String Trimmer Buying Guide

A string trimmer gets into places that a lawn mower can’t. It’s the ideal tool for keeping the edges of your garden or walkway neat and tidy and for manicuring around fence poles and tree trunks. It can tackle tall grass and weeds, too, which might bog down a regular lawn mower. 

String trimmers—which are also sometimes referred to by popular brand names including Weed Whackers or Weed Eaters—have either a curved or straight shaft, and typically run on either gasoline or lithium-ion battery. A small number of models are corded, with cords that are only a foot long, so you'll want an extension cord that's at least 50 to 100 feet in length to plug into.

Take note that electrics are both better for the earth and have improved exponentially in how well they perform in recent years. Below, we delve into these and other factors you should consider when you shop for a string trimmer. 

How We Test String Trimmers

In our tests, we use each trimmer to tackle typical yard weeds and high grass as well as dense brush, noting and timing how long each model takes to clear a defined path. We also test each model at edging, or its ability to create a neat and straight line along a walkway. And we look at how easy each model is to hold, maneuver, and operate, noting how difficult it is to start up or feed extra line through the cutting head. 

We test gas and electric models with curved and straight shafts. If you’ve never used a string trimmer, try out curved-shaft and straight-shaft models in a home center or hardware store to see which feels better. 

To see how well the string trimmers in our tests perform, see our string trimmer ratings

Curved or Straight Shaft?

The straight- vs. curved-shaft debate in terms of handling is largely one of preference: Shorter curved shafts allow the user to nimbly maneuver around obstacles, while straight-shaft tools (which are generally longer) increase the user's reach and coverage from a given point. In general, pros favor straight-shaft models for this reason—you can cover more ground with fewer steps. 

Which Power Source Is Right for You?

A string trimmer can be powered by gasoline, a battery, or a power cord.

"In our tests we find that corded, battery, and gas-powered string trimmers can all cut well, depending on the model," says Misha Kollontai, CR's engineer in charge of string trimmer testing. "The choice between power sources should really be dictated by the size and layout of your yard." 

Corded electric string trimmers are best for yards up to about 1/4 acre. Battery-powered trimmers are good for a yard up to about a 1/2 acre, and they can tackle much larger yards if you have multiple batteries that you can charge and swap in. Gasoline string trimmers work for a yard of any size. 

Other Considerations

Should You Buy a Powered Base?
With gas string trimmers, you’ll have the option of buying a stand-alone tool or a powered base, also known as a split shaft. A powered base or split shaft is basically an engine designed to accept different attachments, and it’s typically sold with a string trimmer head. For most models, you can also get a hedge trimmer, a pole saw, an edger, and a brush cutter, and even a cultivator attachment. It’s a good option if you need a string trimmer and any or all of the additional tools, and you don’t want to buy each separately.

Mind the Gap
Before you buy any string trimmer, look at the cutting head, where it meets the shaft of the trimmer. If there’s a large gap, be warned that tall grass will probably get wrapped around the shaft in that spot. Instead, look for a model with a minimal gap, or one with an easy-to-remove cutting head so that you can quickly pop the head off and get rid of weeds. 

Safety First
String trimmers can easily break through skin and send debris flying while they cut. They have a shield to deflect most debris, but even so, you’ll want to wear gloves, protective eyewear, boots, and long pants, in addition to hearing protection for gas models. 

Video Buying Guide

For more, watch our buying guide below.

String Trimmer Types

Let your lawn and landscape dictate which type of string trimmer you buy. 

A gas-powered string trimmer.

Gas-Powered String Trimmer

Traditionally the best choice for large properties, a gas-powered string trimmer goes anywhere and can run indefinitely. This type is also popular, so you’ll have plenty of options when shopping if you go this route—just not as many as with battery models, which is now the most popular style. Look for models with an adjustable handle and a translucent gas tank so that you can see when fuel is low. Models with a four-cycle engine run cleaner and use regular gas but cost more. Models with a two-cycle engine cost less, but you’ll need to add oil to your gasoline. All the gas-powered string trimmers in our tests are loud enough to require hearing protection for the user.
Cost: $70 to $330


String Trimmers Ratings
A corded-electric string trimmer.

Corded-Electric String Trimmer

Though corded yard tools may seem outdated, a corded string trimmer can perform really well for a certain subset of homeowners. If you have a small yard and don’t need to trim more than 100 feet from an outlet, these are ideal. Most have a short cord and require a long outdoor-rated extension cord—you can typically find these cords in lengths up to 100 feet. Corded-electric string trimmers tend to be the cheapest, plus they start instantly and run indefinitely, and you don’t need to worry about buying gas or charging a battery.
Cost: $50 to $70


String Trimmers Ratings
A battery-powered string trimmer.

Battery-Powered String Trimmer

In our latest tests, the best battery-powered models trim as well as or even better than gas models. Plus they produce no emissions and run quietly. They also start instantly every time, without you having to fuss over the choke or yank a pull-cord. They require far less maintenance, and their batteries can typically be used in other outdoor power tools from the same brand, including lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws. The life span of the lithium-ion batteries used to power these tools is still a big unknown, so look for a long warranty that specifically applies to the battery. Expect to cut for about 30 minutes on a single charge. Most batteries take about an hour to recharge once they've fully drained.
Cost: $70 to $300


String Trimmers Ratings

More to Consider When Shopping for a String Trimmer

Shopping for a string trimmer can be confusing. Here’s the help you need to get the job done.

String Trimmer Brands

Black+Decker is a leading manufacturer 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. Its 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 sears.com, as well as select Ace Hardware stores and Lowe's.
Echo is the leading manufacturer of gas string trimmers and now also sells cordless-electric models. Its products are used in the consumer and professional market. Its string trimmers are available with two-cycle engines and split-shaft designs for attachments. Echo claims that some of its models offer low noise, emissions, and weight, along with anti-vibration features. Consumers can find Echo string trimmers at Echo dealer stores and Home Depot.
Ego is one of the larger manufacturers of battery-powered lawn tools, with some of the top models in CR's tests. After years of selling these products exclusively at Home Depot, Ego now sells at Lowe's. All of its tools, including its string trimmers, share a 56-volt battery platform, which is nice because if you buy multiple Ego tools, you'll always have a charged battery on hand.
Greenworks is a large manufacturer of electric lawn tools, including string trimmers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and chainsaws, the majority of which work on either a 60- or 80-volt battery platform. Greenworks sells through Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, Ace Hardware, and Tractor Supply.
Husqvarna makes a small line of gas string trimmers for the consumer and professional market. These string trimmers are available with 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 makes electric and gas string trimmers and sells them under the Bolens, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Yard Machines, and Yard-Man 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 Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, Tractor Supply, and Walmart.
This Home Depot exclusive brand has a reputation for offering tools that are reasonably priced but offer good performance. In addition to lawn mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, and other outdoor tools, Ryobi is one of the only brands that makes all three kinds of string trimmers: corded, battery, and gas.
Stihl is a leading manufacturer of gas string trimmers with a small number of battery models. These premium-priced products are for consumers and pros. Stihl string trimmers are available with two- and four-stroke engines, and many of those gas models have split-shaft designs for attachments. Stihl claims some of its models have features that reduce noise, emissions, weight, and vibration. You'll find Stihl string trimmers at outdoor power equipment dealers.
Toro manufactures a line of small, lightweight, corded- and cordless-electric string trimmers sold through dealers and Home Depot.
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