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What to Consider When Buying a String Trimmer

by Debra Karplus

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Whether you call it a string trimmer, edger, weed-eater or a weed-whacker, you've probably had a love-hate relationship with yours for years. Your 12-year-old electric string trimmer that cost about $30 when you bought it does an exemplary job edging the lawn and trimming weeds in hard-to-reach places, such as around pathways in the yard. The motor on it seems to work fine, too. But every time you need to make the string longer, you "wrestle" with this machine, unplugging it and then unscrewing the strong roll to make it exactly the length you need. You'd made a promise to yourself that when it was time to replace the string, costing about $7, you would consider buying one of the newer models that is easier to operate. Well, it's time to buy a new string trimmer.

Before heading to the big box store, discount store, garden shop or hardware store, look online to see what is available and read customer reviews, especially the one- and two-star reviews. Read details about the trimmer regarding its size, weight, and capabilities. Jot down features and models that look desirable. Then go shopping in a place where you can see and hold the actual trimmers.

Today's trimmers are easier to operate and not really any more expensive than the older models.

From appearances, string trimmers seem to be exactly like the older models, but there are now a few more desirable features. Plus, the ergonomics of using them is notably better. Before buying one, you should try holding the trimmer in the proper position and see if the length and shape of the handle are the right fit for you. Also, make note of where the plug is located. Admittedly, experimenting with the size of the trimmer for a couple minutes at the store is very different than trimming in your own backyard on a very hot day for a 30-minute stretch or longer.

Electric, cordless or gas: Which is best for you?

If you already have a string trimmer, this decision may not be so difficult. Decide what you like or don't like about your current string trimmer and you can easily narrow your choices of trimmers and make a quick purchase. However, for first time buyer of a string trimmer, your first decision is how the machine will be powered.

An electric string trimmer is typically the least expensive type of trimmer, costing approximately $30 to $50. The lower end models have that same manual feed on the string as your old trimmer, but for a few extra dollars, you can buy bump feed or, better yet, automatic string feed. It's definitely worth the few extra dollars to get the auto feed feature.

If you have never used one before, remember that you will be dragging a long extension cord around your yard as you trim, forever trying to avoid whacking the cord and possibly causing an electrical short. Check the amperage on the trimmers; models with only 3.5 amps may be powerful enough for your average size yard. Many are as powerful as 7.5 amps. You pay more for these models and may simply not need so much amperage. Also, check the size of the base. You may not need as large as the 16-inch models. A 12-inch model may be adequate.

If you don't mind frequent charging of the lithium battery, one of the newer cordless models may be perfect for you. Expect to pay between $60 and $100. Expect about 25 to 60 minutes out of a charged cordless string trimmer.

For a price, gas string trimmers give you the most freedom with your yard. Expect to pay about $150. Remember that these trimmers weigh more because they are heavier and because of the weight of the gasoline. If you are a petite female, this may simply be too much machine for you.

Before you pull out your credit card to purchase your new string trimmer, ask a knowledgeable sales person about the string refills, specifically about how much use you can expect from one roll, the cost of a replacement string refill, and the ease with which to install it. Your new string trimmer can help to maintain a well-manicured yard for many years if you take the time to thoroughly explore your options when shopping.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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