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Wheelbarrow and Garden Cart Buying Guide

All gardeners, horse owners and builders need a wheelbarrow or garden cart. There are so many occasions when you need to transport items around the garden, stable yard or building site. Many items are bulky but light, others can be much heavier.

Rather than carrying items by hand or making multiple trips it is much more convenient to use a wheelbarrow or garden cart. Some tasks are not practical without using a wheelbarrow or a garden cart.

What to choose?

-          What is the difference? – wheelbarrow or garden cart?

-          What to take into account before making your choice

-          What to look for when selecting a wheelbarrow

-          What to look for when selecting a garden cart

What is the difference? - Wheelbarrow or Garden Cart?

A wheelbarrow and garden cart are very similar in their functionality but each will have advantages and disadvantages dependent upon the task in hand.

-          Garden Cart

A garden cart typically has vertical sides and a horizontal tray. Garden carts are usually fitted with four wheels and are designed to be pulled. Some garden carts can be attached to a lawn mower or small motorised tractor. Garden carts usually have large pneumatic wheels that are suitable for smooth surfaces and rougher ‘off-road’ surfaces. They can be more difficult to manoeuvre than wheelbarrows on uneven surfaces.

Large Garden Carts can have a greater load capacity than wheelbarrows but may need more than one person to pull them when fully loaded.

Garden Carts can have solid or mesh sides, sides can usually be lowered to facilitate loading and unloading. Some garden carts are supplied with an internal liner which is essential when transporting small items if the cart has mesh sides.

-          Wheelbarrows

The wheelbarrow pans / trays / tubs (the name varies by manufacturer) are usually oblong in shape. The sides will slope to facilitate tipping. Wheelbarrows are pushed from behind and are easier to control and manoeuvre unless they are very heavily laden, or the centre of gravity of the load is too high.  A wheelbarrow usually has one wheel though some will have two. A two wheel barrow is not as nimble as a wheelbarrow with one wheel but may be more stable when tipping. Some barrows have a rounded nose which means they can be tipped at any angle whereas flat nosed barrows can only be tipped forwards.

The final choice of Garden Cart or Wheelbarrow will, most likely, be determined by the user. You may find a reason to buy one of each!

What to take into account before making your choice

Weight of load – think about the weight of a typical load. Are you moving bricks which are dense and heavy? or are you moving garden waste which is bulky but light?

Space - will you be working in a limited space? or are there access limitations e.g a narrow doorway or gateway? Always make sure your barrow or cart will fit through your narrowest space.

Capability of user  - if you have mobility issues it may be easier to pull a cart rather than push a wheelbarrow. To load items into a wheelbarrow they will have to be lifted higher than when using a garden cart.

Size –only chose a large heavy cart or barrow if you have the strength to move it. If you will be working in a large area you may be tempted to buy bigger than you can handle.

Construction

  • metal is strong but will rust, galvanised metal will offer protection to the metal but ultimately you may need to paint the metal. Metal trays can be affected by toxic substances and if used in a stableyard are likely to be affected by animal waste
  • Plastic trays are lighter, and more weather proof, but are not as strong as metal trays.  Plastic is more resistant to some toxics, e.g. animal waste, that may eat into metal trays. 

Tyres – Pneumatic tyres absorb undulations in the terrain but can puncture, puncture proof pneumatic tyres are available. Solid tyres won’t puncture but the ride will not be as smooth or as easy when on rough terrain.

What to look for when selecting a wheelbarrow

First consider the primary purpose for the barrow.

-           Do you need to move heavy loads?

-           Do you need to move bulky items?

-          Is the load toxic or corrosive?

A metal barrow is more suited to heavy loads. A plastic barrow will be slightly lighter than a metal barrow of the same volume, so you could chose a slightly larger (volume) plastic barrow and not have to push any more weight than the smaller metal barrow.

A plastic barrow is much better suited for use in a stable yard as it is mainly used to move straw / shavings / hay which are bulky and light and will not be corroded by horse waste.

Then consider what you are capable of moving. If you are not capable of pushing a large barrow with a full load there is no point in buying a large barrow. A smaller or lighter barrow would make much more sense.

Then consider the space you have to store the barrow. Most barrows can be stored outside but metal barrows will eventually rust if stored outside over a long period. A galvanised metal barrow is less likely to rust than a painted metal barrow. Identify what space you need in your shed, garage etc if you plan to store the barrow under cover when not in use.

Then consider if you want a single or dual wheel barrow. A single wheel barrow is easier to manoeuvre than a twin wheel barrow but a twin wheel barrow is more stable than a single wheel barrow and can be easier to tip.

A wheelbarrow with a capacity of 90 to 120 litres is a good general size for most applications.  

What to look for when selecting a garden cart

First consider the primary purpose for the garden cart.

-           Do you need to move heavy loads?

-           Do you need to move bulky items?

-          Is the load toxic or corrosive?

A metal garden cart is more suited to heavy loads. A garden cart with a plastic tray will be slightly lighter than a metal garden cart of the same volume.

A garden cart with a plastic tray is much better suited for use in a stable yard as it is mainly used to move straw / shavings / hay which are bulky and light and will not be corroded by horse waste.

A cart liner may be useful if you are moving small items that may fall through the cart side if it is a mesh construction.

Then consider what you are capable of moving. If you are not capable of pulling a large garden cart with a full load there is no point in buying a large cart. A smaller or lighter garden cart would make much more sense particularly on uneven surfaces.

Then consider the space you have to store the garden cart. Most carts are designed to be stored under cover. If stored outside for a long period they will eventually rust. Identify what space you need in your shed, garage etc if you plan to store the garden cart under cover when not in use.

A garden cart with a capacity of 140 to 170 litres is a good general size for most applications.