Updated April 2022
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Buying guide for Best pallet busters

Pallet busters and deck wreckers have long been used by businesses and tradespeople. Today, their low cost — plus the ever-increasing interest in recycling — means they're finding their way into more and more people's homes.

There's no shortage of pallets (we throw away half a billion a year in the U.S. alone), and there are literally thousands of fascinating project ideas available online for the eager DIYer or craftsperson. A growing number of people are even turning these upcycled products into a valuable source of income.

But which pallet buster is right for you? To learn more about how to choose the best grip, weight, and other features, we've created this handy guide. If you’re ready to buy, take a look at our recommendations.

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Supply chain sources estimate there are nearly two billion pallets being used in the U.S. right now. Although some are plastic, around 92% of them are made of wood.

Why use a specific pallet buster/deck wrecker?

There's nothing to stop you from using a wrecking bar to break up pallets or remove deck boards, but it only has a single point of leverage, so you'll likely damage the wood, which makes it worthless for recycling purposes. You also end up with lots of split fragments, which are a nuisance to clear up and could potentially be dangerous — especially if there are kids and pets around.

The pallet busters we've focused on spread the load. You can't guarantee they will never damage a board — particularly if the pallet is well used — but they reduce the chances significantly. Handles are usually longer, too, making your job easier.

Choosing a pallet buster

Although there's nothing particularly complicated about these tools, there are some things that are worth considering:

Strength and durability

A lot of force goes through a pallet buster, and while it's not always easy to tell weld strength from looking at pictures, you can look at the general construction and how the components support each other. Is the steel of substantial thickness? Are there are any obvious weak points? Have a look at owner reviews, they can give valuable insight into durability.

Articulation (pivot)

Many pallet busters work on basic leverage. Our favorites also use articulation (some manufacturers call it a pivot). The foot that goes under the board tilts as you apply force, so it remains flat against the underside. This spreads the pressure across the width of the board, rather than applying it to the front edge, so it's less likely to split.


Depending on your physicality, a pallet buster’s weight might become an issue if you're going to be working for an extended period. It usually means the tool is robustly built, though leverage is equally important.

Powder coating

Pallet busters are usually painted or powder-coated. The latter is a layer of plastic, fused to the metal. It's tougher and longer-lasting.

Handle grips

These are either hard plastic or foam padded. Foam may be a little more comfortable, but if it gets wet or is left outdoors in cold weather, it's likely to perish faster.


Pallet busters don't need much room to store, though some do disassemble. The head portion can be removed.

Go for color

It's a minor thing, perhaps, but we tend to discard tools just about anywhere if we're interrupted. A brightly colored model is easier to see, and you're less likely to trip over it.

Pallet buster prices


You can find pallet busters that use articulation for under $35 — but they likely won’t last you as long. As is so often the case, you need to beware of low-cost tools.


A good pallet buster/deck wrecker doesn’t have to be expensive though. We found a number of durable models in the $45 to $60 bracket. Some are kits containing gloves and nail pullers as well.


We did find a couple of tools in the $100 range. In terms of performance and manufacturing quality, they're as good as anything else — but not noticeably better — so we can’t really see why you'd pay the extra.


  • A pallet buster is a very safe tool. About the only thing you have to be careful of is the amount of effort you put into levering off boards. If rusted or damaged nails are holding them on, they can let go suddenly — so just be aware of the possibility. Apply pressure gently and increase slowly if the board is stubborn. Try not to jerk at it violently (even when your patience is tested). The same applies if you're using the tool as a deck wrecker.

  • Be aware of where you're standing. Don't have kids or pets nearby in case a board does release suddenly. That handle flying back could cause a nasty injury if someone's close behind.

  • Accidents can be avoided with a little forethought and a little care. Unless you're being paid per pallet, there's no need to rush.

  • If you want to preserve the pallet or deck boards as much as possible, don't try to crank up one end completely — apply your leverage a little at a time. Start one end, and as soon as the board lifts a little, move to the center and repeat, then do the other end. You'll also reduce the number of times the nails pull through, so you'll have less holes to fill.

  • Any wooden board might split suddenly — particularly those that are not in prime condition. Always wear sturdy gloves to avoid splinters and safety glasses or a face shield.

  • Your pallet buster/deck wrecker needs minimal maintenance. You can use a stiff brush and soapy water to remove dust and dirt. Rubbing alcohol should remove any sticky residue. If the tool is articulated, give the joint a light spray of silicone-type lubricant.

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Many pallets are made of oak — but there are hundreds of different oak species, so while it might be more durable than pine, it's unlikely to be the dense material used by furniture makers.


Q. What wood are pallets made of?

A. The most recent reliable information we found is a study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Virginia Tech in 2006. They found that 18.9% of pallets in the U.S. were made of Southern yellow pine, and 17.1% were made of oak. These are by far the two most popular.

However, our research found instances of ash, aspen, beech, birch, cedar, cypress, elm, maple, mahogany, spruce, and walnut — some of which are hardwoods highly prized by furniture makers. It's likely that many of these didn't originate in the U.S., but pallets are used almost everywhere and can be widely traveled.

Q. What do the markings on pallets mean?

A. Many pallets move from country to country, and these should have the IPPC logo (International Plant Prevention Convention), which means that measures have been taken to prevent pests from one area traveling to another. Other codes indicate where the pallet was made and certain processes used in their manufacture. Full details can be found online. Pallets not destined for international travel don't necessarily carry all of these markings, so it can be confusing.

Q. Is pallet wood safe? I heard they use dangerous chemicals.

A. Pallets are not usually pressure treated to prevent rot — the process is not considered worth the expense for what is basically a disposable product. They may be kiln-dried or heat treated, which doesn't present a problem.

However, some are treated with methyl-bromide to stop insect attacks. These pallets are marked 'MB' and must be avoided. In particular, you should never burn them as that would release toxins.

There's always a chance that pallets have been used to transport chemicals, and spills are possible. Colored pallets are often used for this purpose, though it could just mean they belong to a pallet rental company.

Experts recommend always obtaining pallets from a reputable source. Never use part pallets if identification is missing. If you're uncertain or concerned, find another supply of pallets — there are literally millions out there.

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