String Trimmer Buying Guide

Why Do You Need a String Trimmer?

String trimmers are handheld gardening tools used to get into places that a lawn mower can’t reach. They are perfect to help you cut down brush, weeds and longer grass on steep inclines. String trimmers are also used to edge or trim for a noticeably “finished” yard.

Gasoline powered string trimmers offer power, and cord free operation at a competitive price. This is attractive for maintaining large yards, tall grass and weeds, or clearing brush. Electric trimmers are competent for many general trimming tasks.

With its long handle, light weight, and whirling string, a string trimmer is ideal for a world of yard maintenance. Trim away grass and weeds against a fence, right up to tree trunks, and underneath shaggy boughs. Straighten edges around flowerbeds, sidewalks, and driveways. Tidy up a hillside, level scrub and saplings, overall it can give your lawn and yard great finishing touches.

Although string trimmers are available in electric and cordless models, these are generally made for light duty projects. You’ll need a gasoline-powered string trimmer for tall grass, weeds, and any more industrious projects like clearing brush or clearing rocky terrain.

Briggs & Stratton engines are found in powerful gas powered string trimmers that whirl a plastic line at speeds up to 400 mph. String trimmers with Briggs & Stratton engines range between $150 and $300.

How to Select the Right string trimmer for the Job

When selecting a string trimmer for your yard and garden maintenance, consider the following:

  1. How much power do you need? The biggest factors to consider when choosing a trimmer is how much property you maintain and how much power is needed to do the job. Is your landscape woodsy or weedy? Is your terrain rocky or sloped? Are you more interested in edging a sidewalk or clearing a hillside of saplings?
  2. Who will be using your string trimmer? Choose a trimmer that doesn’t feel too cumbersome because you’ll be carrying it around your property. Gas trimmers are heavier than electrics and weigh between 10 to 14 pounds, but they are more powerful and provide the freedom of movement without being tied to a cord.
  3. How much maintenance does the model require? Gas-powered string trimmers are available in two-cycle and fourcycle models. Two-cycle models require you to mix fuel and oil and keep it on hand in a separate fuel container for your trimmer. Larger 4-cycle models are also available which use gasoline only, like your tractor or lawnmower (oil for lubrication is in a separate reservoir in the engine). Four-cycle engines tend to be more powerful at lower speeds and run cleaner, producing fewer emissions than a 2-cycle engine (without a catalytic converter).
  4. How does it feel? While a lighter trimmer tends to reduce fatigue, weight isn’t the whole story. Good balance can be just as critical. To check it, adjust the front handle for comfort and hold the trimmer in the cutting position with both hands. Its weight should be distributed so that you don’t struggle to keep the trimmer head several inches above the turf. Also check that all the controls are smooth and easy to reach. If you’re left-handed, make sure a gasoline-powered trimmer you’re considering has a deflector that routes the hot exhaust gases rearward. Most now include one.

Advantages of a Gas-Powered String Trimmer

Gas-powered string trimmers are great for large lawns, tall grass, keeping saplings under control, as well as edging and clearing. Here are some of their advantages:

  • Most gas models are more powerful than electrics and offer a larger cutting path.
  • Gas-powered trimmers don’t have cords or heavy batteries and can operate for long periods of time.
  • There are more attachments available for gas models than electric.
  • Gas models generally accept larger string “line diameter”, so you can work with string that doesn’t break easily.
  • Most gas-powered string trimmers use dual-line trimmer heads, which cut faster. Most electrics use just one, which means they cut less with each revolution.
  • Gas-powered trimmers have their engine on top, which helps balance the load. Although a few have top-mounted motors, most electric models have their motor on the bottom, at the cutting head.
  • Gas-powered models are clean-burning and easy to start.

Features That Make a Difference

When shopping for a string trimmer, look for features that enable you to get faster starts, fewer tangles, and easier handling. Some heavier models offer a shoulder harness, which can ease handling and reduce fatigue. Other convenient features include easy-to-reach and easy-to-adjust switches and comfortable handles.

Faster Starts
To start most gas trimmers, you insure the switch is in the on position (“1”) set a choke and push a primer bulb, then pull a starter rope, wait for the engine to pop, move the choke lever, pull the starter rope, warm up the engine then move the choke lever to the off position. The Briggs & Stratton engine is designed to simplify this procedure.

Set, prime and pull. The Briggs & Stratton engine is designed to provide smooth and consistent starts. This is achieved by optimizing the starting components. Simply set the choke prime the engine and pull the starting cord.

Less Tangling
Tangled or jammed cutting string can be avoided with a fixed-line head. These models use strips of pre-cut line instead of a spool, which eliminates tangles and jammed line.

Most gas and electric trimmers have a bump-feed line advance. The way this works is you bump the trimmer head on the ground, and more line is fed out to a blade on the safety shield that cuts it to the right length.

Easy Handling
String trimmers can have either a straight or a curved shaft that connects the engine and controls to the trimmer’s head.

  • Curved-shaft trimmers are the most common and can be easier to handle when trimming up close. They are generally among the lighterweight models and are easy to level for a clean cut without “scalping” your lawn.
  • Straight-shaft trimmers are the choice of most landscape professionals. They provide additional reach beneath bushes and into other hard-to-reach areas. Straight-shaft models produce less vibration, which adds to comfort level when your trimming job lasts more than a few minutes. Somewhat heavier than curved-shaft models, straight-shaft string trimmers are also more expensive. However, they generally have more optional attachments you can purchase for edging, hedge trimming, and other trimming jobs.

Cutting Path
Like your lawn mower, string trimmers come in a variety of cutting widths. The following gives you a guide of what types of jobs require what cutting path.

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

Visit Your Local String Trimmer Dealer

A great resource for finding the right unit is your local outdoor power equipment dealer who handles String Trimmers.

Be sure to start the unit and try the controls. Don’t hesitate to ask the dealer if he or she has a model that can be used for an onsite demonstration before making a final buying decision.

Ask About Service

A properly maintained String Trimmer will provide optimum performance for years, so buying a String Trimmer from a servicing dealer is a big advantage.


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