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The Best String Trimmers

After using seven string trimmers to level 12,598 square feet of an overgrown field and trimming over 6,000 linear feet along walls and fences, we’re convinced the best string trimmer (also known as a weed wacker or a weed eater1) is the Ego ST1502-F Power+ 15″ String Trimmer.

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Last Updated: Five months ago
Though we tested the Ego ST1502-S Power+ 15″ String Trimmer, Ego now offers only the ST1502-F model. The one difference we’re aware of between the two is that the ST1502-F has a rapid-reload head. So we feel comfortable recommending that version, and now link to it throughout this piece.
Our pick
Ego ST1502-F Power+ 15" String Trimmer
The Ego far outdistanced the competition in run time and power. It’s also very comfortable to use, even for extended trimming sessions.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $200.

This is a cordless model that’s as powerful and affordable as a gas tool, but without the messy fuel, smelly exhaust, or time-consuming maintenance. It was the most capable cordless trimmer we found, with enough run time to cut a 1-foot-wide strip of grass almost two-thirds of a mile long on a single battery charge. Compared with other cordless trimmers, the Ego’s power is at a different level—it cut through thick 1-inch bamboo like it was grass, while the others pathetically slapped their strings against the thick stalks. With all that power, you’d expect it to be noisy, but it was also the quietest tool we tested, with a hair-dryerlike hum that sounded more pleasant than the whine of its competitors. At 10 pounds, it was not the lightest trimmer we tried, but its excellent balance and handling made it one of the easiest to swing around and maneuver in tight spots.

Runner-up
Ryobi R40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer
This is a solid trimmer, but it can’t power through the tall stuff like our main pick. This said, it’s attachment ready, which lets it double as a tiller and brush cutter.

If the Ego is not available, we also like the Ryobi R40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer. Though it can’t cut very thick and tall weeds with the ease of the Ego, it still has the strength to slice through dense grass and the run time to handle a large property. But, also unlike the Ego, the Ryobi is “attachment ready,” meaning you can remove the trimmer head and replace it with any number of other yard tools, like a pole saw, brush cutter, or mini cultivator (each sold separately). The Ryobi typically sells for about $50 less than the Ego. But, again, it isn’t as effective on the thick stuff and it’s also heavier and much louder.

Also great
Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer
The Black + Decker doesn’t approach the run time and power of our other picks, but it’s ideal for small lawns and thin grass. It’s also less expensive.

If you have a small lawn and don’t want to make a huge investment in a trimmer, we also like the Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer. It’s smaller than the others and weighs only 6½ pounds (the Ego is 10). It has the power to easily take care of regular lawn grass, but isn’t as fast with heavier, thicker weeds. It has a couple of convenient features that the others don’t, like a telescoping shaft and a rotating head for easier edging, but we found the handle and trigger to be uncomfortable for long trimming sessions.

Also great
Echo SRM-225 Straight Shaft Gas Trimmer
With no battery, the Echo can run nonstop. But it does require maintenance and the mixing of gas and oil.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $200.

Though we feel that the vast majority of people will be able to get by with a cordless string trimmer, in some extreme cases the nonstop power of a gas model is a better fit, such as for clearing large fields or remote work on an extremely large property. For this, we like the Echo SRM-225 Straight Shaft Gas Trimmer. It’s priced about the same as the Ego, which is on the low side for a high-quality gas trimmer. In our own tests, the Echo handled waist-high weeds and 3-foot-tall grass with no problems. Consumer Reports ranks the Echo highly and it has a tremendous amount of positive feedback on Home Depot’s website, one place where it’s sold.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

Aside from using these firsthand for a test in the field (literally), we did a lot of research. We couldn’t find many reliable articles when it comes to string trimmers, so we concentrated our attention on the rundowns at Consumer Reports (subscription required) and Pro Tool Reviews, which were the most complete and unbiased that we found. To dig a little deeper on the topic, we also spoke with Clint DeBoer, editor of Pro Tool Reviews, about his site’s findings.

I’ve also reviewed tools and construction gear since 2007, and for the past three years have covered outdoor power equipment for The Sweethome, writing guides for lawn mowers, snow blowers, and leaf blowers.

