Undeniably, wheelbarrows are an essential tool for a variety of projects, niches, and virtually anything that requires the transportation of materials from one place to another. They are an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that can be used for everything from gardening to construction, and more.
With planting season around the corner, it’s time to hit the garage and take inventory: what have you got, and what do you need to get? Act now to ensure you have the right equipment for transforming your wintertime garden planning into springtime reality.
In a small yard, a wheelbarrow might only be occasionally useful, but on larger properties, one-wheeled helpmates of this kind are virtually essential.
What is a Wheelbarrow?
Before we proceed with exploring the different types of wheelbarrows, it’s important to understand what exactly they are and their origins. Wheelbarrows are typically small, single-wheeled vehicles that are designed to carry small loads in their bucket. They are outfitted with handles at the rear that allow you to push and guide the wheelbarrow.
However, this definition describes the simplest form of the wheelbarrow, as there are modern models with multiple wheels and others that are motorized instead of manual.
The earliest known wheelbarrows came from China in the second century. A painting in a tomb, dated to 118 CE, displays a man pushing what we know as the modern-day wheelbarrow. There are a number of other ancient works of art, from similar time periods, that show wheelbarrows. Though, some stories claim that they may have existed even earlier – perhaps in the first century BCE.
How Do Wheelbarrows Work?
If you’re familiar with wheelbarrows, you likely are already aware of the basics. These tools feature a bucket that is used to hold materials, two long handles at the back, a wheel or wheels up front, and some sort of legs to rest on when not in use. Again, this is the simplest style of wheelbarrow and there are many different variations available nowadays.
However, with this standard style, the weight is evenly distributed between the barrow and the individual that operates it.
Some variations have the wheel situated more in the center, which places all the weight on the barrow. Regardless, wheelbarrows are designed to help reduce the effort needed to perform a job. They are considered a compound machine, as they consist of two simple machines: a wheel and axle and a lever.
Types of Wheelbarrows
There are three kinds of wheelbarrows available to you. Which you choose depends on both the conditions of your garden and your own personal preferences.
Hybrid wheelbarrows are a mix of classic wheelbarrow design that has been updated for modern times. In the past, wheelbarrows had a single wheel and a load tub that was so shallow it wouldn’t much of anything.
Now, wheelbarrows come with 1, 2, or even 4 wheels and a variety of tub sizes, depending on the type of load you need to haul.
If you live in a hilly area, get a heavy-duty wheelbarrow that’s easier to use!
Most traditional wheelbarrows are suited for hills, but you want to choose a lightweight plastic wheelbarrow or poly wheelbarrow that’s easy to maneuver with heavy loads in it.
The ball bearings in the wheels should be well-lubricated and the hardwood handles should have grips to help pull it up a hill. Avoid a steel frame for this as it adds to weight and makes a heavy load even heavier.
Also consider getting a wheelbarrow with two wheels so you have extra stability when going up or down steep inclines or navigating rough terrain.
The most high-tech option for you to consider is the electric wheelbarrow. As you might imagine, these are more expensive than the traditional or hybrid models. Even after you purchase one, there are additional maintenance costs to consider.
While there are some of these on the market, they’re not too popular and they’re not one of my recommendations in this guide, simply because most people do not need them.
- Traditional: The traditional wheelbarrow design has a single wheel in the front and two steel legs in the rear to balance the tool. This design works well for maneuvering and dumping lightweight loads, but can be prone to tipping over under heavier loads.
- Two-wheel: Wheelbarrows with a two wheel design—one on either side of the front of the tub—offer additional tip resistance. However, these models are more difficult to pivot sharply, like when pushing the wheelbarrow down a winding path or backing up and going in a different direction.
- Collapsible: Collapsible wheelbarrows feature a fabric trough—rather than a plastic or steel tub—making them lightweight and easy to push. They fold up for compact storage and some can even be hung in a garage or garden shed.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wheelbarrow
While it’s easy to assume that all wheelbarrows perform similarly, a number of factors affect their functionality. The best wheelbarrows are easy to maneuver while being sturdily built to maintain the desired load capacities of soil or rocks needed to get jobs done. Keep reading to learn about some of the most important qualities to consider when shopping for the best wheelbarrow.
Wheelbarrows are usually made out of metal or plastic. To pick which is best for you, consider what you’ll be hauling. A metal wheelbarrow can carry heavier loads than a plastic version, but also may not hold up to the elements or being left outside as well. A plastic or poly wheelbarrow may be ideal for someone doing lighter gardening, and some foldable canvas or fabric wheelbarrows are good for this purpose too.
Every single wheelbarrow manufacturer lists the weight limit that their wheelbarrows can hold. The weight is depending on a wheelbarrow’s construction, with heavier and more sturdily built wheelbarrows able to carry more.
However, the introduction of polyethylene load beds has made some wheelbarrows extremely lightweight, but still have a high load capacity.
Ease of Maneuverability
Any vehicle that is hard to maneuver is not anyone’s dream, mainly if it is operated manually like the wheelbarrow. This means that you should ensure that the wheelbarrow you purchase is easy to maneuver.
First, unless you want to go heavy-duty, you should choose one that is significantly light and compact, with one or two wheels. This ensures that you can easily maneuver it even when space is constrained such as in the garden. A heavy wheelbarrow will require you to have the more upper body strength to be able to move it, especially when it is fully laden.
Wheels (one or two?)
The traditional wheelbarrow has one wheel positioned front-and-center. That tripod design makes the wheelbarrow easy to maneuver and dump, but it requires greater strength to control. Two wheels up front give you greater stability (helpful with heavy or awkwardly balanced loads); just bear in mind that you sacrifice a degree of maneuverability, and these models do not work well on hills.
