Mowing the lawn spruces up a yard, but it’s the finishing touches that take a lawn from fine to fantastic—and there are spaces that a mower just can’t reach. That’s where string trimmers (also called weed eaters or weed whackers) make a difference. They fit into those spots around driveways, lawn ornaments, tree bases, and playground equipment without issue, helping to give your lawn that professional look.
String trimmers use a quick rotation to whip off the tops of grass and weeds. Selecting the best trimmer for your yard makes adding the finishing touches to the lawn an easy-to-complete task.
We tested several of the most popular string trimmers around to find out how they hold up in real-world scenarios. Read on to learn more about the best string trimmers, the hands-on tests, and some of the most important characteristics for you to consider while shopping. But first, here’s a quick preview of the best trimmers.
- BEST OVERALL: EGO Power+ 15-Inch 56-Volt Cordless String Trimmer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Black+Decker String Trimmer / Edger, 13-Inch (ST8600)
- UPGRADE PICK: Makita XRU15PT1 Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: WORX WG170 GT Revolution 20V 12 Inch Grass Trimmer
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: STIHL FS 56 RC-E 16.5 in. Gas Brushcutter
- BEST CURVED SHAFT: Husqvarna 2-Cycle Gas Curved Shaft String Trimmer
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: WORX WG163 GT PowerShare 12″ Cordless String Trimmer
- BEST WITH AUTO-FEED: Black+Decker 40V MAX Cordless String Trimmer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Black+Decker 20V MAX String Trimmer/Edger
How We Tested the Best String Trimmers
After unboxing the trimmers, the first task was to power up. We tracked charging times for each of the cordless models as we fueled up the gas trimmers and stretched out extension cords for the rest. We were looking for battery charging times that came in less than the runtimes. In the end, only the Makita offered that benefit. Battery management remains a primary focus for cordless tool owners.
To test functionality and user comfort, we treated these tools as any other user might. For the compact and lightweight models, we mostly stuck to grassy areas that are consistently maintained but also tried them out among tall grass and coarse weeds. The larger cordless, corded electric, and gas-powered tools were given a full workout that included similar groomed and slightly unkempt areas as the smaller units tested in, as well as some time in natural areas where invasive privet seedlings and honeysuckle vines had begun to colonize.
We scored each trimmer against a set of objective and subjective criteria relating to their construction, operation, user comfort, and whether or not we would want to use them again. In the end, only those that we would want to use made the cut.
Our Top Picks
We tested some of the best string trimmer tools for lawn and garden maintenance. We chose these trimmers for testing based on their expected functionality in a variety of settings. Differences in size, weight, power source, safety features, and overall performance help to meet the needs of different users. Read more about our test results in the individual reviews.
For medium- and large-size landscapes, clean, quiet battery-powered lawn equipment has arrived. The EGO Power+ line of tools offers gas-like power and performance with extended runtime powered by 56-volt rechargeable batteries. This cordless trimmer looks, feels, and cuts like a conventional 2-cycle weed wacker, but without the noise or fumes. The kit includes a 56-volt 2.5-Ah battery that lasts up to 45 minutes and recharges in 50 minutes. Those familiar with gas equipment may feel right at home operating this trimmer with its variable speed trigger and bump-head line feed.
In our backyard tests, the EGO trimmer performed as well in grass as the gas-powered equipment. It has a well-balanced feel for good maneuverability and is light enough to comfortably work for hours if necessary. We named it “best overall” for its favorable combination of power, performance, price, and user comfort.
- Power source: 56-volt 2.5-Ah lithium-ion battery
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Cutting swath: 15 inches
- Cordless model yet provides gas-like power and performance
- Long runtime of up to 45 minutes per charge; ideal for most yard sizes
- Works with a heavy-duty .095 trimmer line
- Takes 50 minutes to recharge; limited extended use without multiple batteries
- Battery is heavier than the competition
- Cost is higher than comparable gas models
Get the EGO Power+ cordless string trimmer at Amazon or Ace Hardware.
This Black & Decker corded electric string trimmer weighs in at 5.3 pounds, reducing the strain that comes with yard work. At 5 amps, the trimmer can handle a small to midsize backyard with an extension cord (sold separately). It has the added feature of a cord-retention system to prevent disconnection from the power source while working.
Though lightweight, its cutting swath is a convenient 13 inches, tackling the same area as some heavier models. The power-drive transmission delivers more torque to the cutting head, giving this little trimmer the force to quickly take down high grass and coarse weeds. No bumping is necessary when feeding the 0.065-inch-thick line; this string trimmer uses an automatic feed to keep the string at the right length. The shaft adjusts to fit most user heights and reaches into many areas.
