Best Sun Joe Tillers

Updated November 2019
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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.

8 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
197 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 Sun Joe tillers

Last Updated November 2019

There are several very good reasons to buy an electric tiller. Not only is it more effective than digging the ground by hand – breaking up the soil better, improving aeration, and helping it drain more freely – but it’s also much kinder on your back!

Sun Joe is a well-known and trusted brand. The company produces a range of eco-friendly outdoor tools, including cultivators and tillers, that combine excellent performance with great value.

The products we recommend here are all fine examples of the wide choice available. For a more detailed view of Sun Joe tillers, please read the following buyer’s guide. It looks at the specifications in more detail, offers advice to maximize your use of the tool, and provides answers to some frequently asked questions to help you make your decision.

Cultivators are for garden maintenance – working on ground that’s already been dug. Tillers can break new ground and churn up sod for flower beds or vegetable plots.

Key considerations

Corded vs. cordless

Although there aren’t many cordless tillers in the Sun Joe range at present, you can tell by looking at their other garden power tools that this is an area where they’re putting in a lot of development effort. As battery power increases, there are sure to be more, so it’s worth taking a brief look at the the pros and cons of corded and cordless.

  • Corded: The Sun Joe corded cultivator and tiller range is extensive, from 2.0-amp light-duty tools, to powerful 12-amp and 13.5-amp models that eat up the ground quickly and with minimal effort. All are easy to use, comparatively lightweight, and almost maintenance-free.

    The only downside with any of these tools is the need for an extension cord. The maximum effective length of this is 100 feet. It’s possible (though not recommended) to daisy-chain cables together, but there’s a significant power drop, which impacts directly on the performance of the tiller. The higher the current requirement (models with more amps), the worse the problem. Going beyond 100 feet means going for a gas-powered model (by another manufacturer) or a cordless machine.
     

  • Cordless: A cordless tool has all the benefits of corded, plus complete freedom of movement. The drawback here is battery run time. Tillers are fairly power-hungry tools, and manufacturers tend to be optimistic when quoting how long their tools will work before they need recharging. A stated maximum of 30 minutes is likely to be considerably less in the real world, and it will also be dragged down if you’re breaking new ground as opposed to redigging an existing plot. The solution of course, is a spare battery, but these are currently quite expensive.

Tines

Another way to judge performance is to count the tines. Sun Joe is good at matching the number to appropriate motor output:

  • Two: If the tiller only has two, it’s really designed for cultivating rather than tilling.

  • Four: This is the standard for medium-range tillers.

  • Six: These are the most powerful models.

Amps and volts

Both types of tool are rated by amps, but this can be slightly misleading. With corded tools, it’s the easiest way to compare power output. With cordless tools, you should be looking at volts for absolute power and amps (more correctly, ampere hours, or Ah), as a rating of how long that power can be sustained.

For example, a 24-volt, 4.0 Ah battery provides 24 volts at least twice as long as a 24-volt, 2.0 Ah model and, depending on the battery configuration, sometimes longer. For this reason, when buying batteries for cordless tools, we recommend the following:

  • Always buy lithium-ion (L-ion), not nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad). They deliver power more consistently and last much longer.

  • Always buy the highest ampere-hour rating that’s compatible with your tool.

  • Always check compatibility. While manufacturers are putting more effort into making all their cordless tools run off the same range of batteries, it isn’t always the case.
EXPERT TIP

Always plug your tiller’s cord or extension cord into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). In the event of an electrical problem, it will cut the power and could save your life.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If the cord is getting warm, the gauge (thickness) is insufficient for the tool, and that’s bad for two reasons. You’re not transmitting enough power for the machine to run properly, and there’s a danger of the cord overheating, which could cause it to melt.


Sun Joe tiller features

Width and depth: These are important factors when choosing a tiller. The first is obvious – the wider it is, the fewer times you have to go up and down your garden to get the job done. Depth is more of a factor when creating a new bed, with six to ten inches recommended. For retilling existing beds, you don’t need to go so deep, so it’s nice to have adjustability. On Sun Joe models, this is a simple case of inserting a pin in the desired position on the bar provided.

Wheels: Wheels make the tiller easy to maneuver whether digging or just crossing the yard. The entry-level TJ600E does not have wheels, so don’t “walk” it across paving or tarmac – you could bend the tines.

Wheel adjustment: This allows you to work at the most comfortable height possible. Either three or seven positions are offered, depending on the model (except the TJ600E mentioned above).

Handles: You’ll be wearing gloves when using the tiller, so look for either a simple bar or big handles and an easily reached on/off trigger. Most Sun Joe cultivators and tillers have folding or telescopic handles, so they take up less space in your garage or shed and are easy to fit in your vehicle.

