The 10 Best Post Hole Diggers
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in January of 2016. If you're a weekend warrior building a fence yourself or run a company that installs them for others, then you'll definitely need a post hole digger to make the job less tiresome. Whether you prefer the simplicity of a manual model or require the ease and convenience of a powered one, our top choices have you covered, with everything from the basic to electric and gas options. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 13, 2020:
Whatever your reason for wanting to dig a hole in the ground, it doesn't have to be a time-consuming, laborious process, as evidenced by the many helpful tools on this list. The easiest method is going to be using a powered machine, however, if you only need to dig a couple of holes for a one-off project, then it might not be worth the cost of a powered model and simply using a manual digger may suffice. Because we wanted to make sure our list has something for everyone, we have included both types on this list.
When it comes to powered tools, you have three options. You can go with a battery-powered machine like the Landworks LAB01-001. Weighing just 22 pounds, including the battery, it should easy enough for most to control, yet it's no slough when it comes to digging capabilities and can push through hard-packed dirt without bogging down. Your second option is an electric model like the Hiltex 10525, which plugs into standard 110-volt outlets, though you will need an extension cord because its included cable is very short. Surprisingly, it doesn't have quite as much torque as the Landworks LAB01-001, which is due to it having a smaller, 1.6-horspower motor versus the 2-horsepower one on the Landwork. Your last option is a gas-powered model, like the XtremepowerUS 81094, Tool Tuff 63cc, and Earthquake 9800K. Though much louder and messier than electric and battery options, these gas-powered models are going to be more powerful, less likely to bog down, and able to push through small roots and rocks better than their green counterparts. Of these, the Earthquake 9800K is, without a doubt, the strongest, however it is designed to be operated by two individuals and is probably overkill for the average homeowner.
When it comes to manual models, the Seymour Iwan Auger AU-S6 is our favorite, as its design allows you to utilize a rotating motion to dig through the earth, rather that relying solely on the downward force your arms can create by slapping blades straight down into the dirt. That being said, the simplicity of the Ames 270 and Seymour Structron Hercules PD48 make them very reliable options that can certainly get the job done if you don't mind working up a bit of a sweat.
May 07, 2019:
There are many reasons one might need to dig a small-diameter circular hole. You may be installing a fence, mailbox, for sale sign, or any number of other items. These post hole diggers are designed to make the task easier. If you are only digging a couple of holes that aren't too deep, than a manual option like the Ames 270, Seymour Iwan Auger AU-S6, AmesJackson Dig EZ, Fiskars 60-Inch, and Seymour Structron Hercules will probably be all you need. Of these manual models, the Seymour Iwan Auger AU-S6 makes for the easiest going, since it utilizes a twisting action to produce the force, rather than relying solely on your own strength. If you are installing a long fence and plan on digging a lot of holes, or if you have a company that installs fences and signs for others, than a powered model is probably a smart choice. The most affordable of these is the UGarden Earth Auger Bit, which isn't technically a powered model in itself, but rather relies on the use of an electric drill. While it can make short work of multiple holes, it isn't designed to dig very deeply. When it comes to digging a lot of deep holes, our next four recommendations are best. The Landworks LAB01-001 and Hiltex 10525 are both convenient and quiet electric models, the former being battery-powered and the latter needing to be plugged in while in operation. If you prefer to rely on gas-powered engines, then you should consider either the XtremepowerUS V-Type or Southland SEA438.
Stihl BT 131 Earth Auger Offering high performance, yet still being lightweight for its power, the Stihl BT 131 Earth Auger helps you make short work of digging holes and may be less fatiguing than some others. It boasts a semi-automatic choke, so you won't have to fiddle around with it too much to get it started. stihlusa.com
Northern Tool BravePro GXV160 The Northern Tool BravePro GXV160 is a heavy-duty machine equipped with a powerful 163cc Honda engine. It is designed to be operated by two users and features handles that flex slightly under load to help absorb vibrations and reduce kickback force. northerntool.com
Picking A Post Hole Digger
There are two broad categories of post hole diggers, each coming with a few variations.
