The Best Hand Trucks to Make Moving Heavy or Awkward Loads Easier

A hand truck is an indispensable assistant for dealing with awkward or heavy loads, but which one is right for your needs?

Best Overall

The Best Hand Trucks Option: Cosco Shifter Multi-Position Folding Hand Truck

Cosco Shifter Multi-Position Folding Hand Truck

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Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Hand Trucks Option: Tomser Folding Hand Truck, 155 lbs Loading Capacity

Tomser Folding Hand Truck

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Best Folding

The Best Hand Trucks Option: Milwaukee Fold-Up Hand Truck

Milwaukee Fold-Up Hand Truck

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Whether you are moving to a new house, moving work gear from the truck to the garage, or moving boxes of paper from the ground floor to an upstairs office, a hand truck can be an invaluable tool. First, it makes the job of moving items quicker and easier. Second, there’s much less chance of dropping a load that’s heavy or awkward. Third, it dramatically reduces the chances of back injury or muscle strain.

There are hundreds of hand trucks and dollies from which to choose, so there are plenty of options to fit many different situations. However, the sheer variety can make it difficult to pick the right model. Keep reading to find out several important features to consider, and find out our picks for some of the best hand truck options for a range of different purposes.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Cosco Shifter Multi-Position Folding Hand Truck
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Tomser Folding Hand Truck
  3. BEST FOLDING: Milwaukee Fold-Up Hand Truck
  4. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Milwaukee 4-in-1 Hand Truck
  5. BEST STAIR-CLIMBING: Fullwatt Stair Climbing Cart
  6. BEST CONVERTIBLE: Magliner Gemini Sr Convertible Hand Truck
  7. BEST PUSH-CART DOLLY: Olympia Tools 600-Pound Platform Truck
  8. MOST COMPACT: Wellmax Push Cart Dolly
  9. MOST VERSATILE: Kedsum Folding Hand Truck
The Best Hand Trucks Options
Photo: amazon.com

How We Chose the Best Hand Trucks

Many of us have used a hand truck at one time or another, such as when moving to a new house, helping friends move, or transporting supplies for work. However, while personal experiences are certainly valuable, they seldom give a full picture of the available products on the market. The Bob Vila team researched leading manufacturers and their products, looking at materials technology and taking into account the feedback from large numbers of buyers.

We also contacted several moving professionals who gave us their expert advice on the use of hand trucks, as well as their advice on what specific characteristics to look for when shopping for one. We interviewed Nick Valentino, the VP of market operations for Bellhop, a nationwide moving service, who talked about the go-to features he looks for on any hand truck. He suggests a strap system, which helps hold especially large items like refrigerators, often with only a single person, saying that “[it] helps to keep tippy, unbalanced loads in place.” He goes on to say that a set of three wheels on each side of the hand truck “adds more stability and carrying capacity, and also makes it easier to move items up or down stairways.”

With this expert advice in mind, and for our top picks to be helpful to as many people as possible, we established which were the most popular categories and then searched for the best solution within that group. This involved looking at weight capacity, ease of use, durability, and value for money. These aren’t necessarily direct comparisons. A folding hand cart can’t be expected to have the same handling ability as a heavy-duty hand truck. However, each should have a capacity appropriate to the expectations of the particular use, such as moving boxes. The results represent some of the best hand trucks for the widest range of needs.

Specifically on the topic of weight capacities, we spoke with Matt Graber, the co-owner of Cool Hand Movers, a New York City moving company, who gave his professional advice on the proper use of a hand truck. “Double check the weight of what you’re moving and the load capacity of the hand truck. Using an undersized hand truck for a large job puts you and your belongings at risk.”

Our Top Picks

The Best Hand Trucks
Photo: istock.com

The following picks are practical examples that illustrate the best hand trucks on the market. Each has particular strengths and carries our recommendation as one of the best hand trucks in its respective category.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Weight: 15.4 pounds
  • Wheels: 2 and 4 wheels

Pros

  • Strong steel frame can hold appliances, furniture, and other large objects
  • Easy conversion from hand cart to dolly; simple lever mechanism for quick and easy changes
  • Portable construction allows use either with either 2 or 4 wheels; folds flat for transport

Cons

  • Small rear wheels; may be hard to maneuver around corners
  • Poor instruction manual included with purchase

The Cosco Shifter has wide appeal, thanks to its combination of user-friendly features, high capacity, and versatility. It is hugely popular, and it is the hand truck that will suit most people, most of the time.

