String Trimmer
Buying Guide

Picture of a string trimmer being used in someone's yard.
String Trimmer Buying Guide

Into the Weeds

Even a blue-ribbon lawn won’t win any landscaping prizes if you have shaggy, untrimmed walkways and tall grass poking up around trees and fence posts. Modern string trimmers address a garden variety of lawn-grooming issues with better performance and convenience for less money.

If you're environmentally conscious you may gravitate toward an electric string trimmer. But you should know that today's gas-powered string trimmers emit fewer pollutants than they used to. And cordless, battery-powered trimmers—while not as robust as corded-electric or gas models—can still make your yard look trim and proper.


What to Consider

You don’t need an expensive, professional-grade string trimmer (although the best gas models come close to matching their power). For regular jobs, gas trimmers and even some electric trimmers can dispense with run-of-the-mill grass and weeds just fine.

What type of yard work do you need a string trimmer for? Typically, gas-powered trimmers are more powerful and may be more effective at tackling substantial weeds and grass growth. Newer battery-powered models have power nearly equal to gas trimmers, but they're just as heavy and more expensive. Corded string trimmers can be easier to maneuver, and a good choice for lighter duty landscaping tasks. For more see our full String Trimmer Ratings.

Try it out. Handle a string trimmer in the store to check its balance. After adjusting the front handle for a comfortable reach, hold the trimmer in the cutting position with both hands. Its weight should feel evenly distributed from top to bottom or slightly heavier at the top. Be sure the controls work smoothly and are easy to reach.

Mind the gap. Some string trimmers have a built-in design flaw that allows tall grass and weeds to wrap around the top of the cutting head, which can slow or stall the trimmer. Look for models with only a small gap or better yet, a protective sleeve between the cutting head and trimmer shaft.

Be safe. String trimmers can kick up debris. Make sure you wear safety glasses, gloves, long pants, and boots. All but the cordless electric trimmers we tested emitted at least 85 decibels, the level at which we recommend hearing protection. 

A feature we don't recommend: Split shaft. With these models, the shaft comes apart to accept a leaf blower, hedge trimmer, edging blade, or other yard tools. But most add-on tools haven't been very effective in our tests.


String Trimmer Types

Call it String Theory: Again, we recommend you wear hearing protection whenever you use a string trimmer.

A gas-powered string trimmer.

Gas-Powered String Trimmer

These are the best choice for large areas of tall grass and weeds. Many weigh less than 13 pounds, although they're still heavier than corded-electric models. Today’s gas-powered trimmers run more cleanly but still produce exhaust emissions. Most gas models also should have a deflector to aim exhaust backward. If you're left-handed, a model lacking this would aim exhaust towards you.

On gas models, a translucent tank lets you see fuel level, and a centrifugal clutch lets a gas trimmer idle without spinning the line—safer and more convenient than when the line keeps turning. Note: Electric models don't spin unless you press a switch.

Cost: $100-$190

See our String Trimmer Ratings for top gas-powered models.
A corded-electric string trimmer.

Corded-Electric String Trimmer

Corded-electric string trimmers cost the least and weigh less than 10 pounds. They're best for smaller yards and more modest landscaping needs. Corded-electric trimmers don't require tune-ups, and they start with pushbutton ease.

Corded-electric string trimmers are also lighter and quieter than their gas counterparts, but the power cord limits your range—and we still recommend you wear hearing protection.

Electric trimmers with a top-mounted motor tend to be better balanced and easier to handle than models with the motor mounted down near the cutting line.

Cost: $90-$110

For more on how different corded-elecric string trimmers perform, check our full String Trimmer Ratings Charts.
A cordless-electric string trimmer.

Cordless-Electric String Trimmer

Battery-powered string trimmers deliver cord-free mobility without fueling, fumes, or pull-starting. They trim and edge impressively, and perform reasonably well in moderate-length grass. But top gas and plug-in electric trimmers still outperform them in the tall stuff. They are heavier than corded models and limited to a run time of about 30 minutes before they need a recharge, which can take hours for some models. Best suited to smaller jobs.

Note: As we said for corded-electric trimmers, cordless trimmers with a top-mounted motor will also be better balanced and easier to handle than those with a motor near the cutting line.

Cost: $130-$190

Check our String Trimmer Ratings for more on the top cordless-electric models.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Shopping for lawn gear can be overwhelming, but here's the help you need to get the job done.

Black+Decker is the leading manufacturer and marketer of corded- and cordless-electric string trimmers and offers an extensive line of electric products. Black+Decker string trimmers are widely available online and at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.
Craftsman products are made by a variety of manufacturers, and most have similar counterparts under different brand names. In the string-trimmer market, Craftsman is a top brand. Craftsman string trimmers are available with two- and four-stroke engines and split-shaft designs for attachments. Craftsman products are sold at Sears and Kmart and at
Echo is the leading manufacturer and marketer of gas string trimmers and now also sells cordless-electric models. Echo products are used in the consumer and professional market. Echo string trimmers are available with two-cycle engines and split-shaft designs for attachments. Some models claim low noise, emissions, and weight, along with anti-vibration features. Consumers can find Echo string trimmers at company dealer stores and Home Depot.
Husqvarna markets a small line of gas string trimmers for both the consumer and professional market. These string trimmers are available with both two- and four-stroke engines, and many have split-shaft designs for attachments. You'll find Husqvarna string trimmers at Lowe's and dealer stores.
MTD markets electric and gas string trimmers under the Yard-Man, Yard Machines, Troy-Bilt, Cub Cadet, and Bolens brand names. MTD's diverse line of string trimmers includes corded- and cordless-electric types, models with two- and four-stroke engines, and split-shaft designs for attachments. MTD products are sold at a broad array of retailers including Sears, Tractor Supply, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Walmart.
Stihl is a leading manufacturer and marketer of gas string trimmers. These premium-priced products are for consumers and pros. Stihl string trimmers are available with both two- and four-stroke engines. One model in the line is electric, and many have split-shaft designs for attachments. Some models claim features that reduce noise, emissions, weight, and vibration. You'll find Stihl string trimmers at dealer stores.
Toro manufactures and markets a line of small, lightweight, corded- and cordless-electric string trimmers sold through dealers and Home Depot. The Toro brand is also used on a line of gas trimmers, not manufactured by Toro, that are sold at Home Depot.