We called it a “weed wacker” when we were kids, but the string trimmer has a lot of names. You may know it is a line trimmer, a weed eater, a strimmer, or a weed whip. But no matter what we call it, it’s a great tool for making the edges of a lawn look great.
A string trimmer helps us get right to the edges of the walls. It can make the grass look neat at the base of a tree or around a boulder. But it can also be used where you have grass or weeds too tall for a lawnmower to handle.
In short, it can be a finishing tool that handles the rough work done by a lawnmower. But it can also do work that’s too rough for a lawnmower to dive into. Pretty handy, right?
What To Look For In A String Trimmer
Choosing the best string trimmer depends on several factors. Some are universals – all string trimmers should have certain features. Others can depend on the individual user and where you intend to use it.
The first thing to consider is the power source. Trimmers can be electric, gas, or battery-powered. Choosing will depend primarily on where you need to use it and for how long.
A gas-powered unit gives you unlimited range and a reasonable amount of time you can run the device. They also offer the most power and will make cutting through thicker grass and weeds easier. All that power comes with a price, though: these types generally weigh more than others.
Batteries offer a similar range to roam, but they don’t run as long. And if the battery runs out, you’ll either need a backup battery or have to wait for a recharge. They are lighter and quieter than gas units.
Electric plug-in models are limited in how far you can stray from an outlet. At most, you’ll be able to go about 100 feet (but follow the manufacturer’s instruction about length and type of extension cord you can safely use). It’s not as powerful as a gas version, but if you’re only worried about trimming the grass at the edges of your lawn, it could suit you fine.
Gas- and battery-powered trimmers are more expensive, while plug-in types are more affordable.
Gas models can be hard to start, especially if you find it hard to manipulate a pull-cord ignition. Battery and plug-in models, of course, have electric start.
A string trimmer has to be carried around, so the weight does matter. Sometimes there’s a tradeoff between weight and power, though.
You’ll need to take into account how long you’ll have to carry it and judge that against the weight of the unit. Remember, it might not seem heavy at the beginning, but after using it for a while, it’s going to add up.
Swivel Head for Edging
Some trimmers have a head that can turn 90°. This can make edging along the driveway or sidewalk a piece of cake. It’s not common except in high-end models. But if you want everything extremely neat and have a lot of edging to do, it could be worth the investment.
Length And Style Of Handle
The type of handle can come down to preference. Most models offer a large “D”-handle for your offhand while your main hand stays on the shaft.
Some models have a bent handle. This is a bit more ergonomic and makes it easier to manipulate the tool. However, if you’re tall, you may prefer a straight handle so you won’t have to stoop over. Also, a straight handle provides a lower angle to the ground if you need to trim under trees, bushes, or the deck.
Other Comfort Features
There are a couple of other features that can make using a weed eater less draining on your body.
Some have anti-vibration handles. These can reduce the stress you feel as you use the tool. Sure, at first it may seem like it’ll be a nice massage, but more than a few minutes of holding the device can add up.
Shoulder straps also come in handy. They can help relieve a little bit of the stress on your arm while carrying your trimmer. It’s only a slight improvement, but every little bit can help, especially if you have a large task to handle.
Care And Maintenance Of Your String Trimmer
String mowers are relatively easy to maintain.
After use, you can clean out the underside of the unit. Be sure it’s powered off first – disconnect the cord or battery if possible. If grass is caked on the edges, you can scrape it off with a putty knife.
The handle can get a lot of grass on it, too, so wipe it down with a dry cloth.
Check that the spool of string is attached firmly and that you have enough for the next job. That’ll give you time to order some instead of rushing out to buy it the next time you need it.
Our Picks for the Best String Trimmers
To make things easier when you’re ready to buy a string trimmer, we’ve put together some recommendations for each power type.
This weed whipper from Ryobi offers a lot of power and cuts a wide swath, helping you make quick work of weeded areas.
With a cutting width of 18 inches, this is one of the widest models we’ve included, tied with a gas-powered model from Ryobi. That helps get the job done more quickly.
The motor is also powerful, at 10 amps. While some of them simply go into the wider cutting width, it’s still a powerful tool that will cut through grass or weeds handily. You should use a 14-gauge extension cord up to 50 feet, or 10-gauge up to 100 feet.
It uses a 0.080-inch line and cuts with two lines at a time.
The full length of the unit is 69 inches, making it easy to use for tall users and easy for everyone to reach where you need it to.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this unit is its weight. At 11 pounds, it can quickly tire out most people.
Ryobi’s line of attachments, the “Expand-It” series, is compatible as well. While this model doesn’t pivot to serve as an edger, you can buy that attachment separately.
Ryobi gives a three-year warranty on this model.
BLACK+DECKER 14 in. 6.5-Amp Corded Electric Straight Shaft Single Line 2-in-1 String Grass Trimmer/Lawn Edger
Black+Decker’s 14-inch corded unit is a two-in-one – it serves as both a string trimmer and an edger without the need to purchase attachments.
The cutting diameter is 14 inches – about the standard size. With a 6.5 amp motor, it cuts well and can handle most grass and weeds. The line is 0.065, and a spool comes installed. It’s a single trim-line system.
When switched to the edging mode, it offers a small wheel to help guide you along the edge.
The string feeds automatically, although this is an area where there seem to be some problems. In many cases, it feeds far too much line, to the point of being wasteful.
It weighs just 5.5 pounds, making it relatively easy to carry around. At only 36 ¾ inches long, it’s a bit short and could be uncomfortable if you’re above-average height.
