Best Cordless String Trimmer of 2020
Best Overall Cordless String Trimmer
Makita XRU15PT 36V
If you are searching for a top-tier cordless string trimmer that excels across the board, then we think the Makita XRU15PT 36V is the tool for you. This cordless contender packs plenty of power and proved to us that it can handle even the toughest weeds and plants. It's very easy to use, with an ergonomic grip that is comfortable and easy to hold on to. It's not particularly loud compared to some of the other products in the group and has a solid runtime.
The negatives are few and minor. It took a quick look at the instruction manual to figure out how to install more line. This trimmer is also a little heavier than some of the others, but we think it's so well-balanced and easy to hold that this isn't much of an issue. If you're looking for a heavy-duty cordless trimmer for all your weed-eating needs, then the Makita XRU15PT 36V is your best bet.
Read Review: Makita XRU15PT 36V
Best on a Tight Budget
If you don't need to do a ton of weed cutting and are hoping to save some money when buying your new string trimmer then we highly recommend the BLACK+DECKER LST 136. This surprisingly capable little machine holds its own against models that cost considerably more. It's one of the lightest and easiest to handle, all while running much quieter than some of the top trimmers. It also has a respectable runtime and a handful of different operating modes to match all your different plant and weed trimming needs.
We found that this tool can get a little bogged down and tangled up when cutting through exceptionally dense patches of weeds or plants with tougher stems. This trimmer also has one of the larger guards, which can get in the way when making detailed cuts — though it is quite effective at stopping plant and weed debris from getting thrown back at you. All in all, this is one of our favorite trimmers to recommend if you are shopping on a budget and don't have a lot of serious weed-eating on the agenda.
Read Review: BLACK+DECKER LST136
Another Great Bargain Option
Ryobi 40V Expand-It
If you don't need to use a string trimmer all that often and are hoping to spend as little as possible for a new one, then we would suggest taking a look at the Ryobi 40V Expand-It. This weed eater is definitely inferior to the top-tier models but it usually retails for less than half of what they cost. It cut through pretty much everything we threw at it-- feeling like overkill for light-duty or detailed edging work — though it can get a little squirrely when cutting through dense vegetation or sturdier stems.
While the Ryobi Expand-It packs plenty of power, it delivered mediocre results in the remainder of our tests. It is one of the heaviest models and feels significantly less balanced than other string trimmers, which makes it very cumbersome to use and difficult to control precisely. We aren't huge fans of the guard design and this is one of the loudest models of the group. It is a great option if you already have some tools in the Ryobi Expand-It line or you want to take advantage of the plethora of tools that use this same battery system and are shopping on a tighter budget. However, it can be a hassle to use so we would recommend upgrading if you are a frequent string trimmer user.
Read Review: Ryobi 40V Expand-It
Best for Large Areas
If you need to clear large areas of vegetation, then the Husqvarna 115iL is a great option to consider. This string trimmer had one of the longest runtimes of all the products we have tested to date, cutting weeds and plants long after other models needed to stop and recharge. The Husqvarna 115iL also offers a slow and fast mode to provide you with an awesome amount of control, whether cutting around delicate objects or clearing wide swathes of grass. It isn't particularly loud and supplies a decent amount of power when cutting through tougher plants with thicker stems.
On the downside, the Husqvarna can be a bit more cumbersome to use than some of the other products. It has a shorter neck that forced our testers to stand closer to the cutting head than they would have liked. It can also be a pain to hold vertically. The guard is on the smaller side, which is nice when making precise cuts since it doesn't obstruct your view, but it's far less effective at stopping flying debris than other products. Despite these flaws, it's hard to beat the Husqvarna if you have tons of weeds and plants to clear and don't want to buy extra batteries to get the job done.
Read Review: Husqvarna 115iL
Best for Dense Vegetation
EGO Power+ STA1500 Attachment
If you need a string trimmer that can handle dense plants and grass without a struggle, then it's worth checking out the EGO Power+ STA1500 string trimming attachment for the EGO Power+ Power Head. It is easily one of the most powerful string trimmers of the group and sliced through dense weeds and tall grass without difficulty. It can clear areas that would have stopped other products dead in their tracks. We also think it's fairly comfortable to use and a compact way to add a cordless string trimmer to your arsenal if you have the aforementioned Power Head.
However, it can be quite a pricey purchase if you don't already have the Power Head and this trimmer can feel like it has too much power for average yards. The guard didn't prevent freshly-cut weeds from getting flung back at us and precision work can be quite difficult. It's hard to avoid cutting trenches and the EGO Power+ STA1500 can be brutal on things like birdbaths, outdoor lights, or the side of your house if you aren't careful when using it. It's not for everyone, but it's a great option if you need heavy-duty string trimming capabilities and plan to get other EGO cordless tools.
