Updated: November 2017

String Trimmer Reviews:

We found more information on string trimmers (also known as weed whackers) than any other type of equipment we have reviewed. There are great comparisons and buying guides on sites like Popular Mechanics, HGTV, This Old House and plenty of user reviews in the Gardenweb.com forums. Consumer Reports recently did a review as well with some excellent findings for both gas and electric string trimmers. A string trimmer, or edger, is used to cut greenery that is hard to get to with a traditional lawn mower. You see gardeners or landscaping crews using them as a cleanup method after they have mowed lawns in neighborhoods or industrial parks. They are great at maintaining a nice straight edge along flower beds and walkways where the grass meets dirt, rocks, steps, or trees. They are also great for cleaning up areas of grass and weeds and light brush where a mower won't work Trimmers come in 2 basic styles - gas string trimmers (2 and 4 cycle engines) and electric trimmers (corded or cordless). We'll go into the pluses and minuses of each type below. You can browse the up-to-date list of best-selling string trimmers here.
string trimmers

How to choose a string trimmer - Gas trimmers are great for taking on bigger project in large yards and certainly are better at cutting thick weeds and brush than electric models. Many gas string trimmers have a large cutting radius (16 to 18 inches) and they are very portable meaning you can reach far areas of your yard or property without having to worry about a cord plugged into an outlet. The disadvantages of gas trimmers are that they tend to be heavy (compared to electric models), they are noisy, require regular maintenance, need gas and oil, and the 2-cycle engines are pollutants. A 4-cycle engine has many advantages over the 2-cycle trimmers in that they are quieter, pollute less, more powerful for thicker brush, they run smoother, and don't require the gas-oil mix since they run purely on gasoline. Some of the most powerful 4-cycle gas trimmers are designed specifically for brush cutting and have a special blade to easily cut through saplings or heavy brush. They often are equipped with shoulder straps and handlebars to give you control in tough situations. Corded electric trimmers are the cheapest and the lightest and compete well against the gas trimmers. They are easier to start and a lot quieter than any gas trimmer on the market. Some of the drawbacks to electric trimmers are that they are not as powerful as the gas models, the corded trimmers have limited reach and the battery powered string trimmers have a short battery life (15-20 minutes). The cutting path of electric trimmers is smaller than the gas trimmers and they are not able to cut through thick brush. Most homeowners can get by with a corded electric machine for basic yard edging and cleanup (make sure you have outdoor outlets). The electric battery powered trimmers are cordless which makes them just as portable as the gas trimmers, but certainly less powerful. Most come with a rechargeable 12-volt battery meaning there is no hassle with fueling it up, there are no exhaust fumes or pollutants, and they are pretty quiet. Many owners buy a 2nd battery pack so they can have a spare one ready to go for larger jobs that require more than the 15-20 minutes of time the batteries provide. When shopping for a trimmer, consider the different styles of shafts - curved, straight or split. Curved shaft trimmers are the most popular simply because they are easiest to handle and don't effect your back nearly as much as the others do over a long day of trimming. Straight shafts are versatile and durable than the other types and they accept more attachments for other functions. A straight shafted trimmer works great for getting under bushes or shrubs and fit taller people better. Gas string trimmers, with their engines on top, are easier to manage than the electric models with the motors near the bottom. When you are talking about weight, you want it near your hands for better control, especially if you will be trimming for more than a few minutes. Some of the newer electric models now feature 2 cutting blades or lines (like the gas powered trimmers). The cutting line at the bottom of trimmers is usually feed out with a "bump-feed line advance". This means you bump the trimmer head against the ground which feeds out more line. If you live in a typical suburban neighborhood you probably don't need a gas powered string trimmer for periodic edging and trimming, go with one of the electric models. For those of you with larger yards that tend to grow weeds or heavy brush in the off seasons, a gas trimmer will certainly get the job done and in less time than an electric model. For anyone running a yard cleanup service or landscaping business, gas trimmers are the way to go for power, convenience and versatility. One word on safety no matter which style you choose, always wear eye protection like goggles, wear gloves to protect your hands, and put on a pair of jeans to keep chunks of debris from cutting into your legs. The more popular brands for electric string trimmers are Toro, Weed Eater, Craftsman (Sears), and Black & Decker. Gas powered brands are Homelite, McCulloch, Ryobi, Troy-Bilt, Weedeater and Craftsman. The really expensive gas models are sold by Stihl, Echo, Bolens, John Deere, and Husqvarna. See our top picks in each category below.

