Gas-Powered vs. Battery-Powered Weed Eaters

close-up of a string trimmer head on grass

Like many homeowners, you may be on a perpetual quest for the perfect lawn. When it comes to yard maintenance, deciding between gas-powered vs. battery-powered weed eaters is a make-or-break choice. Do you go for the raw power of a gas engine or the cordless convenience of a battery-powered counterpart?

Let’s explore the advantages and drawbacks of gas powered vs. battery-powered weed eaters, touching on efficiency, environmental impact, and ease of use.

How does a weed eater work?

Man using a weed eater on his lawn
Photo Credit: Jared Muller | Unsplash

A weed eater, also called a string trimmer, weed wacker, or line trimmer, is a handheld device used for cutting grass, weeds, and other vegetation in tight spaces that are difficult to reach with a lawnmower. It consists of a small motor that drives a rotating head attached to a long shaft. 

The cutting head typically features a flexible, rapidly spinning nylon string (or line) that slices through grass and weeds with impressive precision. This line is wound around a spool inside the trimmer’s head and comes in various thicknesses depending on the specific model. Thicker lines are more durable and suitable for cutting through denser vegetation, while thinner lines are often used for lighter trimming around the yard.

These indispensable power tools are versatile and come in various models, including gas-powered and battery-powered, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The term “weed eater” is often used as a generic name for this tool, and the specific brand or model name varies by manufacturer. Some of the best-known brands on the market include:

  • DeWalt
  • Echo
  • Greenworks
  • Husqvarna
  • Milwaukee
  • Ryobi
  • Stihl
  • Worx
  • Kobalt
  • Ego
  • Craftsman
  • Makita

For help choosing the best model for you, check out our 10 best string trimmers of 2024 guide.

Pros of gas-powered weed eaters

string trimmer on the ground with a hat on the handlebars
Photo Credit: miakihiro0 | Pixabay

Gas-powered weed eaters have an internal combustion engine powered by gasoline. They’ve been around much longer than battery or electric weed eaters and have a good track record of reliable performance. Here’s what stands out with these machines.

✓ Powerful performance

Gas string trimmers generally offer more power than their battery-powered counterparts, making them suitable for heavy-duty tasks and cutting through thick vegetation and overgrown grass. They come equipped with powerful two-stroke engines that require both gasoline and oil for optimal performance. They’re lightweight and ideal for handheld use.

The engine size of these models is measured in cubic centimeters (cc). Some options include:

  • Small engine (20cc to 30cc) – Suitable for light to moderate trimming tasks, such as maintaining small yards, cutting thin grass, and edging.
  • Medium engine (30cc to 40cc) – Ideal for medium-sized yards. Works well on thicker grass and weeds, as well as moderate brush. If you have a larger property, this option is a good idea.
  • Large engine (40cc and above) – This high-powered option is usually the choice of professionals who deal with dense vegetation and stubborn weeds in very large areas.

✓ Good lifespan

A well-maintained, high-quality gas trimmer can last between 5 and 10 years – sometimes even longer, though individual experiences may vary. While providing an exact lifespan is challenging, factors such as usage frequency, correct maintenance, operating conditions, brand and quality, storage and care, and the tool’s technology all contribute to a shorter or longer lifespan.

Though battery-powered tools are improving on a rapid basis, similar advancements in gas-powered models greatly contribute to increased performance and lifespan.

✓ Durability

Gas-powered weed eaters are typically built with sturdy materials and robust engines, making them reliable machines for longer than their battery-powered counterparts.

The main components, such as the engine, drive shaft, and cutting head, are often made from high-quality metals or impact-resistant polymers. These materials are known for their ability to withstand rigorous and frequent outdoor use, including encounters with rocks, tree roots, and dense vegetation.

Ultimately, gas weed eaters are designed with a focus on heavy-duty performance. They’re engineered to handle demanding tasks, making them the preferred choice for professional landscapers or homeowners with large properties. This resilient build contributes to the tool’s overall durability.

