Best Lawn Sprinkler: Oscillating, Rotary, Stationary, or Traveling Types

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If you have a yard, you need to water it! While you certainly could stand out there with a hose multiple times per week, there’s always the option of getting a sprinkler. It’s a time saver as well as a way to reduce the effort required to maintain your lawn. And of course, you’ll want the best lawn sprinkler available.

But what is the best sprinkler? Is there a best lawn sprinkler out there, or do you have to choose based on your lawn? I’ll help you go over all the things you should be watching for when investing in a lawn sprinkler, as well as give you my top recommendations.

Top Picks:

Other Good Choices:

Types of Sprinklers

Rotary? Oscillating? Impact? What really are all of these types of sprinklers, or are they really all just the same? Let’s go over the topic and give you a good indication of what each type does and what it doesn’t do.

Oscillating Sprinklers

Oscillating sprinkler
Source: Wikipedia Commons

When people think about the typical suburban lawn with a sprinkler on it, it’s a fairly safe bet that they’re thinking of an oscillating sprinkler. These sprinklers have a long tube with multiple sprinkler holes in it. Once the sprinkler has built up some pressure, water sprays out of the holes, and the force of the water slowly makes the tube wave back and forth.

This is probably one of the best sprinklers for kids during the summer, since they can jump over it and play in the spray. However, it does have some faults. If you have lower water pressure, it may not spray far enough. If you have high water pressure, it may spray too far. These oscillating sprinklers require a bit of fidgeting to get their exact placement and water supply down to a science. However, they are quite efficient, and cover a large rectangular area easily.

Rotary & Stationary Sprinklers

Rotary sprinkler
Source: Jim Grey

Rotary sprinklers, sometimes referred to as rotating sprinklers, have several arms with sprinkler tips attached to a spinning head. When the water is turned on, the head spins, and the sprinkler arms spray water in a circular pattern. There is also a variation of these, the stationary sprinkler, which disperses water in a slightly more squared-off pattern. Some stationary sprinklers even have multiple different spray patterns available for specific areas.

Rotary sprinklers and stationary sprinklers are quite useful, but they tend to work only in the pattern they’re designed for or set to. This is great for smaller lawns, but if you have a long and narrow lawn, it may not be an effective choice unless you move it repeatedly. As a plus, rotary sprinklers often work well in lower water pressure situations.

Impact Sprinklers

Impact sprinkler
Source: cogdogblog

Impact sprinklers are known for their “chk-chk-chk” sound, created by the sound of the impact hammer smacking back against a fixed plate. With these sprinklers, designed originally by the RainBird company, pressure builds up inside and forces its way towards the spray head, triggering the impact hammer to be pushed aside. Once the hammer is slid out of the way, bursts of water can pulse outward in a jet, spraying across your lawn. They can be set to do a partial area or a full circle as desired.

The biggest issue with impact sprinklers is that they aren’t good in low-pressure situations. It also produces a much harder spray of water, which may not be as good on freshly-seeded lawns. But this style of sprinkler is quite common in both fixed and stationary variations, and is widely used in parks and other large lawn settings.

Travelers / Traveling Sprinklers

Traveling sprinkler
Source: justinbaeder

This relatively new entrant to the sprinkler market moves because of water pressure. Guided by the placement of your garden hose, a traveling sprinkler will roll in a predetermined pattern and is powered by the pressure of its hose. It acts much like a rotary sprinkler in how it waters, except that as it moves, it can reach longer areas. This style of sprinkler requires higher water pressure to operate, as well.

Traveling sprinklers are best used for large lawn situations, as they’re just overkill for small scale applications. But they are fun to watch as they chug along the grass. These also might not be the best solution for someone who has pets, as your dog might decide that the sprinkler looks like something to chase!

In-Ground Sprinklers

Pop up sprinkler
Source: Daines

If you’re considering an option that you can place and never have to move again, an in-ground solution might be for you. These sprinklers pop up from where they’re buried in the ground, and can be part of an irrigation system or a standalone model that you attach a hose to when needed. The biggest drawback of an in-ground sprinkler is that once placed, it isn’t meant to be moved, which means that you may need more than one of them. However, for smaller spaces or in an irrigation setup, these can be a great choice.

Sprinkler Hoses

While not technically a sprinkler, sprinkler hoses may be worth consideration. Often, these hoses are designed in such a way that if you have the striped side pointed upward, it acts as a low sprinkler, and if it’s pointed downward, it acts as a soaker hose. However, you need moderately consistent pressure if you’re using a longer hose.

