When daytime hours get longer and the mercury level climbs, it can only mean one thing: extended beach days with toes in the sand and butt in a chair soaking up the sun with friends and family. These are the days we live for, but the major downside of these magical moments coming together is the schlep. That is, getting everything you need (and want) for the day into the car and down to the beach. This goes double when the cargo includes small humans. For days like these, a functional beach wagon is an essential piece of the puzzle.
But which one? With so much variety in styles and price points out there, we decided to get our hands on some of the best beach wagons out there and put them to the test. For a side by side comparison, check out our Comparison Table below. And to help you make the purchasing process easier, check out What Makes a Good Beach Wagon? But as for the best, here are our favorites:
Best All-Around Beach Wagon for Families: Radio Flyer Beach and Boardwalk Wagon
Best Luxe Pick for Families: Veer Cruiser
Best All-Terrain Gear Wagon: earth+kin MULE
Most Unique Design: Malo’o Lounge Wagon
Best Gear and Kid Wagon: Tupelo Goods Load-Up Wagon
Best Budget Beach Wagon: Amazon Basics Utility Wagon
Best All Around for Families
Radio Flyer Beach and Boardwalk Wagon ($177)
Pros: Canopy for shade, folds fairly flat and stands upright, arm for beach chair storage.
Cons: Not ideal for kids under 18 months.
Carrying capacity: 150 lbs/2 kids.
Ease of Use: 9/10
Overall construction: 8/10
Of all the wagons we put through testing, we found the Radio Flyer Beach and Boardwalk Wagon hit the sweet spot on price and functionality for young families. Our little guys are five and two and they loved the shade the Radio Flyer offered with the extendable canopy. The wagon also has buckles to keep the kids secure while in motion, and an extendable arm on the outside carries classic-style beach chairs so they don’t take up space in the interior.
One major sticking point in other types of wagons is when they nip at your heels while pulling. We found this handle long enough to pull safely behind without worrying about getting flat tired. The wide tires also made it easy to pull along in the sand. An awesome little feature of this wagon is that one side wall folds down to make a seating area for the kiddos when you’ve reached your destination. The Radio Flyer also has generous gear cargo when the kids aren’t riding inside, too. Meaning if you have rugrats now and they outgrow it and want to walk to the beach on your own, you’ve still got a capable gear hauler for everything else.
Best Luxe Pick for Families
Veer Cruiser ($699)
Pros: Highly engineered with great attention to detail, modular and adaptable.
Cons: Price. Does not fold up as easily or as flat as other options.
Carrying capacity: 55 lbs per seat with 2 kids or 300 lbs of cargo (4 kids in the Cruiser XL).
Ease of Use: 9/10
Overall construction: 10/10
Billed as a stroller wagon, the Veer Cruiser may command a high price compared to other wagons on the list, but for those looking for features that are common in baby gear these days (read: snack trays, car seat adapters, and general modularity), or perhaps are looking for a stroller alternative, the Veer is packed with features and is highly engineered for kid toting. A profile view of the wagon reveals a foot well for maximum kiddo comfort. And plastic seats make for easy cleanup if one of the kids spills their juice or makes a mess with snacks.
The Cruiser is designed to be modular so you can outfit it to suit your specific needs – which is a pro, but also a bit of a con. Reason being: you may find yourself shelling out for add-ons and extras to suit your specific needs, as is common in the baby gear industry. In testing, we found that there wasn’t much additional capacity for gear once two kids were loaded up. To remedy this, Veer makes an attachable storage basket to increase carrying capacity. But again, that ups the overall cost. We did not test this, so we can’t speak to it. However, we did test the canopy that is also offered as an add-on and it worked extremely well. The snack tray is also a huge plus. And accessories all integrate nicely by attaching to the side rails.
Best All-Terrain Gear Wagon
earth+kin MULE ($300)
Pros: Handles anything, attaches to bike or car, heavy duty aluminum is light and durable.
Cons: Lots of deconstruction needed for storage.
Carrying capacity: 100-150 lbs.
Ease of Use: 10/10
Overall construction: 9/10
For those with gear schlepping needs that don’t require something that doubles as a human hauler, our best in class pick is earth+kin’s MULE. The MULE was the lightest wagon on our list by a mile, was the easiest to pull through sand, and includes some incredibly useful features that make it our top choice for so many uses: carting firewood, beach chairs, towels, blankets, and beers down to the beach for long summer days that spill into classic summer nights.
The MULE can be transported by handle, by bike, or even on the back of a trailer-hitch equipped vehicle. Its all-terrain knobby tires are ready to handle everything from beach to trail. And an elastic cargo net can be deployed to keep gear put for the long haul. While not the fastest to fully fold up, once everything is removed, the MULE does lay fairly flat for easy storage.
Most Unique Design
Malo’o Lounge Wagon ($430)
Pros: Large carrying capacity, extra-wide wheels for sand.
Cons: Does not fold very flat, does not fit in all vehicles.
Capacity: 150lbs or more in wagon mode, 500 lbs in chair mode.
Ease of Use: 8/10
Overall construction: 9/10
Arguably the most cumbersome, yet necessary, accessory to carry down to the beach is a chair. That’s especially true when you’re talking about trying to fit multiple bulky folding chairs into a wagon. This truth is precisely why we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to test out a unique spin on the classic beach wagon: the Lounge Wagon from Malo’o. Think classic gear hauler that when you get to your destination — presto change-o — transforms like Optimus Prime into a functioning full-size double beach chair.
