Choosing and Using String Trimmers
String trimmers, which cut greenery with whirling plastic lines, can trim right up to trees, steps, and rocks. They’re great for maintaining a neat edge along walks and beds, and they can tidy a rocky hillside that’s too irregular to mow. Many can also accept a metal blade for leveling tough scrub and small saplings.
Roger Cook, This Old House landscape contractor, keeps two trimmers in his truck—one with plastic string, the other with a blade. He switches to the latter the minute the string stops cutting and wraps around a tough stem. String comes in a range of thicknesses and textures, but you’re limited by what your machine can accept. “In most cases, heavier is better,” says Roger. “The right texture, on the other hand, depends on your landscape. You have to experiment.”
The trimmers themselves come in two basic varieties: the more costly and powerful gas models (2-cycle or 4-cycle engine, the latter up to 350) and the economical electric (cordless or corded, some less than 50). The right choice depends on the property’s size, its terrain, and your tolerance for noise and pollution. Keep in mind: Trimmer tips spin at close to 400 mph, so don’t forget eye and ear protection, as well as boots, long pants, and gloves. And stay clear of outdoor wiring, lest you zap yourself instead of the weeds.
PROS: Power to clean up a big yard, large cutting swath (16 to 18 inches)
CONS: Weight, noise, pollution, maintenance; the need to keep gas and oil on hand
For an affordable trimmer (under 200) with the power and the reach to clean up a large yard, look for a 2-cycle machine that has separate primer, choke, and throttle controls for easy starting. Two-cycle engines run on a mix of gas and oil.
Pictured: A curved shaft that’s easier on the back, with a loop handle for better balance and control.
With a big jungle to tame, you’ll want a trimmer with a 4-cycle engine. Though more expensive (300 and up), these powerful machines are easier to start, quieter, pollute less, and run smoother than 2-cycle motors, and don’t require a gas-oil mix.
Pictured: A common straight shaft, which is more durable—and versatile in the attachments it accepts.
For flattening brush and saplings with a brush-cutting blade, you need the control of bicycle-style handlebars, especially if a hearty trunk kicks the head back at you. Handlebars can be fitted to most gas-powered trimmers; however, they are less maneuverable for string edging.
Pictured: A 4-cycle brush-cutting package, with handlebars, blade, and shoulder straps.
PROS: Portability and light weight; low price (50 to 150); less noise
CONS: Less power; limited extension-cord reach or battery life; small cutting swath (12 to 15 inches); can’t handle brush cutting
3-amp or better corded electric machine is powerful enough to clean up a suburban yard, provided you’ve got outdoor outlets and a long extension cord. Plus, it’s the least expensive option.
Pictured: This model costs less than 50.
Cordless trimmers can handle grass and weeds in a small yard, and they’re easy to toss in the trunk when it’s your turn to tidy Grandma’s patio. The rechargeable 12-volt battery means no hassling with extension cords or gas-oil mixtures, and purchasing a spare battery pack will alleviate the disadvantage of the short run time.
Typically, trimmer string comes wound around the head and is slowly eaten away with use. Some heads release more string automatically; others you tap on the ground. Eventually, when the spool is empty, you have to stop and wind a new one.
Check out Echo’s new Rapid-Loader trimmer head (right), which has locking clips that hold short pieces of plastic string. When it’s time to replace them, you just pull out the old line and slide in the new—no winding necessary. Roger loves them. “I keep a handful of strings in my ,” he says. “Within 30 seconds, I can have new ones on and I’m off to work again.”
For rocky and hilly acreage, consider a 4-cycle, two-wheel trimmer/mower. It will cut grass like a rotary mower without the shriek of metal blades scalping rocks, and because the string head sits way out in front, it trims right up to posts and walls. The disadvantages are price (starting at 450) and the fact that you can’t flip it up on edge for maintaining a crisp border around beds and walks, as you can with a regular string trimmer.
Getting the height right
A string trimmer can strip a lawn bald if held too close to the surface. Keep the string head about 2 to 3 inches off the ground, just like a mower blade, and sweep the machine side to side in a steady motion parallel to the ground. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time; we all make mistakes, and it will grow out—just like a bad haircut.
