What Is The Average Cost of Rototilling? (Plus 3 Alternatives)


To expand your garden or start a new one, you will need to loosen up the soil.  Rototilling is more expensive than using a shovel, but it will save you a lot of time and energy.

So, what is the average cost of rototilling?  It will cost an average of $60 per hour to hire someone with a machine to rototill your garden.  Hourly rates range from $30 to $100 per hour, depending on soil conditions and desired tilling depth.  You may need to pay a minimum price for small gardens, and you may pay extra for mileage.

Of course, prices will also vary depending on where you live and when you want to have your garden rototilled.  You also have the option to rent or buy a machine and do the work yourself or to avoid rototilling altogether.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at hourly pricing for rototilling and some examples of what you might expect to pay.  We’ll also discuss rototiller rental rates and the price to buy to give you an idea of the rental market.

Let’s get started.

What Is The Average Cost To Hire Someone To Rototill Your Garden?

It costs an average of $60 per hour (or $1 per minute) to hire someone with a machine to rototill your garden.  This price includes the cost of the machine, fuel, and operator.

For a small garden, you may have to pay a minimum price. This will make it worthwhile for the operator to transport the rototiller back and forth and to do the work.

front tine tiller
It can cost $60 an hour or more to hire someone to rototill your garden.

Some rototiller operators include mileage costs in their pricing. Others may charge an extra mileage fee based on the distance driven to and from your home.

The cost of rototilling will also vary depending on geographic area.

With all of these variables, the hourly rate for rototilling can vary quite a bit, from as low as $30 per hour to as high as $100 per hour.

How Much Does It Cost To Till An Acre?

The cost to hire someone to till an acre can range from $250 an hour to $1000 per hour. A larger rototiller can do the work faster, but it will cost more to hire someone with such a machine.

Some rototiller operators will charge based on area, either by the square foot or by the acre (1 acre is 43,560 square feet – think of a square area with each side about 209 feet long).

For a larger area, you may get a “bulk” discount, meaning the rate per square foot is lower.

Pricing can also vary depending on the type of soil you have:

  • The price will be higher if the soil is hard and rocky, since it will be more difficult to till.
  • The price will be higher if the soil has not been tilled recently, since the ground will be harder due to soil compaction.
rocky soil
Rocky soil is more difficult to till, and will probably result in more hours or dollars spent.

In addition, pricing will depend on your location and the time of year.  Many people want rototilling done in the spring, so demand will be high and prices will be steep.

I would be wary of anyone charging less than $20 per hour for rototilling.  This may be a sign that they are cutting corners on costs.

For example, they may not have adequate insurance coverage if they damage your property or injure themselves while working on the project.

It is always a good idea to ask for proof that a contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured before contracting for any kind of work to be done. This goes double for something as dangerous and injury-prone as rototilling.

Why Is Rototilling So Expensive?

Rototilling is expensive, and there are several factors that increase the cost.

  • Rototilling is dangerous and physically demanding. As a result, there are a limited number of people willing and able to do it. This decreases the supply of operators available for hire.
  • The operator needs to pay the costs associate with the work. These costs include insurance, fuel, rototiller maintenance, transportation costs, office expenses, and overhead costs such as health insurance.
  • Rototilling requires owning or renting a machine. This adds an additional expense to the business.
rototiller
Rototilling is hard work, and it can be dangerous if you are not careful.

Remember that an operator who charges $60 per hour is not taking home $60 per hour.  

After paying the expenses listed above, he has to pay taxes on whatever profit is leftover to get his actual hourly pay.

He might be lucky to take home $30 per hour after expenses and taxes, once all is said and done.

What Is The Cost To Rent A Rototiller?

You also have the option to rent a rototiller and do the work yourself. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, you will need to transport the machine back and forth between the rental location and your home.  This will probably require a truck.

Even if you have a truck, you might not be able to lift a heavy rototiller by yourself. So, make sure to bring at least one strong friend to help you.

If you don’t have a truck, you will also need to rent one for picking up and returning the rototiller.  Otherwise, you will need to pay for delivery and pickup of the rental.

rototiller
Renting a rototiller may be a more cost-effective option than buying or hiring a contractor.

The cost to rent a rototiller will depend on the size of the machine and the length of time you want to use it.

A small machine rented for 4 hours may only cost you $60.

On the other hand, a large machine rented for a week could cost you over $1000.

How Much Does It Cost To Rent Rent A Rototiller For A Day?

It can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 or more to rent a rototiller for a day. It all depends on the size of the machine.

