us know what it is and why you love it.

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