Grass trimmer reviews

Petrol trimmers outgun their cordless cousins.
 
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  • Updated:1 Aug 2006
 

01 .Introduction

Grass-trimmers

Test results for 10 grass trimmers (petrol and cordless)

We tested them for:

  • Horizontal trimming along fences and walls, and trimming areas of lawn.
  • Vertical trimming (edging) along edges of paths and garden borders.
  • Cutting long grass.
  • Ease of use.

See our latest article on Electric lawnmowers.

For more information on all Lawnmowers, see Backyard.

Please note: this information was current as of August 2006 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Findings:

  • The petrol models all performed well and are the best option for large yards. One model stood out as the best.
  • The cordless (battery) models are much less powerful than the petrol models, but two were effective enough to suit small gardens.

Brands tested

Petrol

  • GMC GLT25
  • GREEN MACHINE GM254CLT
  • HUSQVARNA 24C
  • RYOBI PLT-3043YW
  • TROY-BILT TB25CS
  • STIHL FS 38

Cordless (battery)

  • BLACK & DECKER FireStorm NST 2018-XE
  • ENVIROMOWER Envirotrimmer LT250
  • OZITO CLT-400
  • RYOBI CLT-1223
 
 

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What to buy

The following performed best in our test:

  • Petrol - STIHL FS 38 $249
  • Cordless - BLACK & DECKER Firestorm NST 2018-XE $169

The STIHL is a good head in front of the other petrol models for trimming performance, but all of them scored higher than the battery-powered models.
The cordless BLACK & DECKER rated best overall for ease of use, though it didn’t trim edges or cut long grass as well as the petrol models. It would be suitable instead of a lawnmower for small yards, provided you don’t let the grass get overgrown.

What about the rest?

All the other petrol trimmers — the GREEN MACHINE, RYOBI PLT-3043YW, TROY-BILT, GMC and HUSQVARNA — are worth considering. They’re good overall performers, though not as effective and/or as easy to use as the recommended STIHL.

If you're after a cordless trimmer, the ENVIROMOWER is also worth considering. However, it’s heavy for a cordless model and its line feed can be annoying to use (see What to look for).

The other cordless models, the OZITO and RYOBI CLT-1223, are too underpowered. They struggled to cut the grass in all our tests. Both are very awkward to use for vertical trimming because their rear handles don’t rotate. In fact the RYOBI’s instructions say it shouldn’t be used as an edger, which seems strange as this is a common use for line trimmers.

Results table

Performance
Brand / model
(in rank order within groups)
Overall score1
(%)
Performance score2
(%)
Ease of use score3
(%)
Noise
(user’s position / 7.5 m, dB)
Price
($)**
Petrol
STIHL FS 38 85 94 75 98 / 80 249
GREEN MACHINE GM254CLT 78 88 67 101 / 83 299
RYOBI PLT-3043YW 77 88 65 102 / 83 179
TROY-BILT TB25CS 76 78 73 99 / 81 187
GMC GLT25 73 78 67 98 / 79 99
HUSQVARNA 24C 73 78 68 99 / 77 249
Cordless (battery)
BLACK & DECKER FireStorm NST 2018-XE (A) 70 54 85 84 / 70 169
ENVIROMOWER Envirotrimmer LT250 63 48 77 79 / 69 189
RYOBI CLT-1223 (B) 50 20 80 73 / 62 99
OZITO CLT-400 49 28 70 80 / 65 69

Features4 Specifications
Brand / model
(in rank order within groups)
Line feed Clutch Shoulder harness Edging guide Battery Weight (kg)* Length (cm) Cutting diameter (cm) Origin Warranty (years) Manufacturer / distributor
Petrol
STIHL FS 38 Bump na 4.6 149 39 USA 2 Stihl
GREEN MACHINE GM254CLT Bump na 4.6 150 43 China 2 Ryobi
RYOBI PLT-3043YW Bump na 4.6 145 43 China 2 Ryobi
TROY-BILT TB25CS Bump na 6 154 43 Mexico 2 (C) MTD Products
GMC GLT25 Bump na 5.1 166 37 China 2 GMC
HUSQVARNA 24C Bump na 4.9 145 43 USA 2 Husqvarna Outdoor Products
Cordless (battery)
BLACK & DECKER FireStorm NST 2018-XE (A) Automatic na NiCad, 18 V 3.1 104–132 30 China 4 Black & Decker
ENVIROMOWER Envirotrimmer LT250 Automatic na Lead acid, 12 V 5.3 118–130 25 ns 2 (D) Enviromower
RYOBI CLT-1223 (B) Bump na NiCad, 12 V 2.3 106–135 23 China 2 Ryobi
OZITO CLT-400 Bump na NiCad, 18 V 2.5 93–111 23 China 2 Ozito Industries

Table notes

All the petrol motors are two-stroke.
* Not including petrol for petrol models; includes battery for cordless models.
** Recommended retail price, as advised by manufacturers in June 2006, unless noted otherwise.
na Not applicable.
ns Not stated.
(A) We tested a sample from New Zealand. Black and Decker plans to release this model in Australia later this year, either through Bunnings under the Firestorm brand, or else through independent stores under the Black & Decker brand with a new model number. We'll let you know the new model details when they're available.
(B) Will be discontinued in November, replaced by a new 18 V model from the ONE+ range, supplied without battery/charger, RRP $79.
(C) Doesn’t cover engine; separate engine manufacturer’s warranty applies but wasn’t supplied.
(D) Battery one year.
(E) The price we paid in April 2006.