Who this is for

A string trimmer is the perfect complement to a lawn mower. Where lawn mowers are for the wide-open areas, string trimmers are for the places the mower can’t go: nooks, crannies, and tight spots between and under hedges; steep inclines; in close quarters near mailbox poles and lampposts; and along fences and walls. Each mowing is usually followed by a little time cleaning up the edges with a trimmer. Our string trimmer recommendations are for someone looking for a reliable, powerful tool that will help with post-mow cleanup and weed clearing. We weren’t looking for a tool that can spend all day flattening a hay field, or that’s necessarily durable enough for constant all-day pro use—we were looking for one that was convenient for intermittent regular use and had enough oomph to handle grass, thick weeds, and stalky shrubs.

How we picked and tested

string-trimmers-group-testing

The tested trimmers.

Through our research and testing we found no really convincing argument for most homeowners to have a gas string trimmer, even for a large lawn. Cordless models are quieter, need practically no ongoing maintenance, start with the press of a button, emit no exhaust, and can “refuel” without requiring a separate errand to the gas station. As our testing proved, cordless tools’ run time and cutting ability are more than adequate for everything but the most extreme clearing jobs. For all of this power and convenience, the price is roughly the same as a gas model’s (less, in fact, once you calculate in the long-term cost of purchasing gas and oil and your own time spent maintaining the trimmer). We asked Pro Tool Reviews editor Clint DeBoer if he knew any compelling reason for a homeowner to go with a gas model and he simply said, “No.” In some extreme circumstances only a gas tool will do—and we have a gas-powered pick for those—but they rarely apply to most people, so the rest of this section is about our criteria for cordless tools.

Making the jump from gas to cordless results in a much quieter and cleaner tool. Even the loudest cordless trimmers we tested don’t approach the high-pitched squeal of a fully revved 2-stroke engine. But not only is the tool itself quieter, the easy on-off nature of a cordless tool eliminates the need to keep the idle going while walking from one area to the next. With a gas trimmer you’ll hear a constant blub-blub-blub idle noise even when you’re not actively cutting grass; a cordless trimmer can simply be shut off and restarted. Cordless trimmers also have no noxious emissions, which can’t be said for a gas trimmer.

As our testing proved, cordless tools’ run time and cutting ability are more than adequate.

The convenience of maintaining a cordless trimmer versus a gas one cannot be overstated. To keep a cordless trimmer ready to work, all you need to do is click the battery onto the charger after each trimming session. That’s it. The majority of gas trimmers, on the other hand, have 2-stroke engines, so they require the fussy process of mixing gas and oil. They also have a carburetor, air filter, and spark plug that need regular cleaning or replacing. In the off-season, you have to drain gas engines of fuel (or stabilize them), and failure to do so can cause damage—yet another hassle cordless tools avoid.

The cordless trimmers we considered all come with a single battery, so it’s crucial that they have a decent run time. As it turns out, even the lesser string trimmers we tested have the stamina to handle a very large lawn. When we took the trimmers out into an overgrown field, even the worst-performing cordless model cut over 1,000 square feet of thick, dense grass. Translating this to more practical terms, it could clear a 1-foot-wide strip of grass around an entire football field. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, the best-performing trimmer cut approximately 3,400 square feet, which translates into trimming the same 1-foot swath around the perimeter of over three and a quarter football fields. That’s a lot. And keep in mind that we performed our test in very difficult cutting conditions, with the tools cranked to their highest speeds, which will drain a battery faster than normal use. Under regular conditions, run time is likely to be even longer.

When we took the trimmers out into an overgrown field, even the worst-performing cordless model cut over 1,000 square feet of thick, dense grass.

As for power, all of the cordless trimmers we looked at can cut regular lawn grass, but once we introduced tougher conditions, like tall weeds or densely overgrown grass, we started seeing significant differences between the models. The weaker trimmers strained their way through stalkier shrubs and thicker grasses, either getting bound up or pushing them over instead of cutting them. Only a couple models managed to slice through really thick plants, like fat bamboo stalks. Cordless trimmers don’t spin as fast as comparable gas models, but for general use, without a doubt, a solid cordless model will get the job done.

