By Matt Gibson
If you are a serious gardener with a large property, or a large space dedicated to gardening, having constant access to a good wheelbarrow is practically essential. Gardeners need to be able to move lots of soil and other loose materials around whenever the situation calls for it. Hauling loose materials like dirt and gravel around without a sturdy wheelbarrow can be a trying task for even the most patient gardeners.
Wheelbarrows are practically essential tools for any gardener. It can transport tools, move dirt, gravel, mulch, and other loose materials. The best wheelbarrows are sturdy and dependable, but they can also bring a hefty price tag along with them. Do you have to spend upwards of $100 on a wheelbarrow to get one that will last? It all depends on the type of wheelbarrow you need.
In this article, we will look at what makes a good wheelbarrow, and what advantages and disadvantages come with the different types of wheelbarrows available on the market. Then we will list our top picks for the best wheelbarrows you can buy, highlighting the best steel and plastic options, the best one and two-wheel options, and even a few four-wheeled garden carts for folks who have trouble balancing and pushing the standard one or two-wheeled models.
What Makes a Good Wheelbarrow?
Not all wheelbarrows are created equally. There are high-quality wheelbarrows on the low end and high end of the price scale. There are also plenty of cheaply-made wheelbarrows on the market that are not worth their cost, no matter what they are charging. Owning a poor quality, cheaply-made wheelbarrow is almost as inconvenient as not having one at all. Cheap wheelbarrows have wheels that go flat or break easily, and they can be practically immovable once their wheels are compromised. Aside from wheels needing to be aired up or replaced, cheap wheelbarrows can develop several other common problems.
Plastic wheelbarrows can break if overloaded with weight. Cheap axles can easily bend or break. Steel wheelbarrows can rust if exposed to water for long periods. Steel buckets won’t break like plastic ones can, but they can easily be dented. Luckily dents and surface scratches are just cosmetic issues and don’t affect the workflow of the device. Wheelbarrows made from cheap plastics wear down in the elements and can become brittle and subject to cracking and breaking.
3 Types of Wheels
Modern wheelbarrows come with one of three different types of wheels, pneumatic, semi-pneumatic, and airless tires. Pneumatic tires are similar to bicycle tires, with an air tube fitted inside that serves as a cushion when you are transporting heavy loads, making them the best choice for gardeners who have to navigate stairs with their wheelbarrows. You may have to refill them with air from time to time, however, and they may go flat as well, and need to be replaced.
Semi-pneumatic tires don’t get flat. They have hollow sections to allow for a bit of air pressure variance, but they will not lose any air, and are not likely to need replacement if used and stored properly. Semi-pneumatic tires are ideal, but they are quite hard to find. Airless tires are made out of a hardened rubber material. They cannot get flat, and they can handle heavy loads without requiring you to do all of the lifting.
Single-Wheelers Versus Two-Wheelers
A two-wheeled wheelbarrow makes a gardener’s life easier, as they don’t have to worry about balancing their garden helper on a single wheel while transporting heavy loads of loose materials that can spill onto the ground if you lose your balance. Single-wheeled wheelbarrows are great for navigating in tight spaces though. They have superb maneuverability, and are easy to push across any type of terrain. Two-wheelers are more stable, but are better for use on flat surfaces.
Alternatives to the Traditional Wheelbarrow
Four-wheeled garden carts are available as well, as an alternative to the wheelbarrow. These are especially good for gardeners with limited mobility, and for those who have a hard time pushing heavy carts over rugged terrains. If you have wide paved pathways in your garden, a garden cart is ideal. They are easier to push when full, as the weight of your load is balanced on the four wheels equally. If you have limited space in your garden, however, garden carts can be tough to move around corners, and can be a bit cumbersome in small spaces.
Last but not least, there are even electric wheelbarrows available to the modern gardener. If you can afford to get one, you never have to push a wheelbarrow again, as your electric wheelbarrow is your personal garden assistant when it comes to doing the heavy lifting.
Plastic Versus Steel (and Fabric)
Steel wheelbarrows are the sturdier option, obviously, but they can also be heavy to lift, and are subject to rusting if exposed to rain and standing water. Just because a wheelbarrow is plastic, does not mean that it is cheaply made. There are several wheelbarrows on the market that are made from high quality plastics and they can handle heavy loads for years without needing replacement if properly stored out of the elements when not in use.
If you leave your wheelbarrow exposed to the sun, rain, and other environmental elements, however, it will eventually break down, no matter which material it is made out of. Just as steel wheelbarrows are capable of rusting, and fading in the sunlight, even strong plastics get brittle after being exposed to the sun for extended periods. Brittle plastics can easily snap under too much weight.
For gardeners with especially small gardens, there are foldable fabric wheelbarrows that can handle small tasks and easily fold up for compact storage. These are not the best in terms of durability obviously, but what they lack in strength, they make up for with convenience.
The 10 Best Wheelbarrows on the Market in 2020
Best Steel 2-Wheeled Wheelbarrows
Worx Aerocart 8-In-1 Wheelbarrow
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3mfuoo9
The Worx Aerocart is a lot more than just a wheelbarrow, but it holds its own as a wheelbarrow first and foremost, holding up to 300 pounds with superb balance from its two wheel design. It has a slightly smaller pan than full-sized wheelbarrows, but it can also serve as a dolly and it’s other features allow you to use it to move just about anything, not just loose materials, like most wheelbarrows. It is narrow to help fit through tight spaces. It is also lightweight, but has a very sturdy construction despite its weight. On the downside, it is a bit small, and it is especially suited to short folks, so taller gardeners might want to look for a wheelbarrow that is more elevated than the Worx Aerocart. To top it all off, it comes with a three year full-warranty.
