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10 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Wheelbarrow

10 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Wheelbarrow

1. What will you be using your wheelbarrow for?

A wheelbarrow is your handy helper for gardening and for working around your property, ready to help you move heavy soil, rocks, plants, shrubs and trees. Wheelbarrows are a necessity for transporting building supplies for exterior home improvement projects. Contractors rely on wheelbarrows for moving heavy construction materials like cement, steel posts, and bricks.

There are wheelbarrows designed for light to heavy loads with different levels of durability in a range of sizes. Most wheelbarrow trays are made with either steel or plastic and have a capacity of four to six cubic feet. They can help you safely lug 150 to 300 or more pounds of material. You’ll find wheelbarrows with inflatable pneumatic tires or flat-free tires.

Our team at Rough River Hardware has put together some points to consider when choosing a wheelbarrow. We are happy to help with your wheelbarrow questions.

2. Weight, tray size, and ease of maneuvering a heavy load

Will you be using your wheelbarrow for lighter items such as plants and gardening tools? Or will you be doing heavy-duty landscaping work?

Does the wheelbarrow provide leverage to help reduce the weight of the load as you move it? Will you be able to safely lift and navigate turns when the wheelbarrow is full?

Tip: Take care not to overfill the wheelbarrow or it could tip over as you push it along.

3. Wheelbarrow comfort

Once you have an idea of the type of wheelbarrow you need, test drive a few to check how they feel. Are the handles a good length for you and comfortable to hold? Some wheelbarrows have wooden handles and others have metal handles covered with plastic, rubber or foam to prevent blisters.

4. Storing your wheelbarrow

Do you have enough space to store your wheelbarrow? Make sure you have a sheltered area for your wheelbarrow to protect it from the elements so it will stay in good condition longer. You also need to make sure it will fit through the door of the storage area.

5. Assembling your wheelbarrow

Will you be able to assemble the wheelbarrow yourself? One-piece frames are usually easier to assemble. Some retailers sell units already assembled, or may assemble at an additional cost.

6. One vs two wheels

Wheelbarrows with one wheel

You may find it easier to maneuver the traditional one-wheel barrow, but the lighter-weight models are not always the most stable.

Wheelbarrows with two wheels

Wheelbarrows with two wheels are a good choice if you think you’ll be moving heavy or larger loads. There is less chance of the wheelbarrow tipping over and most models are easy to move around corners and over rough terrain.

7. What’s best? A plastic or steel wheelbarrow?

It all depends on what you are using your wheelbarrow for and how much weight you can safely handle. Steel wheelbarrows are heavier and therefore better for moving building supplies and heavy landscaping material.

Plastic wheelbarrows weigh less, which makes them ideal for lighter gardening tasks. They are easier to maneuver, and won’t rust if left out in the rain.

Plastic wheelbarrows


  • Lighter weight
  • Easier on your back
  • Easier to maneuver
  • Wider range of sizes, colors and prices

Important to know

  • Not always suitable for heavy loads
  • Could collapse if too heavy a load
  • Higher risk of cracking in extremely cold temperatures
  • Over time plastic can become brittle

Steel wheelbarrows


  • Sturdier and can support heavy loads
  • Easier to haul heavier materials
  • Durable
  • Won’t become brittle from exposure to cold weather
  • Ideal for construction and heavy landscaping work

Important to know

  • Need regular maintenance to prevent rusting especially if you store it outside
  • It can become very heavy when full so make sure you have the strength to move it or do not fill completely
  • Some steel wheelbarrows come with a rust protection coating

8. Pneumatic or flat-free tires?

Pneumatic tires are similar to tires on a bike. They can have an air-filled tube or can be tubeless. Flat-free tires don’t need to be pumped with air as they are constructed with a solid material, usually polyurethane foam.

Pneumatic tires


  • Better shock absorption for a smoother ride over rough terrain
  • Best for heavier loads
  • You can adjust the pressure to suit the load and surface
  • Lower priced than flat-free tires
  • Quieter than flat-free tires

Important to know

  • Monitor regularly for punctures and leaks, repair punctures
  • Inflate regularly for best performance

Non-pneumatic (flat-free) tires


  • Always ready to roll – they don’t need to be inflated and can’t be punctured or develop leaks
  • Durable – they have a longer life than pneumatic tires
  • You won’t need to replace flat-free tires as often
  • Save time, inconvenience and expense of testing for leaks and repairing punctures

Important to know

  • Better for lighter loads
  • Give more resistance when pushing heavier loads
  • Weigh more than pneumatic tires
  • Don’t go over bumps as smoothly
  • Remove heavy loads and store barrow upright to avoid flattening tire
  • Usually higher priced than pneumatic tires

What else is out there?

Folding wheelbarrow

The space-efficient, lightweight, foldable garden wheelbarrow has a sturdy canvas tray and extension for moving long branches, plants, leaves, rocks and soil.

Garden Cart

A cart with four wheels will give you more stability but it may be trickier to turn tight corners. They are bigger than a wheelbarrow so you’ll need more storage space. Contractor’s wheelbarrows are built with heavy gauge steel and a stabilizer to prevent tipping. You’ll need enough strength to handle a contractor’s wheelbarrow – they are already very heavy and even more so when full. Battery-powered wheelbarrows give builders extra help on the job site.

Child’s wheelbarrow

Your kids will enjoy helping you with their own wheelbarrow. It has smaller handles, and a lighter weight tub.

You can also consider wheelbarrows with special features:

  • Handy storage racks on the handles
  • Fold-down dolly shelves for large, bulky items
  • Caddies for your water bottle, cell phone and small tools
  • LED lighting on motorized wheelbarrows for darker work areas
  • Longer handles help you to leverage the load

9. Preventing injuries

Be aware of your posture when using your wheelbarrow to prevent injuries. Bend your knees as you hold onto the handles, keep your arms straight, then stand up keeping your back straight. Never bend over. Put the bulk of the material you are loading towards the front of the wheelbarrow’s tray, over the wheel, to make it feel lighter.

Tip: Point your wheelbarrow in the direction you will be going before loading it, so you won’t need to turn it around when it’s full and heavy.

10. Wheelbarrow maintenance

For your wheelbarrow to stay functional, keep the tires inflated and regularly lubricate the bearings. There’s no need to get a new wheelbarrow if something needs replacement in a few years. Instead, opt for purchasing parts such as trays and tires, and continue using your wheelbarrow in the years to come.

Drop in to Rough River Hardware to test drive some wheelbarrows today!

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