If you trim tall grass and weeds at ground level, the stems are liable to tangle around the trimmer head and stall it. Roger’s solution is to trim tall weeds from the top down, so the string chomps them into little pieces. For big fields of grass, consider getting a special grass-cutting head that has three plastic blades designed to lay the stems down flat without tangling the mechanism.
Once you’ve established a clean edge along driveways, walks, and flower beds, you can maintain it with your trimmer. Just shift your grip so the string spins vertically, like an airplane propeller. It will track right along the bed line and make hash of any sideways-growing grass.
Trimming near trees, posts, and steps
A string trimmer can get right up to tree and shrub trunks, fence posts, and concrete steps. But be careful to stop short of hitting these with the string. You can kill a tree by stripping its bark, or cut a chunk out of wood or concrete. Approach these fixtures gingerly, and pull back as soon as you hear or feel the distinctive click of slapping string. (Or better yet, create mulch beds around trees and posts so you never have to get close.)
When you switch to a metal blade for cutting brush and saplings, protect yourself with long pants, helmet, boots, and goggles or a face mask, plus shoulder straps to keep you from getting an aching back. Never remove the blade guard: It not only protects you, it also keeps the blade from wreaking havoc on rocks, walks, or posts.
With any trimmer, wipe off bits of grass and debris when you stop for the day, and check both the gas level and what’s left on the string reel. Neatly coil the cord or recharge the batteries on electric machines. Some gas machines must be stored upright or level so fluids don’t leak; check your manual.
The 10 Best Weed Eaters of 2023
Michelle Ullman is a home decor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home decor for over 10 years for publications like BobVila.com and Better Homes Gardens, among others.
Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry’s most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40 years of experience and 20 years of writing experience. Mary is also a member of The Spruce Gardening and Plant Care Review Board.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics including environmental science and houseplants.
Whether you call it a “weed eater,” “weed whacker,” or “string trimmer,” these landscaping tools are ideal for trimming grass and weeds along the edge of a flowerbed, around a tree trunk, underneath a deck, and in other hard-to-reach places.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love, says, “A weed whacker can quickly and effectively trim grass, weeds, and other unwanted plant growth in areas difficult to reach with a mower or shears. When choosing one, the most important thing to look for is the power it offers, as well as the size and weight of the tool. Gas weed eaters are the most powerful, but electric models are best for most homeowners.”
He cautions, “To ensure safe use of a weed whacker, always wear the appropriate protective gear, including goggles and gloves, stand with your feet apart for balance, hold the tool’s handle firmly but comfortably with both hands, and never operate the weed whacker without its guard attached.”
Ryobi 40-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Electric Cordless String Trimmer
If you want the power of a gas weed eater but the convenience of a battery-powered tool, then this 40-volt offering from Ryobi is the answer. Our top choice of string trimmer is loaded with great features, including a brushless motor for longer life with less required maintenance and an adjustable handle so you can position it comfortably for your height. We also appreciate its two-speed trigger with variable speed control, so you can go faster when you need extra power for tough weeds or brush, and slow the tool down to extend the battery run-time when merely cutting small weeds and grass. Plus, it has an adjustable cutting width, with a minimum of 13 inches and a maximum of 15 inches.
This string trimmer comes with 0.085-inch string, which is good for trimming grass and weeds, but you can also load it with 0.095-inch string if desired for tackling tougher weeds, light brush, or thick grass. Either way, the weed whacker is very easy to reload, thanks to the REEL EASY head, which can be rewound in under 60 seconds. When you want to let out more string, a gentle bump of the tool against the ground advances just the right amount so you can keep working without having to stop and let out line by hand. The tool also comes with a set of serrated plastic blades, which can be fitted into the tool’s head in place of string. Use the blades for cutting tougher brush and weeds. While not nearly as strong as metal blades, these do a good job on softer weeds and grasses, but they aren’t sturdy enough for woody weeds.
How To Choose A String Trimmer
This versatile weed eater works with the Ryobi line of Expand-It accessories, sold separately, which can turn your string trimmer into a pole saw, electric hedge trimmer, soil cultivator, snow thrower, blower, and more quickly and easily. The weed whacker comes with one Ryobi lithium-ion 40-volt battery and charger, which are compatible with any other Ryobi tool using a 40-volt battery. Depending on conditions, you can get up to one hour and 10 minutes of run-time from the battery before needing to recharge.