Weight: Weight probably won’t be a factor. The use of durable and impact-absorbing plastics makes all Sun Joe cultivators and tillers comparatively light.

Certification: All Sun Joe cultivators and tillers carry ETL certification, which means they comply with relevant US safety standards. They also come with a two-year warranty.

CAUTION

Never attempt to repair a damaged extension cord. Replace it.

Sun Joe tiller prices

Almost all Sun Joe cultivators and tiller/cultivators can be found in a very concise and competitive price range. You’ll pay around $100 for the cheapest and no more than $170 for the most powerful.

The exception is their 40-volt cordless tiller, which retails for just under $200 as a bare tool (without a battery). If you don’t already own other cordless Sun Joe tools with a compatible battery, you’ll need to add around $170 for that and a charger.

Tips

  • Always wear gloves and sturdy work boots. This reduces the danger of slipping. If the ground is stony, wear eye protection. Although Sun Joe tillers are designed to prevent debris being thrown up, there’s always a chance it could happen.

  • Stop immediately if the motor is running but the tines aren’t rotating. Unplug the tiller. Clear the obstruction or resolve the problem before continuing.

  • Choose the right time to till the soil. The best time to till a vegetable plot is in the fall or winter, though a light tilling in spring might be indicated if the dirt has compacted. If that’s the case, wait at least a couple weeks before planting or sowing to allow nutrients and microorganisms to spread evenly throughout the plot.

  • Be patient and let the tiller do the work. While modest effort is required to control the tool, it should pull you forward gently. If you force it, it might overheat and stop. You’ll need to wait until it cools down to continue (this is a built-in safety feature to stop permanent damage to the power unit). You might need to go over new ground several times. If you come to a particularly difficult patch, rocking the tiller gently from left to right will often break the soil.

  • Avoid tilling wet ground. It puts unnecessary strain on the tiller motor and can damage the soil structure, preventing it from aerating properly.

  • Mow existing sod first. Before tilling existing sod, mow it as short as possible. Grass will reduce the machine’s effectiveness, and if it’s long it could wrap around the tines. If the tiller jams, you’ll need to stop and unwind the grass.

Other products we considered

At the time of writing, the range of Sun Joe cordless cultivators and tillers is quite small, though as battery power increases, we expect more models to be introduced. At under 4.5 pounds, the Sun Joe TJW24C 24V Cultivator/Weeder is light enough for almost anyone to use and a real boon for those with restricted movement or physicality. The 6-inch bidirectional steel tines are efficient at digging, incorporating fertilizers, and weed removal. While the 2.0 Ah battery isn’t particularly powerful, it’s rated for up to 60 minutes of run time. The Sun Joe iON12TL-CT Tiller/Cultivator has a 12-inch wide and 8-inch deep capability, making it a serious alternative to mid-range corded models, though the provision of four tines instead of six indicates it doesn’t quite have the performance of the most powerful Sun Joe tillers. A 4.0 Ah battery is standard, delivering a maximum of 30 minutes between charges. We would opt for the 5.0 Ah option.

Sun Joe electric tillers require virtually no maintenance. When you’ve finished work for the day, clean the tines with a stiff brush and maybe some soapy water. Check for cable damage. Job done.

FAQ

Q. Why are even the most powerful Sun Joe tillers only 13.5 amp?
A.
Most household outlets are 15 amp. If you put any more draw on the circuit than that, you’ll likely trip the breaker – 13.5 amp allows for a safe margin. While some circuits are 20 amp, and it’s possible to have higher ratings installed, garden tool manufacturers quite sensibly usually err on the side of caution. It means devices like the Sun Joe tiller can just be plugged in and used straight away without needing to worry about whether there’s enough current.

Q. Does a Sun Joe tiller need to be assembled when I get it?
A.
Yes, but there’s very little to do. In order to get it in the box, Sun Joe generally removes the handles. You might also have to fit the tines, but that’s all. It’s a one-person job that we expect would take you ten minutes at most, even if you’ve never put one together before. Your favorite online video site might also have a helpful demo.

Q. Should I consider a gas-powered tiller? Aren’t they more powerful?
A.
It really depends on the work you have to do. Even corded tillers with a modest amp rating are reasonably powerful tools, but if you expect to do a lot of hard work, this is the aspect you’ll want to maximize. A 12- or 13-amp tiller can handle most things and competes with many mid-range gas models, but at the pro end of the scale there are undoubtedly gas machines that deliver higher performance. Bear in mind, however, that they’re much heavier and can be two or three times more expensive.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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