A good garden hose should last 5 to 10 years. But many homeowners who buy lower quality hoses end up replacing theirs each year due to leaks, cracks or rot. Although some problems can be repaired, it’s generally more cost-effective to buy a good quality hose to begin with.
How to Choose the Best Garden Hose for You
There isn’t just one kind of garden hose that’s perfect for everyone. What works best for you will depend on the size of the area in which you’ll be using it, what you’ll use the hose for and where you’ll store it, as well as your budget. But, in general, there are six things you should consider when choosing a garden hose.
Length – Longer is Not Better
Garden hoses come in 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-foot lengths. It’s tempting to buy one longer hose and use it for all of your watering needs around the garden. But don’t do it. Not only do longer hoses cost more, but they’re heavier to move around, need more storage space, can be difficult to drain before putting them away for the winter, and can result in lower water pressure coming out the end.
Tips to pick the right size: Measure the farthest distance from your spigot and buy a hose that goes just beyond that. You don’t want to tug on the hose to stretch it out as that’s likely to cause snags or leaks.
On a deck or balcony, a 25-foot garden hose is usually fine. Most urban yards need only a 50-foot hose, at most. If you need a longer length of hose than 50 feet, consider buying two hoses and joining them together when you need to go beyond 50 feet. That way you’re not lugging around a long, heavy garden hose all the time.
Hose Diameter – Width = Water Flow
The most common garden hose diameters are ¾ inch, five-eighths inch and half inch. These measurements are based on the inside diameter of the hose, not the outside. The bigger the diameter, the more water the hose will carry.
A hose width of five-eighths inch is generally most useful. It’s a good combination of water flow and pressure without being too heavy.
If hose weight is an issue for you, a half-inch hose may be best. They tend to be lighter weight but because of the smaller diameter they don’t carry as much water. Half-inch garden hoses are best kept to 50 feet or less and used for light-duty gardening tasks, such as watering containers and hanging baskets. These hoses are not appropriate for use with sprinklers or anything that requires higher water pressure (like washing your car).
Material – Rubber is Best
You’ll commonly find garden hoses made of rubber, vinyl, or a combination of the two.
A basic vinyl hose (usually reinforced with a radial cord) is the least expensive and most lightweight option but also the least sturdy. It’s more prone to kinking, splitting and cracking than other materials and can degrade quickly if left in the sun or exposed to harsh weather. But if budget is an issue and you’ll only be using the hose for light duty gardening tasks, then a vinyl garden hose can be a good option.
Rubber hoses are generally the strongest and most long-lasting, but also carry the highest price tag and can be heavy to haul around the garden. Rubber has the added benefits of being able to carry hot water, being less likely to kink, and resisting cracking and ozone deterioration (so they don’t fall apart if left in the sun). For heavy duty use and a hose that lasts through many seasons, rubber is the best choice.
A middle-of-the-road option is a composite rubber/vinyl garden hose.
Reinforced hoses (usually reinforced with a mesh lining between layers of vinyl and/or rubber) are more resistant to kinking and splitting, and can take higher water pressure levels.
Although additional layers (or “plies”) tend to suggest a stronger hose, don’t put too much stock in this figure—the number of layers doesn’t matter as much as what those layers are made from. A strengthening “mesh” layer is a good sign, other things being equal.
Be careful with both rubber and vinyl garden hoses as they leach chemicals into the water than make it unsafe to drink. If you or your pets will be drinking from the hose, invest in a “drinking water safe” hose. These are generally made from polyurethane and have been specially built so as not to leach harmful chemicals.
Strength – Look at Burst Pressure
Garden hose strength can be measured in terms of “burst pressure” (the water pressure at which it is likely to rupture). If you’ll be using a hose nozzle or a sprinkler, look for a hose with a burst pressure above 350 psi. For pressure washer use, check your manual before buying a hose – you may need an even higher psi.
Flexibility – Try the Kink Test
You want a garden hose that’s flexible (for easy storage, going around corners, etc.) but not so flexible that it kinks easily. Kinking leads to splitting and shortens the life of your hose. While all garden hoses will kink if twisted (yes, even the “kink-free” hoses), some are better than others. In general, reinforced and rubber hoses are less likely to kink than other kinds.
When shopping for a garden hose, bend it into a U. If it kinks, pick another.
Couplings – Look For Cast Brass
Garden hose couplings are the end pieces that attach to spigots, sprinklers and nozzles.
Less expensive hoses often have plastic couplings. Avoid these – they’re more prone to leaks, cracks and breakage and often can’t be tightened properly. Plastic also breaks down quickly, particularly when left in the sun.
Metal couplings (usually brass, although many are chrome plated) are either stamped or cast. You can identify cast brass because it’s thicker than sheet metal and usually has an octagonal shape so that the coupling can be turned with a wrench. Couplings made from cast brass are the most durable and leak-resistant. Thin stamped-metal fittings can be difficult to tighten at the spigot, bend easily (so don’t step on it or run over it with the lawnmower or car), and break down over time. All else being equal, a large octagon-shaped coupling is easiest to tighten, particularly for those of us with stiff fingers or lower grip strength.
While many hoses come with a washer inserted into the coupling, these are often thin plastic washers that quickly break down. We always recommend that you use a high quality rubber washer at the connection point between the hose fitting and the spigot or nozzle. This will help prevent leaks.
Look for a collar. Quality hoses often have a plastic or rubber “collar” extending perhaps four to six inches up the hose from one coupling. This reduces the odds of a kink or split near the spigot, where they are particularly common.