Price at time of publish: 213
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 11.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 40 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 15 inches
Greenworks 5.5 Amp 15-Inch Corded Electric String Trimmer
Just because a weed whacker comes at a budget price, that doesn‘t mean you have to forgo great features, as this corded electric offering from Greenworks proves. Plug the tool into an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 100 feet in length; no smelly gasoline fumes or worrying about a battery running down before you finish. Suited to a small-to-medium yard, this string trimmer’s head easily pivots for use as a trimmer or an edger, doubling its versatility. It has a 15-inch cutting swath and uses 0.065-inch string, which automatically advances as the exposed string wears down. When you need to reload the string, you can use pre-filled spools or rewind bulk string onto the spool that comes with the tool. However, you cannot use heavy-weight string with this weed eater, and if you choose to rewind the spool, rather than replace it, it can be a bit tricky to do correctly.
The handle telescopes from 40 inches to 50 inches, and the grip is also adjustable, so you can set the weed whacker to fit your own height, making it comfortable to use for lengthy gardening sessions. Its 5.5-amp motor runs smoothly and quietly and has enough power to quickly cut through grass and non-woody weeds. At only seven pounds, this is a reasonably lightweight string trimmer, so it won’t wear you down before the job is through.
Price at time of publish: 90
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 7 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 5.5 amp | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 15 inches
Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight Shaft Trimmer
If you have a large area of brush, overgrown grass, or woody weeds to clear, then you’ll appreciate the extra power of a gas weed eater like this offering from Echo, which runs on a 25.4 cc, professional-grade two-stroke engine. Like other gas-powered weed eaters, you’ll need to fill the gas tank with a 50:1 ratio of fuel to oil mix. Echo’s i-30 starting system makes it much easier to start up this weed eater than most others, and once powered on, this sturdy beast chews steadily through just about anything you ask it to. The handles are padded and ergonomically shaped for comfort and are also designed to greatly reduce the amount of vibration that reaches your hands and arms.
The 0.095-inch heavy-duty string advances with a bump of the tool against the ground. When the string runs out, the Echo Speed-Feed system requires no tools and takes only seconds to reload; no frustrating fuss or bother. With a 17-inch cutting swath, you can work your way across the lawn quickly. Should you need even more powerful cutting action, Echo sells a separate conversion kit that lets you swap out the string head for a metal-bladed head that easily cuts through thick underbrush and overgrown weeds. Be aware that this weed eater is quite loud and does emit gas fumes, as is typical for gas-powered tools.
Price at time of publish: 329
Type: Gas | Weight: 13.4 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 25.4 cc | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 17 inches
Ryobi ONE 18-Volt Cordless Battery String Trimmer
Go cordless with this lightweight string trimmer that’s designed to take care of small-to-medium yards. The curved shaft makes it easy to maneuver around shrubs, rocks, and tree trunks, and the handle is ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip. Plus, weighing a mere four pounds, this is a weed eater that shouldn’t tire you out. It’s powered by an 18-volt battery that recharges in an hour and runs for anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes per charge, depending on how you use it. And with a simple push of a button, you can switch the head’s orientation: use it horizontally for trimming and vertically for edging.
The cutting swath of this tool is 10 inches, which is on the small side but can be a good thing if you are edging a flowerbed or other area with many obstacles to work around. It can only use 0.065-inch string and automatically feeds out more string as required. It’s not too difficult to reload once the string runs out. The weed whacker comes with an 18-volt battery that can be used in other 18V Ryobi tools, as well as a charger. Note that it is not compatible with Ryobi’s Expand-It attachments, however.
