Rotavator Buying Guide

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Rotovator Buying Guide

Rotavators are garden tools used for mixing the soil to make it easier to plant in and to disturb weeds. Various types of rotovator exist, from large industrial rotavators used on farms to much smaller gardening rotavators. They are also known as aerators or cultivators. Rotavators developed out of the need for more efficient methods of churning the soil in preparation for planting and seeding. Traditionally, hoes and mattocks were used for the same purpose, and the first rotavators were pulled either by people or animals.

Choosing a Rotavator

When choosing a rotavator, there are a few things that need to be considered.

Size and Style

The size of rotavator required will depend upon the size of land to be worked. Rotavators come in various sizes which are suitable for anything from small flower beds to large fields. The two basic types are electric and petrol.

Electric or Petrol Rotavators

Electric rotavators come in various sizes and offer a handy alternative to petrol rotavators. There is no messing about with fuel and they are often quieter and lighter to handle as well as cheaper to run, but the disadvantage is that they cannot be used in areas without access to an electric power supply. Petrol rotavators are mobile and can be used away from the home, for example, in allotments, but they require fuel which should be factored into the cost and convenience.

Small, Medium, and Large Rotavators

The smallest rotavators available are electric models. These are intended for everyday use in normal sized gardens, for mixing the soil in flower beds and other small areas. They are simple hand held machines with blades at the base and are also known as mini cultivators. They can mix the earth to around 20 cm depth and 15 cm width and are ideal for tasks such as weeding, soil aeration, and mixing in fertiliser or compost. More intense churning of the soil for preparation of larger vegetable beds will require a larger and more powerful rotavator. However, the lightness and ease of use that small electric rotavators offers is attractive. They generally weigh around 5 kg and have engines of about 250W.

Larger Medium Rotavators

Larger medium duty rotavators are pushed machines with the blades in front of the wheels and the engine on top of the wheels and blades. They are also known as front tine cultivators due to the tines, or blades, being positioned in front of the wheels. These are suitable for small vegetable patches and larger flower beds. Small rotavators are designed to be easy to handle and manoeuvre. They are lightweight and designed to be streamlined and ergonomic, with various features to make transportation and operation as simple as possible. They can often be transported easily in a car boot, so are ideal for those with allotments away from the home. Look out for features such as carry handles and handlebars that fold down and retractable cables. Also look out for quiet running models and those with features such as rear wheels that can help manoeuvrability and stability. These rotavators often come with a range of accessories that can be used for other gardening tasks. Working depths and depths are both around 20 cm to 30 cm. While wider widths mean they can mix more soil at once, those with narrower widths may be more suitable for tight spaces. Electric rotavators of this type have engines around 800W to 1400W, with the more powerful motors able to handle compacted soil. Check the length of the cable if this may be an issue – most cables are about 10 m long. Electric rotavators of this size weigh about 8 kg to 16 kg. Medium duty petrol or diesel rotavators have similar design, weight and features. They come in 2 stroke and 4 stroke models with engine. It is worth noting that the weight given is generally the dry weight, so take into account the weight of fuel.

Mantis Tiller

A popular type of medium duty rotavator is the mantis tiller. This is a specific design with wheels and tines positioned side by side, making it a mid tine rotavator. It is available in both petrol and electric models. It is available with several accessories such as a scarifier, edger and aerator, making it a superb multi-task gardening tool. The working depth is to about 25 cm and it has a large working width to about 40 cm, making it an excellent choice for working wide, open plots of land.

Mid Tine

Mid tine rotavators have the tines positioned between or slightly behind the wheels. Generally available in petrol versions only, they are larger than front tine cultivators with a more robust and sturdy design and are more powerful, with the capability to work in compacted soil and difficult conditions. They usually have Y-shaped loop handlebars for comfortable operation, which are often adjustable to suit the user’s height. Look out for reverse gears and handlebar mounted controls for safe and efficient operation. Easy access controls can help reduce vibration and fatigue. Also look out for features such as plant or crop guards to protect nearby plants, transport wheels for easy transportation and engine guards. A larger number of tines may make the rotavator more efficient. The working depth is about 60 cm to 100 cm and depth to about 30 cm. Adjustable depth bars are useful. Some model specifications include noise levels which are worth looking at. Mid tine rotavators of this type weigh about 30 kg to 55 kg.

Rear Tine

Rear tine rotavators are the most powerful type of rotavator and are usually only necessary for professional gardeners and contractors. Rear tine rotavators can handle very heavy and compacted soil and challenging conditions. They often have counter rotating tines which rotate in the opposite direction to the wheels. Counter rotating tines aid stability and prevent the machine running forwards when working in compacted soil. Grooved chevron tyres give excellent grip and rear tine rotavators should have a reverse gear. Also look out for adjustable handlebars and counterweights to aid balance and control, as well as deadman handlebars for safety. The working depth on rear tine rotavators is about 15 cm to 30 cm and working width about 40 cm to 100 cm. The working width may be adjustable with extensions. Various attachments are available. Rear tine rotavators of this type can weigh up to about 100 kg and cost significantly more.


Various accessories are available with rotavators to turn them into multi-task machines. Accessories include aerators, edgers, digging tines, dethatchers, crevice cleaners, ploughs, and wheel kits.


Aerators cut tiny grooves in the soil to aerate it. Aeration is beneficial for soil microorganisms and vital for oxygen and nutrient transport within the soil. It aids nutrient uptake by grass lawns and other plants, keeping them healthy and attractive.


Edgers are used to create beautifully sharp lawn edges bordering flower beds.

Digging tines

Digging tines are used for tougher work, such as breaking up weeds and digging compacted soil.


Dethatchers are a type of rake that effectively remove dead grass, leaves and other debris from the lawn. This aids lawn growth and keeps it healthy.

Crevice cleaner

Crevice cleaners have steel brushes that remove debris, grass, and weeds from cracks and crevices such as between paving slabs.


Plough attachments create neat furrows of various depths for planting.

Wheel kit

Wheel kits attach to the rotavator to aid transportation as well as adding stability when attachments such as edgers are used.

Find Rotavators on eBay

Rotovators can be found on eBay in the Power Tools & Equipment category. To navigate to this category using the left hand side tabs, follow the links for Home & Garden and then Power Tools & Equipment via the Garden tab. Click on Rotavators/Aerators. There are options to select petrol and corded electric rotavators. There are also options to narrow listings by brand, price, engine size and power. Rotavators can also be searched for directly using the search field. Type in “rotavator”, “petrol rotavator” or similar terms.


Rotavators come in different sizes and designs for various sizes of plot and types of soil condition. The smallest hand held models come in electric versions and are suitable for small flower beds and vegetable patches. Medium duty front tine and mid tine models come in both electric and petrol versions and are suitable for larger plots of land. Larger plots of land and heavier, compacted soils will require larger and more powerful petrol rotavators. These have the tines positioned behind the wheels and are known as rear tine rotavators. With all rotavators, look out for special features that aid operation and control, such as fold down handlebars, easy access controls, plant guards, engine guards, adjustable depth bars, working width extensions and deadman handlebars. A number of attachments are available to enable other gardening tasks. Shop around to find the best-quality rotavators and read reviews and product descriptions to be sure the model is suitable.

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