How to buy the best wheelbarrow
The best wheelbarrows can make light work of moving heavy materials, while the worst will be unstable, hard to manoeuvre and leave you with sore arms.
Use our expert advice to help you decide on the most suitable type, the features you should look out for and how much you need to pay.
Types of wheelbarrows
These are the traditional type of wheelbarrow. Designed for manoeuvrability, they’re perfect for moving light garden debris across short distances.
However, they aren’t always the most stable and you’ll need upper-arm strength to keep heavy loads from tipping to one side.
This type of wheelbarrow (see below) is better suited for lifting more cumbersome loads. The two wheels ensure a lot more stability but it also makes it quite tricky to turn tight corners and negotiate small spaces.
Four-wheel barrows and carts
A wheelbarrow with four wheels is technically a garden cart. These are worth considering if you want to be able to drag heavy loads behind you easily. They are more stable than a wheelbarrow, but can be tricky to turn.
Typically bigger than most wheelbarrows, you’d also need to make sure you have enough room in your garden, garage or shed for a cart.
Wheelbarrows: plastic vs steel
Choosing between a plastic or metal wheelbarrow will ultimately come down to what you’re using it for and how much weight you can handle.
- Can handle light or heavy loads
- Tougher than other materials
- It will need maintenance. Liable to rust if left outside.
- It's heavy - you might struggle to lift it.
- More size or price options with plastic
- Not suitable for heavy loads
- Higher risk of cracking - especially in cold weather
You can also buy fabric wheelbarrows that can be folded. These are great if you’re short of storage space, but they aren't able to handle heavy loads.
Wheelbarrow wheel types
These tyres can be made with an internal tube that is filled with air – just like a bike - or can be tubeless. The air in both types acts like a cushion, making bumpy terrain feel a lot smoother. These tyres are prone to puncturing, though, and will also need pumping up regularly.
These solid rubber tyres have no air tube inside and cannot go flat. They don’t need to be pumped up, but without the air inside it will be a slightly bumpier ride.
How much do I need to pay for a good wheelbarrow?
The cheapest wheelbarrows are typically plastic with shallow tubs - you can get one for as little as £30. But be careful as buying one that's any cheaper could become a false economy.
If you’re just doing light gardening work and you have a garage to store the wheelbarrow in, a budget plastic model should suffice.
But for avid gardeners or those of you who’ll be using it on a building site, paying more for a durable steel model is worthwhile. These typically cost around £60-£80 for basic features, but can go all the way up to £200.
Best wheelbarrow features to look for
If want a wheelbarrow for lightweight tasks, such as moving flowers and garden debris, then you won't need a model with lots of features. But for anything more, the following additions could prove invaluable:
- Long handles - will help make leveraging easier.
- Handle grips – look for rubber or plasticised handles which will help you grasp onto the wheelbarrow.
- Tipping bar – the U-shaped bar in front of the wheel that acts as a brake when you’re emptying the wheelbarrow.
- Square tipping bars – make it easier to stand the barrow up against a support when not in use.
- Wide space between the handles – this makes it easier to balance loads and manoeuvre the barrow.
- Capacity – most wheelbarrows have around 80 litres capacity but some have as little as 50L or as much as 160L.
- Weight limit – Like capacity, wheelbarrow weight limits really vary, ranging from around 60kg right up to 200kg.
- Rust resistant – some steel wheelbarrows are treated with a rust-resistant coating.
- Racks – some wheelbarrows have storage racks along the handles or sides of the tub for extra storage.
Top four tips for choosing the best wheelbarrow
- Check the dimensions of the wheelbarrow before buying, to ensure it will fit through your shed doorway, gates or any narrow openings.
- Check that the handles are long enough that you don’t bang your shins on the back of the tub.
- Make sure the wheelbarrow is clear of the ground when holding the handles with your arms straight.
- Check that the hand grips are well fitted, as too often these come loose and it’s easy for the barrow to suddenly drop out of your hands.