All-in-all, it offers a nice feature set and good power. It’s also available at a great price. But with the wasted line, the savings might not be worth it over an extended time. It isn’t the most durable model, either, but that, of course, depends on usage.
A 16-gauge extension cord is recommended.
It has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 2-year limited warranty.
This Toro string trimmer can also be used as an edger without needing to buy anything extra. It offers decent power to handle regular tasks around the year.
It works well as both a trimmer and an edger. It does have a guide wheel for edging. It’s easy to go back and forth from one to the other.
It uses a 0.065-line in a 2-line system. Even though the power seems low, it still does a good job of cutting. The automatic line feed seems to work well on this model.
You should use a 16-gauge extension cord with this.
There’s a two-year full warranty on this trimmer.
RYOBI 40-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Attachment Capable String Trimmer – 4.0 Ah Battery and Charger Included
Another entry from Ryobi, this battery-powered model finishes a strong contender for best-in-class.
The cutting swath is 13 – 15 inches and the 40-volt battery provides enough power to trim back all the usual suspects. You can adjust the speed right from the handle to make it easy to cut through whatever you’re tackling.
Ryobi says this is “modeled after gas trimmers” to provide more power. It uses dual 0.080 dual twisted line filament for cutting and uses bump feed. While this feed system may seem “lesser” than automatic feed, it does give you more control and lessens waste.
It also uses the Ryobi Expand-It attachments designed for gas trimmers.
With the battery, this weighs 11.3 pounds. That’s heavier than most plug-in models and may tire you out somewhat quickly. However, it delivers on the power!
The total height is 67 inches, a good height for most people to use.
One battery and a charger are included. A fully-charged battery can last up to an hour on a moderate throttle, and at full throttle, it’ll give you 30-40 minutes.
There is a 5-year limited warranty on the trimmer itself. The battery is covered for 3 years.
DeWalt may be more known for their construction tools, but they put a quality motor into this weed eater, too. It does an admirable job of trimming grass and weeds while not wearing you out with too much weight. Its anti-vibration system also helps make the experience more pleasant.
The bump-head line feed works with a 0.080-inch line; one spool is included. It cuts easily through a 14-inch-wide section of grass. When the string runs out, It’s pretty simple to replace, too.
This model offers two speeds so you can adjust for those moments when you hit thicker growth.
It’s reasonably powerful, although not as good as a gas model. You should get about 45 minutes of life out of the battery.
At 67.8 inches long, it’s one of the taller models we’ve seen. Still, it weighs just 8.5 pounds.
There’s a three-year limited warranty and free service during the first year.
Milwaukee also makes a great battery-powered weed wacker that would be a great addition to your shed. This M18 model will help make trimming easy as it whips through unwanted growth.
This model cuts a swath from 14 to 16 inches wide using dual 0.080 trim lines (it can take up to 0.095 lines).
The total height of this unit is 74 inches – that’s huge! It will be comfortable for even tall people to use. And it makes it easy to reach under any bushes or other overhanging obstacles with the combination of length and the straight handle.
All that size comes with a price, of course – this weighs over 12 pounds, so you’ll be feeling the burn.
The lithium-ion battery comes with a charger. On a single charge, you can likely get most of an acre done – if your arms don’t wear out first!
The tool itself and the battery each carry a three-year warranty.
This gas-powered string trimmer from ECHO will help you cut a path 17 inches wide with great power. It’s 2-cycle engine powers the 2-line system that uses a 0.095-inch line. That will help bring down all your major targets in the field or the lawn!
The 2-stroke engine has a displacement of 21.2 ccs. There’s a 14-ounce tank to feed it.
We see little to complain about with this mower. The shield is on the small side, but not much different than what similar trimmers offer.
It weighs 11.7 pounds. The shaft is 59 inches, so the entire unit is a bit longer. That makes it suitable for most people. It’s even a bit light for a gas trimmer, but still in the “average” range.
It’s durable, but if you need to invoke the warranty, you have 5 years to do so (2 years if used for commercial purposes).a
Ryobi seems to dominate in this field, and there’s one more after this on our list! But it’s well-deserved.
This 2-cycle model has a 25 cc engine. It’s usable with the typical Expand-It set of attachments, too, so you can make it an edger or any number of other tools. However, you could even turn this one sideways to do some edging.
It has a “zip start” ignition, which is supposed to make it easy to start. It’s still not push-button, but we did find it to be a bit easier than many other pull cord models.
It cuts through your weeds and grass with 0.095-inch dual lines. It uses a bump control to advance line.
It’ll slice through your targets in an 18-inch wide path.
It weighs 12.2 pounds and measures 60 inches long.
Ryobi provides a 3-year limited warranty.
Our last review is for another Ryobi trimmer. This one, though, is a 4-cycle model. With its 30cc motor, it provides a lot more power and makes it easy to get through the job quickly.
This has a smaller fuel tank that holds 11 ounces. But that will help get you through huge sections of your lawn without a problem.
Anti-vibration features are built into this model, too. This is especially helpful since gas trimmers shake more and make more noise.
At 65 inches long, it’s a good fit for comfortable working. It weighs 12.25 pounds which is a bit of weight to be carrying around, but not bad compared to the competition.
Of course, having the four-cycle motor makes it a bit easier to use since you won’t have to mix fuel. It does have a pull cord start but it seems to work well. However, we have seen a few reports that it failed for some users after a few uses.
A string trimmer can help tidy your yard or control overgrown weeds. Before choosing one, you should look at how much space you need to trim and how far from an outlet you’ll need to roam. Weight’s another important factor since your hands, arms, and shoulders will be supporting it.