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String Trimmer Buying Guide

String trimmers are available in a variety of designs and capabilities. Use this guide to compare your options and choose the best string trimmer for your needs.

String Trimmer Cutting Grass.

Electric String Trimmers

Cordless String Trimmer.

Electric string trimmers are simpler to start and maintain than gas models. They also run cleaner and quieter.

Corded electric trimmers provide constant power without recharging and without the weight of a battery. A corded trimmer requires an extension cord, which limits the size of the work area and might be difficult to manage if you have trees or other obstacles in your yard. Follow the device manufacturer's specifications for a suitable extension cord and see Power Cord Safety Tips.

Cordless trimmers give you more mobility than corded models. Lithium-ion batteries rated from 40 to 80 volts provide more power and runtime than lower voltage batteries, letting you handle larger jobs. Charge time for these batteries vary but range from 30 minutes for fast charges to 3 hours for standard charges.

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Good to Know

Some cordless string trimmers use batteries that can also power equipment such as leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, mowers and chainsaws. If you have several compatible devices, you can use one battery while others are charging.

Gas String Trimmers

Gas String Trimmer.

Gas string trimmers are more powerful than many electric models and are a good choice for large areas and heavier growth. They offer mobility and long runtimes. Most gas trimmers crank with a pull-start, but some models will start with a powered device that you can purchase separately, eliminating the need to use the pull cord. Gas trimmers need the right fuel and can only handle certain levels of ethanol — follow the manufacturer's requirements and read Fueling Outdoor Power Equipment for tips on keeping your machine properly fueled.

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Good to Know

Look for string trimmers that can accept attachments for other landscaping jobs. You can purchase attachments for these models that quickly convert the unit to an edger, brush cutter, cultivator, blower, sweeper, hedge trimmer or pole saw.

String Trimmer Mowers

String Trimmer Mower.

String trimmer mowers work well in areas that are difficult to reach with a full-size mower but are too large to efficiently maintain with a handheld trimmer. These gas-powered mowers feature a trimmer head mounted on a wheeled body, offering power, mobility and a larger cutting area than handheld models.

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Always follow the trimmer and attachment manufacturers' operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.

Match Your Trimmer to Your Yard

String Trimmer Usage Chart.

In general, the larger your landscape, the more powerful trimmer you need to efficiently maintain it. More powerful trimmers can often take on additional tasks:

Light-duty string trimmers handle light trimming of grass and some weeds. They're suitable for landscapes up to an acre in size.

Medium-duty string trimmers work with thicker grass and weeds. Some can use attachments for other landscaping jobs. They're best for yards up to an acre, but can also be effective in yards up to 2 acres in size.

Heavy-duty string trimmers handle tougher grass and weeds and many accept attachments. These trimmers are best for yards up to 2 acres in size, but can also be good for larger landscapes.

Professional string trimmers can handle brush as well as grass and weeds and many can power attachments for other jobs. They work well in small and large landscapes.

String Trimmer Features and Specifications

Man Using a String Trimmer as an Edger.

Understanding what features are available and what the specifications mean will help you find a string trimmer that meets your needs:

  • A rating for amps (A) on a corded trimmer, volts (V) on a cordless trimmer and cubic centimeters (cc) on a gas trimmer indicates power output.
  • 2-cycle engines on gas trimmers offer a good balance of power and weight, but run on a blend of oil and gasoline. You need to mix the fuel yourself or purchase it pre-mixed.
  • 4-cycle engines run on gasoline alone. They eliminate the need for mixing fuel, but are heavier than comparable 2-cycle engines and require regular oil changes.
  • Spring-assist starting makes gas trimmers easier to crank.
  • A curved shaft trimmer is good for trimming in tight areas and can make the trimmer easier to control.
  • A straight shaft trimmer can reach under obstacles such as decks, shrubs, and benches.
  • An adjustable shaft allows you to change the working height of the trimmer.
  • Cutting swath indicates the cutting area of the trimmer.
  • An edger-capable trimmer converts quickly from trimmer to edger while keeping the handles and controls comfortably oriented. Some models have guides or wheels to make achieving a clean edge easier.
  • Single-line heads simplify winding new trimming line.
  • Dual-line heads trim faster, cutting twice with each revolution.
  • Bump heads feed trimming line from the spool when you tap the cutting head against the ground.
  • Automatic-feed heads use centrifugal force to release new line as needed.
  • Fixed-line heads allow for quick loading of precut pieces of line without the need for winding. This design also eliminates tangles in the line.
  • Fast-loading spools let you insert new line and wind it without removing or taking apart the spool.
  • Variable speed controls provide different levels of power for different cutting conditions. Cordless models with different speeds allow you to vary the power for either cutting thicker weeds or extending battery life.

In addition to features, consider weight. While more powerful trimmers can handle larger areas and tougher weeds, they tend to be heavier than light-duty models. Consider your trimming jobs and find a trimmer with the right balance of power and weight to handle them comfortably.

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Good to Know

You can purchase a variety of replacement trimmer heads that offer different configurations of trimming line or cutting blades. Before you buy, make sure your trimmer can accept the attachment.

String Trimmer Maintenance Considerations

Man Using a Cordless String Trimmer.

All string trimmers require proper maintenance to operate correctly. They require basic care such as cleaning, inspection and trimmer line replacement. Cordless models also need battery care. Gas trimmers need engine maintenance — such as air filter changes, spark plug changes, and for some models, oil changes. See String Trimmer Maintenance for common string trimmer maintenance.