Price at time of publish: 69
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 4 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 18-volt | Shaft Type: Curved | Maximum Cutting Width: 10 inches
Best Corded Electric
Ryobi 10-Amp Attachment-Capable Corded String Trimmer
As long as you have an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 100 feet, and you don’t need to trim beyond that point, a corded electric weed eater is a great option. You get a lot of power, like you would from a gas-powered tool, but you also get the benefits of a cordless tool, including no smelly fumes, no need to keep gasoline on hand, and an easy start at the push of a button. Plus, there’s no need to worry about your battery running out too soon. This corded weed whacker from Ryobi is loaded with great options beyond the above: It has a 10-amp motor for maximum performance, it cuts an impressive 18-inch path, and it is designed to reduce vibrations through the handle, so it’s easy on your hands, although it is relatively heavy for this type of tool.
The tool comes with 0.080-inch string, but can also use 0.095-inch string if you need something even more heavy-duty. String advances with a bump of the tool to the ground, and when it’s time to replace the reel, it’s very easy to install a new one or simply rewind bulk string around the reel. Best of all, this string trimmer is compatible with Ryobi’s extensive line of Expand-It attachments, meaning you can purchase a wide variety of optional attachments to turn the weed whacker into a brush cutter, hedge trimmer, pole saw, snow thrower, and more. However, its head does not pivot for use as an edger, as do many other weed eaters.
Price at time of publish: 90
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 11 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 10 amp | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 18 inches
Best Under 200
BLACKDECKER 20V 12 Inch Lithium Ion Cordless 2-in-1 Trimmer/Edger
Here’s a reasonably priced tool that effectively whacks weeds with the head in a horizontal position and then serves as an edger when you rotate the head into a vertical orientation. This battery-powered, 20-volt string trimmer from BLACKDECKER is perfect for small-to-medium-sized lawns and has enough power to chew through typical grass and weeds (although this isn’t the tool for tough brush or heavily overgrown lawns). You can adjust the handle up or down to suit your height. The cutting width of this weed eater is set at 12 inches, which is somewhat narrow but sufficient for small yards.
The weed eater comes with 0.065-inch line, which is suited to light use on grass and small weeds. Note that you cannot refill it with heavier line. The line advances automatically as it wears down with use, so you don’t need to carry the task out manually or bump the tool on the ground. The weed whacker comes with the 20-volt battery and charger, which are compatible with other BLACKDECKER cordless tools. Run-time before needing to recharge the battery varies greatly, depending on yard conditions, but you will typically get anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes on a single charge, which is enough to finish trimming or edging a small lawn.
Price at time of publish: 89
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 7.1 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 20 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
WORX WG163 GT 20V Power Share Cordless String Trimmer Edger
The WORX Power Share cordless weed eater just keeps racking up high ratings; this weed whacker has more than 20,000 customer ratings and an average of 4.5 stars. But that’s not really surprising, considering that this 20-volt tool comes with two batteries, so you can have one charging and one in use, doubling your working time. The batteries and charger are compatible with any other 20-volt WORX tool. You can easily pivot the head on the weed eater to turn it from trimmer to edger, and it’s easy to angle it for use on a slope or when reaching into awkward spots between plants or around obstacles. When using it as an edger, its rubber wheels help you stay in a steady line.
This weed whacker uses 0.065-inch string, which is easy to advance at the push of a button, thanks to the Command Feed spool system. But most amazing of all, WORX will send you free refill spools of string for the life of the tool; you just pay for shipping. This will come in handy, since the string can run out quickly. It also has a 12-inch cutting diameter, which isn’t the highest but is quite sufficient for average-sized lawns and yards. And at only 5.3 pounds, this is a lightweight string trimmer that’s easy to use even when your gardening sessions stretch out long.
Price at time of publish: 140
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 5.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 20 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
DeWALT 60-Volt Cordless Attachment-Capable String Trimmer Kit
If you use your string trimmer frequently and want lots of power as well as useful features, then you’ll appreciate the DeWALT weed whacker, which is a cordless model running off a 60-volt battery; that’s a lot of power, although it does add to the overall weight of the product. The high-efficiency brushless motor requires no maintenance to keep on running smoothly and fairly silently. There’s a two-speed, variable control trigger, so you can turn it up high when you need maximum power for chewing through brush or tall grass, or turn it down low to extend the battery run-time. You can even adjust the cutting width between 15 and 17 inches.
