Electric string trimmers are finding more favor with environment-conscious consumers. But the latest gas-powered trimmers are polluting less than the older models, thanks to tougher California and federal regulations. Several premium gas-powered models certify that their engines will meet those regulations for 300 hours, rather than the usual 50. More hours mean not only less pollution, but possibly longer engine life. But those premium trimmers carry a premium price, about $200 and up.
The best corded machines can trim, edge, and even tackle the tall stuff nearly as well some of the best gas models. And while cordless, battery-powered trimmers still aren't ideal for hacking away tall grass and weeds, the best now do a creditable job.
See how it feels
Handle the trimmer at the store to check its balance. After adjusting the front handle for a comfortable reach, hold the trimmer in the cutting position with both hands. Its weight should feel evenly distributed from top to bottom or slightly heavier at the top. Be sure that the controls work smoothly and are easy to reach.
Check the gap
Tall grass and weeds can slow or stall a trimmer by wrapping around the top of its cutting head, especially if there's a gap between it and the mounting for the grass-debris guard. Models with a small gap or a protective sleeve around the shaft avoided that problem in our tests.
String trimmers can kick up debris. To avoid injury, wear safety glasses or goggles and long pants and boots. All but the cordless electric trimmers we tested emitted at least 85 decibels, the point at which we recommend ear protection.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.