Table of Contents
- 1 The weed eater, aka string trimmer
- 2 The best weed eaters on the market
- 3 Gas-powered weed whackers and brush cutters
- 4 Corded electric string trimmers and edgers
- 5 Battery powered weed whackers
- 6 Which kind of weed eater is best?
- 7 Recommendations
- 8 How to maintain a gas-powered weed eater
- 9 How to maintain a corded electric string trimmer
- 10 How to maintain a cordless weed trimmer
- 11 How to get maximum life from a battery
- 12 String trimmer string sizes
- 13 Safety when using a weed eater
- 14 VWF and HAVS, nerve damage from vibrating tools
- 15 That line is sharp
- 16 The easiest way to manage a string trimmer
- 17 Conclusion
When you want to edge and trim to make your yard look great, you need a weed eater to get the job done fast. Finding the best weed eater, string trimmer, or brush cutter will save you time and effort and keep your back from aching at the end of the day.
Of course there are lots of models on the market, so it can take a lot of research to choose one to buy. Before you invest your hard-earned cash, check out these reviews of the best weed whackers you can buy today.
The weed eater, aka string trimmer
Just like other product names that become regular nouns and verbs in our daily usage, the term “weed eater” comes from the actual brand. A weed eater, or weed whacker, is typically a string trimmer or edger. Let’s take a look at what it is and does.
History of the weed trimmer
A fellow in Kansas invented the weed eater in the 1960s. He used a metal chain in his first iteration and it literally obliterated weeds and overgrown grass.
The original metal chain design was improved upon in the 1970s in Texas. The second version used fishing line so it was lighter in weight. Of course, fishing line isn’t as durable as a metal chain, so it had to be refilled every so often.
Trimmers nowadays often have modular parts that allow a user to swap out the string reel for accessories like a saw or hedge trimmer. This way one tool can help finish a lot of different tasks. This is a great way to save money and space in your garage.
What a weed whacker does
Lawn mowers don’t always manage to cut grass in tight corners or close to obstacles like trees, and that’s where weed whackers come in handy. Some models are able to trim shrubs as well as weeds and grass. Using a trimmer right along the edge of a sidewalk or driveway gives the cut lawn a professionally-finished look.
Why you want a weed eater
Anyone who wants to maintain a beautiful lawn needs a string trimmer. Anyone with a very small postage-stamp size lawn may even be able to forgo owning a mower and use a weed trimmer instead.
The best weed eaters on the market
Let’s go down the list now of the best weed eaters money can buy. We’ll start with gas models because they are very common and are often tougher than the electric and battery-powered trimmers.
Gas-powered weed whackers and brush cutters
We’ll begin with the top 3 gas-powered models. These are best for people with a lot of ground to cover and tough weeds to cut down.
Hitachi CG22EAP2SL 21.1cc 2-Cycle Gas Powered Solid Steel Drive Shaft String Trimmer/Brush Cutter
How can you tell if a weed trimmer is worth buying? Positive customer reviews are part of the story. Another good way to tell is the length of the warranty. Hitachi’s CG22EAP2SL string trimmer is backed by their 7-year consumer warranty (or 2-year warranty for commercial users).
This gas-powered weed eater is powerful enough to double as a brush cutter. It’s built with a 60-inch long solid steel straight shaft but it weighs only 11 pounds without fuel. The anti-vibration controls help protect you from fatigue and nerve damage that can happen with prolonged use of vibrating tools.
The 21.1cc PureFire 2-stroke engine is commercial grade for heavy use. While it comes with a pull-start, it’s not as hard to yank as older gas tools were in the past. It typically roars to life on the first or second try. This is the kind of tool you’ll want if you have a large yard to maintain. You can edge sidewalks as well as trim brush and cut down thick weeds.
Husqvarna 128LD 17-Inch Straight Shaft Detachable String Trimmer, 28cc
Owners who are satisfied with their Husqvarna string trimmers often make the same comment—if you keep it well-maintained, it will last you for years. The 128LD weed trimmer has a 28cc engine, more powerful than the Hitachi CG22EAP2SL we reviewed above.
