In making our selection we've avoided cheap weed eaters because of questionable durability. Whether you're looking for a machine for general yard and garden duties, or more serious landscape management, you need to know it will do the job every time you reach for it.
Each of our final five meets that criteria.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do.
And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Our picks are:
Balance and comfort are vital in a good weed wacker. All machines vibrate to some extent, but good ones are well damped. Light-weight models might only need a top-mounted handle for good control, but with bigger machines some kind of shoulder harness would help with support and allow you to work for extended periods.
Weed wackers are basically quite simple machines, so small things like spool type, power-saving devices, and easy starting systems can make big differences. We'll look at what you get with each and whether it's worth the money.
Your choice will, to a large extent, depend on the land area you have. That said, is it worth paying a bit extra for a machine that will cope with just about anything you can throw at it - even if you'll only use the extra power occasionally?
You can buy a weed eater for under fifty bucks, but in our view, you'd be taking a risk. We couldn't recommend something that we think has inherent flaws, so with our list of the top five weed wackers, we've gone for quality over cost. Having said that, you certainly don't have to break the bank to get a good tool for the job!
Luke owned and operated his own lawn and landscaping business for over a decade. Founding the business and growing it prior to an acquisition, Luke led all procurement decisions, from the purchase of blowers and lawn mowers to weed whackers and tillers. Luke uses all of these machines regularly.
Black and Decker is a well-known and widely trusted brand so you would expect them to produce a quality machine. The LST136W string trimmer feels robust for a battery-powered weed wacker and is well-balanced, despite the weight of the battery in the end of the handle. Controls are good too - chunky enough to be used when wearing gloves.
The GreenWorks 21142 string trimmer is the lightest of our selection at just 9.9 pounds. Although that's only a pound or so less than the others, it's seen as a definite advantage by many users. The trigger handle is cushioned to reduce vibration and there's a useful additional control handle on the main shaft. Some might find needing to plug it in a bit of a pain, but the flip-side is that you don't need to stop to recharge batteries or refill the gas tank!
Gas-powered weed wackers like the Husqvarna 128DJx are usually thought of as big, heavy tools, yet at just 10.8 pounds, this model is actually a few ounces lighter than the cordless Black & Decker above. There is a kind of pendulum effect with the 2-cycle motor being on the end of the shaft, but there's an auxiliary handle — and a harness — so control is good. In fact once you get used to it, it actually helps your rhythm as you cut.
Our second gas-powered machine, the Hitachi CG22EASSLP, has a similar configuration to the Husqvarna and weighs more or less the same. There's the almost obligatory second handle to help with control, but we were a little surprised that this one doesn't have a harness.
We encountered similar issues with the Core CGT400 CGTSD. It's called a "gasless" rather than cordless trimmer because of some different technology (more on that in a moment) but regardless of the technical name, it still has a substantial motor sticking out the back. It's no heavier than the other machines, and it does have a secondary handle. Again, while we would have liked to see a harness on this weed eater, it is an exemplary product.
The Black & Decker LST136W 40V Max Lithium String Trimmer is an impressive and well thought-out machine. There are options for longer running time or more power. The cutting headed can be rotated in seconds to turn it from weed eater to edger, without the need for add-ons. The spool has an automatic feed so you don't get the problems associated with bump-feed models. The 40 volt power-pack is interchangeable with other tools in the range. Although not everybody is happy with battery life, it's something that affects all cordless devices, so it's a bit unfair to single out an individual machine.
Despite its low price, they haven't cut corners on the GreenWorks 21142 weed wacker. It's not a luxury model, but it's perfectly adequate. Spool feed is the common bump system. A few owners have complained about tangling but it's a common criticism of this type of spool, regardless of manufacturer. There have also been reports of trouble finding new pre-wound spools, although line is readily available and it's not difficult to wind your own. On the plus side, the Quick-Connect coupler system means you can extend usability with attachments like a pole saw, edger or blower, available from companies like Ryobi.
The gas-powered Husqvarna delivers exactly what you would expect from a "pro" machine. That doesn't mean you need extra skills to use it - in fact it's as user-friendly as anything here. It features Husqvarna’s "smart start" system, so it's easy to get going and is CARB compliant, meaning it meets strict emission regulations. It's the only weed eater we reviewed that has a harness and also the only one with a steel brush-cutter blade to complement the semi-automatic line spool.
