Heavy-duty augers feature a different flighting than standard models, and are compatible with special tips designed for tough soil conditions. Photo: Little Beaver Inc.
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    Credit: Little Beaver Inc.


Ultimately, the drilling task will dictate which type of earth drill and auger size to use. Most manufacturers will offer several auger options for their drills, from the smallest model for applications like soil nursery work up to the largest augers commonly used in foundation repair or soil sampling.

Transport options

Most earth drills are designed for easy transport; some include both front and rear handles for convenient loading and unloading. Mechanical units are generally the easiest to move, and can be loaded in a car trunk, the back of an SUV, or in a pickup truck bed. Hydraulic units are typically larger and a bit less convenient to move from site to site. But on the flip side, manufacturers offer a variety of transport modes for them, giving operators flexibility to match their vehicle and space needs.

The smallest hydraulic models are best moved with a pickup truck or small trailer. In cases where truck and trailer space is minimal, consider a model designed to be towed behind the vehicle, as it frees up valuable room for jobsite tools and other equipment.

If you're looking for yet another alternative, a hydraulic unit is now being offered that separates into two pieces, making the entire unit lighter and much more manageable. The power pack can be placed in the vehicle, while the rest of the drill is transported behind the vehicle and off the ground — eliminating common towing hassles. The unit's special hitch design is compatible with even small SU-Vs and pickups. The unit provides an option for those without a vehicle large enough to meet typical towing requirements, while still offering the benefit of freeing up precious vehicle space.

Safety features

Digging into the ground can be dangerous. One-call phone numbers have been established for every area across the country to help protect operators and let them know what's below the surface before digging. But the drill itself can pose a safety threat to the operator too, making it crucial to look for units designed with added safety features.

Certain models incorporate the engine and auger into one piece, while some manufacturers offer a configuration that places the engine on a wheeled chassis, which sits back a few feet from the operation point. The separate mounting keeps harmful exhaust emissions at a distance, and may also protect the operator in other ways.

Some models with a separate engine chassis utilize a steel torque tube that transfers digging torque from the drill head to the engine carriage. This allows operators to use larger diameter augers without fear of dangerous kickback. Additionally, the torque tube enhances drilling ease and reduces operator fatigue. A more alert, less fatigued operator is more likely to pay attention and handle the drill properly. Easier operation also reduces physical stress, including back problems and muscle strain.

Hydraulic units often feature a pressure relief valve. If the auger becomes overworked and the drill reaches a certain hydraulic pressure, the valve releases to stop the auger's rotation. This halts the drill before it reaches a point where it stops the engine or causes damage to the machine.

Mechanical units are also built with unique safety features, such as a centrifugal clutch. If the drill encounters a buried object or the auger is overloaded, the clutch automatically slips, protecting the operator from serious injury. This also eliminates potential damage to the drive cable and transmission gears, reducing the likelihood of expensive repairs or full replacement.

Additional features

Both experienced operators and first-time hole-diggers want a machine that's easy to use. An ergonomic design provides a more comfortable, user-friendly experience.

Look for large, easy-to-grip handles for better control and more comfortable operation. Also look for a model that places operator controls right on, or in close proximity to, the handle. Functions such as a hydraulic unit's forward/reverse switch should be adjacent to the machine's on/off switch for added convenience.

Choosing a unit with a high-quality engine is a must, as a drill's operation is greatly dependent on its engine. Look for one from a reputable manufacturer that includes a warranty and adequate service network. For portable units with a separate chassis for the engine, look for a durable, steel frame that will help protect the engine and its components.

To ensure the machine is safe for even the most delicate lawns and turfs, consider a unit with large, pneumatic or semi-pneumatic tires. The benefit is two-fold: quality tires won't damage turf, and they allow the unit to easily traverse a variety of terrain conditions.

Look for a manufacturer that provides multiple auger tips, as well as augers in multiple lengths and diameters. Some manufacturers offer snap-on augers, making the change-out process quick and easy, and eliminating the need for extra tools. Snap-on auger extensions offer the ability to achieve various digging depths without requiring multiple augers, adding versatility and saving money.

Finally, an earth drill that's easy to care for is ideal. In the event the machine becomes damaged, you'll find that a unit that can be serviced in the field without special tools is most convenient.

As an added bonus, a drill that's easy to maintain will encourage the operator to stick to a routine maintenance schedule, preventing future issues, enhancing longevity, and ultimately maximizing your return on investment.

Hale ( is sales manager for earth drill and auger manufacturer Little Beaver Inc., headquartered in Livingston, Texas.