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String Trimmer Buying Guide

A string trimmer can add a finished look to your yard, keeping your lawn manicured. Designed to cut where mowers can't, string trimmers are available in a variety of designs and capabilities to accomplish many close-cutting jobs around the home landscape.

String Trimmer Cutting Grass.

String Trimmer Types

Electric string trimmers are relatively light and easy to start. Electric models are good for yards with light trimming needs.

  • Corded trimmers provide constant power without waiting for a recharge, but a corded trimmer needs a suitable extension cord. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
  • Cordless trimmers give you more mobility, since you aren't tied to a cord or power outlet.

Gas-powered string trimmers are generally more powerful than electric models and are usually a good choice for large areas and heavier growth. In addition to more power, they offer great mobility and long runtimes. Most gas-powered trimmers crank with a pull-start, but some models will start with a powered device that you can purchase separately.

Like mowers, string trimmers are available in a variety of cutting widths or swaths, each suited to a different level of use:

  • 10-in to 12-in cutting swath for light use
  • 14-in to 15-in cutting swath for moderate use
  • 17-in and larger cutting swath for heavy-duty use

For trimming tall, heavy grass or light brush, you will need a trimmer with a brush cutter. A brush cutter is a small blade that attaches to the trimmer.

Trimmer mowers work well in areas that are difficult to reach with a traditional mower, but may be too large to efficiently cut with a handheld string trimmer. Trimmer mowers are gas-powered and feature a trimmer head mounted on a wheeled body, offering power, mobility and a wide cutting swath.

Always follow the device manufacturer's operating, maintenance and safety instructions, including instructions on safety gear.

String Trimmer Features and Specifications

Knowing the kind of jobs you'll be doing and the available features will help you find the right string trimmer.

2-cycle engines run on a mixture of gasoline and oil.

4-cycle engines eliminate the need for mixing gasoline and oil.

Start-assist features make pull-start gas trimmers easier to crank.

Curved shaft trimmers are good for trimming in tight areas and can be easier to control.

Straight shaft models can reach under decks, shrubs, benches, etc. They can also be more comfortable for a taller user.

An adjustable shaft allows you to change the working height of the trimmer depending on your own height.

Edger-capable trimmers convert quickly from trimmer to edger while keeping the handles and controls oriented comfortably. Some models have guides or wheels to make getting a clean edge easier.

Attachment-capable trimmers accept attachments to handle multiple tasks. You can purchase accessories for these models that quickly convert the unit to an edger, brush cutter, cultivator, blower, hedge trimmer or pole saw.

Single-line heads, more common on electric trimmers, can make winding new line simpler.

Dual-line heads put more cutting line to the weeds, helping you tackle bigger jobs.

Bump heads feed trimming line from the spool with a tap of the cutting head.

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.

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. More powerful string trimmers can handle larger areas and tougher weeds, but they also tend to be heavier than lighter-duty equipment. Find the best balance of power and weight for the lawn care jobs that you'll be tackling.

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