If you need to haul more than an armful of leaves, mulch, plant flats, or cinder blocks around your yard, you need a wheelbarrow. A good wheelbarrow or garden cart can be an essential gardening tool, letting you carry bulkier loads and heavier loads than you can tote in your hands alone. Wheelbarrows can also double as containers for mixing your own potting soil, screening compost, or making small batches of concrete for fixing low walls and pavement.
A great wheelbarrow will hold everything you want to haul, without wobbling or lurching when you go around corners, up steps, or over small obstacles. The best wheelbarrows also have tires that turn smoothly and can push through sand and gravel without getting stuck, even when it’s fully loaded.
After testing a number of the best wheelbarrows on the market over a New England spring, the True Temper 6 cu. ft. Wheelbarrow(available at Amazon) emerged as Best Overall for its pairing of a sturdy metal tray and comfortable handles with smooth rolling. It also has great control for wheeling heavy loads up and down slopes, making it an excellent traditional wheelbarrow.
For a lighter-weight wheelbarrow for smaller loads, the Marathon Green Yard Rover (available at Amazon) is our choice for Best Value.
These are the best wheelbarrows we tested, ranked in order:
True Temper 6 cu. ft. Wheelbarrow
Jackson 6 cu. ft. Steel Contractor Wheelbarrow with Knobby Tire
Goplus Dual Wheel Wheelbarrow
Marathon Green Yard Rover
Rubbermaid Commercial Big Wheel
Worx Aerocart WG050
Gorilla Carts GOR4PS
Allsop WheelEasy LE Foldable Garden Cart
MacSports Classic Mac Wagon
Garden Star Garden Barrow
True Temper 6 cu. ft. Wheelbarrow w/ Steel Handles and Flat-Free Tire
The True Temper wheelbarrow is useful any time you want to carry something heavy, bulky, or awkward through your yard.
It can travel over most yard obstacles and steps, and it holds more than 3 cu. ft. of mulch flat (or up to 6 cu. ft. mounded) in the spacious tray.
It makes everything easy. This model comes assembled at the store, so buyers don’t need to search around for extra screwdrivers or ratchet wrenches to put it together. The coated metal handles are smooth and strong. In our tests, it traveled easily over all but the largest branches in the obstacle course, and pushed through sand while fully loaded.
By far the best part of this wheelbarrow is how easy it is to control. Even when fully loaded with bricks, the True Temper never felt like it was falling or “running away” downhill. The single flat-free rubber tire is sturdy, but filled with a soft material that provides good cushioning for rolling over rough ground, rocks, and branches.
The single-wheel construction allows this wheelbarrow to pivot around a 1-foot diameter turn.
On the other hand, this wheelbarrow is big and it weighs almost 46 pounds. It can be stored standing on its nose end, but it still takes up a lot of space—and it’s a good idea to store this wheelbarrow inside.
The paint protecting the steel tray did get scratched by both bricks and the shovel during testing, which can lead to rust. If you must store your wheelbarrow outside, stand it up so water doesn’t collect, and cover it with a tarp.
The Marathon Green Yard Rover is a great lightweight wheelbarrow for small-to-medium loads of mulch, soil, leaves, or gardening equipment.
The Marathon Wheelbarrow’s wide rust-proof plastic tray easily holds 3 cu. ft. of mulch or hay without mounding. The loop handle lets you push or pull with even just one hand (and it makes it easy to hang on a wall hook for storage).
Its two pneumatic wheels are sturdy and roll easily over obstacles large and small, even up stairs thanks to the positioning of the tray supports. And weighing in at 26 pounds, it’s easy to lift into the back of a car.
Consumers have complained that the Marathon’s tray can buckle and give way under heavy loads of gravel or stones; when we filled the wheelbarrow with mulch, the air-filled tires did get briefly stuck on a large branch. Also, the double-wheel combo means that it can’t make turns as tight as our single-wheeled top pick.
The Marathon wheelbarrow comes shipped in a flat pack. Set aside 15 minutes to put it together if you’re handy with tools, longer if you’re not, and make sure you have a flat head screwdriver and a wrench handy so you can tighten the nylock nuts.
I’m Meg Muckenhoupt, a garden writer and reviewer. I’ve been digging up yards for more than 20 years, and along the way I co-founded a community farm and earned a certificate in field botany. I’ve grown everything from radishes to rosemary from seed, and although I’m working to put more native plants in my garden, I have a weakness for David Austin roses. My idea of a fun day is hauling compost around my yard and rearranging rocks.
We tested 10 different heavyweight, lightweight, and collapsible wheelbarrows and garden carts. No electric wheelbarrows here—these were all manual.