We appreciated the lightweight and well-balanced feel of this Black & Decker electric trimmer. In our tests it became apparent that although the size and weight were comparable to the 20-volt battery-powered trimmers we tested, this one is noticeably more powerful. The adjustable length rotating shaft was easy to operate and comfortable to use for both trimming and edging. When not in use, it won’t take up much space in storage either. And the price is less than half that of any of the others.
- Power source: Corded 5-amp electric motor
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Cutting swath: 13 inches
- Compact and lightweight unit is easy to carry
- 13-inch cutting swath handles most work quickly
- Great flexibility; converts from string trimmer to edger
- Corded model; no expensive batteries to replace
- Does not include a pigtail power cord
- Range limited by the length of the extension cord
Get the Black & Decker string trimmer at Amazon.
This Makita string trimmer is a premium option to keep the lawn and garden under control, and it can handle small to large yards with enough power to tackle dense weed growth. The cordless string trimmer is a step above the rest; its dual 18-volt battery capabilities extend the runtime to as much as 1.5 hours, so there’s no need to worry about running out of power before the job is done.
The trimmer has a 15-inch cutting radius and a dual-string cutting head with a bump-feed system for quick trimmer string feeding that doesn’t interrupt the work. It operates at three speed settings, ranging from low to high, and weighs under 11 pounds. This string trimmer is offered in a kit with four batteries and a double charger.
In our backyard test, the Makita outperformed the rest of the pack. It felt light and agile but easily chopped through the toughest weeds and grass without bogging down. It is quiet, even for a battery-powered tool. And the long, straight shaft and narrow debris guard gave unparalleled access beneath and between large shrubs. We also liked that it charges in less time than it takes to run out of power, so the second set of batteries was always ready to go.
- Power source: Dual 18-volt 5-Ah lithium-ion batteries
- Weight: 10.4 pounds
- Cutting swath: 15 inches
- Runtime is longer than recharge time; second battery always ready to use
- Comes with a second set of batteries; ideal for extended use
- Runtime is longer than the competition
- Gas-like power, without the noise or the fumes
- Very small debris guard
- Bump head is a little stiff
Get the Makita XRU15PT1 string trimmer at Amazon, or a tool-only version at The Home Depot.
This 5.5-pound cordless string trimmer comes with two batteries and a charger so that the trimmer can be used with one battery while the other is charging. A push-button string feed and spool holder allow the string to be fed on demand simply by pushing a button on the handle of the trimmer. This 20-volt string trimmer can operate for up to 1 hour on a single battery. And it has a long 4.5-foot shaft with an adjustable handle to adapt to users of almost any size.
Trim, edge, or cut the grass with this cordless string trimmer designed for use as a precision string trimmer, a wheeled edging tool, and a mini mower. Just turn the head of the trimmer to suit the function and use the built-in guide wheel to support the edging and mowing function.
We felt the difference in weight right away. Although this WORX trimmer weighs half as much as the bigger models, it offers plenty of power and maneuverability to quickly clean up the lawn edges without the need to lug around an extension cord. Adjustments at the trimmer head, shaft, and handle made it easy to get a comfortable fit, and when the work is over it folds down flat for storage. It’s an effective, convenient solution for smaller properties.
- Power source: 20-volt 2.0-Ah lithium-ion battery
- Weight: 5.5 pounds
- Cutting swath: 12 inches
- Very lightweight and easy to carry; less tiring to use
- Budget-friendly option compared to other models
- Includes an extra battery for easy swap out
- Folds flat for storage; perfect for limited spaces
- Limited runtime compared to other battery options
- Long recharge time; consider purchasing multiple batteries
- Not as effective for overgrown grass and coarse weeds
Get the WORX WG170 string trimmer at Amazon or Target.
The STIHL FS 56 RC-E brush cutter is built to make the toughest jobs easier. The 27.2-cc gas engine generates an extra .25 horsepower more than another gas trimmer we tested. Combine the increased power with reduced emissions, stronger lightweight guards and housing, and anti-vibration technology, and this machine can help users outwork the competition. The included carry strap makes it even better.
In addition to the manicured grass areas, shrub-covered weeds, and hidden corners where we tested the other machines, we also used the STIHL to knock down invasive privet saplings and honeysuckle vines in a natural area; it did a fantastic job. This would make an excellent choice for those in need of a tool for regular lawn and garden maintenance as well as occasional heavy cleanup jobs.