However, it might be worthwhile to rent a more expensive tiller for a shorter window to save yourself time and money.

Check out the table below for a price comparison between Home Depot and Sunbelt for various rental periods and tilling machines.

TillerHome
Depot
Light
Duty
Home
Depot
Mantis
XP
Sunbelt
1.5 HP
Sunbelt
13HP
Hydraulic
Rear Tine
Width21in16in9in20in
Weight53lb34lb29lb560lb
RPM/HP1382401.5HP13HP
4 Hours$43$36NANA
1 Day$61$51$56$140
1 Week$244$204$195$350
4 Weeks$732$612$350$765
This table gives some sample pricing for 4
different rototillers of various sizes.

Try to get an estimate of how long it will take you to rototill before you decide on a rental period.

For example, if you think it will take four and a half days with a Mantis XP from Home Depot, you are better off renting for 1 week at $204.00, rather than for 4 individual days and one 4-hour day for 4*51 + 1*36 = $240.

That way, you have extra time if the project takes longer than you expected. If you finish early, you can use the rototiller for another project if you like.

What Is The Cost To Buy A Rototiller?

The price to buy a rototiller varies quite a bit, depending on machine size and power.  It will generally cost at least $100 for even the smallest, low-horsepower rototillers.

Prices can easily cross $1000 for a larger rototiller with higher horsepower.

Some considerations when choosing a rototiller include:

  • Tilling Width – this will determine how many passes you need to make to till your garden.  Rototiller widths vary from as narrow as 9 inches or as wide as 26 inches. A tiller twice as wide will only need half as many passes (more weight, but less walking).
  • Tilling Depth – this will determine how deep the rototiller will go when digging up soil.  A deeper dig will require more energy, and you are more likely to encounter rocks, roots, and other debris. The Penn State University Extension suggests tilling soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
  • Tine Speed – this determines how quickly the tines (blades) spin and how quickly you can push the rototiller across your garden.
  • Weight – larger machines with more horsepower, tilling width, and tilling depth will naturally be heavier.  A heavy machine can do work faster. However, it can be difficult to maneuver through turns if you are not strong enough.  Rototiller weights can vary from 20 pounds for simple rototillers all the way up to 500 pounds or more for huge, heavy-duty machines.
  • Gas Tank Capacity – this determine how often you will need to refuel.  Keep in mind that a higher capacity means you refuel less often, but you are pushing around more weight in gasoline. Remember that there are also electric rototillers available (no gas tank, but you need a power cord or battery pack). For more information, check out this article on an electric tiller from Mantis.

You can also opt for a rototiller with an electric start option. That way, you can avoid pulling a cord repeatedly, which can hurt your arms, shoulders, or back.

What Are Some Alternatives To Rototilling?

There are a few alternatives to rototilling: you can either upgrade or downgrade the technology you use, or use none at all.

Use A Tractor With A Rototilling Attachment

If you have a tractor, you can use a rototilling attachment to pull behind the tractor and till up your soil.

tractor
Get a rototilling attachment for your tractor and make short work of tilling!

This reduces much of the danger of using a push-from-behind rototiller, since there is no chance of tripping while walking. You will also be further away from the tines.

Pulling a rototilling attachment with a tractor also saves you the backbreaking physical labor pushing a machine through your yard.

Turn Small Areas With A Shovel

You can go low-tech and try to use a shovel to till and turn over your soil.  This method will take a lot more time and a lot more effort, and you will be sore if you try to do too much all at once.

shovel
A shovel is cheaper than a rototiller, but it will take more time and energy.

However, you can choose to dig up only the spots where you are planting. That way, you can avoid digging up the spaces between rows to reduce your work.

Make sure to pace yourself and spread the work out over several days or weeks, depending on the size of the area. Remember that you may also wish to remove rocks from the soil as you go, to give root crops like carrots a better growing medium.

For more information, check out my article on how to get rid of rocks in soil.

Use No-Dig (No-Till) Gardening

No-dig gardening is a method that encourages you to disturb soil as little as possible. That means no tilling or digging.

There is a good reason for this lack of digging and tilling. According to the University of New Hampshire Extension, rototilling when the soil is still wet in the spring will lead to soil compaction.

No-dig gardening also encourages adding plenty of new organic material to soil by mixing in compost and aged manure.

compost bin
Compost adds nutrients and organic material to soil.

You can learn more about no-dig gardening on Charles Dowding’s website.

Conclusion

Now you have an idea of the rates you might pay to hire, rent, or buy a rototiller.  If you decide to hire, be sure to ask a few different contractors for prices so that you can get a sense of the market rate.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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