Lawn Aerator Buying Guide

Updated: Mar. 15, 2022

What if you owned a lawn aerator? Would you aerate your lawn more often if all you had to do was pull it out of your garage? I bet you would!

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If you’re a lawn care enthusiast, you love spending time working on your turf grass. Spending a few hours in your yard can be just the therapy you need after a long work week. Like me, you understand and appreciate the benefits of aerating your lawn.

Renting an aerator works best for most people, but bringing one home from the rental store can be complicated. Finding a friend with a truck, or even renting a trailer before you rent the aerator, makes many homeowners decide it’s not worth the hassle.

Like other lawn care tasks requiring special equipment, you’re more likely to aerate your lawn if it’s easier. Let’s explore the possibility of buying an aerator so you never need to rent one again!

What Is a Lawn Aerator?

Lawn aerators are useful pieces of equipment that create holes or slits in the lawn surface. This process helps relieve soil compaction. It also manages your lawn’s thatch layer so water, nutrients and oxygen reach the root zone.

Why Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

Aerating is one of the best things you can do for your lawn. The soil under your lawn can be gradually damaged from heavy recreational use, pets, cars and even lawnmowers.

Removing soil cores from the ground with core aerator creates little cylinder-shaped holes in the surface so air, water, nutrients and even grass seed can quickly and easily enter the root zone. Lawn aerators that don’t pull plugs from the ground can also be used, but they aren’t as beneficial to your grass as core aerators.

What Types of Lawn Aerators Are There?

There are several types. Some work well. Others aren’t that effective. Some are expensive. Others aren’t. No matter which one you choose, they all work best in moist soils. Attempting to use a lawn aerator in hard, dry soil will yield disappointing results. Let’s explore your options based on cost, from the cheapest to the most expensive.

Shoe Spike Lawn Aerators

Cost: $25 to $30.

Lawn shoe spikes, like EnvyGreen Lawn Aerator Shoes, don’t relieve much soil compaction or eliminate thatch. If you’re intrigued by them, go ahead and give them a try. The investment is minimal and they give you some physical exercise. But be careful. They’re cumbersome and can land you in Urgent Care with a twisted ankle.

They may give you a warm and fuzzy feeling that you’re helping your lawn, but I can’t honestly recommend them. Huge gimmick factor here.

My Rating: 3 Thumbs Down.

Manual Lawn Aerator Tools

Cost: $35 to $75.

This is a relatively inexpensive way to aerate your lawn. These manual tools can be effective, but it takes some effort to punch enough holes to make a difference. They work great for aerating small targeted areas that need special attention, like heavily-used footpaths, around patios, near outdoor steps and house corners. They’re not intended for your entire lawn.

Something as basic as a pitchfork, like the Radius Garden Stainless Steel Fork, or digging fork, such as the True Temper Spading Digging Fork, can easily do the trick. They’re extraordinarily simple yet quick and effective. Slightly twisting the fork while it’s in the ground makes for even better results.

More use-specific tools such as a Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator and the Ames Four-Spike Lawn Aerator may give you slightly better results because they’re designed for lawn aeration. Other variations like the Step ‘N Tilt Core Lawn Aerator provide more sophisticated options to a hand tool approach.

If you have the time and energy, all these provide the desired results when treating small areas needing special attention.

My Rating: 1 Thumb Up.

Tow-Type Units

Cost: $100 to $250.

These are larger implements typically towed behind a lawn tractor or riding lawnmower. They’re intended to cover entire lawns relatively quickly.

Some feature coring tines that remove soil plugs from the ground. Others have slicing knives that simply pierce the ground, cutting small openings into the turf. Some offer the option of adding extra weight like concrete blocks. This is a great idea and will help push aerator tines deeper into the soil.

Tow-type coring aerators like the Agri-Fab 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator work best to relieve compaction and create a path for water and lawn fertilizer to enter the soil. If you don’t want soil plugs laying on top of your grass, consider a model equipped with knives, like a Brinly 48-Inch Tow Behind Spike Aerator.

Other models allow you to aerate and sow seed. A combo machine similar to the Agri-Fab 100 lb. Tow Spiker/Seeder/Spreader performs both tasks simultaneously. One word of caution: Resist the temptation to spread fertilizer with this machine. Your yard could end up looking like a zebra.

Although these larger tow-type aerators cover a lot of ground quickly, results will depend upon how deeply the tines or knives penetrate the ground and how many passes you make. The more holes or slices per square foot, the better. Look for a tow-type model that allows you to add weight and make multiple passes. A single pass has limited effect and wastes time and gas.

My Rating: 2 Thumbs Up.

Commercial-Grade Walk-Behind and Tow-Type Lawn Aerators

Cost: New $3,000 to $4,000; used $1,000 to $2,500.

If you’re serious about aerating your lawn, you’ll appreciate the value of these machines. All other lawn aerators pale in comparison. They’re not cheap and you won’t find them through mainstream online outlets or at local retailers. You’ll need to visit a local lawn care equipment dealer to buy one of these gems.

Keep a lookout for used ones sold locally by lawn care professionals or rental stores updating their rental fleet. As with any used power equipment, inspect the aerator closely for excessive wear before buying.

For maximum performance, a walk-behind aerator like the Ryan Lawnaire IV or Bluebird Lawn Aerator will make you the envy of the neighborhood. There are combination power rake/seeder options, too. Check out the Billy Goat OS552 Series Push Overseeder for starters. Although not lawn aerators per se, these units will help reduce thatch, facilitate air and water movement into the soil and allow you to overseed your lawn at the same time.

A tow-type version of a commercial grade aerators, like the Ryan Lawnaire Tow-Behind Aerator, will cost you less and can be towed behind a lawn tractor or UTV. You’ll cover a lot of ground quickly. These work great if you have an acre or more of lawn.

All these units are rugged, durable and built for everyday use. They’re probably overkill for your average homeowner. But if you love taking care of your lawn and believe in “go big or go home,” these are the aerators for you.

My Rating: 3 Thumbs Up.

Signs You Need a Lawn Aerator

Rain puddling is one sign your lawn needs aeration. Also look for bare spots and smooth, sun-baked patches of dirt.

How to Choose a Lawn Aerator

When it’s time to aerate, tool renting is one option. But that comes with a set of challenges — making sure you hit deadlines, and worrying if the right product is available.

If you’re looking at purchasing an aerator, options abound based on your needs. A manual device pressed into the soil with your foot is helpful for aerating smaller areas like walkways and small yards. A gas- or electric-powered aerator is your best bet for large backyards.