The nice thing about cordless string trimmers is that, unlike other outdoor equipment like chainsaws and lawn mowers, going cordless doesn’t come with a price premium. The best straight-shaft gas trimmers are currently mostly in the $175 to $250 range, which is about where the solid 40-volt-plus cordless trimmers land. Curved-shaft gas models, which are seen as lighter duty, tend to be in the $125 to $150 range, which is where the lesser 30-volt models land. Again, this is just upfront pricing and doesn’t take into account long-term costs like gas and maintenance, which add to the cost of gas trimmers.

Unlike other outdoor equipment like chainsaws and lawn mowers, going cordless doesn’t come with a price premium.

After analyzing the reviews at Consumer Reports, Pro Tool Reviews, and a variety of retailers, we dismissed anything priced too far over $200. We simply found too many highly rated models in the $150 to $200 range to justify going beyond that mark. This eliminated cordless models from pro names like Husqvarna, Stihl, Makita, and Echo, some of which offer trimmers in the $300 range that don’t even include a battery. You don’t need to pay that much for basic lawn maintenance. With one exception, we also stayed away from anything under 30 volts. DeBoer told us “the smaller 18-volt models are more of a toy and they don’t have the run-time or power needed to do anything other than simple grass.” Our own testing confirmed this and, in fact, we found that even the 32-volt model we tested struggled with anything tougher than standard lawn grass.

In the end, we tested five models in the 40- to 80-volt range: the Ego ST1502-S Power+ 15″ String Trimmer, Ryobi RY40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer, Worx WG191 56V String Trimmer and Wheeled Edger, Kobalt KST 140XB-06 80V Max 16″ Straight Brushless String Trimmer, and Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer. We also looked at a popular model in the 30-volt range, the Worx WG175 32V String Trimmer/Edger/Mini-Mower. Lastly, we tested the DeWalt DCST920P1 20V Max Brushless 13″ String Trimmer. With its brushless motor and heavy-duty design, this trimmer does not fit the mold of the standard light-duty 20-volt tool, and we felt it worthy of consideration against the rest of the trimmers.

To get a sense of comparative run time and power, we hauled the trimmers out to an overgrown New Hampshire field and drained their batteries clearing giant swaths of thick grass and dense weeds. After each trimmer did all that it could on a single charge, we calculated the square footage of cut grass.

string-trimmers-ego-st1502s-bamboo

Blazing through tall grass and bamboo with the Ego.

We also tested each trimmer individually in a variety of settings—along stone walls and perennial beds, between rose bushes, under split-rail fencing, down the edge of a driveway, around a fire pit, and many other standard situations that any trimmer will encounter. For this testing, we paid attention to overall ease of use, balance, ergonomics, handling, and noise.

We cleaned up this property four times over the course of two months, adding roughly another 6,000 linear feet of trimmer testing.

Last, to confirm our findings, we used the leading contenders for the post-mow work at a rural property with extensive trimming needs: 187 feet of stone wall, 182 feet of split-rail fence, 180 feet of garden fencing, 137 feet of flower beds, 150 feet around a variety of structures and sheds, 51 feet of miscellaneous trimming (around trees and large rocks), and an additional 556 square feet of hillside clearing where it’s too dangerous to use a mower. We cleaned up this property four times over the course of two months, adding roughly another 6,000 linear feet of trimmer testing. To test each trimmer’s upper range, we pitted each one against a large stand of bamboo.

Our pick

string-trimmers-ego-st1502s-power-15-inch-string-trimmer

The Ego ST1502-S Power+ String Trimmer. We now recommend the nearly identical ST1502-F.

Our pick
Ego ST1502-F Power+ 15" String Trimmer
The Ego far outdistanced the competition in run time and power. It’s also very comfortable to use, even for extended trimming sessions.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $200.

After using eight string trimmers to clear approximately 12,598 square feet of field and to maintain a large, rural property for about two and a half months, we’re convinced that the best trimmer for most people is the Ego ST1502-F Power+ 15″ String Trimmer. Its marathonlike run time outlasted the others by nearly 40 percent, and in most cases more than 50 percent. It has the power to slice through dense grass, gnarly weeds, and even 1-inch-thick bamboo without slowing down. All of this cutting ability is harnessed with a smooth variable-speed trigger, which makes delicate, finesse work just as easy as brute-force clear-cutting. Though none of the trimmers we tested were quiet, the Ego had the nicest sound, emitting a low-pitched hum rather than the high squealing whine of some of the others. The Ego completes the package with great balance, comfortable grips, and a simple bump-feed line advance. It really represents the best of all worlds: raw cutting power, finesse, convenience, and handling.

