A snow shovel is a great tool for winter, but a garden shovel is a helpful, all-purpose lawn tool that can be used for gardening, mulching, or bigger projects like installing a fence. While at the core, shovels are fairly similar, there are different types of shovels which specialize in different tasks. We tested garden shovels, digging holes and moving dirt, to find out which is the right shovel for you.
Our weeks of testing found that the Hooyman Digging Shovel(available at Amazon for $39.99) is the best garden shovel. What sets it apart from the rest? It is lightweight, strong, and offers a comfortable second-hand grip and a fiberglass shaft with plenty of leverage and durability. For something cheaper, the Fiskars Long-Handled Steel Digging Shovel(available at Amazon) offers a solid steel construction. However, there are plenty of shovels to shop on our list.
Here are the best garden shovels we tested, ranked in order.
Hooyman Digging Shovel
Fiskars Long-Handled Steel Digging Shovel
Black & Decker Mini D Handle Shovel
Corona All-Steel Round Point Shovel
Bully Tools Round Point Shovel
Craftsman Fiberglass Handle Digging Shovel
Kobalt Fiberglass Digging Shovel
Razor-Back Round Point Shovel
Hooyman Digging Shovel
The best garden shovel is the Hooyman Digging Shovel. This bad boy features no-slip handles at the end of the shaft and down closer to the blade where you lift with your second hand. These provide an extra level of comfort, especially when not wearing work gloves, and keep your hands securely in place even when working in wet conditions.
In addition, the blade itself is slightly serrated, so it cuts very well through tough dirt, sod, and even roots. The fiberglass shaft is lightweight, making it easy to use over an extended period of time, while still providing the durability needed for serious users.
Digging a hole in the root-and-rock-filled soil in the woods behind my house was smooth and quick. The blade has plenty of strength and sharpness to cut roots or pry rocks out.
Transferring dirt from my dirt pile into my wheelbarrow was easy on our back and arms thanks to the low weight and the second hand grip, which is long enough to allow multiple hand positions.
This is a shovel you can use hour after hour—and has the durability to keep it up.
For a garden shovel that gives you the most bang for your buck, we think the Fiskars Long-Handled Steel Digging Shovel offers the most value. The durable design is made of steel and the shaft is welded directly to the blade (rather than inserted into a tube connected to the blade like most garden shovels). It’s hard to imagine what could break this shovel.
The other benefit is the foot rest. Rather than wings jutting out from the blade like most other shovels, these foot rests run from the edge of the blade all the way to the shaft, so there’s no gap whatsoever. This gives your foot far more secure purchase, and allows you to take slightly larger scoops.
That said, it’s not a perfect shovel. The first drawback is the weight. While it’s not the heaviest shovel that we tested, it is noticeably heavier than most of the others, particularly when transferring dirt from a pile up into a wheelbarrow.
The other drawback is more a matter of preference. This shovel doesn’t have a standard cylindrical shaft. Instead, it’s more of a rounded triangle, which can be uncomfortable to hold. This is most noticeable when lifting dirt but it wasn’t a problem when actually digging.
All in all, this is an excellent, well-constructed shovel that offers tremendous value in its price range.
The Black & Decker Mini D Handle Shovel is a small garden shovel meant specifically for digging holes in gardens for planting, like raised garden beds. At that task, it excels. We used it in our garden to plant tomatoes, and it was the perfect tool for the job.
However, in our standard shovel testing, this small garden shovel is simply not a versatile enough tool to stand up to larger shovels. While it can dig through tougher soil than a tilled garden, doing so is hard and backbreaking due to the short handle. Also, it’s really not going to be good for moving any meaningful amount of dirt.
This shovel is meant to dig a hole while on your knees, and then push the dirt back into that same hole.
If you’re looking for a lightweight and portable garden shovel to help with small planting jobs, this is a great option. If you’re looking for anything else out of a shovel, then consider our No. 1 pick.
Hi, I’m Jean Levasseur. I’m a former conveyor mechanic, current property manager, hobbyist woodworker, and writer. I come from a family of tool-users—my grandfather was a carpenter, my father owned an excavation company, and my mother was a mechanic. Between growing up working for my family’s businesses and then moving onto my own projects, I’ve used most tools you’ve heard of and quite a few that you haven’t.
Testing shovels is a relatively simple process. We dig holes in difficult terrain, and we move dirt.
Step one is the hole. With each shovel, we dug an approximately 12-inch-deep and 18-inch-wide hole in a backyard, which is full of trees, roots, and rocks. When we came to a rock, we worked the shovel to pry it out, putting as much reasonable strain on the shaft of the shovel as we could, looking for flexing that might indicate eventual failure.
We also cut through the roots, rather than trying to dig around them, in order to test the sharpness of the blade. While digging, we made sure to use the foot steps to apply more pressure, and remove all of the loose dirt from the hole.
Once the hole was complete, we filled it back in again (because testing tools is often a Sisyphean task). Our goal was to scoop up as much of the loose dirt from the ground as we could with as little damage to the ground below as possible. Then we packed the loose dirt down flat with the flat of the shovel.
The final significant digging test was moving 10 full scoops of dirt into the wheelbarrow. We paid attention to the weight of the full shovel, how easy it was to lift a full scoop from the ground, and how smoothly and comfortably we were able to move with the shovel.
Finally, we banged the edge of the blade of some rocks and inspected it for damage like chips or rolling. Then we cleaned the blade with a garden hose, and moved on to the next shovel.
