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7 Best Plate Compactors of 2021 – Reviews & Buying Guide

a plate compactor

A plate compactor is an essential tool in all your compacting projects, whether on your driveway, walkway, patio, or parking lot. For an essential tool as this, finding the right one for your specific project is imperative. Mistakes in such an undertaking tend to be costly.

But with so many options out there, finding the perfect one can be difficult. You need a lot of time to sift through all the available options, time that you may not have. In the following reviews, we will tell you the good and the bad and share some tips on what you need to consider when choosing the right plate compactor for your needs.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Easy to use in tight spaces
  • 2270 pound-force
  • Best Value
    Second place
    YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Fold-up transport wheels
  • 3-point handle
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    WEN 56035T Compaction Force Plate Compactor WEN 56035T Compaction Force Plate Compactor
  • High-quality build
  • Vibration isolators
  • 4496 pounds of compaction force
  • TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor
  • High-quality steel construction
  • Anti-vibration handles
  • 3000 pounds per square feet of force
  • Stark 2.0HP Compaction Force Construction Plate Compactor Stark 2.0HP Compaction Force Construction Plate Compactor
  • Cheap
  • Decent performance
  • Perfect for narrow spaces
  • The 7 Best Plate Compactors – Reviews 2021

    1. NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor – Best Overall

    NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor

    The NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor has a 13 3/16” x 14 3/4″ plate that makes it perfect for small tasks that don’t require much compaction. It will come in handy when retaining walls, trenches, and any other tight spaces where large-sized plate compactors cannot maneuver.

    Despite its small stature, its 5.5-HP engine delivers 5,700 vibrations per minute and produces 2,270 lbs. of compaction force, allowing you to compact depths of up to 14 inches. Couple this with a travel speed of 65 to 82 feet per minute, and you can finish your job in record time.

    The engine is sleeved with a cast iron cylinder and runs flawlessly.  It is common for powerful engines to guzzle fuel but not this one. We also love that the handle can move into a vertical position, making it easier to fit in tight spaces.

    Our only quarrel with the NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor is that it does not come with wheels.  But there is always an option for adding your own. Overall, this is our favorite pick for the best plate compactor.

    Pros
    • Low fuel consumption
    • Easy to use in tight spaces
    • 2270 pound-force
    • Engine runs flawlessly
    Cons
    • No wheels

    2. YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor – Best Value

    YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor

    If you’re looking for the best plate compactors for the money, the YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor is our best value buy. Despite the bargain price, it packs quite a punch. With a self-propelled 2.5 HP engine, it delivers 5,900 blows per minute and features a 12.5” x 20” plate that exerts 1,850 pounds of compaction force.

    With an engine capacity of 79cc, this plate compactor will not consume much of your fuel. But what sets it apart is the three-point handle that you can fold and tuck so as not to take up excessive storage space. Additionally, the handle is fitted with rubber bushings that act as shock absorbers ensuring that you don’t feel any vibrations when working.

    The entire unit weighs 110 pounds, which is slightly lighter than the NorthStar GX160. However, this model has fold-up transport wheels, and you can quickly move it around, whether you are pouring your driveway or building a patio.

    However, the build quality on the YARDMAX YC0850 is average at best, and it may not last as long as the NorthStar GX160. But it is still a good buy, though.

    Pros
    • Value for money
    • Low fuel consumption
    • Fold-up transport wheels
    • 3-point handle
    Cons
    • Average quality build

    3. WEN 56035T Compaction Force Plate Compactor – Premium Choice

    WEN 56035T Compaction Force Plate Compactor

    If you don’t mind paying more for a high-quality build and excellent performance, the WEN 56035T is one of the most powerful options on our list, and it will not disappoint. Its powerful 212cc engine delivers 5,400 blows per minute, and the plate exerts 4,496 pounds of compaction force. You can move it at a maximum speed of 82 feet per minute.

    This high level of performance makes it the perfect choice for performing different tasks, including landscaping, installing pavers, building patios, and creating walkways.  And if any of these tasks require you to work in tight spaces, you can rest easy since the plate is contoured to allow for easy maneuvering. Additionally, the unique swing-over handle enables you to move around in narrow, cramped places easily.

    The handle is coated with high-density foam that acts as a shock absorber, preventing those vibrations from reaching your hands. Vibration isolators between the engine and the plate also reduce the vibration and extend the life of your engine.

    The WEN 56035T weighs 207 pounds, and moving it may be a little tricky because it does not come with wheels. However, the lift handles on the plate, and the central lifting bar will make the job easier.