1 Overall score

This consists of:

  • Performance: 50%
  • Ease of use: 50%

2 Performance

This consists of:

  • Horizontal trimming along fences and walls, and trimming areas of lawn: 40%
  • Vertical trimming — with the cutting head perpendicular to the ground — along the edges of paths and garden borders: 40%
  • Cutting long grass up to around 45 cm in length: 20%

3 Ease of use

This conists of the following equally weighted aspects:

  • How comfortable they are to use, taking into account their weight, balance, handles, angle of the cutting head and so on.
  • Respooling the line.
  • Using controls.
  • Starting.
  • Using the line feed.
  • Vibration.

4 Features

See What to look for, for more on these.

Profiles - the best

The models in the What to buy list are profiled below in rank order. Prices are recommended or average retail, as supplied by manufacturers in June/July 2006.

STIHL FS 38

Price: $249
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Excellent at trimming horizontally and vertically, and at cutting long grass
  • Well-balanced and very comfortable to use
  • Easiest model to respool

Bad points:

  • Tall people might find it a little too short, especially when used vertically for edging

BLACK & DECKER FIRESTORM NST 2018-XE

Price: $169
Type: Cordless

Good points:

  • Spare battery supplied
  • Quick one-hour recharge
  • Head can be rotated 180 degrees for vertical trimming
  • Adjustable-length shaft
  • Very easy to start, as are all the cordless models
  • Equal best model for vibration

Bad points:

  • Large guard can obstruct vision when inverted for vertical trimming
  • Not very good at vertical trimming and cutting long grass, although it was the best of the cordless models

Note: We tested a sample from New Zealand. Black and Decker plans to release this model in Australia later this year, either through Bunnings under the Firestorm brand, or else through independent stores under the Black & Decker brand with a new model number. We'll let you know the new model details when they're available.

Profiles - the rest

The rest of the models are profiled below in rank order. Prices are recommended or average retail, as supplied by manufacturers in June/July 2006, unless noted otherwise. These didn't score as highly for performance and/or ease of use as the recommended models.

GREEN MACHINE GM254CLT

Price: $299
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Very good performer
  • Head can be rotated 180 degrees for vertical trimming
  • Alternative heads available to convert to a blower, tiller, etc. (We didn't test these)

Bad points:

  • Nothing in particular

RYOBI PLT-3043YW

Price: $179
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Very good performer

Bad points:

  • May be a little short for tall people, and the low position of the front handle can cause you to stoop

TROY-BILT TB25CS

Price: $189
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Good performer
  • Head can be rotated 180 degrees for vertical trimming
  • Easiest petrol model to start
  • Easy to respool
  • Alternative heads available to convert to a blower, tiller, etc. (We didn't test these)

Bad points:

  • The heaviest trimmer on test

GMC GLT25

Price: $99
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Good performer
  • Head can be rotated 180 degrees for vertical trimming

Bad points:

  • Hardest trimmer to respool

HUSQVARNA 24C

Price: $249
Type: Petrol

Good points:

  • Good performer

Bad points:

  • May be a little short for tall people

ENVIROMOWER ENVIROTRIMMER LT250

Price: $189
Type: Cordless

Good points:

  • Performance is good enough for small areas
  • Good battery capacity
  • Alternative cutting head with hard plastic blades is supplied
  • Head can be rotated 180 degrees for vertical trimming
  • Adjustable length shaft
  • Very easy to start

Bad points:

  • Heavy for a cordless trimmer
  • Automatic line feed is not convenient to use, as you often have to stop and start the trimmer to make it feed

RYOBI CLT-1223

Price: $99
Type: Cordless

Good points:

  • Adjustable length shaft
  • Very easy to start
  • Equal best model for vibration

Bad points:

  • Very poor performer, mainly due to lack of cutting power
  • Very awkward to use for vertical trimming as its rear handle doesn't rotate

OZITO CLT-400

Price: $69
Type: Cordless

Good points:

  • Adjustable length shaft
  • Very easy to start

Bad points:

