Ultimate Weed Eater Buying Guide 2016

1. What is a weed eater and why should I buy it?

A weed eater, alternatively known as a ‘weed-whacker’ or ‘string trimmer’, is an instrument constituting a flexible monofilament line (rather than a blade) for cutting a variety of areas including grass that are inaccessible by mower, thick weeds, and yard detailing. The tool is comprised of a long shaft with a cutting head towards the end, along with one or more handles. Some of the best weed eater models even come with a shoulder strap, blade guard, and other additional comfort features.

Houston, Texas based George Ballas invented this instrument in the early 1970s. He came up with the idea when he watched the rotating movement of cleaning brushes in an automatic car wash. Weed trimmers are generally used to maintain yards and sidewalks, keeping them well trimmed and free from any kind of weeds along the edges. Those who suffer from back problems or face difficulty in bending over can comfortably eliminate weeds by using this equipment. Weed eaters also speed up a previously tedious job so that you can finish your entire yard in less than half an hour! 

2. Types of Weed Eater

Weed eaters mainly come in three categories: cordless, corded electric, and gas. Each type has its own features as well as pros and cons. 

2.1 Cordless weed eaters

In almost all cordless trimmers, the motor is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This is perhaps the best weed eater if you do not want to produce much pollution. The head rotates, enabling the weed eater to edge and trim at multiple angles and provides increased accuracy. Some of the most efficient trimmers, according to weed eater reviews, are fitted with an automatic system that enables one to get more string as required, without stopping the work that is in progress or having to bump the head. Some models come with a low-grip handle which reduces fatigue during the work by offering a comfortable grip.

Advantages

  • No need for connection to a power outlet; you can even use it during a power outage
  • Battery-powered trimmers are virtually noiseless.
  • They are lightweight and can be carried anywhere around the yard with ease

Disadvantages

  • Cutting power is usually a little lower to make up for the amount of electricity available 
  • Batteries require charging and occasional replacement, possibly adding extra time or money to the job 
  • Cordless string trimmers are good for small yards, but they are not well suited to heavy duty jobs

On the whole, the cordless variety is good when you need portability and are intending to use it for a small-medium yard. There is no tension of carrying a cord or finding a power source. Since it is quite lightweight, women and children can also easily carry it and use it for quick cutting jobs without touching weeds or grasses.

 2.2 Corded Electric Weed Eaters

The corded or electric weed trimmer provides the right balance between weight and power. These weed eaters do not use gas or oil; instead, they draw electrical power through a cord you must plug into an outlet. They are environmentally friendly, as they do not produce exhaust emissions. Since these are plug-in weed eaters, you get maximum power to tackle heavy weeds and grasses, as well as overgrowth. The corded models can come with adjustable height, PowerDrive transmissions, as well as the provision of conversion from trimmer to edger and vice-versa.

Advantages

  • They do not use gas and oil, causing minimal pollution to the atmosphere
  • Lighter than gas or battery powered units 
  • Quieter than gas weed eaters 
  • Since this variety comes with a cord, you won't run out of power mid-way through working 
  • The price is quite affordable because the equipment does not require expensive batteries or fuel.

Disadvantages

  • Cutting & Pruning can take longer for big projects, as the power level is lower than in a gas weed eater 
  • Movement is restricted by length and reach of the cord 
  • Not effective for commercial use, as power supplies can be unreliable 

If you have a good and consistent power source, the corded electric trimmer is a good choice as it leads to considerably less pollution than a gas trimmer and is more powerful than its cordless counterparts. It is also efficient and adjustable, so if you have a small to medium lawn with heavy growth, this is an ideal type for you. It can be conveniently used by women, children, and the elderly as this is the lightest weight type of weed eater. 

2.3 Gas Weed Eater

Gas weed eaters do not require any electricity. You just need to fill the tank with gas or a mixture of oil and gas, based on which model you are using. The engine size allows the unit to turn 2 mm of line, and certain models make use of nylon blades in combination with the reel. A majority of gas motors possess displacement between 21 cc and 32 cc. In short, they are the power horses of the string trimmers. 

Advantages

  • Capable of holding more string at once, giving a wider range for cuts 
  • Highest cutting power of all weed eater types
  • Since these weed eaters are not limited by any kind of power cord, they are able to reach difficult areas such as the far edge of a garden or a field 
  • Great for commercial use 

Disadvantages

  • It releases a considerable amount of air pollutants into the atmosphere, which often becomes a grave regulatory issue in certain states (2-stroke engines are worse than 4-stroke) 
  • These are the heaviest type of weed eaters
  • The amount of vibration makes them noisier than other string trimmers.

 * A discussion on 2-stroke and 4-stroke weed eaters

trimmer isolated

There are two styles of gas weed trimmer engines: two-stroke and four-stroke. From power output to maneuverability, each has its own advantages and disadvantages, as is also evident from the string trimmer reviews.