These can be a good option if you are trying to water a long garden bed as a temporary solution, but for a more permanent solution, look into a soaker hose or in-ground irrigation system or an alternate watering method.

What Makes It The Best Lawn Sprinkler?

Depending on the type of sprinkler that you’re using, there’s a variety of things you should be watching for to be sure you have a good sprinkler. Here’s a list of things to keep your eyes peeled for

Material

For most sprinklers, there are two materials used: metal, or plastic.

Plastic sprinklers have a tendency to be more cheaply constructed, and they don’t last as long as a result. Many of the plastics used for sprinklers will become brittle with repeated exposure to direct sunlight, and often, their moving parts will break more quickly. This is especially notable with impact sprinklers, where the plastic impact hammer can break off over time.

Metal sprinklers will last a lot longer. However, depending on the type of metal used, some types may develop rust. To avoid that, look for options which are constructed of metals that don’t rust, such as brass, zinc, and aluminum. Some stainless steel sprinklers are also available.

Construction

If your sprinkler has moving parts, you want to be sure that those parts are not going to strip or break easily. Examine the sprinkler closely to make sure it will hold up. Also, heavier sprinklers are less prone to getting knocked over, where lighter weight options can sometimes topple if the water pressure is too strong. With lawn sprinklers, sturdier constructed models will typically last for years, where a lightweight and cheaper option may only last for a season or two.

Filter

Do you have hard water, or are you prone to getting mineral deposits in your pipes? If so, you don’t want mineral deposits in your sprinkler. A good filter will will prevent any dirt or particulate matter from gumming up the inside of your sprinkler. While it won’t solve your hard water woes, it will at least ensure that your sprinkler doesn’t get plugged up.

Some sprinklers come already equipped with screen filters. Others may need an extra filter at the faucet end of the hose.

Number Of Spray Jets

With oscillating or rotary sprinklers, you will want to consider the number of spray jets as well. Typically, the more spray jets you have, the better coverage you will get. For an oscillating sprinkler, count and make sure you have more than fifteen spray holes at the very minimum. For most rotary sprinklers, having at least four jets off of each arm is good.

For stationary sprinklers, as you can’t see the number of the jets, opting for a choice with multiple coverage patterns is your best bet. Rather than just choosing a single-pattern style, pick one that offers you a choice between round, half-round, square, fan-shaped, rectangular, and the like. That way, you can set it to the pattern you need in a given situation.

Reviews

Best Oscillating Sprinkler

Melnor XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler

Sale
Melnor XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler with One Touch Width Control & Flow Control, waters up to...
  • Smooth operating tabs control the length of the watering...
  • Patented one touch adjustment controls the width of the...
  • Integrated flow control dial allows micro adjustment of the...
  • Large volume tube fills with water when in use to stabilize...
  • Infinity turbo motor ensures smooth operation at both low...

Type: Oscillating sprinkler
Distance: Variable, from 10’ to 75’ long and 10’ to 53’ wide
Features: Adjustable for different sized areas. Large central tube fills with water to help stabilize the sprinkler while in use. Micro-adjustment dial to avoid watering the driveway or sidewalk.
Price: $

The best attribute of the Melnor sprinkler is its adaptability. Where traditional oscillating sprinklers have a tendency to be fixed-width in terms of the spray pattern, the Melnor offers you the ability to adjust your spray pattern and set it exactly as you want. Do you need a long, narrow spray pattern? The Melnor can do it. How about a short, but wide pattern? Also possible!

Depending on which of their XT Turbo series sprinklers you pick, you have the option of up to four different adjustment settings, and at least one model has a timer built into it so it’ll turn itself off when it’s done. There’s eighteen spray nozzles, which allows for a nice even level of coverage. At its widest and longest setting, it can reach almost the entire space of a basketball court, making it useful for both smaller yards and big ones.

All things considered, this is the best oscillating sprinkler I’ve seen… and it may also be the best sprinkler for kids to play in during the summertime, too, as you can set it to a much smaller pattern then. The only possible drawback that I see in the Melnor’s design is that it is constructed of plastic, so when it’s not in use, you should store it out of direct sunlight to make it last longer. Still, it has a low enough price point that replacements are reasonable after a long period of use.

