The best post hole diggers enable you to dig a small diameter hole for setting fence posts, poles, vertical supports, and the like, easier. Standard manually-operated diggers have two clamshell-type blades at the ends of a single, or two, significantly long, sturdy handle(s). The operator jams the blades into the ground with them in the open position. They are closed, and loosened material is pulled to the surface and discarded. Repetitive action creates a hole the desired depth or as deep as the digger’s handle-length allows.
Auger type post hole diggers are bulky but generally easier to use and able to drill a deeper hole than a manually-operated clamshell-type digger. The auger hole is the diameter of the auger’s width. Maximum depth is as deep as the auger bit is long. Auger post hole diggers may be manually operated, hydraulic, or gas- or electric-powered. Auger type post hole diggers may be compact, single-operator tools, or heavy-duty dual operator pieces of equipment. And how would you choose? We have prepared the review of the best pole hole diggers.
There is a wide variety of post hole diggers from which to choose, depending on the type of work you need it to do. Project, price, weight, and operability vary.
Best Pole Hole Digger 2018
|Seymour AUA2 - Best manual pole hole digger||8.65||Adjustable 6”, 7”, 8” Steel blades||Wood (Hard Maple)|
|Bully Tools 14-Gauge 5.5-Inch||9.35||5.5” Steel blades||Fiberglass|
|XtremepowerUS 43cc Gas||39.4||8” bit included; Works with 6” – 10” bits||Foam-grip|
|Southland SEA438 - Best gas pole hole digger||40||8” bit included; 6” bit available||Ergonomic butterfly|
|XtremepowerUS 1200W 1.6HP - Best electric pole hole digger||28.5||4” bit included||Rubber grip|
The Seymour AUA2 adjustable lightweight auger post hole digger is a basic, one-person, manually-operated backyard/garden, farm tool made by Seymour Manufacturing/Seymour Midwest, a family-owned, global supplier of hand-tools. It is a general purpose hole digger designed to effectively remove a variety of soils, from hard pan and clay to soft soil and sand. Dig a post or mailbox hole; plant a tree or dig a well!
The Seymour AUA2 auger has adjustable settings that allow you to bore 6″ dia., 7″ dia., or 8″ diam. holes. It liberally extracts significant portions of soil (i.e.: 6” dia. x 8” cylinder), which surpasses standard clamshell diggers’ performance. This heavy duty auger has a durable hard maple cross tee handle welded at the top of a steel shaft. Its dual steel blades are riveted to a rugged, malleable iron yoke. It has an approximate 40” – 42” auger length (hole depth).
The Bully Tools 92382 5.5-inch commercial grade post hole digger is a standard, one-person, manually-operated garden, backyard, and farm tool made by Bully Tools. Bully Tools are 100% Made In America, and are specifically designed to effectively break through compacted soils and hardpan, making farming, gardening, landscaping, and post and plant hole digging easier. Bully also manufactures shingle removers, floor scrapers, and ice and snow and other specialty tools.
The Bully Tools 92382 post hole digger features two 9” x 5” clamshell blades constructed of extra-thick, high-quality 14-gauge steel. Two, heavy-duty, triple wall, fiberglass, ergonomically-designed handles increase leverage without straining back, legs, or arms. The total length of the Bully Tools 92382 is 59.5”. The handles are each 47” long.
The XtremepowerUS 43cc gas engine post hole digger is a one-person, 8″ bit auger tool designed for post and plant hole digging. It is a lightweight, 40-lb., auger operated by a powerful 2-cycle, 43cc engine that makes hole digging through heavy as well as soft soils, clay, and hardpan fast and efficient. This Xtremepower’s power bit turns at a maximum speed of 280 RPM to help you remove earth easily. It is a versatile tool, working with 6” dia. – 10” dia. augers.
When assembled the Xtremepower US 43cc gas auger measures 11” W x 22” D x 48” H. It capably digs down 24” – 30” without extensions. The tool has anti-vibration foam grip handles to reduce vibration and fatigue. It has a 0.98L fuel tank capacity. The 2-cycle engine runs on a 40:1 oil mix (per box recommendation) or 30:1 oil mix (per manual instructions). As a general rule, high octane fuel and richer oil helps keep the engine running better longer.
The Southland SEA438 43cc gas engine post hole digger is a one-person, 8″ bit auger tool designed for post and plant hole digging. It is made by Southland in conjunction with MAT Engine Technologies that offers a variety of Southland-brand 2- and 4-cycle gas-powered outdoor equipment for cutting, digging, edging, tilling, blowing, trimming and other farm, garden, and landscape applications.