The Husqvarna sports a 17-inch cutting width so you can get the trimming done as fast as possible. It uses the standard size .095 trimmer line and a bump feed head, but you can also add other attachments like a blade or saw.
The 128LD weighs just 11 pounds dry. The pull-start is based on Husqvarna’s Smart Start recoil system so it’s not hard to use. This is the kind of trimmer you’ll want for a medium-size yard without big brush to cut.
Troy-Bilt TB42 BC 27cc 2-Cycle Gas Brushcutter with JumpStart Technology
Troy-Bilt’s TB42 Brushcutter isn’t a typical string trimmer. Yes, you can cut grass with it. But where it shines is cutting back brush and thick growths. It has a 27cc 2-cycle engine that powers the 8-inch blade through woody stems and thick weeds. This is a great tool if you have woods, ranch land, or a farm to manage.
The TB42 starts without a pull cord, which makes it easy to get started right away on the job. If you have other tasks to complete, like trimming hedges, just swap the engine onto another Troy-Bilt attachment like a pole saw. Instead of buying a lot of individual power tools, you can save a lot of cash by simply buying the attachments.
Whether you’re right or left-handed, you’ll find the TB42 Brushcutter comfortable to use because you can adjust the handle to your liking. It also comes with a shoulder strap to add additional support and lessen fatigue. Plus, the vibration from the engine is dampened to protect you when you work for long periods of time.
Troy-Bilt offers a 2-year warranty on the TB42, but it’s built with commercial-grade parts to last well beyond that.
Corded electric string trimmers and edgers
It’s more common these days to see someone using an electric-powered (or battery) weed trimmer instead of gas. Corded electric string trimmers are best for small yards. They are quiet and cost very little to operate and maintain.
GreenWorks 21142 10Amp 18 Inch Straight Shaft Electric String Trimmer / Edger
If you’re a fan of electric-powered yard tools, you’ve heard of GreenWorks. Their market share has grown over the past few years. In fact, the well-known outdoor tool maker Stihl recently acquired a minority stake in Globe Tools Group, the manufacturer of GreenWorks.
The GreenWorks 21142 electric string trimmer is a prime example of their lineup of cost-efficient yard tools made especially for residential home owners. Not only is it a powerful trimmer that gets the job done right, it has features that make it easy and comfortable to use.
Let’s start with the lightweight design—it weighs only 9.9 pounds but it has a wide 18-inch cutting path. Hold it level to trim the tall grass in the corners, or tip it to edge along sidewalks and driveways. The straight metal shaft telescopes to just the right length to keep you from hurting your back. The two handles are placed so that you have maximum control as you work.
Although it has a 10Amp motor, it vibrates a lot less than a gas-powered trimmer, and it’s quieter, too. There’s no cord to pull, it’s got an electric start. Just connect the extension cord and go. By the way, the 21142 comes with a built-in cord lock. Use that to secure your power cord and you won’t suddenly come unplugged.
The 21142 uses .080 line that advances with bump feed. You can use other attachments, like a brush cutter, even from other brands, if you like. GreenWorks covers this string trimmer with a 4-year warranty against defects.
BLACK+DECKER GH900 6.5-Amp String Trimmer/Edger, 12″
This is an ideal weed eater for residential yards, owners on a budget, and persons who don’t want to lug a heavy tool around. Black + Decker hit the perfect combination of price and features with their GH900 string trimmer.
At 7 pounds, it’s one of the lightest tools in our review lineup today. The shaft adjusts to varying lengths so virtually anyone can use it without bending over. The handle pivots, a nice touch for both left and right-handed users. As you rotate the trimmer as a whole, it automatically becomes an edger.
There’s no bump needed to advance the .065-inch string, it’s automatically fed new line as the old wears out. Changing the reel is very simple even if you don’t have strong hands. The 12-inch cut path lets you fit the trimmer into tight places, but covers enough ground that you don’t spend all day edging the lawn.
