Used indiscriminately over wide swathes of grass, lawn mowers are the brute force of the lawn care world. But when it comes to more detailed work, you need a string trimmer—or line trimmer, weed eater, weed wacker, or whatever else you want to call them. These slim, handheld power tools are designed to make short work of garden and lawn maintenance. They're adept at nitty gritty details, like the weeds around edges and ledges of patios, walkways, bushes, and flower beds.
But not all string trimmers are created equal. Over the course of a hot, wet (i.e., verdant overgrowth choked) summer, we put 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 the freedom of maneuvering without being tethered to an outlet, it’s hard to hold a candle to the impressive whacking action of the full-throttle, 56-volt battery-fueled Ego, which we named the Best Cordless option on the market. On a budget? The electric cordless Craftsman 30378 was our pick for Best Value.
These are the best string trimmers we tested ranked, in order:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 tall 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.
What You Should Know About Trimmers
While a gas string trimmer is generally preferred by professionals, an electric trimmer (corded or battery-powered versions) makes more sense for a small yard 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 have a battery life with a run time between 30 and 60 minutes before needing a recharge. As far as cordless trimmers, 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 and 7.5—which generally affects the price, and assess how much power you really require for the size of your space.
Whether you opt for corded or cordless, select a cutting swath (10 to 16 inches), that makes sense for what range you need. A curved shaft is best for light trimming, while a straight shaft is better for heavy-duty work. 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.