The Southland SEA438 is a lightweight, 40-lb., heavy duty auger operated by a powerful 2-cycle, 43cc, solid steel drive shaft, direct gear engine that makes hole digging through heavy as well as soft soils, clay, and hardpan fast and efficient. It has an on-off switch with a manual recoil easy-start fuel delivery system. The throttle is conveniently located on the handle for better control. The Southland SEA438 43cc power auger bit turns at a maximum speed of 316 RPM to help you remove earth for post and landscape digging more easily. When you’re done digging post holes and planting trees, you can change the auger to an 18″ extension and use it for ice fishing!
The total length of the Southland SEA438 tool is 42”. It capably digs to a maximum 2.5 feet, depending on soil conditions. It has wide, 26-inch, detachable, ergonomically-designed butterfly handles that provide comfortable in-use balance and convenient storage. The anti-vibration foam grip handles reduce vibration and fatigue. The TruFuel 2-cycle engine runs on a 50:1 pre-blended oil mix. It has a translucent fuel tank (for easy view of fuel levels). Two open-end wrenches, a spark plug tool, and a small bottle of premix oil are also included.
The XtremepowerUS 1200W noise-less electric post hole digger is a one-person, 30-inch long, 4″ bit auger tool designed for post and plant hole digging. It is a lightweight, 29-lb. auger operated by a 1200 w.,1.6 HP electric motor. It run on 10.9 amp120 v. AC. Plug it into a 110 outlet and make your holed digging project faster. It works well with a 50-foot heavy duty extension cord. This Xtremepower starts easily and is ideal for post and landscape holes. When you’re done digging post holes and planting trees, you can change the auger and use it for ice fishing! XtremepoweUS offers a variety of earth auger bits to make drilling through heavy, as well as soft, soils.
If you are digging a hole, you may select a standard post hole digger or a one-person auger type hole digger. You may choose a simple clamshell dual-handle digger, or a heavier gas- or electrically-powered auger post hole digger.
How do they work?
Post hole diggers may be one-person tools, or require two people work together to stabilize and maintain a neat bore. Depending on the power behind the blades or auger, you will want to gauge your progress and enthusiasm with the awareness that there always lurks the potential to hit buried rocks, roots, or foreign objects that will cause kickback, machine stalling, or blade/auger damage.
Some diggers are hand operated. Some are gas powered with pull cord or push button auto start. Still others are electric that require heavy utility extension cords to plug into a nearby power source. Some are ergonomically designed, weight less, have comfort grips, and produce less vibration and noise.
Regardless if the digger is one-person or two, lightweight or commercial, they require a certain amount of strength and patience. A well-constructed, durable tool is essential for satisfactory production as well as for personal safety.
Types of Post Hole Diggers
Manual (One-Person Clamshells / Augers)
Traditional tried-and-true manual post hole diggers are lightweight, affordable, and easily transportable. All that is needed is manpower to jam the tool into the ground, open the handles, and pull out scoopfuls of earth. Handles are typically sturdy hardwood or fiberglass. The blade is a steel clamshell that opens and closes as the handles are pulled apart and closed. These hole diggers are simple and can be used anywhere man can walk. How effective they are digging through hardpan, clay, or heavy soils largely depends on the strength of the operator, but also on the durability of the clamshell blade.
Some of these simple post hole diggers have augers, rather than clamshells. They can be adjusted and operated by the single horizontal handle. Rather than pulling dirt out of the hole, they drill down and displace the earth as they go.
Gas-Powered (One-Person Augers)
One-person gas powered post hole augers are generally less laborious than manual post hole diggers. They also help make more evenly-sized holes. Gas augers may be pull cord or push button start. They are balanced to allow one person to control the drilling. Earth is easily displaced as the auger turns, making it unnecessary to constantly remove earth from the hole. The gas engine is typically 2-cycle (2-stroke air-cooled).
Gas engines vary in power, torque, and drill speed. They must be maintained like any 2-cycle gas engine. Higher octane fuel and oil mix are recommended for longer life.
Electric- & Battery-Powered (One-Person Augers)
Lightweight one-person electric-powered post hole augers are gas- and fume-free and noiseless. They are push button started – instant on and off. Such diggers do not need to warm up like gas powered tools and post hole diggers do. They are ideal for quick, small projects, and ice fishing! They plug into standard 110 outlets.
Battery-powered augers afford cordless freedom and do not require a plug-in power source. They offer the same ergonomic and environmental advantages (noise- and fume-free, lightweight control, instant on-off operation). However, they rely on battery life, so the power source is limited by charge.
Electric- and battery-powered augers are preferred by those using them in close areas, such as for ice fishing, where gas and propane fumes aren’t safe.
How to Buy the Best Post Hole Digger
Select post hole diggers that have rust-resistant finishes to withstand weather (rain, snow, heat, etc.) and harsh environmental elements (salt, sand, groundwater, etc.). Check auger measurements (length and width) or handle length before buying. The auger’s/handles’ length indicates the maximum hole depth you can expect to drill. Similarly, auger or blade width is an indication of the overall width of your hole.