    Pros
    • High-quality build
    • 4496 pounds of compaction force
    • Vibration isolators
    • Swing handle
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • No wheels

    4. TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor

    TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor

    The TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor is an even more expensive option on our list. But the brand matches the high price with an excellent build and high performance. It also includes a three-year warranty, guaranteeing that the plate compactor will serve you for a long time with no signs of wear and tear.

    Its powerful 5.5 HP Honda engine delivers 6400 blows per minute, and the plate exerts a compaction force of 3000 pounds per square foot. The high compaction force makes it ideal for professional applications. And it is more than enough regardless of the nature of the task you’re handling.

    The TOMAHAWK is built with a robust design and is covered with a steel exciter box for extra protection and durability. Moreover, the 17″ x 21″ plate is made from steel, which is cold-rolled to produce a smooth surface finish.

    The reason we didn’t rank the TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor higher on our list is its high price tag. It is also quite heavy and bulky, and you may have a hard time moving it around. However, it comes with wheels, making movement easier.

    Pros
    • High-quality steel construction
    • 3000 pounds per square feet of force
    • Anti-vibration handles
    • Has wheels
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Heavy

    5. Stark 2.0HP Compaction Force Construction Plate Compactor

    Stark 2.0HP Compaction Force Construction Plate Compactor

    Stark has been making equipment for the construction industry for a little over a decade. Their Stark 2.0HP Compaction Force Construction Plate Compactor is one of the cheapest options on our list, but it still delivers a decent performance. It features a 79cc engine with 2 HP, and its heavy plate exerts 2000 pounds of force per square feet, which is higher than what some more expensive plate compactors produce.

    With a narrow base area of 17” x 11.8″, this plate compactor is the perfect choice when you’re working in narrow and confined spaces. Its narrow width makes it more effective on simple tasks such as edging your lawn. However, it may take you a while to finish a task if you have a large area to cover.

    The Stark 2.0HP Plate Compactor weighs only 132 pounds. You can, therefore, load it onto your truck without requiring any assistance. Additionally, the fold-up transport wheels will enable you to move it from one area to another quickly.

    Overall, the plate compactor may be small, but it gets the job done. However, it is not suited for heavy tasks and may not be as durable as other more expensive options on our list.

    Pros
    • Cheap
    • Decent performance
    • Perfect for narrow spaces
    Cons
    • Average quality
    • Not suited for larger areas

    6. SuperHandy AlphaWorks Plate Compactor

    SuperHandy AlphaWorks Plate Compactor

    The SuperHandy AlphaWorks Plate Compactor will give you more power at a cheaper cost. It features a 209cc engine, and the heavy plate exerts 4.200 pounds of compaction force per square foot. This is enough to handle all DIY projects, including walkways, lawns, patios, and paver installations. You are unlikely to get that much power from other plate compactors in its price range.

    Its 20” x 15” Plate is considerably narrow, and you can use it in tight, confined spaces where larger plate compactors may not reach. Moreover, it won’t take up excessive storage space since the handle is easily collapsible.

    The SuperHandy AlphaWorks has shock absorption systems specially designed to reduce vibration transfer, thus increasing comfort and reducing fatigue. You can, therefore, operate the plate compactor for long without discomfort. Additionally, the folding wheels will allow you to move it from one place to another hassle-free.

    Although the compactor works fine, it is not durable. It is also prone to breakdowns owing to its low-quality build. However, it packs quite a punch for a model in its price range.

    Pros
    • High compacting power
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Not durable
    • Not suited for heavy tasks

    7. CORMAC C95TH Plate Compactor

    CORMAC C95TH Plate Compactor

    This single, forward compactor sports a 5.5-HP engine that produces 7.000 blows per minute and a compacting force of 3,372 lbs. The force is enough for compacting sand, asphalt, gravel, and granular materials. Additionally, it features a water tank that protects the plate from heat when compacting asphalt.

    With a plate size of 23″ x 18″, it is a small plate compactor. And although it may not be suited for large areas, you can easily maneuver in narrow, tight areas where larger models may not fit. However, it is quite heavy for its size weighing 209 pounds.

    The heavy-duty rubber on the handle reduces the vibration levels giving you better handling and reducing fatigue. It also feels comfortable in hand.

    The CORMAC C95TH Plate Compactor is best suited for the average homeowner who only utilizes the equipment occasionally. However, it is not heavy-duty and will not withstand massive constructions.