On thick bamboo, the Ego blazed right through 1-inch-thick stalks like they weren’t even there.

The Ego’s power and run time stand far above the other trimmers we looked at. On a single battery charge, the Ego cut down about 3,400 square feet of dense field grass, weeds, and stalky shrubs (an area nearly 60 by 60 feet). The next-best trimmer cut only about 2,100 square feet (almost 40 percent less), but beyond that, all of the others cut 1,600 square feet or under (less than 50 percent of what the Ego accomplished). Putting the Ego’s performance in perspective, it could trim a 1-foot-wide swath of grass two-thirds of a mile long on a single battery charge. That’s easily enough to handle all but the most expansive lawns. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that, on a single charge, the Ego dealt with the trimming needs of a large New Hampshire property that requires nearly 900 linear feet of trimming and an additional 556 square feet of mowing (flat areas the mower can’t get to).

If you ever do get stranded with an empty battery, the Ego charger can deliver a full battery in about 40 minutes. If you’d rather have the comfort of a second battery (though we don’t feel it’s necessary), additional ones are available, ranging from about $130 to $380, depending on ampere-hours.

The Ego’s power is as impressive as its run time, and none of the other trimmers we tested could match its sheer cutting strength. While trimming in the field, I never had to stop, hesitate, or even slow down when using the Ego. It cut as fast as I could swing the trimmer head. Other trimmers bound themselves up in the tall grass or, when faced with a dense patch, pushed the grass over rather than cutting it. On thick bamboo, the Ego blazed right through 1-inch-thick stalks like they weren’t even there. Other trimmers either took much longer to do this, or couldn’t make the cut at all.

But the Ego isn’t just for clear-cutting fields and destroying the invasive bamboo (although it’s certainly wonderful for that). The variable-speed trigger offers full control of the cutting head, allowing you to find a cutting speed that fits the task, from blasting away at thick weeds to finesse work around the perennials and delicate surfaces, like painted siding or lattice. A few of the trimmers had one or two set speeds, so this kind of control wasn’t possible.

Another impressive element of the Ego is its noise—or rather, lack of noise. The trimmers we tested ranged from high squeal to hair-dryer hum, and the Ego was the quietest we looked at. It’s not an unpleasant sound, and because the Ego’s motor is down at the cutting head, it’s far away from the ear, further lessening the effect. This is in stark contrast to gas trimmers, which have the engine positioned at your elbow and screaming like a fighter jet. The Ego’s relatively pleasant sound is not only good for your own hearing, but a courtesy to your neighbors as well.

Aside from its power, run time, and control, this tool’s ergonomics are among the best we tested. The Ego weighs about 10 pounds, so it wasn’t the lightest, but it was still very easy to manage due to its nice balance. With the cutting head out front and the battery to the rear, the weight is evenly distributed, making it easy to fall into a smooth back-and-forth rhythm while clearing flat areas. In tighter spots the Ego was not heavy enough to be awkward while I shifted my grip around. If the weight gets to be too much, Ego has conveniently provided a clip on the shaft that can accept a shoulder strap (not included).

string-trimmers-ego-st1502s-power-cutting-head

The underside of the Ego’s cutting head. To extend more line, simply bump the green button against the ground. The blade sticking up at the left side of the debris guard then trims the string to the correct length.

The Ego is a dual-line unit, meaning that two strings extend from the cutting head, and it comes equipped with a 0.095-inch trimmer line, which is on the thicker side and contributes to the trimmer’s cutting ability (a wide variety of 0.095 string is available). This Ego can accept smaller lines, which, as a company rep told us “will actually increase the run time, but it will go through line, because the thinner the line, the more breakage.” All of the more-powerful units we tested were dual-line cutters.

With the cutting head out front and the battery to the rear, the weight is evenly distributed, making it easy to fall into a smooth back-and-forth rhythm.

