Wheelbarrow and Carts
Thanks to advances in materials and technology, wheelbarrows, like cars, have improved considerably. Wheelbarrows of today have features undreamed of by gardeners of yesterday.
We no longer have to accept the rustic basics — a wheel, a tub, and two handles.
Some models actually have — wait for it — two wheels! Yes, two wheels, even three! Who among us, after dumping a load prematurely, hasn’t cursed that free-spirited but unbalanced, single-wheeled barrow?
As for the tubs, many are now lightweight but rugged polypropylene, a vast improvement over the old, heavy, waterlogged wooden ones.
Handles have undergone several improvements in style and ergonomics, but alas, it seems wheelbarrows are still limited to just two. Imagine how much labor and how many backs could be saved by a tandem-handled wheelbarrow. Share the load, I say.
When I began my research, I considered calling up my local hardware store and asking if they’d load up all their models with wet sand and allow me to test drive them through the parking lot, but since a wheelbarrow is such a personal choice.
Wheelbarrows and Cart Models 2021
I’ll instead describe the 2021 models and let you decide which best fits your needs. However, I definitely recommend test driving, especially by the default operator.
They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in capacity from two to 11.5 cubic feet, but unless you’re a professional barrow wheeler, I will stay away from the larger models.
Something in the scope of three to five cubic foot capacity is about right for garden work. (Definitely measure the width of your garden gate before closing the deal).
If you prefer something smaller, there is a non-traditional alternative with a polyethylene canvas tub. It’s really only suited for cleaning up the back room at a florist’s or most a yard the size of a slice of toast, but it does fold for easy storage, making it ideal where space is limited.
More traditional versions are available with steel or polypropylene tubs and wood or steel handles. Hardwood handles are usually sealed to preserve them and hold up surprisingly well.
Better quality steel will be galvanized to prevent rusting (remember that long handles mean better leverage). I’m not sure how the plastic tubs will stand up when stored outside for 20 years. You can also expect rubber tires and plastic wheel assemblies to deteriorate when left exposed to sunshine, but store your cart in the shed, and it won’t wear out any faster than you do.
As you stroll around the showroom, trying to decide on the perfect model, don’t be swayed by glitz, glamour, and flashy colors; be sure to kick a few tires. Wheels and tires are the engines of the barrow, and the bigger, the better.
A large diameter wheel will roll much easier than a small one, and the best will have ball-bearing hubs. Tires may be pneumatic, solid rubber, or plastic.
If you like the idea of a two-wheeler, go ahead. These may be a little less maneuverable, but if you don’t have to deal with tight corners, you’ll be fine. The same applies to three-wheelers. These have an extra wheel mounted on each leg that transforms the humble barrow into a wagon that can be trundled about.
A kit is available to convert a regular one-wheeler to a three-wheeler. They still have to be pushed and work best on a large, flat, open property where they can save a lot of heaving, but three-wheelers are not practical on narrow, serpentine pathways.
Other than the garden carts, which are in a whole other class, you won’t find a four-wheel-drive barrow, but if you want to own the SUV of garden transportation, you haven’t been forgotten. Jeep, yes, the JEEP Company now manufactures a wheelbarrow with the same reputation of rugged reliability as its other vehicles.
It doesn’t have springs and suspension, and you’ll still have to push it, but what it does have is a brake, a real disk brake.
Now, forgive me, but a brake on a wheelbarrow seems a little redundant unless you’re working on a steep hillside.
In my experience, any lack of control on the part of the operator usually results in an immediate halt in forwarding motion. In fact, wheelbarrows will flop over without the slightest encouragement and lie on the sidewalk like a dead mule. It’s getting them moving that’s the problem, not stopping them.
The last thing you’ll need to consider, and it is important, is color. Blue is fine, and so is red, but I have a real problem with green, and this goes for all garden tools. Ever tried to find a green tool in a garden? I say go for yellow — a lot more visible when left in a driveway.