The Cosco Shifter can be used upright as a dolly or as a four-wheel cart. A clever lever mechanism in the center provides one-handed conversion between the two. It is straightforward to use, but the instructions could be better, and care needs to be taken not to trap fingers.

Although the mechanism is plastic, it has proven to be robust and durable. The remainder of the chassis is steel, giving a load capacity of 300 pounds. That’s impressive for a hand cart that weighs just 15.4 pounds.

The Cosco Shifter folds completely flat for compact storage, and it will fit easily into most car trunks. The handle has a plastic cover for a little added comfort. Our only concern is the small rear wheels, which look a little fragile. However, we found no reports of breakages, and the wheels would be easy to replace.

Get the Cosco hand truck at Amazon or Wayfair.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 155 pounds
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Wheels: 4 wheels

Pros

  • Very light and compact compared with other models on the market
  • Bungee cord included to hold objects in place while in use
  • Low cost option to have handy for occasional use only

Cons

  • Not suitable for taking up or down steps and curbs
  • Prone to tipping over; may require 2-handed use at all times

At just 5 pounds, the Tomser hand truck is remarkably lightweight, making it easy for almost anyone to handle. It folds down for compact and easy storage or transportation. It also comes with a useful bungee cord to help hold loads in place. Although the nose plate is plastic, the underlying structure is a steel tube that helps give it a competitive 155-pound load capacity.

While the Tomser hand truck is the best value folding hand cart among our top picks, it does have its limitations. It is a little narrow and has a tendency to tip sideways on uneven ground or when turning with heavy loads. The rear wheels are small, and the nose plate wraps around them slightly, so it is not the best hand truck for stairs. Although the nose plate has auxiliary wheels at the front, these do nothing more than support the hand truck at rest.

This is a good option for occasional light use, but those who move heavy loads regularly would benefit from investing in a more robust hand truck.

Get the Tomser hand truck at Amazon.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 150 pounds
  • Weight: 9.5 pounds
  • Wheels: 2 wheels

Pros

  • Durable steel construction and 39-inch height provide stability for large objects
  • Compact and portable; can be folded and retracted for storing or hanging
  • Bungee cord included to hold objects in place while in use

Cons

  • Modest weight capacity compared with similar options available
  • Wheels don’t lock and are plastic; might not be durable over the long term

This Milwaukee is not the same company that makes high-quality power tools, but it has an equally good reputation for solid, dependable products. The Milwaukee Fold-Up Hand Truck is its entry-level model. It has an all-steel construction, but it still remains relatively light.

When folded, the hand truck measures just 3 inches wide, yet a 15.25-inch by 11-inch toe plate gives a good load area and more stability than many rivals. The quick-release handle extends to 39.5 inches. Wheels are 5 inches in diameter, which is practical for use on steps and stairs. The truck has non-marking plastic tires.

Although the 150-pound weight limit is modest, the Milwaukee fold-up hand cart offers great convenience, and is competitively priced. The only note of caution is that the wheels do not lock, so care is needed to make sure they are folded out properly before rolling.

Get the Milwaukee fold-up hand truck at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Amazon.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 500 pounds when positioned at 45 degrees, 800 pounds when vertical, 1,000 pounds when horizontal
  • Weight: 42 pounds
  • Wheels: 2 and 4 wheels

Pros

  • 3 user settings/positions to choose from; can hold multiple objects or a very large item
  • Useful toe-plate extension is suitable for moving heavy appliances or larger pieces of furniture
  • 10-inch puncture-proof tires are suitable for stairs or tougher terrain

Cons

  • Grips can split after some time or with heavy-duty use
  • Dolly wheels could be better; some users have reported poor-quality welds

This Milwaukee 4-in-1 hand truck is a truly heavy-duty device that offers excellent flexibility with four possible configurations: upright, upright with the toe-plate extension for larger items, angled at 45 degrees using the dolly wheels for additional support, or as a four-wheel dolly cart.

