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Cutting the grass is the first step in maintaining a well-manicured yard. Once you’ve done that, you may need a tool for trimming around the edges.
“The lawn mower is your ‘big picture’ tool, but the string trimmer is all about those important details,” says Bryan Clayton, pro landscaper and CEO of GreenPal. “They’re the unsung heroes of a polished lawn.”
But just as there are myriad options in lawn mowers, there’s a wide range of string trimmers to choose from. How to select the right one? “Trusted brands and models with expert recommendations are usually a safe bet,” says Zahid Adnan, gardener, horticulturist and the founder of The Plant Bible. “Brands like Stihl, Husqvarna, Black and Decker and Greenworks are known for producing reliable string trimmers across various price ranges.”
Here, landscaping and lawn care experts reveal what considerations to make as you select the perfect trimmer for your needs. Then they offer their top picks in several categories.
What To Look For
There are some important criteria to consider before buying a string trimmer. Here are the main factors lawn experts look for when buying their own trimmers:
String trimmers can be divided into three categories: corded electric, battery-operated or gas-powered. “Corded trimmers are generally lightweight and eco-friendly, but you’re limited by the cord’s length,” Adnan says. Battery-operated trimmers offer you mobility, but the batteries need to be charged after a few hours of use (and sometimes even more frequently).
“In my experience, gas is usually the most powerful but is heavier and requires more maintenance,” Clayton says. And gas is also beginning to go out of favor as environmental concerns change peoples’ perspectives about carbon emissions.
How powerful is the engine? The manufacturer will indicate the engine’s strength in terms of cubic centimeters (“CCs”) or volts. If you have an expansive yard with rugged terrain, you may need more power for trimming and edging.
Depending on the brand and model, a string trimmer might sell for under $100 or over $500.
“The cutting width determines how much area the trimmer can cover in one pass,” Adnan says. “A wider cutting width is more efficient for larger yards, while a narrower one is suitable for precision work.”
Clayton zeroes in on how that idea affects your trimmer selection: “You might think bigger is better, but not always,” he says. “Smaller yards benefit from a narrower cutting width for precision.”
Weight and Ergonomics
String trimmers can weigh anywhere from 5 pounds to over 20 pounds. Obviously, the lighter the trimmer, the easier it is to carry around. But the design of the frame also impacts the comfort level.
“Most people don’t know this, but holding a poorly designed trimmer for an extended period is no joke on your back and arms,” says Clayton. Features like ergonomic handles can make this tool more comfortable to operate.
String trimmers might have special components like a push-button start, a shoulder strap or harness, a variable speed trigger or a brushless motor.
Our Recommendations for Best String Trimmers
1. Best Overall — Stihl FS 56 RC-E 16.5 inch Gas Trimmer
Power Source: Gas | Engine Power: 27.2 CC’s | Cutting Width: 16.5 inches | Weight: 10.6 pounds | Special Features: Removable air filter cover, multi-function control handle, STIHL’s Easy2Start technology, shoulder strap | Value: $259.99 (Ace and Northern Tool)
Lawn experts praise this string trimmer for being easy to start, comfortable to use and reliable. “It’s robust, versatile, and powerful,” Clayton says. “I’ve tested this, and it never disappoints for both light and heavy-duty tasks.”
- Pros: Powerful engine, relatively lightweight, straight shaft good for tall users
- Cons: Not ideal for heavy weed cutting, assembly required, pricey compared to some other models
2. Best Budget — Black and Decker LST300
Power Source: Battery-powered | Engine power: 20 volts | Cutting width: 12 inches | Weight: 5.7 Pounds | Special features: 2 in 1 (switches between trimmer and wheeled edger), automatic spool feed technology, adjustable handle heights | Value: $77-$80 (Amazon and Home Depot)
Lawn experts like that this trimmer is lightweight, easy to set up and converts into an edger with a twist of the shaft.
“It may not be very durable or consistent, as it is mostly made of plastic, and the line can be uneven,” says Rhys Charles, pro landscaper and founder of the lawn care site Lawn and Tractors.
But if you’re on a tight budget, it offers a lot of value for a low price. “Overall,” Charles says, “it is a great choice for small to medium jobs that do not require a lot of strength or run time.”
- Pros: Lightweight and affordable, battery compatible with other Black and Decker tools, works as trimmer and edger
- Cons: Not ideal for coarse, hearty weeds, doesn’t fit well into tight spaces
3. Best Best Eco-Friendly — Ego ST1521S
Power source: Battery-powered | Engine power: 56 volts | Cutting width: 15 inches | Weight: 7.28 pounds | Special features: Powerload technology automatically winds your trimmer, lifetime warranty on shaft, brushless motor | Value: $249 (Amazon and Lowe’s)
This lightweight trimmer has zero emissions but still manages to have strong cutting capabilities. “It’s battery-operated, yet incredibly powerful,” Clayton says. “And you’re also reducing your carbon footprint.”
