Wheelbarrows are essential household tools that can help you with a variety of tasks. Whether you’re a big DIYer or a weekend gardener, you’ll need something to help make things easier. 

There are two main types of wheelbarrows to choose from – poly or steel. We’ll review the two options and compare them. We’ll also give you our top picks for each type.

Poly Wheelbarrows

Poly wheelbarrows are made of plastic, more specifically polyethylene. Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world and is used in many tools and containers.

These wheelbarrows are extremely lightweight. This makes it a great choice for those with less upper body strength. It’s also great if you have to use it to carry yard waste and bush trimmings long distances. 

Unfortunately, due to the fact that material makes it so lightweight, it also makes it vulnerable to bending and distortion. This could potentially warp the wheelbarrow or eventually create cracks and damage.

Price Point of Poly Wheelbarrows

From a cost perspective, poly wheelbarrows make a lot of sense. You can pick one up for under $100 and know that I’ve got a sturdy tool to put grass clippings, leaves, and small branches in without making it immobile. If you wait for even the pricier models to go on sale, you can buy a large capacity plastic wheelbarrow for under $300. It’s a small investment considering how long it will last.

Common Poly Wheelbarrow Sizes

The most popular sizes include five, six, and eight cubic feet. The wider the space, the more you can fit inside the wheelbarrow opposed to sitting on top of it. You’ll find that you’ll have fewer stray branches to pick up when you use the bigger wheelbarrow for hauling yard waste.

How Long Does a Poly Wheelbarrow Last

A poly wheelbarrow, or anything made of polyethylene, typically lasts years as long as it is used correctly. Unlike steel wheelbarrows, it doesn’t rust so there is no harm in leaving it outdoors. If the handle is metal, however, you’ll want to cover the wheelbarrow to keep it looking new for longer. The same for wooden handles as they’ll eventually show wear after being left in the rain.

Benefits of a Poly Wheelbarrow

The benefits of owning poly wheelbarrows include:

  • Durability– the amount of abuse they withstand for such an affordable price, their lightweight bodies make pushing them easier,
  • Load capacity– the capacity they have to haul brush and debris through the largest yards. I find that they’re perfect for using for smaller garden tasks such as hauling soil and transporting plants, too.
  • Price – definitely more budget friendly than other options.
  • Lifespan – these will last you a long time which ensures you get your money’s worth.
poly wheelbarrow carrying flowers

Downfalls of Poly Wheelbarrows

You’ll want to consider these downfalls, too, as they may shape your experience and cause you to have a negative opinion of the wheelbarrow.

  • Not for large hauls – Poly models are not for hauling large, heavy loads because they can cause the plastic material to crack and break.
  • Weaker tires – The tires on this type of wheelbarrow are known to go flat easily, too, so you may need to invest in an air compressor to keep them aired up.

Our Top Poly Wheelbarrow Pick

Steel Wheelbarrows

Steel wheelbarrows are built-to-last. You’ll find that they can do ten times the work of a poly wheelbarrow. But can be heavy to push when hauling heavy material. Still, it’s important to understand how they compare to poly wheelbarrows in terms of price, durability, and benefits.

Price Range of Steel Wheelbarrows

When comparing the price of a steel wheelbarrow to a poly wheelbarrow option, you’ll see a slight difference in cost. For example, lower-end models set you back less than $100 while higher-end models can be nearly $400 depending on size and brand.

Common Steel Wheelbarrow Sizes

The most popular sizes for this type of wheelbarrow include four cubic feet, five cubic feet, six cubic feet, and seven cubic feet. I have seldom had a job to do that required a bigger holding capacity than that. You’ll find that you’ll learn very quickly if a wheelbarrow is big enough to accommodate your needs long-term.

How Long Do Steel Wheelbarrows Last

Steel wheelbarrows require more care to last a long time. Their metals bodies rust when left outdoors and in the way of the elements. Rain, sleet, and snow can shorten the lifespan of the wheelbarrow considerably, making it only last a year or two.

With that in mind, you’ll need to make sure you have storage or a plan to keep your steel wheelbarrow from rusting. Many use sheds, garages, or tarps to shelter the steel wheelbarrow tray from harsh weather conditions.

rusty steel wheelbarrow

Benefits of a Steel Wheelbarrow

A few of the pros of owning this type of wheelbarrow are:

  • Durability – how sturdy they are. It also takes a beating but doesn’t crack or break the way that a poly model does.
  • Haul Capacity – You can haul some heavy duty items, such as large split logs or construction material, inside of one of these bad boys.

Downfalls of a Steel Wheelbarrow

The disadvantages include:

  • Lifespan – due to rusting and a shorter lifespan than plastic wheelbarrows.
  • Easy to Rust – you also need to be more diligent about putting it away after use so it doesn’t get wet and rust.
  • Storage space needed – If you don’t have a lot of available space for storage, this could be a big problem for you because you’ll want to access the wheelbarrow repeatedly with ease.

Our Top Steel Wheelbarrow Pick

Conclusion

As with many purchases, you need to determine the best route for you. Different hauling needs, budgets, and storage options will ultimately guide your decision. And it’s possible that you’d prefer a yard cart instead of a wheelbarrow. You’ll need to review your needs to make the best decision.