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Front Tine vs Rear Tine Tiller: What’s the Difference?

Front Tine Rear Tine

Once you have decided to purchase a garden tiller, you will still need to determine whether you need a front tine tiller or a rear tine tiller. Each has distinct advantages over the other in various situations. The type of tiller you choose will affect your experience in the garden.

We are going to help you sort through the difju8ferences and help you make the best decision for your tilling needs. After reading this, you will know you’re getting the best type of tiller for your garden.

Types of Tillers

There are two main types of garden tillers. The front tine tiller and the rear tine tiller. Let’s look at each.

Front Tine Tillers

Champion Front Tine Tiller
A front tine tiller

A front tine tiller has tines in the front of the machine. This type of tiller is usually lighter in weight than rear tine tillers and is easier to control. The tilling width is generally narrower than that of rear-tine tillers, and as a result, these machines have a much easier time getting around plants and other obstacles that may be present in your garden. The engine sits over the tines adding weight to help the tines break up the soil. Front tine tillers have fewer features and require less maintenance. They also often cost much less than their rear tine counterparts.

The downside to front tine tillers is they only till the ground a few inches deep, and they are better suited to softer soil that is already broken up. Without the leverage afforded by rear tine tillers, tilling compact soil can be physically straining and require a fair amount of upper body strength. Since they have a narrower width than rear tine tillers, tilling larger areas can take much longer.

  • Till closer to obstacles in your yard
  • Tines front of wheels
  • Engine above tines
  • Less expensive
  • Forward only tine rotation
  • Shallow tiling
  • Narrow tilling width

Rear Tine Tillers

 Southland SRTT196E Rear Tine Tiller
A rear tine tiller

Rear tine tillers are the powerhouses of garden tilling, and they place the tines behind the wheels. Placing the tines in this way creates a sort of lever-action that you can use to dig much deeper into the soil than is possible with front tine tillers. These tillers also typically have a much larger engine and can till a wider area.

The stronger engine helps the machine power through densely packed soil and overgrown gardens much more effectively than a front tine tiller. The wide tilling area enables you to manage larger gardens quicker with less difficulty. Many times, rear tine tillers are loaded with additional features to make your job easier. Features like a multispeed transmission with reverse can help make these larger units easier to maneuver. Dual rotating tines let you change between forward-rotating and counter-rotating tines.

The downside of these machines is their larger size. A bigger machine will be harder to maneuver around the garden and is impractical for smaller areas or getting around established plants. Their heavy weight can be a strain on some tires and cause them to come off their rim. The larger engine and additional features will also increase the amount of maintenance required and will raise the cost considerably.

  • Better for large open areas.
  • Tines can be forward or counter-rotating
  • Tines are behind the tires for better leverage
  • Deeper tilling
  • Better ground breakup
  • Powerful engine
  • Reverse gear
  • Self-propelled
  • Heavier
  • Harder to get around obstacles
  • More maintenance
  • Expensive


Choosing the best type of tiller for your garden is largely a matter of assessing the ground you need to till. If you have a large empty area to break up, you will most likely be looking to purchase the rear tine tiller. If the ground is hard, rocky, or covered with leaves, plants, and other debris, you are also going to need the rear tine tiller.

If the area you need to till is fairly small, has a lot of soft ground or previously tilled ground, a front tine tiller is more practical. A garden with a lot of obstacles to maneuver around will also benefit from the front tine tiller.

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