The rigid steel and aluminum frame on this dolly gives weight capacities from 500 pounds to 1,000 pounds, depending on position. The 800-pound capability in the standard upright position is the highest we have seen in this type of hand truck, and this makes it arguably the best appliance dolly among our picks. Despite its heavy-duty capability, it weighs just 42 pounds. The 10-inch wheels have thick puncture-proof tires that offer good traction and mobility. However, the small dolly wheels are best described as adequate.

The Milwaukee 4-in-1 hand truck has impressive capabilities and is competitively priced. Some users have noted that the plastic grips covering the handles tend to split rather easily. Although it’s frustrating, this shouldn’t really impact performance.

Get the Milwaukee 4-in-1 hand truck at The Home Depot or Walmart.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 155 pounds
  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Wheels: 10 wheels in a few configurations (see explanation below)

Pros

  • Adjustable handle height allows users to move small or large boxes and items
  • Portable; 6 climbing wheels and 4 universal wheels offer ample maneuverability on stairs or flat ground
  • Non-marking tires prevent scuffs and scratches on hardwood flooring

Cons

  • Modest capacity compared with similar options on the market
  • The 4 button wheels on this model might not be suitable for wheeling on carpets

The biggest problem many people face with hand carts is getting up and down curbs, steps, and stairs. Stair-climbing hand carts make this easier, but many are fixed steel-framed models. They are great for delivery drivers and other commercial users, but they are not the best hand trucks for stairs in homes or offices.

The Fullwatt stair climber is an affordable alternative. The aluminum construction provides good rigidity and a weight capacity of 155 pounds, yet it weighs only 10 pounds. It folds down to just 24.8 inches high by 11 inches wide, so it’s easy to store or take from place to place. The telescopic handle can be used at 33.5 inches for standard loads, or it can be extended to 42 inches for tall loads.

The six stair-climbing wheels have non-marking rubber tires that give reliable grip on most surfaces. The nose plate also has four caster-type wheels, though they only come into contact with the ground when the hand cart is upright so there seems little point to them.

Get the Fullwatt hand truck at Amazon.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 500 pounds vertical; 1,000 pounds horizontal
  • Weight: 43 pounds
  • Wheels: 2 and 4 wheels

Pros

  • Strong modular design for use as cart or dolly for multiple boxes or a large item
  • Quick and easy conversion from vertical or horizontal in seconds
  • Excellent wheels and pneumatic tires allow for easy maneuvering on even or rough terrain

Cons

  • Expensive compared with other options on the market
  • Assembly required; may not be ideal for some users’ preferences

The Magliner Gemini is another heavy-duty hand truck that features excellent load capacities and a conversion mechanism that is both simple and rapid. As a standard hand truck, it can handle up to 500 pounds, while it will carry 1,000 pounds as a platform dolly.

The main wheels are 10 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches wide, and they have pneumatic tires that give great traction. The smaller dolly wheels are still comparatively large with a 5-inch diameter, and they have roller bearings to assist mobility. It is the best combination we found for horizontal use.

The modular design on this dolly means there are no welds to break, but it does need some assembly on arrival. While only basic tools are required for assembly, these are not included. Given the price, this is a little disappointing. On the plus side, all parts are replaceable.

Get the Magliner hand truck at Amazon or The Home Depot.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 600 pounds
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Wheels: 4 wheels

Pros

  • Simple but versatile; a large, sturdy platform can accommodate appliances, furniture, boxes, and small items
  • Swivel wheels give good mobility around corners or in tight spaces
  • Rubber bumper edges help to buffer and prevent scuffs and scrapes on walls

Cons

  • May not be easy to move around tight corners or in smaller spaces
  • Occasional quality control issues; may not function well under heavy-duty use

The Olympia Tools heavy-duty platform truck isn’t a typical hand truck, but it deserves inclusion in this article because it offers a convenient and affordable solution for a variety of users. It is typically employed for loading and unloading vehicles, but it’s equally useful for moving items around a warehouse, factory, or office building, and it could double as a cleaning or maintenance cart.