    Pros
    • Suited for maneuvering tight area
    • Water tank
    Cons
    • Poor quality
    • No value for money
    • Not suited for heavy construction
    • Limited handle movement

    Buyer’s Guide

    Plate compactors are not created equal. Each model has its unique features and advantages, and you need to know what to look out for when choosing the right one for your needs. Here are some factors you need to consider before buying a plate compactor.

    Types of Plate Compactors

    Plate compactors are categorized into three main groups.

    • Single plate compactors

    Single plate compactors can only go forward. They are smaller and lighter and are the most preferred option when compacting sand and gravel.

    • Reversible plate compactors

    Reversible plate compactors can either go forward or in reverse. And sometimes some are in hover mode. The machines are sturdier, and their heavy plates produce greater compaction force. They can compact deep granular layers.

    • High performance/Heavy-duty plate compactors

    High-performance plate compactors are often used to achieve more depth compressions. They are most preferred for compacting semi-cohesive and high amplitude soils.

    The Engine

    The engine is the heart of your compactor, and the higher the vibration rate it delivers, the higher its performance. Before choosing a compactor, ensure its engine can handle the specific task. If you’re compacting gravel, most plate compactors can handle the job. But if you intend to compact granular soils, you need an engine with a high VPM.

    Plate Material

    Your plate compactor will either have steel or an iron-casted plate. Both are good options, but Iron is the sturdier of the two and will have more compacting force. Iron is, therefore, best suited for performing your most demanding projects.

    Plate Size

    Different plate compactors will have different plate sizes, and the bigger the plate, the more extensive the area you will cover at a time. Large blades are preferred for more demanding jobs that cover an extensive area. On the other hand, small plates are best suited for smaller tasks and tight spaces.

    Handle design

    When the vibration moves from the engine to the handle, it limits your control and reduces productivity. Anti-vibration handles limit the vibration that goes to your hands, giving you more control.

    How your handle is positioned will also affect your maneuverability. Swinging handles will either be at the center or the back. Center-positioned handles are more preferred for their maneuverability, comfortability, and excellent swinging height.

    using NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor

    Fuel Consumption

    How much fuel does your plate compactor consume relative to time and performance? A good machine should have a low fuel consumption. Energy-saving models are the best since they will help you save on fuel costs.

    Transportation

    Plate compactors are usually hefty machines and require a lot of effort to move. Some models incorporate features into the design to aid in transportation. For instance, some machines will have lift handles, while others will include fold-up wheels. Before buying, think about how you will be transporting the unit.

    Water Tank

    Asphalt is very sticky and will adhere to the plate during compacting. But you can prevent this from happening if you apply water to the plate. Plate compactors that include water tanks are most suited for handling asphalt jobs.

    Maintenance

    Routine maintenance of plate compactors is necessary to enhance durability. For instance, gas-carbureted engines get gummed up if they’re not regularly serviced. While some models are designed to reduce the need for maintenance, others will always demand your attention, depending on their design and the materials used for their construction. When doing maintenance, ensure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding intervals, types of oil, and quantities.

    using TOMAHAWK 5.5 HP Honda Vibratory Plate Compactor

    Plate Shape

    The shape of the plate will affect your machine’s performance. The blade should be slightly curved to avoid gouging the surface you’re compacting. Contoured plates will also work better in tight, confined spaces.

    Helpful Tips When Using Plate Compactors

    • Follow the instructions as provided in the manual when using the machine
    • Adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines when doing maintenance
    • Never use the plate compactor on a fully compact surface to avoid damage
    • Always operate the machine in environments with adequate ventilation
    • Wear protecting gear when using the plate compactor
    • Never operate the machine when drunk or high
    • Clear the debris first before using the plate compactor
    • Refuel the machine when the engine has thoroughly cooled
    • Store the plate compactor properly after finishing your project
    • Start with less demanding jobs if you’re a beginner
    • Hold the handle with both hands when using the plate compactor
    • Don’t wait for the tank to get empty before refueling
    • Avoid wearing loose clothes or accessories that can be caught by the moving parts

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    Conclusion

    The right plate compactor should handle your tasks competently and must be easy to use. The model you go for should depend on the nature of your project and, of course, other considerations such as comfort, personal preferences, and your budget. But finding a plate compactor that ticks all these boxes is easier said than done.

    We hope that our reviews of the best plate compactors in 2020 have at least pointed you in the right direction. If you are yet to make up your mind on what to buy, we recommend our best overall pick—the NorthStar GX160 Close-Quarters Plate Compactor. This will adequately handle any job and will give you a long service life. But if you’re looking for the best value buy, you can never go wrong with the YARDMAX YC0850 Compaction Force Plate Compactor.

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