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Best Stationary/Rotary Sprinkler:

Nelson 50956 8-Pattern Stationary Sprinkler

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Nelson 50956 Eight-Pattern Spray Head Stationary Sprinkler with Decorative Metal Base
  • 8 pre-set patterns
  • Durable decorative metal base
  • Metal easy swivel coupling with ergonomic grip
  • Soft-grip sleeve on head for easy pattern adjustment
  • 8 pre-set watering patterns

Type: Stationary sprinkler
Distance: Up to 20’ from the sprinkler, depending on water pressure
Features: Eight different pattern settings. 1lb decorative metal base which helps provide stability as the sprinkler is on.
Price: $

This is not particularly tech-heavy for a sprinkler, but what it lacks in bells and whistles it provides in patterning. The Nelson sprinkler offers up eight patterned spray layouts which can easily reach most areas of one’s garden. If you just want to triangulate your sprinkler on a particular area of your yard, that is an option, as is a half-circle or full-circle pattern, a squared-off pattern, a triangular or fan-shaped pattern, etcetera.

The base is metal, while the top plate is plastic. If there’s any weak points, it’s in that top plastic plate. However, since the plate merely indicates the spray pattern, it shouldn’t be a problem. All things considered, this far surpasses most of the older rotary sprinkler or stationary sprinkler styles in terms of its adaptability.

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Best Impact Sprinkler

Gilmour Heavy-Duty Adjustable Circular Sprinkler

Gilmour Metal Head Impulse Sprinkler on Metal Sled Base 167SMB
  • Heavy-duty die cast metal sled base with brass and zinc head
  • Up to 5,800 square feet coverage with 86 feet diameter...
  • Adjustable collar for partial- to full-circle coverage
  • Easy-turn dial precisely sets spray distance
  • Diffuser pin customizes spray, from powerful jet to gentle...

Type: Impact sprinkler
Distance: Up to 86’ from the sprinkler head, up to 5800 sq. ft. of coverage
Features: Adjustment of pattern from just a short range pie-wedge shape to a full circle. Very sturdy construction.
Price: $$

First things first, this Gilmour sprinkler is sturdily constructed. It’s got a heavy metal base, paired up with a zinc and brass head that should hold up to long-term use. It has added weight in its metal base to keep it stable and in place while it does its job.

But what makes this sprinkler truly great is that it can reach an astonishing 86 feet away from the sprinkler. For larger yards, this distance means that you won’t have to move it nearly as often as with other sprinklers. There’s no real drawbacks to be had in terms of its design or functionality. It’s just as solid as they come, making it the best impact sprinkler choice.

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Best Traveling Sprinkler

Nelson Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler

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Nelson Traveling Sprinkler RainTrain 13,500 square feet Yellow 818653-1001
  • Cast-iron body with chip resistant, powder-coat paint
  • Coverage up to 13,500 square feet
  • Travels up to 200 feet
  • Adjustable aluminum spray arms provide coverage range from...
  • Automatic shut-off

Type: Traveling sprinkler
Distance: 15’ to 55’ away from the hose it’s traveling on, can go for 200 foot distances.
Features: Hydro-powered, operates on your water pressure. It does all the watering for you so that you don’t have to go move it around. Can do tight S-curves to cover wider lawn areas. 2 year warranty included.
Price: $$$

Okay, I admit it, I’m fond of gadgets. From the outset, this would seem to be gadgety… after all, who wouldn’t like seeing a little sprinkler-train cruising around their yard? But if you’ve got a large yard, this is one of the best lawn sprinklers for large lawns that you can find. Operating on hydro power, this Nelson sprinkler cruises along your hose by the power of the water that it’s spraying around.

This won’t work for smaller yards, unfortunately. The diameter of the spray radius is 15′ minimum and up to 55′, so if you’ve got one of those long and slender green strips out front, it’s likely to overspray out on the sidewalk or street. It also requires relatively good water pressure to keep that heavy device moving along. But if you ever wanted to watch a little cast-iron engine water your whole yard, you’re in for a treat with the Raintrain!

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Best In-Ground Sprinkler

Rain Bird 32ETI In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler Kit

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Rain Bird 32ETI Easy to Install In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler System Kit
  • Waters your lawn automatically the whole season
  • Eliminates constant hassle of hose and sprinkler adjustments
  • Attaches to an outside faucet and installs in one afternoon
  • Sprinklers retract into ground for a clean uncluttered...
  • Covers medium size lawn areas from 1000 to 3000 square feet...