Installing a fence is not a project people take on for amusement. It can be thankless, tiresome, backache-inducing work, and can take longer than expected for the uninitiated. The only way to make the installation of a fence -- or the digging of post holes intended to hold up a signpost, a flagpole, or supports for a deck or patio -- is to use the right tools.
Not only will an improperly installed fence look poor, but it will serve its purpose poorly as well, soon enough sagging and even collapsing outright. The overall strength and integrity of a structure depends on how well each and every supporting hole is sunk and filled. So put the shovel aside and get yourself a dedicated post hole digger.
There are two broad categories of post hole diggers, each coming with a few variations. Generally speaking, you must choose either a human-powered post hole digger or a motor-powered unit. As will likely come as no surprise, the former category includes the more affordable options, while post hole diggers operated by a motor tend to be rather expensive. But that is not to say one is better than the other; choosing the right tool for you means assessing the specific parameters of the projects at hand.
Hand-operated post hole diggers usually come in two basic types: the first is a unit that is twisted into the ground much like a cork screw, loosening soil and rending roots as it delves. The second uses a pair of spade-like attachments to cut down into the ground and then uses the leverage provided by twin handles to lift out a chunk of earth, leaving a hole behind.
This digging and scooping action leaves a clean hole almost immediately ready for use (e.g. placement of a post or pole), but does not allow the operator to delve down much deeper than the length of the blades. The screw in type of hole digger allows for much deeper penetration, but also requires more subsequent dirt and debris removal. One idea for the person who wants to efficiently sink extra deep post holes is to use both tools.
If you have lots of post holes to dig, you might want to spend the cash to get a motorized unit. The amount of time you will save will ultimately more than compensate for the cost. These tools can be either gasoline-powered or run by electricity. As an electric post hole digger requiring access to an AC outlet can be difficult to use if you are installing a fence out in open pastures or along a forest trail, gas-powered units are usually the go to choice for actual fence posts. Electric units are great for use around worksites where holes are being sunk to support construction.
When considering a powered post hole digger, consider the measurements of auger length (which equates to potential depth) and width; these factors determine the overall size of your holes.
Other Items To Have On Hand When Digging Post Holes
If you want to create a great fence -- one that will last for years and stand up to the elements -- then digging good post holes is only part of the process. Before you ever sink your post hole digger into the ground, you have to spend the time to plan out where the fence will go, measure the land, and choose the right materials to use.
The first step to planning a fence is to use a reliable measuring wheel and walk the entire perimeter of the fence line. Once you know the length of the fence at hand, you can select the positioning for the post holes based off the land and off the material you will be using. It's a good idea to walk the perimeter using the measuring wheel again to make sure you place the post holes evenly. Mark the spot for digging clearly using bright spray paint or by sticking actual marking stakes into the ground.
Once you have dug your post holes, the placement of the actual posts and the attachment of the subsequent cross beams, slats and/or wire (and other materials) should be conducted using a level to ensure you maintain uniformity along the entire fence. That will help improve both the aesthetics and the function of the barrier.
Post Hole Digger Safety Considerations
One of the most important considerations you must weigh before installing a fence is not where you will sink your post holes, but where you must not dig. Especially if you are using an auger/drill-style post hole digger, you must take extreme precaution to avoid boring a hole down into buried gas lines, water lines, power cables, sewer systems, and more.
If you're operating a motor-driven post hole digger, you should also have on safety eyewear and potentially hearing protection, too.
If you have any doubts about where it is or is not safe to dig a post hole, turn to the local town or regional experts for information. You should be able to retrieve information about all buried utility lines with ease and, in most cases, at no cost.
Make sure you also take into account the potential presence of other materials such as traps or landscape fabrics, old wires or cables potentially covered by grass or soil, and so forth; anything that can become tangled in the rotating auger can damage the tool and potentially draw an operator's foot or leg toward the powerful, whirling bit.
Take the time to read through your tool's manual and know all of its operating features before you ever turn it on. When using any post hole digger, it's a good idea to wear protective gloves and thick work boots. If you're operating a motor-driven post hole digger, you should also have on safety eyewear and potentially hearing protection, too. Safety comes first with these and all tools.