String Trimmer Head Comparison Essay

Through our research and testing we found no really convincing argument for most homeowners to have a gas string trimmer, even for a large lawn. Cordless models are quieter, need practically no ongoing maintenance, start with the press of a button, emit no exhaust, and can “refuel” without requiring a separate errand to the gas station. As our testing proved, cordless tools’ run time and cutting ability are more than adequate for everything but the most extreme clearing jobs. For all of this power and convenience, the price is roughly the same as a gas model’s (less, in fact, once you calculate in the long-term cost of purchasing gas and oil and your own time spent maintaining the trimmer). We asked Pro Tool Reviews editor Clint DeBoer if he knew any compelling reason for a homeowner to go with a gas model and he simply said, “No.” In some extreme circumstances only a gas tool will do—and we have a gas-powered pick for those—but they rarely apply to most people, so the rest of this section is about our criteria for cordless tools.

Making the jump from gas to cordless results in a much quieter and cleaner tool. Even the loudest cordless trimmers we tested don’t approach the high-pitched squeal of a fully revved 2-stroke engine. But not only is the tool itself quieter, the easy on-off nature of a cordless tool eliminates the need to keep the idle going while walking from one area to the next. With a gas trimmer you’ll hear a constant blub-blub-blub idle noise even when you’re not actively cutting grass; a cordless trimmer can simply be shut off and restarted. Cordless trimmers also have no noxious emissions, which can’t be said for a gas trimmer.

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As our testing proved, cordless tools’ run time and cutting ability are more than adequate.

The convenience of maintaining a cordless trimmer versus a gas one cannot be overstated. To keep a cordless trimmer ready to work, all you need to do is click the battery onto the charger after each trimming session. That’s it. The majority of gas trimmers, on the other hand, have 2-stroke engines, so they require the fussy process of mixing gas and oil. They also have a carburetor, air filter, and spark plug that need regular cleaning or replacing. In the off-season, you have to drain gas engines of fuel (or stabilize them), and failure to do so can cause damage—yet another hassle cordless tools avoid.

The cordless trimmers we considered all come with a single battery, so it’s crucial that they have a decent run time. As it turns out, even the lesser string trimmers we tested have the stamina to handle a very large lawn. When we took the trimmers out into an overgrown field, even the worst-performing cordless model cut over 1,000 square feet of thick, dense grass. Translating this to more practical terms, it could clear a 1-foot-wide strip of grass around an entire football field. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, the best-performing trimmer cut approximately 3,400 square feet, which translates into trimming the same 1-foot swath around the perimeter of over three and a quarter football fields. That’s a lot. And keep in mind that we performed our test in very difficult cutting conditions, with the tools cranked to their highest speeds, which will drain a battery faster than normal use. Under regular conditions, run time is likely to be even longer.

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When we took the trimmers out into an overgrown field, even the worst-performing cordless model cut over 1,000 square feet of thick, dense grass.

As for power, all of the cordless trimmers we looked at can cut regular lawn grass, but once we introduced tougher conditions, like tall weeds or densely overgrown grass, we started seeing significant differences between the models. The weaker trimmers strained their way through stalkier shrubs and thicker grasses, either getting bound up or pushing them over instead of cutting them. Only a couple models managed to slice through really thick plants, like fat bamboo stalks. Cordless trimmers don’t spin as fast as comparable gas models, but for general use, without a doubt, a solid cordless model will get the job done.

The nice thing about cordless string trimmers is that, unlike other outdoor equipment like chainsaws and lawn mowers, going cordless doesn’t come with a price premium. The best straight-shaft gas trimmers are currently mostly in the $175 to $250 range, which is about where the solid 40-volt-plus cordless trimmers land. Curved-shaft gas models, which are seen as lighter duty, tend to be in the $125 to $150 range, which is where the lesser 30-volt models land. Again, this is just upfront pricing and doesn’t take into account long-term costs like gas and maintenance, which add to the cost of gas trimmers.

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Unlike other outdoor equipment like chainsaws and lawn mowers, going cordless doesn’t come with a price premium.

TomD

3 years ago

Great performance - needs lawn edger options.

I've owned the FSA-85 for almost a year now and have been very pleased. I've got a larger-than-normal suburban yard and the AP180 battery has enough juice to trim the yard and then blow away the clippings when I pop it into the BGA 85 blower. For me, the only drawback to the system is that there is no lawn edger attachment or separate edger tool for use with the Lithium Ion battery pack. There isn't an edging mode on the FSA-85 string trimmer either... I'm looking into other options for a lawn ... read more edger, but I would greatly prefer to simply have another tool that works with this great battery pack and charger.

Tim2277

4 years ago

Awesome!

I have had this trimmer for two summers. Sick of monkeying with gas, and also after having a rather useless 18 V battery trimmer (power was so weak could only cut through minimal grass-- nearly useless)- i figured if anyone would make a good battery trimmer it would be still. When I figured out how much the battery was, I went all in with the hedge trimmer, chainsaw, blower, and mower, and bought three batteries-- i have been very satisfied. Power on the trimmer rocks, hard to tell even battery ... read more powered; high recommend, get the AP 160 battery!

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