If you want to get really annoyed, try finding quality articles and video of tiller reviews. For the last few years while we’ve been in the market for a tiller, it’s been hard to find good information on what we’re interested in.
So hopefully, we at Father Of The Homestead can provide some insight from what we’ve learned.
Recently, I traveled to some local hardware stores and rented the top two heavy hitters in the tiller world: Honda and BCS – both of which hover around or over the $3000 mark (we also cover this in the BCS tiller review). After several hours with the tillers, we learned things that I’ve never seen in writing or on YouTube.
To begin, let’s start with the engine of the Honda.
It’s a GX240 with a displacement of 270cc outfitted with what they call a Cyclone Air Filter (apparently, this system is supposed to be good at filtering out debris to reduce maintenance).
As a whole, I’m not sure what to say about this engine other than it’s just Ok. It started great and seemed fine for tough jobs like our difficult soil, but something about it didn’t instill a lot of confidence.
Throughout the tilling process, it wasn’t a smooth performer because the rotation of the wheels seemed jerky. What does this mean? It means the wheels did not turn in a continuously smooth motion, but rather, seemed to inch along as though it was struggling (yes, the throttle was fully engaged). Basically, the engine, wheel and tiller didn’t seem to work in unison. I don’t know if the engine is too small or if the problem is more of a design flaw.
Either way, Honda needs to know the way in which this tiller behaves doesn’t make the operator feel like they got their money’s worth.
Another negative had to do with the handle height and tiller depth. On many tillers, there are quick adjust controls that allow the tilling depth or handle height to be adjusted in seconds. With the Honda, it was not so. This is because it required the user to get a tool to loosen some bolts in order to make an adjustment. For a company known for it’s efficiency, this was incredibly inefficient.
In regards to the actual tilling portion, the width is 20 inches with 12 inch diameter tines. As a whole these performed well enough. In many reviews I read, people weren’t happy with how these dug into the soil but after a thorough analysis, I can’t say one way or the other – they seemed good enough.
One thing about the tiller that was concerning was the way the machine jumped when it hit a rock. To be fair, almost all tillers will experience some jumping when hitting a rock (even the mighty BCS featured in the next review skipped a little). However, the way this tiller dramatically lunged forward was concerning. During a final pass in a new garden we were making, the FRC 800 lunged forward so fast, my grip on the handle instinctually tightened, causing me to go with tiller to where my legs almost went under the rotating tines. Not good. It was at this moment I thought about not buying this model.
The excessive jumping is something I’ve read many times about this tiller. I used to think maybe the user wasn’t sure how to operate the tiller but after using it, there’s something disconcerting here. I’m not sure why it does this in such as extreme manner. Maybe it’s the design of the tines in how they catch rocks and tough soil; or maybe it’s the way the machine is balanced. Either way, there seems to be a problem here.
Now, let’s focus on the positives.
The best thing about the FRC 800 is the controls which are some of the easiest-to-use and well-made on the market. Another thing I liked was the design of the handle. It’s similar to what a push mower would have. Many tillers have two separate handles that point towards you; this makes it more difficult to hold on to when it hits a rock and runs away. I wish every tiller had the same handle as the Honda. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next positive would be durability and longevity. It must be stated that rental shops have the FRC 800 for rent. Why is this important? It’s for the simple fact they are low maintenance and provide enough performance after repeated use. Despite the way it actually tilled, this gives Honda a lot of credibility in the tiller world.
The question must now be asked if I would purchase this tiller. The simple answer is “no” with the main reason being how it operated. No matter what how we adjusted it, the components on the FRC 800 seemed to struggle and not work in unison.
Who should buy this tiller? I think this model is great for people who want simple controls with a Honda engine that’ll provides years, if not decades, of faithful service. This tiller would also be for people who have soft, established soil that is rock free. For those with difficult soil, you may want to look at another brand like BCS and spend even more money (like north of $3,000).
In the end, spending almost $75 dollars to rent this was probably the best money I’ve spent in a long time because it ultimately saved me almost three grand which I would have paid for this tiller.
Excellent starting abilities.
Nice handle design.
Not worth the $2,699 (plus taxes) price tag.
Engine/wheel/tiller does not work well together.
Too long for enclosed gardens.
Can easily jump when breaking fresh soil or hitting rocks.