A Complete Rotavator Buyer’s Guide

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Garden Rotavator Buyers Guide

Digging and turning the soil in your garden is a thankless task that no one really enjoys doing. Whether you are preparing the lay new turf in your garden or getting ready for planting flowers or vegetables, you will always see the benefit from rotavating your soil beforehand – but this doesn’t make the job any easier, or more pleasant.

Thankfully, there is a tool that has been designed to save you from the back-breaking work and fatigue of tilling your soil – a rotavator. A rotavator will churn and break up the soil in bedding areas or allotment patches so that they are ready for work. They can even work on your whole garden if you have lifted your lawn for relaying or are possibly remodelling your garden altogether!  Additional benefits are that they will aerate your soil and can mix in mulches that you have added to your soil. 

If you are anything like us, you will now be wondering why you never bought a rotavator in the first place and will be desperate to get out buying one! Our article has considered the do’s and don’ts of rotavator purchasing, and also how to use your rotavator, so keep reading for all you need to know. 

Best Pick Rotavator

Hyundai 139 cc 4-Stroke Petrol Garden Tiller / Cultivator / Rotovator / RotoTiller HYT140 2.5 kW
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Hyundai 139 cc 4-Stroke Petrol Garden Tiller / Cultivator / Rotovator / RotoTiller HYT140 2.5 kW
  • Powered by a 4 HP, four-stroke petrol engine
  • Provides a cutting width of 370 mm
  • Self-propelled and lightweight for easy manoeuvrability
  • All Hyundai power equipment is covered with a 3 years warranty

Only Got 5 Minutes?

Maybe you’ve lifted up all of your lawn and are currently staring out of your window at a mud bath, or have vegetables ready for planting, but nowhere for them to go. If you are in a rush to get working on your garden then this part of the article is for you – all the most important information you could need – and it can be read in less than 5 minutes! 

Rotavator Types 

The three main types of rotavator are manual, electric and petrol. They are all better suited for different jobs and gardens so depending on what you are going to be using your rotavator for will determine which model is right for you. 

  • Manual – Manual rotavators need you to get them to do the work, so require much more effort than other models do. Make sure that you have enough strength to use the tool effectively, otherwise, you could find the blades not even turning the soil! But, they are cheaper and easier to work than other models (when not considering the manpower needed!). A manual rotavator will probably take the longest time to complete the job out of all of the models, but it will still be much quicker than doing everything by hand! Remember as well, that the tool won’t need additional fuel or need to only be used close to a power source, which is another advantage! 
  • Electric – Electric rotavators are available in both corded or cordless models. Cordless rotavators are more expensive so you have to be prepared to consider this with your budget, but they are better in terms of safety as you won’t have a wire trailing around. You also don’t have to stay within a certain distance of a power supply for them to work. Electric rotavators will make your life even easier, as they use their power to rotate the blades so that there is less manpower required from you to force the blades into the ground. 
  • Petrol – Petrol rotavators are made for those heavy-duty jobs that require a lot of power. They do need the consideration of fuel and more maintenance than other models, but you will really get your money’s worth with this type of rotavator if working on a big job. Speaking of money, they are more expensive than their electric counterparts but are likely to last a lot longer (if used correctly). In general, petrol rotavators will be heavier, so although they will reduce the effort that you are having to put into completing the work, there will be the added work of having to move them from one place to another! 

What to Consider Before Purchasing 

  • Width – The wider the width of your rotavator, the larger the area that you will be able to work on in one go. However, we were surprised to find that these models will usually have blades that are spread further apart, which will limit the amount of soil that gets turned in smaller areas! Also, trying to fit larger models into more difficult, smaller areas could actually make your life harder, so consider the size of the area that you are going to be working with. 
  • Soil type – Believe it or not, the soil in your garden will affect what rotavator you need to purchase. If you have soil that is more clumped and stony, it will be more difficult to work with, so it is important to invest in a better quality rotavator that can work through those soil conditions. On the other hand, better quality soil will take less effort to work through, so you may be able to consider blades and rotavators of slightly less quality. 
  • Self-propelled – Paying slightly more for self-propelled rotavators is well worth doing, as the amount of time and effort you will be saved is huge! They will still need some guidance and effort from you, but nowhere near as much as with other models.
  • Ease of Assembly – Not all rotavators come fully assembled, some will come in parts that need to be connected together before they can be used! Check the details of the rotavator before purchasing to see if this is the case – you may be happy to purchase one that requires this assembly but it will add to the time it takes you to complete the job and may require tools that you don’t have readily available.
  • Budget – As there are many different types of rotavator, this means they also vary quite considerably in price! Manual models can be found for as little as £50, electric models begin at around £100, whereas petrol models start at around £200. You will find more expensive models but these are designed for commercial/agricultural purposes so would probably be overkill for any normal gardens.

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The Handy Electric Garden Tiller
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What is the difference between rotavators, cultivators and tillers?

The difference between rotavators, cultivators and tillers are three names that are often confused. It doesn’t help that even manufacturers tend to use the wrong term for the wrong device! This can make it confusing knowing which is which, and knowing exactly what to look for. The main differences are that a cultivator has wheels at the rear and blades at the front blades, whereas a rotavator has rear blades with wheels at the front. Having rear blades means that rotavators will usually go deeper into the ground that cultivators – this results in a soil that is better turned, rotated and aerated. A tiller is usually a smaller device with a blade that doesn’t rotate. The device instead will turn and plough the soil, whereas cultivators and rotavators have wheels with claws/blades that are built into them.  