Two straight handles, often made from steel or hardwood, are standard on the majority of wheelbarrows, and they’re great for most hauling tasks. But lacking ample arm strength, it can be difficult to push a fully loaded wheelbarrow with basic handles.
As an alternative, consider bent-arm handles ergonomically designed to allow lifting and steering with less strain. There are also single-arm bar handles (think shopping cart) that allow users to pull a two-wheel model as well as push it. Some versions include cushioned grips that cut down on blisters and hand fatigue as well.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned more about wheelbarrows, it’s time to start shopping. The following are some of the top picks for the best wheelbarrows for a yard or garden. These recommendations were selected because of their quality construction, capacity, ease of use, and other helpful features.
Whether you’re looking for a plastic or metal model, or an electric version to speed up landscaping tasks, there’s sure to be a good solution here to help with almost any gardening need.
If you want something that works as hard as you do, you can’t go wrong with a Jackson wheelbarrow. Todd Farber, garden expert and owner of Garden Guy, recommends this heavy-duty steel option, which has a tip-resistant design, contractor-grade undercarriage, and a flat-free tire.
“It’s heavy-duty steel and lasts multiple years. It is also well-balanced for the loads you put in it,” Farber said. Weighing just over 55 pounds, this wheelbarrow is relatively heavy, but that’s part of what makes it so sturdy.
For most people, the best overall wheelbarrow for the money is going to be the 600lb capacity Gorilla Cart. The 36 x 20″ tub is made of polyethlene plastic, making it durable but lightweight. It comes with four pneumatic tires for smooth rolling over any terrain.
The most impressive feature is the fully-vertical dumping ability of the tub, so you don’t have to awkwardly maneuver the tub to get everything out.
The handle is a pull-handle only, meaning you can’t attach it to a tractor or ATV. But you shouldn’t need to at this size. On top of that, it comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
If you have a plan to buy a multipurpose wheelbarrow that comes in a variety of color options, then Marathon Yard Rover – 2 Tire Wheelbarrow Garden Cart can be the right choice. This model is straightforward to use as it belongs to a basic design.
Having a handlebar thoroughly attached to the tub makes it much convenient to move the wheelbarrow on any terrain.
The two inline wheels also make the work more comfortable, and you can navigate the wheelbarrow regardless of any paths.
This wheelbarrow features extremely easy to assemble using simple tools. You are worried free from the calling for support from the expert to assemble it. It has simple eight nuts and bolts to be screwed up at the right point. Place them in the right place, screw them up tightly, and the wheelbarrow is ready at your service!
This cross between a garden cart and wheelbarrow is on the smaller side, but it’s still very sturdy. Its plastic tray and steel frame can handle everyday gardening tasks, like spreading mulch and moving potted plants around.
The thick, padded handlebar provides a comfortable grip with or without gardening gloves (no blisters here), and it can haul up to 330 pounds. The two-wheel design keeps the cart steady and balanced when going over bumps and dips, and the 13-inch wheels are easy to inflate. Reviewers love the moderate price tag and how durable it is when used for typical outdoor work.
While the tires are inflatable (as opposed to flat-free), they’re notably sturdy and suitable for various terrains. The plush padded handlebar makes for comfy maneuvering, and it doubles as a stand for stationary use.
For those who don’t want to compromise with the style of a wheelbarrow, this product is a must-have.
This incredible model can withstand your all carrying needs. Most users love this product because of its 8 in 1 design. You can opt to use it as a pot mover, dolly or trailer mover, and much more.
If you’re partial to two-wheel models, check out this sleek number by Worx. The Aerocart holds about 4.5 cubic feet of material, and while it has a 200-pound capacity, the “Turbo Lift” design makes it feel like only 17 pounds.
As for the wheels, you’ll get two flat-free tires that won’t puncture and never need to be inflated. Not only that, but this versatile wheelbarrow instantly converts into a dolly, garden cart, firewood carrier, and four other configurations.
Though you now know more about wheelbarrows, you might have new or lingering questions about how to select one or how to safely use them. The following are answers to some of the most common questions about how to select and maintain a wheelbarrow.
Can wheelbarrows be recycled?
This question is not simple. Wheelbarrows can be constructed out of a variety of materials, ranging from plastic to wood to metal. They may be constructed with a single wheel or more than one wheel. They may be maintained (e.g., tires replaced, handles replaced, etc.) or have no maintenance.
Are steel or poly wheelbarrows better?
In terms of durability and strength, steel wheelbarrows are undeniably the best. They can be safely loaded with stones, sand, bags, soil, firewood, and so much more. Steel wheelbarrows are also resistant to damage, inclement weather, and overloading.
However, plastic wheelbarrows are still a durable choice and, unlike steel, they won’t rust when exposed to the elements. These wheelbarrows are best suited for simple garden tasks, like hauling tools, flowers, and storage. If you still want a steel wheelbarrow but you’re concerned about rust, opt for stainless steel.
How much weight do wheelbarrows hold?
The weight that a wheelbarrow can hold will depend on its dimensions and construction – particularly the material of the basin – and the item that you intend to transport. With that said, standard wheelbarrows typically cannot carry more than 10 cubic feet.
However, most wheelbarrows will have their volume capacity documented. Then, you can do a simple conversion to determine how much weight a wheelbarrow can hold. For example, a traditional eight cubic feet wheelbarrow can hold roughly 460 pounds of water or about 1,200 pounds of concrete.
With the above factors in mind, finding the ideal wheelbarrow should no longer be a problem for anyone. There are different stores from which you can purchase your wheelbarrow, both online and offline.
You should always be on the lookout for offers and discounts on your best models, and you may land an unbelievable bargain. With your budget in hand and the tips discussed above, you will surely get the wheelbarrow you have always desired to own.