The weed whacker comes with 0.080-inch string, but the tool can also use 0.095-inch string if you need something even more heavyweight. To advance more string, just bump the weed eater lightly against the ground. The quick-load spool makes it easy to refill the string once you run out. If you want even more versatility from this weed eater, you’ll like its universal-attachment capability, which means you can purchase a wide variety of attachments from DeWALT or other companies to transform the weed whacker into a brush cutter, hedge trimmer, pole saw, blower, tiller, and more. It comes with a 60-volt DeWALT battery that is compatible with other tools from this company, as well as a charger.
Never Wind Weed Wacker Line Again. String Trimmer Line Loading Miracle
Price at time of publish: 301
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 15 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 60 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 17 inches
Best with Attachments
BLACKDECKER Corded String Trimmer With Lawn Mower Attachment
With most models of string trimmers, you have to purchase attachments separately. However, this 6.5-amp corded electric weed whacker from BLACKDECKER comes with a lawnmower attachment, making this a highly versatile tool for small backyards. In fact, it’s three tools in one: edger, string trimmer, and lawnmower. It’s especially good for mowing on slopes or hills where a traditional lawnmower can be hard to maneuver. And it can be used with an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 150 feet in length, so you can work your way around most small yards. Since there is no way to add a clipping bag to the tool, you can leave the grass clippings in place on the lawn to decompose into mulch or rake them up once you are finished mowing.
The string trimmer uses 0.065-inch string. There’s an automatic string feed, so you don’t have to stop and reel string out yourself or worry about bumping it against the ground while mowing. As a weed eater, the cutting swath is 12 inches. It pivots easily into edger mode. For use as a mower, the trimmer simply snaps into the mower base. You can adjust the mower’s cutting height from 1.6 inches to 2.4 inches; the mower does not have blades, but simply uses the spinning string to cut the grass, and it does a great job on most lawn types. You can even adjust the height of this tool’s handle between 33 inches and 43 inches to make it comfortable for your height.
Price at time of publish: 119
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 9.9 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 6.5 amps | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
Milwaukee M18 FUEL Cordless Quik-Lok String Trimmer
This professional-quality cordless string trimmer has the kind of power and run-time you’d expect from a gas weed eater, thanks to its M18 8.0-Ah lithium-ion battery. This sturdy weed whacker consists of two parts: a Milwaukee M18 FUEL power head with Quik-Lok and a Milwaukee M18 FUEL Quik-Lok string trimmer attachment. You can use any of Milwaukee’s other compatible attachments with the fuel head, making this a very versatile tool that can carry out a wide range of landscaping tasks. It has enough power to clear through thick brush, overgrown grass, and heavy weeds, reaching full throttle in less than a second and maintaining power without bogging down. The tool is designed for good balance, making it easy to carry and comfortable to use, even on lengthy yard tasks.
A variable-speed trigger lets you go faster when you need more power, or slow things down when you want to extend battery run-time as much as possible. The cutting width of the weed whacker adjusts from 14 to 16 inches. The string that comes with the tool is 0.080 inches, but you can also use it with heavier 0.095-inch line. Either way, you can reload the string reel in just a few seconds. When the string gets short during use, just bump the trimmer against the ground to advance more string. Not everyone needs a weed eater with this kind of power and at this price point, but for those who do, it’s hard to beat this offering from Milwaukee.
Price at time of publish: 349
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 12.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 18 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 16 inches
If you’re looking for a cordless electric weed eater that not only has plenty of power but is also loaded with great features like an adjustable cutting swath, variable speed control, and compatibility with numerous attachments for other landscaping purposes, then it’s hard to go wrong with the Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Electric String Trimmer. But if you need the kind of power that only a gas tool can deliver, then the Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight-Shaft Trimmer is our recommendation. It has a 17-inch cutting swath and can be converted for use with metal blades instead of string.
What to Look for in a Weed Eater
There are three basic types of weed eaters, based on their power source.
Gas-powered weed whackers like the Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight Shaft Trimmer are the most powerful type, making them the best suited for large properties or for chewing through heavy brush. On the downside, they are much louder than electric models and can be heavier and more difficult to start. Plus, they require you to have a supply of gasoline on hand, and in many areas, they are being phased out due to their emissions.
