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.