Best Shovels

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
68 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
110 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best shovels

Last Updated September 2019

A good shovel is an indispensable tool when you need to move a large amount of material around with minimal effort. With the right size and shape, you can get a lot done with a single shovel. Best of all, different designs make some shovels more specialized for tasks like removing snow, digging camp fires, or gardening.

Shovels vary by their heads, shafts, and handles. At the top, the head digs and carries materials like dirt, snow, or plant debris away. Some are large and pointed for digging into hard dirt; others have a flat, broad shape for lighter materials like snow. The shaft and handle determine how much comfort and leverage you can get with the shovel. Typical gardening shovels, for example, have a padded shaft three or four feet in length with a U-shaped handle on top for gripping and hanging the tool.

If you are looking for a new shovel, this guide will help you out. There is plenty of information on important features and considerations to think about and a few of our own recommendations to get you started on your search.

There are several types of home shovels such as general garden shovels (common for digging), trenchers, and even roof shovels to rip off shingles.

Key considerations

Use

More than anything else, a shovel’s intended use influences its overall design. While nearly all shovels excel at basic digging, the amount of material one can lift and how much effort it requires depends on the overall shape of the blade and shaft. Therefore, it’s smart to know ahead of time how you want to use the shovel to find the best design.

Garden shovels

The traditional garden shovel is the most common design people buy for their home or garage. Using a long shaft and a rounded or pointed head, this design can handle digging into different types of dirt or soil, plants, rocks, light snow, and more. It is also a common tool used in home construction projects.

Snow shovels

Snow shovels are another common design found in most garages. Compared to a traditional garden shovel, a snow shovel has a broader and flatter head to scoop up more snow in a single motion. Some snow shovels also have grooves or a wedge to handle ice and to plow through large sections of snow to clear paths.

Specialized shovels

Finally, specialized shovels vary in design depending on their intended use. Survival shovels are one of the most prominent designs in this category since many people take a shovel along while camping. These shovels are small, pointed, often collapsible, and sometimes work as a multitool for other tasks.

Design/construction

Despite the common task of digging, shovels come in different shapes, which affects the overall size, weight, and effectiveness of the tool. Despite the differences, there are a few similar features or specifications you can check out to determine if a particular shovel’s design will serve your needs.

Shovel head

A shovel’s construction materials are one good indication of its strength, durability, and weight. On the front end, nearly all shovel heads use some kind of metal like steel or aluminum for strength and impact resistance. Snow shovels, on the other hand, may use a hard plastic instead to avoid damaging the concrete and asphalt underneath the snow.

Shaft

The shaft on a shovel can be made of wood, metal, or hard plastic/composite materials like carbon fiber. Wooden shafts tend to be durable and heavy. Some lighter metals like aluminum can lighten the overall feel of the shovel but may feel too top heavy if the head has a lot of weight. Once again, plastic is common on some snow shovels since the snow itself isn’t as heavy or dense as dirt.

Lift

Finally, the shovel’s “lift” is a good measure of its ergonomics as well. The lift is determined by the angle between the head and shaft. High-lift shovels have a greater angle, allowing you to stand more upright when digging. Low-lift tools are straighter so more power is transferred into the ground as you dig.

Storability

Just like any other tool, shovels need some place to go when you aren’t using them. Most shovels are small or slender enough to fit in a corner or on the wall in a garage or shed, but its overall storability and portability are important to keep in mind. The two largest factors that affect storability are the head size and shaft length.

Most traditional garden shovels, for example, are the perfect size for storing in a small space. The head and shaft are usually small enough to free up space for other tools and equipment. Larger shovel heads, such as snow shovels, take up more room at the base. If possible, it can be convenient to find a shovel with a built-in hook or hole to mount it on a wall off of the floor.

Smaller shovels are easier to store and carry around away from home. Survival and hand shovels are small enough to fit in a car if you need to take one camping or to a worksite. Some shovels even break apart or fold at the shaft so you can carry it around in a small pack without much issue.

The all-around gardening shovel

The Spear Head Spade Reinforced Fiberglass Gardening Shovel uses a unique head design that puts more force into a single point than most garden shovels. As a result, the head acts like a spade, digging into compacted dirt, thick brush, and even loose rocks more effectively than a traditional rounded head.

Features

Blade

The blade is where the main action of any shovel happens. The size and shape of the blade will determine how much material you can carry each time you dig into the ground. Some head designs, however, are meant for pushing or plowing more than digging. Therefore, it’s important to consider the different design options for the head before buying a shovel.

Shovel blades come in three basic designs: open back, closed back, and forged.