Corded electric string trimmers are not as popular as they once were, but are still a fine choice if you are looking for a low-priced weed eater, you don’t have a very large lawn or garden to maintain, and you have access to an outdoor electrical outlet and an outdoor-rated extension cord of 50 feet or more. The Ryobi 10-Amp Attachment-Capable Corded String Trimmer has an 18-inch cutting swath and great power.
Cordless or battery-powered weed eaters are now the most popular type—the WORX Power Share WG163 is an especially highly rated option—particularly in areas where gas-powered models are restricted. Today’s cordless weed whackers have good power, although not as much as a gas-powered model. Still, they have more than enough oomph to maintain a small to medium-sized lawn. As a rough guideline, you’ll generally get half an hour or so of runtime before you need to recharge the battery. For many people, that’s all that’s needed to get the job done. If you have a big lawn, then it’s convenient to keep two batteries on hand so one can recharge while the other is in use. Other benefits of cordless weed whackers include a lack of smelly emissions, immediate starting at the press of a button, reduced vibrations, and quiet operation.
A string trimmer’s cutting swath or cutting width is the width of the tool’s cutting capacity, indicating how much you’ll be able to trim in one pass. There are weed whackers with cutting swaths as small as 10 inches, and weed eaters with large 20-inch cutting widths, but most are between 12 and 16 inches. If you have a large lawn, a string trimmer with a wide cutting swath will help you trim more quickly. But if you need a tool that can squeeze between shrubs, rocks, or other obstacles, then you’ll find that a weed wacker with a smaller cutting swath can maneuver a bit more easily.
Some higher-end weed eaters have adjustable cutting swaths that let you go up or down a couple of inches. Our top choice, the Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Electric String Trimmer, can be adjusted for cutting widths between 13 and 15 inches.
Noise Level and Vibrations
Generally, cordless string trimmers are fairly quiet; you’ll mostly hear the whirl of the string and the sound of grass or weeds giving way. However, gas-powered weed whackers are loud enough to require ear protection during use, and corded electric models may or may not be loud enough to make you want to cover your ears, depending on the brand and model. However, you should wear eye protection when using any type of weed eater, as there is always a danger of stones or debris being tossed up into your face.
Vibration can be an issue with many weed eaters, especially gas-powered models. This can be tiring if you are using the tool for an extended session of trimming or chewing through brush. Some brands now build anti-vibration technology into their string trimmers, usually in the form of a handle that helps reduce some of the vibration. You can cut down even further on unpleasant hand numbness or fatigue by wearing a good pair of thick work gloves while you use your weed eater.
Since you’ll be holding your weed eater the entire time you are working, its weight can become an issue. You don’t want to be tired out before you finish your edging or trimming. As a general rule, electric weed eaters are quite a bit lighter than gas-powered models. The Ryobi ONE 18V Cordless Electric String Trimmer weighs a mere four pounds.
Most electric weed eaters weigh 12 pounds or less, although battery-powered models are usually heavier than those with a cord. Gas weed whackers generally weigh between 12 and 18 pounds.
Any weed eater should have a protective guard over the string to help keep rocks and other debris from flying toward you. However, you should always wear closed shoes, long pants, and eye protection when using these tools. Most weed whackers have the power switch placed so you can easily shut the tool off immediately should there be an emergency.
Straight or Curved Shaft
There are two basic styles of weed eater shafts: straight and curved. Curved shafts are generally easier to maneuver around rocks and other obstacles and are less tiring to the user’s back during long work sessions. However, straight shafts give you more reach and can be extended underneath shrubs or fences. Weed eaters with straight shafts often have a little more power, and battery run-time tends to be a little longer on these tools as well, but the choice between the two mostly comes down to personal preference.
Weed whackers work by spinning a thin plastic string-like cord very rapidly, which creates enough force to slice through grass, weeds, and brush. Most weed eaters have a roll of string within the base of the tool, so you can reel out more as the cord wears down, which can happen fairly quickly when working on thick brush or grass. There are three basic methods for reeling out more cord:
- Automatic feed senses when the cord is getting short and reels out more without you needing to do anything. The Greenworks 5.5 Amp 15-Inch Corded Electric String Trimmer is an auto-feed weed whacker.
- Push-button feed requires you to push a button on the weed eater’s handle to reel out more string.
