Whether you want to expand your garden or start a new one, you will need to loosen up the soil first. You can do it by hand with a shovel, but for larger areas, you will want to consider rototilling. This is more expensive than using a shovel, but it can be difficult to get an idea of the exact price. So, I did some research to find a ballpark answer for hiring a rototiller.
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.
Let’s take a closer look at hourly pricing, along with some examples to give you an idea of what you might expect to pay for rototilling. Then, we’ll look briefly at rental rates to give you an idea of the rental market. We’ll end with a look at prices to buy rototillers.
What Is The Average Cost To Hire Someone To Rototill Your Garden?
As mentioned above, it costs an average of $60 per hour ($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, to make it worthwhile for the operator to transport the rototiller back and forth and to do the work.
Of course, the hourly rate can vary quite a bit, from as low as $30 per hour to as high as $100 per hour. Some operators will include mileage costs in their pricing, but others may charge an extra fee based on miles driven to and from your home.
Some 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 209 feet long). You may get a “bulk” discount, meaning the rate per square foot is lower, if you rototill a larger area.
Pricing can also vary depending on the type of soil you have. If the soil is hard and rocky, it will be more difficult to till, and the estimated price will be higher. If the soil has not been tilled recently, that may also make the ground hard and increase the cost to rototill.
In addition, pricing will depend on your location and the time of year. Many people will 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 instance, 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?
Remember that an operator who charges $60 per hour is not taking home $60 per hour. He has to pay for insurance, fuel, rototiller maintenance, vehicle costs, office and overhead costs, and benefits such as health insurance, etc.
Then, after paying expenses, he has to pay taxes on whatever profit is leftover, and then he gets his actual hourly pay. He might be lucky to take home $30 per hour after expenses and taxes, once all is said and done.
Remember that rototilling work requires an operator to own or rent a machine. Also, the work is physically demanding and somewhat dangerous, so there are a limited number of people willing and able to do it.
What Is The Cost to Rent A Rototiller?
If you would rather rent a rototiller, 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 heavier rototiller by yourself, so make sure to bring at least one 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.
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, but a large machine rented for a week could cost you over $1000.
Check out the table below for a price comparison between Home Depot and Sunbelt for various rental periods and tilling machines.
Obviously, it is to your advantage to estimate 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.
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 be over $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.
- 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 and other debris.
- 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 more quickly, but it can be difficult to maneuver through turns if you are not strong enough. Weight 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.
You can buy rototillers with an electric start option to avoid having to pull a cord repeatedly and hurt your arms, shoulders, or back. There are also corded electric rototillers available, so that you don’t need to refuel at all. For more information, check out this article on an electric tiller from Mantis.
What Are Some Alternatives To Rototilling?
There are a couple of alternatives to rototilling: you can either upgrade or downgrade the technology you use.
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. This reduces much of the danger of using a push-from-behind rototiller. It also saves you lots of backbreaking physical labor pushing a machine through across your garden.
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.
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.
By now, you should 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 you have any questions or advice of your own about rototilling rates, please leave a comment below.