Knowing what to look for when buying a weed wacker will help you choose one that lets you gets the job done easily and efficiently.
When it comes to a great landscaping job, details matter. A weed eater, aka weed wacker, weed trimmer or string trimmer, lets you trim patches of grass or overgrowth and cut clean edges for a polished look. However, knowing the best weed eater for your needs can be tricky. The answer depends on several factors including the size and condition of the property, how much weight you’re willing to heft around and even your height.
As you sift through all the weed eater options, here’s what you should consider finding one you’ll be happy with.
Power source: Electric, gas or battery
There are three options for powering your weed eater: gas, electric or battery. The choice comes down to convenience, power and weight. If you purchase a heavier weed eater, consider using a trimmer harness to ease the burden.
Electric weed eater
Electric weed eaters are the lightest and quietest weed eaters. Of course, you’ll need access to a power outlet, and remember, you’ll be dragging a cord behind you as you work. That can be inconvenient, especially in large spaces or if you’re working on a lawn that contains obstacles such as patio furniture or a swing set. Some electric weed eaters can take attachments, but they may be inconvenient to use with a cord trailing.
If you’ll be working on large properties, navigating obstacles or doing more than wacking weeds and trimming grass, a battery-powered or gas weed eater is likely a better option.
Gas weed eater
Gas weed eaters are the workhorses of this landscaping tool category and the go-to choice for landscaping professionals. They work well for clearing brush and trimming thicker growth.
These tools come in four-stroke models that use gas, and two-stroke models that use a gas/oil mixture. The four-stroke trimmers are more powerful, making them the better option for overgrown areas and large jobs.
On the downside, gas weed eaters are heavy and loud, and their vibratory movement can make them uncomfortable to handle. They need engine maintenance, and two-stroke models require fuel mixing. Additionally, gas-powered equipment emits carbon dioxide and other air pollutants so they don't make the most eco-friendly options.
Battery powered weed eater
Battery powered weed eaters provide just enough power and versatility for the average homeowner. They are somewhat heavier than electric weed eaters but still easy to handle — plus they have no cord to worry about.
The drawback: If you’re tackling a big job, you may run out of juice before it’s done. You’ll want to keep a spare battery charged and ready to go. Some battery powered weed eaters are compatible with attachments, while others aren’t.
Curved vs. straight shafts
Weed eaters are available with a straight or curved shaft. Both shaft types have benefits and drawbacks.
Many models have adjustable shaft lengths. The top handle should be set at a height that’s comfortable for you and lets you work without bending over to reach the ground. You should also be able to adjust the auxiliary handle located on the shaft.
Curved shaft weed eaters are shorter and lighter than straight shaft weed eaters. That makes them more ergonomic and easier to handle, especially for shorter people. Ideal for home use, they are less powerful than straight shaft weed eaters. They’re also more prone to problems with the drive cable, so they may not last as long.
Straight shaft weed eaters are more powerful and more durable. They have a longer reach, which makes them convenient for trimming under bushes. Larger engines let these weed eaters tackle heavy-duty jobs and seriously overgrown areas. Unlike curved shaft trimmers, they can often take attachments such as metal blades, edgers and hedge clippers. On the negative side, straight shaft weed eaters are heavier and can be harder to handle.
Helpful features to look for
The best weed eater is one that fits both the operator and the job at hand. Bonus features that are available on some weed wackers, such as the features below, can simplify lawn maintenance and provide better results.
- Fits a variety of gauges. The line for weed eaters comes in different gauges, or thicknesses. Thin line is good for trimming grass, while brush clearing requires a thicker gauge. Look for a weed trimmer that can fit a wide range of gauges so you can do more with the tool. In general, gas powered weed eaters have the engine capacity to move the thicker line needed for clearing brush or thick weed growth.
- Is easy to restring. Snapped strings are par for the course during weed trimming. Look for a machine that is easy to reload and feed string through. Some weed eaters offer pre-wound string refills, which are convenient but may increase the price.
- Has a cutting guard. Almost all weed eaters come with a safety shield designed to protect the operator from flying debris. Look for a trimmer that also has a cutting guard, which helps ensure you don’t accidentally cut plants you want to keep.
- Is compatible with multiple attachments. Some weed eaters are multi-use tools with available attachments such as leaf blowers, pole saws and edgers. They are more expensive, and you often have to buy the attachments separately, but you may get more use out of them depending on your needs.
For the perfect lawn or landscape, weed eaters are a must. To answer the question of “what to look for in a weed wacker?”, choose the lightest, easiest-to-handle tool that gets the job done while providing the highest level of comfort and convenience.