- Bump-feed weed eaters reel out more cord when the trimmer is bumped against the ground.
Once the reel of string is empty, you’ll need to refill it. This is a fairly simple process for most weed eaters, but be sure to read the instructions before attempting it for the first time.
Note that there are also different thicknesses of string-trimmer lines or strings: as a general rule, 0.065-inch to 0.085-inch string is for light-to-moderate trimming of grass and weeds. For heavier weeds, brush, or tough grass, string that’s between 0.085-inches and 0.110-inches is required. Many string trimmers can use different sizes of line so you can switch them out if necessary.
Most string trimmers have just one set speed. Some higher-end models, including the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Cordless String Trimmer, however, let you adjust the speed with either a two-speed setting or variable control. This allows you to speed up the tool for more power while tackling thicker growth or tougher brush, or slow the speed down to extend battery run-time when working on small weeds or grass.
Some string trimmers have heads that can be adjusted from a horizontal position to a vertical orientation, which allows them to be used as an edger as well as a trimmer. Others, including the DeWALT 60-Volt Cordless Attachment-Capable String Trimmer Kit, allow you to attach a variety of separately purchased heads for other landscaping tasks such as cultivating soil, shearing hedges, mowing grass, or blowing leaves.
The vast majority of weed eaters are stringed tools, using a thin plastic cord that spins very rapidly to cut through grass and weeds. There are more powerful, but similar tools often called “brush cutters,” that use metal blades instead of plastic cord to chop through thick brush, tough weeds, and highly overgrown grass. Some weed eaters can be converted for use with blades as well as with plastic cord. Typically, only a gas weed eater has the power to convert to metal blades for cutting thick brush. The electric corded or cordless models that can cut with blades, as well as cord, typically can only handle plastic blades. These can cut light brush but can’t handle thick, woody stems as a metal-bladed brush cutter can. Neither a string nor blade weed eater is necessarily better; the best choice depends on your specific needs and the condition of your property.
Both gas and electric weed eaters have their pros and cons. Gas-powered weed eaters are stronger and aren’t tethered to an electrical outlet. However, gas weed eaters require filling with gas and oil and create smelly fumes. They are generally much louder than electric models and vibrate more during use. They are also heavier and more costly than electric models. However, for maintaining a large property or tackling thick brush or very overgrown weeds, a gas weed eater can be the better choice. For most yard cleanup, however, an electric weed eater, whether corded or cordless, is sufficient to handle grass, weeds, and light brush that isn’t too woody. Electric weed eaters don’t create smelly fumes and don’t require you to keep gasoline on hand. They generally are much quieter than gas-powered models and don’t vibrate as heavily during use, which makes them easier on your hands and arms.
There are pros and cons to both two-stroke and four-stroke (also called “two-cycle” and “four-cycle”) gas-powered weed eaters. Fewer moving parts means that two-stroke weed eaters are lighter in weight and easier to maintain than four-stroke models. They generally also have quite a bit more power. However, you will need to mix the gas with oil for two-stroke trimmers. If you’re looking for a quieter model that produces lower emissions, a four-stroke gas trimmer is the way to go. Another benefit: with four-stroke models, no mixing of gas and oil is required. Keep in mind, these models are pricier and generally weigh more than two-stroke weed eaters.
There are gas weed eaters for home use with 20 cc engines and professional models with as much as 50 cc engines, but the majority of gas-powered weed eaters used by the average homeowner have 22 cc to 28 cc engines, which provide plenty of power for tackling overgrown weeds, grass, and brush. When it comes to electric weed eaters, corded models for very light use might have as little motor power as 3 amps or as much as 10 amps, but for typical home use, a motor in the middle of that range is more than sufficient. Cordless weed eaters can use batteries between 18 volts and 80 volts, but again, the middle of that range is generally powerful enough for regular home use.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Michelle Ullman, who specializesin home and garden products. She has been writing for The Spruce since 2020, covering a wide range of home improvement products including power and hand tools, painting supplies, landscaping tools, and tool organizers. To choose the best weed eaters for this article, she consulted dozens of customer and third-party reviews, considering each product’s power source, performance, ease of use, versatility, and price point. She received additional input from Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love.
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.