Extra features

As much as the type of rotavator that you choose is important, there are some other features that will make a massive difference to your experience with your rotavator, so much be considered before you make your purchase…

  • Comfortable grips and adjustable hands – Having a rotavator that is adjustable in height is important as it will affect how comfortable you are while working! Also, handles that have grips that have soft grips will reduce fatigue while working.

TIP: There will be plenty of months where your rotavator isn’t used, so find a model that has foldable handles so they will be easier to pack away and store when, not in use. 

  • Warranty – Most decent quality rotavators will come with a 2 or 3-year warranty. Be warned though that warranties will be unlikely to cover damage or misuse to your rotavator, so it is important to check that your ground is prepared correctly before using your rotavator. 
  • Tyres – The tyres on your rotavator are more important than you may think! The traction and thickness of the tyres will affect how well they can cope with different soil conditions. For soil that is water-logged or boggy then look for models with larger tyres that won’t sink into the soil, whereas soil that is harder will be better suited to thinner tyres that can move and adjust to the movement of the ground. 
  • Mudguard – As hard as this may be to believe, there are many rotavators that don’t come with a mudguard! It goes without saying that working in conditions that involve churning mud – it really is a good idea to opt for a model with one! 
  • Safety switch – In theory, there isn’t too much that can go wrong with working with a rotavator. But there is always a chance that you could end up walking over the power cable, or churning up a well-loved plant! Therefore, it is handy to choose a model with a safety switch that can be used in case of an emergency. 

How To Use a Rotavator 

Using your rotavator correctly is important to ensure that you can get the job done quickly and to a high standard. Soil that is not turned properly can lead to large divets in the ground or plants that do not grow to their full potential as they haven’t had the best start in your garden.

  1. If you are working with soil that has never been worked before or is prone to becoming compacted together then make sure to check the moisture level in the ground – although to be honest, it is good practice to just do this anyway! If your soil is too dry then the rotavator will struggle to get through the soil and this could lead to damage. Equally, if the soil is too wet then it will clump together once your rotavator has worked on it, and may mean you starting all over again! 
  2. Use a fork to break up the larger pieces of compacted soil so that your rotavator does not become damaged. Remember to remove large stones and weeds from the ground as these could not only damage your rotavator but also could spread weeds around your garden, leaving you with a lot more work in the long run. 
  3. Set the rotavator to a relatively small depth for the first time that you are working over an area. Always rotavate an area in strips, overlapping the last strip to make sure that there is none that you have missed. 
  4. You will have to go over the same strip multiple times. When doing this, choose a deeper depth to make sure that your rotavator has worked on as much of the soil as possible. 
  5. It may seem like extra work, but we would always suggest rotavating from a 90-degree angle to your original lines when you are going back over the ground. This will help to ensure there is no ground that has been missed. 

Safety Tips

  • You will probably experience, at some point or another, the rotavator moving and jumping around if it hits a hard object while you are working. Remember to allow the rotavator to move, and just go with the movement, otherwise, you could become injured (and will become fatigued sooner from the extra work). Relax through the rotavator jumping and then guide it back to the spot you were working on. 
  •  Wear heavy-duty footwear and ear protectors when working with rotavators. 

Best of the Rest

Hillvert Electric Tiller Garden Tiller Rototiller Rotovator Soil Cultivator Aerator Gardening Fertilising 1500W HT-FORBES-45T (420rpm, 24 Carbon Steel Blades, Working Width 44cm, 7 Speeds)
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  • 24 sturdy blades -- four angled tines on each of six plates, made of durable carbon steel
  • Powerful -- 420 rpm at 1,500 W for comfortable tilling
  • 7 levels -- adjust the height to the ground conditions
  • 44 cm working width -- work large areas quickly
  • Safe -- 2-point safety switch, cord retainer, blade guard
Handy 3.5hp Petrol Tiller/Cultivator
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Handy 3.5hp Petrol Tiller/Cultivator
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  • Max Working Depth 10in/25cm
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Garden Gear Electric Garden Tiller, Adjustable Cultivator & Rotavator to Break Up Soil for Lawn, Vegetable Patch & Allotment, 1050W
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Garden Gear Electric Garden Tiller, Adjustable Cultivator & Rotavator to Break Up Soil for Lawn, Vegetable Patch & Allotment, 1050W
  • Powerful; 1050W electric rotavator cultivator and tiller
  • Great features; Maximum working width of 32 centimetres and depth of 22 centimetres, 2-point safety switch and overheat protection
  • Long power cord; 10-metre power cord giving you extra freedom, comes complete with cable tidy
  • Eco-friendly; No need to refill with expensive petrol that produces harmful fumes
  • Guarantee; 24-month guarantee

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I need replacement blades for my rotavator?

Many rotavators will have detachable blades that can be replaced if they become damaged (but we would definitely recommend checking this before purchasing). Make sure to buy replacement blades that are compatible with your rotavator, and are going to be a good enough quality to work on the soil type that you have in your garden. 

Do rotavator attachments work?

Yes! Rotavator attachments are a great idea if you have a very large area to work on and already have a sit on mower or a quad bike etc. that they can be attached to. They are considerably bigger than many individual models though so are only suitable for big spaces, as otherwise, you will struggle to manoeuvre them. 

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Last update on 2020-07-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Mike Jones 178 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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