Best weed wackers 2019: cut down stubborn and thick vegetation

Best weed wackers reviewed and rated

A great weed wacker can do more than just tidy bits of of grass you can’t reach around the edges of your lawn, trees or in hard-to-reach corners. 

A powerful weed wacker can cut down stubborn and thick vegetation while being easily maneuverable, unlike a lawnmower. The latest models of weed wackers, otherwise known as string trimmers or weed eaters, have comfortable grips, anti-vibration tech to reduce the stress on your body, and are powerful enough to even replace gas lawn mowers in some cases. They are now more than just a minor tool in your arsenal of gardening gadgets.

We've tested models from market-leading brands, including Hitachi, Craftsman and Toro, putting them through their paces on five different lawns and at a city park. 

We found the Hitachi CG23ECPSL to be the best weed wacker following our array of tests. This is because its light weight, powerful for its size, features an anti-vibration system and has a great cutting capability. Alternatively, the Toro 51978 is a very close runner-up. The Toro is a bit heavier but does an equally good job cutting grass. 

The Hitachi effortlessly cut its way through thick weeds and grass and even took down tough, reedy vegetation. The 60-inch shaft makes it easier on taller users and gives a person of any height longer reach.----

If you're looking for something a little less powerful, and a lot more quiet, then check out our list of the best electric string trimmers.

Below is our list of the best weed wackers you can buy in 2019. 

1. Hitachi CG23ECPSL: Best overall

Hitachi CG23ECPSL

Hitachi CG23ECPSL

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine size: 22.5cc | Length: 69.6 inches | Anti-vibration system: Yes | Weight: 10.3 lbs

Reasons to Buy
60-inch shaft gets to hard-to-reach areas
Lightweight and balanced
Anti-vibration system is easy on hands and arms
Reasons to Avoid
Spool can hold only 13 feet of string
Longer shaft can be difficult for shorter people
Does not include a shoulder strap

The Hitachi CG23ECPSL is the best weed wacker overall, judged by our extensive testing. Our reviewers cut through thick grass and even reedy vegetation with ease, and it was easy to angle the machine to use it as an edger along sidewalks and driveways.

This gas-powered trimmer has a 60-inch shaft, which made a world of difference for the backs of our taller reviewers, since they didn’t have to slouch or overextend to reach the weeds and grass. Our shorter reviewers had a slightly harder time getting used to the longer shaft, but they quickly adjusted and commented that it was nice to be farther away from the flying grass and debris.

An additional comfort feature of this Hitachi weed wacker is an excellent anti-vibration system that reduces the shake produced by the engine and spinning spool. This makes it possible to trim longer with less fatigue in your hands and arms.

In addition to trimming, Hitachi offers various attachments, sold separately, that can attach to the front of the CG23ECPSL, such as an edger, pole saw and hedge trimmer. We are particularly impressed at how powerful this weed eater is, considering it only weighs 10.3 pounds. It is also well-balanced and was one of the most comfortable machines in our testing.

Hitachi CG23ECPSL review

2. Ryobi RY253SS: Best value

Best cheap weed wacker Ryobi RY253SS

Ryobi RY253SS

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine size: 25cc | Length: 60 inches | Anti-vibration system: No | Weight: 12.2 lbs

Reasons to Buy
18-inch cutting path
Compatible with multiple attachments
Three-year warranty
Reasons to Avoid
Weighs over 12 pounds
No anti-vibration function
Heavy engine balance is tiresome for long jobs

While the Ryobi RY253SS is not the cheapest weed wacker we reviewed – the Homelite UT33650 and the Weed Eater W25SFK cost less. However, the Ryobi performed better in our tests than those two products and is a more versatile tool. You can switch out the battery with other Ryobi electric tools, and it supports attachments to double as an edger, blower and tiller.

Our testers remarked that the Ryobi had above-average cutting power and that the 18-inch cutting path made their work easier. Ryobi backs this gas-powered weed trimmer with a three-year warranty, better than the industry standard of two years, and you can find Ryobi attachments and parts at your local Home Depot.

While not as light as our overall best weed wacker pick, the Ryobi weighs around 12 pounds, standard for a trimmer with its engine size and power. Unfortunately, this weed wacker does not have an anti-vibration system to reduce the shaking generated by the engine and the spinning of the string spool. Our testers noted that their hands fatigued sooner with the Ryobi than with our top weed wacker models, though the amount of vibration generated wasn’t above normal expectations.

The straight shaft measures 53 inches, giving you plenty of range for hard-to-reach areas, such as around shrubs and bushes. Some of the attachments available (sold separately) include a blower, edger and tiller. These attach at the end of the trimmer where the head is located, rather than halfway down the shaft like some other models, giving you the advantage of the machine’s full length.

