There are essentially two types of grass trimmers; petrol and electric
But electric grass trimmers have two subdivisions, those with a chord and those without (cordless)
A dance studio owner from Houston who had over 200 trees in his 2-acre yard was finding he had to trim around them by hand, which was a huge chore.
Then one day, while washing his car at a car wash, he noticed how his car was being cleaned by whirling, soapy brushes and he asked himself if a similar action might be used to clip the grass around his trees.
The early prototype was crude, but with the help of a mechanical engineer, his grass trimmer Company was born and within a few years, sales were in the neighbourhood of $80 million dollars (worth around $300 million dollars today.)
Note: Although in the UK we call them grass trimmers, they are usually referred to as weed eaters in many other parts of the World.
Petrol grass trimmers are still the champion of grass trimmers and are very much in the model of choice for professional landscapers throughout the world. Petrol grass trimmers come in two types, either 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines.
Generally, 2-stroke engines are more powerful and are the preferred type grass trimmer for larger jobs. They are also lighter, which can be particularly important when you are trimming for a long time.
However, 2-stroke engines have one disadvantage that many amateurs, in particular, prefer not to mess with. In order to run a 2-stroke engine, the oil must be added to the petrol mix, typically in a ratio of 40 parts petrol to one-part oil.
In addition, the oil and petrol mixture must be mixed in a separate tank and then poured into the machine. In a 2-stroke engine, the oil keeps the engine cool and lubricated, and without the oil a typical 2-stroke grass trimmer would seize up in around 15 minutes of operation.
While a typical petrol grass trimmer, particularly a 2-stroke, will definitely get the job done there are definite disadvantages to owning a petrol-powered machine. These are:
Running a petrol-powered machine for an hour is roughly the equivalent of driving a car up to 5 hours continually. There is some serious pollution being created.
In fact, some states are seriously considering banning petrol-powered lawn care equipment.
They produce about 96 decibels of noise, which can definitely cause hearing loss when used for an extended period of time. This chart helps show what different levels will cause.
Expect to pay around twice as much for a petrol-powered model. Not only the initial expense, but the ongoing maintenance can add up too, with servicing and additional parts to consider.
Why you should consider buying a petrol-powered grass trimmer?
If you have an extensive amount of land to cover and want a machine that will last a long time, petrol will most likely be your best option. There are plenty of petrol options to choose from, such as these ones.
At Garden Power Tools, we have moved to a more electric powered approach to gardening. As such, most of the products on the site are cordless electric, such as the very popular GTech grass trimmer and the Black and Decker 36V machines.
On a related note…You might also be interested in our 7 Tips for Choosing a Weed Wacker.
Electric powered grass trimmers
As mentioned previously, there are two types; corded and a battery-operated.
First, we’ll discuss briefly the advantages of an electric machine.
As long as an electric grass trimmer has power, it will start up instantly. There is no pulling on a starter cord to have the engine sputter and spurt until it starts. Just push the on button, and your weed whacker is ready to go.
You can buy a cord operated electric grass trimmer from as little as £40. Obviously there are much more expensive models, but £150 will get you a good one.
If you want to get up and use your grass trimmer at 7am, chances are your next-door neighbours won’t even notice. Whereas if you fire up a 2-stroke petrol-powered beast early on a Sunday morning, your neighbours will let you know about it…pronto.
An electric motor only generates pollution from the electricity you use to operate it or to charge the batteries.
There are virtually no carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emitted with electric-powered machines.
In addition, thousands of gallons of oil and petrol are spilled each year just refuelling petrol driven grass trimmers.
Will they be outlawed…?
Finally, there is the matter of regulation. petrol-powered leaf blowers are already prohibited in numerous areas, and surely other petrol-powered garden tools are not far behind. You can even find articles about quiet gardening online.
There are however, definite disadvantages to an electric-powered grass trimmer.
Disadvantages to electric trimmers
If you have a corded grass trimmer, there is of course the matter of the cord. The cord can become tangled up in your lawn furniture trees and you might even cut it!
You’ll probably also need an extension lead to get around your full garden as no cable will be long enough straight out of the box with a regular strimmer.
And then there is the expense. A 200-foot electrical cord can often be almost as expensive as the trimmer itself.
The alternative is of course to get a battery-powered machine. The question is, how much weeding can you get done in 20-30 minutes. Because that’s typically how long a fully charged battery will last.
After that, it may take several hours to charge the battery.
We’d say buy a 2-stroke petrol-powered if you have a lot of land to cover. On the other hand, if you have not so much, we’d recommend a battery-operated electric one, and for small to medium sized lawns, consider an electric with a cord. They are cheaper, and they will last a long time.