  • Fuel

Two-stroke trimmers call for a combination of oil and fuel (gasoline) at typical ratios of 1:50 or 1:40. In the case of four-stroke trimmers, mixing of oil and gas is not required. You just need to fill the oil tank and fuel tank with four-stroke oil and gas respectively. Four-stroke string trimmers are quieter and more efficient than their two-stroke counterparts.

  • Power

More power is packed within a smaller engine in the case of two-stroke trimmers. Compared to four-stroke trimmers of the same size, more horsepower at higher revolutions per minute can be produced by the two-stroke engines. Moreover the two-stroke models are lighter. Their higher ratio of power to weight enables them to trim through thick growth with no significant decrease in engine power.

  • Weights

Four-stroke trimmers have more weight than two-stroke trimmers. This heavy weight can be an issue for some users who prefer maneuverability and ease-of-use while using trimmers. If you want a lighter machine, opt for the two-stroke trimmer.

  • Cost

Since four-stroke trimmers involve bigger engines with more components, the price is slightly on the higher side. So, if you have a budget constraint, it is better to go for a two-stroke product.

3. Best Weed Eater Reviews 2016 - TOP 3

Now that you know what you should be looking out for, here are reviews of 3 of the best weed eaters on the market today.

Rather than a detailed breakdown of each model, we will look at how these strimmers compare when viewed by category.

The three models that we will examine are:

Each of these weed eaters caters to different needs. We have a corded and cordless alongside one powered by gas.

As with any purchasing decision, the first thing is to honestly analyze exactly what you want from the product. Where will you use it? How will you use it?

It’s senseless to buy a small cordless string trimmer if you plan to use it for large commercial projects. It’s equally pointless investing in a powerful gas beast if you will only bring it out a few times a year for a small yard at home.

Once you are clear on what you want (and what you want to avoid), your options should be narrowed down considerably.

We will look now at how these weed eaters size up in terms of weight, power, noise level, impact on the environment, portability and the length of time you can use it in a single session.

Weight

The BLACK+DECKER LST136W (7.8 pounds) and GreenWorks 21212 (5.2 pounds) are both extremely lightweight weedeaters.

Weight and portability are where electric strimmers come into their own. They are especially handy for women, older people or anyone who would struggle lugging around a large, gas-powered unit.

Often, people overlook the importance of weight when selecting a tool like a string trimmer.

That said, not everyone has the same demands and needs from their weedeater. As far as gas-powered string trimmers go, the Husqvarna 128LD is not too unwieldy. It comes in at just over 10 pounds so it is manageable but much more substantial than the pair of electric devices. Even when wearing the shoulder strap, you’ll probably find it quite tiring after extended use.

When it comes to the question of weight, think carefully about your own strength and any limitations you might have. Contrast this with the type of work you will normally do and make the best decision based on these factors.

Power

The next category is where the drawback of the bulkier Husqvarna 128LD is transformed into a benefit: it boasts exceptional power. The 2-stroke, 28cc gas-powered engine is more than able when it comes to all kinds of heavy yard work.

Falling neatly in the middle is the BLACK+DECKER LST136W. To extract the most out of the poky 40V battery, there is a handy Power + Command dial. Set it to max for any thick weeds or tangles of overgrowth. Conserve your battery when the going is lighter and dial it back.

If you have a small or medium garden, the power kicked out by the GreenWorks 21212 should be more than enough. The 4-amp electric motor is highly effective for such a light and inexpensive strimmer. Thick or tall grass presents no problem but with truly tough weeds you might run into problems.

Noise Level

With weedeaters, electric will always offer a much quieter experience than using gas-powered models.

Both the BLACK+DECKER and the GreenWorks will allow you to trim and edge away at any time without disturbing the neighbors.

If you live in close proximity to people who are easily disturbed, the Husqvarna is not the smartest choice.

Eco-friendly

In terms of environmental impact, the same applies as with the noise factor. The electric variants are much greener than the Husqvarna.

Clearly, any tool or appliance that makes use of finite fossil fuels will carry a far heavier footprint than ones powered by electricity.

If you are concerned with doing your bit for the environment, go electric.

Mobility

Obviously, any corded piece of kit will be far more limited in terms of movement than something cordless.

The GreenWorks 21212 loses in this category.

Although both the BLACK+DECKER and Husqvarna are unencumbered by power cables, it’s the BLACK+DECKER that scores overall in terms of mobility because of its lightweight nature.

You can certainly get anywhere unrestricted using the Husqvarna but the sheer hulking size makes it less mobile overall.

Take into consideration the dimensions of the areas you will most often be working in. Decide how important to you freedom of movement is. If you have a smaller yard, the corded GreenWorks will not present a problem. For larger spaces, you should consider one of the others.

How Long Can You Use It For?

With the BLACK+DECKER, you will only be able to strim at full tilt for around 30 minutes. While this is ample time to deal with a small garden, you might very well run out of juice when dealing with more sizeable areas.

The LED system will show clearly how much power remains in the battery. There is also a solution at hand but it does involve spending more money: simply buy a second battery. You can get hold of that here.

If you don’t like the idea of that, the rapid charger will get you up and running again in a couple of hours.

