Purchasing a Rototiller

johnpmMay 16, 2008

I have a 40' x 100' garden that I need to till. It is excellent soil with virtually no rocks. My parents have been working this garden for the last 50 years. Unfortunately, they are now too old to continue - it is now my job (a job much to my surprise I enjoy doing). The last two years, I prepared the soil for planting with a mini tiller. This year, I want to use a more apprpriate tool. I've been considering new vs used, and rear tine vs front tine. Currently, Sears has a 9 torque rated front tine tiller on sale for $340, and a 8.25 torque rated rear tine tiller on sale for $570. I've also seen a used Ariens 9HP rear tine tiller selling for $300.

Has anyone had any experience with the Craftsman (Sears) units?

For my garden, would I be better off with the rear tine tiller or would I do equally well with the front tine unit?

Any thoughts about purchasing the old Ariens instead of a new Craftsman?

In advance, thanks for your help.

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dmullen(Southern CA)

I wanted a rear tine tiller 30 years ago but Sears had a front tine tiller on sale at the time. I bought it.

My garden is not as large as yours but many times, I wish I had bought a rear tine tiller because I hear they are easier to use. My tiller seems to have to be wrestled sometimes while I am using it.

I also hear though that they do not till as deep as the front and middle tine tillers. Do not know about that.

My tiller has a 8 HP Briggs engine and it has basically been trouble free. So has the tiller.

I would not hesitate to buy a used tiller as long as it was in good condition, from a good manufacturer, and parts were easily available. I have never needed parts though except tune up items like spark plugs and I have rebuilt the carb. a couple of times.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 10:03PM
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fredbarber(z4 CO & z6 MA)

John, my first tiller was a used front tine Ariens. It was inexpensive and a really good way for me to get in touch with the realities of tiller ownership and use. When it died, I bought a Honda mid-tine tiller, which I dearly love. (More recent versions of the same tiller don't have reverse gear, which I would find completely unacceptable. Product liability concerns strike again!)

I believe there are lots of great, under utilized tillers out there taking up space in their owners' garages. Probably more than any other class of lawn and garden equipment. If you can find the right one, it can be a real steal.

If you are interested in going upscale, there's a Honda rear tine machine currently listed on Boston Craigslist. It's in Franklin, so it may be a real hike, depending on what part of NH you're in, but might at least be worth a phone call.

Good luck.

-- Fred

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 9:38AM
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For that sized garden, I would look for a good used Troy-bilt "horse" rear tine. Expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $700 depending on condition. New they cost about $1,800I'd take one of these machines over a new craftsman (or any craftsman for that matter) any day. Craigslist is a good place to find one, but be prepared to have cash in hand and act quickly when you find one because they sell fast. I had a couple bought out from under me before I was able to get my hands on one. In fact, IMO if you find one that has still been on there for a couple days or more there is likely something wrong with it or it is way overpriced.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 9:16PM
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Hi John,

If you're fine with used and want one of the best tillers on the market, look for a BCS on craigslist. They're incredibly expensive new (around $2K for the cheapest) but can be had for a good price used. The biggest advantage of the BCS units is you can take off the tiller and mount several other attachments like sickle mowers, snowblowers, chippers, mower, etc. I bought a 15 year old 715 with tiller and snowblower earlier this year for around $750. You can learn about them at earthtoolsbcs.com.

I wouldn't buy anything from Sears after the bad experience I had with them and a mower. I won't get into the details unless you want them. Lets just say it better not break down.

Good luck whatever you do.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 11:03AM
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My Wife and I went out to Eat last week, I told her my friend wanted his tiller back(A sears 5HP with Briggs engine which he bought in 1990) The thing still runs great and does a fine job. I told her I should have my own, I don't feel like being on a time schedule when using someone else's stuff. She agreed. We went to a local big box store and they had small tillers, Not what I needed. I inquired as to a larger one and got the deer in the headlights look. We were then strolling back through the garden area and my wife said hey, whats that? There covered in dust was a MTD with a 5hp honda engine on it. It was cut down as it was refurbished. They took another $25.00 off. I got it for $225.00!! Got it home, Put Oil and gas in it and it started. But the cable to make it go foward was way too long. I saw that they had the cables reversed. I switched them around and the thing works great!! You might find something like that there or at sears. The one I bought has the full warranty too. Pat

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 5:47PM
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I earlier recommended a used troy-bilt horse. These are excellent machines, but now the BCS machine farmerboybill mentions is also a very nice machine, just a lot harder to find. I guess that means they don't make as many of them or they are so good no one hardly ever sells them or maybe it is a little of both. Either machin e should last for many more years with regular maintenance if you can lay your hands on one.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 8:37PM
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I'm looking for a used rear tine tiller.I garden 60x125 spot. Years ago I used to use my dads honda 8hp rear tine and it did very well. Which is better, belt or direct drive transmission?. I see alot of troy-bilts, and mtd's. Not a big craftsman fan. Is 5hp enough? thanks

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 10:10AM
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"Which is better, belt or direct drive transmission?"