Read Review: EGO Power+ STA1500 Attachment
Why You Should Trust Us
After researching dozens and dozens of different weed eaters and string trimmer attachments, we bought the most promising models to test for ourselves. We purchased them all and did not accept any free manufacturer test units. Our expert string trimmer testing and review team is lead by Michelle Powell and David Wise. Michelle has made a career of evaluating products side-by-side, comprehensively testing, and scoring the smallest details and differentiating factors on everything from coffee grinders to cordless power tools. Additionally, she also brings extensive lawn care experience to the table. David has formal training as a mechanical engineer with extensive experience in lithium batteries and electrical power systems, which he gained from working on electric vehicles and underwater robots.
To help you find the best cordless weed eater of them all, we exhaustively tested these products side-by-side, spending over 100 hours working on different lawns and yards, dispensing swift justice to thousands of weeds. In addition to weed eating performance, we rated and compared the ease of operating each product, how long their batteries lasted, and the amount of sound each one generated using an SPL meter to determine scores.
Analysis and Test Results
In total, we conducted a dozen distinct tests that we divided among four weighted rating metrics. Each of these metrics — Weed Eating, Ease of Use, Battery Life, and Noise — are weighted proportional to their importance to overall string trimmer performance. The score for each metric is determined by the performance of each trimmer in the tests composing each metric.
If you're shopping for a bargain weed eater, then two models stand out: the BLACK+DECKER LST136 and the Ryobi 40V Expand-It. These typically cost about half as much — or even a little less — than our top-scoring model, the Makita XRU15PT, and both are solid string trimmers, costing about the same. We think the Ryobi Expand-It is significantly more powerful than the BLACK+DECKER LST136. The Ryobi Expand-It, however, is much less user-friendly and less comfortable to use. For the budget-conscious shopper, we recommend the Ryobi Expand-It if you need to cut through dense vegetation and can deal with a tool that can be hard to carry and control. The LST136 is a better choice if you want a more comfortable and lightweight tool that is easy to handle.
Weed-eating performance composes the greatest share of a product's overall score. To rank and compare the weed eating skills of each string trimmer, we looked at the effectiveness of each model when it came to clearing weeds from an area and how each handled dense and hard-to-cut vegetation, as well as how much precision you have for trimming edges and cleaning up small areas.
A pair of trimmers tied for the top spot when it came to eating weeds, with both the Makita XRU15PT 36V and the Ego Power+ STA1500 Attachment earning a 9 out of 10. Both the Makita XRU15PT and the EGO Power+ STA1500 are exceptionally effective at eliminating weeds, cutting through pretty much anything smoothly and effectively. They both tackled tall grass and dense weeds with ease, even cutting through burly stalks and stems without showing any sign of a struggle.
However, we feel that the Ego Power+ STA1500 has just a bit more power than the Makita XRU15PT — almost to the point where the EGO Power+ STA1500 might be overkill for typical lawn care. While this extra power is handy for the toughest of weeds, it can be difficult to edge or trim precisely. You can angle the head to get into small spaces, but it can be hard to cut near anything delicate without damaging it or cutting inadvertent trenches into your lawn. This excessive power is made much worse by the EGO Power+ STA1500's sensitive trigger, which makes it difficult to maintain a consistent speed.
Although the Makita XRU15PT can't quite match the EGO Power+ STA1500 when it comes to raw power, it is superior in close quarters. It has a slow setting and feels very nimble to control, allowing you to easily make angle cuts or clear areas around sprinklers, lawn ornaments, or other items without obliterating them.
The Ryobi 40V Expand-It is close behind our top string trimmers, earning an 8 out of 10. This weed eater is exceptionally powerful and we had a hard time finding vegetation that it couldn't cut through. This much power is kind of a problem, however, because this tool doesn't have a low setting, and we routinely felt that it was a bit overzealous when it came to trimming weeds in a typical yard. It is very effective at clearing unwanted vegetation but it can get a bit finicky and hard to control if you dive into an especially thick patch of grass.
When it comes to detail work, the Ryobi Expand-It performs almost identically to the EGO Power+ STA1500. You can angle the head and easily access tight areas, but the unbridled power chews up the ground rather harshly.
The Husqvarna 115iL and the BLACK+DECKER LST136 followed, both earning a 7 out of 10 for their string trimming performance. The Husqvarna 115iL easily sliced through most patches of weeds and grasses, but it occasionally stalled when we tried to tackle clusters of dense vegetation. It is fine for most people, but a more powerful weed eater might be in order if you routinely perform large jobs that require cutting through thick sections of weeds and grass.