Marathon Dual-Wheel Steel & PP Residential Yard Rover
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/37j2jrG
The Marathon Steel Two-wheeler is a great buy. It uses air-filled wheels, which takes some pressure off of the pusher, making it easier to maneuver with a heavy load. It’s loop handle design makes it easy for gardeners to push, pull, or empty the cart. Holds five cubic feet of material in a polypropylene container that is supported by a steel frame. So, it’s not completely made out of steel, but the steel frame supports the polypropylene tub so that it doesn’t break when overloaded with heavy materials, and it makes for a much lighter wheelbarrow, at just 29 pounds. It’s a solid tool.
Best Plastic 2-Wheeled Wheelbarrows
Polar Trailer Plastic 2-Wheeled Hauling Cart (#8449)
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/34dV0jd
Built to haul seven cubic feet of loose materials, the Polar Trailer boasts a load capacity of up to 400 pounds. It’s high impact resistant polyethylene tub makes the total weight of the wheelbarrow just 35 pounds, which makes it the lightest weight heavy-duty wheelbarrow on the market. It has gotten some negative reviews for being tough to assemble and having cheaply made tires. However, the tires are pneumatic, so they may eventually wear out and need to be replaced.
Garden Star Marathon Yard Rover
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/37Vp6cc
When reading a few Polar Trailer’s poor customer reviews, we discovered another plastic 2-wheeler that has better reviews and is cheaper than it’s best-in-class competitor. Why pay twice the price for a product that has gotten negative feedback when there is a solid alternative available at half the cost? Well, that’s the Garden Star Marathon Yard Rover. At an affordable price, this is a great buy for a plastic 2-wheeled wheelbarrow. With only a five cubic-foot tray, and 300 pound capacity, it is not trying to compete with the Polar Trailer wheelbarrow in terms of being heavy duty. It’s competition angle rests on its highly-affordable price tag.
Best Steel SIngle-Wheeled Wheelbarrows
True Temper Never Flat-Tire Steel Wheelbarrow
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/34bIQr2
True Temper makes great wheelbarrows. They would have made this list twice, but their plastic two-wheeled model is not currently available, so we only put the heavy duty single-wheeled model on our best-of list. True Temper makes high quality products, and they have a price tag to match it too. Stand out features include a never flat tire and solid steel construction. Even the handles are constructed out of steel.
Jackson 6 Cubic Foot Steel Wheelbarrow (M6T22)
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2LBQKUn
Like True Temper, Jackson Designs is a trusted name that makes high quality products that you can trust. They are pricey as well, so you expect it to be great. There is not much separating the build of the two steel, one-wheel models on our list, except for that the Jackson model is made with a tubed tire, whereas the True Temper brand has a never-flat guarantee. Both models are backed by a limited two-year warranty.
Best Plastic Single-Wheeled Wheelbarrow
Jackson Flat-Free Poly Wheelbarrow
We went with another Jackson Designs product for our plastic one-wheeler as well. Kind of pricey, but that’s what you get when you pay for a professional grade tool. The polyethylene tub is supported by a steel undercarriage to keep it from cracking under heavy loads, and the patented leg stabilizers add extra tip resistance from Jackson Designs own design creation.
Best Four-Wheeled Gardening Carts
Gorilla Carts Poly Garden Dump Cart (GOR4PS)
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3mgGw8r
If you are not well-equipped to push heavy loads of loose materials in a wheelbarrow due to limited physical prowess or injury, a four-wheeled garden cart is probably more your speed. Gorilla Carts make the best four wheel garden carts on the market.
Gorilla Carts Heavy Duty Poly Yard Dump Cart (GOR6PS)
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3mhL26O
We also included their heavy duty four-wheel model, as it is another Gorilla Carts best seller with great reviews. You can’t go wrong with either of these models.
Best Fabric Foldaway Wheelbarrow for Small Gardens
Allsop Home and Garden Folding Fabric Wheelbarrow
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3qVuAfR
If you have an especially small garden area, there will still be a few occasions each year where you find yourself in need of a wheelbarrow, even though you can’t really afford the space to store one. Well, Allsop Home and Garden has your solution in the form of their highly durable and functional foldaway fabric wheelbarrow. Of course, the fabric hauler is not going to support the same weight or capacity for transporting materials, but a few extra trips aren’t going to hurt when you don’t have very far to travel anyway. Plus, the fabric wheelbarrow folds into a nice, small stowaway size that’s perfect for gardeners that are short on shed space.
Best Electric Wheelbarrow
Landworks Electric Wheelbarrow Utility Cart
Find on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2KsXsv5
Most gardeners don’t have the kind of money to blow on a wheelbarrow. These are for the rich and wealthy and for commercial landscapers. However, wouldn’t it be nice to never have to push a wheelbarrow again while your gardening tasks get completed by your electric helper. Though Landworks Wheelbarrow is actually an electric utility cart and not an electric wheelbarrow, we chose it because of its versatility, as it can haul lumber, and other larger items in addition to loose materials. If you’re going to pay a lot for a wheelbarrow, it better do something unexpected. We also like the Yardmax and Overland Electric Wheelbarrows if you are looking for a more traditional model.
Well, now you know what to look for in a good wheelbarrow model, and you have a good idea of what the best products on the market are, how much they cost, and which ones are best suited to your needs. The only thing left to do is go to the store and give them a test drive, or a test push to be more precise. It’s important to see what they feel like as well, that way if the one you were eyeing turned out to be made for people who are taller than you, you still have the ability to change your mind on which brand to purchase. Whichever wheelbarrow you choose, we hope that it serves you well for years to come.
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