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Which post hole digger is best?

Nearly every house, deck or dock you’ve stood on started with the same thing: a deep hole, dug through dirt and rock and backfilled with a sturdy post surrounded by concrete. Governed by industry guidelines and regulations, most posts need to be set below the frost line, be adequate in space for concrete and dug straight down. The best way to accomplish this is using a post hole digger designed for the job.

For quiet, powerful digging that gets the job done even when you’re off-grid, the Landworks Earth Auger is a great option.

What to know before you buy a post hole digger

Manual vs. electric vs. gas

Post hole diggers can be powered by brute strength, electricity or gasoline. Manual diggers obviously require more strength, but they’re less expensive and quieter than their gas- or battery-powered counterparts.

Gas-powered augers are fast, but they require a mix of gas and oil to operate and are often noisy. Battery-powered diggers solve the noise problem, but many users struggle with the short battery life since it won’t get them through bigger projects.

Blade size

The blade size should match the necessary diameter of the hole you’re digging. Although larger blades have a better “grip” in terms of the earth they grab, they may remove too much for delicate jobs (such as installing a decorative picket fence). The best post hole diggers come with a variety of blade sizes for all the jobs you need to do.

Weight

Heavier post hole diggers use the weight of the machine and gravity to take bigger bites out of the earth. Although this seems like a great idea — grabbing more dirt and rocks with each turn or thrust — a heavy post hole digger is a lot of work. 

Imagine building a fence that requires 30 holes. Now imagine the difference between lifting a 5-pound post hole digger for those holes as compared to a 10-pound machine.

Of course, using an electric or gas-powered auger lightens the repetitive lifting, but you’ll still need to be able to haul it around to each hole. 

What to look for in a quality post hole digger

Cushioned handles

Manual or automated, the handles of a post hole digger need to be well-padded to absorb the shock of the machine. Constant vibrations of electric or gas-powered diggers can cause blisters, too. Get a good grip on your machine before buying to make sure it’s comfortable.

Sturdy handles

Manual diggers should have generously sized, sturdy handles. Look for handles that are at least 4 feet long and made of hardwood or fiberglass. Both materials are strong and light, but make sure to store both out of the weather and sun to preserve them.

Rechargeable battery

Battery-powered augers are great for off-grid use. They tend to be quieter, but their batteries can drain quickly. Look for a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for longer life.

Extra blades

Gas- and battery-powered augers that come with extra blades of varied sizes allow you to dig different diameters of holes. Because some DIY projects require different holes, this allows you to get it all done with one machine.

How much you can expect to spend on a post hole digger

While high-quality manual post hole diggers cost around $25, battery- and gas-powered versions can cost double or triple that price. 

Post hole digger FAQ

Why can’t you just dig a hole with a shovel?

A. Post holes need to be absolutely vertical. This prevents water from trickling down underneath the set post, freezing and heaving your post and concrete (and the rest of your structure) out of the ground, or at least off-level.

A post hole digger also only removes the amount of dirt that needs to be removed. A shovel creates a wide ditch that could certainly get to the correct depth, but it moves a lot of earth to do so. Post hole machines are more targeted and retain the stability of the supporting earth by removing only as much as you need to remove.

Is there a recommended technique for using a manual post hole digger?

A. Yes. 

  • Bring your hands together as you thrust the blades into the ground. This opens the clamshell blades. 
  • As you bring the blades down, hold both handles together. This prevents smashed knuckles.
  • Separate your hands wide to grab dirt.
  • Move the dirt out of the way, and close your hands again to reset.
  • Rotate the blades 90 degrees in one direction, and repeat the process. This helps avoid any stubborn roots or rocks and loosens the dirt so you can remove more at one time.

Depending on your soil, it may take a few passes to get the hole started. Be patient, and don’t forget to rotate the blade each time you bring it down into the hole.

What’s the best post hole digger to buy?

Top post hole digger

Landworks Earth Auger

Landworks Earth Auger

What you need to know: The powerful battery on this electric option digs to the required depth quickly.

What you’ll love: It comes with three different bit sizes. It rotates in two directions at 300 revolutions per minute. Operation is quiet, and the whole unit weighs 22 pounds. You can dig 30-60 holes on one charge. It comes with one rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

What you should consider: Consider buying a spare battery for big jobs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top post hole digger for the money

Ames Post Hole Digger

Ames Post Hole Digger

What you need to know: When money is tight and you have to dig some holes, this is a great choice.

What you’ll love: The 48-inch hardwood handle has a padded grip for comfort during use and measurements etched in so you know when you’ve met your mark. The steel blades open to 6.25 inches.

What you should consider: The blades aren’t welded, so they may come loose after repeated use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Tazz Earth Auger Post Hole Digger

Tazz Earth Auger/Post Hole Digger

What you need to know: This post hole digger is gas-powered for off-grid building.

What you’ll love: It’s capable of digging through tough ground and has shock-absorbing handles for comfortable use. The gas tank is easy to see through so you know when you’ll need more, and it meets strict standards for environmentally friendly operation. The 8-inch blade digs up to 36-inch post holes.

What you should consider: There’s a steep learning curve with this one; it can be challenging for beginners.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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