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7 Best Lawn Aerators

For serious lawn care aficionados, an aerator is the ace up their sleeve. If you're ready to get serious, check out these aerators.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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What is aeration?

Soil aeration is the single most important maintenance practice you can perform on your lawn. Aeration (punching holes or removing cores from compacted lawns) relieves soil compaction and allows air, water, nutrients and grass seed to quickly and more easily enter the root zone.

Aerating also helps manage thatch buildup which, if left unchecked, can suffocate your lawn. In addition, aerating two or three times a year reduces the amount of water, fertilizer and other amendments your lawn needs.

Rent or buy?

When it’s time to aerate, renting the machine is one option. But you need to plan ahead, reserve it, pick it up and haul it home. And then get it back before the rental deadline.

But what if you owned a lawn aerator? Yes, you’d be shelling out some cash upfront. But you would never need to rent a lawn aerator again. And I bet you would use it more often if all you had to do is pull it out of your garage. No advance planning or reservations. No need to find a friend with a pickup or a trailer. And no rushing to avoid a late fee.

Take a look at our picks for the seven best aerators in various categories. We start with the least expensive low-tech options and end with the cream of the crop.

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Best Manual Lawn Aerator Without Wheels

Simple and inexpensive hand tools can be effective at aerating your lawn, but it takes some effort to punch enough holes to make a difference. They work great for small, targeted areas that need special attention, like actively-used footpaths, around patios, near outdoor steps and around house corners.

Something as simple as a pitchfork or digging fork, such as the True Temper Four-Tine Spading Digging Fork, can easily and inexpensively do the trick. It’s outrageously simple, yet quick and effective. Slightly twisting the fork while it’s in the ground makes for even better results.

More use-specific tools like the Yard Butler Turf Plug Core Aeration Tool may give you slightly better results since they are designed specifically for lawn aeration.

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Best Manual Aerator on Wheels

If you’re looking for a little more convenience and style, the Step ‘N Tilt Lawn Aerator may be for you. It comes with a core collector if you’d rather not leave soil cores on the lawn surface. The coring tines can be sharpened or replaced for clean and consistent tine penetration.

Like the previously mentioned Yard Butler model, this one is intended for small problem areas and pulls cores from the soil, which is a good thing.

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Best Tow-Type Spike Aerator

Tow-type aerators work best when aerating larger areas or entire lawns. Most are 36 to 40 inches wide. They are easily pulled behind a lawn tractor or riding lawnmower.

The Brinly Tow-Behind Spike Aerator is a good choice if you’d rather not deal with cleaning up messy cores. Each of the 10 galvanized-steel wheels has 12 spikes that will create a lot of slices in a single pass. The Brinly also comes with weight trays that can be loaded with concrete blocks or sand tubes. This leads to deeper spike penetration into the soil.

I really like the abundance of spiking knives more than anything. Other models have fewer blades, requiring more passes to achieve the same results. Keep in mind that the more spiking knives or coring tines, the more challenging it is to get maximum soil penetration. Having weight trays is a big plus.

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Best Tow-Type Core Aerator

To gain the most benefit from aerating your lawn, you need to pull plugs from the soil. This best relieves soil compaction while creating channels for water, fertilizer and grass seed to get into the ground. There is no better way to aerate your lawn.

The Agri-Fab 48-inch Tow Plug Aerator comes with rust-resistant coring tines and built-in trays. These trays allow you to add up to 140 pounds of additional weight for soil penetration up to three inches. Making multiple passes will help pull more cores, especially in heavily-compacted areas. More is better!

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Best Multi-Use Aerator

Why not multi-task when you’re using your tow-type aerator?

While you’re slice-aerating your lawn with the Agri-Fab Tow Spiker/Seeder/Spreader, you can double-down on your effort by applying soil amendments like lime or gypsum, or by overseeding your lawn at the same time. Its narrower 32-inch working width will slow you down a bit. But because you’re accomplishing two tasks at the same time, it’s not a big deal.

Think of this machine as the most versatile of lawn aerators. The galvanized steel slicing blades and agitator resist rust. Larger 10-inch flat-free wheels make it easier to tow.

One caution: Resist the manufacturer’s claim that you can spread lawn fertilizer with this machine. I wouldn’t do it. It’s impossible to evenly spread fertilizer with a tow-type drop spreader. Your lawn will end up looking like a checkerboard.

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Best Tow-Type Core Aerator — Ever

If you want to punch holes like the professionals do, invest in a 36-inch Ryan Tow-Behind Aerator. And I mean invest! Be ready for sticker shock. But if you’re as serious about tools and power equipment as the pros who maintain lawns for a living, all other options pale in comparison.

You won’t see this aerator at online stores. You’ll need to find a local outdoor power equipment dealer to buy one.

Eight 3/4-in. coring tines made from hardened alloy steel and mounted on six heavy-duty cast iron wheels aerate to a depth of four inches. For added performance, the cast aeration wheels turn independently of one another. This allows you to make turns while the tines are in the ground and avoid turf damage.

To be fair, other high-quality professional-grade lawn aerators are available from quality manufacturers like Bluebird Turf, Billy Goat and Classen. Do your research and compare.

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Best Walk-Behind Lawn Aerator

The Ryan Lawnaire IV and the Lawnaire V are identical machines except for their working width. The Lawnaire rises above all other walk-behind aerators by offering removable weight bars, gas-powered self-propelled traction via two commercial-grade engine options, hardened alloy steel coring tines and a solid steel drive axle.

One pass with either model delivers nine coring holes per square foot. You won’t get close to that with a consumer-grade machine like the ones previously mentioned.

The tow-type and walk-behind Ryan commercial-grade aerators are in a class by themselves. If you can bring yourself to spend the extra money, you’ll be rewarded with many years of unmatched performance. Your neighbors will suffer from lawn aerator envy!

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Joe Churchill
Joe Churchill is a Senior Turf Specialist for Reinders, Inc. in Plymouth, MN with a passion to promote realistic and environmentally-sound turfgrass maintenance practices through responsible use of water, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs. Joe's client base includes professional turf managers serving the lawn care, sports turf and golf course industries. His lawn is the envy of the neighborhood and, in his free time, he enjoys kicking back on the Northshore of Lake Superior.

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