- Pros: Push-button powered line loading, lightweight carbon fiber shaft, eco-friendly but still has excellent cutting power
- Cons: Battery needs to be recharged after 45 minutes, some find the battery charger noisy, relatively pricey compared to other models
4. Best Corded — Greenworks 18-Inch Corded String Trimmer
Power source: Corded electric | Cutting width: 18 inches | Weight: 9.9 pounds | Special features: 10 amp motor, simple electric start, cord lock feature, cushion and over-mold grip and handle | Value: $80 (Amazon and Walmart)
If you’re looking for a string trimmer with unlimited run time that doesn’t have to be charged or refueled, lawn experts like the Greenworks 18-Inch Corded String Trimmer.
- “This model that has zero emissions and low noise levels,” says Charles. “It has an 18-inch cutting swath, a 10-amp motor, and a dual-line bump feed head that can handle tough weeds and grass. It also has an adjustable auxiliary handle and an edging wheel for precise trimming along sidewalks and driveways.”
- Pros: Eco-friendly and quiet, inexpensive, no battery charging
- Cons: Mobility limited by cord, not ideal for large yards
5. Best Cordless— DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Battery Powered String Trimmer Kit with (1) 4Ah Battery & Charger
Power source: Battery-powered | Engine power: 20 volts | Cutting width: 13 Inches| Weight: 8.5 pounds | Special features: Variable speed trigger, battery interchangeable with other DeWalt products | Value: $175-$179 (Walmart and Home Depot)
Lawn experts tend to choose the DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless because it’s effective and also comfortable to use. “I’ve experimented with this one and it offers freedom of movement and packs enough punch for most residential jobs,” Clayton says.
- Pros: Excellent cutting abilities, variable speed trigger lets you control power, relatively lightweight
- Cons: A bit louder than some other cordless trimmers, shorter runtime than some other brushless options
6. Best for Small Yards — Worx WG163
Power source: Battery-operated | Engine power: 20 volts | Cutting width: 12 inches | Weight: 6 pounds | Special features: Command Feed spool system for instant line feeding, telescoping shaft allows head to tilt 90 degrees for hard-to-reach places | Value: $122 (Amazon and Walmart)
The Worx WG163 gets high marks from lawn pros who need to navigate hard-to-reach areas and difficult terrain. “Based on the results from using it in tighter spaces, it’s a solid pick,” says Clayton, adding that this model is light, easy to maneuver, and does the job well.
“It also has an adjustable shaft and handle that can fit any user’s height and posture,” Charles says.
- Pros: Converts from a trimmer to an edger, telescoping shaft is great for uneven terrain and hard-to-reach places, adjustable spacer guard protects flowers and plants
- Cons: No brushless motor, requires a specific battery type (Power Share MaxLithium batteries)
7. Best for Tall Grass — Husqvarna 128LD
Power source: Gas | Engine power: 28 CC | Cutting width: 17 inches | Weight: 11 pounds | Special features: Smart Start Technology (push-button start), detachable shaft | Value: $195-$240 (Amazon and Walmart)
This powerful trimmer is prized for its ability to slice through weeds and heavy foliage. “If you’ve got some tall grass or weeds, a gas-powered trimmer like this is what you’ll need,” Clayton says. “In my experience, nothing beats it for tackling the tough stuff.”
- Pros: Lightweight, large cutting width, effortless start-up
- Cons: Pricey, can stall due to clogged air filter or low-quality fuel
8. Best Splurge — Makita XRU15PT1 36V (18V X2) LXT Brushless String Trimmer
Power source: Battery-powered | Engine power: 18 volts | Cutting width: 15 inches | Weight: 21 pounds | Special features: 3 speed options, automatic torque drive technology, outer rotor brushless motor, Star Protection Computer Controls | Value: $389-$599 (Amazon and Home Depot)
Experts say this model is the best of both worlds: It’s ecofriendly, with no emissions, but it’s also very powerful because of the number and quality of the batteries. “This trimmer comes with four 5-amp-hour batteries and a dual-port rapid charger that can charge two batteries at once,” says Charles. Plus, it has lots of special features. “It has a 15-inch cutting swath, a variable speed trigger, and three speed settings that can deliver up to 6,500 RPM,” he adds. “It also has a reverse rotation function that can clear the head of entangled grass and weeds.”
- Pros: Eco-friendly and quiet, powerful brushless motor, fast-charging batteries
- Cons: Pricey, relatively heavy compared to other models
This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money.