Type: Popup sprinklers
Distance: Covers an area from 1000-3000 square feet.
Features: Pop up sprinkler heads, a timer, and the hoses and connectors needed to assemble this kit are included, along with some simple tools. Once installed and hooked up to an outside faucet or attached to a hose, the sprinkler essentially cares for itself. If placed inside a lawn, a mower can easily go over the sprinkler heads.
Price: $$$$

Rain Bird makes the best pop up sprinkler head on the market, and it’s included as part of this DIY kit. This in-ground irrigation system takes some time to set up. The manufacturers claim that this can be installed in a day, but that really depends on how hard your ground is and the pattern in which you’re arranging the RainBird sprinklers. Still, it’s extremely reasonably priced for an in-ground irrigation system.

The major drawback for this setup is that it cannot easily be expanded. This kit is optimized to cover the area it’s meant to cover, but any additional hoses or added sprinklers will make it function less effectively. If you have a larger space than what this covers, you may want to consider a professional in-ground system. But for most homeowners, this is plenty for the average lawn, and replacement parts are widely available if anything breaks. That makes it my choice for best sprinkler system overall, in addition to being the best in-ground system.

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Other Good Choices

Orbit 53808 Tripod Base With Brass Impact

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Orbit 58308 Tripod Base with Brass Impact
  • Area coverage 20-foot to 40-foot radius
  • Tripod conveniently adjusts from 25-inches to 48-inches in...
  • Heavy-duty brass impact head easily adjusts from 00-3600
  • Sturdy metal construction with weighted legs for added...
  • "Goose neck" hose attachment for easy hose connection

Type: Impact sprinkler
Distance: 20-40’ range around sprinkler
Features: Solid brass head, adjustable tripod base with bottom hose attachment. Can work well overtop of small plants.
Price: $$$

Do you have a feature garden in the center of your lawn that makes using a normal sprinkler problematic? If so, the Orbit sprinkler will fix your issues. The brass impact head is positioned atop an easy-to-place tripod that can sit overtop flowers without crushing them. Since it sits up a little bit higher, it will spray out and over the feature area, allowing for good coverage.

For an impact sprinkler, this is a great option. But it’s definitely specialized for people with central yard features. The tripod is sturdy, and the hose attachment adds extra weight to help stabilize the unit, but if you don’t extend the legs out far enough to the sides it could tip over. Still, for its purpose, it’s a great choice, and definitely worth mentioning.

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Gardena ZoomMaxx Sprinkler

GARDENA ZoomMaxx Sprinkler on Sled Base with Water Timer
  • GARDENA ZoomMaxX Oscillating Sprinkler on Weighted Sled Base
  • Compact oscillating sprinkler for the smallest areas
  • Fully adjustable controls for width, length and water flow -...

Type: Oscillating sprinkler
Distance: Anywhere from 76 square feet to 2000 square feet
Features: Fully-adjustable controls for water spray width and length. Includes attachable timer so it will automatically turn off. Has quick-connect feature for hose attachment.
Price: $$$$

If you need a sprinkler that can handle even the smallest green spaces, the Gardena sprinkler is a great choice. The ZoomMaxx can do as small of a footprint as 76 square feet, and can be adjusted to handle larger spaces as well. Its base is weighted to keep it stable, and it has an attached timer that can be set for up to 120 minutes of watering time.

Where other sprinklers have a hard time in tight or oddly-shaped spaces, this sprinkler can water a row that’s 3′ x 75′ without a problem, and can be set to handle other squared or rectangular shapes as well. It includes a quick-connect system that makes hooking it up as simple as popping it onto the end of the hose.

The one real drawback of this oscillating sprinkler is the price. It is on the high end, but that’s in line with the rest of Gardena’s products. If you already use Gardena quick-connectors or other products elsewhere in your garden, this is an excellent addition to the lineup.

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While watering the lawn can be a chore, with one of these options it certainly doesn’t have to be. Do you have a preferred type of sprinkler for your lawn? What is your most difficult part to reach? Share with us in the comments!

 

I’m the founder of Epic Gardening, a website dedicated to teaching 10,000,000 people how to grow plants. I enjoy skateboarding, piano, guitar, business, and experimenting with all kinds of gardening techniques!

If you have a yard, you have to water it. Check out our list of the very top picks for the best lawn sprinkler out there, and help your grass grow!

Last update on 2018-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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