The Best Electric String Trimmer

DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless String Trimmer

Our Top Pick for 2016: DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless String Trimmer
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $194.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

When you’re maintaining the beauty of your property, string trimmers are an important part of getting that neat-and-tidy look. Wild growth can crawl across your walkways, invade your garden, and climb your walls if it isn’t cut back regularly. String trimmers come in a few options, such as electric or gas-powered, straight or curved design, and the little features that make work easier. It all depends on what kind of unruly plant you’re dealing with, the size of your property, and the tool that fits you. Today we’ll focus on electric trimmers and after a comprehensive check of the reviews and comparisons, we’ve narrowed it down to these four top choices you’ll want to look at.

Table of contents

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PowerDrive Transmission
Brushless Motor
Powerful 5 Amp Motor
PowerCommand dial
13-inch Cutting Swath
14-inch Electric Trimmer/Edger
Automatic Feed Spool
Variable Trigger With Speed Control
One-step Walk-behind Edging
Converts From Trimmer To Edger
Patented Gear Drive Design
Telescoping Shaft
40v MAX Lithium Battery
Includes 20V MAX 5.0Ah Lithium Ion Battery
Adjustable Assist Handle

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless String Trimmer

DEWALT DCST920P1 20V MAX 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless String Trimmer Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $194.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe DeWalt DCST920P1 should have everything you need to trim edges around your property. This is a great option for those who don’t need the power (or headaches) of maintaining and using a gas trimmer. The 20V battery has surprising power and long life. It can do more than just edging, as it has a 13-inch cutting swath and a variable speed trigger. It weighs only 8.5 pounds and can be handled easily for a hot afternoon if you need to delegate chores. Still, it would be nice if it came with a harness to make things even easier when there’s a lot of work to be done.

The efficiency of the performance from this cutter comes not just from the top-notch battery but from the dual .080 string design. The cutter ships fast and comes with a ribbed string that is very tough for cutting those bigger weeds and a lot more. Unless you’re in a hurry you may not even need to use it on full power to get a nice clean cut, provided you haven’t let the brambles grow. It will even cut through light brush smoothly. If all you have is creeping grass and weeds, the battery lasts that much longer and you still get a nice cut.

You’ll probably find that the DeWalt DCST920P1 allows you to clean up edges around a 1 or 2 acre property in a single afternoon with no recharging, and does a nice job of it. If you have to, get a second battery and keep it charged. Apart from advancing the string once or twice (mostly due to trimming along chain link fences and concrete), but that’s not a problem as the bump feed works fine. The durable string will handle the job just fine, as well. Keep the battery charged and the DeWalt with that single coil of string should do its work all summer, without issues.

If you’re looking to replace your old gas trimmer, and you have only grass and weeds to deal with, by all means don’t delay; the DeWalt is the simpler and more economical option. Even tall, dense, and wet grass don’t seem to challenge it much. There is a bigger 40V version that’s comparable to most gas units, but if you don’t need it, don’t bother. The 20V should get the job done for most home owners. The great advantage to an electric trimmer is that there’s no spark plugs to clean, smell fumes, or gas and oil to mess with. If you have a battery charged, you just grab it and go, and there’s a lot less noise and vibration than you’ll get from a gas trimmer.

The unit is a bit long at 70″ assembled, and the long, straight shaft may be awkward for shorter folks. For others, that’s a plus, as the unit is well-balanced and you can trim a wider swath with less effort. Sometimes that’s ideal for those small spaces where busting out the mower isn’t necessary. It’s also a little pricier than some of the cheap models of similar size, but this trimmer and the DeWalt name are still worth paying for. It’s a terrific, reliable weed-whacker with a sturdy design.

If there’s any caveats it’s that the DeWalt has a small guard and tends to throw debris if you’re not careful. It also doesn’t come with a lot of extra features. And if you want more features you’ll have to spend more money. For the average property owner who just wants to break out the trimmer on weekends and spruce up edges around the property, the DeWalt DCST920P1 will get the job done, nicely and easily, and at a good price.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): BLACK+DECKER LST136W 40V Max Lithium String Trimmer

BLACK+DECKER LST136W 40V Max Lithium String Trimmer

View it on Amazon for $139.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThis is the bigger 40V trimmer for when your edging and trimming work needs a little more power. The Black & Decker LST136W has plenty, as it mows down normal grass and typical weeds without any trouble. But if you have tougher bushes, or tend to let things out back get a little out of control, a 40V might be the perfect fit for you. Plus the battery will last that much longer if you aren’t really pushing it.

It has about the same power as a smaller gas mower, while being much lighter and easier to manage, And being electric, it’s low maintenance. You just pop in your charged battery and get to weed-whackin’. There’s nothing to troubleshoot here. Even the automatic line feed works great. Although if you have a bigger yard, it is recommended that you get an extra battery for additional run time and more efficient cutting. Then you’ll have no excuses for not trimming the yard in a single pass.

