Do the loud noises from neighborhood lawn equipment ruin your quiet Saturday? Or are you more, “Give me power at any cost?” These are things you’ll need to consider when choosing between gas vs. battery-powered weed eaters.
Battery-powered and gas-powered weed eaters do the same job, so you may wonder, “What’s the difference?” Actually, power sources mean big differences in the use and performance of machines. Before you buy a weed eater, you want to know what type of machine will serve your lawn most efficiently and whether or not the noise or gas smell will bother you.
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of gas-powered vs. battery-powered weed eaters to help you decide which is best for your lawn.
- Why do I need a weed eater?
- Essential weed eater terms
- Pros and cons of gas-powered weed eaters
- Pros and cons of battery-powered weed eaters
- Which is the best weed eater for me?
- FAQ about weed eaters
Why do I need a weed eater?
Weed eaters are an indispensable power tool in the DIY lawn maintenance tool kit. These handy machines help homeowners and lawn pros cut down grass and weeds in areas that a lawn mower just won’t reach.
If you have a drain ditch in your lawn or a steep slope, a weed eater will keep the grass looking nice and neat. These machines also create that professional, finished look when you use them to create clean lines around the edge of your lawn and flower beds.
Believe it or not, battery- and gas-powered machines aren’t the only types of weed eaters on the market. You’ll also see electric string trimmers (AKA corded models that require an extension cord) and even propane weed eaters.
Electric models are popular in very small, “postage stamp” lawns, and propane models perform as well as gas. While it’s good to know there are other options, we’ll focus on the more popular gas-powered and cordless models in this article.
Not only do weed eaters accomplish many lawn tasks, but they also have many names:
- Weed whacker (or weed wacker)
- Whipper snipper
- Weed trimmer
- String trimmer
- Weed whipper
- Line trimmer
- Grass trimmer
They all mean the same thing and do the same job. Here are a few brands you’re probably familiar with:
Essential weed eater terms
If you’re a weed eater novice, here are a few terms and components to familiarize yourself with as you do your research:
Gas models rely on gas and oil to power the engine. Battery-powered models rely on batteries — usually a lithium-ion battery. Both types offer brushless motors as well. Brushless motors are more efficient and less noisy than brushed motors. If you’re concerned about cost, though, know that the brushless motors are more expensive.
When you look at these power sources, gas models will label motor power in cubic centimeters (cc) and battery models will label it in volts (24V). The higher the number, the more power they offer.
Battery-powered models work well on lawns up to an acre, depending on your level of power. Use a machine with 20-40 volts for up to ½ acre, or from 40-80 volts for up to an acre. If your lawn is over an acre, you may want to consider a gas-powered machine.
Also, pay attention to rpm (revolutions per minute). Some will have a variable speed option as well (3,500 rpm, 5,300 rpm, 6,500 rpm) to save battery power. The higher rpm, the better the line will cut through thicker material.
There are four types of feed systems: bump feed, auto-feed, command feed, and fixed-line feed. The purpose of the feed system is to release more line when you’re running low.
- Bump feed: Tap the machine on the ground a few times while it’s running to get a longer string. This system is quick and easy and, if you’ve removed the guard, it gives you control over the length of your line.
- Auto-feed: The trimmer uses its own “brain” to release more line when the line is too short. This system is convenient but gives the operator less control over the length of the line.
- Command feed: When you run low on line, simply push a button or turn a dial, and the feed mechanism will release more line. This is similar to the bump feed because you can make your line as short or long as you wish.
- Fixed-line system: Buy pre-measured segments of line to load into the feed mechanism when your line runs low. This system works with fixed-line heads to load a pre-cut length of line into the machine. These heads are often ideal for heavy-duty trimmers that require thicker string.
Trimmer line (or blade)
Different trimmers will accept different trimmer line widths. (Trimmer line is the string that does all of the cutting.) Some battery-powered models accept slightly thinner line widths than gas models. Some trimmers come with the option to buy blades for tougher jobs.
You can choose from two main types of handles: loop handles or bicycle (AKA “bullhorn”) handles. Loop handles are most common on residential weed eaters. Bicycle handles may be more comfortable for larger, longer, brush clearing jobs. Try both types to see which feels more comfortable for you.
Weed eaters come with curved shafts or straight shafts. Curved shafts are for light use on a residential property, and they are great for beginners. Straight shafts are for more strenuous commercial work and sometimes come with the option to buy a blade or other accessories. Straight shaft trimmers are also easier to get under bushes. Curved-shaft models are less expensive overall.
If you have lots of brush or rocks in your lawn, pay attention to the size of your debris guard on the back of the head. Some are larger than others. You’ll want to invest in a model with a larger deflector (or purchase a kit) if this is a concern for you. Some models also come with a flip-down edge guard in the front that ensures you don’t get too close to trees and other plants.
After you’ve started the engine, you may wonder, “How do I spin the line?” There are often two control buttons above the handle. Why are there two? One acts as a safety. For example, if you mistakenly press one while you are holding the machine, the line won’t run (and you’ll be less likely to cut something unintentionally). So, when you’re ready to start weed eating, press both control buttons to spin the line.
Pros and cons of gas-powered weed eaters
Gas-powered string trimmers are the “old guard” of the string trimmer world. They’ve been around much longer than battery or electric weed eaters and have a good track record of reliable performance. Here are some pros and cons of these machines.
