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Which lawn aerators are best?

Many people take pride in having a nice verdant yard. However, grass and other plants don’t always grow well, especially if the soil is compacted. That’s where having a quality lawn aerator is so helpful. With one, you can loosen up the dirt to let essential resources such as air and water reach the root systems of your lawn. The best lawn aerator, the Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator, is sturdy, effective and easy to use.

What to know before you buy a lawn aerator


The main reason to aerate a yard is to help the grass grow lush and healthy by breaking up soil. Over time, the soil starts to become compacted. This is especially common when there’s a lot of foot traffic or when there are heavy objects such as lawn mowers or children’s playhouses in the yard.

Compacted soil keeps water, oxygen and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. Without these resources, the grass starts to discolor, thin out and even die. This usually occurs in patches rather than across the entire yard.

A lawn aerator solves this problem by loosening up the soil so nutrients and other resources can reach the roots. It also makes it easier for fertilizers and other plant foods to get to the grass so they can grow more effectively.

Signs you need to aerate

Here are the main ways to tell if your yard needs to be aerated:

  • Patchy or thin areas start to appear in the grass
  • Free-standing water starts to appear in certain locations
  • It’s difficult to break up the soil with a finger or small shovel
  • Seeding the yard doesn’t result in new grass
  • Fertilizer isn’t working

If your home was recently built, the dirt could also be compacted.

Aerators vs. dethatchers

There are different types of aerators, but they all work off the same concept. These tools use either hollow tines or rows of spikes to dig into the earth and loosen it. They can also cut through thatch to help your lawn get the resources it needs.

The purpose of lawn dethatchers is to remove thatch, which is the accumulation of organic matter that sits on top of the earth. This includes:

  • Dead cells
  • Stems
  • Blades of grass
  • Leaves
  • Roots

Thatch isn’t inherently a bad thing. Around a 1/2 inch of thatch can even protect your lawn from excessive heat and create a natural fertilizer system. But too much of it can block essential resources from your grass’ roots.

Both dethatching and aeration are important parts of lawn maintenance. Generally, you should dethatch the lawn before aerating it. Doing this makes it much easier to keep your grass green and healthy.

What to look for in a quality lawn aerator


Here are the main types of aerators:

  • Core: These work by penetrating the ground and removing “cores” or “plugs.” The cores are usually 2 to 3 inches in depth and up to 1/2 inch around. This type of aerator is best with harder, clay-like soils.
  • Spike: A spike aerator uses rows of long, thin spikes to create holes every so often in the lawn. These are best for sandier soils. One common type is spike shoes, which go over your regular shoes and let you aerate the lawn by walking on it.
  • Manual: Many aerators are manual, meaning you need to hold and push them down into the earth using your shoe to loosen up the soil.
  • Electric: There are spike and core electric aerators, which require less physical force to operate.
  • Tow-behind: Certain aerators can be attached to the back of another vehicle, such as a riding lawnmower, to loosen up soil that way.

Lawn size

Before getting an aerator, consider the size of your yard. If you have a larger yard, you should use a tow-behind or machine lawn aerator. If you have a smaller yard or only need to aerate a small section, a manual lawn aerator could be more effective.

Aerator size

When it comes to size, the most important things are:

  • Spike or tine quantity, length and width
  • Handle length for manual aerators

With some aerators, such as tow-behind models, the width also matters as it can affect how much of the yard gets aerated at once. Consider the size of your yard and project when choosing one. With manual options, also take into account your physical strength to make sure you can effectively use it without injury.


Most aerators for the lawn consist of metal or sturdy plastic. These materials are made to be resistant to corrosion, rust, breakage and other types of damage. They’re also moisture-resistant.

Extra features

Certain lawn aerators, such as tow-behind models, come with additional features that manual ones don’t have. This includes:

  • Tray to carry additional weight and let the tool penetrate the earth more easily.
  • Sturdy wheels that make maneuvering them around the yard convenient.
  • Hitch to connect the aerator to a riding lawnmower or a similar machine.

How much you can expect to spend on a lawn aerator

The cost primarily depends on the type of aerator. A simple manual tool can cost $10-$40, while a tow-behind aerator ranges from around $100-$400.

Lawn aerators FAQ

When is the best time to aerate a yard?

A. If you have warm-season grasses, aerate the yard in late spring. If you have cool-season grasses, aerate at the beginning of spring. Also, start loosening up compacted soil when you see puddles forming or if there are dead patches in the yard.

Can aerating or dethatching stress out the lawn?

A. If you aerate or dethatch a yard too often, it could stress out the grass. With thatch, for instance, a small layer can provide nutrients to the grass and protect it from extreme weather conditions. So, it’s not a good idea to remove all of it. If you aerate too much, it could cause drainage problems due to the excessive holes in the soil.

What are the best lawn aerators to buy?

Top lawn aerator

Best Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

What you need to know: This heavy-duty tow-behind core lawn aerator is designed to handle large yards with any soil type.

What you’ll love: It comes with 32 galvanized knives that can easily penetrate the ground. It also has a weight tray that can carry up to 175 pounds for a more effective aeration. It’s 48 inches wide and can pull up 3-inch-long cores to loosen up the toughest soil. Plus, it can be hooked up to a tractor or lawnmower.

What you should consider: It’s tricky to reverse when using it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top lawn aerator for the money

Best Yard Butler IM-7C Multi Spike Lawn Aerator Spike Grass Aerator Lawn Tool

Yard Butler IM-7C Multi Spike Lawn Aerator — Spike Grass Aerator Lawn Tool

What you need to know: This manual spike aerator is perfect for anyone who wants to aerate a small section of the yard or garden.

What you’ll love: It has a comfortable, 3-foot-long handle that makes it easy to penetrate the soil without having to bend over. It consists of powder-coated steel that’s resistant to rust and corrosion.

What you should consider: The tines are not that long, and they have trouble penetrating hard soil.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best Agri-Fab 45-0544 40-Inch Spike Aerator

Agri-Fab 45-0544 40-Inch Spike Aerator

What you need to know: This tow-behind aerator is perfect for anyone looking to quickly aerate a large yard.

What you’ll love: With a 40-inch weight tray that can hold up to 100 pounds, this spike aerator can dig into the ground and break up compacted soil with ease. It has 10 disks with eight spikes on each that can rotate at a consistent pace and distance for even aeration. The spikes consist of tough galvanized steel.

What you should consider: The paint can chip when exposed to frequent moisture.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot


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

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