The 40V lithium battery is reliable, and a small yard can easily be done on less than an hour’s charge time. But one of the best features is the 180 degree pivot head which lets you shift from edging to cutting as you go. All you need to do is press the release button, rotate the head, and flip the edging guide. It takes seconds and you can get tight edges from both angles cleaned up in a snap . The Automatic Feed Spool ensures continuous work without bumping. A little common-sense maintenance, like cleaning up the trimmer when you’re done, and storing the battery indoors rather than out in the shed where it can cook in the summer and freeze in the winter, will go a long way toward getting the most of the trimmer and prolonging battery life. There’s no reason the Black & Decker LST136W shouldn’t serve you for years, especially if it’s more power than you really need.

It is only 44″ long, which is surprisingly compact for a 40V. That makes it easier to store and carry around, but if you’re very tall, bending and reaching could get to the back over the course of an afternoon’s trimming. If you aren’t NBA-sized, don’t worry about it. B&D is a company that’s known for making quality, affordable tools, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

By comparison, the DeWalt 40V trimmer is more of a beast. It’s also big and heavy, and its longer, with the typically small DeWalt guard that can spray debris everywhere. It can be tough to control when for smaller people or when you’re just getting tired. But the Black and Decker 40V, while it has less raw power, is actually much more compact and manageable, and the string is a slim .065 diameter, but still plenty tough. In practice, all this makes it more precise – nice to have in a powerful tool when you’re working around flower or herb gardens. It’s light-weight at just under 10 pounds, so not a big chore to tote around the yard. So if you don’t really need to be cutting down heavy brush, and just want that extra 40V power for the confidence of taking down whatever might pop up around your house, the B&D 40V will do nicely.

But when it comes right down to it, if you really need the bigger 40V in the first place, the LST136W might be the last trimmer you need to by.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Toro 51480 Corded 14-Inch Electric Trimmer/Edger

Toro 51480 Corded 14-Inch Electric Trimmer/Edger

View it on Amazon for $56.40*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Toro 51480 is not a rechargeable, it requires a cord, which has both good and bad sides. You don’t have to worry about recharges or fading batteries when you need them, but you do have to drag along an extension cord, and more than one if you’re going to working far from a power outlet. If that’s not a problem for you, this is a great little trimmer. It small at under 7 pounds and 48″ long, but it’s well constructed and durable. A powerful 5 amp motor seems typical of larger trimmers, while the 14″ dual-line cutting head makes quick work of even large patches of weeds.

It has some other nice features, such as the pivoting head that allows you to switch easily from edger to trimmer. The telescoping shaft allows you to adjust for height and reach. It also includes a string auto-feed feature that works nicely. Stopping and starting the motor lets out another half-inch of the .065 string. With the surprising power, and the auto-feed feature, if you’re willing to drag along that cord you can get a lot of work done quickly.

A plug-in trimmer has other advantages. It’s a lot lighter than gas trimmers or even some of the bigger battery-operated units. No worries about a battery holding its charge, or misplacing the charger. Just grab your extension cord, plug it in, and go to work. With a 14″ head, the Toro 51480 can clear a lot of ground in a short time. It has no problem mowing down tough weeds. The power is perhaps not up to that of gas trimmer, but the ease of use more than makes up for it.

The auto-feed feature does have some limitations. With the thinner string, you can eat through it quite quickly trimming around rocks or concrete, and having to start and stop to let out that little bit of string can get to be frustrating if you’re using it up too quickly. In that case, you might want to invest in some better string, or stay clear of the rocks. The Toro 51480 is better suited to clearing out wide swaths of over-grown grass and weeds alongside your driveway and foot paths. That it does very, very well.

The Toro 51480 is durable, easy to assemble, and easily adjusted to length for whoever happens to be using it. It also has a built-in wheel for support that makes edging a breeze, when you consider the juice this little unit can deliver.

It’s a tough little trimmer. Over-powering the motor is not an easy thing to do. It quickly clears a path through tall grass, thick weeds, and lighter vines and bushes. If you don’t mind the extra work, you might even prefer mowing a small yard, or parts of it, with the Toro instead of your lawnmower. Seeing how must of the weight is at the business end, if you go the mowing route, give yourself a break and get or make a harness to help support it. In fact, the only reason not to use the Toro on those hard-to-get-to parts of your property is if you don’t have enough extension cord.

Hauling out a long cord (and worse, coiling it back up again) is never a good thing, but its worth it in this case. It’s the only drawback to an otherwise tough, low-maintenance trimmer that almost becomes a pleasure to use. You might not even need the 2-year warranty.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): GreenWorks 21212 4Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer

GreenWorks 21212 4Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer

View it on Amazon for $29.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickGreenWorks 21212 is a well-made, cord-powered trimmer. It’s light at only about 5 pounds, and easy to use. It’s pretty solid for a cheaper electric trimmer, but then, it’s also surprisingly powerful with a 4 amp motor you might expect in pricier models. It ships fast and assembly is easy. It has an adjustable-length shaft and enough power to cut down the time on your trimming, even at this low price. it’s lightweight and adjustable telescoping staff make it a perfect tool for those who can’t handle heavier and more powerful trimmers, while still getting the job done.

