When my wife’s landscaping/gardening efforts got a little more ambitious, she started looking at buying a garden cart. I suggested that a wheelbarrow might be a good double-duty solution—especially since I was going to need a wheelbarrow for some backyard projects. And I didn’t want to borrow my neighbor’s beastly heavy ‘barrow anymore.
She wasn’t too keen on the idea of wheelbarrow as garden cart. But we had a bigger problem: we don’t really have room for both. We have a separate garage, but there’s only so much room for tool stuff. Plus, why spend more if we could kill two birds with one stone?
So we surfed high and low and did our homework and watched videos and asked our friends and neighbors and here’s where we netted out. We bought kind of a hybrid cart that does the work of both wheelbarrow and garden cart because it fit our needs best.
And that’s what it comes down to: your needs. Carts can do some things better than wheelbarrows, and vice versa. So if you truly need both, and have the room (and money), why not? Here’s a few tips that may help you decide.
Wheelbarrows are best for …
Wheelbarrows are great for maneuvering in tight spaces and for going through narrow garden rows in particular where carts might not fit. They’re also somewhat easier for dumping exact amounts of soil, fertilizer, gravel, etc. And clearly the biggest upside versus a garden cart is that wheelbarrows are specifically made for moving and dumping heavy loads.
The biggest downside is stability. It’s easy to accidentally tip over a wheelbarrow. And depending on the load, it can take some real strength to get where you’re going—especially uphill.
Probably the biggest difference is obvious: you push a wheelbarrow (while balancing it on one wheel), whereas you pull most garden carts like a wagon. If you’re trying to decide between the two, that difference maybe the deciding factor if you live on steep or unsteady ground. Luckily, we don’t.
And garden carts are best for …
Garden carts, on the other hand, are 2-, 3- or 4-wheeled, so they’re way more stable, unlikely to tip over. They’re best for hauling stuff around the yard when you have to make lots of little stops. Putting down multiple plants, spreading small amounts of fertilizer or mulch, gathering bits of brush, or simply carrying all manner of gardening tools and supplies around the yard—just a few of the tasks made easier with a cart.
True, you could manage lots of the same things with a wheelbarrow, but most people just find carts easier to handle, especially after an hour or two in the hot sun.
Most garden carts today are essentially wagons. 4 wheels with a handle, pull to move. But what my wife thinks of as the ‘classic garden cart’ is the kind with 2 wheels and ‘legs’—the kind you push, wheelbarrow-style, and then set down. Some of them even have shelves to hold several flats of plants at once.
And that’s how we got to what we really need. She does a little bit of flower-gardening and landscaping—but not enough to need a larger garden cart that holds bunches of flats at once. And we don’t have a big garden with multiple rows where a wheelbarrow might be more practical. I on the other hand needed something that could do some heavy material-moving like a wheelbarrow.
Garden cart/wheelbarrow all-in-one
In our search for a solution, we stumbled on to these hybrid carts. They’re like classic 2-wheeled garden carts, so they’re easy to handle. But you can also haul and dump stuff like a wheelbarrow. There are a few models available, made more or less with the same idea. We chose a Marathon Yard Rover (pictured below) because it seemed to make the most sense for the money.
It’s worked out pretty well. For my wife, it’s lightweight enough that she can push it (or pull it I suppose) anywhere she needs to. It doesn’t have as much ‘floor space’ for plant trays as some carts, but she says it’s not a problem.
For me, the wheelbarrow function is more than adequate. The two wheels makes it more stable than a 1-wheeler and it’s easier to push. Less exertion: I like that. Dumping is simple, though like I said, a little less precise than a standard wheelbarrow.
What made the Marathon Yard Rover stand out
Once we decided on they hybrid approach, there were a few things that set this particular one apart. Cushioned handle. Inflated tires. Fairly high ground clearance. Easy assembly. 300-pound rating. And a good thick poly tub, or ‘tray’ as they call it. That was important to me, and just like any old-timer I worried that poly/plastic wouldn’t be up to snuff like a classic metal barrow. I shouldn’t have. It won’t rust, and though it’s got a scratch or two from some bricks, it’s solid and strong and doesn’t show any signs of weakening.
My wife wanted the pink one because it’s cute. I couldn’t do it. Give me the standard garden green version, thank you.
So if you find yourself trying to decide whether you want a wheelbarrow, or a garden cart, consider that you might be able to get both in one.
Happy hauling. Hope this helps!