✓ No cord limitations

These models provide greater mobility since they don’t rely on an electrical outlet and extension cord. This makes them perfect for large properties with limited access to power sources.

✓ Versatility

Gas trimmers are versatile and can handle various attachments. These attachments include edgers, hedge trimmers, cultivators, blowers, dethatchers, and extension poles, all needed for different landscaping tasks.

✓ Extended runtime

With a full tank of gas, gas-powered weed eaters can operate for a longer compared to the runtime of battery-powered electric models. This is helpful for prolonged use without interruptions. Simply refuel if you run out of gas.

Cons of gas-powered weed eaters

Gas-powered weed eaters have their advantages, but they also come with certain disadvantages. Here are some cons associated with them.

✗ Noise and vibration levels

Gas-powered weed eaters tend to be louder and produce more vibrations than electric models. This can be a nuisance for the user and may disturb neighbors.

✗ Weight and bulk

Gas-powered trimmers are typically heavier and bulkier than electric models. If you have a large property, this can lead to fatigue during extended use. They weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds or more, so this is a concern for users who prefer more lightweight tools.

✗ Fumes emissions

Gas-powered engines emit exhaust fumes that contain potentially harmful substances such as carbon monoxide, a by-product of gasoline combustion. This contributes to pollution and ozone deterioration, a serious environmental concern. To prevent any issues, it’s best to: 

  • Avoid starting the tool in enclosed spaces, such as sheds or garages, where the exhaust fumes can build up and pose a risk. Use the weed eater in outdoor areas with good air circulation.
  • Limit the runtime of each session.
  • Purchase new, modern models that comply with emission standards and regulations.

✗ Maintenance

Gas-powered weed eaters require more maintenance compared to electric ones. Some maintenance tasks you’ll have to complete include:

  • Fuel system checks; fuel replacements
  • Air filter checks and replacements
  • Occasional spark plug replacements
  • Ignition coil and wire checks and replacements
  • Carburetor cleaning to remove dirt, debris, or varnish buildup

✗ Ignition problems

Some users may find gas-powered engines harder to start, especially after long periods of inactivity. Gas-powered engines have a carburetor that must be primed before starting. This process involves manually injecting fuel into the carburetor to jumpstart combustion, done by pressing the primer bulb, a small rubber button found on the carburetor body. 

The number of times the primer bulb should be pressed depends on the model, so consult your user manual before starting the priming process. Over-priming can flood the carburetor, leading to ignition problems or engine stalling minutes after starting. Proper priming and pulling techniques are crucial for successful starts.

✗ Expensive

Oftentimes, gas-powered weed eaters are more expensive upfront than electric models. Not to mention that the cost of maintenance and fuel can add up over time. To get a better idea of the costs you can expect with gas string timmers, this pricing guide can be of assistance.

Pros of battery-powered weed eaters

Photo Credit: pixelshot | Canva Pro | License

Battery-powered weed eaters, also known as cordless string trimmers, have become increasingly popular due to advancements in battery technology. Here are the advantages of a battery-powered weed eater:

✓ Eco-friendly

In terms of environmental friendliness, battery-powered trimmers stand out as they generate no emissions during use, setting them apart from gas-powered alternatives.

✓ Good lifespan

On average, a quality battery-operated weed eater can last between 3 and 7 years. This lifespan directly depends on the battery’s number of charge cycles, usage patterns, charging practices, tool quality, environmental conditions, and proper maintenance (inspection, cleaning, and replacing damaged parts). Technological advancements are ongoing and constantly increasing the lifespan of these tools, so upgrading to a newer model could provide longer use.

✓ Durability

If you’re concerned about the durability of battery-operated weed eaters compared to gas models, don’t be. Most are built with this quality in mind, from durable materials such as plastics, aluminum, and steel for strength and resilience. 