The 6.5Amp motor has a transmission that senses when the going is getting tough, so it ramps up the power as needed. The guide wheel makes it very easy to keep your distance from things you don’t want to hit and helps you work in a straight line.
Black + Decker offers a 2-year warranty on the GH900.
Toro 51480 Corded 14-Inch Electric Trimmer/Edger
Toro’s 51480 electric trimmer seems similar at first glance to the Black + Decker GH900 described above. For example, it’s covered by a 2-year warranty, it has a telescoping shaft, an adjustable handle, a guide wheel, and automatic line feed.
But there are a few key differences that might sway your opinion. One, the cutting path is wider at 14 inches. Two, it’s a little lighter in weight at 6.3 pounds. Three, it converts between edging and trimming with a button push.
The automatic line feed has been the subject of debate between owners. Some love that it advances automatically every time you stop and start the trimmer or pull the trigger. Some complain that it doesn’t advance fast enough and they would prefer bump feed. This is a matter of preference that you may want to consider.
Battery powered weed whackers
What combines the quiet operation of an electric trimmer with the mobility of a gas-powered edger? A battery-powered weed whacker, of course! Electric motors and batteries have come a long way in the past few years. They are efficient, lightweight, and one charge lasts a long time. Here are our favorite models on the market.
BLACK+DECKER LCC140 40V MAX Lithium Ion String Trimmer and Sweeper Combo Kit
Okay, we love all-in-one packages, but that’s not the only reason we are happy with the B+D LCC140 kit. Yes, it comes with a leaf blower that runs off the same 40-volt battery as the string trimmer. But we admire the surprising power of the motor on the trimmer. Who knew that a battery-powered weed eater would be able to handle tough grass like this?
The LCC136 trimmer runs about 45 minutes on one charge. That’s plenty for average residential yards. If it takes any longer than that, we’d want someone else to do the yard for us. It comes with a 6-hour charger which is not ideal if you want to run both tools, but it’s fine if you want to charge overnight.
The cut path is 13-inches wide and it’s easy to convert the LCC140 between trimmer and edger. If it runs into thicker weeds, the transmission automatically ramps up the motor to handle them. You can also dial up the transmission yourself by choosing between maximum runtime and maximum power.
With the battery onboard, the trimmer is a little heavier than some of the electric corded tools we reviewed above. The LSW36 sweeper, or leaf blower, meanwhile, is a very light 4.7 pounds. It puts out 120mph wind to help you clear off leaves and small debris.
With this handy combo from Black + Decker, you’ll find it easy to maintain your lawn spring, fall, and all summer long.
GreenWorks 21302 G-MAX 40V 13-Inch Cordless String Trimmer, 2AH Battery and Charger Included
You may have noticed that battery-powered trimmers are more expensive than corded electric models. This is mainly because of the battery. But once you select a manufacturer like GreenWorks, you’ll find that batteries for one kind of yard tool are typically compatible with others from the same brand. You can swap the batteries between your leaf blower, chain saw, and trimmer and save money by buying tools without the battery included. For example, here is the same model trimmer sold without the battery and charger.
We selected the GreenWorks 21302 cordless trimmer because it’s powerful and yet easy to use. To switch from trimmer to edger, just push a button. The guide wheel keeps you on track while the flower guard bar protects your perennials from an untimely demise.
The lock-off button is a nice safety feature, especially since this trimmer has an easy electric start. You can adjust the length of the handle to suit your liking, pivot the head, and you can also adjust the cut path from 10 to 13 inches width.
With the 2.0Ah 40V G-MAX battery, you’ll get about 30 minutes of runtime. The trimmer feeds you new line automatically without you needing to bump it or trigger it. While the 21302 is a bit heavier than a corded electric model, the fact that the battery inserts into the top of the handle counterbalances the weight of the motor at the bottom.
GreenWorks offers a 4-year limited warranty, or a 1-year commercial warranty, on the 21302 string trimmer. The battery and charger are covered by a 2-year warranty.