If the string breaks while trimming with the Ego, the tool has an easy bump-feed line advance. Simply tap the bottom of the trimmer head against the ground, and a length of string is fed from an internal spool housed inside it. A small blade on the underside of the debris shield then cuts the end of the string to the proper length. The spool can hold about 15 feet of string, so you’ll have a constant supply, which is essential for longer or more aggressive trimming sessions. Most of the tested trimmers had similar systems, but some models, like the Worx 56-volt, have an automatic advance that feeds about a half inch of line each time the trimmer is turned on. This makes an annoying clicking noise every time the tool is started up and left little bits of trimmer string on the driveway. Also, some trimmers accept only 16 inches of string at a time, which requires much more down time if the string breaks. We feel bump feed is a far more convenient, nearly essential option, because without it you’re constantly having to stop and reload.

Loading the Ego’s string is a simple process that takes only a few minutes and should very rarely be necessary if the trimmer sees only intermittent use: Take apart the trimmer head (which the ST1502-F’s rapid reload head should make even easier than with the ST1502-S we originally tested), divide about 15 feet of string in half and wind it onto the spool in two different channels (one for each cutting end). After correctly placing the strings in specific outlet ports, pop the head back on the tool body and that’s it.

Other credible review sources also give the Ego trimmer universal praise. At both Pro Tool Reviews and Consumer Reports, it has the number-one spot. Kenny Koehler of Pro Tool Reviews writes that the Ego “kept the weight, noise, and vibration down while still offering excellent power with a 15 inch cutting swath. Even though [Ego’s line of cordless power equipment] really isn’t designed to attract the commercial pro, it’s our top all-around performer and clearly the best value in the group.” Consumer Reports (subscription required) echoes many of these ideas by writing that “this 56-volt, straight-shaft trimmer is among the most powerful battery-powered models we tested. Superb trimming and edging are part of the package, as is impressive work in tall grass and weeds.” The site ends its review by saying “you shouldn’t be disappointed with this one.”

The Ego is currently typically priced at (or just above) $200 and comes with a 2.5Ah battery, but if you already have an Ego battery, the bare tool itself currently costs about $130. During our testing, we used a ST1502-S. But as only the ST1502-F is currently available, we link to it throughout this piece.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like anything, the Ego is not perfect, but none of the drawbacks come close to offsetting all of the good that the tool provides.

The most significant flaw that we found with the Ego is that the tool has a pretty lame battery-life indicator. On all of the other trimmers we looked at, the batteries come with a series of lights that display the remaining charge (activated by a small button). The Ego battery has a single light that only indicates if the battery has more or less than 15 percent charge left. This wasn’t very helpful when I was just grabbing the battery from the workshop and wanted to check if it had enough charge for a round of trimming. The plus side is that the battery has such a tremendous run time that you shouldn’t have any issues as long as you properly charge it between uses.

A second potential drawback is the durability of the front handle. On the Ego this is cushioned with a foam padding, and even though it’s very comfortable and something I came to appreciate during longer trimming sessions, I do have a concern that it could tear easily if snagged on a garage hook, nailhead, or maybe even a rose thorn. Most other trimmer handles are plastic or have a thin layer of rubbery padding. We’ll watch how well the handle holds up as we continue to use and test the trimmer.

Lastly, if you use your trimmer for edging, the Ego is a little less comfortable to hold than some of the others. Edging requires you to rotate the trimmer so that the cutting head is perpendicular to the ground, rather than parallel to it. This means that you’re now gripping the side of the front handle rather than the top. The curved shape of the Ego’s handle doesn’t accommodate this as well as some of the other trimmers’ handles. It’s certainly possible to do, but trimmers like the Ryobi, with their square-shaped handles, allow for a more comfortable grip.

Less power, lower price

string-trimmers-ryobi-r40220-40vx-expand-it-string-trimmer

The Ryobi R40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer.

Runner-up
Ryobi R40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer
This is a solid trimmer, but it can’t power through the tall stuff like our main pick. This said, it’s attachment ready, which lets it double as a tiller and brush cutter.

If the Ego is not available, we also like the Ryobi R40220 40V-X Expand-It String Trimmer. It has nowhere near the Ego’s power or run time, but it does offer enough of both to get any typical job done. The Ryobi is also attachment capable, which will be a big plus to some people. The downsides are that it’s heavier than the Ego, a little harder to maneuver, and a lot louder, but it does come at a very reasonable price, currently usually about $150 (versus the Ego’s roughly $200).