They also come with weather-resistant features such as sealed electrical components, corrosion-resistant parts, and quality finishes for protection against the elements. Plus, the ergonomic design of most models ensures smooth operation, user comfort, and good weight distribution during use.

✓ Lightweight and easy to use

Battery-powered weed eaters are generally lighter and easier to handle than gas models, weighing between 5 and 15 pounds. This weight difference is due to the power source, as rechargeable lithium-ion batteries generally weigh less than the gas and oil mixture required for powering gas weed eaters. The lack of a carburetor, fuel tank, and exhaust system found in gas models also contributes to the lightweight quality.

Users who may not have the strength for heavier tools will find this quality beneficial. Plus, there’s no need to worry about tripping over an extension cord or getting tangled up in it.

✓ Quiet and less vibration

These trimmers are quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, making them suitable for use in residential areas. They also produce less vibration than their gas-powered counterparts, creating a more comfortable user experience. This operational advantage is a result of:

  • The electric motor, which provides a smoother operation than an internal combustion engine.
  • The direct drive mechanism directly connects the motor to the cutting head. This reduces the number of moving parts and subsequent vibration levels.
  • Vibration-reducing technology, which manufacturers often incorporate into their battery-operated model designs.

✓ No gasoline or oil required

There’s no need for fuel or oil with battery-powered trimmers. You’ll simply need to recharge the battery, eliminating the hassle of purchasing and handling gasoline and oil. 

✓ Low maintenance

Battery-powered trimmers typically require less maintenance than gas-powered ones. There’s no need for spark plug replacements, air filter changes, or carburetor adjustments. That’s not to say that low maintenance means no maintenance. You’ll still have to:

  • Charge the battery according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Store the weed eater in a cool, dry place so as to protect the battery from extreme temperatures.
  • Inspect the battery for signs of damage like swelling or cracks. Using a damaged battery can be risky.
  • Clean the tool of grass, debris, and other materials that could get stuck to it. It’s best to use a soft brush or compressed air, paying close attention to air vents.
  • Check the handle, controls, and any guards or shields to ensure they work properly.
  • Change the battery if you notice a decrease in runtime.

✓ Instant ignition

Cordless trimmers start instantly with the push of a button, providing convenience and saving time compared to gas-powered models that may require pulling a recoil starter. This advantage is due to the electric motor that provides instant torque and starting. As soon as you press the button, the motor immediately starts rotating the cutting head.

Another point in battery models’ favor is that they’re less sensitive to external factors such as temperature, able to operate efficiently despite temperature variations. This allows for a more consistent and reliable start every time.

✓ Interchangeable batteries

Some cordless trimmers have interchangeable batteries that can be used with other tools from the same manufacturer’s platform, providing versatility and potentially reducing costs.

Cons of battery-powered weed eaters

Battery-powered weed eaters have gained popularity for their convenience and environmental friendliness. Yet, it’s important to note that they have their share of drawbacks, which we list below.

✗ Limited operation time

The battery capacity limits the runtime of a battery-powered trimmer. As a user, you may need to recharge the battery during longer trimming sessions, which can be inconvenient. Charging times can look something like this:

  • 30 minutes to an hour – This is usually the case with quick-charge models that have lower battery capacity.
  • 2 to 4 hours – This is the standard charging time for a lithium-ion battery with a capacity between 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah.
  • 4 to 8 hours – This is extended charging for batteries over 5.0Ah with the ability to store more energy.

✗ Charging required

Charging the battery takes time, and you should plan ahead to ensure the trimmer is ready for use. You don’t want to find out your battery needs to be recharged as you are going out to mow and edge your lawn. Some models offer fast-charging options to address this concern.

✗ Less able to handle heavy-duty tasks

While battery technology is improving, cordless trimmers may still have less power compared to high-end gas-powered models. This can be a limitation for heavy-duty tasks or cutting through thick vegetation.