The string is very durable and does a great job even on overgrown weeds. The GreenWorks 21212 comes with a clip to attach your extension cord so you don’t have to worry about it falling off while you’re dragging the cord across the lawn.

It does come with a 4 year warranty. But maybe the most attractive feature about this trimmer is that the line advance actually works very well. You need only release the trigger for a second or two and the string automatically advances, clicking securely into place. This may be the perfect tool for the lady who doesn’t want to wrestling heavy equipment out of the shed every time the garden needs a little trimming.

Rotating the head from trim to edging position does have its drawbacks, as there’s no guide to help you keep a straight line, and even the guard sticks out at an angle that forces you to do your edging from a position you may not like. But with such a light-weight trimmer it doesn’t seem like that should be a huge problem for most people.
No, the GreenWorks 21212 doesn’t have the power of gas trimmers or even large electric models, but if you have a smaller sized property and plenty of extension cord, you can’t go wrong at this price. It’s a zippy little workhouse that will handle light-to-medium yard work with ease. As for dragging around that extension cord, just think about the money you’ve saved and you’ll get used to it quick enough.


Pre-purchase considerations

Power

Get the trimmer that will get the job done. If you’re only trimming grass and the occasional weed, you can get by with very little, but do look for a model with dual lines to cut more efficiently. Normally you’ll want more power and the 0.80 string to manage tough vegetation. With battery-powered models, the harder you work the trimmer, the faster the battery will run down, so for a bigger yard you’ll want to consider either extra batteries or a model that carries a bigger battery. For extra-tough growth, you may want to consider the most powerful models, and one that can be fitted with a metal blade. For any yard, before you buy a trimmer, take a good look around to remind yourself exactly where and what you’ll be dealing with. Go for a trimmer that you feel confident will get the work done.

Weight

Not that anyone’s afraid of a little hard work, but let’s face it, even the strongest guys will start to feel the weight of their tools after working for an hour in the hot sun – the time of year most of us do our yard work. And maybe the woman doing the trimming doesn’t want to make a work-out of the chores, or just wants to trim around her own garden. You may have older kids who can help out. It’s important to choose a string trimmer that those using it can manage comfortably. For heavier models that might mean buying or creating your own harness or shoulder straps. Try to buy only as much trimmer as you need; an excessively big and powerful one will only cost more money and be harder to work with. But you don’t want one so light that it takes forever to get the job done. If you make the right choices, you can buy just one trimmer for the whole household and the whole lawn.

Edging option and clean finish

Many string trimmers have a swiveling head that rotates 90 degrees from a trim to edging angle. Either way, there should be a quick and simple way of doing this, and it should not only stay firmly locked in this position, but balance comfortably in your hands while edging so that you maintain control. You should also have a clear view of the spot where you’re edging. And when you’re done, it should leave a crisp edge, not a torn, tattered look that isn’t very appealing.

Quality construction

Even in a small yard, any tool is going to take some abuse, as well as wear and tear. The best trimmers use high quality materials, usually sturdy plastic and metal parts that won’t come apart the first time they’re dropped on the ground. Plastic helps keep the weight down; even the most expensive models use it. A good trimmer has switches, spools, and other features that operate smoothly and correctly every time. And a longer warranty doesn’t mean a better tool.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

The cost of owning and using a string trimmer goes on well past the purchase price. Gas powered trimmers, especially, require on-going maintenance and fuel. For those who aren’t handy with small engine repair and maintenance, in order to avoid future repair or replacement, an electric trimmer might be the right way to go. That’s especially true if you have a smaller property to maintain and growth that doesn’t require so much power. There’s also the noise and fumes of a gas trimmer to think about if you have close neighbors. But even battery powered trimmers have their limits, as you can’t expect even a quality lithium battery to last forever and multiple drains and recharges. Batteries can be replaced, but they aren’t cheap.

The most reliable is probably the corded electric trimmer, in which case the cord is the problem. You don’t want to be hauling around 100 feet of cord, or multiple cords strung together which may come unplugged under their own weight. And if you have obstructions like lawn furniture, flowers, gardens, etc., maneuvering around them with a long cord can get tricky. There’s really no hard and fast rule; it all depends on what you feel comfortable with on your property. But if you’re the typical homeowner, an electric trimmer ought to do, and hopefully these suggested models will point you in the right direction.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Lug Nut, DeWalt DCST920P1 Review, YouTube.com, Jun 9, 2015
  2. Matt, DeWalt DCST920P1 Review, Mowing-Cow, December 11, 2015
  3. Stuart, DeWalt DCST920P1 Review, ToolGuyd.com, February 25, 2015
  4. Gregory R, Zars, BLACK&DECKER LST136W, trimmerguy.com, Sep 18, 2013
  5. Leslie G., Toro 51480, powerequipmentdirect.com, Jul 2, 2014
  6. Toro 51480, Outdoor Power Equipment, Jun 14, 2015
  7. The Weed Eater Guru, GreenWorks 21212, weedeaterguru.com, Mar 10, 2015
  8. epop, GreenWorks 21212 Build.com, March 2014

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