WORX WG175 32-volt Lithium MAX Cordless Grass Trimmer and Edger with Wheel Set, Battery and Charger Included
Like the other two battery-powered weed eaters, the WG175 from WORX has automatic line feed and push-button start. You’ll spend less time fiddling around with it and more time getting work done.
It comes with a 32-volt lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 35 minutes and refills in 3 hours. The 12-inch cutting path covers ground fast. Plus, this trimmer weighs only 6 pounds, so it’s lighter than either of the cordless weed eaters we reviewed above.
But one of the best features of the WORX WG175 is not the telescoping handle, it’s the ability to tilt the handle 90 degrees and lay it flat so you can trim grass underneath overhangs and low branches. Of course, you can also switch between trimming and edging by simply pivoting the head.
That wraps up our top picks in each category of weed eater, from gas to electric to battery-powered. Now let’s look at why you might choose one type over another.
Which kind of weed eater is best?
If you want the most power you can get in a weed trimmer, go with a gas-powered model. Many of these models double as brush cutters. Plus, you won’t be tethered to one area by a cord and you won’t have to wait for a battery to charge. You can simply add more gas and get back to work. But there are some downsides to gas-powered trimmers.
Pros of a gas-powered weed trimmer:
- Not limited to an area by a power cord
- No waiting for batteries to charge
- Offer the most power and often double as brush cutters for really tough jobs
- Gas is more expensive than electricity
- Need regular tune-ups and maintenance
- Noisy enough that you’ll need hearing protection and can’t work too early or too late
If you want a lightweight tool that’s great for trimming medium to small yards, is easy to maintain, and very quiet to run, you may enjoy either a corded electric or battery-powered string trimmer. Let’s look at the corded electric pluses and minuses first.
Pros of a corded electric trimmer:
- Usually the lightest in weight (and often the least expensive to buy)
- You’ll never run out of a charge as long as you have electricity and an extension cord
- Almost no maintenance—just keep it clean and put in new spools of line
- You’re limited to 100 feet of extension cord, and cord management can be a pain
- Many homeowner models are not as powerful as gas-powered ones
Finally, we have battery-powered cordless trimmers. Let’s review their benefits and downsides, too.
Pros of a battery-powered weed trimmer:
- Almost no maintenance—just keep it clean, charge it, and put in new spools of line
- Cost less to use and maintain than a gas-powered model
- Lighter than gas-powered trimmers
- Have to recharge batteries
- Not as lightweight (usually) as a corded electric trimmer
- Many homeowner models are not as powerful as gas-powered ones
As you can see, it’s possible to argue for any one of the three types as the best. When it comes time to make a choice, you’ll have to consider factors like the size of your yard, the ability of the people who will be using the tool, and the cost to buy and maintain it.
If you have a small yard without heavy brush to clear, you’ll save money with a battery-powered or electric corded trimmer.
If you have a large yard with brush and wooded areas, or even a farm or ranch, go with a gas-powered model.
Consider whether you can make use of attachments. Some of the weed trimmers in this review, like the ones from Husqvarna and Black + Decker, are able to swap the trimmer attachment for other tools like saws and cultivators. Invest in one of these with the intention to collect the attachments instead of buying individual tools.
How to maintain a gas-powered weed eater
As with all string trimmers, you’ll have to replace the spool of cutting line every once in a while. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on which kind to use. There are different thicknesses to choose from.
If you plan to store a gas engine over the winter, make sure you drain the leftover fuel or at least add a stabilizer to a full tank. Gas goes bad and bad gas can wreck your engine. Yes, we know that the people on Walking Dead continued to drive cars for months after the apocalypse, but that’s not real life.
Check the air filter and replace it when needed. Your engine will run cooler and live longer.
Check the spark plug and replace it when needed—usually once a year. It’s also a great idea to disconnect the spark plug whenever you do maintenance on your trimmer. That keeps you safe from the engine accidentally starting.
You may also need to check oil levels. The trimmers in this review have 2-cycle engines that mix fuel and oil. Just follow the instructions on the user manual to make sure you get the balance correct.