The cart has a simple steel construction with a folding handle and a flat load bed that is covered with textured vinyl to prevent loads from sliding around. It is surrounded by a rubber bumper to reduce potential impact damage. Underneath are four heavy-duty caster-style wheels, two of which can rotate 360 degrees. However, the upright handle isn’t the best in terms of applying pushing or pulling force, so the cart can be difficult for one person to move if loaded to its 600-pound capacity.

Get the Olympia Tools hand truck at Wayfair or Walmart.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 330 pounds (a 660-pound-capacity option is also available)
  • Weight: 16.7 pounds
  • Wheels: 4 wheels

Pros

  • Compact and folding design is easy to store in small spaces; can be hung if desired
  • Comes with a nonslip platform, edge bumpers, a padded handle, and 4 wheels
  • 2 of the wheels have 360-degree swivel functionality for easy maneuvering around corners
  • A custom support guard keeps the cart from moving backward while in use

Cons

  • May not be suitable for moving large items or pieces of furniture

Those in small apartments or homes can benefit from the Wellmax push cart dolly. This model is just 27.56 inches high by 18.7 inches wide by 28.74 inches long, and the design folds down for storing in closets or garages. The 330-pound-capacity cart weighs only 16.7 pounds, so it can be hung if necessary. This heavy-duty model has a no-slip platform for carrying or moving furniture or bringing in large grocery hauls. It comes with four wheels that easily maneuver on rough or smooth terrain. Plus, the two back wheels are made with 360-degree swivel functionality for turning corners easily.

This hand cart is also made with a custom support guard so the cart will not move backward while in use, and it has a padded handle for control and user comfort. Finally, this dolly comes with bumper strips on the edge of the platform to prevent damage to furniture or walls.

Get the Wellmax hand cart at Amazon.

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Product Specs

  • Capacity: 290 pounds
  • Weight: 6.2 pounds
  • Wheels: 4

Pros

  • The height and the length of the unit can be adjusted to accommodate specific objects
  • Retracts into a compact size to store easily in garages or closets
  • Comes with several accessories to hold items in place

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the wheels lacked durability

Pick up a large item or piece of furniture with the versatile Kedsum folding hand truck. This model is made with 85 percent thickened steel for maximum durability and holds more than 290 pounds, whether it’s furniture, appliances, or miscellaneous small items. Its handle can be set at 17.7, 29, or 37 inches with the built-in button to accommodate the height of the object it is moving. The base can also be extended an extra 4 inches if the item is very thick. Plus, when fully retracted, this hand truck is extremely compact and lightweight for storage at just 6.2 pounds.

This versatile model is made with a sturdy base, two fabric tie-down cords with hooks, and four wear-resistant and shock-proof wheels, and it includes two

bungee cords

.

Get the Kedsum hand truck at Amazon.

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What to Consider When Choosing a Hand Truck

If it’s a one-time job—hauling something heavy from the car to the house, for example—then a wheelbarrow or garden cart will probably do the job just fine. For those who move items on a regular basis, a hand truck is more efficient and usually a sensible investment. However, while the basic concept is simple, the variety of hand trucks or dollies is enormous. The following are some of the key features that shoppers will want to consider when choosing the best hand truck for their needs.

Type

There are a few main types of hand trucks or dollies often used. The standard, upright L-shaped hand truck used by delivery drivers all over the world is still a useful tool, but it can be heavy and awkward to store at home.

Folding hand trucks are much more compact and come in several different formats. For heavier loads, there are convertible hand trucks that can be upright or used as a horizontal dolly cart. Stair-climber models can make light work of what might otherwise be a major challenge.

Outside of these, some specialty hand trucks are designed for moving appliances or carrying anything from car tires to kitchenware. If it can be moved by hand, there’s probably a hand truck out there for it.

Weight Capacity

The amount a person can lift varies a great deal, of course, but the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established that the average individual should not attempt to lift more than 51 pounds.

The capacity of even lightweight hand carts comfortably exceeds this, with most limits starting at around 150 pounds. At the other end of the scale, some heavy-duty hand dollies can carry as much as 1,000 pounds.