What You Should Know About Garden Shovels
Not one of the shovels that we tested actually performed badly, even those at the bottom of the list. When it comes to the core jobs of digging holes and moving dirt, any of these tools will get it done.
The features that set the top shovels apart were the little nice-to-haves like improved handles, wider steps on the blade, weight of the shovel overall, and projected long-term durability of the tool.
There Are Different Types of Shovel Construction
The most noticeable difference in construction is the shaft material. Some of the shafts are made of steel tubes, which are the strongest and heaviest.
Others are made of fiberglass, which are lighter, but more likely to break under pressure than steel. Then there are shafts made of wood. Wood is strong and usable, but is more likely to succumb to swelling, rotting, and cracking due to weather.
The other major difference in shovels is the way the blade is attached to the shaft. Made of the steel shafts are welded directly to the blade, which is the strongest method.
Fiberglass and wooden shafts are inserted into a tube that extends out from the blade, and then are bolted in place. This method is strong, but not as strong as a solid weld. However, this does allow the shaft to be replaced if needed, though that’s more common with wood shafts than fiberglass.
Good Grips Make a Difference
Holding a shovel comfortably is one of the most important features of the tool. We like a quality, no slip grip at the end of the shovel, and then a second grip placed down closer to the blade your second hand goes.
These don’t seem like they make much of a difference at first, but over an extended period of time, they can keep your hand from hurting or cramping as soon as possible.
Shovel Shaft Length Matters
Shaft length changes the way a shovel digs and lifts. Longer shafts get more leverage against obstructions in the hole, and are able to dig deeper. However, shorter shafts are easier to control, and may allow you to move dirt a bit faster.
They also let you work in tighter areas. Think about both your body size and the types of tasks that you’re expecting to do when thinking about the length of shovel that you need.
Other Garden Shovels We Tested
Corona All-Steel Round Point Shovel
This shovel is ultra durable, as the entire tool is made of steel, with the shaft welded directly to the blade. In our tests, we could pry the shovel against any size rock in any size hole without bending or breaking the shovel.
Another great feature of this shovel is the included rubber foot step. This bolts directly to the blade of the shovel, on either side, and is a comfortable, secure place to put your foot. You may want to pick up a second pad, just to have one on each side. (We like them that much.)
That said, there are two major drawbacks to the shovel. The first is weight. This shovel is much heavier than any other shovel we tested, and that weight starts to wear on the forearms pretty quickly. This isn’t a tool I’d want to use to unload a yard or two of bark mulch or sand from my trailer with.
The second drawback is the price. It’s more than three times the price of the other shovels we tested. There’s no question that it’s stronger and better built than the rest, but three times better? We don’t think so.
However, if price is no object, and you can handle the weight, then you’ll enjoy scooping and digging with this garden shovel.
Sometimes all you need is a shovel to dig some holes and move some dirt and you don’t want anything fancy. Bully Tools has provided that with their 14-gauge round point shovel. The straightforward fiberglass shaft is durable enough to lever against roots and rocks in the hole. It’s a great length to transfer dirt from here to there.
The blade is sharp enough to cut through sod and hard-packed dirt without a lot of effort. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performance of this shovel, but there’s nothing particularly special about it either.
The only drawback that I found is that the steps on the blade flex a bit more than many of the others, so they’re a bit unstable to stand up on.
Unfortunately, that bare-bones performance isn’t reflected in the price. The Bully Tools shovel is among the more expensive tools that we tested, and neither the performance nor the construction seem to be worth the top-tier cost.
This is another mid-tier shovel with perfectly adequate performance and a quality, durable fiberglass construction. It performed well in all of our tests, with no major drawbacks, and likewise nothing that particularly elevated it either. Digging was easy and smooth, and I was able to transfer dirt from the pile into my wheelbarrow without any issues.
If you’re looking for a basic shovel that you can use for the occasional digging project around the house, the Craftsman Fiberglass Handle Digging Shovel offers value-packed, straightforward design and performance.
Kobalt’s 40-inch fiberglass shovel is a bit shorter than some of the other shovels in our guide. This has some impact on the amount of leverage that it can get in a hole, but wasn’t a major detriment in our testing. All in all, it is a reasonably comfortable shovel to use, whether digging or moving dirt.
There are two drawbacks to this shovel. The first is the position of the second hand grip, which I am normally a big fan of. However, this grip is quite a bit lower on the shaft than I typically grab, so it wound up not being a useful feature.
The second issue with this tool is the angle of the foot steps on the blade, which are tilted up rather than flat. This means that when you put a foot up on them, you’re only stepping on the end of the step, rather than flat, making them a bit less comfortable and stable to use. We also are unsure about the lifespan of this shovel, as it developed surface rust after just several weeks of testing.
The Razor-Back Round Point Shovel has a wooden handle, which, in our experience, doesn’t last as long as fiberglass- and steel-handed tools that are more resistant to expanding, warping, and cracking due to age, rot, and humidity.
From a pure use standpoint, this shovel is fine. It digs well, is relatively comfortable to use, and seems like it will hold up to fairly heavy-duty use.
However, the wooden handle is more likely to break without regular maintenance that the other shovels on this list don’t require. That increased likelihood of damage is not reflected in the price.
Jean Levasseur became a professional writer over a decade-long career in marketing, public relations, and technical writing. After leaving that career to stay home to care for his twin boys, Jean has continued to write in a variety of freelance roles, as well as teaching academic writing at a local university. When he's not reviewing tools or chasing toddlers around the house, he's also an avid fiction writer and a growing woodworker.
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