You can remove the Ryobi’s trimmer head and replace it with a number of other tools, such as a brush cutter, pole saw, or even a cultivator.

For our field test, the Ryobi cut roughly 1,600 square feet of dense grass, weeds, and shrubs on a single charge. The Ryobi’s performance was in the middle of the pack, just over half of what the Ego accomplished on a full charge, and in patches of really thick, tall grass sometimes the trimmer head either got wound up in the grass or just pushed it over instead of cutting it. It also couldn’t sever the bamboo stalks as efficiently as the Ego. Still, when it came to regular trimming, even in heavier weed areas, it had little problem.

The Ryobi is “attachment ready,” which means you can remove the trimmer head and replace it with a number of other tools, such as a brush cutter, pole saw, or even a cultivator. We asked Clint DeBoer about these attachments and he said there is definitely a crowd that favors them. “Pros don’t like them…but many homeowners we’ve talked to really like the idea of the reduced storage that the attachments give you, though I don’t know too many that actually opt for the eccentric products like blower attachments, hedge trimmers, or cultivators. The most handy attachments we’ve seen are the edgers and pole saws.”

string-trimmers-ryobi-head-trimmer-attachments

The Ryobi string trimmer head (upper left) and a few of the other available attachments (cultivator, brush cutter, and pole saw).

We tested a number of these attachments with the Ryobi and were impressed with the results. Using the cultivator with a fully charged battery, we were able to work for an uninterrupted 15 minutes and tilled a 2-by-20-foot (40 square feet) area of the field into a ready-to-go garden bed. For a second test on softer ground, I tilled up a 10 by 10 area (100 square feet) on a single charge. In these instances, managing the cultivator is physically demanding, but they demonstrate that the Ryobi is capable of cleaning up garden rows or tilling flower beds in the spring.

We also liked the pole saw attachment and were able to cut down a number of branches and small trees that had fallen over a brook that we couldn’t reach with a traditional chainsaw. The brush cutter worked as advertised as well. In general, we were impressed with how all of the attachments performed when attached to the cordless tool.

If you do go the attachment route and want the ability to jump quickly from task to task, you may want to consider purchasing a second battery for about $100.

The Ryobi is also loud. A squeal-like, whiny loud.

The Ryobi has a few downsides. First, it’s heavy. At 11.5 pounds, it’s about a pound and a half more than the Ego, a weight that takes its toll after a while. On the Ego, the motor is located down at the cutting head, in effect counterbalancing the weight of the battery, but on the Ryobi, the motor is up by the handle. With this configuration, the balance felt slightly off and it took a little more effort to swing the machine around. It also didn’t feel as nimble as the Ego in tight spots, like between the rose bushes.

The Ryobi is also loud. A squeal-like, whiny loud. We didn’t do any specific sound testing, but Pro Tool Reviews did and ranks the Ryobi as one of the loudest (the Ego is the quietest).

The Ryobi did very well in Consumer Reports’s ratings, getting the second-place spot, just behind the Ego. The two machines are rated very similar, but the Ego gets the edge in the handling category, which is not surprising considering its weight and balance. Consumer Reports writes, “This Ryobi is as good as it gets from a battery-powered string trimmer.”

At the Pro Tool Reviews roundup, the Ryobi placed ninth out of 11 trimmers. This doesn’t sound good at first, but it’s important to note that all of the tools ahead of it (except for the number-one Ego) cost in the $250 to $300 range. And both tools that scored lower than the Ryobi are typically priced at around $200. This shows that the $150 Ryobi is a solid performer for its price. In the piece, Kenny Koehler writes, “Ryobi did very well in our run time test despite the lack of a brushless motor,” and concludes that, “It’s notably weak in the noise and vibration departments. Ryobi owns their niche as a DIY brand without feeling cheap or lacking in features.”

For smaller lawns

string-trimmers-black-decker-lst136-40v-max-string-trimmer

The Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer.

Also great
Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer
The Black + Decker doesn’t approach the run time and power of our other picks, but it’s ideal for small lawns and thin grass. It’s also less expensive.