While weight capacity is important, few users need heavy-duty models. Most washing machines, for example, weigh somewhere between 180 and 230 pounds. Many midrange hand trucks have that kind of capacity while remaining convenient and affordable.

Frame Size and Material

The physical size of the hand truck is another key feature, and it’s often closely related to weight capacity. Light-duty models often fold down for storage or can fit easily into the trunk of a car. Heavy-duty hand trucks and dollies are usually larger to support more weight.

Materials are important for the strength of the hand truck and for long-term durability.

  • Plastics are light, easy to wipe clean, and don’t rust, but they don’t have much inherent strength or resistance to impact.
  • Steel is very strong, but it’s also heavy. It is usually given a tough, powder-coated finish to prevent rust, but this can eventually become chipped or scratched.
  • Aluminum is a popular choice that offers benefits of both plastic and steel. It is stronger than plastic, and while not quite as strong as steel, it is lighter and won’t rust.

Handle Type and Height 

Given that these tools are called hand trucks, it’s surprising how often manufacturers pay little attention to the design of the handles. A plain steel loop is common, and some have rubber grips. Others have hard plastic moldings, which can actually be quite uncomfortable, even when wearing gloves.

Bear in mind that the handle isn’t just for steering. A lot of force may be exerted to get the load moving initially, and this force invariably travels through the handle.

The height of the handle also plays a part. If it’s too short or too tall, it could be difficult to apply leverage. Experts recommend a handle height that is somewhere near the elbow. Telescopic handles are quite common, but they are often just open or closed.

Wheels and Tires

Wheels and tires are sometimes overlooked, but their structure can have a major impact on mobility and suitability for different surfaces. Generally speaking, a wheel and tire combination allows the rubber tire to take most of the impact.

The wheels on the cheapest hand trucks or dollies are often just solid plastic. These may be fine on smooth surfaces, but they can be brittle. Pneumatic tires are usually the best option, and they are capable of supporting extreme weights and absorbing heavy bumps.

If a hand truck is intended for use over high-quality floors, it may also be worth checking to see if the tires are non-marking. Some hand trucks can leave black streaks.

Nose-Plate Shape

The nose plate, also called the toe plate, is the platform at the bottom of the “L” that supports the items being moved. Nose plates can be quite large, but they don’t always need to be. On models designed to lift appliances, the nose plate may be quite narrow because it only has to support one edge of a freezer, for example.

Size and shape of the nose plate can vary considerably. On low-cost hand trucks, it might be a basic plastic tray. On high-quality folding models, it is usually hinged aluminum or steel. With some heavy-duty models, the nose plate can be supplemented by extended bars to accommodate large items.

FAQs

The above information has provided an in-depth look at the various types of hand trucks, and specific models are available to satisfy a variety of needs. While this information will answer many of the questions that crop up, there are some general queries that we have answered below.

Q. What is the function of a hand truck?

The function of a hand truck is to allow one person to easily move items that they would not typically be able to carry (or would struggle with) if attempting to move them by hand.

Q. What does a hand truck look like?

The classic hand truck has a strong metal frame, a pair of handles at the top, a load platform at the bottom, and usually a pair of rubber wheels. However, modern designs vary considerably from compact folding models to those that convert to flatbed hand carts.

Q. How do I choose a hand truck?

There are a lot of things you may think about when choosing a hand truck. The “What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hand Trucks” section above explains the benefits of each type; it will help you narrow down the options until you find the best hand truck for the loads you need to move.

Q. How much is a hand truck?

How much a hand truck costs depends on a number of factors that are discussed above. Some can be as little as $40, while more complex or heavy-duty models might be several hundred dollars.

Q. How do you go down steps with a hand truck?

The easiest way to go down steps with a hand truck is to use a stair climber. If using a standard hand truck, then tilt it back toward you, keeping your hands low and the load as near horizontal as possible. (Bending your knees can help.) This keeps the center of gravity low, so there’s less impact as you descend each step and less chance of the load tipping.

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Bob Beacham

Contributing Writer

Bob Beacham is an engineer by trade and has spent 35 years working on everything from auto parts to oil rigs. He is also an avid DIY enthusiast. Bob started writing for the Bob Vila team in 2020 and covers tools, outdoor equipment, and home improvement projects.

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