Ryobi RY253SS review

3. Toro 51978: Lowest vibrations

Toro 51978

Toro 51978

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine size: 25.4cc | Length: 65 inches | Anti-vibration system: Yes | Weight: 12.5 lbs

Reasons to Buy
Can use many attachments from other brands
18-inch cutting path
Spool can hold up to 25 feet of string
Reasons to Avoid
Has the heaviest engine of all the models we tested
Shaft length is not optimal for taller people
Weight can tire users quicker

The Toro 51978 is the best weed wacker for low vibrations, thanks to its excellent built-in anti-vibration system. Of the weed eaters we tested, the Toro was near the top for performance and comfort in use.

Our reviewers were impressed with its ability to cut through tough lawn vegetation while remaining balanced throughout our rigorous tests. This gas-powered weed wacker cuts an impressive 18-inch path and has a 44-inch shaft, which makes it easier to reach behind bushes, posts and trees.

Toro itself does not manufacture attachments, so if you want an edger, blower or pole saw, you have to look elsewhere. Fortunately, the Toro can use other brand name attachments – as long as they use a universal connector – without voiding its warranty.

This is a great feature if you already own multiple attachments but need a stronger weed wacker. It can also potentially save you money since you can shop for the best attachment deals, regardless of brand.

One of the only downsides to the Toro 51978 is that it weighs 12.5 pounds, which is quite heavy for extended use. You can purchase a neck strap separately to alleviate some of the weight, but for a small or medium-sized yard, it shouldn’t be necessary.

Toro 51978 review

4. Snapper S29SS: Most powerful

Best week eater Snapper S29SS

Snapper S29SS

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine size: 29cc | Length: 65 inches | Anti-vibration system: No | Weight: 18 lbs

Reasons to Buy
The trimmer has a powerful 27cc engine and a wide cutting path.
Reasons to Avoid
It took longer than average to assemble.

The Snapper S29SS has a powerful 29cc engine. The more cubic centimeters in an engine, the more power it will have, and this has the most of any in our comparison.

The Snapper’s dual feed and 17-inch cutting radius will blast through a big patch of weeds quickly. It has some nice features like an adjustable handle and trigger control that lets you turn it off and on with the simple push of a button.

While it’s easy to use, this trimmer did take longer than average to assemble. It has a shoulder strap that makes it easier to carry around the yard and helps it run more smoothly. This is nice especially since it lacks anti-vibration technology.

Snapper doesn’t make its own attachments, but it is compatible with third-party accessories like a brush blade, pole saws and leaf blowers, making it a multifunctional tool.

Snapper S29SS review

5. Troy-Bilt TB32 EC: Best for attachments

Best weed wacker Troy-Bilt TB32 EC most attachements

Troy-Bilt TB32 EC

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine size: 25cc | Length: 65 inches | Anti-vibration system: No | Weight: 12.8 lbs

Reasons to Buy
This weed wacker lets you add attachments to help with all types of landscaping chores.
Reasons to Avoid
This trimmer vibrates quite a bit during operation.

The Troy-Bilt TB32 EC has controls that are easy to use and a generous 17-inch cutting path to help you get through a lot of weeds fast.

The handle adjusts easily, and you simply bump the head to get more line when it gets low. This gas trimmer lets you add attachments so you can do all kinds of landscaping tasks around the yard using the same tool.

These attachments include a leaf blower, a tiller and a hedge trimmer to name a few. You can even purchase an AeroFlex trimmer head that has fixed blades that are more durable than the dual-feed line. This gives you more precise control for cutting tough grass, weeds and heavy vegetation.

During testing this trimmer vibrated more than average. It would have been nice if there were a shoulder strap to help steady it, but unfortunately that wasn’t included in the package.

Troy-Bilt TB32 EC review

What makes a good weed wacker?

We took 10 weed wackers to five lawns and a city park to test their functionality. A trimmer should be powerful enough to cut through the thick brush in your yard with only a few passes, so our testers used each trimmer in a series of practical, everyday tasks and some controlled tests to determine which ones performed the best.

For design, we measured the decibel level of each trimmer running at full throttle. We measured the shaft length, the cutting path and the weight. To make sure we catered to all body types, we enlisted the help of several testers of varying height, weight and strength to determine how the balance and weight of each weed wacker worked for them. Exposure to vibrations for a long period of time can be potentially damaging, so we also asked the testers to rate the level of vibration they experienced while using the weed wackers.

After completing our testing, we determined which tool works best for tall, strong users; which trimmer was the most comfortable to use that didn't leave us feeling shaky; and which tool is best for shorter users with smaller hands. Our tests identified the tools that cannot eradicate thicker weeds but might work satisfactorily for your yard if you don't require a more powerful engine.

