The Best String Trimmers of 2018

By Sarah Zorn

Line trimmers, string trimmers, weed eaters, weed whackers—whatever you want to call them, these slim, handheld tools are designed to make short work of garden and lawn maintenance. Yet unlike mowers, which are meant to be used indiscriminately over wide swathes of grass, trimmers are adept at nitty gritty details, deftly demolishing weeds around edges and ledges, such as patios, walkways, bushes, and flower beds.

So, over the course of a hot, wet (i.e., verdant overgrowth choked) summer, we’ve been putting electric trimmers from leading brands to the test. Eco-conscious consumers will find a lot to appreciate about our favorite, the lightweight and environmentally-friendly Greenworks 13-Inch 4 Amp Corded String Trimmer (available at Amazon). But if you prefer a cordless option, it’s hard to hold a candle to the impressive whacking action of the full-throttle, 56-volt battery-fueled Ego. But whatever the needs of your unruly green space, one of the following models will more than handle the job.

Here’s how the best string trimmers we tested ranked, in order:

  1. Greenworks 13-Inch 4 Amp Corded String Trimmer 21212
  2. Ego 15-Inch 56-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Brushless String Trimmer
  3. Craftsman 30378 13" Electric Cordless String Trimmer
  4. Black and Decker LST136W 40V MAX Lithium String Trimmer
  5. Worx WG163 GT 3.0 20V Cordless Grass Trimmer/Edger with Command Feed
  6. Ryobi One+ 18-Volt Lithium-ion Shaft Cordless Electric String Trimmer and Edger
  7. Toro 51480 Corded 14-Inch Electric Trimmer/Edger
  8. Makita XRU02Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer
— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated August 20, 2018

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Best Overall Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Greenworks 21212 4 Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer

  • Editors' Choice

Greenworks 21212 4 Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer

Best Overall

If you have a patch of green to tend, it’s a safe bet you care about the environment, too. And this corded Greenworks trimmer has no carbon footprint, which is a lot more than you can say for lithium batteries and gas. At only 5.2 pounds it’s very lightweight and reasonably balanced, thanks to an adjustable auxiliary handle and shaft, making it comfortable to use for longer periods of time (note: taller users may find that it doesn’t extend quite far enough). And an auto-feed dual line and 180-degree rotating edger allows it to operate efficiently and effectively, despite its modest 4-amp engine and 13-inch cutting range. It should be noted that it has a hair-trigger power button, so it should always be unplugged between uses, or when making any adjustments to the machine or strings.

Best Cordless Best Cordless
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Ego Power+ ST1500-S Cordless String Trimmer

  • Editors' Choice

Ego Power+ ST1500-S Cordless String Trimmer

Best Cordless

We blanched when taking this behemoth out of the box; it practically stood taller than us, and sported a mammoth, bulky battery pack on one end. So, after exhausting ourselves with some of the other, comparatively diminutive trimmers on this list, we didn’t have much hope. Yet, we were pleasantly surprised to find it beautifully in balance, rendering it perfectly comfortable to use (padding on the handle to mitigate vibration helped). And it sliced the time we generally spend battling our yard practically in half, thanks to a wide, dual-feed twist line, a brushless motor with variable speed, a 15-inch cutting range, and a whole heap of power from a 56-volt lithium-ion battery. But about that battery: We actually smelled it leaking ozone into the air while charging, making it a decidedly less eco-friendly option. And at around $299.99 (if you include the battery), you’ll pay for features like its impenetrable aluminum construction. However, a five-year warranty on the unit, and three years on the battery, definitely helps soften the blow.

Best Value Best Value
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Craftsman 30378 13" Corded String Trimmer

  • Editors' Choice

Craftsman 30378 13" Corded String Trimmer

Best Value

The Craftsman does what you want and/or expect it to do for the cost (which we found on sale for $30), without many bells and whistles. It’s on the lighter side at 6.2 pounds and can adjust to suit most heights. A 13-inch cutting swath should be enough for small to medium jobs, and it delivers 4.2 amps of power. Two feed lines increase productivity, and the trimmer head tilts while the handle rotates, to aid in edges and angles. It should be noted that it has a bump instead of automatic feed, which some users may find frustrating (although others prefer since it helps control how much line is being used).

How We Tested

The Tester

My name is Sarah Zorn, and I’m a professional food and lifestyle writer. I’m also an amateur gardener, currently in possession of an urban garden—read: unpaved, gone to seed, apartment backyard plot. In my attempt to combat a relentless onslaught of weeds, I’ve regularly turned to line trimmers, which are able to groove around skinny spaces and funky corners and are a lot easier to store in a New York City one-bedroom rental, than a ride-on John Deere lawnmower.

