One garden hose might look as good as the next on the store shelf, but unseen differences can have a substantial impact on how long the hose lasts and how frustrating it is to use. To buy the right hose…

Measure the maximum hose length you’ll need. Hoses are sold in 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-foot lengths. Don’t buy a longer one than necessary. Not only will it cost more, it will be heavier to haul around and more difficult to drain before storing, and it will provide lower water pressure.

Helpful: A hose width of five-eighths inch (based on the inside diameter) usually is best. A half-inch hose is acceptable only when the hose is no longer than 50 feet and the rate of water flow is not a major concern, such as when you water delicate plants at close range.

Rely on rubber. A hose made of either rubber or a combination of rubber and vinyl generally will be more durable and less prone to kinks and splits than a vinyl-only hose. 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.

If you will be using a nozzle or a pulsating sprinkler, consider a hose that lists a “burst pressure” above 350 psi to keep it from rupturing.

Bend the hose into a U. If it kinks, pick another. Kinking can lead to splitting.

Warning: Avoid expandable hoses—the scrunchielike hoses that expand when filled with water. They soon stop contracting properly after use and usually have crack-prone plastic couplings.

Check for cast-brass couplings. Hose couplings are the end pieces that attach to spigots, sprinklers and nozzles. Those made from cast brass are the most durable and leak-resistant. 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. Thin stamped-metal couplings and plastic couplings are more prone to leaks and breaks.

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.

Consider the following high-quality hoses, available online and in stores…

Craftsman Premium Rubber Garden Hose from Sears. Prices range from $22 for the 25-footer to $60 for the 100-footer.

Dramm ColorStorm Premium Rubber Garden Hose. Available in 50-foot length, typically for $50 to $60. ColorStorm hoses come in bright colors, reducing the odds of tripping over—or mowing—the hose.

Gilmour 6-Ply Commercial Rubber/Vinyl 29-Series Hose. Prices range from $16 to $25 for the 25-footer to $50 to $60 for the 100-footer.

Teknor Apex 8650 Industrial Duty All-Rubber Hose. Available in 50-foot length for $30 to $40.

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