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Cheap Weed Eaters Buying Guide

Popular Mechanics explains that commercial weed eaters are more durable than consumer weed eaters, with solid steel drive shafts and engines that can tolerate thicker, taller grass and brush. Cheap weed eaters have weaker engines made of plastic and pressed steel parts that are best suited for grass.

They also tend to vibrate more than pricey models.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a weed eater. This Old House recommends more powerful and costly gas trimmers for large rural yards with rough terrain, and cheaper electric weed eaters with a cord or batteries for smaller yards and lots. In this product category, frugal consumers have reason to cheer: there are lots of advantages to using a small electric trimmer versus a large expensive gas one. Users, however, are tough critics and no cheap weed eater received perfect, or even great, reviews. Expert comments are scarce, so if you're making a selection based on reviews, just note that they come primarily from users.

Cheap Weed Eater Types.

There are two main types of weed eaters: electric and gas. Your choice will depend on your needs.

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Gas weed eaters

come with either a two-cycle or four-cycle engine and run on gasoline or a gasoline/oil combination. According to This Old House, gas trimmers are much more expensive than electric trimmers but they're able to clean up much larger yards. They also have a larger cutting swath than electric weed eaters. Weed eaters with a two-cycle engine carry price tags up to about $200, and trimmers with a four-cycle engine generally cost more than $300. Two-cycle engines run on a gas/oil mix; four-cycle engines run on gas only and are quieter, easier to start, and smoother running. Few gas powered weed eaters fall into the Cheapism niche, but one we found is the Weed Eater FeatherLite SST25 (starting at $130).

Electric weed eaters

run on power from a cord or batteries. This Old House notes that electric weed eaters cost significantly less, are easily portable, lightweight, and fairly quiet. The downside is you have to deal with a cord (oftentimes an extension cord, as well) or short battery life. Cheap electric weed eaters also can't handle large swaths of unruly vegetation and thick brush but work very well on small suburban yards. The Black & Decker NST2018 (starting at $89) is battery-operated and comes with two rechargeable 18-volt batteries and a charger; the Black & Decker GH600 Grass Hog (starting at $50) and the Black & Decker ST1000 9-Inch 1.8-AMP Electric Grass Trimmer (starting at $20) are both cheap electric weed eaters with a cord. According to our research, cheap corded electric weed eaters cost less than cheap battery-operated weed eaters. A hidden cost of battery-powered weed eaters: you'll have to replace or charge the battery after each use.

Low-cost Weed Eaters Line Feed Type.

String trimmers help keep your yard looking nice and tidy by cutting and trimming grass around walkways, flower beds, fencing, and trees. They do this with a fast moving plastic string -- up to 28,000 feet per minute, says Popular Mechanics -- that rotates along the tip to trim whatever crosses its path; hence the name "string" trimmer. All weed eaters, whether cheap or pricey, contain a spool of thread that diminishes with use, which means you'll need to replace the spool periodically, at about $10 to $15 a pop. Higher-end gas string trimmers also come with a blade for cutting thick brush and trimming trees, but no weed eaters in the Cheapism niche have this feature.

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There are two string-feeding types: bump feed and automatic feed. Trimmers with automatic line feed continuously release the string as soon as the unit is turned on. This design tends to eat the thread faster but is more convenient because it immediately jumps into action. The Black & Decker NST2018, the Black & Decker GH600, and the Black & Decker ST7700 13-Inch 4.4 amp Automatic Feed String Trimmer and Edger (starting at $45) are examples of cheap weed eaters with automatic feed.

With a bump feed, you first turn on the machine and then bump the head against the ground to get the string moving. This type of feed uses slightly less string, but you have to put more effort into the job. Additionally, Popular Mechanics says problems often arise with bump-feed weed eaters because the constant thwacking causes the string to jam. Among the affordable weed eaters we researched, the Weed Eater FeatherLite SST25 is a cheap bump-feed weed eater, as is the Toro 51467 (starting at $45) and the Black & Decker ST1000.

Cheap String Trimmers Weight.

The weight of a weed eater matters because you must be able to carry and maneuver the machine with ease. Some pricier weed eaters come with shoulder straps, a helpful aid, but this seems unnecessary with cheap weed eaters because they weigh less. Garden Guides points out that battery-operated weed eaters are heavier than corded electric weed eaters, and gas weed eaters are generally the heaviest. The gas-powered Weed Eater FeatherLite SST25 weighs in at 9.8 pounds, and the battery-powered Black & Decker NST2018 and Toro 51467 weigh 6.8 and 6.4 pounds, respectively. Cheap electric cord weed eaters are even lighter: the Black & Decker GH600 weighs 5.2 pounds, the Black & Decker ST7700 weighs 4.5 pounds, and the Black & Decker ST1000 is a mere 3.2 pounds.

Low-cost Weed Eaters Cutting Swath.

The cutting swath refers to the width that can be cut with one pass of the machine. According to This Old House, gas-powered weed eaters cut a swath ranging from 16 to 18 inches while electric weed eaters cut a smaller 12 to 15 inches. The gas-powered Weed Eater FeatherLite SST25has a cutting swath of 17 inches, and among the cheap electric weed eaters we researched, some cut even narrower widths than what the experts describe: the Black & Decker NST2018 cuts a 12-inch swath, the Black & Decker GH600 comes in at 14 inches, and the Black & Decker ST7700 cuts 13 inches, but the Black & Decker ST1000 manages nine inches and the cordless Toro 51467 handles only eight inches at a pass.

Cheap Weed Eaters Extras.

There are several additional features that make cheap weed eaters easier to use, such as adjustable handles, easy-start options, a debris guard, and in electric trimmers, a cord locking system and battery charger. The Black & Decker NST2018 comes with an adjustable handle, two rechargeable batteries, a battery charger, and an instant start trigger; it's also Energy Star certified. The Black & Decker GH600 features several extras, including an edge guide, a cord lock, and an adjustable handle. The gas-powered Echo SRM225 (starting at $219), a high-end weed eater, has a recoil starter, which is advertised as 30 percent easier to start than other weed eaters. The Echo SRM225 also has a debris guard and a U-turn trimmer head to make line changes easy. On the complete opposite end of the price spectrum, the Black and Decker ST1000 is a plug-in electric machine that belongs to the bump feed category; its only convenience is a cord locking system.

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