Comparing manual post hole diggers with petrol augers for fence posts

Building a fence is something that I think all DIY enthusiasts should have a go at, at least once in their life if only for the large amount of money you can save when compared to getting professionals in.

Besides the money, there is the sense of achievement and fulfilment that comes with finishing a task such as building or repairing a fence, and it is a job that most people can handle themselves, with a helping hand from a friend or family member of course.

One of the most important parts of putting up a fence, and probably the most labour intensive, is digging the holes for the fence posts. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools to pick from that will help you with this task, and we are not just talking about a spade or shovel.

Two of the most popular of these options are manual post hole diggers and petrol augers. However, they are very different types of tools and each is better suited to certain situations.

In this article, we will compare manual post hole diggers with petrol augers to see which is better for digging those all-important fence post holes, but unfortunately, we won’t be telling you how to teach your dog to do this-


What is a manual post hole digger?

A manual post hole digger consists of two long handles connected to a pair of digging blades that resemble narrow shovels. These shovel blades are joined by a flange so that when the handles are squeezed together, the blades will open, and when the handles are pulled apart, the blades will close again.

How to use a manual post hole digger

Operating one of these tools is fairly simple. All you need to do is stand over your chosen spot with a steady and strong stance then squeeze the handles to open the blades. Keep the blades in this open position as you drive them into the soil to your chosen depth before pulling the handles apart from each other. All you need to do now is remove the blades from the ground, taking the soil trapped in the blades with it and then squeeze the handles to release that soil into a wheelbarrow, or simply next to the hole for now.

In this clip, the lovely lady shows you how to use one of these tools-

What is a petrol auger?

Manual and petrol augers work in pretty much the same way and are basically large corkscrews that drill into the ground and then remove a core of soil. Apart from manual augers and petrol augers, there are also drill bit augers that you can buy inexpensively and connect to your power drill, but these are only used for planting bulbs and will not be anywhere near big enough for digging post holes.

How to use a petrol auger

To use a petrol auger you first need to follow the instructions that came with the tool to make sure that it is fully assembled. Then you need to fill it up with fuel, and in the case of two-stroke engines, you need to mix the petrol with oil at the right ratio before adding it to the engine.

With the fuel in the machine, open the choke and then locate the purge button and press it about 10 times to push fuel into the carburettor. With this done, you can pull on the starter cord until the petrol auger starts.

With the petrol auger running, you now just need to line it up with your marked spot on the ground and lower it down until it digs to the depth that you require. If you have bought a large petrol auger, you will need some help keeping the tool aligned as it digs down as it can be quite heavy and hard to control on your own.

Comparing a manual post hole digger with a petrol auger

In this section, we will look at factors such as price, weight, maintenance, etc. and compare manual post diggers to petrol augers so that you can have a clearer picture of what to expect from each of them.

Manual post hole diggers are easily the cheaper option of these two tools, and you can pick up a good one online for around 30-50 pounds, that’s about the same price of an electric strimmer for comparison. On the other hand, a petrol auger can be priced anywhere over 180 pounds, so the difference in cost is quite significant.

As we already mentioned, some large petrol augers can be very heavy and will require at least two people to operate them safely. Even smaller models are still much heavier than a simple hand post hole digger, which shouldn’t weigh more than 5 kilograms; some post hole diggers are even lighter than that and are comparable to other digging tools like a garden fork.

Just for fun, we thought we’d show you just how big augers can be. imagine dropping that thing on your foot!! –

Ease of use

Obviously, the manual post hole digger is the easier tool to operate as there are no mechanical parts, motors, or engines to deal with. You simply squeeze the handles and dig it into the ground, and then pull it out again. Of course, this does require a lot more physical work on your part than when using a petrol auger, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Petrol augers are more complicated machines to set up and get running, requiring some basic knowledge of petrol-powered tools, so you’ll have to read instructionals like this one, or watch YouTube videos if you haven’t used one before. Apart from this, they aren’t particularly complicated to operate, and as long as you keep the blade lined up, it will dig you a perfect hole without much help from you at all.

Digging performance

A manual post hole digger can’t really compete with even the smaller petrol augers when it comes to digging performance, but that is to be expected I suppose, and one of the reasons you pay so much more for the latter. So, if you have a large area to fence off and a lot of holes to dig, a petrol auger is the right tool for the job, ad using one is quite satisfying as you can tell from tweets like this-

For smaller fences, a good manual post hole digger should suffice, and you won’t have to put up with the noise and fumes that you get from a petrol machine either. Petrol augers can sometimes struggle with very thick, clay soil too, so if your property has soil like this, you might be better off with a posthole digger after all.

Well, that concludes this article on post hole diggers and petrol augers. hopefully, you found it both entertaining and informative. You can use our search bar at the top of the screen to find other comparison articles, how to’s, and product reviews.

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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