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String trimmers are the tool of choice to cut high grass along fences, rock walls, and garden beds. These tools, which are also sometimes referred to by popular brand names like weed whacker or weed eater, get into those tight spots around your property where a mower just can’t go.
CR’s lawn experts have tested dozens of string trimmers, including gas, corded, and battery, or cordless versions. To learn more about the types, start with our string trimmer buying guide. CR members can jump right into our string trimmer ratings to compare models. Below, we’ve highlighted the best string trimmers in each configuration.
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In our tests, we’ve found capable models in every configuration across a wide range of prices. But first you need to settle on which type is right for you.
“We’re at a point where the best electric models cut every bit as well as the best gas tools,” says Misha Kollontai, who oversees string trimmer testing at Consumer Reports. “You should really let the size of your lawn dictate whether you can make do with the limited range or run time of an electric, or whether you need the flexibility of gas.”
Within the world of electrics, you’ll see both corded and battery-powered models, which are also sold as cordless string trimmers. Either can cut well, and though corded electrics are cheaper, keep in mind that you’ll need an outdoor outlet and extension cord, which can be cumbersome.
How CR Tests String Trimmers
We use each trimmer to tackle typical yard weeds and high grass as well as dense brush, noting and timing how long each model takes to clear a defined path. We also test each model at edging, or its ability to create a neat and straight line along a walkway. And we look at how easy each model is to hold, maneuver, and operate, noting how difficult it is to start up or feed extra line through the cutting head.
We test gas and electric models with curved and straight shafts. If you’ve never used a string trimmer, try out curved-shaft and straight-shaft models in a home center or hardware store to see which feels better. In general, tall users may favor straight-shaft models because they have a longer reach. Shorter users may prefer curved-shaft models because they can be a bit easier to control.
CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of six standout models from our tests, the top performer and best value in each configuration.
Best Gas Straight-Shaft String Trimmers
Stihl FS 56 C-E (out of stock)
CR’s take: The Stihl FS 56 C-E is among the priciest models in our ratings. But it cuts like a champ through tall, thick weeds, earning a rating of Excellent in that test. It also does well in our edging test, which means it makes it easy for you to get rid of weeds along walkways and create a neat, manicured look.
CR’s take: The Echo SRM-225i performs on a par with the top-rated Stihl, cutting evenly and edging cleanly. It earns a rating of Excellent for trimming and for predicted reliability. It's also sold at Home Depot, which means it's more readily available than the Stihl, which is sold primarily through power equipment dealers.
Best Gas Curved-Shaft String Trimmers
CR’s take: The Stihl FS 40 C-E is the best curved-shaft gas string trimmer in our ratings. It's one of the few models that offers power and performance on a par with the best straight-shaft trimmers, for about $100 less than what you'd pay for many of those tools. It earns a rating of Excellent for trimming as well as for plowing through tall grass and weeds. One caveat: CR doesn't yet have enough data to calculate a predicted reliability rating for Stihl curved-shaft trimmers, though the brand does receive a Very Good reliability rating for their straight-shaft gas trimmers.
CR's take: As a group, curved-shaft string trimmers don't work as well as straight-shaft models, but they do offer two advantages. First, they tend to be much cheaper. Second, some shorter users find them easier to control. The Troy-Bilt TB25C is among the best of the bunch—just behind the Stihl above—earning a rating of Excellent for trimming. One word of caution: It earns a rating of Fair for predicted reliability.
Best Electric String Trimmers
CR's take: The Ego ST1502SA takes the top prize among battery-powered string trimmers. In fact, it earns the best marks of any string trimmer in our ratings. It edges and trims as well as the best gas models, earning a rating of Excellent in our trimming test, and even clears through tall grass and weeds. In our tests, it ran for an impressive 26 minutes. At 9 pounds, it's extremely light. And because this Ego is battery-powered, it's easy to start and operate. It will go anywhere a gas model can, but run time is limited by the battery. If you splurge on the top-rated Ego LM2101 lawn mower for $400, you can use the batteries interchangeably and always have one charging.
CR's take: If you have a small yard, a plug-in electric string trimmer will be fine. The Ryobi RY41135 trims really well at a much better price than battery-powered models—and without the effort of buying and using gas. All you need to power the machine is an extension cord and an outlet within 100 feet. This model has dual cutting lines—most plug-in electrics have only one—helping it earn a rating of Excellent in our test of cutting tall grass and weeds.
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