  • Open-back shovels use a single piece of metal or plastic. The design makes it lighter in weight and often more affordable.

  • Closed-back shovels have a second sheet of metal welded to the head to form a back barrier, making it stronger and more rigid.

  • Forged shovels are a single-piece design that has a solid back for the most durability.
     

In addition to the blade type, you will also find a couple of different options for the point. The tip of the head helps drive the shovel into the ground or collect material when scooping.

  • Square-point tips are more angular so the shovel head can collect more material.

  • Rounded-point tips have a sharper head to dig into harder surfaces.
     

Shaft/handle

Beyond the actual materials of the shaft, the length and padding along its surface can affect how the shovel feels in the hands, especially when you have to use the shovel for long periods of time.

Most shafts are straight in shape. This design offers the most leverage and durability when you are digging into challenging terrain. Unfortunately, this style isn’t the most ergonomic since you have to bend down more to get the shovel into the ground. Bent shafts, common on snow shovels, allow you to stay more upright at the expense of some leverage.

If present, a handle at the top of the shaft creates a solid point to grab onto the shovel for better control. Most often, the handle has a U-shape your hand can grab perpendicular to the shaft. Some smaller shovels, especially one-handed gardening tools, have a molded, plastic grip with ridges for better ergonomics. If the shovel lacks a proper handle, there may be some padding along the shaft to grip.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some shovels have a composite shaft made of multiple materials. An inner metal core is common in some wood and plastic shafts for better rigidity.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many snow shovels are designed to push snow instead of the usual “dig and toss.” These make it easier to clear large spaces if the snow is loose enough.

DID YOU KNOW?

Confused between shovels and spades? Spades are flat with a straight edge that’s better for digging into sod or edging/trenching lawns.

Shovel prices

The price of a shovel depends a lot on its size, construction materials, and intended use or design.

Inexpensive

Starting at around $25, it’s easy to find a basic, durable gardening or snow shovel that will last for many years of consistent use. These shovels tend to use wood, steel, and/or plastic to keep costs down at the expense of extra weight.

Mid-range

More specialized shovels sit in the $25-to-$100 range. Here, larger snow shovels, lightweight garden shovels, and some survival shovels are common. These options may have better materials like aluminum or composites, a large head, or a more ergonomic grip along the shaft/handle.

Expensive

Shovels above $100 are mainly extra-large snow shovels or premium garden shovels with a hybrid head for digging trenches.

Long-term comfort

The True Temper Forged Round Point Digging Shovel is about as basic as it gets, which is a good thing when you want a reliable shovel that’s easy to use. With a pointed head and long, cushioned end grip, the shovel offers a lot of comfort for all-day projects where your hands are likely to get tired.

Tips

  • To extend the life of a shovel, clean it after each use. This will prevent mud and water from rusting the metal or damaging plastic.

  • You can use a simple grill brush to get dirt and mud off of the head of a shovel.

  • Some sand can help prevent rust on steel shovels. A dry, protected environment like a garage can also help block excess moisture.

  • Use a garden shovel or spade with some hard shoes. This will keep the back edge of the blade from digging into your foot.

  • A standard shovel is around 48 inches in length. If you are taller or shorter than average, find something above or below this number to fit your size.

Other products we considered

While a typical gardening shovel can go a long way, there are some tasks where specialized shovels fair better. Out in the wild, for example, something like the SOG Folding Shovel Survival Shovel is specially designed to tackle common survival tasks. The collapsible design and serrated edge also make it a good portable cutting tool. The Lifeline 4004 Aluminum Sport Utility shovel is another unique multipurpose tool that excels in winter conditions. Small and adjustable, the shovel takes up little space in a garage or car and can handle dirt or snow.

Some shovels can be literal lifesavers. A survival or avalanche shovel can be a useful addition to any survival or gear pack in case an emergency happens.

FAQ

Q. Do shovels require any maintenance or upkeep?

A. It’s important to keep a shovel out of the weather when not in use. Steel shovels, for example, can start to rust if left in the rain for too long. Otherwise, a shovel shouldn’t require much maintenance or repair unless you start to notice paint chipping off or any damage along the head or shaft.

Q. What is the most durable type of shovel?

A. An all-metal shovel is the best way to go for durability. While many shovels with a wooden handle will hold up just fine under normal use, something made of steel will offer better rigidity and impact resistance.

Q. Do shovels require any assembly?

A. Normally, no. Most shovels arrive completely assembled. You can disassemble shovels if necessary since the head and shaft are likely connected together with bolts. Some smaller shovels, like survival shovels, may come disassembled if they are designed to collapse or break down for better storage.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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