What is the Difference Between Tow-Behind Broadcast and Drop Spreaders?

When it comes to lawn care and gardening, choosing the right tools can make all the difference. Two popular tools for spreading fertilizers, seeds, and other granular materials are tow-behind broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders.

Though they serve a similar purpose, they have distinct differences that can significantly impact their effectiveness and suitability for specific tasks.

As you consider the best option for your situation, it’s essential to evaluate various things specific to you, such as the size of the space, the material you plan to apply, and your skill level.

This article explores the differences between tow-behind broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders, plus how to choose the right one for your scenario, so continue reading to learn more!

What Are Broadcast Spreaders?

Agri-Fab 85 lb. Tow Broadcast Spreader 45-0530 85 lb. Tow Broadcast Spreader, One Size, Black

Broadcast spreaders, also known as rotary or broadcast seeders, are a type of spreading tool designed to evenly distribute various materials across large areas. They can be used for many products, including seeds, fertilizers, ice melt, and more. These spreaders utilize a spinning mechanism that sprays the material onto the surface in a fan-like pattern.


Broadcast spreaders are designed to cover large areas quickly and efficiently, allowing you to finish the job faster and get on with your day. To use one, you simply fill the hopper with whatever material you need to disperse, attach it to your lawn tractor or riding mower, and start driving.

The rotating mechanism does the rest – all you need to do is drive slowly and overlap each pass slightly to ensure you don’t miss any spots.


These spreaders come in several designs, each intended for slightly different scenarios. They come in several sizes and styles, including walk-behind, tow-behind, and handheld models. Walk-behind models require you to push them to function, whereas tow-behind spreaders rely on the consistent speed of a tractor, lawn mower, or ATV.

The handheld models are small, as you’ll need to hold them as you work. Since they’re so much smaller, they’re best for small jobs, like spot treatments or tiny lawns.

On Sale
Agri-Fab 45-0463 130-Pound Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader
  • HOPPER CAPACITY: 130 lbs.; 1/2 acre (25,000 sq. ft.)
  • SPREAD WIDTH: 10-12 ft. spread
  • WHEELS: 13″ x 4″ pneumatic tires


Broadcast spreaders offer a few unique advantages to consider as you weigh your options, including the following:

  • Even distribution: The rotating spreading mechanism ensures you always apply an even layer of whatever product you’re using. No more thick layers of product in some areas and none in others!
  • Time-saving: The push-behind and tow-behind models make covering large areas much easier, enabling you to efficiently complete the task and move on to other items on your do-to list.
  • Versatility: These spreaders work for all sorts of materials, from lawn care to snow removal. You can use them to spread seeds, apply fertilizers, or even sprinkle ice melt to tackle ice and snow.
  • Various styles: Since these spreaders come in multiple styles, you can choose whatever option best fits your situation and needs.


While broadcast spreaders can be an excellent option in some situations, it’s essential to consider the drawbacks, including the following:

  • Precision control: Regulating the spread pattern can be tricky with some models, which may lead to material waste or uneven application.
  • Wind sensitivity: The spread pattern can be affected by wind, leading to consistency issues and problems with the material drifting into undesirable areas.
  • Uneven terrain: These spreaders are best suited to more even terrain, as rough terrain may affect the distribution pattern, causing more products to fall in certain areas.

What Are Drop Spreaders?

Agri-Fab Polypropylene 45-0288 175-Pound Max Tow Behind Drop Spreader, Black 42 Inch

Drop spreaders are another type of lawn and garden tool designed to distribute various products evenly across a given area. Like broadcast spreaders, these spreaders can be used for numerous materials, including grass seed, fertilizer, and ice melt.

However, unlike the broadcast spreader, these spreaders are designed to release the material directly beneath the unit instead of to the sides, which helps ensure a more even distribution.


Drop spreaders feature a hopper to hold the material and a row of holes at the base, which allows the product to drop onto the ground. As the spreader moves across the ground, the agitator in the system escorts the material through the system, dropping it onto the ground below.

You can easily adjust the spread rate by adjusting the hole size, which allows you to control the amount of material you apply to the area.


Drop spreaders feature a straight-edged rectangular design that allows you to create uniform rows while using them. This makes them ideal for use in gardens or lawns with consistent layouts, like square or rectangular spaces.

The hopper is often made of durable plastic or metal and sits on a sturdy frame with two or four wheels for easy maneuverability. These spreaders often feature a handlebar with a control mechanism that opens and closes the holes as needed.

On Sale
Agri-Fab Polypropylene 45-0288 175-Pound Max Tow Behind Drop Spreader, Black 42 Inch
  • Hopper capacity is 17-gallons (dry)/175-pounds
  • 40,000-square feet coverage; roughly 1 acre
  • Rustproof poly hopper increases product life


Like broadcast spreaders, drop spreaders offer a few unique advantages, including the following:

  • Precision: Drop spreaders offer better control over material distribution, making them an ideal pick for lawns and gardens with plants that require careful fertilization or seeding.
  • Consistency: The straight-edged design of these spreaders creates a uniform application, minimizing overlap and further improving evenness in material application.
  • Less waste: As the material falls to the ground beneath the unit, there is less of a chance of it being cast onto sidewalks, driveways, or other areas where the product shouldn’t fall.


Of course, it’s essential to consider the drawbacks of each option, so here are a few disadvantages of drop spreaders to consider:

  • Speed: Since drop spreaders often have a narrower distribution width, they often require more passes to cover an area, making them a slower alternative to broadcast spreaders for larger lawns.
  • Maneuverability: The straight-edged design might be a less flexible option for lawns with irregular borders, like those that bump up to curved pathways.
  • Uneven terrain: These spreaders might have difficulty maintaining consistent distribution over uneven ground and slopes, which might lead to patchy and inconsistent application of the material.

Choosing the Right Spreader

As you consider spreader options for your lawn care and gardening needs, it’s crucial to consider factors specific to your situation, including garden size, type of material, and skill level.

Lawn or Garden Size

The size of your lawn or garden is a major consideration when selecting an appropriate spreader for your needs. Tow-behind broadcast spreaders are usually the better pick for larger lawns or gardens, as they can quickly and efficiently distribute product over a larger surface area.

Conversely, drop spreaders are more suitable for smaller spaces with precise spreading requirements, such as flower beds or landscaping projects. The design of the drop spreader allows you to maneuver around the small space and ensure an even, uniform application.

Type of Material

The type of material you plan to apply with the spreader is another thing to consider. Broadcast spreaders are usually the better choice for folks needing a more versatile option, as they can handle an extensive range of materials, including grass seeds, granular fertilizers, and even salt for ice removal.

On the other hand, drop spreaders are often better suited for use with seeds and other delicate materials that require precise distribution. Of course, you can use drop spreaders for various materials, but they’re often best suited to more delicate materials.

Skill Level

Last but not least, consider your lawn care or gardening experience. If you’re new to the scene or have limited experience working with spreading, the tow-behind broadcast spreaders might be an easier option. Of course, these spreaders will require know-how in operating a lawn tractor, riding lawn mower, or ATV, so you’ll need to be familiar with driving those.

The broadcast spreaders often require less skill to operate and easily cover large areas with minimal effort. In contrast, the drop spreaders might be the better option if you have more experience or want more precise control over the distribution.

Ultimately, selecting a spreader based on your individual needs is essential. Understanding your lawn or garden’s size, the type of material you plan to apply, and your skill level will help you select the right option for your situation. While neither option is inherently better, each has unique perks that make it more suitable for specific situations.

Last update on 2024-06-16 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API

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