✓ Delivers commercial-level, all-day performance
✓ Sufficient power for large properties or many properties
✓ Handles tall grass and overgrowth with ease
✓ Preferred choice of pros
✓ Can be repaired
✓ Consistent power throughout use
✓ Easy to carry gasoline with you
✗ Gas engine requires maintenance
✗ Exhaust emissions may have adverse effects on people and air quality
✗ Noisy to operate
✗ Engine can become gummed up with old fuel or fuel without proper stabilizer
✗ Pull starters can be difficult for some homeowners
✗ Gas and oil can be messy to work with
Pros and cons of battery-powered weed eaters
Battery-powered weed eaters (AKA cordless weed eaters) are the (relatively) new kid on the weed whacking block, but they’ve made quite an impression on many homeowners. Many residential customers enjoy their quiet, emission-free operation and sufficient run time.
✓ Does a sufficient job for a small property or a single property
✓ No engine to maintain
✓ Batteries swap out easily if you run out of power
✓ Very low noise
✓ No gas or oil to replace
✓ Easier to start — no pull cord
✓ No fumes
✓ Can use batteries from other machines from the same brand
✓ No emissions
✗ Battery power dilemma — Need a recharging station if you want to weed eat all day (or have tons of batteries)
✗ Battery run time
✗ Battery recharge time
✗ Hard to find someone to repair
✗ Power fades as battery life fades
✗ Rechargeable batteries and charger may not come with the unit
Which is the best weed eater for me?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you make a decision:
What size property do you have? Smaller residential properties are ideal for battery-powered weed eaters. Larger properties not only have more space but are likely to have taller grass and brush, so gas-powered trimmers may be a better fit.
How do you plan to use the weed eater? Unless you’ve built your lawn care business around being an all-electric provider, you’ll need at least one gas weed eater in your arsenal. If the machine will only be for you as a homeowner, a battery-powered model has plenty of power.
What level of engine care are you willing to do? Gas-powered models require you to get your hands dirty. You’ll need a constant supply of gas and oil, and you’ll need to winterize it before you put it away for the off-season. If you’re not willing to do this, go with a battery-powered model.
What kind of attachments do you need? Before you make a purchase, look into which attachments (if any) your top pick offers. Common attachments include hedge trimmers, pole saws, edgers, and cultivators. Attachments save space and money and are a good investment for many customers.
Both gas string trimmers and cordless string trimmers come with a few models that are dual brush cutter/trimmers. This gives you many more options for ways to use your trimmer.
Physical considerations: As you’re shopping around, pay attention to the weight of the machine. If you don’t like to carry around heavy machinery for a long time, consider that as you shop. Gas-powered machines are generally a little heavier than battery-powered models.
See if it has other ergonomic features for ease of use or for jobs that will require more than a quick walk around the lawn. Sometimes straps and slings are helpful for those larger cleanup jobs. Straps and slings distribute the weight across your shoulders and give your arms and back a break.
Finally, consider the length of the shaft. Although some shafts have an adjustable-length feature, other machines only have one length, which could be problematic for some buyers. If you’re concerned about getting a machine that works well for your stature, go inside the store and hold several different machines to gauge weight, ergonomics, and length.
Extras: Not all battery-powered models include the battery and/or charger. In addition, you’ll probably want to buy a backup battery upfront so you can have an extra battery on days when you want to stay out in the lawn longer than one battery will allow.
Cutting width: If you prefer a wide cutting width (diameter), check this before you buy. If you’re used to a 17-inch cutting path, for example, you might be disappointed if you get home and find that yours only has a 13-inch reach.
Warranty: If this is important to you, check to see what warranty is offered. With battery-powered equipment, battery warranties may be separate. If you don’t see a separate warranty for the battery, check to see whether or not that is included.
FAQ about weed eaters
For seniors or for anyone who isn’t as strong as Joe Lumberjack, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
—Weight: Look at the tool weight. Also, consider that a battery or tank of gas will add to that.
—Pull start vs. battery start: With a gas model, the pull start may be an issue for some seniors. You have to put the weed eater on the ground and quickly pull up on the string. A spring-assist pull start may make starting the machine easier if you prefer a gas weeder. However, if you’re considering a battery-powered model, push a button, squeeze the trigger, and you’re good to go.
—Ergonomics: You may want to invest in a special handle or shoulder strap. Even though this tool may only see residential use, these components may make even a small job that much easier.
—Cost: If you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, curved-shaft models are usually less expensive. Also, look for refurbished models or seasonal sales. Generally, stores offer both great prices and great selections on lawn equipment on the three summer holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day). Fall sales starting in September offer great deals (end-of-season), but selection may be more limited.
What brand of lawn equipment have you enjoyed using in the past? Or, what brand does your neighbor recommend? Personal experience and the recommendations of friends go a long way.
You may even ask the lawn workers in your neighborhood to see what type of equipment they use. If someone works with a tool day in and day out, they probably have a favorite brand to recommend.
Pro Tip: If neighbors or lawn crews are in short supply, call your local small engine shop. They’ve got the inside scoop on which brands they never see, and which ones come in all the time for repairs.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Heavy-duty vs. light-duty use: If you have a small, postage-stamp-sized lawn, don’t go all out. A simple, lightweight machine will do fine. If, on the other hand, you have a standard yard, a large yard, or a backyard that looks like a jungle if you let it go, you may want to opt for a more powerful model.
Quality: High-quality machines usually cost more. If you don’t have experience with a particular brand or model, read helpful online “Best Weed Eater” guides, talk to neighbors, and read reviews.
Cost: This is a defining factor for many homeowners. Lighter use means a lower cost and vice versa. Shop sales, and do your research for a model that will do what you need at a price you can afford.
If weed-eating is not your favorite way to relax after a long week, let our local lawn care pros take the guesswork out of “Who’s going to mow my lawn?” Our reliable crews give your lawn a professional cut and edge every time.