String Trimmer Buying Guide

We all want to find the best tools to help make our lives easier, and there are few places that this is more true than with the tools we use to care for our yards. String trimmers are a staple of lawn and yard care, and today there are more models from more manufacturers that offer even more features than you could shake a rake at.

So how can you tell what string trimmer is the best one? By using this guide, of course. Read on to learn about all of the most important aspects you should consider when looking at a new string trimmer, so you can choose the best of the best, and save yourself some time and effort in the process.

Engine Type

Overall, the biggest factor you should be thinking about when it comes to string trimmers is the engine type, since it’s actually going to be dictating a lot of your other decisions. The two basic types of engines you will find are gas-powered and electric, with electric models either functioning off of rechargeable batteries or a traditional cord that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. In terms of the gas-powered models, these tend to be more powerful and often larger, ideal for heavy duty projects. Also, since they require gas fuel, they can be costly to maintain in some instances, and can also be loud or result in unpleasant emissions.

Electric string trimmers are sometimes less powerful, though there are many different models with different types of motors that have varying degrees of torque and total output. Battery-powered models give you the most mobility, but may require frequent recharges. Conversely, corded models can be more limiting in terms of range but will never require you to stop to refuel or recharge. Choose the model that bests suits the size of your yard as well as your available resources for powering the unit.

Feed System

There are also two predominant types of feed systems in string trimmers, which are the mechanisms that control how much of the “string” is fed out through the head. The traditional method is called a bump feed, because you must press down on the guard in a bumping motion to manually release more of the line. This system does give you more control over how much line you use, which can be a big benefit if you really know what you’re doing. However, this system also increases the chances of damaging the trimmer because you have to use some force to basically smash it on the ground.

The second type of feed system is called an automatic feed because, as you can probably already guess, the trimmer extends the feed line automatically as you go. Most systems use the centrifugal force of the spinning line to release more of the line once it starts to wear down. The biggest benefit here is that you don’t have to do anything special to keep on trimming. However, these systems can be difficult to fix if they break, and they don’t give you the same level of control.

Cutting Width

Every string trimmer is going to feature a cutting width expressed in inches, usually between 12 and 14 inches on average. This number refers to the space in which the trimmer can properly cut down grass without you having to move the unit at all. As such, a larger cutting width means that you can cut more at once with less effort, making them ideal for large yards or anyone who wants to get each job done fast. Similarly, smaller cutting widths are great for smaller yards and also mean that the actual trimmer is going to be smaller, and usually easier to manage.

This area doesn’t come down to a basic rule like “bigger is better” or anything like that, since the cutting size does not determine how effective or efficient a trimmer actually is. The real deciding factor is going to be your own personal comfort level, physical ability, and the needs of your yard. Going too big or too small could result in more problems than anything else.

Convertible Configurations

These days it seems like many string trimmers are offering additional functionality in the form of convertible configurations. When looking at one of these models, you’re most likely going to encounter the ability to change the trimmer into an edger, which is a tool that enables you to trim clean lines around edges in your yard, such as where the grass might meet the sidewalk or around a flower bed. Any model that offers this feature should have at least one attached wheel to help make guiding it easier in the edger mode.

While this feature is by no means necessary to be able to use a string trimmer for its primary purpose, it can be quite helpful if you have the need for one, since it can translate into a lot of saved time. It might end up being a deciding factor between models, but isn’t likely to become a serious element in your final decision.

Safety Features

Safety is key when it comes to using power tools for yard work, and thankfully the majority of string trimmers on the market today implement a lot of great features to keep the user and everyone else safe. Still, it’s important to know what you should be looking for, and it starts with a solid safety guard around the head. Some models may include smaller guards, which are meant for users with a higher level of experience operating the trimmer. You should also make sure that your string trimmer does not require you to come to close to the head at any point to use a special feature, especially during operation.

Weight and Size

As with any type of tool, it’s important to think about how much it weighs and how big it is, so that you can make sure you can actually handle using it. For me, as a woman who’s just a hair above 5 feet tall, I try to avoid any tools that are particularly large because I don’t want to face any complications using them out in my yard. The same would be true for anyone who is older or has any kind of joint problems or physical disabilities. Every manufacturer will list the weight of the trimmer and the length of the shaft, so use these to your advantage to help find one that fits your stature.

Other Aspects to Think About

Some models may be part of a yard tool bundle, offering leaf blowers or hedge trimmers as a way to giving you everything you need to care for your yard, but remember that these tools may not be as powerful or as feature-rich as standalone models.

It’s also very important to think about the handle positions, as this will determine how easy it is for you to actually operate the trimmer. Ease of use is an essential component and something you should not ignore, because it will determine how effectively you can operate the trimmer and whether or not you experience any pain from using it.