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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
332 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best corded electric tillers

Last Updated July 2020

A corded electric tiller is the ideal solution for many gardeners. There’s terrific choice, they are very affordable, and they’re lighter, easier to use, and need less looking after than their gas counterparts. They are also much quieter and kinder to the environment.

The argument for gas machines mostly centers on the extra power they offer. It’s a valid point, but unless you have really large areas to till — and are prepared to spend big bucks — a corded electric model delivers performance that’s on par with many mid-range gas-powered competitors.

We’ve been looking at all the latest machinery so we can help you decide which is best for your patch, and we’ve made a number of recommendations. These offer something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a compact, low-cost tiller for weeding and maintaining a small yard or something that will allow you to manage more extensive borders and vegetable plots. In the following guide, we’ve focused on the individual details.

Never “walk” your corded electric tiller over paths or driveways on its tines. You’ll likely bend them. If it doesn’t have wheels, lift the tool across.

Key considerations

Power

Although you’ll occasionally see corded electric motors rated in watts or horsepower, for the most part they’re measured in amps. This can range from as low as 2.5 amps for small cultivators that look much like weed eaters to 5 to 6 amps for lightweight tillers, and from 8 amps to as high as 13.5 amps for the more powerful models. The theoretical maximum is 15 amps (the most a standard household outlet can provide), but any fluctuations in a 15-amp machine would likely keep tripping the breaker, so a small margin is allowed, hence the largest being 13.5-amp models.

Maximum power sounds great, but it won’t necessarily be what you want if you’ve got a modest yard because it means a bigger, heavier, and less maneuverable machine. You also need to understand that these machines don’t have a throttle — they’re either on or off. They won’t drag you off across the garden, but the more powerful the motor, the more strength you’ll need to control it. So, while motor size is a good indicator of potential performance, a number of other elements are equally important.

Tines

Number: Another good indication of a corded electric tiller’s potential is whether it has one, two, or three pairs of tines.  A single pair makes for a compact, lightweight machine that’s easy to maneuver around existing planting. Two pairs suggest a mid-range all-rounder. Three pairs add up to quite a wide machine, less maneuverable but made for more serious digging.

Width: On machines with multiple tines, you’ll often find width is variable, so you can close them up to get around existing planting, for example, or open them out when digging unplanted ground. Also, if they’re set close together, you can dig more aggressively. When further apart, you’ll make faster progress in soil that has already been turned. Greater tilling width also means you’ll need to make fewer trips up and down the garden!

Thickness: The thickness of the tines is something else to look for. If they’re thin, there’s a danger they might easily get bent out of shape or even broken. More substantial tines suggest they’re capable of working harder for longer. 

Shape: Then there’s the shape of the individual tines, which also has an impact. A straight tine slices through ground easily, but it won’t turn the soil, so most tines have at least a certain amount of curvature. This is more pronounced on some, and the bends can be sharp. Manufacturers claim this is for higher efficiency, which may be true, but it’s worth checking owner comments for some real-world feedback.

Speed: The revolutions per minute of the tines is often given, but because most are between 350 and 400, it has negligible bearing on your decision.

EXPERT TIP

For maximum motor efficiency, use the shortest extension cord possible. If it’s within 50 feet of an outlet, use a 16-gauge cord. Beyond that, a 14-gauge cord is recommended. It should be marked with a W for outdoor use.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Depth

Depth capability is another valuable number, and it might be anywhere from just a few inches to 8 or more. Although a manufacturer’s maximum might be a little optimistic, it’s another useful guide to digging performance. It’s usually set using a metal post held in place by a spring clip, which is very quick and easy to adjust.

Components

Shield: A shield is provided to stop dirt and stones being thrown up at you. On some models this is plastic, which is prone to cracking under impact. On better models it’s made of steel.

Clip: Cable connectors sometimes have a retaining clip so you don’t have to keep pulling the extension cord out when you move around, which can be very frustrating!

Wheels: These are frequently supplied, but it’s worth checking. Bear in mind that these are not powered. The digging action pulls the tiller along through the soil, but otherwise you’re moving it around manually.

Handles: The handles fold down for storage. Some tillers are very compact.

Weight

None of these machines are particularly heavy, usually somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds, but if you have limited strength or mobility or frequently need to move the tiller from place to place, it’s worth checking the figures. Don’t assume that just because it’s a compact machine that it’s lighter than one of the larger models. That’s not always the case.

Assembly

Minor assembly may be required, but it’s only basic things like attaching handles or wheels. It’s very straightforward, and you don’t usually need any tools.

Warranty

The warranty period is often 12 months, though some manufacturers offer 2 years, which may reflect better build quality.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

For outdoor use, your electrical outlet should always be fitted with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). In the event of a short, it cuts the power in a fraction of a second and could save you from being electrocuted.

Corded electric tiller prices

Inexpensive: The cheapest corded electric tillers cost around $90 to $110, and while they don’t offer tremendous power, they’re lightweight machines that are useful for general maintenance duties.

Mid-range: There’s lots of choice in the $120 to $150 range. These are good, reliable all-rounders from brands many people will recognize.

Expensive: Prices for corded electric tillers are very competitive, so it’s rare that they top $150, though a few retail at close to $200.

EXPERT TIP

Experts recommend removing turf with a spade before using an electric tiller for new beds. At the very least, cut the grass as short as possible. Dense vegetation can clog the tines and overstrain the motor.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Wear protective gear. Always wear sturdy boots and work gloves. The tiller should have a shield to prevent stones being thrown up at you, but eye protection should also be considered.

  • Don’t try to till wet ground. You’ll damage the soil structure, prevent proper aeration, and put unnecessary strain on the tiller’s motor.

  • Don’t try to push your electric tiller along. Let the tines do the work. If you force it, the tool won’t dig as efficiently. With new beds you’ll probably have to go over the ground more than once, so there’s no point tiring yourself unnecessarily.

  • Unplug the tiller before you work on it. If you get tangles or the tines stop turning for any reason, always unplug the cord before working on your tiller. If the tines restart suddenly, you could lose a finger.

If you come to a tough patch, hold the machine in place while the tines rotate, and rock it from left to right a little.

FAQ

Q. Are a tiller and cultivator the same thing?
A. Technically speaking, a tiller should be able to break new ground. A cultivator is for maintaining a patch that has already been dug. However, the terms have largely become interchangeable, so it’s important to check the specifications before buying so you know what the tool is capable of.

 

Q. Is it safe to daisy-chain extension cords together so I can go farther?
A. The maximum recommended length for an extension cord is 100 feet. Beyond that, the resistance in the wire causes a voltage drop. It saps the power, which has two possible side effects. First, there isn’t enough voltage left for the motor to work properly — you usually notice a speed drop, which may be enough to make the tool unusable. Second, it can cause potentially dangerous overheating and possibly damage the tool. If you have a big yard, you’ll either need to go cordless or choose a gas-powered tiller.

 

Q. Does a corded electric tiller have the power to cut through hard-packed dirt?
A. It’s a difficult question to answer because there are a number of variables. Electric tillers are capable of taking on just about anything a medium-size gas model can do, though they might take a little longer. If you’re breaking difficult ground over a large area, it might be worth renting a commercial gas tiller (or getting a contractor) for the initial work, then buying a corded electric model for ongoing cultivation and maintenance.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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