Monday, May 17, 2010

Renting a Rototiller to Start a Garden

We decided to start a larger garden this year and rather than trying to dig out the plot of ground by hand, we rented a rototiller to make quick work of the task. Here are a few things to know when renting a rototiller:

Understand Your Options – A basic understanding of rototillers will go a long way. Although knowledgeable sales people are helpful, it’s always best to know a little about what you’re talking about so you can ensure you’re getting what you need.

Most companies that rent rototillers have several sizes: small, medium, and large. They often differ in engine size and features. If you are starting a garden for the first time and have grass that needs to be tilled up, you’ll want the larger rototiller, which will typically be self-propelled and have rear tines that spin in both directions – the largest of these models are hydraulic driven and typically will rototill a swath 20” wide. These large models have adjustable forward speeds. Small or medium models will likely be front tine models, where the tines pull the rototiller forward and you have to pull back to control the speed.

Many rental companies use Barreto tillers for their largest models – they are all hydraulic, which means compressed oil turns the wheels and tines, which prevents damage when the tines get stuck. These come with a custom trailer that makes them super easy to transport – all you need is a tow hitch and a vehicle that can tow ~1000lbs.

Make a List of Equipment Rental Companies in Your Area – Use the Internet or even a local phone book to research a list of places that rent rototillers in your area. Some companies have websites with equipment pictures, their policies for rentals, and pricing.

Compare Rototiller Rental Options. Call each company on your list and document their rototiller rental specs. These are the items we documented to decide which rental would be best:

  • Rental Company Name
  • Rental Company Location
  • Rotatiller Rental Size – measure in Engine Horsepower, Tilling Width, or both
  • Price – also ask about required damage waiver fees
  • Hours of Rental (typically in half day or full day increments)
  • If you will need a trailer or ramps (especially for larger tillers), these may have separate prices

Other questions to ask:
- What happens if I return the equipment after my rental time has ended? Are there additional fees and overage charges?
- Do you need a truck to pick it up or do they offer delivery? What is the cost of delivery?
- Will the rototiller fit in the back of your vehicle?
- Does the rototiller have a trailer? Is the trailer included in the rental price?

Remember, location matters. If you’re paying for a 4 hour rental you need to also take into account the time required to drive to and from the rental company to your home. If you select a company that is too far away, you will not have as much time to use your equipment rental.

After you’ve collected your information, determine which rototiller rental will be the best for you based on rental price, rental location, size of rototiller, and length of rental time.

Tip: If you find the equipment at a great location, but find a better price elsewhere sometimes they are willing to match the price to gain your business. Also, local hometown magazines sometimes have coupons on equipment rentals. If you live in an area where there are not equipment rental businesses readily available, big home improvement stores often rent equipment. Although we found that the big home improvement stores did not have the best prices in our area.

Reserve the Rototiller for the day and time that you want to use it so someone else doesn’t rent it when you plan to work on your job.

Prior to Picking Up a Rototiller Rental
Stake out the area that you wish to till and prioritize your projects before picking up your rental equipment, so you make efficient use of your time.

Have extra fuel on hand for when you run out of fuel during your project and also to refill the tank prior to returning the equipment.

Picking Up the Rototiller
Take along your documentation to verify that the price and equipment you’re signing for are accurate.

Consider bringing rope and ratchets to help tie down the equipment onto your truck or the trailer if needed.

Confirm the time when the equipment must be returned. If you are unsure how the equipment operates, ask the equipment rental staff to give you an overview and instructions.

Time how long it takes to get to the equipment rental company and how long it takes you to unload the rototiller at your home. Factor in at least that long to return the rototiller and the remaining time is what you have left to work on your projects with the rental.

Returning the Rototiller
Keep a watch or clock handy to check the time and make sure you’re loading up the rototiller with enough time to return it as scheduled.

Remember to make sure the fuel is refilled before returning it to avoid additional fees.

Rototiller Rental Success
We chose a half day rental, mapped out what needed tilling, and prioritized our list of projects to maximize our time with the rototiller and get it back on time without incurring any additional fees.

We rented the largest hydraulic rototiller with rear tines to till a big garden that was originally thick undisturbed grass. This project took us a lot longer than we originally expected requiring several passes with the rototiller to really break up the grass and chop up the dirt. We ended up reducing the size of the garden slightly so we would have a little more time for other projects. We also tilled around our new patio to add landscaping. This area was much easier to till as the ground had already been turned over when the patio was installed last year.

With just a little advanced planning renting a rototiller is a great option for digging up a garden at home or installing landscaping. Although it’s still hard work, it is a lot faster and easier than doing it by hand.
Happy Gardening!

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