Choosing and Using String Trimmers

We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options. Looking to tidy up your yard without bringing out the heavy machinery? Make the chore a little easier with a string trimmer. These weed whackers will make light work of maintaining any yard, as they come in both gas and electric options with enough power for smaller home gardens as well as professional landscaping jobs.

1) Poulan Pro 961720015 Lawn Trimmer Mower | 2) Southland SWFT15022 150cc Field Trimmer | 3) Toro 51487 Cordless String Trimmer | 4) BLACK+DECKER LST300 Trimmer / Edger | 5) Husqvarna 128DJx 17-Inch 28cc String Trimmer | 6) EGO Power+ 15-Inch String Trimmer | 7) BLACK+DECKER LST220 Trimmer/Edger | 8) Black & Decker LPHT120 Hedge Trimmer | 9) BLACK+DECKER LST140C String Trimmer | 10) GreenWorks 21342 G-24 Cordless String Trimmer | 11) DEWALT DCST990H1 String Trimmer | 12) Earthwise ST00115 Electric String Trimmer | 13) Tanaka TCG27EBSP Commercial Grade Trimmer | 14) GreenWorks 21332 G-MAX String trimmer | 15) EGO Power+ ST1500 56V String Trimmer Straight Shaft | 16) Hitachi CG23ECPSL 22.5cc 2-Cycle String Trimmer | 17) 2 x RedMax TRZ230S Commercial Gas String Trimmers | 18) Kobalt 80-Volt String Trimmer | 19) Poulan Pro 967228401 PP28LD String Trimmer | 20) Remington RM115ST Straight Shaft Trimmer | 21) One+ 18-Volt Electric String Trimmer and Edger | 22) Ryobi RY40210 String Trimmer Edger | 23) Ryobi Expand-It 8 in. Brush-Cutter Trimmer | 24) TrimmerPlus BC720 Brushcutter Attachment | 25) Shindaiwa Straight Shaft String Trimmer | 26) WORX 32-Volt GT2.0 String Trimmer/Edger | 27) Earthwise CST00012 Electric String Trimmer | 28) Tanaka TCG23ECPSL Shaft String Trimmer | 29) TrimmerPlus AS720 Extended | 30) Toro 51480 Electric Trimmer/Edger | 31) WORX 20-Volt GT 2.0 String Trimmer/Edger | 32) Weed Eater WE20VT String Trimmer and Edger |

Trimmers and techniques to keep your grass looking its best.

String trimmers, which cut greenery with whirling plastic lines, can trim right up to trees, steps, and rocks. They’re great for maintaining a neat edge along walks and beds, and they can tidy a rocky hillside that’s too irregular to mow. Many can also accept a metal blade for leveling tough scrub and small saplings.

Roger Cook, This Old House landscape contractor, keeps two trimmers in his truck—one with plastic string, the other with a blade. He switches to the latter the minute the string stops cutting and wraps around a tough stem.

String comes in a range of thicknesses and textures, but you’re limited by what your machine can accept. “In most cases, heavier is better,” says Roger. “The right texture, on the other hand, depends on your landscape. You have to experiment.”

The trimmers themselves come in two basic varieties: the more costly and powerful gas models (2-cycle or 4-cycle engine, the latter up to $350) and the economical electric (cordless or corded, some less than $50).

The right choice depends on the property’s size, its terrain, and your tolerance for noise and pollution. Keep in mind: Trimmer tips spin at close to 400 mph, so don’t forget eye and ear protection, as well as boots, long pants, and gloves. And stay clear of outdoor wiring, lest you zap yourself instead of the weeds.

Gas-Powered Models

PROS: Power to clean up a big yard, large cutting swath (16 to 18 inches).

CONS: Weight, noise, pollution, maintenance; the need to keep gas and oil on hand.

Two-Cycle Engine

For an affordable trimmer (under $200) with the power and the reach to clean up a large yard, look for a 2-cycle machine that has separate primer, choke, and throttle controls for easy starting. Two-cycle engines run on a mix of gas and oil.

Pictured: A curved shaft that’s easier on the back, with a loop handle for better balance and control.

Four-Cycle Engine

With a big jungle to tame, you’ll want a trimmer with a 4-cycle engine. Though more expensive ($300 and up), these powerful machines are easier to start, quieter, pollute less, and run smoother than 2-cycle motors, and don’t require a gas-oil mix.

Pictured: A common straight shaft, which is more durable—and versatile in the attachments it accepts.

Brush Cutter

For flattening brush and saplings with a brush-cutting blade, you need the control of bicycle-style handlebars, especially if a hearty trunk kicks the head back at you. Handlebars can be fitted to most gas-powered trimmers; however, they are less maneuverable for string edging.

Pictured: A 4-cycle brush-cutting package, with handlebars, blade, and shoulder straps.

Electric Trimmers

PROS: Portability and light weight; low price ($50 to $150); less noise.

CONS: Less power; limited extension-cord reach or battery life; small cutting swath (12 to 15 inches); can’t handle brush cutting.

Electric With Cord

While not able to saw brush, a 3-amp or better corded electric machine is powerful enough to clean up a suburban yard, provided you’ve got outdoor outlets and a long extension cord. Plus, it’s the least expensive option.

Pictured: This model costs less than $50.


Cordless trimmers can handle grass and weeds in a small yard, and they’re easy to toss in the trunk when it’s your turn to tidy Grandma’s patio. The rechargeable 12-volt battery means no hassling with extension cords or gas-oil mixtures, and purchasing a spare battery pack will alleviate the disadvantage of the short run time.

String Things

No More Tangled String

Typically, trimmer string comes wound around the head and is slowly eaten away with use. Some heads release more string automatically; others you tap on the ground. Eventually, when the spool is empty, you have to stop and wind a new one.

Check out Echo’s new Rapid-Loader trimmer head (right), which has locking clips that hold short pieces of plastic string. When it’s time to replace them, you just pull out the old line and slide in the new—no winding necessary. Roger loves them. “I keep a handful of strings in my pocket,” he says. “Within 30 seconds, I can have new ones on and I’m off to work again.”


For rocky and hilly acreage, consider a 4-cycle, two-wheel trimmer/mower. It will cut grass like a rotary mower without the shriek of metal blades scalping rocks, and because the string head sits way out in front, it trims right up to posts and walls.

The disadvantages are price (starting at $450) and the fact that you can’t flip it up on edge for maintaining a crisp border around beds and walks, as you can with a regular string trimmer.

Photo Gallery of the Choosing and Using String Trimmers

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