How to maintain a corded electric string trimmer
Electric trimmers are the absolute easiest to maintain. Keep them clean, replace the spool when needed, and check your extension cord for damage. Ta-da, you’re done!
How to maintain a cordless weed trimmer
Cordless trimmers are the next easiest to maintain. Keep them clean, replace the spool, and take good care of the battery. The trimmers in this review all have lithium-ion batteries, so let’s hop on down to the next section about battery care.
How to get maximum life from a battery
First off, if what we say here goes against what your owner manual says, ignore us and protect your warranty by following their instructions. That said, here are general tips for getting the most from your lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are excellent at providing plenty of power for outdoor tools. They recharge quickly and they don’t have memories. That might sound funny, but it’s true. You don’t have to run them all the way down to recharge them. In fact, topping them off when you finish a small job is a good idea.
Li-ion is lightweight and tolerates cold temperatures well. The one thing to watch out for is heat. Don’t leave your batteries in a hot car or store them where they’re exposed to heat or sunlight. If you have to store them for a few months, charge them to between 30 and 50% of full instead of all the way. Then keep them in a cool place.
Expect that you’ll get full use of them for up to three years, then make plans to replace them before you hit the five-year mark.
String trimmer string sizes
You may have noticed that some of these weed eaters use 0.080 and others 0.065. There’s even more variety than that, including dual-line spools. What’s the difference and why does it matter?
First off, go with whatever your manufacturer recommends. You may see that while your trimmer comes with one kind, the company also sells other sizes or types that are compatible. You might find replacement line that you prefer to what came in the box.
Most weed eaters use round line which comes in sizes like .065 and .095 of an inch in diameter. There are commercial grades that last longer when cutting thicker plants. There are also square lines and x-shaped lines and more for specific purposes.
It’s usually a lot easier to just replace a whole spool instead of buying line and then winding it yourself. If you have an automatic feed trimmer, you have to wind the spools perfectly in a precise way to avoid jams.
The cutting line is usually made from a blend of plastic polymers. That’s a big change from the first weed wackers that used metal chains.
Plan on paying around five bucks and up for each spool if you buy the name brand kind specific for your trimmer. Be careful and very choosy if you decide to get a cheaper no-name spool. You might save a dollar or two, but you could end up with lots of jams, poor-looking trims, and line that falls apart faster.
Safety when using a weed eater
If you use a gas-powered weed eater, use hearing protection. They are loud enough that they can cause hearing damage if used for enough time.
Also consider taking breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to protect against fatigue and nerve damage from vibrations. It’s a real problem that affects many people who use power tools over long periods of time.
VWF and HAVS, nerve damage from vibrating tools
Symptoms usually take at least a year to show—meaning you’d have to make regular use of power tools for at least that long to end up with symptoms. Watch out for these signs:
- White finger(s) when exposed to cold
- Tingling and loss of sensation in fingers or hand
- Loss of grip strength
- Cysts in fingers and wrists
That line is sharp
One other consideration when using a string trimmer is that if the line can slice branches and weeds, it can also cut skin and toss up debris. Follow directions in the user manual regarding protective clothing like gloves or boots, plus consider using safety glasses.
The easiest way to manage a string trimmer
Cheat. Yes, we said that. The less you need to trim and edge, the better. Sure, it’s fun to use these tools, but wouldn’t you rather be out by the pool with a cool drink?
- Lay down mulch around shrubbery, trees, and flowers to keep weeds choked out.
- Invest in a lawn mower that can cut close enough around obstacles so you won’t have to re-mow with a trimmer.
- Buy the model that’s easiest for you to use.
- Get one that is simple for you to maintain and keep it in top condition, even if that means paying someone to maintain it for you.
- Use good quality line for quick, even cuts.
- Keep the trimmer about 2 to 3 inches off the ground so you don’t scalp the grass. And don’t worry—it grows back even if you give it a bad hair cut.
We hope you found answers in our review article today. We want to help you select the best weed eater for your home and yard. Check back soon for more product reviews of the top products on the market.