- Power source: 27.2-cc 2-cycle gas engine
- Weight: 10.6 pounds
- Cutting swath: 16.5 inches
- Powerful, low-emissions 2-cycle gas engine
- Built-in anti-vibration system; less punishing on the user
- Easy2Start technology eliminates extra pulling
- Air filter cover is easy to remove/install for quick cleaning
- Requires mixed gas; more complicated to deal with than other options
- Gas unit is louder than battery powered options
Get the STIHL FS 56 RC-E brush cutter at Ace Hardware.
The Husqvarna draws its considerable power from a 2-stroke gas engine. It weighs in at a comfortable 9.7 pounds, and features an ergonomic grip. The 22-cc 2-cycle gas motor allows it to cut through dense overgrowth as well as clean up the corners and edges in tight garden spaces. The broad 17-inch trimming radius allows users to trim the yard in a hurry, and it has a simple bump-feed system to extend the trimming line when necessary.
The curved-shaft design helps the Husqvarna to be more maneuverable and balanced so users have an easier time handling the power tool while they work. It also has an automatic emergency stop feature that halts the movement of the trimmer string when the trigger is released, making this model even more user-friendly.
The Husqvarna started easily and was extremely maneuverable due to its shorter overall length. The combination of power, light weight, and shorter length make it feel very “under control.” Less debris flies up toward the operator’s face, which is especially noticeable when working in overgrown areas. This trimmer would make a good choice for shorter or smaller users, and for anyone who maintains a more enclosed landscape space such as a courtyard garden.
- Power source: 22-cc 2-cycle gas engine
- Weight: 9.7 pounds
- Cutting swath: 17 inches
- Design lets users work in a comfortable upright position
- Shorter shaft maneuvers well in tight spaces
- Easy to start on the first or second pull
- Lightweight for a gas trimmer
- Not easy to use for edging
- Less reach than a straight shaft; problematic for taller users
- Takes up more space in storage compared to standard designs
Get the Husqvarna curved-shaft string trimmer at Amazon, Tractor Supply Co, or Northern Tool and Equipment.
One size fits many with this battery-powered string trimmer and edger from WORX. At less than 6 pounds, it’s light enough to carry around the yard and sturdy enough to take down difficult weeds. An adjustable handle ensures a comfortable grip, reducing unnecessary strain and an awkward hold.
The 90-degree pivoting head on this WORX model helps users trim areas that are inaccessible or uncomfortable for locked-head trimmers. This head tilt comes in handy for sloped terrain and areas that are harder to reach, such as under a backyard playground. The two 20-volt batteries provide enough juice to trim an average-size yard with power to spare. A 12-inch cutting diameter and 0.065-inch line handles most yard jobs. This device comes with an adjustable spacer guard that extends to protect flowers, plants, and other features from accidentally getting cut.
This could be the ideal compact string trimmer for a small townhome or condo landscape. It took about an hour to charge each battery, and each one gave about 20 minutes of full-power runtime. The WG163 had plenty of power to keep grassy edges and corners neat and cut cleanly enough to use as a mini mower, although it was not perfect in coarse weeds. The handle, shaft, and cutting-head adjustments made it easy to customize the fit for users more than 6 feet tall. When not in use, it can be shortened and flattened for storage in a utility closet or on a garage wall hook.
- Power source: 20-volt 2.0-Ah lithium-ion battery
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Cutting swath: 12 inches
- Shaft rotates 90 degrees for convenient edging
- Includes a second battery; great for working on large areas
- Folds flat for compact storage
- Impressive power considering the compact size
- Batteries have shorter runtime and a longer charging time than other options
- Head angle adjustment is somewhat awkward
Get the WORX WG163 GT string trimmer at Amazon.
Those who have dealt with manual string trimmers know that it’s better to invest in a product with an auto-feed feature that automatically extends the trimming line instead of having to regularly stop to pull more string out of the trimmer head by hand. The 40-volt battery drives the 13-inch trimming head for up to 1 hour before needing to be replaced.
This cordless string trimmer has a trigger switch for safety as well as a metal loop that can fold down and give the trimmer balanced support, allowing it to be used as an edging tool. It weighs just 6.4 pounds and has a 3.5-foot-long shaft with an adjustable handle to accommodate users of varying heights.
This trimmer is a bit heavier and feels more substantial than some comparable models. It offers more working power than a 20-volt trimmer and automatically feeds new trimmer string as needed, which makes the Black & Decker 40-volt trimmer/edger a better pick for tougher jobs like cleaning up end-of-season garden beds or weedy corners. The 40-volt 1.5-Ah battery provides about 25 minutes of runtime per charge, and it takes about 2 hours to recharge.
