Grass trimmer reviews

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

04.What to look for

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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