What the best
string trimmers have
weight. Users bear
the full weight of this tool, so it's important to select a lawn trimmer that's
comfortable to carry and maneuver around your landscaping. Shoulder straps are
available for some models to help remove the burden from your arms.
safety guards. The shield at the bottom of the string trimmer protects users from
flying debris. Although a well-designed guard blocks most things, it's always
best to wear safety goggles, closed shoes and pants to protect against airborne
grass and rocks.
- A trigger
lock. To prevent
accidentally running the trim head when not in use, the best string trimmers
use a trigger or throttle lock. This switch should be in a convenient location
and easy to use.
motors or engines. In general, electric (corded and cordless) lawn trimmers are quieter
than gas-powered models, but noise levels vary in each class. In most cases --
and especially with gas trimmers -- wearing ear protection is recommended.
trimming capabilities. If you need to take down unruly weeds and tall
grass, look for a string trimmer that's equipped with dual nylon lines. Lines
that are .08 inch or thicker cut through tougher vegetation.
edging option and clean finish. Some string trimmers have a swivel head that
rotates to the ideal edging position. Others require you to turn the entire
tool. Either way, the string trimmer should stay well balanced at this angle,
give you good visibility of the area you're trimming and leave a crisp edge.
vibration. Gas engines are notorious for vibrating, which can fatigue your hands
and leave them numb. String trimmers with anti-vibration technology are more
comfortable to use over long periods.
balance. The string
trimmer should stay at the proper angle without a fight; this is usually
easiest with a top-mount motor. The best string trimmers have shafts that
change lengths or moveable loop handles that allow you to adjust the tool to
match your height.
feed and reload features. Reviewers don't have a preference between bump-feed
and automatic-feed systems, as long as the string trimmer delivers the line
smoothly as needed. The best string trimmers have a spool that's easy to load
with new line.
construction. The best string trimmers incorporate high-quality materials into a
thoughtful design to create pull-cords, switches, spools and engines that can
withstand years of use. Even expensive models may have some plastic, which keeps
the weight down. But a longer warranty isn't a guarantee of a better tool; many
owners report problems getting warranty service through some brands.
Know before you
What obstacles do you trim around? Consider landscaping elements like trees, furniture and gardens that
need to be edged or trimmed. A corded string trimmer is more challenging to
maneuver around large items as well as keeping the cord from tangling.
How big is your property? More landscaping to trim also means more time required; choose a string trimmer
that has the runtime to handle all of your trimming and edging at once.
Cordless trimmers are the most limiting; some users purchase additional
batteries to extend runtime, but they can be fairly expensive.
Straight shaft or curved shaft? Experts find that there isn't much performance difference between
the two styles of string trimmer. Popular Mechanics says some users find curved
shafts to be more comfortable, but their testers "preferred straight-shaft
trimmers because the extra shaft length makes it easier to reach under shaggy
evergreen boughs, and it puts a bit more distance between the operator and the
debris that ricochets around the cut area."
expectations: the dollars and cents of it
The cost of owning a string trimmer goes well beyond the purchase price.
All models need occasional maintenance and additional trim line. Gas-powered trimmers
also require annual engine servicing, and the cost of gas and oil is an
important consideration. Cordless weed whackers will need a new battery every
three to five years, and they can cost as much as the total purchase price. Although
corded string trimmers are the easiest to maintain, a long heavy-duty extension
cord can cost $50 or more.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best String Trimmers | Best Cordless String Trimmers | Best Electric String Trimmers | Best Gas String Trimmers | Our Sources