First, the wheelbarrows and carts that arrived in parts were assembled following each manufacturer’s instructions. Air-filled (pneumatic) tires were checked for tire pressure and inflated per recommendations. Each model was then put through an obstacle course unloaded, loaded with mulch, and loaded with 16 bricks (weighing 80 pounds).
The obstacle course involved going uphill and downhill, over a slope covered with ground cover pachysandra and branches ranging from 1/4 to 3 inches in diameter, through a pile of sand, around a 1-foot curve, through gravel, and up and over an 8-inch step with an overhanging lip. After the obstacle course, the wheelbarrows were run over a bundle of thorny rose canes while loaded with bricks.
Wheelbarrows and carts with inflatable tires were then re-checked at the end of testing.
What You Should Know About Buying Wheelbarrows
The right type of wheelbarrow for your yard depends on how you’ll be using it and where you’ll be storing it. The key factors include the number of wheels, what the tires are made of, the tray capacity and material, and the handles.
Wheels can be single or in pairs. (We also tested four-wheeled versions with flat beds, which are typically called garden carts.) The trade-off is maneuverability vs. stability. A single-wheel wheelbarrow can pivot around tight curves, but can feel unwieldy with heavy loads, and can sink into soft soils.
Four-wheel carts are stable, but can’t go around corners easily, and most of them can’t be dumped out easily. Two-wheel wheelbarrows are a compromise, allowing better maneuverability than four-wheel carts, and more stability than single-wheel wheelbarrows.
Tires can be air-filled (aka pneumatic), solid plastic, or “flat-free” solid rubber. Air-filled tires are the best for pulling heavy loads over uneven ground or stairs. The air acts as a cushion, reducing the effort you need to push the wheelbarrow forward and letting the wheelbarrow bounce over obstacles. Unfortunately, air-filled tires can get flat, and usually require home inflation; be careful inflating them at gas-station air pumps, which can over-inflate small tires very quickly.
Most “flat-free” tires are made of solid rubber that’s slightly soft. They offer most of the benefits of the air-filled tires without the maintenance headache. Solid plastic tires have no advantages. Since they can’t flatten or bounce over obstacles, you will feel every rock or branch in your path as you push them around--and it will take more effort to push than wheelbarrows with air-filled or flat-free tires.
Tray capacity is tricky because wheelbarrow trays aren’t square. The angle at the “nose” end means that the cubic feet of capacity aren’t square. If you’re hauling something cubical, like hay bales, you won’t be able to use all the space in the tray, and you’ll only be able to fit as many flats of seedlings from the garden store as fit in the flat bottom of the tray, not the full length of the tray with nose.
If you’re concerned about fitting a particular type of item into your wheelbarrow, look at the size of the base of the wheelbarrow and the height of the sides, not how many cubic feet it holds.
Wheelbarrow trays are made out of painted steel or plastic. Steel wheelbarrow trays are heavier, although that really only matters if you’re going to be lifting your wheelbarrow into a vehicle or onto a wall hanger for storage.
Steel construction will rust if left outside because the paint is easily scraped off by everyday use. However, trays with a steel frame are sturdy, and won’t bend under heavy loads. Our sample included stamped steel trays suitable for home use. If you need a contractor-grade heavy-duty wheelbarrow, look for folded steel trays which are thicker, heavier, and more durable.
Plastic wheelbarrow trays are lighter weight and rust-proof, but consumer reviews complain that they buckle and collapse under loads of dense, heavy materials like gravel.
A few collapsible wheelbarrows and garden carts have trays made of nylon or canvas. They are very lightweight, but not at all sturdy. Choose these carts only if you are very short of storage space, or only plan to use your cart for lightweight loads.
Wheelbarrows typically either have two handles made of metal or wood, or a loop handle made of metal. Two-handle models are easier for people of different heights to use. Loop handles on lighter-weight make it possible to store the barrow by hanging it up, but can be more awkward for very short or tall users. Wood handles can also be rough and feel like they’ll shed splinters if they’re made of unfinished wood.
Other Wheelbarrows We Tested
Jackson 6 cu. ft. Steel Contractor Wheelbarrow with Knobby Tire
The Jackson Wheelbarrow is a solid, heavy-duty wheelbarrow that can take on big, heavy loads. Its spacious 6-cubic-foot tray is made of sturdy painted stamped steel, and the single air-filled wheel pivots to fit through tight spaces. Overall, its performance is similar to the True Temper wheelbarrow.
Unfortunately, the Jackson wheelbarrow’s handles are made of rough unfinished wood. If you’re using this wheelbarrow without gloves, you’re going to end up with scratches or splinters.
And while Jackson claims these leg stabilizers make the wheelbarrow “40% more tip-resistant,” they make it more difficult to drag it backwards up stairs than other models.