Best Gas String Trimmer/Edger:

Gas trimmers are no doubt powerful and great time savers when dealing with large areas of brush and weeds. Since the difference in price is so extreme between curved and straight shaft models, we decided to break this category down into 2 sections. Hitachi is a leading name in power tools, and their (RECOMMENDED) Hitachi CG22EASSLP 21.1cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Straight Shaft Grass Trimmer doesn't disappoint. It's easy to assemble right out of the box. It starts easily, runs smoothly, and has plenty of power for jobs around the yard. At about $180, it's a very good buy. The Tanaka TCG22EASSLP ($210) is another top rated straight shaft gas trimmer with a commercial grade 2 stroke engine which is very reliable. This high performance trimmer weighs less than 15 lbs and comes with a strong 7 year warranty for consumers and 2 year for commercial use. The Stihl FS 45 Trimmer ($140) is a popular curved shaft gas trimmer that is perfect for the occasional user. The Stihl is a great low cost option for any homeowner. It's not only lightweight with a dual line, but the Autocut cutting head makes for easy line refilling. Stihl is a well respected name in yard power tools and this model maintains that credibility. You can find more Stihl trimmers online at Stihlusa.com.

Best Value Gas Trimmer:

For those of you who don't want to spend too much on a decent gas trimmer, consider the Poulan P3500 for around $100. This is a curved shaft model that may not get below shrubs and bushes as well as the straight shaft models, but it does a great job. The 25cc 2 cycle engine runs quiet and the 17 inch cutting path gets the job done faster than others. The Poulan string trimmer converts from trimmer to edger, so you get essentially get 2 tools in 1 making this a good value buy. Owners like the adjustable d-shaped handle and reviews for the Twist and Edge are overall very positive.

Cordless Electric Trimmer:

Top rated on Amazon.com and other consumer sites, the Black & Decker NST2118 ($80) is a top cordless electric trimmer that runs on 2 Ni-cad batteries, has a telescoping shaft, and it's really lightweight at only 6 1/2 lbs. Best used for edging or trimming lawns, the Grass Hog cuts vertically easily with a rotating head. Owners like the Automatic Feed Spool that advances the cutting line without having to bump it into the ground. Users say it cuts grass fine, but bogs down a bit on thicker grass and brush. The Black & Decker cordless electric trimmer comes with 2 batteries so you can always have one sitting idle (charged) so that no job will slow you down. The handles are plastic, but owners say they hold up just fine. A 2-year warranty is standard on this product. See all the cordless electric trimmers here.

Corded String Trimmers:

A lot of people don't want to mess with gasoline engines and batteries when it comes to working around the yard -- corded tools are for you, as long as you have plenty of extension cords. We read reviews from Consumer Reports (May 2010) and they mentioned the Black & Decker GH1000 and GH700 - both of which get horrendously bad reviews online at Amazon.com. Staying away from those models, we say the Weed Eater 12-Inch 3.75 Amp Quick Snap Head Electric String Trimmer #RT112C from Poulan is hard to beat on price and positive feedback. It's one of the few weed wackers we could find with consistently solid praise from owners. Consumers say the 12" cutting width, 3.7 amp electric motor, and Quick Snap Head all make for easy trimming. Most owners agree it's hard to beat for the money - it lists for under $50.