Electric Fence vs. Barbed Wire: What Works Best?

There are many fencing options when it comes to your property and it all depends on your specific fencing needs. But which is an overall better fence?

An electric fence is the overall better option between barbed wire and electric fences because they last longer and are more cost-effective, though it depends on the fence’s purpose and location. Barbed wire fences might be a better option for remote locations. 

There are many factors that contribute to which fencing materials you should use, so if you are interested in finding the best fence for your property, you should continue reading!

Electric Fences and Barbed Wire: What are They Used for?

Electric and barbed wire fences are typically used to keep things in, such as farm animals. They can also keep things out such as robbers or predators to livestock.

These fences can also be used for residential or commercial properties. Basically, if you are needing something stronger than a wooden fence to keep things in or out, electric and barbed wire fences are your options.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing the Best Fence for You

So you are thinking about getting a fence for your property. Before you choose the fence, you need to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you are choosing the right fence for you and your property.

1. How big is your land?

The first thing you should think of before you choose a material for your fence is how big is the property you are trying to fence in?

Depending on the property size depends on the type of fence you want.

If your land is larger, you may want to consider an electric fence because it is cheaper per foot. If your land is smaller, you could get a barbed wire fence. What is best for you all depends on the size of your lot.

2. What is the purpose of the fence?

Another question to ask is what will you be using the fence for. Are you wanting to keep out robbers? Are you trying to keep livestock in?

Before choosing your fencing materials, you will want to consider the purpose of your fence. What are you trying to keep out of your property?

You also need to look at the safety features for each fence. If you have children, barbed wire fences could cut them severely, but electric fences could also give them a bit of a shock.

Also, do you have pets? Dogs may learn quickly that an electric fence will shock you, but will they know that they could get stuck in the barbed wire fencing?

3. If you have livestock, what kind?

One of the most important questions to ask is what livestock you are dealing with. If you have horses for example, you should not get a barbed wire fence. Horses can easily get hurt by barbed wire fences.

If you have large bulls that could break down fences, a barbed-wire fence might be a good option because it is strong.

With cows, an electric fence could be a better option to keep them enclosed because the shock will teach them quickly to stay away from the fence.

It all depends on the livestock you are dealing with.

4. What is the landscape of your property?

Another question to ask yourself is what is the landscape of the land you are trying to enclose?

Barbed wire fences need fence posts to connect to, which can make it hard to use when the ground is hard or rocky.

Electric fences can use fewer fence posts, so they are ideal when the terrain of your property is not conducive to many wooden posts.

Why Electric Fences are Usually Better

There are many reasons why electric fences are generally a better option for your fencing needs. These reasons include:

  • Safety
  • Easy installation
  • Movability
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Longer lifespan
  • Minimal maintenance


The safety factor of your fence is one of the most important things to consider when you are picking a fence because you do not want anyone to get hurt, especially the animals that you are trying to protect.

You may think that an electric fence may be more dangerous than a barbed wire fence, but truth is, it is actually the opposite!

Electric fences are safer because the shock is minimal! It’s like the shock of an invisible fence for a dog. It is just enough to deter the animal from trying to go that way again, but not enough to harm the animal.

You can also control the level of intensity of the electric fence, so you can even set it at a lower setting to keep your mind at peace.

You can read our article on how safe electric fences are here.

Barbed wire fences can cause severe damage to animals and humans because of the sharp barbs.

Animals can even die if they become stuck in the fencing or if they get a deep enough cut.

Easy to Install

With an electric fence, you do not need to dig holes to place posts into the ground. You just need to set up the brace corners and run the wire.

So instead of meticulous planning and digging for hours, you could set up the electric fence and easily make changes if you make a mistake.


Since you do not need to dig holes in the ground for the fence posts, you can easily move the fencing to where you need it to go.

For example, you are wanting to move your livestock to a different section of your property. You can easily move the fencing to where you want it to go with minimal effort.


Electric fences are more cost-effective for many reasons. They are extremely durable, economical, all-inclusive, and easy to maintain.

A typical electric fence costs about $0.02 to $0.06 per foot of fencing, while barbed wire fencing can cost up to $1.48 per foot. The cost alone is convincing enough to choose an electric fence.

Another reason electric fences are cost-effective is that they are all-inclusive. Electric fences work for almost every animal, unlike barbed wire fences, which are a bit more tricky.

Longer Lifespan

If taken care of, electric fences can last up to forty years. A great way to take care of your electric fence is to make sure to clear out the vegetation that grows around the fence.

Barbed wire fences only last up to about twelve years, so electric fences can easily triple that time.

Minimal Maintence

There is not much maintenance to do with electric fences after setting up the fence. All you really need to do is make sure the battery and fence charger is kept clean and dry at all times.

It is also important to check for vegetation, but with how quickly the animals learn to stay away from the fencing, the fence should stay in great condition.

When Barbed Wire Fences are Better

Usually, electric fences are the better option, but there are times when a barbed wire fence is a better option.

  • When you need something durable
  • If you need to customize your fence
  • Need a completely weatherproof fence
  • Live in a remote location


Barbed wire fences are incredibly strong and can be made stronger by doubling up the fencing.

Even the strongest bull could not break through a barbed wire fencing when installed correctly.


You can easily choose the length of the fencing and how far apart the posts are placed.

Depending on your needs, you can manage the barbed wire’s length and strength.

Completely weatherproof

Unlike the electric fence, the barbed wire fencing is completely weatherproof. It can last any rainstorm, cold weather, snow, ice, etc.

You do not need to worry about your fence working during a snowstorm or if the temperatures are low enough for ice to produce. A barbed wire fence can last through it all.


Barbed wire fences do not need electricity to run, so if you live in a remote location and do not have electricity, a barbed wire fence might be the best option for you!

Also, if you are wanting a fence that is far away from an electric source, a barbed wire fence would be a good choice for you.

Comparing Fence Types

Though the common consensus says that electric fences are the better option, both types of fences offer you something great.

To help with your decision making, we’ve compiled the basic pros and cons so you can make the right choice for yourself.

Electric Barbed Wire
-Easy to install
-Minimal maintenance
-Completely weatherproof
-Good for rural areas

CONS-Not completely weatherproof
-Sometimes have dangerous shocks
-Vegetation interference
-Animals can hurt themselves on the wires (even can result in deaths)
-Animals will get close to the fence
-Only lasts about 12 years
-Requires a lot of planning
-Not beneficial for every animal (specifically sheep and horses)

Cost Comparison

If you still are not convinced that electric fences are the best option out of the two, look at the cost comparison.

Electric fencing per foot is only $0.02-$0.06 per foot of fencing. Barbed wire on the other hand can be around $1.48 per foot of fencing. When you do the math, one can see that it is much cheaper to put in electric fencing, especially since it lasts years longer than barbed wire fencing does.

ElectricBarbed Wire
Cost per foot$0.02-$0.06$1.48

We hope this information helps you find and build the best fence for you and your property.

More Helpful Resources

  • 5 Great Alternatives to Barbed Wire Fencing – There are other options out there that might be useful for you to consider besides just barbed wire or electric fencing, depending on your goal. Take a look at this guide to see some great alternatives you may not have considered!

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

Recent Posts