✗ Battery replacement cost

Battery life depends on the weed eater model, battery capacity (amp-hour rating), and the intensity of use. It’s crucial to consider the runtime and potentially purchase extra batteries or choose a model with a fast charging option for longer sessions. 

That said, a battery-operated weed eater can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years, and the cost of replacement batteries is spread out over several years.

✗ Weight distribution issues

The battery’s weight can impact the trimmer’s balance, and you may find that the distribution is less comfortable than with a gas-powered model.

✗ Environmental effects of battery disposal

There’s no denying that battery-powered trimmers are generally more environmentally friendly than gas models, but the disposal of rechargeable batteries can still have environmental consequences if done irresponsibly. Most of these batteries contain materials like nickel, cobalt, and lithium, which can leach into the soil or contaminate waters if disposed of incorrectly.

When considering a battery-powered weed eater, exercise due diligence on disposal. This includes taking your batteries to a recycling facility that’s equipped to handle them, following manufacturer recommendations on disposal, and complying with local environmental regulations and policies.

FAQ about gas-powered and battery-powered weed eaters

How should I store my weed eater?

Store the weed eater in a dry, cool place, following the manufacturer’s long-term storage recommendations. This helps extend the life of the equipment and saves you money in the long run.

What is a brushless motor?

Weed eaters with brushless motors are becoming increasingly popular due to their efficiency, durability, reduced maintenance needs, and smooth operation compared to traditional brushed motors. They not only contribute to increased power and longer battery life, but they also offer more electronic control to the user. This can translate to customizable adjustments, such as speed.

Do I choose a curved or straight shaft?

Weed eaters come with curved shafts or straight shafts. Curved shafts are ideal for beginners and light use on residential properties. They come with a lower price point. Straight shafts are for more strenuous commercial work, come with the option to buy a blade or other accessories, and can get under bushes more easily. 

Is battery compatibility something I can look forward to with a battery-operated model?

Consider whether you already have batteries from a particular brand if you own other cordless tools. Some manufacturers offer a platform where batteries are interchangeable between various tools, in which case a battery-powered weed eater is the logical choice.

Remember: Gas-powered models offer raw power and are ideal for extensive trimming, while battery-powered alternatives are quieter, more environmentally friendly, and suitable for smaller yards. Whether you opt for the roar of a gas-powered engine or the quiet efficiency of a battery-powered tool, a well-chosen weed eater is your key to a beautifully maintained lawn.

What types of line feed systems are available?

Weed eaters come with different feeding mechanisms for dispensing the cutting line. Let’s take a closer look at each:

  • Bump feed – In a bump feed system, you can manually tap the trimmer head on the ground to release more line. It offers control over line release, allowing you to adjust the line length as needed. The drawbacks? This system requires user interaction, and over-bumping can lead to an excess line release.
  • Auto-feed – With this type of system, the trimmer automatically releases more line as needed, eliminating the need for manual tapping or bumping. It’s convenient and user-friendly, but you typically have less control over line release compared to bump feeding systems.
  • Command feed – Though this system is similar to the auto-feed type, some models allow control over line release with a button or trigger on the handle. It’s perfect because it combines the convenience of auto-feed with the added control of manual line release (when needed). Watch out for extra complexity with this model.
  • Fixed-line system – Instead of using a spool of line, a fixed-line system utilizes pre-cut lengths of line that need manual replacement. It simplifies line replacement as you can replace individual lines without dealing with a spool.

Have a pro help with weed eating

If weed control seems overwhelming, and you want to transform your outdoor space without hassle, let the local professionals handle it. They can mow, edge, and trim your lawn and landscape to your satisfaction – so you don’t have to. Enjoy a lush, weed-free yard right at home.

Main Photo Credit: StrangeApparition2011 | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Andie Ioó

In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my husband, sports, trying out new recipes, reading, and watching reruns of '90s TV shows. As a way to relax and decompress, I enjoy landscaping around my little yard and DIY home projects.