If you have a smaller lawn and the vast majority of your trimming needs consist of regular lawn grass, we like the Black + Decker LST136 40V Max String Trimmer. With its pistol-grip handle and much shorter overall length, it has a different body design than the Ego and Ryobi. This reduces the weight down to just over 6.5 pounds, so it’s easy to maneuver in and out of flower beds. At its current price of about $130, it was also one of the least expensive trimmers we looked at. It had just enough battery life to trim our entire test property, but the process took much longer than with the Ego because in thicker areas the Black + Decker needed multiple passes over the same spot to get the job done. Lastly, while this machine’s ergonomics are good in that it’s light and maneuverable, we found the trigger setup to be uncomfortable during longer trimming sessions.

The Black + Decker has a couple features not found on the Ego, all of which are nice, none of which are essential. First, it has a telescoping shaft, so if multiple people in your household handle trimming duties, it’s very easy to adjust the tool’s overall length. Secondly, the trimmer head can rotate at the end of the shaft to make edging easier.

All of this makes the Black + Decker a nice option for a property with smaller, simpler trimming needs or someone with limited arm strength.

A gas option for epic jobs

Also great
Echo SRM-225 Straight Shaft Gas Trimmer
With no battery, the Echo can run nonstop. But it does require maintenance and the mixing of gas and oil.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $200.

Even with all of the benefits of cordless, in some situations a gas model will be the best fit, namely clearing large amounts of grass, either on a hillside that’s too steep for a mower or on a massive property without an easy place to recharge near where you’re working. Based on our research and the recent experiences of The Sweethome editor Harry Sawyers, we recommend the Echo SRM-225 Straight Shaft Gas Trimmer. At its current price of about $200 it’s roughly the same cost as the Ego and on the low side for high-end trimmers from the pro brands. Consumer Reports ranks it third among straight-shaft trimmers, and the two models ahead of it cost considerably more.

Harry lives in Los Angeles and has a steep rear hillside of approximately 2,000 square feet that he has to clear before Southern California’s fire season. He recently purchased the SRM-225 to do the job, after trying (and returning) Echo’s lighter-duty curved-shaft model. For this job, the gas engine appealed to him because going back up the hill to the house is difficult and it’s easier to take a can of fuel down to refuel and keep working. It’s an unusual situation in a couple of respects—the inaccessible area, for one, and the grade, which makes the string trimmer the only option on a property large enough that you’d certainly mow it if it were possible. Though we prefer cordless more than 90 percent of the time, we wanted to offer a gas-powered string trimmer pick for people in unusual situations like this one.

Harry reports that “the tool was unstoppable on 3-foot tall grasses as well as thorny, woody, waist-high weeds.” The trimmer has a similar bump-feed mechanism to the Ego and Ryobi, which he appreciated: “I ran through an entire spool of string clearing the lot, and if I’d had to reload the string every time it broke I’d probably still be out there working.” The bump feed continuously advanced the trimming string, a detail the curved-shaft model lacked. He also liked the value of the trimmer: “I found mine on sale and paid about $180 with tax. I considered Stihl and Husqvarna models, but the Echo had similar enough features at a lower price tag, and the wider availability of the Echo made it easier to hunt down online to get a price match at my local place.”

Though Consumer Reports mentions that at 12 pounds it’s a heavy trimmer, the site also writes that it “earned top honors in light and heavier trimming, was easy to use and handle, and provides longer reach than curved-shaft trimmers.” On the hill, Harry found the tool to be well-balanced and manageable even when clearing ground on a steep slope, so it goes without saying that it’s almost pleasant to use on flat areas, with a long shaft that can easily reach near overgrown shrubs and trees to clear grass and weeds beneath.

This Echo’s engine is as easy as any modern 2-stroke engine to start, and Harry found he’d rather pay a slight premium for a can of premixed Trufuel 50:1 Mix Engineered Fuel+Oil instead of fussing with his own mixing ratios. Not only does the premix save an additional trip to a gas station, the can is stabilized and can be stored at home for years. Consumer Reports notes that the Echo’s engine is “certified to meet emissions requirements for 300 hours,” which “suggest[s] a more durable engine overall.”

The Echo is available at Home Depot, where it currently carries a 4.7 rating across almost 2,400 customer reviews. In my three years of covering lawn equipment for The Sweethome, I can state that a rating this high, with this many reviews, on a gas-powered piece of outdoor equipment is extremely rare and likely indicates a unique level of quality.