This lightweight loop-handled wheelbarrow will do a fine job of toting most garden materials. The wide tray is slightly more square than the Marathon, making it easier to put more bricks flat on the tray. And the pneumatic tire makes it easy to go over most yard obstacles.
The Goplus was one of the most frustrating wheelbarrows to assemble in our sample, with holes not quite lining up without a second pair of hands helping to squeeze parts together. And its wide, low undercarriage can make it tricky to go up large steps.
If you need to push heavy materials in wet conditions without worrying about your cart turning over, the Rubbermaid Commercial Big Wheel Cart offers a sturdy rust-free tray that’s less likely to bend than the typical plastic-tray wheelbarrows.
The Rubbermaid cart is extremely stable. Its large plastic tires travel over gravel and sand well, and its thick, rigid, high-density polyethylene plastic tray is far less likely to buckle under heavy loads than other plastic-tray wheelbarrows.
But sloppy manufacturing left large globs of ragged plastic at various places on the test model, making it difficult to fit the cart together snugly. Assembly requires both a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver, plus a wrench—preferably a ratchet wrench.
Also, there is no way to pull this cart backward up a step if you can’t push it forward due to the bulky bottom stabilizing structure.
The Worx Aerocart is best used to transport a variety of bulky or odd-shaped items over flat terrain. It requires only a minute or two of assembly, and it can convert from a cart to a dolly for carrying large pots or boxes. It also comes with several accessories for moving odd objects like large bags and potted plants.
Compared to a real wheelbarrow, the Worx Aerocart is heavy and awkward, especially while going uphill, and the small flat-free wheels struggle to get over small obstacles and gravel. The tray is small, shallow, and isn’t flat, so it’s hard to carry bricks and cinder blocks.
The Aerocart tilts enough in its cart configuration that it can’t hold much loose material like mulch or soil—about 1.5 cu. ft. if you’re careful.
The Gorilla Carts GOR4PS Poly Garden Dump Cart is great for hauling light- to medium-weight materials over flat surfaces and dumping out mulch and soil.
The Gorilla provides a stable, flat surface for carrying a variety of materials, and the pneumatic tires travel easily over most obstacles. As a bonus, its quick-release dump feature works to easy empty your cart without shoveling.
However, it is terrifying to pull a heavy load in a Gorilla Cart down a slope because it’s difficult to control and there are no brakes. This wagon doesn’t give you any of the mechanical advantage a wheelbarrow offers for pushing materials uphill.
The turning radius is fairly wide compared to one- and two-wheel carts and wheelbarrows. It’s fairly easy to assemble, but there are a lot of bolts to tighten.
Choose the Allsop Home and Garden WheelEasy LE when you’d love to use a tarp with wheels. The Allsop Wheeleasy can collapse onto the ground for easy loading with soil, mulch, leaves, or even large rocks. In between uses, it can be folded in stored in the space taken up by a stick vacuum.
Due to its wide handles, the Allsop WheelEasy has a surprisingly large turning radius for a single-wheel garden cart. Loads sit very upright when the Allsop WheelEasy is being pushed, making it hard to load mounds of mulch or leaves; this is a very low-capacity cart. Bits of mulch tend to dribble out the rear of the cart where there is a gap between the wheel and the cover.
The MacSports wagon is great for hauling lightweight materials on level surfaces—and you can toss it into a car trunk or a closet when you’re done.
There’s no assembly needed, and it weighs just 22 pounds. The flat rectangular bed is easy to load and stack, and the wagon collapses quickly and easily for storage. It even has two cup holders!
The MacSports wagon had the widest turning radius of any of the models we tested, so it’s not a great choice if you need to tote materials around tight corners. Like all wagon designs, this MacSports wagon is heavy and hard to control going up and down slopes, and it has no brakes for keeping it still while loading. Small, all-plastic tires make going up steps challenging.
The Garden Star Garden Barrow is a lightweight, plastic-tray wheelbarrow that would have been perfect for carrying small to medium loads if it hadn’t gotten a flat tire early in testing.
Assembly is straightforward—and the bolts are all the same size, so you can’t mix them up. But during the second test, when the wheelbarrow was filled with mulch, one of the Garden Star’s pneumatic tires collapsed. Although the flat could be fixed with the help of a valve core removal tool, the average homeowner is not a bicycle repair enthusiast with special tire repair tools on hand.
Meg Muckenhoupt is an environmental and travel writer. Her book Boston Gardens and Green Spaces (Union Park Press, 2010) is a Boston Globe Local Bestseller. Meg was awarded a certificate in Field Botany by the New England Wild Flower Society and earned degrees from Harvard and Brown University.
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