Choosing Hand Trucks, Dollies, and Carts
Moving large items by yourself can be backbreaking work – literally! If you have heavy lifting to do, using wheeled moving equipment will make the job easier, faster, and safer. Whether you’re unpacking a van or responsible for next weekend’s keg, invest in some equipment on wheels!
Hand trucks, carts, and dollies are the most frequently used gear to carry bulky objects. They all sound the same and the terms are often used interchangeably. But these transporting materials have very different uses and capabilities, which makes it important to pick the right one for the job.
Hand Trucks, Dollies, and Carts: What's the Difference?
Hand trucks have two large wheels and stand upright. The L-shape (toe plate) slides under heavy items and lifts simply by tilting the hand truck back. A hand truck is also called a two-wheeler, hand trolley, stack truck, or appliance dolly.
Their vertical design means they’re ideal for moving tall or heavy loads like refrigerators. Boxes and smaller items can also be stacked and moved at once.
Dollies are essentially platforms on four wheels. They fit entirely under heavy objects and move by rolling. Items must be placed on the platform, unlike hand trucks, but they can move bulky loads that can’t balance on a hand truck. Since most dollies have open bottoms, those are ideal for one heavy item at a time.
Some dollies can be unpredictable because they don't have handlebars and use casters instead of wheels. Many do come with a locking foot brake and fixed casters rather than swivel, which can give additional control. In general, it’s a good idea to have another person around if you’re using a dolly.
Carts are like dollies but have handlebars and solid bottoms. Carts are also called platform trucks, and some have enclosed sides to safely pile several items and move at once.
Carts and dollies are often confused despite being very different. Carts always have handlebars and solid bottoms instead of the open bottoms you’ll usually see on dollies. Most carts also feature a combination of swivel and fixed wheels while dollies use one or the other.
Dolly carts are a hybrid of both and are sturdier dollies with panel bars or handles. The key difference between a cart and a dolly cart is the bottom: if it’s open like a traditional dolly, then it’s a dolly cart. Like standard carts, most have a combination of two swivel and two fixed casters for extra maneuverability.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Moving Equipment
Weight capacity: Every hand truck, cart, or dolly has different limits for how heavy the item(s) can be for moving. Some will only be able to hold 200-300 pounds while higher end models can safely carry at least 500 pounds. Make sure what you’re buying won’t break during the first load!
Dimensions: The size of the platform is also crucial. You don’t want to invest in an expensive moving cart only to realize that none of your furniture fits on it. Always measure the object(s) you’re going to move.
Wheels: Some moving equipment use casters instead of traditional wheels. There are pros and cons to both options depending on terrain and what you’re moving. Many sturdier models feature pneumatic tires, which have a thicker tread and absorb unevenness instead of shaking.
Handles: The style of handling is important to provide stability and prevent injuries, especially when using hand trucks. Some moving equipment use one handlebar while others come with two grips.
Different Types of Hand Trucks
Two-wheel hand trucks are the standard type. They are available in many weight capacities and sizes depending on what you’re moving. More expensive models come with a kick stand and hand brakes for better control on ramps.
Appliance and special-use hand trucks are ideal for moving a large appliance or product like water jugs. They come with upgraded features such as self-retracting straps, wide load wings, and extra wheels for lowering to 45°.
Convertible hand trucks easily change from a two-wheel hand truck into a four-wheel cart. They are designed with a sliding frame and additional small wheels on the top. Some models are just vertical and horizontal while others come with extra positions between (usually 45°), which is helpful for distributing weight.
Stair climbing hand trucks have design features to help ascend or descend stairs. Most models come with several speeds that can be changed with a button.
Stackers and lift hand trucks make easy work of lifting heavy items. They are powered models that raise loads in tight quarters and limit injuries for those frequently lifting kegs or cases. They are similar to standard two-wheel hand trucks but have an extra platform that raises the item with the push of a button.
Best Materials for Hand Trucks
Aluminum hand trucks are a lightweight alternative to standard steel hand trucks. They are easy to use, reduce the risk of back pain, and best for daily maneuvering.
Steel hand trucks are the most durable option and can hold upwards of 800-1,000 pounds. Be aware that they can be quite heavy, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re only using it for a few items.
Different Types of Carts
Push carts are the standard type and are sometimes called work carts. Many come with brakes and predrilled holes to secure the load with straps.
Folding carts use a similar design as push carts but with a collapsible frame. These are ideal for anyone with limited storage.
U-Boat carts have two handlebars and usually six wheels instead of four. These are ideal for stacking several bulky items that need extra support on the sides and many come with foot brakes. U-boat carts are also called platform carts.
Powered carts or electric carts are intended for moving the most challenging items. These are motorized so the self-propulsion handles all the work. Powered carts are used primarily by hospitals or warehouses but are helpful for moving anything too heavy to push.
Best materials for carts
Foam carts are an economical choice and won’t dent, rust, chip, peel, or splinter.
Most are built on steel frames for extra support.
Steel carts are the sturdiest option and can hold upwards of 2,000-3,000 pounds. These models can be expensive, but their durability enables you to transport several heavy items at the same time.
Carpeted or vinyl-covered carts have a layer of padding to provide more protection. These are best for furniture or other objects that scuff easily.
Different Types of Dollies
Caster dollies are the standard type and usually called furniture dollies. They are a few inches from the ground and come with four casters that are either fixed or swivel. A traditional open-bottomed caster dolly is sometimes called an H-Dolly. Caster dollies with closed bottoms often use a fifth caster for support.
Pallet dollies use casters and a platform that are in-line with each other and closer to the ground. These can replace forklifts and are best for transporting bulky, heavy objects. Many come with 6-10 casters and can handle weights of up to 8,000 pounds. Models with a handle kit or towing hitches add extra control.
A-Frame dollies have closed bottoms and A-shaped supports, which hold shelves or racks for moving pipes, bars, or sheets of plywood.
Best materials for dollies
Wood dollies are best for lighter loads. They are the most widely available and budget friendly choice. Wood dollies usually have open bottoms.
Plastic or resin dollies are sturdier than wood. Many models are designed with heavy-duty steel frames for extra support. Plastic dollies are resistant to water, grease, oil, and other natural elements or chemicals.
Aluminum dollies are a more durable option than wood or plastic. They are also lighter weight than steel. The design choices are split between open bottom, closed bottom, and open with an additional beam down the middle.
Steel dollies are the strongest options and best for your heaviest loads. Many have closed bottoms for total support. Steel dollies can be expensive, but it’s worth the price to ensure your heavy items move easily.
Carpeted or rubber-capped dollies have raised ends that give additional padding. These are ideal for protecting easily scuffed furniture plus your walls and doorways while rolling it. The majority have a wood base under the padding.
Customize Your Moving Supplies
Country Home Products is proud to offer a full array of hand trucks, carts, and dollies for all your transportation needs. Save your back a lot of pain by investing in some rolling equipment!
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Last updated: 7/27/2022