The Husqvarna 115iL has a comparatively small guard and is lightweight, making it one of the more maneuverable models when it comes to removing weeds from tight spaces. However, it doesn't have a very long reach, so you need to get fairly close to the end to see exactly what you are trimming.
The BLACK+DECKER LST136 doesn't have quite as much power as some of the top models, but it can cut through most weeds and plants without issue. It can stall when cutting through the thickest stems and plants, but we rarely found this to be an issue with typical yards. The lower speed setting also works great for making detailed cuts, but we found that it works better when used in a sweeping side-to-side motion rather than cutting in a straight line. We also like that it is one of the easiest models to replace the cutting line on.
The Snapper XD 82V and the Greenworks 14-Inch 40V both came next, each earning a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average performance. The Greenworks struggled a little with larger areas of dense grass or weeds, but can typically make it through most jobs. This pair is much closer to adequate than amazing when it comes to clearing burlier vegetation from any significant area.
Overall, these tools are all fairly effective at eating weeds but we did notice that the guard tends to get caught on the Greenworks, which usually yanks the tool off course. The Snapper doesn't have that issue, but we struggled to cut vegetation all the way to the ground.
The Snapper XD is quite a bit more powerful than either the Greenworks, putting it on par with the top-tier models. Unfortunately, tall plants and thicker stems can still get tangled up in the head. We think the Snapper's motor has plenty of power to handle dense plant matter but the included cutting line seems to be the limiting factor.
This thinner line also makes it hard to see exactly where you are cutting, which can be detrimental to detail work and edging. The Greenworks is also a poor choice for precise work because the guard always seems to be in the way and blocks access to tight areas.
Ease of Use
Like the Weeding Eating metric, Ease of Use also constitutes 30% of the total score for each cordless string trimmer. Here we compared the weight and guard design of each trimmer, as well as how comfortable and balanced they are to hold. Additionally, we also compared the ease of replacing and feeding the line and if there is a shoulder strap attachment.
The Makita XRU15PT 36V again earned the top score in this metric, receiving a 9 out of 10. This trimmer employs a bump feed to dispense more string, but it's a little more difficult to replace the string than some of the other models. There aren't alignment indicators on the spool, which forced us to consult a manual, but it was very easy once we became familiar with it. The Makita XRU15PT is exceptionally well balanced, with the battery end of the trimmer only slightly heavier than the head, making it easy to carry one-handed.
The Makita XRU15PT has a molded, ergonomic grip that makes it easy to keep a good grip without working too hard. We also liked the guard on this model because it doesn't detract from your ability to do precise cuts while maintaining an equivalent degree of protection. The Makita XRU15PT includes a shoulder strap attachment as well.
Next, the Power+ STA1500 Attachment by Ego and the BLACK+DECKER LST136 both earned a 7 out of 10 when it came to convenience and ease of use. The EGO Power+ STA1500 has a very straightforward mechanism for adding more line. The line threads into the part you remove, so you don't need to be as careful about making sure everything lines up properly when you reassemble the head.
The EGO Power+ STA1500 has a bump feed to dispense more line and we found it to be quite comfortable to carry. It has a cushy handle and is very well-balanced, but the guard didn't seem to be as effective as other models, with debris flying back at us on a semi-regular basis depending on the type of cut. However, the EGO Power+ STA1500 does not have a shoulder strap attachment.
The BLACK+DECKER LST136 is one of the lightest and easiest string trimmers to handle. It's fairly comfortable to use for long periods, even without a shoulder strap, and it has a grip that's easy to hold. We also like that it's very straightforward and easy to replace the line.
The Husqvarna followed, earning a 6 out of 10 for its ease of use. It isn't too difficult to replace the string — similar to the Ego Power+ STA1500 — but tons of dirt and debris accumulate under the cover that you have to clean out each time you use it. This trimmer has a bump line feed and is on the lighter side. However, it isn't very comfortable to hold. It is well-balanced, but the shorter neck forces you to trim closer to your body than we felt comfortable with. It feels awkward to hold vertically and the handle isn't the greatest to grab. The guard is on the smaller side and is fairly unobtrusive when using the Husqvarna 115iL.
We found the Greenworks and the Snapper to be fairly typical when it came to ease of operation, earning them both a 5 out of 10. These trimmers aren't the lightest cordless yard tools we've tested — both tip the scales over 14 lbs. We also found it to be a bit of a hassle to replace the string, with the line on the Snapper always seeming to pop out and make a giant mess while the Greenworks' line got hung up when screwing the head back together.
