Gas, Electric, and Cordless String Trimmers

You may have heard them called weed whackers or weed eaters, which are actually brand names, but string trimmers are the correct term, and are an important piece of equipment in the care of your lawn. A string trimmer is a hand-held tool with a motor--either electric, cordless, or gas powered--which uses a monofilament line to cut weeds and grass in tight places that your lawn mower cannot get close enough to. This line is turned very quickly by centrifugal force, powered by a strong gas, electric, or cordless motor. The faster it is turned, the stiffer the line, and the better it will cut. This garden tool has a cutting head at the end of a long shaft, which is held by the user. Depending on whether it's gas or electric, the motor is housed either at the top end, or at the end with the cutting line. You don't have to bend down or get on your knees to trim grass and weeds, but can remain upright to do the job. If this sounds like something that will make your lawn care chores easier, here's information on the different types, including makes and models, price ranges, and where to buy.

Types of String Trimmers

As mentioned previously, there are three types of string trimmers: electric, cordless, and gas powered trimmers. Here's basic information on all three types. Depending on the job you have to do, you should be able to choose the trimmer that's right for you based on our information and your needs.

  • Electric Trimmers
    If your lawn care needs include whacking at weeds and grass that your lawn mower can't reach; if your lawn isn't too big; and if you want quiet sessions with your string trimmer, the electric trimmer is the one to consider. Advantages to an electric trimmer are that they are lightweight, quiet, are safe for the environment, and do a good job on typical grass and weeds. Disadvantages are the cord, which can limit where you go with your electric trimmer; and that they can't cut through thick brush and weeds like a gas trimmer can. They are also cheaper to buy, and cheaper to run.
  • Cordless Trimmers
    Similar to an electric trimmer, but without the cord to deal with. Should handle the small trimming jobs like grass and weeds with no problems. Like the electric trimmer, the advantages to using a cordless one are that they are lightweight, quiet, and safe for the environment. Another advantage is not having to deal with a cord. Disadvantages include low battery life (on average 15-20 minutes) and they are usually not as powerful as the electric models. Still, if you don't have much to trim and this appeals to you, there's no reason not to expect the job to be well done if you don't overestimate what it can do. As for the battery life, one suggestion we noted was to purchase an extra one so that you can continue working should the first battery run out before you're done.
  • Gas Powered Trimmers
    Gas trimmers are workhorses, so if you have a lot of weeds to whack or a very large yard, this one may be for you. Advantages to using gas trimmers include the powerful motor and cutting capabilities, and you can go anywhere on your property without worrying about the electric cord or running out of battery power. Disadvantages include the extra noise and vibration of a gas trimmer over the electric one, they're heavier than the electric trimmers, and you have to deal with adding gasoline, or in the case of the 2-cycle engine, mixing oil and gas to make it go. Still, if you have a lot of work to do, this is going to do the job in a much more efficient manner than any other type of trimmer.

Best String Cutters

Major sources for reviews of string cutters include Consumersearch, Consumer Reports , and Popular Mechanics. While Consumer Reports tested the most models, Popular Mechanics provided the most details on the models they tested. Here are the results as compiled by ConsumerSearch.

Best Electric Trimmer
Reviews chose the Troy-Bilt TB45E as top electric trimmer. While it didn't get high marks for taking care of tall grass and weeds, it does get them for being lightweight (8 pounds), easy to use, reasonable price, and the two year warranty. If your lawn is already well-maintained and you want to keep it that way, this one should do the trick. Remember that it only comes with a 100 ft. cord.

Best Cordless Trimmer
If a cordless trimmer is in your future, here's the best one, according to ConsumerSearch. It's the Black & Decker Grass Hog NST2018, and it's highly recommended for it's light weight (only 6.5 pounds) and its ease of use. The battery lasts 20-30 minutes, so if your trimming jobs will require more time, get an extra battery to fill in when the first one runs out.

Best Gas Trimmer
That would be the Echo GT-201R, according to ConsumerSearch. Weighing in at 9.6 pounds, compared to other gas powered trimmers, this one is lightweight. It does well with tall grass and weeds, and starts and handles easily. Meets California's tough emissions standards. The Echo GT200R is similar in handling and price, but does not meet California's standards.

Best Budget Gas Trimmer
Need a gas trimmer but can't spend too much? The Weedeater Featherlite SST25is about half the cost of the Echo model, and does a good job on all but very tall grass and weeds. It weighs about 10 pounds, so just a tad bit heavier than the Echo trimmer. It does a good job otherwise, and the line replacement is pretty simple.

For The Ecology-Minded, Well-Off User
Give the Shindaiwa T2510 a try. It's ecologically sound, since it gets top marks for its hybrid 4 cycle/2 cycle engine that cuts emissions by as much as 75%. This 4 cycle engine is quieter than most 2 cycle gas trimmers, is easy to use, takes care of tall grass and weeds, and handles well. The line is easily replaceable as well. The only thing against it is the high cost.

Prices, Where To Buy

We'll give you the highest price first, which is for the above-mentioned Shindaiwa model. Prices for this one average about $375. Look for this one at or check Shindaiwa's web site for a dealer near you. Next priciest trimmers would be the Echo gas trimmers, both averaging about $180 in price. You can buy at, check your local Lowe's or Home Depot, or check their web site for a dealer near you. Moving on down in the price range, for about $100 you can have the Black & Decker Grass Hog, and they can be purchased at, Ace Hardware, or check your local dealers in lawn equipment. The Weedeater Featherlite is available for around $90, and the budget electric trimmer by Troy-Bilt is available for around $40.

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