Choosing the Right String Trimmer Main Image

With the wide variety in string trimmers that are available, it can be an intimidating task to try and decide which string trimmer is right for you. Determining how often and for what type of jobs the trimmer will be used is the foundation for deciding which trimmer bests fits you.

Gas vs. Electric String Trimmers

Let's begin by grouping string trimmers into two main categories: gas-powered and electric. Gas-powered string trimmers offer you the portability and convenience of being cordless as well as the power to do a versatile range of jobs. Typically, gas powered models offer more power and torque to help accomplish your chores. Some models offer a wider range of attachments for completing a more versatile work load. Gas-powered trimmers require engine maintenance and most of these trimmers require a gas/oil mix so you'll need an extra fuel can for the special fuel mixture. These string trimmers are ideal for homeowners who already own other gas-powered equipment requiring a gas/oil mix and who aren't concerned with the noise and engine maintenance. Electric string trimmers come in both corded and battery powered models. They can handle general trimming tasks around most smaller to average sized lawns. Owners of electric trimmers do not have any exhaust to worry about and there's no engine maintenance required or fuel to mix. Electric trimmers are ideal for smaller lawns or homes that are close together where noise is an issue.

Straight vs. Curved Shaft Gas Powered Trimmers

If you think a gas-powered model is right for your lawn, you can get more specific by determining whether a straight shaft or a curved shaft trimmer is best for you. String trimmers with straight shafts are better for jobs that require longer reach, like trimming under/around bushes and shrubs. They project the trimmer head further from the user than curved shaft models, but they tend to be heavier. Straight shaft trimmers also offer less vibration than the flexible curved shaft models which allows them to be used more comfortably for a longer period of time. They also typically have a wider range of attachments for edging, hedge trimming, and other trimming jobs. Curved shaft models are lighter weight than their straight shaft counterparts and can be more comfortable for a person who’s only trimming for a short period of time. These are also ideal for trimming up close and are easier to keep level for a nice clean cut.

How much power do you need?

Ask yourself; what tasks you plan on tackling with your string trimmer? If you’re clearing taller grass, brush, small saplings (with the proper attachment) or maintaining a larger yard, you’ll probably want the power provided by a gas powered string trimmer. If you’re doing general trimming tasks around trees, walkways, rocks, and other obstacles in an average/smaller sized lawn, an electric trimmer may be a suitable option. Electric trimmers provide the power needed for general trimming and finishing of a lawn but lack the power provided by a gas powered trimmer for tougher jobs like getting through tall thick grass, brush, and small saplings (with the proper attachment).

How long will it take you to trim your yard?

Keeping in mind how long it will take you to trim your yard will help you decide which string trimmer is right for you. If you plan on using your trimmer for an extended period of time, you’ll want to use a gas-powered trimmer or make sure you have a back-up battery charged and waiting. Weight will also begin to “weigh-in” on this decision as electric trimmers are usually lighter than gas models. A lighter weight trimmer can be comfortably used for longer periods of time. If you need the power that’s provided by a gas-powered string trimmer but need a lighter model, you’ll probably want to look at curved shaft gas-powered trimmers. Alternatively, if you plan on spending your entire day going from trimming job to trimming job, you’ll probably benefit from a straight shaft string trimmer. These models provide less vibration and make them more comfortable to use for extended periods of time.

How comfortable does it need to be?

While lighter weights help reduce fatigue, weight isn’t the only deciding factor in comfort. Balance can make a huge difference in how a string trimmer feels when you use it. To test the balance of a trimmer, adjust the front handle to a comfortable position and hold the trimmer with both hands like you would while trimming. You should feel the weight of the trimmer being distributed evenly so it doesn’t feel difficult to keep the trimmer head level several inches above the ground. You’ll also want to make sure the controls for the trimmer are convenient and easy to reach. If you’re a left-handed user and are considering a gas powered model, make sure the engine has a deflector that routes the heated exhaust fumes backward and not toward you.

What kind of maintenance is involved?

Gas-powered string trimmers have models with both 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines. 2-cycle engines require you to mix fuel and oil and keep it on hand in a separate fuel container. Larger 4-cycle engines use gasoline only. They have a separate reservoir in the engine for the lubricating oil. Gas-powered string trimmers tend to need more regular maintenance to keep the engine running at peak performance. Electric trimmers require less regular maintenance typically and mostly require you to be within reaching distance of your outlet or have a fully charged battery.

What cutting width is right for me?

Like most other pieces of outdoor power equipment, trimmers come in a variety of cutting/clearing widths. This is a guide to help determine what size cutting area is recommended for what type of job.

  • 7" - 8" for small jobs
  • 11" - 12" for light use
  • 14" - 15" for moderate use
  • 17" and larger for heavy-duty use

Like choosing any piece of outdoor power equipment, deciding how often and what caliber of work your equipment is going to be used for is the primary decision for purchasing the right piece for you. When purchasing your string trimmer, ask about recommended/required service. A properly maintained trimmer will provide outstanding performance for years. This is why we recommend purchasing your outdoor power equipment from a local authorized dealer and service center for the string trimmer of your choice.