Shoulder strap makes it easier to support the weight. Easy to assemble and start. Blade cuts through brush and undergrowth with ease. Doubles as a string trimmer.
Although the brush cutter is great, some users didn't like the string trimmer.
Built to last and makes easy work of even the toughest brush. Easy to start. Comes with a weed eater attachment and is compatible with a wide range of other attachments.
It is hard to keep the shaft tightened and it occasionally spins.
A reasonable price point for a tool with so many attachments included. Pole saw attachment can bend up to 90-degrees. Runs smooth and includes a harness that makes it easy to carry.
Some users reported receiving faulty machines.
Kit comes with a string trimmer and brush cutter attachment. Straight shaft allows you to cut hard-to-reach brush. Comes with a four-year limited warranty. Easy to assemble.
Several reports of the string getting stuck within a year of use.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Weed eaters (or string trimmers, if you prefer) do a great job with a lot of the unwanted growth around your garden, but a nylon cord just isn’t strong enough to cut thick or woody stems. That’s when you need a brush cutter.
Similar in many ways to weed eaters, brush cutters have more powerful motors and use a steel blade instead of a cord. As you can imagine, not much that’s growing in your yard can stand up to that kind of punishment! Many still offer a string trimmer head as an option, so you end up with a versatile tool that can handle anything from trimming lawn edges to clearing stubborn undergrowth and even small saplings.
Although the heavy-duty nature of a brush cutter means it’s not for everyone, there are still plenty of choices. If you haven’t owned one before, knowing which is best for your needs can be difficult. BestReviews has checked out the latest models so we can help you with your decision. Our top picks represent a range of alternatives. In the following brush cutter buying guide, we look at all the important features and answer several common questions.
Many garden tools offer a choice of corded, cordless, or gas. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Trailing a cable around a garden of any size just isn’t practical, and for safety reasons you’re restricted to 100 feet anyway. While a few battery-powered brush cutters have been produced, with big 60- and 80-volt electric motors, we can’t find any that are currently available in the United States. We suspect that’s because even the best battery technology struggles to keep up with the power demands of a brush cutter. As a result, gas is the only option, though you do have a choice of a two-stroke or four-stroke motor (also known as two-cycle and four-cycle).
Two-stroke motors use a premixed combination of oil and gas put directly in the tank. It can be a bit messy, and you need to get the proportions right. If you don’t, the motor will either run rich, which usually means a lot of unpleasant smoke, or lean, in which case the motor will splutter unevenly and could even seize. Why would you choose a two-stroke machine? They’re lighter and quite a lot cheaper.
Four-stroke engines have separate tanks for oil and gas. They’re not only cleaner to work with, they are also more efficient. They produce fewer harmful emissions and use less gas. However, they’re heavier and more expensive.
So which is best? It’s really a question of how much you’ll be using one. Most entry-level and mid-range homeowner models use a two-stroke engine. More powerful pro-grade tools use a four-stroke engine.
Much is made of cubic centimeters in motors, from around 25 to those that exceed 40. However, as any car enthusiast will tell you, capacity alone isn’t an accurate guide to performance. You need to look at the brush cutter as a whole, and particularly at its reputation for reliability.
EPA or CARB compliance is becoming increasingly important. These standards apply to both types of motor, identifying them as producing lower emissions. In many states, non-compliant models are now illegal.
As we’ve noted, most brush cutters still offer a weed eater (string trimmer) head, which can be swapped in fairly easily. Some go further, offering a range of other blade attachments like hedge trimmers and pole saws. There are also those called “attachment ready,” which have a motor and shaft with a detachable lower section. These can take accessories from a range of producers. If you’re buying a brush cutter and don’t have these other garden tools, it’s worth exploring the flexibility on offer.
On weed eaters, a curved shaft can be an advantage, getting you closer to the action for better control. On brush cutters, it’s not really an issue, and some might argue that you want the distance to maximize safety. A few lightweight string trimmer/brush cutters have a curved shaft, but most are straight.
Grips: These are either a D handle (also called a loop) or handlebars. The former gives a range of hand positions, though the latter are wider apart and provide greater leverage (they tend to be used on heavy-duty machines). Adjustability is a plus.
Size: Though not perhaps a high priority, the actual size of the head might be an issue if you’re working in tight spaces.
Material: Nylon cutter heads are available for some electric weed eaters, though they’re something of a compromise. On a proper brush cutter, you want the strength and durability of steel blades.
Guard: A guard is provided, but on machines primarily designed as weed eaters, this can be a bit small. We like to see plenty of blade coverage, which does a better job of deflecting debris away from the user.
It’s nice to have semitransparent oil and fuel tanks so you can quickly check levels on the go.
Safety gear: TR Industrial Safety Helmet and Hearing Protection
This is a great value combination of an adjustable helmet (which you can use with either the plastic or metal mesh visor provided) plus adjustable earmuffs that clip in and can easily be removed. All components are approved to both the European CE standard and the American ANSI standard.
Harness: Hanperal Comfort Shoulder Strap
Some brush cutters include a shoulder strap, but they’re often thin. If you’re using the tool for long periods, you’ll appreciate the way a good harness spreads the weight across your shoulders and back. The Hanperal strap is made of tough, easily cleaned nylon and fits most models (check for a clip-on section on the shaft).
Inexpensive: If you have a weed eater that takes attachments, you can find brush cutter heads that cost from $50 to $70. However, if your existing tool isn’t sufficiently powerful, it will struggle. We would be very careful about going that route.
Mid-range: Around $150 will get you an entry-level two-stroke string trimmer/brush cutter. They’re not bad tools, but reliability can be a bit hit-or-miss. Quality name-brand models tend to run from $220 to $300.
Expensive: Above $300 you have powerful four-stroke machinery. The best professional-grade brush cutters can be as much as $600.
Wear safety gear. A brush cutter is usually used to cut through denser material than a weed eater, and you may be working on rough ground. Flying debris and small stones can be dangerous. Safety glasses offer limited protection; a lightweight visor is much better. For the same reason, strong gloves and tough work boots are recommended. And while modern engines are quieter than their forerunners, ear protection is still advised.
Never use a damaged blade. And check that the blade is properly tightened before starting work.
Never fit nonstandard cutting attachments. Flails, in particular, should be avoided because the standard guard may not be strong enough in the event of breakage.
Turn the motor off. Always turn the motor off before attempting to fix any jams or tangles.
Keep children and pets well away from the work area.
Q. Do brush cutters need much maintenance?
A. Not really. Clean the cutter and guard after each use. Dirt and green material can be very difficult to remove if you let it harden. Use white spirit to get rid of any sticky deposits. Other than that, it’s just a question of looking after the motor. Generally, that’s just an occasional oil change on four-stroke models, plus a new filter and spark plug perhaps once a year. Do make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, though.
Q. How often should I sharpen brush cutter blades?
A. If you use the tool regularly, once every few months is probably sufficient. Bear in mind that some blades are reversible, so they need sharpening less often. When the blade pulps and tears material rather than cutting cleanly, it’s a sign that the blade is blunt. It’s an easy job with a whetstone or smooth file, though if you’re not confident, your local hardware store may offer the service.
Q. Some brush cutter blades have three or four edges; others are like a circular saw. What’s the difference?
A. Those with three or four edges are designed for general-purpose use. They’ll handle thick grass, heavy weed growth, bramble, and so on. Those that look like a saw are for thicker branches, though not so thick that you’d need an actual saw or chainsaw. For really tough stuff, there are some that use that kind of chain, but it’s wrapped around a metal disk.