Price and Affordability
The simple, handle and blade, manual post hole diggers are the most affordable. Their only moving part is the manipulation of the handle to open/close clamshell blades or to adjust and turn the auger. This type also requires the most effort to operate.
Gas- or propane-powered post hole diggers are more expensive since they have start/stop mechanisms and exhausts and engines that power the drilling augers. They require routine maintenance and fuel and oil mix, which are ongoing costs. The trade-off is the ease, convenience, and production that can be generated.
Electric- and battery-powered post hole diggers are the most expensive, but their trade-offs are no noise, no liquid fuel or oil mix required, minimal maintenance and impact to the environment. They provide that convenience, ease, and production similar to their gas/propane counterparts. They require a 120v. AC and utility grade extension cord, or battery source.
Simple, manually-operated post hole diggers are lightweight. Adding a motor adds weight and redistributes balance. Electric and gas hole diggers that can be fitted with specific augers used for ice fishing tend to be the lightest-weight mechanized hole diggers.
It is important to select a post hole digger that withstands impacts as well as the environment. All post hole diggers should be strong, well constructed from steel or carbon steel, durable, and balanced. Post hole diggers should be rust-resistant to withstand operation and being left out in inclement weather.
You cannot foresee rocks, roots, buried items, or cables when drilling or excavating into the earth. Hitting a rock can bend manual clamshell blades or auger. Motorized post hole diggers have the added potential to kick back, stall, or jam. It is important that powered augers are all-steel construction, including the steel shaft.
You should also ensure that handles are solid. Some on motorized post hole diggers boast ergonomic design and vibration-reducing handle grips. Manual post hole digger handles should be made of solid hardwood. Ensure clamshell blades tightly close to capture and keep as much material as possible until it reaches the surface and can be discarded.
Pivot points should be solidly welded. Handle yokes should be solid iron.
Noise & Safety
Always read instructions before operating a manual post hole digger as well as a motorized one!
• Call Before You Dig!
• Wear gloves, goggles, safety shoes
• Wear ear protection when using gas or propane powered diggers
• Ensure post hole digger safety shields are securely in place
• Locate the on/off switch
• Do not override the digger’s safety features
Regardless if you are manually digging holes or using a motorized post hole digger, always call for buried utilities locates prior to digging. Extreme precaution must be taken to avoid severing (with sharp clamshell blades) or boring through buried utility lines and systems.
Take into account where you are digging your post holes. Is there a chance you will be digging through landscape fabric or where old wires or cables lie? Rotating augers can quickly become tangled. Your post hole digger must be durable so blades and augers do not break or bend or inadvertently wrap loose materials around the operator’s legs or foot. The auger can throw a bit, or rock, portion of hard root, or other buried solid matter.
Flimsy or substandard construction can cause injuries as well as destroy the tool itself. Warped or cracked wood or fiberglass handles can splinter or break off in mid-dig. Dented or bent metal handles can deteriorate over time and may make the motorized digger harder to control due to imbalance. Worn, torn, wet, or poor fitting foam handle grips may also create vibration fatigue, trying to control the machine, rather than effectively function as anti-vibration accessories. Pivot points, connectors, welds, and signs of rust or other deterioration also lead to deterioration, failure, or, at the very least, difficulty in handling.
Clear and easily accessible on/off switches are important. You can more quickly shut off the tool than get out of the way of a falling over, or jumping out of the hole, motorized digger. The auger can cause injury if it falls on your foot or leg, or severely cut your hand. The injury is even more severe if the auger is still rotating! Anyone not operating the machine should stay at least 10 feet away from the hole during the digging operation.
There are numerous bits, parts, and extensions, both for replacement and additions, available for hand held motorized post hole diggers. Stronger replacement bits reduce wear and tear and extend auger life. Auger lengths and widths help you drill the correctly sized holes. There are variable auger lengths and widths (6″, 9″ and 12″); shorter lengths for small projects, ice augers, and auger extensions for deeper holes. Replacement cutting edges are also available for most brands of motorized augers. Foam handle grips help reduce vibration.
The overall strength, integrity, and longevity of a structure depend on how well each supporting post/hole is sunk and filled. There is a wide variety of post hole diggers from which to choose, depending on the type of work you need it to do. The best post hole diggers are well-constructed, durable, well-balanced, and easily controlled and operated.
Simple manually-operated post hole diggers are the least expensive, lightweight, and very portable. Motorized post hole diggers are better suited for large hole-digging projects. They are less strenuous to operate, faster, and produce a more uniform hole. Some post hole diggers require ear protection, while others such as electric- and battery-operated diggers, are quiet, which present other unique drilling problems.
Cushion handle grips add comfort and safety. Other accessories extend auger length, reduce wear and extend auger life, or make your auger hole digger adaptable to other uses, such as ice fishing. The best post hole digger is the one that suits the size of your project, you can easily and safely operate, and produces the desired hole width and depth.