The competition

For a 20-volt trimmer, the DeWalt DCST920P1 20V Max Brushless 13″ String Trimmer is impressive. It’s light, agile, and very comfortable to use despite not having the run time of the others or enough power to handle some of the more rigid shrubs and weeds. We liked the added maneuverability of its smaller debris guard, but the trade-off was that our legs were covered with clippings when we were done. With a 5.0Ah battery, the trimmer is currently about $200, but as a bare tool, it’s about $130, making this a great deal if you already have a supply of 20-volt DeWalt batteries.2

We tested the Worx WG191 56V String Trimmer and Wheeled Edger and it proved to have decent run time and power, both comparable to the Ryobi, but nothing like the Ego. Its performance was particularly impressive given that it is a single-string trimmer and not dual-string like most of the others we tested. At 8.5 pounds, this Worx is a light trimmer, but it’s priced about the same as the Ego, and we feel that most people would benefit from having the additional power and run time of the Ego. The Worx feeds about a half inch of trimmer line each time you activate the tool, so it makes an unpleasant clicking noise as the newly extended string gets trimmed.

The Worx WG175 32V String Trimmer/Edger/Mini-Mower had the lowest voltage of any tested trimmer, so it’s not surprising that it had the least amount of power. We tested it directly against the Black + Decker, due to the similar body design, and found that it had no problem with shorter, post-mow grass, but anything more than that strained the tool. It’s priced very similar to the Black + Decker and it does have rollers for extremely accurate edging, but we feel that most people would be happier knowing their tool could better handle some tougher weeds if need be.

The Kobalt KST 140XB-06 80V Max 16″ Straight Brushless String Trimmer was the second-place finisher in our field-clearing test and, like the Ryobi, it comes attachment ready. It has about 20 percent more run time than the Ryobi, but it also has some handling issues. First, it’s the heaviest trimmer we tested, weighing in at about 12.5 pounds. Second, in addition to the regular trigger, it has an annoying activation button that you need to press each time you start the tool (but if you shut the tool off for only a few moments, you don’t have to re-press the button). Lastly, it has only two speeds and no true variable-speed trigger. It’s also typically about $50 more than the Ryobi. If it’s raw power and attachment capabilities you’re after, the Kobalt is a strong tool, but we had enough ergonomic and convenience concerns that we opted to go with the less powerful, but easier to use Ryobi.

We did not test the DeWalt 40-volt Max XR Trimmer. Currently priced between $250 and $320 (depending on the battery), it’s beyond what we feel is a reasonable cost, and in the Pro Tool Reviews roundup, it’s ranked lower than the Ego.

At its current price of $300, the GreenWorks Pro 80V 16″ DigiPro String Trimmer was also priced out of consideration. Also, Pro Tool Reviews ranked it in the middle of the pack.

The GreenWorks G-MAX 40V 14″ DigiPro String Trimmer is usually priced at over $200, and Consumer Reports ranked it below both the Ryobi and the Ego.

The Toro 48V Max 13 (51488) is priced on the high side, isn’t attachment capable, and Consumer Reports ranks it below both the Ego and the Ryobi.

What to look forward to

We’ve recently learned that Milwaukee is set to release a cordless string trimmer for spring 2017. It’s an 18-volt tool, but it is compatible with the company’s 9.0Ah battery, giving it considerable power and run time. We had an opportunity to briefly test the tool and were impressed with its comfort and handling. No pricing information or a specific release date are currently available.

(Photos by Doug Mahoney.)

Footnotes:

1. Weed Eater and WeedWacker are both brand names of string trimmers. Jump back.

2. We tested the DeWalt with its 5.0Ah battery, which is on the large size. If you have a DeWalt battery from a drill or another power tool, it’s likely smaller and will have decreased run time. DeWalt recommends using either a 4.0 or 5.0Ah battery with the trimmer. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. String Trimmer Reviews, Consumer Reports (subscription required)
  2. Kenny Koehler, Best Battery Powered String Trimmer Roundup, Pro Tool Reviews, April 25, 2016
  3. Echo SRM-225 string trimmer, Consumer Reports
  4. Clint DeBoer, editor of Pro Tool Reviews, Interview

3 a.m. milkshakes.