The Tests

We assembled each trimmer, taking note of how clear the manual instructions were, how much set-up was required, and how easy it was to install a new string. We looked at safety features, such as locking power switches and trimmer guards. We also assessed how comfortable each unit was; if the weight was evenly distributed from top to bottom, if the controls were accessible, where the handles were situated, and if the shafts could be adjusted for better reach. Then we put the trimmers to work on both short- and long-growth grass, as well as tougher roots and weeds, seeing how quickly, efficiently and consistently they tackled each job, and maneuvered around edges and obstacles without running out of battery or breaking a string.

String Trimmers
Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Zorn

What to Look for When Buying Trimmers

While gas-fueled trimmers are generally preferred by professionals, electrical (corded or battery-powered versions) tend to make more sense for smaller properties and at-home use. Corded trimmers are generally lightest and least expensive and start with the push of a button. Yet they almost always require extension cords, which can be frustrating to wrangle while you’re working. Battery powered models offer the mobility of gas, without pull-starting, fueling and fumes, but are heavier and more expensive than corded, and run between 30-60 minutes before needing a recharge. As far as cordless goes, look for options with a top-mounted motor, which tend to be better balanced (making them easier to handle) than models with motors mounted down near the cutting line. Also keep an eye out for amperage—averaging between 3.5-7.5—which generally affects the price, and assess how much power you really require for the size of your space.

Testing-Ego
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Whether you opt for corded or cordless, select a cutting swath (10 to 16 inches), that makes sense for what range you need. Curved shafts are best for light trimming, while straight ones are more heavy duty. Quiet motors or engines are obviously preferred, as are lightweight, balanced, and low vibration models as far as comfort goes. Thicker strings and dual nylon lines are most effective for tougher weeds and unruly yards, and trimmers with swivel heads assist with creating clean edges and finishes. Bump feed systems allow users to deliver lines as needed, while automatic feeds dispense line, well, automatically, so you don’t need to stop in the middle of a job. And models are ideally equipped with spools, which make it easy to load a new line.


Other String Trimmers We Tested

Black & Decker LST136W 40V String Trimmer

Black & Decker LST136W 40V String Trimmer

Though it doesn’t quite match the Ego in terms of range and power, the Black and Decker is still a super solid performer when it comes to cordless models. It converts from trimmer to edger with a turn of the shaft, and you can vary the speed in order to optimize performance and runtime. We’d also say that at around $127.99 (which includes the fast charging battery, which can be used with other Black and Decker products), it’s a great value as far as cordless trimmers are concerned, considering how much weed demolishing bang you get for your buck.

Worx WG163 GT 3.0 20V Cordless Grass Trimmer/Edger

Worx WG163 GT 3.0 20V Cordless Grass Trimmer/Edger

Quick to assemble and lightweight, the Worx is all about ease of use, with a trigger lever that expands the shaft to a comfortable height, an adjustable auxiliary handle, and dual-positioned in-line wheels that allow the trimmer to convert to an edger in seconds. It also comes with two batteries and a charger, making it a cost-effective purchase, but with a 12-inch cutting range and half the voltage of the Black and Decker (and one-third of the Ego), it’s really best for grass shearing and dainty detail work.

Ryobi One+ 18-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Edger

Ryobi One+ 18-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Edger

A true value trimmer, the 4.5-pound Ryobi offers all of the convenience of a cordless option for less than $100. A rotating shaft, and press and turn button enable it to convert to an edger when needed, and it’s reasonably comfortable to use and well balanced, despite the fact you can’t adjust the molded plastic auxiliary handle. Just don’t expect it to stand up to unwieldy overgrowth, considering its 10-inch swath and 18-volts of power.

Toro 51480 5 Amp 14 in. Corded String Trimmer

Toro 51480 5 Amp 14 in. Corded String Trimmer

With a 5-amp motor, 14-inch cutting swath, and extra-wide dual-line cutting head, the Toro is constructed to take on somewhat thornier jobs. But it can do delicate detail work too, thanks to a one-push button and integrated wheel, that allows it to seamlessly convert from trimmer to edger. And brownie points for the locking trigger, which is an important safety feature. At 7.5 pounds, it’s definitely bulkier than the Greenworks, and the shaft doesn’t adjust that far. In fact, at 5’6”, I found it unbalanced and uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time, so can only imagine how someone taller might feel. During testing sessions, it was the only unit that actually broke a string, on a scraggly portion of the yard the others tackled without issue. It also comes with a two-year warranty; significantly less generous than our other models.

Makita XRU02Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer

Makita XRU02Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer

At $99 for the trimmer and more than $200 with the battery (which can be used with other tools, if you’re one of many Makita brand devotees), you’d expect this sleek weed eater to live up to the cost. And certainly, it has plenty of features that sound good on paper, such as a telescoping shaft, a rotating head, and an adjustable handle with additional strap for balance and comfort. But for all those additions intended to aid in ease of use, the fact remains this model has only 18-volts of power and a 10” swath (just like the budget Ryobi). So, after exerting ourselves unduly, trying to whack through a not especially onerous section of lawn, we found very little to justify the price.

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