How to Pick the Best Lawn Cart or Utility Trailer
A Guide to Trailers and Garden Carts
Landscaping projects are no small endeavors.
The homeowners and professionals who strive to turn patches of Kentucky bluegrass and piles of lava rock into stunning outdoor scenery are the kinds of people who aren't afraid of tackling big projects.
The jobs they take on require hours of careful planning, not to mention lots of heavy lifting. Often, the lawn care projects they plan are too big for a simple pull cart or wheelbarrow.
If you’re a lawn care or outdoors aficionado, you could benefit from a utility trailer or lawn cart.
Utility Trailers vs. Lawn Carts
Lawn carts and trailers go by several names—dump carts, garden carts, utility wagons, utility trailers, and so on. No matter the name, these attachments all serve one important role: They allow you to tow heavy loads behind your lawn mower or tractor.
When there’s some confusion about what a product is called, it can be difficult to choose the best item for your needs. However, the trailer attachments that people tow behind their tractors and lawn mowers can be divided into two different styles, each used for different purposes.
Utility trailers exist to transport large items, including other vehicles like small mowers and ATVs. With the aid of a good utility trailer, landscapers, ranchers, and outdoors enthusiasts can carry the biggest pieces of equipment they have across long distances and wide-open spaces and be ready to work.
Utility trailers have several features that make them ideal for heavy-duty lifting:
- Flat bed on which tires can rest
- Straight side and front panels
- Drive-up rear ramp
- Strong axles with shocks
Construction and Size
Because of the weight of the loads they carry, utility trailers almost always are made with a solid steel construction. The size of a utility trailer is measured using two criteria:
- Dimensions or space capacity—utility trailers commonly range from 4’ x 6’ (the size needed to carry a small riding mower or two rear-tine tillers) to 7’ x 12’ (the size needed to carry a large tractor)
- Gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, which is the maximum weight the trailer can safely hold—utility trailers can range from 1200 lbs. (twice the weight of many entry-level zero turn lawn mowers!) to almost 3000 lbs. (just let your imagination go wild)
Vehicles That Can Tow Them
Utility trailers are the powerhouses of tow-behind trailer attachments. Thanks to their sturdy axles and durable construction, they’re made to cover rugged terrain (and in some cases are rated for highway and road use, too). As such, they’re meant to be towed behind only the most robust vehicles:
- Professional-grade zero turn mowers
- Garden tractors
- ATVs and UTVs
Always check your vehicle’s weight limit before using it to tow a trailer! A mower’s product manual is an excellent place to find information about how much weight you can safely pull behind it.
In some cases, a utility trailer is bigger and heavier than what homeowners need for light lawn and garden work. Instead, when people think about attaching a garden cart or yard cart to their small riding mower, what they often envision is a dump cart.
Dump carts are the most common choice for lawn and garden chores. Their small sizes and light weights make them well suited for trips around a backyard vegetable garden or across a fresh green lawn. Like utility trailers, they can be attached to mowers and small vehicles. Unlike utility trailers, which carry their cargo on flat beds, dump carts have tubs that utilize a solid wall construction and can be tipped to deposit soil, gravel, and other loads of material onto the ground.
Dump carts employ several types of lifts, which is the mechanism that raises and tips the tub:
- Manual lifts are used with a handle that users grasp to raise the tub
- Hydraulic lifts use a mechanism that provides smooth action and more control
- Electric lifts have a powered mechanism for people who need assistance with heavy loads
- Swivel lifts allow users to turn and rotate the tub to drop their loads exactly where needed
When people discuss the material a dump cart is made of, the part they refer to is the tub, which actually holds the load. That includes soil that can stain and corrode the tub’s basin, rocks that can bang against the sides, and branches that can poke through the corners.
Lawn cart tubs are frequently built using two types of material:
- Poly or plastic—better for lightweight loads than heavy ones, but resistant to corrosion and impact
- Steel or other metals—at risk of rusting and denting, but strong and capable of carrying large weights
Additionally, just like the size of utility trailers, the size of a garden dump cart can be defined using two criteria:
- Cubic footage, which measures the cart’s space capacity—dump carts range in size from 10 cubic feet (enough soil for a 3’ x 4’ raised garden bed) to 22 cubic feet (enough soil for a 4.5’ x 6’ bed)
- Weight capacity, which measures the maximum weight the cart can safely hold—dump carts range in capacity from 350 lbs. (enough river gravel to cover a 3’ x 6’ x 2” plot of land) to 1100 lbs. (enough river gravel to cover a 10’ x 12’ x 1” plot of land)
Vehicles That Can Tow Them
One advantage of a dump cart’s light weight is its ability to be towed behind the smaller, lighter mowers that many homeowners drive to keep their lawns in shape:
- Lawn and garden tractors
- Zero turn mowers
- Rear-engine riding mowers
In fact, small dump carts and garden wagons are the only kinds of carts that can be towed behind zero turn mowers and riding mowers.
You might have noticed that some garden dump carts are listed as ATV carts. These are dump carts specifically designed to be used off-road with ATVs or utility task/utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), thanks to certain features:
- High ground clearance
- Large tires
- Durable, heavy-duty axles
No matter what type of dump cart you choose, the same warning applies here as with utility trailers: Check your mower’s weight limit before using it to tow a garden cart!
Big Dreams, Big Carrying Capacity
You might be a homeowner with a small garden or medium-sized yard. Alternatively, you might be a lawn care or outdoors professional with hundreds of acres of land under your care.
If you're a homeowner, you might find that landscaping rocks are too heavy to move with a simple wheelbarrow, or that unloading all the plants and soil you want to put in your garden would take too many trips across your lawn.
If you're a professional landscaper, you might need something to help you move your mowers, tillers, and other large pieces of equipment to multiple job sites so that you can grow your business.
No matter how large the plot of land you care for, chances are that you have big plans for it. Whether your plans call for a utility trailer or a lawn cart, towing an attachment behind your vehicle will allow you to transport the equipment you need to realize those plans, often in one convenient trip.
In other words, there’s no landscaping dream too big when you have a lawn cart or utility trailer to help you with it.