With the Husqvarna, your only concern is making sure that you have enough gas and oil to keep things going.

Using the GreenWorks, you will be fine to use it all day long as long as you have access to electricity.

Conclusion: Our Pick

It’s always tough to select a winner when comparing products that are marketed at different needs.

If pushed to choose the best all-rounder, the BLACK+DECKER LST136W just about inches into pole position.

Where it is ultra-lightweight and cordless, you can freely roam around without being tethered to a plug-point. It kicks out more than enough power for most non-commercial projects yet remains quiet when in use. It’s great value for money considering the heritage of the brand. There are few reported drawbacks.

Based on that evidence, we award top prize for the best weedeater to the BLACK+DECKER LST136W.

BLACK+DECKER LST136W

4. How to Choose the best string trimmer for Your Need

So…

Now you have a good working knowledge of weed eaters, let’s wrap things up clearly and briefly.

Different people have different needs and budgets. Here is some basic advice:

  • Pricing
budget
  • My budget is less than $100 : 

    Choose an electric weed eater. You can get plenty of good ones for your money. This all-round workhorse is perfect for the home and the limitations only really affect commercial users rather than the casual cutter.

  • My budget is from $100-$200: 

    This price point allows you to comfortably step up to a battery-operated version. Quiet and highly eco-friendly, you might be restricted in terms of running time but for a home user prizing portability, buying a string trimmer that runs on battery power is a wise choice.

  • I can spend more than $200

    If you have a little more to spend then a gas-powered weed eater is probably your best bet. This variety is equally good in your own garden or for business use. The added cutting power comes at the cost of weight but if you want to reach awkward places and don’t mind a bit of noise then gas is the way to go.

  • Special requirements:
  • I find it difficult to manage heavy equipment

    Whether you are advancing in years, a female garden enthusiast or for any reason uncomfortable with bulky tools, focus on weight as a priority. Don’t make the mistake of being seduced by the power of a gas-powered weed eater. They are heavy and bulky. Choose electric or cordless models and you can enjoy the convenience of this handy piece of kit without the backache!

  • Loud equipment bothers my neighbors: help!
    Noise

    Respecting our neighbors is important. If you want to trim your garden without kicking out a great deal of noise then again sidestep weed eaters which are fuelled by gas. They have many advantages but are also extremely noisy. With cordless or electric trimmers you can enjoy a well-trimmed garden without bothering the people around you: win-win!

  • My yard is very small

    If you will be cutting a limited area then electric or cordless models are the best fit. Reduced cutting power and the need for recharging will not be an issue with a smaller space and you will gain by having equipment which is quiet and ultra-light.

  • I regularly cut large areas of grass and want to use my weed eater commercially

    If this is the case, opt for a gas model. With no cord you can freely cut away over big sections of grass and you’ll enjoy a better range of cuts as well. Gas trimmers might be a little heavier and slightly noisy but with proper safety equipment a gas weed eater will give you the power and durability you need for working in these conditions.

In general, it is not possible to point out a single product as the best weed eater. It completely depends on you and your lawn or yard. When you are familiar with the differences between the various products and the best use for each, shopping becomes all the more convenient. Remember that the marketplace has a string trimmer to suit everyone’s needs! 

F.A.Q’s:
FAQ string trimmer

  • Is it necessary to have a charger and an additional battery for String Trimmer?

    Cordless weed eaters require a charger for the batteries, but it is not necessary to have an extra battery. However, if you have a large yard it might help you to get the work done all at once.

  • What is the best trimmer to use with on thick weeds?

    Gas weed eaters are the best for thick growth because they have the strongest cutting power.

  • How long will the battery last?

    Most batteries can last around 45 minutes on low, 30 minutes on medium, and 10-20 minutes on high power settings.

  • Is it possible to refill the trimmer line?

    Yes. You can buy pre-wound spools of line or wind replacement line onto the existing spool.

  • Is it necessary to remove the battery after use?

    No, you don’t have to remove the battery, but it’s better to do so in order to keep it charged and better protected.

  • How difficult is it to change the trimmer string?

    It’s very easy to change trimmer line and you can do it within as little as 2 minutes.

  • Do string trimmers have extensions?

    Some models come with extensions to make them longer, but not all models.

  • How do we start the equipment?

    Gas powered weed eaters require you to pull a drawstring to start the motor. Electric and battery powered models only require you to switch the power button on.

  • Can this trimmer be used for trimming Ivy?

    Gas powered weed eaters require you to pull a drawstring to start the motor. Electric and battery powered models only require you to switch the power button on.

  • Is it possible to replace trimmer line with a blade?

    No, you cannot use a blade in place of trimmer line on a standard weed eater.

  • How much vibration comes from the device?

    Gas weed eaters produce the most vibration and corded electric weed eaters produce the least. With higher levels of vibration from some gas models you will want to wear gloves to help reduce fatigue.

  • Can straight shaft weed eaters use blades?

    On a standard model you cannot replace the string with a blade. However, some models will allow you to use an alternate trimmer head with a blade.

Infographic for picking a weed eater