There are circumstances in which you can encounter a tree root or rock that will suddenly stop your tines. In that case, you need to have some form of clutching action in your system, or you run the risk of damaging something. My Merry Tiller has dual V-belts that act as an automatic clutch, in that anything that stops the tines simply causes the belts to slip. A direct drive transmission could incorporate a mechanical clutch, but I would want to verify the existence of that before operating the tiller in an environment that could have rocks, roots, or other objects in the soil.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 12:33PM
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I bought a Poulan front tine tiller a year ago. It is the same as the Sears Craftsman front tine for about $329 on sale. I bought it from Amazon on sale for only $299 free shipping and no tax!!!! I like it well enough. I never use a mid or rear tine tiller. For you yard, I think it is ok. I can imagin it is harder to control than the real tine and not dig as deep. You have to lift the handle up to dig deep so it must be harder than the real tine.

One advantage is the front tine is going to have a better reach in corners and tighter space than the rear tine. I cannot see you can get away with just a rear tine if your garder is surrounded by fence and have tight turns. You might have to get a Mantis for that. If you have an open yard with no fence, I think a rear tine must be better.

As you see front tine is a lot cheaper and if this is the only yard you do and you do it every year, it is really not that demanding and front tine will do ok. It is only hard to dig virgin clay soil the first time. I had more difficult time the first time, after that, the tiller pretty much glide through if you till once or twice a year. Hack, a Mantis will even do it after the first time if you do it regularly. I have the Mantis with dethatcher, I now use that more than anything else!!!

I myself would never buy a rear tine. I might consider the Honda mid tine. If you are a pro, rear tine is a must, if you are a weekend warrior like me, I sincerely doubt you need it. Even my front tine is sitting in the shed!!! I am using my Mantis for most of the tilling and cultivating because the soil is so soft and I start planting fruit trees, I have to use something that is very manuvable and rear tine is anything but. Rear tine is so big, if space is a limition, good luck. Front tine will get the job done, just slower the first time.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 2:59PM
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I agree pretty much with everything you said above, except for your statement,

"You have to lift the handle up to dig deep so it must be harder than the rear tine."

Both front tine tillers and mid tine tillers depend on the use of a drag stake, that is usually adjustable for depth. With both front tine and mid tine tillers you push down on the handles to engage the drag, which retards the forward motion of the tiller, causing it to dig deeper. As you reach the desired depth you then ease off on the downward pressure to allow the natural motion of the tines to pull the tiller forward.

If you think the tiller has dug too deep, you might even lift up a bit on the handles to make it easier for the tiller to "climb up" a little and move forward. But, based on my experience with my Merry Tiller, I can't think of any situation where lifting up on the handle would be what you needed to do to make the tiller dig deeper. Perhaps I misinterpreted what you meant by your statement.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 5:32PM
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Thanks, I have to try it. I don't have much experience with tilling. It is not as if I do it all the time. I remember that!!! Hornestly, I never even look at the depth stick at the back. Live and learn, a whole lot of learning.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 9:45PM
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I was a Craftsman fan for a very long time, but not any more. See the link. How can they sell stuff like this with a straight face?

Here is a link that might be useful: craftsman tillers

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 3:58AM
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I have the exact tiller in Poulan. I compare with the craftsman front ine. It has the same engine. B & S OHV engine. I compare the engine number (12?????) which is B&S number telling you kind of engine, the displacement, bearing, vertical etc. It is exact engine. Don't read the Series 800 crap!! It is actually rated "intermediate" on emmision durability. The gear box is exactly same also. Even Honda GX25 and GX35 are make in other third world country, I won't hold too much on that.

Knowing the limitation of the front tine and the fact that it is $329, It is a hell of a tiller!!! I have it for over a year, I have nothing but good thing to say about it.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 1:12PM
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