The sand wheels for the Lounge Wagon were the widest of all wagons on the list, making for easy work pulling the thing through the sand. While in wagon mode you could theoretically put kids in it, that’s not the Lounge Wagon’s primary design. Additionally, we found that in testing the Lounge Wagon fit in my car just fine but we struggled to get it into my wife’s car, both of which are modest-sized crossovers. So we’d recommend double checking the measurements of your vehicle before pulling the trigger. While the Lounge Wagon definitely did not fold up to be the most compact on the list, we did find it to be very heavy duty and had the largest carry capacity of all the wagons on the list.
Best Gear and Kid Wagon
Tupelo Goods Load-Up Wagon ($199)
Pros: Straightforward dependable design, wide wheels, easy fold-up and storage.
Cons: No compartments, drink holders, or additional features.
Capacity: Up to 165 lbs.
Ease of Use: 8/10
Overall construction: 7/10
For those looking for a capable classic fold-up wagon design that could easily pull double duty with kids and gear but is light on ancillary features like a shade or kid buckles, the Tupelo Goods Load Up Wagon is the answer. In testing, we found the Load-Up Wagon to be essentially an upgraded take on a classic with extra wide wheels for sand and uneven terrain, a tough powder-coated metal frame, quality tear-resistant fabric, and four colors to choose from.
We liked the adjustable handle and ease of folding of the Load-Up. While the Load-Up’s design is very solidly in the utilitarian wagon lane, in testing we found ourselves wishing for some other handy features like an outer compartment for storage or to hold drinks.
Best Budget Option
Amazon Basics Utility Wagon ($110)
Pros: Price, all utility.
Cons: Narrow wheels, nips at heels.
Carrying capacity: 132 lbs dynamic load, 265 lb static.
Ease of Use: 7/10
Overall construction: 7/10
For those that prize utility above all else, the Utility Wagon from Amazon Basics has our pick for best budget wagon. The Utility Wagon had the narrowest wheels of the wagons included on our list, making it one of the more difficult to pull through sand. Still, at just over 100 bucks, it’s hard to argue with the price if the goal is schlepping from point A to point B. The capacity of this wagon was on par with all the others here. And folding and unfolding was easy and straightforward. We found that the length of the handle did cause the wheels of the wagon to nip at your heels a bit, but that issue may just be a problem for this long-legged tester.
|Best All-Around for Families||Radio Flyer Beach and Boardwalk Wagon||$177||9||150 lbs, 2 kids||Extendable arm and canopy|
|Best Luxe Pick for Families:||Veer Cruiser||$699||8.8||2 kids (55 lbs) or 300 lbs gear||Kid’s accessories galore|
|Best All-Terrain Gear Wagon||earth + kin MULE||9.6||150 lbs||Lightweight, attaches to bike or car|
|Most Unique Design||Malo’o Lounge Wagon||$430||7.4||150 lbs||Transforms into lounge chair|
|Best Gear and Kid Wagon||Tupelo Goods Load-Up Wagon||$199||8||165 lbs||Adjustable handle, extra wide wheels.|
|Best Budget Option||Amazon Basics Utility Wagon||$110||7.2||132 lbs||Easy to fold and unfold|
What Makes a Good Beach Wagon?
The ideal beach wagon depends heavily on each person (or family’s) individual needs. You’ll notice that this list is divided among wagons that are more utilitarian for carting gear, while others we tested are more specific for safely transporting little humans. That was intentional. We aimed to test the best we could find in both subcategory to meet these very different, though occasionally overlapping, needs. The right wagon comes down to answering certain questions. What will you be hauling, mostly? What kind of terrain will you encounter? Are you looking for something that’s beach specific or something more universal? Do you want something specifically designed for kids or something that could still serve a function later when the kids are older? In addition to all of these questions here are some key considerations when scoping specs on a potential wagon purchase:
A wagon’s primary function is to put stuff in. Period. So carrying capacity should be a key consideration when shopping around for a wagon. In some cases, manufacturers might give you a higher weight capacity as the static weight capacity and a lower number as the dynamic weight capacity. This is dumb, because if you plan to roll the thing – the whole point of a wagon – all you should care about is the dynamic weight capacity. You’ll notice most weight capacities here top out around 150lbs. That should be more than sufficient for the necessities of a typical day at the beach. But if you plan to incorporate a wagon for other uses with heavier objects, definitely keep this in mind.
The tricky thing about a sandy beach is the minute you step foot in it, the principles of motion go topsy turvy. Soft sand makes it more difficult to walk, run, and especially, pull a wagon loaded to the gills with beach day provisions. Wide wheels increase surface area to keep a heavy wagon from sinking. However, wider wheels can also increase overall weight of a wagon and be more cumbersome when it comes to folding and storage. The bottom line here is to consider whether you plan to use a wagon exclusively at the beach or if it will be more multipurpose, where you can get away with narrower wheels.
Again, we divided this list among gear-specific haulers and those of the family friendly variety. The primary difference with the latter being safety considerations like seatbelt buckles, and shade. These are of little importance when carrying beach balls, but can be crucial for the safety and comfort of a kid.
Another key consideration we ran into in testing when trying to store a bunch of these in an already packed garage is storability. E.g. how flat do these wagons fold up when not in use? In practical terms, this varied wildly from one make to another. The Tupelo and Red Flyer were among those that laid the flattest while the Veer and the Malo’o Lounge Wagon were some of the bulkiest to store when not in use.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The most frustrating thing about wheeling a wagon is when a wheel bites your heel while walking. Adjustable handles are the antidote, and the lack thereof should be a non-starter. Especially if you’re over 5’10”.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.