  • Very poor performer, mainly due to lack of cutting power
  • Very awkward to use for vertical trimming as its rear handle doesn't rotate
  • Trigger is tiring to hold down for long periods
  • Worst trimmer for vibration
  • Safety guard — This is mounted around the rear of the cutting head to reduce the amount of debris flying around. Some guards can limit your view of what you’re cutting, such as when cutting vertically with the BLACK & DECKER.
  • Line length-limiting blade — All tested models have a small blade mounted on the safety guard that cuts the trimming line off at the correct length. It’s important as an overlong line can overload the motor.
  • Shoulder harness — A harness that clips onto the shaft and supports the trimmer’s weight can be useful. It’s usually an optional extra, and you can’t attach one to all trimmers. The GMC and ENVIROMOWER come with one.
  • Line-feed system — The bump-feed system on most tested models is easy to use: just tap the cutting head on the ground when you need more line to feed out. The BLACK & DECKER and ENVIROMOWER have automatic feed. The BLACK & DECKER feed works well but doesn’t give you control over when the line is released. The ENVIROMOWER also has automatic feed, but it’s not so convenient as it often fails to feed out more line when needed, especially when trimming horizontally along walls. When this happens you have to stop and start the motor in order to feed out new line, and you might need to do this several times to get the required length.
  • Edging guide — This helps you cut in a straight line. The BLACK & DECKER and ENVIROMOWER come with one.
  • Spool type — Fitting new cutting line, or respooling, can be one of the fiddliest parts of using a trimmer. A trimmer with a single cutting line is usually easier to respool than one with twin lines, though twin lines can give better cutting performance. All the tested petrol models have twin lines and all the cordless models have a single one. The cordless models are all fairly easy to respool. Of the petrol models, the STIHL and TROY-BILT are by far the easiest, as you don’t need to remove the head to respool; you just insert the lines and turn a knob to wind the line on.
  • Cutting diameter — A wider diameter is useful if you want to trim open areas. All the petrol models have a wider diameter than the cordless ones.
  • Handles — Most models have an adjustable handle that can be rotated on the shaft when you turn the trimmer over to change from horizontal trimming to vertical edging (on some models, the cutting head can be rotated instead, for the same purpose). Don’t do it up too tight — just enough to hold it in place, but so that it still swivels when you turn it over.
  • Accessories — Adjusting tools such as a spanner are often included as standard. Some trimmers have other accessories (usually as optional extras), such as brush-cutting blades or edging heads. The ENVIROMOWER is the only tested model to come with an alternative head — a set of hard plastic blades for use in heavy conditions such as long grass. We tested these and found they did cut long grass slightly better than the nylon line, but we used the nylon line score to stay comparable with the other models.

Petrol

  • Transparent fuel tank — Makes it easy to see when you’re running low on petrol, and makes refuelling easier as you can see how much petrol to pour in. All the tested models have one.
  • Clutch — Stops the cutting head spinning when the motor idles, which is safer while you’re moving between areas. The GREEN MACHINE, HUSQVARNA, STIHL and TROY-BILT trimmers have a clutch.

Cordless

  • Adjustable-length shaft — Because the cordless models’ motors are at the head rather than the handle end, they have no drive shaft, so the shaft can be length-adjustable. All the tested cordless models have this feature.
  • Spare battery — Useful if you forget to recharge after using the trimmer, and can be handy if you have a larger yard that can’t be covered with one battery charge. The BLACK & DECKER comes with a spare battery. 

Curves and comfort

  • Straight-shaft petrol trimmers tend to be more powerful and heavy-duty (and expensive) than curved-shaft models, and can have longer reach. All the tested petrol models have a curved shaft.
  • The length and curve of the shaft, the position of the handles, the weight and balance all contribute to how comfortable a trimmer is to hold.
  • A model that suits a short person may be uncomfortable for a tall person, and vice versa. The HUSQVARNA, RYOBI PLT-3043YW and STIHL were a little short in some orientations for our testers, who are of medium height.
  • Before you buy a trimmer, handle it in the shop to make sure it suits you for both horizontal and vertical trimming.

Safety tips

  • Read the safety precautions and instructions before first using the trimmer.
  • Always use eye and ear protection and wear sturdy shoes and long trousers. Gloves and a face shield are recommended, as pebbles and other debris can flick up and cause an injury.
  • Keep people and pets well away — especially if you’re edging or scalping (removing grass down to the bare dirt, such as round a tree or rockery).
  • Never use wire or plastic-covered wire, or a metal blade (such as one you might have for some straight-shaft trimmers) instead of the trimmer line, unless it’s supplied specifically for that trimmer.
  • Don’t start petrol trimmers within 3 m of the fuelling area (or smoke there either), and don’t use one in enclosed areas because of exhaust fumes.
  • On clutchless models the line continually rotates when the motor’s running, so be careful if you walk around while it’s switched on.

We measured how long the battery charge lasted for each of the four cordless trimmers while cutting fairly short grass.

  • While you wouldn’t usually use your trimmer to mow a lot of lawn, the area of grass they can cut on one battery charge is a useful comparison. For example, the BLACK & DECKER battery only lasted 14 minutes in our test, but the trimmer was powerful enough to cut a fair amount of grass in that time (and the battery recharges in only one hour).
  • The OZITO lasted as long as the ENVIROMOWER, but only managed to cut a third as much grass.
How good's the battery?
Brand / model
(in rank order)
Charge lasts for (minutes) Area cut per charge (m2)* Recharge time (hours)
BLACK & DECKER FireStorm NST 2018-XE 14 50 1
ENVIROMOWER Envirotrimmer LT250 23 75 12
RYOBI CLT-1223 21 25 6
OZITO CLT-400 23 25 7

Table notes

* This was measured on short grass performance; performance will vary depending on grass conditions.