Buying a string trimmer can seem unnecessarily complicated. Curved shaft or straight? Gas-powered or electric? Plug-in or battery? And what about split-shaft models, which have a power base designed to work with string trimmer heads as well as other attachments such as hedge trimmers and pole saws.

Answering the three simple questions below will help you find the right string trimmer for your yard. Once you do, check out Consumer Reports’ ratings of dozens of string trimmers.

1. How Big Is Your Yard?

String trimmers draw power from one of three sources: gas engines, electric outlets, and rechargeable batteries. Our tests have found great performers among each type, so let your yard guide your choice.

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If you have a small lawn and access to an outdoor outlet, “go for a corded electric model,” says David Trezza, senior test program leader at Consumer Reports. They’re the cheapest and lightest, but the length of the cord will limit where you can cut, and a 100-foot outdoor extension cord of the proper gauge—we recommend 12-gauge—can cost $75. We like the Black+Decker GH3000, $70. 

If there’s no outlet handy or your yard is larger than 100x100 feet—the size you can reach with an extension cord—look to battery- or gas-powered options. Gas-powered string trimmers are generally cheaper than battery-powered trimmers but need more upkeep. Battery-powered models, which are significantly quieter, may be worth the upcharge if you have a lot of weeds to cut along your property line, where the roar of a gas engine could bother your neighbors.

2. How Tall Are You?

Don’t get too hung up on curved-shaft vs. straight-shaft models. “The choice is really only about preference,” Trezza says. Straight-shaft models may have marginally more power and longer reach, and can potentially keep you farther away from flying weeds. Our top trimmer of this type is the Echo SRM-230, $290, but the Snapper S28BC, $170, trims almost as well and costs a lot less.

Curved-shaft models, which have a bend in the shaft just above the trimmer head, are generally easier to maneuver and control, in part because the weighty trimmer head is closer to the user while cutting. The Poulan Pro PP25CFA, $110, and the Ryobi RY252CS, $100, are both exceptionally easy to use and cut well. 

Our advice? Let your build determine the style to buy. If you’re tall and can easily handle a 13-pound trimmer vibrating in your hands, go for a straight-shaft model. If you’re on the shorter side or you want added control for carefully cutting around flower beds, choose a curved-shaft trimmer. 

3. Do You Need Other Yard Tools?

The potent batteries on cordless trimmers tend to make them more expensive than gas models, but if you happen to need a leaf blower or chain saw, the equation changes. Because the battery in your trimmer can also be used to power other tools from the same brand, you can splurge on a pricey cordless trimmer and buy the other yard tools without a battery or charger, at a steep discount. If you go this route, consider the Ego ST1501-S, $180. It tops our ratings of battery-powered string trimmers, cuts as well as most gas models, and weighs in at a mere 9 pounds—but Ego’s other yard tools, powered by the same battery, routinely come out at the front of the pack, too. 

If you only need the trimmer, you’ll probably save a few bucks going with a stand-alone gas model. And take a pass on split-shaft trimmers, which feature a powered base that can accept attachments for blowing leaves or cutting hedges. Our testing has shown that you get better performance with a dedicated string trimmer.