Hitachi also seem to be aware of people's concern with starting a gas-powered weed eater and claim their S-Start technology reduces pull by up to 50%. We're not sure how you measure "pull" exactly, but we do agree that like the Husqvarna, modern weed wackers are much easier to start than they used to be. The Hitachi CG22EASSLP also has an anti-vibration system, is CARB compliant, and has semi-auto spool feeding, which owners find to be a very valuable feature.
The Core CGT400 is unlike either corded, cordless, or gas-powered weed wackers. CORE stands for Conductor Optimized Rotary Energy and while strictly speaking it's a battery-powered device, the focus is on what they call a "high-energy power cell". This supposedly gives the convenience and eco-friendly benefits of cordless but with the long operational times of a gas engine. Like the Black and Decker, it has dual modes - to either maximize torque or extend run time. Oddly, despite all the tech elsewhere on this model, the spool is the ordinary bump-feed type.
One way to maximize the power of corded or battery-powered weed eaters is to use a smaller cutting diameter. The Black & Decker LST136W takes this approach, and it is a wise decision. The 13-inch sweep might sound much less, and the .065 line a bit feeble, but in the real world it's a better performer than many competitors. There's a reason this is one of the world's best selling weed wackers - it does what it does very well.
Being corded and light weight, the GreenWorks 21142 is never going to be able to compete with gas-powered machines. While an 18-inch cut path is impressive in this price bracket, the .080 line struggles a bit with dense growth so smaller cuts need to be taken. Calling it under-powered would be unfair. When used in the smaller yards and gardens it was designed for, it does the job fine.
When we move up to the gas engines, you expect to get more power. With the 28cc model in the Husqvarna 128DJx, you won't be disappointed. It's a beast - but it's an easily controlled beast. It has .095 line and a 17-inch cutting path - and it will carry on cutting it all day long. Yes, it's noisier than an electrical machine, but 2-strokes are quieter than they were a few years ago, and emissions are much lower too.
The Hitachi CG22EASSLP also has a 17-ich diamater cut and .095 line, and although the engine is slightly smaller (21.1cc), the difference in output is negligible. Unlike the Husqvarna, it doesn't have a blade included in the price, but one is available and the machine certainly has the necessary torque to drive it efficiently should you need it.
The Core CGT400 is taking on the gas-powered weed wackers head-to-head. The maker claims it has the output of machines like the Husqvarna and Hitachi, combined with the convenience, quiet and cleanliness of cordless machines. It's a big claim, and it's backed up by line thickness and cutting diameter comparable with it's rivals. However, whatever you call the power source, there are still questions about useful life. Whether you consider it a viable alternative rather depends on your personal view of the environmental issues.
The Black & Decker LST136W weed eater is $146 and is a very popular machine for small to medium yards and gardens. All-in-all, something of a bargain.
The GreenWorks 21142 currently goes for $76. As long as you understand that it's a light-use tool, that's a tough price to beat.
The Husqvarna 128DJx is $219. That's a fair jump from the Black & Decker, but it's a big jump in capability too. This is contractor-standard kit - but without the "fear factor" often associated with professional tools.
The Hitachi is $199. It's another highly capable weed wacker that will do everything you ask of it, all day long.
Finally we have the Core CGT400 at $188. There's no doubt this a good machine, and it's definitely got the environmental credentials, but is that enough for you to shell out more than the renowned Husqvarna?
The challenge with choosing the best weed eater is that the answer depends on what you want it to do. If you have a small yard, do you really need a gas-powered machine? On the other hand, you should buy a corded machine if you've got several acres to keep under control. Nevertheless, there’s one model on our shortlist that emerges as the winner — and it is the Husqvarna. By any measure, it's an excellent machine. It starts easily, runs almost vibration-free, and will tear through just about anything that gets in its way. It's big, but it's not some fearsome monster that's only safe in the hands of a pro. Nobody who buys one will be disappointed.
We're tempted to say that the Husqvarna is bast bang for your buck, too. It's about $30 cheaper than the Hitachi and $90 less than the Core. However, our vote for best value-for-money weed eater goes to the Black & Decker LST136W, which is substantially more affordable than all three of those trimmers.
Not everybody needs a big machine and if you don’t, then this cordless model is the right choice for you. It's a brilliant product, and at $146, we are confident that it's offer the best price to performance ratio on the market.