How much do gas weed trimmers cost?

Gas weed trimmers generally cost more than electric ones. The least expensive models in our lineup are in the $100 range. The cheapest gas trimmers we found online were about $70, but those are the exception. Most gas trimmers cost around $130 up to more than $200. In contrast, corded electric trimmers have many cheaper options. You can find good corded trimmers for $50 or less. Battery-operated electric trimmers can cost as much as gas trimmers, but there are more options in the $60 to $90 range.

Is a curved or. straight-shaft weed wacker better?

When deciding on a weed wacker, shaft shape is an important consideration. Curved models are best for shorter people, since they stay closer to the ground and have shorter shafts than straight trimmers. In addition, curved shaft trimmers are usually more balanced than straight shaft models, and they tend to be lighter weight. As such,they are more ergonomic and comfortable to use for long periods. Further, they are easier to maneuver in awkward areas like around rocks and under decks. Curved-shaft weed eaters also tend to cost less than their straight counterparts.

Straight-shaft weed wackers are more multifunctional and accommodate people of all sizes since they are adjustable. A straight shaft usually generates more torque than a curved shaft trimmer, so you can effectively cut tough weeds and scrub. Straight shafts can also reach more awkward, tight and narrow areas around your lawn. In addition, you can use a straight-shaft trimmer as both an edger and trimmer, and you can attach other tools like a brush cutter.

How easy is it to replace the string in a trimmer, and how long does it last?

All weed wackers use some variation of a wound-up spool of string, which is enclosed in a case inside the trimmer, to knock down tough grass and weeds. This string wears out and needs to be replaced, often several times in one session. String reloads from the case in a few distinct ways: Semi-automatic models have string that adjusts on its own. Most models require a bump, meaning you need to knock the bottom of the weed trimmer against the ground to activate a button at the bottom that feeds out additional string. Manual-feed models require that you stop trimming, turn over the unit and pull the string out manually.

You want to pay attention to the amount of string the case holds. The more feet of string you have, the longer the weed wacker will work before you need to purchase replacement string, which can be expensive.

Weed wacker attachments

A little more than half of the weed wackers we reviewed are compatible with attachments that increase their functionality. Attachments can include blowers, edgers, hedge trimmers and tillers, thereby transforming one tool into several and creating a far more useful product.

You can get these attachments from the weed wacker manufacturers or third-party and aftermarket companies. Some products are compatible only with attachments of the same brand. Other brands, such as Toro, don’t make their own attachments, but their products can use attachments from any brand as long as they have a universal connector. The most attachment-friendly weed wacker we reviewed was the Troy-Bilt TB32 EC.

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ProductPriceOverall RatingPerformanceDesignString FeaturesWarranty & SupportWeightBalanceVibrationCuttingSoundWeight (pounds)Shaft Length (inches)Cutting Path (inches)Sound Level (dB)Fuel Capacity (ounces)Engine DisplacementAnti-VibrationAttachment CapableShoulder Strap IncludedLine Feed TypeLine Feed Capacity (feet)Line Diameter (inches)Dual-Line ExitWarrantyDrive Shaft WarrantyService CentersOnline ManualPhoneEmail
Hitachi CG23ECPSLView Deal5/5109.79.710100%90%96%100%92%10.3601510014.522.5cc-Semi-Automatic130.0957 YearsLifetime
Toro 51978View Deal5/51010108.280%95%100%100%99%12.54418971825.4cc-Bump250.0953 Years3 Years
Ryobi RY253SSView Deal4.5/58.8109.78.285%70%85%80%98%12.24418971825cc-Bump200.0953 Years3 Years
Snapper 41ADZ24C707View Deal4.5/59.68.8108.290%85%96%85%99%12411796.8N/A27cc-Bump250.0953 Years3 Years
Bolens BL160View Deal4.5/59.87.78.77.993%90%96%90%99%11211796.81025cc---Bump80.0952 Years2 Years
Troy-Bilt TB32 ECView Deal4.5/58.98.79.26.982%80%74%90%99%12.44117971025cc--Bump120.0952 Years2 Years-
Homelite UT33650View Deal4.5/58.18.89.67.995%75%43%75%98%10.5551797.312.826cc---Bump200.082 Years2 Years
Craftsman 25cc 2-CycleView Deal4/58.58.77.58.795%100%64%65%74%10.552161089.9225cc--Hassle FreeN/A0.112 Years10 Years
Weed Eater W25SFKView Deal4/57.97.29.97.998%70%43%60%100%10.4391596.3N/A25cc---Manual250.0952 Years2 Years