They both feel very heavy and bulky to carry, with the Greenworks causing slightly more fatigue than the Snapper. However, these both have shoulder straps, which alleviates this issue a bit — just not by all that much. The guard on the Greenworks gets in the way with detailed work but at least it blocks most of the debris from flying back at you. The guard on the Snapper not only managed to continually get in the way in confined places, but it allows a considerable amount of stuff to get thrown back at you.
While the Ryobi Expand-It may score near the top when it comes to raw power, it didn't score quite as favorably when it came to convenience and user-friendliness. We did like the bump line dispenser and it wasn't too much work to swap out the cutting line. However, we weren't impressed with the guard. Practically everyone who used this tool complained about constantly getting bits of weed and other vegetation flung back at them.
While the Ryobi Expand-It isn't one of the heaviest cordless string trimmers, we found it to be one of the most uncomfortable to use. We didn't like its balance and found the handle very hard to get a comfortable grip on. Even worse, this product vibrates so much that it's fatiguing to use for extended periods.
Our next metric focused on the battery system of each string trimmer, and this accounts for 25% of each product's final score. We based the bulk of this score on the maximum runtime for each product but also awarded extra points to models that have different speed settings because it allows you to maximize the battery life by throttling down when extra speed is unnecessary. We measured the runtime for these weed eaters when they weren't actually eating weeds, so you'll probably get lower numbers if you're chewing through dense vegetation or particularly stubborn weeds.
The Greenworks 14-Inch 40V, the Makita XRU15PT , and the Husqvarna 115iL all tied for the first place position in this test, each receiving a 9 out of 10 for their top-notch performance. These all lasted for around 90 minutes before the batteries gave out and they each have a series of different speed settings.
Performance dropped a bit with the remaining trimmers, with the Snapper XD and the BLACK+DECKER LST136 both meriting a 6 out of 10. The Snapper XD clocked in at 48 minutes of runtime and has two operating modes, but we didn't notice a huge difference between the two modes except for the amount of noise produced. The low power mode still seems plenty powerful to chew through pretty much anything with the line we used. However, the difference between the two modes might be more noticeable with a different line.
The BLACK+DECKER LST136 lasted for 43 minutes before dying and has 6 different speed modes, which we think borders a little bit on excessive.
The Ryobi Expand-It earned a 5 out of 10 for their middle-of-the-road battery performance. It lasted for 43 minutes but has only a single speed setting. We really wish there were a lower speed setting on the Ryobi Expand-It because it might have helped with its debris throwing problem.
The EGO Power+ STA1500 finished at the back of the group, meriting a 4 out of 10. It only lasted for 21 minutes in our runtime test. It has two different modes, but the low power mode is still a bit too fast for delicate work unless you have an extremely steady hand.
Our final metric focused on the amount of noise that each cordless string trimmer generated while in use. To determine scores, we used a sound level meter to measure the noise from each cordless string trimmer at a distance of 3' and had a panel of judges rate how annoying the sounds were at the same distance and from 50' away.
The Makita XRU15PT took home the top spot in this metric, earning a 9 out of 10. Our meter recorded 85 dBa when this model was in use. We noticed, however, that it has a particularly high-pitched whine on startup that is rather irritating.
The BLACK+DECKER LST136 came next, earning an 8 out of 10. This trimmer registered sound levels of 85.9 dBa on our meter when it was placed about 3' away, though we did find that it has a bit of a high-pitched whine.
The Husqvarna and the Snapper both followed, each earning a 7 out of 10. We recorded sound levels of 88.5 dBa for the Snapper XD. The Husqvarna is very loud on startup, registering 105 dBa, but this quickly drops to around 95 dBa. The Snapper has a whine that can be quite grating, while our judges believe the Husqvarna's sound is one of the least annoying — just loud.
The Ego Power+ STA1500 came next, earning a 5 out of 10. It's fairly loud at about 104.6 dBa but isn't overly annoying. The Greenworks followed, earning a 4 out of 10. It's a tiny bit quieter than the Ego Power+ STA1500 but our judges found its high pitched whine to be exceptionally annoying.
Delivering an altogether disappointing set of results, the Ryobi Expand-It received a 3 out of 10 when it came to noise levels. We found this cordless tool to easily be one of the loudest models we have tested so far, with our SPL meter recording audio levels over 105 dB in our assessments. In general, the person using this trimmer and all bystanders found it to be quite obnoxious while in use.
Whether you need a powerhouse trimmer to tackle the toughest weeds or a lightweight budget model for some minor yard maintenance, we hope this analysis and review has helped you find the perfect cordless string trimmer to match your yard work needs and budget.
— Michelle Powell and David Wise