Getting the right tool for the job is essential whatever task you undertake but it's especially crucial when it comes to soil preparation.
If you've heavy clay soil then you need a heavy duty machine...it's just not worth making false economies as it will leave you frustrated, tired and probably disillusioned.
So what do you look out for?
Capable horse power and the correct working depth and width are two essential features to consider: then there's the makers marque.
The higher the horse power - often represented as H.P. or HP - the more grunt the engine has and the less likely it is to stress and strain when going through hard and sticky ground.
Contra-rotating blades - this is when the cutting blades (also called tines) work in the opposite direction to the forward motion of the machine. Contra-blades are a great way to regulate forward speed while ensuring that the soil is completely worked down.
Contra-rotating blades will almost certainly be situated behind the engine and the front wheels will be furthest forward - most professional landscapers or groundsman will use a contra-rotating machine.
Front mounted blades - usually found on tilling machines and associated more wit vegetable patch preparation than turf or lawn seed bed preparation. Forward mounted blades will operate as the drive too and act as wheels.
Utilising an adjustable leg (or plough/furrower) to cause drag, causes the front blades to be pulled into the soil and in doing so, the paddles chop into the soil - the operator judges depth by moving the leg up or down or moving the handles up or down from the vertical position or slight sideways movements.
Some rotovators or tillers come with optional or included attachments such as potato rowers or a small plough and many of the pro machines are capable of pulling a small trailer or lawn attachments - it's worth thinking about this before making the decision.
Just think, rotovating (unless you are a pro gardener or landscaper) isn't something you'll be doing on a weekly basis so if you can pull a trailer then it's possible to make use of the machine throughout the season carting lawn mowings or leaves etc.
Here's the list of rotovators and tillers from mow direct - two particular makes to consider:
Honda - One of the best engines for any small garden machine in the world; you might pay that little bit more but for durability and reliability, Honda are so hard to beat - great contracting machine too.
The Merry Tiller (Briggs and Stratton egine) - one of my favourites and the first ever rotovator I used (although the design is ever so slightly different hat in 1979). One of the best powerhouses for vegetable use and is capable of providing many years of dependable service.(the Honda FE500 tiller is a great alternative).
Word of caution: Many people leave their machines outside - which isn't a problem in itself (except for potential theft) but Briggs and Stratton are the more temperamental for starting - it always pays to pop any machine back into the shed or garage after use and drain down the fuel if to be left for long periods.