There are cheap carts and expensive carts.
There are good carts and bad carts. There are cheap, good carts and expensive, bad carts. Let’s see if we can sort them all out.
I have owned 3 yard carts since 1979.
The three carts pretty much show a good cross-section of the carts that are available today. The first one was a cheap steel 14 cu. ft. yard cart. The cart I bought had good 16 inch turf tread tires. I bought it because I wanted to dig a crawl space under a “lean-to” bathroom at a house I owned in Illinois. I removed the dirt from under the bathroom with 5 gallon buckets. Filling the buckets with a shovel and then hauling the buckets out of the basement and then dumping them into the yard cart. I usually filled the cart full with the dirt and then hauled the dirt from the house out into the yard. I dumped the cart loads in a large depression in the lawn that was always water logged. When I dumped the cart I just got of the lawn tractor, pulled the latch and tipped the cart up. I then drove away letting the dirt slide out of the yard cart. I would guess that each load of this good mid-western black dirt weighed in around 1200 lbs.
So how did the trailer hold up?
It did fine for 40 or 50 loads. I was getting bored with hauling all this dirt by myself so I let a couple of the neighborhood kids help me one Saturday. We worked for about 30 minutes – I filled the buckets and then they would haul them out of the basement and dump them into the trailer. I had my buckets full and was waiting for the kids to come back down with empty ones. After a few minutes they didn’t come down so I stuck my head out of the basement and I saw my trailer. It looked a lot like the one in the picture below.
What had happened was I forgot to tell the teenagers to fill the cart from the front. Of course they took the easiest route and since the cart was backed up to the basement steps they just started loading it from the rear.
The back corner was all twisted and the the tongue had a big kink in it. I spent the next 2 hours trying to straighten the trailer back into a usable condition. It never did work well after that. I ended up using a Vise-Grips to hold the latch for the dump lever and I couldn’t load it more than 1/2 full without the box rubbing on the tire. I did finish the basement dig with it, but after that I really never used it again.
I started the lawn service a year or so later and purchased a SmithCo Bandit so from then on I had no need for a yard cart until I sold the business and moved up to Wisconsin.
What I learned: The metal carts will hold up if you use a little “common sense” when you load them. If you are hauling heavy loose materials like gravel or dirt be sure you start at the front and work your way to the back of the trailer. If you are loading bagged material like cement or compost be sure to put the bags in the front or over the axle. Remember, 10 bags of dirt is 500 lbs. – 10 bags of Sakrete is 700 lbs!
When I bought the second cart I didn’t have a lot of money to spend.
I had an old Lawn Chief riding mower that came with the house so I really couldn’t pull much with it. I needed a cart to haul landscape plants and landscape border rocks around my one acre yard so I ended up buying the cheapest poly cart I could find.
The $99 cart and tractor did well together. Of course the tires went flat on the trailer immediately. The cheap trailer had cheap tires that were not much thicker than an inner tube. I ended up spending another $25 on Slime Tire Sealant. If I put too much weight in the trailer the belt would slip on the tractor and there we sat.
But then the old Lawn Chief died. I ended up finding a green Craftsman and this tractor was a lot stronger than the old Chief so of course I started to load the trailer more. More rocks, landscape bricks or dirt. And then it happened. I had the cart full of dirt that I was putting out front in a landscape bed. I felt a “tug” and looked back and I saw a sigh very similar to the picture below.
The cheap poly car twisted and warped spilling most of the dirt out on the lawn. Again, just like the steel cart before, it never latched right after that. I ended up putting the cart on an auction just to get rid of it.
What I learned: There are two types of plastic carts. The poly carts with the stake pockets are tough and can handle anything but the poly carts like the one in the picture are not designed for heavy loads. Compost, leaves, branches are OK – loose dirt or gravel will collapse the cart and you will be buying a new one.
So what do I have today?
Well, I am going to end up with two carts. First, I needed a small cart to pull behind my wife’s Husqvarna rider that had to be strong enough to handle the 1000 lbs of landscape rocks or street pavers she regularly wanted moved. “What do you mean that’s too much weight? The trailer’s not full yet!”
The first cart needed to be the same width as the Husqvarna rider.
Pulling a trailer with a Husqvarna Rider is unique. The way the rider steers allows the trailer to always follow directly in the the tire tracks of the rider. My wife was used to the way the rider steered so I wanted a trailer that was the same width. That way she could go in and around her landscape beds without wiping out the trailer or her plants. So I went shopping.
Most of the small carts I looked at all had the same faults as the two older carts. They were either cheap poly carts or thin steel carts. They would work well for “normal” yard work like hauling twigs, branches, leaves and mulch but they were not strong enough to handle the loads she would put in them. I knew what I wanted but just couldn’t find it!
I ended up going back in time to find the perfect cart.
One day I was visiting my brother-in-law down in Iowa. Back in the corner of one of his storage sheds I spotted the perfect cart! It was the same width as the Husqvarna rider. It had large 16 inch tires. It had a pipe around the top to strengthen the metal box. The rear door and latch was even there. I noticed it had one inch axles so I knew it could easily handle 1000 lbs without a whimper. I won’t tell you what I paid for it but it was not as much as the cart is worth.
For the second cart I want one to compliment the Raven.
The Raven is a larger mower. It has a taller and wider stance than a garden tractor so I wanted a cart to be large enough to look good behind the MPV-7100 and strong enough to actually make the Raven do a little work. I basically want to be able to throw anything in the trailer I want, leaves, dirt, rocks, gravel without ever worrying about the trailer breaking or the tires going flat.
There is a timber about a 1/4 mile from the house that my neighbor and I are cleaning dead trees out of for firewood and the Raven with a bigger trailer would come in handy hauling that firewood back to the houses. I’ve been thinking about an ATV cart instead of a yard cart. They are more expensive but has a lot more clearance than yard carts.
What do you suggest?
So What Do I Recommend For You?
Here is a list of dump carts from Home Depot, Amazon, and Sears that I like. I have looked at each cart and feel it will hold up longer than most. You can order any of these carts and get free shipping or free pickup at your nearest store.
Small Poly/Steel Cart. These carts are a good compliment to a small or lightweight lawn tractor. I also feel these will work well for a Zero Turn because it will be hard to overload the transmissions of the ZTR. I suggest putting 16 oz of Slime Tire Sealant in each tire right away.
Medium Poly/Steel Cart. These carts are rugged and durable. I would not have any problems recommending them for a Yard Tractor or even a Garden Tractor. They will hold more and in general have better tires than the small carts.
Large Carts. Big carts for large, bulky loads. Grass, leaves, compost that takes up a lot of room. These all have good tires and heavy one inch axles so you won’t have to worry about bending or breaking an axle.
ATV Style Carts. Specifically these carts have more clearance under the bed of the cart. You can drag these through the woods or across a cornfield and the cart won’t get hung up on stumps or rocks.