Using a well-balanced and well-made barrow makes heavy-duty garden work swing along. Like my parents’ lightweight two-wheel version, a bad one will lead to irritation and battered vegetation as it crashes through the garden.
Lightweight barrows are an attractive idea, but, in practice, these flimsy tools tip or blow over. Curiously, they prove far harder to push when loaded than a heavyweight one and won’t last as long.
I have yet to be impressed by new designs, however. Dyson’s globe-wheeled barrows are lightweight and difficult to steer, while flimsy foldaway don’t seem much of an improvement on a garden waste bag.
My barrow epiphany came when I first used a builder’s barrow. It was an old pneumatic-tired Chillington and, although its handle guards had vanished long ago and it was battered to the point of rusting, it moved like a dream and didn’t topple during loading.
The pneumatic, as opposed to solid, tire (Chillingtons come with either type), makes for a springy, comfortable ride and the loop of the metal tube, just proud that the tire helps in levering loaded barrows up steps.
Heavy-duty Chillingtons cost 30-40 GBP, though they might arrive in kit form and are better than the company’s lighter, domestic barrows (around Pounds 60).
In North America, where most people seem to prefer carts, there are mostly lighter barrows available. If you want to try a sturdy wheelbarrow and you balk at the idea of importing an English one, the nearest equivalent is Brentwood Industries’ ProBoss at $200.
Whichever one you choose, remember the golden rule: always leave it facing in the direction you intend to walk next. A full wheelbarrow can be very heavy and awkward when turning it to walk in the opposite direction.
4 Key Aspects In Selecting Wheelbarrows
The best wheelbarrow for each person will depend on the project you’ll need it for and the amount of space you need to store. These are the 4 key aspects to take into consideration:
- Material: they usually made Wheelbarrows from plastic or metal. To decide which wheelbarrow version is the best for you, consider the items you’ll be carrying. A wheelbarrow made of metal can carry more weight than a plastic model, but it may not stand up to the elements or be kept outside. A wheelbarrow made of poly or plastic could be ideal for those working in a garden that isn’t heavy, and some folding wheelbarrows made of fabric or canvas can be helpful for this.
- Configuration: When most people think of the wheelbarrow being pushed by the two handles, it could become more complicated for those who have weaker or smaller shoulders. We can find barrows with single-bar or handle versions and are ergonomically more comfortable for most people to manage.
- Wheels: The traditional “tripod” wheel design (two handles to push and a small wheel on the front) is the most popular for barrows. However, while this makes moving and dumping effortless, some gardeners may prefer a model with two wheels on the front, which provides greater stability. For the wheels, it is also necessary to decide if pneumatic (meaning we must pump them as bicycle tire) and the non-pneumatic (solid rubber, no pump needed) is more suitable for your needs. Some have semi-pneumatic tires. This is an air-filled tire with pockets built into it to help absorb shock, and there is no pump needed.
- Other attributes: Most people envision a barrow as an ordinary gadget, but in some circumstances, you might need an engine-driven barrow (for larger weights) or a wheelbarrow that has multiple uses (can be used as a dolly or cart, etc.) as well as one at a level with the ground, to allow raking.
The Best Wheelbarrows/Carts To Buy in 2021/2022
- Best Overall Wheelbarrow: True Temper R6FF25 6 Cu. Ft Steel Tray Wheelbarrow
- Best Value Wheelbarrow: Gorilla Carts Heavy-Duty Poly Yard Dump Cart | 2-in-1 Convertible Handle
- Best Heavy Duty Wheelbarrow: Worx WG050 Aerocart 8-in-1 Yard Cart / Wheelbarrow / Dolly
- Best Lightweight Barrow: Allsop Home and Garden Folding Yard Cart
- Best Cart-Style Wheelbarrow: Gorilla Carts Heavy-Duty 7 Cu. Dump Cart
- Best Motorized Barrow Landworks Wheelbarrow Utility Cart
- Best Two-Wheel Wheelbarrow: Best Choice Products Dual-Wheel Utility Cart
- Best Large Barrow for Landscaping: Rubbermaid Commercial Big-Wheel Cart