Cultivator vs Tiller

Cultivator vs Tiller: What is the Key Difference?

A lot of people use the terms “tiller” and “cultivator” interchangeably as they think that there are no differences between these machines.

However, even though these machines are very similar in both concept and design, it’s very important to understand that tillers and cultivators are different gardening tools used for different applications. In addition, they do differ significantly in a couple of categories – they come at different price ranges, they don’t offer the same tilling depth, etc.

Whether you’re only looking for a machine that will make your life easier or you’re interested in growing a new garden, here we have a direct comparison between these farm implements with the ultimate goal of helping you buy the right tool for the job.


Cultivator vs Tiller – A Comparison Table







Ease of Use


More complicated

Overall Size

Small & compact

Large & bulky

Maximum Garden Size

1,500 square feet gardens

5,000 square feet gardens


Bar-point, rigid tine, rigid tine shovel, spring tine

Vertical-tine, rear-tine, front-tine

Ideal Uses

Remove weeds, mix the soil, work in compost or fertilizer

Loosen rocky soil, break up hard ground


Up to $400

Up to $3,000


Cultivator – The Overview

As their name suggests, cultivators are designed for the cultivation of an existing planting area. They are typically less powerful and smaller than most front-tine tillers and rear-tine tillers, as they don’t have to work with hard soil (even though they’re capable of breaking it).

A cultivator is an ideal machine for taking care of a smaller plot of land. Besides the fact that it can break up hard, compacted soil, a typical cultivator will be able to complete most of the digging tasks a front-tine tiller or a rear-tine tiller can.

However, the smaller size of a cultivator means that this machine cannot dig as deep or wide as the garden tiller can. On the other hand, this compact size can come in very handy in certain situations. You can use a cultivator for digging dirt in tighter and smaller areas where garden tillers can’t fit. In addition, cultivators are much easier to transport and store away.

Cultivators are also great when it comes to taking care of the weeds during the growing season. They’re a particularly great choice for inexperienced gardeners, as these machines are easier to maintain and operate.

Furthermore, cultivators typically offer more power source options. They are available in cordless and corded electric variants, but the gas-powered models equipped with 2-cycle engines remain the most popular option. Keep in mind that the cordless cultivators can’t dig deep into the ground and are only suitable for seasonal use.

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Pros of Cultivators:

  • Not as large or expensive
  • Easier to maneuver and push
  • You can use a cultivator to mix soil and remove weeds
  • Cultivators are small, allowing easy transportation and storage

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Cons of Cultivators:

  • Less power – limited functionality
  • A cultivator can’t dig as deep into the soil as a garden tiller can


Garden Tiller

Tiller – The Overview

When compared to cultivators, front-tine tillers and rear-tine tillers offer more power. Garden tillers can be quite large and most have rotating tines or blades that easily break up hard soil when preparing a new garden for planting.

Obviously, the higher power of garden tillers allows them to handle large plots of land with ease. Using a tiller and a cultivator side by side on the same plot of land always proves that a tiller can till the dirt much faster and get the job done quicker. Unlike cultivators, which most people use to prepare an existing garden bed, a tiller can be used to create a new garden bed.

Because they need more power to rotate their blades and till the soil, most rear-tine and front-tine tillers use gas as their power source (they are “gas-powered”). When its tines rotate, a tiller opens up the soil to loosen it up and prepare it for the upcoming plants. Comparing a tiller and a cultivator in terms of tilling width and depth gives us a clear winner – it’s the tiller.

Most gas-powered tillers are equipped with 4-cycle engines. An engine of this type creates a higher RPM and more torque to allow more efficient tilling, but it’s also heavier than a 2-cycle engine that is found in a typical cultivator. This is precisely why every front-tine tiller and rear-tine tiller comes with wheels. A set of wheels makes it easier to push the machine forward.

In addition to all this, it’s important to mention that breaking, loosening, or mixing soil with a heavy-duty gas tiller doesn’t require much effort since most of these gardening tools come with a forward-drive transmission. Obviously, this feature removes the need to push the tiller manually altogether.

The bulkier size of a front-tine or rear-tine tiller means that this machine takes more room and can be harder to store. This is less true for the electric tillers, though. However, if you choose to go with a corded electric tiller, keep in mind that you won’t be able to use it for heavy-duty ground digging, loosening, mixing, and other gardening tasks.

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Pros of Tillers:

  • They dig deeper into the ground
  • They accommodate more attachments
  • An ideal choice for larger gardens and exceptionally hard soil
  • Equipped with powerful engines that spin the tines at higher RPM

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Cons of Tillers:

  • More difficult to operate and maintain
  • Larger and bulkier than a typical cultivator


A Cultivator or a Tiller – What’s the Best Choice for You?

Ideal Uses

While cultivator and tiller may look very similar, these gardening tools are built for different purposes. Knowing what each of them does the best will help you choose the right machine for your needs.


Although you can always use an electric cultivator to break up softer soil in your garden, this machine is not the best choice for such an application. Their tines will do a much better job on the soil that has already been tilled.

You can use this farm implement to mix in fertilizers or compost, as well as to prepare mulch on the garden ground in order to conserve some moisture. In addition, cultivators work great when it comes to preparing rows for your plants. And once these plants sprout, you can use the cultivator’s blades to keep the soil aerated and remove the weeds.


A tiller, on the other hand, is what you’ll want to use when you need to break compacted ground in order to start a new garden. However, keep in mind that the type of tiller you choose to go with plays a major role here – there’s a big difference between gas-powered and electric models in terms of performance.

A tiller can be of huge help at the start of the planting season. Its larger tines can till deeper and wider than those found on a typical cultivator, allowing you to prepare your garden for planting much faster.

Moreover, tillers can be very convenient after harvesting. This is because you can use one to mix the leftover plants from your garden into the composting and then use the mixture to increase the nutritional value of your soil.

Garden Size

Although both tillers and cultivators allow gardeners to get the job done faster than when they’re using forks and hoes, there’s still a difference in how much ground these machines can cover.

Since they offer more power and can dig wider and deeper, tillers are far more suitable for homeowners with larger plots of land that need to be worked on. On the other hand, cultivators are a better choice for folks who own smaller gardens with up to 1,500 square feet in size.

Ease of Use

Due to the fact that a cultivator is smaller and doesn’t require much effort to be pushed forward, this tool is more suitable for older people and individuals with health problems. Cultivators are also easier to maneuver.

As we already said, tillers are bulkier than cultivators and require more effort on the part of the user during operation. However, a lot of modern models come with wheels and transmission systems, and these features make them significantly easier to use. But even the most modern tillers require a bit more elbow grease than your typical electric cultivator.


Tillers are larger and more powerful and that’s why they cost more – it’s as simple as that. However, the price of a particular tiller or cultivator mostly depends on the brand, model, and type you ultimately decide to go with.

Depending on its type, one can expect to pay up to $400 for a cultivator. When it comes to tillers, the cheapest front-tine models can be purchased at around $300 to $500. The more powerful rear-tine and vertical-tine models, on the other hand, can cost as much as $3,000.

Cultivator vs Tiller – The Verdict

For people who like working in the garden, both cultivators and tillers can be of great help – they make land preparation a lot easier and faster.

A cultivator is a good choice if you need something smaller and easier to operate that will help you with weeding and compost-mixing in your small garden. However, if you’re someone who owns a large plot of land or you want to break compacted soil to create a new garden, opting for a tiller would be a wiser decision.

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