- Power source: 40-volt 1.5-Ah lithium-ion battery
- Weight: 6.4 pounds
- Cutting swath: 13 inches
- Plenty of power for grassy and weedy areas
- Automatically feeds trimmer line as needed
- Handle and shaft adjust for operator comfort
- The 1.5-Ah battery is undersized
- The included charger works very slowly
- Heavier than comparable 20-volt trimmer
Get the Black & Decker 40V MAX string trimmer at Amazon, The Home Depot.
This battery-operated string trimmer from Black & Decker simplifies edging and trimming, which is a valuable benefit with lawn care. A cutting swath of 12 inches gives users enough diameter to tackle lawn edges and areas around landscape features and flower beds. The under 6-pound string trimmer is lightweight enough to carry around until the job is done. This model comes with two 20-volt batteries and a charger.
The string trimmer uses two-speed control so users can boost the power for any stubborn brush. A push of a button automatically advances the spool for simplified feeding; no bumping or manual work is required. This model has an adjustable height and adjustable handle with a premium micro-texture soft grip, enabling users to customize the settings for an ergonomically comfortable fit.
This trimmer is an easy-to-use lightweight model that would be great for a small yard, especially where plantings or other obstacles make extension cords cumbersome. In our tests it worked well on tall and short grass in the well-maintained spaces, but struggled a bit among heavier weeds.
- Power source: 20-volt 2.0-Ah lithium-ion battery
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Cutting swath: 12 inches
- Includes an extra battery; ideal for quick swaps and continuing the yard work
- This model is lightweight and easily maneuverable
- Compact, adjustable design can cope with most trimming tasks
- Weight is balanced a bit forward
- Struggles somewhat in coarse weeds
Get the Black & Decker 20V MAX string trimmer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Target.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best String Trimmer
Knowing what attributes to look for in a string trimmer helps in the search. Whether it’s the type, weight, ergonomic considerations, or attachment versatility, some features may provide a greater benefit than others for each situation. These considerations can help reveal which string trimmer is the best string trimmer for each user’s situation.
String trimmers are classified as either corded or cordless:
- Corded trimmers require an extension cord and a power outlet. They provide an unlimited power source and don’t require refueling or battery replacement.
- Cordless trimmers are either gas- or battery-powered, giving the user freedom to use the trimmer anywhere in the yard.
String trimmers also can be grouped depending on whether they are corded electric, battery powered, or gas powered:
- Corded electric trimmers are lightweight and turn on with a switch. This type is reliable for small yards with an accessible outlet where the cord can reach all areas of the lawn to ensure a complete job. Low maintenance and reliable power are these trimmers’ strongest features.
- Battery-powered trimmers are more maneuverable than corded trimmers. These turn on with a switch and are a handy choice for low-maintenance lawns. Depending on lawn size, a backup battery may be needed to finish a job.
- Gas-powered trimmers are more robust and are best for tougher jobs because they offer more power than electric string trimmers. These trimmers may require a mix of gas and oil to operate and occasional maintenance. Most models have a pull-start.
Cutting width, or cutting swath, is the diameter of the trimmer. Choosing the right width helps users get their grass trimming done quickly and efficiently. For an increased cutting swath, choose a trimmer with a long line rather than manually overextending the line length during use. Overextending the line length for a larger cutting width reduces the efficiency of the trimmer, as the engine has to spin more weight than its design intended. To get the job done faster, string trimmers with dual heads can cut more efficiently than single-string trimmers.
The type of string used in each trimmer contributes to how efficiently the trimmer cuts down the grass, weeds, or overgrown areas. The thinnest line is 0.065 of an inch; it’s used for lighter-duty work, generally with smaller cordless or electric trimmers. A thicker line of 0.08- or 0.095-inch is more durable and increases the cutting power.
Variable Speed Control
Some trimmers have variable speed controls for different cutting conditions. On battery-powered models, there may be two speed controls—one to increase the power for use on thicker/overgrown areas and the other to lower the power to trim perimeters while extending battery life. Gas-powered trimmers may use a throttle response for quick-powered adjustments when tough weeds or thick growth need tending.
Routine home maintenance doesn’t require professional landscaper tools. Many affordable trimmers lack speed control, offering one consistent speed for all conditions. One speed optimizes the length of time a string trimmer can be used without needing to change a battery or refuel.
