Sustainable Sue managed the landscaping committee for a large HOA before moving to a high end neighborhood with big lawns.
Let's say you have a full complement of garden tools, but haven't been able to find a good weed eater. You go to buy one to trim your lawn and the sales clerk asks if you want an edger or a string trimmer. Then your neighbor suggests you borrow his weed “wacker” while you're looking. What are all these different tools and how will you know which is best to buy?
- First of all, all the tools above are the same tool, except the edger. You can, however, use a weed eater for edging lawns.
- “Weed eater” is what the tool is most commonly called. “String trimmer” is what it's most accurately called (and the term Wikipedia uses), which often is shortened to strimmer. "Weed wacker" is a mispronounced or misspelled weed whacker.
- The tool has a motor that spins a wheel with plastic/nylon “strings” used to cut plants, mostly grass, and a long handle that lets you hold and guide it. The motor can be gas or electric (rechargeable battery).
- The gas ones are robust and usually used on commercial properties.
- The electric ones are lighter, easier to handle, and most environmentally friendly, so that's the type we'll look at today. The electric ones are also less costly than gas.
- Electric strimmers are also much easier to winterize than gas. Just unplug it and put it away. In spring, plug it up again and you're ready to go.
- If you're like most people, you'll want the brand that works best for the amount of money you pay, and you'll want it to last awhile. Let's see what research tells us.
I don't personally own a weed whacker anymore, because my own landscape is a lot bigger than it used to be, so we have gardeners that do the mowing and edging. However, I still do know how to research, so here are the results of my research on the latest weed whackers.
Best Brands of Electric Weed Eaters
Here are the best brands recommended by professionals for people on a budget:
13” Black&Decker string trimmer/edger ST8600—$44.00 on Amazon.
Recommended by Bob Vila, a popular TV host who helps people upgrade their homes (e.g. Home Improvement). Also recommended by Better Homes & Gardens.
15" Greenworks 5.5 amp corded string trimmer—$59.82 on Amazon.
Recommended by BestReviews as the “Best Bang for the buck.” BestReviews is an online researcher similar to Consumer Reports.
12" Worx WG163.9 20 volt Grass Trimmer/Edger—$69.99 on Amazon.
Recommended by The Spruce, an online magazine that gives advice on home décor, gardening, and entertaining at home. They claim that this brand is one of the best-performing and best-priced weed eaters available.
Pros and Cons of These String Trimmer Brands
Some buyers base their purchases primarily on recommendations, like those above, whereas others want to see the pros and cons. This makes sense, since one person's pro could be another's con, or one person's con could be something a third person doesn't care about or has already worked out. Given that all three of these models are highly rated, how do they compare in function?
We'll look at what they have in common first, then at the unique pros and cons (including buyer's comments). All three models are good for small to medium size yards. They all have:
- Shafts that can be adjusted for height
- Two handles—one to lift and guide, the other to hold steady (guide handles are adjustable)
- Heads that pivot to use as an edger
- A metal guide to help create an even edge
- Automatic spool feeding
Black & Decker ST8600
Unique details: 13” trim radius. Weighs 5.35 lbs. 5 amp motor. Powerdrive transmission.
Pros: Very lightweight & easy for older people to use. Line spool is easy to snap on. Works even better with 0.85 string. Cuts thick stems without heating up. Less than 10 minutes to assemble. Good balance when edging.
Cons: Does not come with cord. Attachment is 2-prong, not 3-prong like the normal extension cord, so it needs an adapter. Auto spool feed uses more line than necessary. Edger does not have wheels. Guide does not lock in place. Difficult to remove debris that gets stuck inside the head.
Greenworks 5.5 amp
Unique details: 15” trim radius. Weighs 6.86 lbs. 5.5 amp motor.
Pros: The cut area is bigger than the other two brands. It's a plug-in, so you can use it as long as you want to, with no need to replace batteries. More powerful than a battery-operated trimmer.
Cons: It's corded, so you have to maneuver around the cord when using it. Is not suited for heavy duty work.
Unique details: 12” trim radius. Weighs 5.5 lbs. Pushbutton line feed.
Pros: Shaft tilts to 90º to make cutting on slopes easy. Operates with rechargeable battery, so no cord gets in the way. 20 volt battery (sold separately) can also be used with other Worx tools. 4 year warranty available for purchase. Replacement spools available free, if you cover shipping and handling fees (e.g. $9 for 6 spools).
Cons: Amazon's price includes only the tool, not the power source. You have to buy the battery and charger separately ($69.95). Poor documentation. Watching YouTube videos helps.
|Amazon Ratings||# of Stars||# of Ratings|
Black & Decker
Weed Eater Accessories
For an increase in price (or a discount from the cost of buying separately), one or more of these weed eaters offer additional items on Amazon that are helpful. For example:
- Safety goggles to protect eyes from flying objects
- Work gloves (with the brand name)
- Additional spools of thread
- Blower to clean up grass trimmings
Where to Get an Electric Weed Eater
All three of the weed eaters above can be purchased on Amazon.com. If you prefer not to purchase from Amazon, however, your local hardware store is as good an option. Here are some of the major hardware stores that carry these three weed eaters:
- Home Depot
Costco (Sam's Club) carries the Greenworks weed eater, Target carries the Black & Decker, and there's always eBay online for all three.
If you only have one non-repeated job to carry out, there are places where you can rent garden equipment, including string trimmers. AAA Equipment Center in Minnesota, All Seasons Rent All in Colorado, Rental Stop in Texas are all examples. Just do a search on “weed eater, your city” to find one near you. You may not get one of these top three brands, but if you need it just once you may not really care.
How to Replace Weed Eater String
As the weed eater's string wears out, your automatic feed will advance the spool until, eventually, you run out of string. Then it's time to replace the spool—either by buying a new one, or by restringing it from a bulk spool you keep on hand.
You can purchase new ones easily from the same location where you bought the weed eater. Most reviewers of the three strimmers above recommend buying a little heavier duty string. Instead of the 0.060 inch the strimmer comes with, buy a 0.080 inch, which lasts longer and works better. Replacing the spool is easy, if you follow directions.
Alternatively, you can buy a bulk spool, cut the required length of string, and wrap it around your existing spool. Bulk spools are also available at your local hardware store and online. This video shows how to wrap the string.
Where Did String Trimmers Come From?
According to Wikipedia, a guy from Texas named George Ballas created the first string trimmer in the early 1970s (using nylon strings, not blades). He was at a car wash watching the cleaning brushes revolve around his car, most likely thinking about his landscape. He became intrigued with the thought of the spinning brush, wondering if he could adapt it for practical use at home. When he got home he started experimenting.
Starting with pieces of heavy-duty fishing line attached to a tin can, he bolted the can onto to an edger, using the edger's motor to create the spin. He then consulted with a mechanical expert, who helped him develop it further. Then he started advertising it on television. Seven years later, when he sold the invention to Emerson Electric, sales had already topped $80 million.
Why Use a Weed Whacker?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.