Trimmer buying guide
Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff22 guides
Trimmers: electric or petrol?
First, let's have a look at the differences between the two main types of trimmers.
The electric trimmer has a power rating ranging between 300 and 1000W. It can be cordless, working on a battery, or with a cable that requires you to run an extension cable outside.
The petrol trimmer is more powerful - between 700 and 1000W. It can have two types of engine, either 2- or 4-stroke. 4-stroke trimmer engines combine separately supplied petrol and oil, whereas 2-stroke models take a premixed fuel.
What type of trimmer for what type of terrain?
The terrain is the first factor to consider before you buy. This will help you sort quickly through all the available trimmers. To begin with, if you'll be working near a power source, and over a relatively small land area (under 250m²), you can use a mains-operated electric trimmer with no bother. If you don't have a socket handy, you'll need a cordless trimmer. Depending on garden area and nature of trimming, you then have a choice between battery- and petrol-powered models (petrol highly recommended beyond 250m²).
Regular garden maintenance
Regular garden work requires an electric trimmer of around 300W, for small areas under 60m²; clearing dense grass and weeds requires a 400–700W model.
Trimming small brush
For small brush and shrubs, choose between a petrol trimmer or an electric model of minimum 700W power rating.
If your garden is overgrown with tall, dense weeds or thick shrub cover, a more powerful strimmer is recommended, power rating 1–3kW.
Grass trimmers: what's the difference?
The trimmer is lightweight, has its engine at the bottom and is particularly suited to finishing / edging work; it tends to be electric and is operated with one hand.
What model of trimmer to choose?
If you're looking for a very lightweight machine, the mains-powered electric models are the ones to go for - weighing on average just 1.6–3.5 kg. Battery models can weigh up to 1kg more due to the added weight of the battery. Also bear in mind that batteries will takes 45 minutes to 3 hours to fully charge. Once charged it will work for 30–60 minutes, depending on the model. An 18V battery should be sufficient for working on a garden under 400m² in size; beyond that, you'll want a chunkier 36V battery.
Petrol models have a greater cutting capacity, being up to 430mm diameter compared to just 250mm on average for electric models. Their cutting effect is doubly robust because of the more powerful engine, plus they free you from having to recharge batteries and are just as handy. Petrol trimmers are recommended for large areas of land susceptible to tough grass and undergrowth.
Petrol trimmers: 2- or 4-stroke engine?
From a performance point of view, the 4-stroke engine is more powerful than the 2-stroke. It also has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly. The principal advantage of the 2-stroke engine is its slightly lighter construction.
Trimmers: wire or plastic blades?
Trimmer cutting head
Round or square wire?
The wire option has the advantage of lightness and variety of choice in terms of sizes and brands - the thicker the wire, the less likely it is to break, hence the more economical. Wires are sold in reels of length 5–15m and width 1–3mm. The wire may be round or square in cross-section: round works well for soft grass, while square is better for tougher vegetation. Blades are only available on certain models of trimmer. Of course, these are made of solid plastic! Some trimmers, or rather strimmers, are however versatile and can take either type of cutting head.
- Manual - as soon as the wire gets too short, you have to extend it manually;
- By tapping the ground ("tap & go") - the wire extends automatically with a simple tap of the cutting head on the ground;
- Automatically - when the wire gets too short, it automatically extends until the reel is exhausted.
Trimmers: what accessories and options are there?
Now you've got an idea of what trimmer to get, here are some top tips to improve your trimming experience. Wherever possible, choose a trimmer with:
- a sturdy handle for improved grip in gloves. You can even get models with a second adjustable handle for greater comfort and balance;
- a 90° swivel head for easier access in tight corners, allowing you to cut both horizontally and vertically;
- a telescopic handle that lets you adjust the length of the trimmer to suit your height (handle length 80–114cm);
- a more comfortable starter switch to prevent cramping of the hand in case of prolonged use;
- a stop to protect tree trunks and shrubs;
Learn more about garden maintenance...
Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff 22 guides écrits
My passion for DIY all started 5 years ago, when my husband and I bought our very first house. We were so proud...and then we saw how much work needed to be done! Since I basically started with no knowledge of home renovations, I had to learn as I went along, working on projects both great and small. My husband helped me at first, but soon, I was showing him what to do!
Where we live, the rain makes gardens grow wild, so I've become somewhat of an expert on gardening tools. My friends and family all come to me when they need DIY and gardening advice. Now I want to share that knowledge - with you!
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