Feeding and Loading
The string trimmer’s spool supports a single or a double line, depending on the style of the trimmer. A single line loads by winding the string around the spool and feeding it through the feed hole. Double-line heads require users to separately wind two lines of string around the spool so they don’t get tangled.
There are a few methods for feeding the string into the trimmer, depending on the model.
- Manual feed is not common, but it’s a handy backup option. Users need to turn off the trimmer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for pulling out the line by hand.
- Bump feed requires the user to tap the bottom of the trimmer on the ground to release more line.
- Push-button feed sends more line through by using a button on the handle.
- Automatic feed senses when the string is too short and lengthens it without any action from the user.
When loading the trimmer with a new string, use the correct line size. A heavier string puts extra stress on the engine and may affect overall performance.
Ease of Use
How long it takes to trim the edges of a lawn depends on the size of the lawn and can be anywhere from a few minutes to longer than half an hour. Some features of lawn trimmers that make them easier to use include an ergonomic design, a light weight, a tilting head, and an even balance.
- Ergonomic design reduces unnecessary strain on the user. A telescopic shaft prevents hunching over, and adjustable handles personalize the trimmer to the user’s size to prevent holding it in an uncomfortable position.
- Lightweight models are easier to use for longer periods. The weight of more powerful, heavier machines may prompt the user to take breaks to relieve their muscles, making the job take longer than expected.
- Tilting heads can go into areas where the operator doesn’t have to contort or maneuver their body.
- Balance makes using a trimmer comfortable for longer periods. A straight trimmer shaft helps provide better weight balance, making it more comfortable to hold.
Noise and Vibration
Noise is not much of an issue with electric string trimmers; typically the whirring sound of the string and the cutting sound are the loudest components. These types of trimmers don’t usually require hearing protection, as they are very quiet compared to their gas-powered counterparts. Gas trimmers, and some electric models, require hearing protection. These kinds are more robust and require additional juice to tackle tougher outdoor jobs.
As the engine works to make the lines rotate, it causes vibrations that can contribute to user fatigue. Many new string-trimmer models use handles with a flexible material that absorbs some of the vibrations, reducing the intensity transferred to the operator. Wearing heavy-duty gloves when using the trimmer can also help minimize blisters caused by those vibrations.
Many string trimmers convert to an edge trimmer with a couple of quick adjustments. Some models also work with other attachments, using the same engine but swapping out the tool’s head. String trimmers that use attachments go by many names, including “multifunction” or “multi-tool.” To get the benefit of attachments, users need to purchase a trimmer specifically intended for multiple purposes.
Some of the attachment heads available may include the following:
- A leaf blower spins a blower fan for quick cleanup.
- An edger helps tidy lines around the driveway or a walkway.
- A cultivator stirs the top layers of soil or helps remove and control weeds.
- A brush cutter trims thicker growth or small saplings.
- A pole saw cuts through tree limbs up to 9 inches thick.
- A hedge trimmer readily trims hedges at the same time as trimming the grass.
As a power tool, the string trimmer has the potential to cause injury. This device rotates at high speeds to cut down grass or weeds but can also throw debris, including rocks. Most trimmers have safety features in place to reduce the likelihood of accidents. Some of these safety features include:
- Safety guards on the side of the trimmer closest to the operator. These guards deflect objects away from the user to minimize the risk of injury. Always make sure the guard is in place when the trimmer is in use.
- Safety locks for height and handle adjustments to ensure the string trimmer doesn’t move unexpectedly during operation.
- Safety switches for the quick shutdown of the tool.
In addition to the safeguards in place from the trimmer, users should also wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective glasses, closed-toe shoes, long pants, and hearing protection (if warranted).
Before putting on safety gear and heading out to use a new string trimmer, you may have a few lingering questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about string trimmers to help you get started.
Q. How does a string trimmer work?
The string trimmer’s engine rotates fast enough so that the line of string at the base whips around with the force required to cut down grass, weeds, and other growth.
Q. What do I use a string trimmer for?
For areas that a lawn mower can’t reach or cut properly, such as around a mailbox or a tree base, a string trimmer efficiently targets and cuts down growth. It cuts down problematic vegetation, although some stubborn patches may require weed killer, crabgrass killer, or other weed and feed products.
Q. Are string trimmers dangerous?
Trimmers can be dangerous since they fling debris at high revolutions per minute (rpm), which is why proper safety features are built into the designs and PPE should be worn when operating a string trimmer.
Q. How long do string trimmers last?
String trimmers last many years with proper care. Replace the line when it runs out, charge the batteries when needed, and do routine maintenance on gas trimmers to ensure longevity.
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