Tool Test: Multihead String Trimmers
These 2-cycle garden machines can prune, till, de-thatch, aerate, or sweep—as long as you have the right accessories
Most string trimmers are two-trick ponies: They whack grass and edge walks, but not much else. But with the 2-cycle trimmers shown here, you can swap in different accessories to prune, till, de-thatch, aerate, or sweep, among other tasks. Professional landscaper Quinton Guenther of Terracare Associates, Martinez, Calif., has eight years of lawn-care experience. He tested each model with a string trimmer, cultivator, and pole-saw attachment for TOH. Then we gathered a bunch more accessories that can make your trimmer a super tool.
Here's what Guenther had to say about five trimmers on the market.
Prices based on manufacturer-approved online distributors.
Highlight: It has the fewest emissions of the engines tested.
My two cents: "This is a high-quality machine that would serve a pro landscaper—or a homeowner with a lot of chores—very well."
Tool stats: 9.5 pounds, 27.2cc, 10,000 rpm (maximum), 16.37 in-lbs of torque; does not accept other brands' attachments.
Price: About $240 for the engine
String trimmer (about $99): 4 stars
Pole saw (about $209): 4 stars
Tiller (about $179): 2 stars
Highlight: Its large handle is easy to hold when edging or trimming.
My two cents: "The connection between the engine and attachment wasn't sturdy. Best suited for weekend use."
Tool stats: 8.7 pounds, 26cc, 9,000 rpm (maximum), 10 in-lbs of torque; accepts other brands' attachments.
Price: About $80 for the engine
String trimmer (about $60): 2½ stars
Pole saw (about $99): 2½ stars
Tiller (about $90): 1 star
Highlight: It has a five-year warranty, two to three years longer than its competitors' warranties.
My two cents: "The engine never stalled or overheated, even when trimming tall,wet grass."
Tool stats: 8.7 pounds, 22.8cc engine, 10,500 rpm (maximum), 7.5 in-lbs of torque; does not accept other brands' attachments.
Price: About $270 for the engine
String trimmer (about $90): 4 stars
Pole saw (about $190): 3½ stars
Tiller (about $190): 2 stars
Highlights: It's the least expensive of the multiheads tested, and the lightest.
My two cents: "There was a lot of play in the shaft, and the engine struggled when cutting branches with the pole saw."
Tool stats: 9.25 pounds, 27cc, 8,000 rpm (maximum); 9 in-lbs of torque; accepts other brands' attachments.
Price: About $100 for the engine and string trimmer
String trimmer (included): 3 stars
Pole saw (about $90): 3 stars
Tiller (about $99): 1 star
Highlight: A sticker near the engine has easy-to-follow steps and illustrations to help with starting.
My two cents: "Handled tall and wet grass easily, ideal for a homeowner with a large yard that they maintain routinely."
Tool stats: 10.8 pounds, 28 cc, 10,000 rpm (maximum), 1.1 horsepower; accepts other brands' attachments.
Price: About $200 for the engine and string trimmer
String trimmer (about $99): 4 stars
Pole saw (about $209): 3 stars
Tiller (about $179): 2 stars
Sweep sod and hard surfaces clean, even remove light snow.
A. ECHO sod cleaner: The rubber fins clear a 22½-inch-wide path of debris off of sod. About $290; ECHO
B. Husqvarna sweeper: Durable, flexible rubber paddles sweeps surfaces clean of gravel, grain, sand, mulch, water, sawdust, wreck debris, or construction waste without lifting the material into a cloud. About $280; Husqvarna
C. STIHL bristle brush: The spinning nylon bristles remove dirt, sand, and other debris from the joints of uneven natural stone or paved surfaces in a 23-inch wide path. About $260; STIHL
Churn up flower and vegetable beds to aerate soil and work in amendments.
A. ECHO: Has a higher torque gear ratio of 42:1; eight cutters work a 6½-inch-wide path. About $190; ECHO
B. STIHL: A plastic guard shields the user from any soil kicked up by the four starlike disks. About $170; STIHL
C. Troy-Bilt: Each of the four metal wheels has four cutting edges turning over up to a 9-inch-wide path, establishing beds quickly. About $90; Troy-Bilt
Two cutting edges make quick work of pruning shrubs.
A. ECHO: Locks in from negative 30 to 180 degrees rotation in 15-degree increments, with a 17-inch blade on an extension pole more than 3 feet long. About $270; ECHO
B. Husqvarna: The 33-inch-long extension provides better control than longer extension poles, similar to a dedicated hedge trimmer. About $270; Husqvarna
C. STIHL: The scythe is shorter 9-inch long cutting head rather than a traditional hedge trimmer to handle grass and ground covers. About $220; STIHL
D. Troy-Bilt: Articulating head tilts from 0 to 75 degrees with 16 inches of cutting length. About $100; Troy-Bilt
A mini chain saw allows you to cut bigger branches while you're on the ground.
A. ECHO: Commercial-grade gear casing and automatic oiling keeps the 10-inch bar moving when the cutting gets hard; has a foam handle for comfort. About $190; ECHO
B. Husqvarna: Offers the chain-saw head without the extension, which keeps the blade closer to the user for better control when cutting material on the ground. About $185; Husqvarna
C. STIHL: Pole saw can be fitted with a 30-degree angle drive accessory that makes it easier to cut vertical branches. About $200; STIHL
D. Troy-Bilt: The 8-inch bar has an extension pole that provides 11 feet of total reach. About $100; Troy-Bilt
Clear cut weeds and brush quickly with a sharp steel blade.
A. ECHO: The 8-inch-diameter wheel looks similar to a circular-saw blade and is often paired with a U-shaped handle for better control. About $100; ECHO
B. STIHL: Star-shaped teeth chew through the thickest grasses and weeds and protect the user with a plastic shield. About $80; STIHL
Use high-speed air to clean hard surfaces.
A. STIHL: The barrel shape of the blower funnels air straight down at 157 mph, making it easier to sweep without bending over. About $130; STIHL
B. Troy-Bilt: Comes with two nozzles so you can funnel air at 145 mph through a focused stream or fan tip. About $60; Troy-Bilt
Come as a curved or straight shaft; the latter provides more power.
A. ECHO: Cuts a 17-inch-wide swath with 50 percent more torque than the standard straight-shaft string trimmer attachment. About $109; ECHO
B. STIHL: The contoured head on the straight-shaft string trimmer (shown) is designed to maneuver around obstacles, such as rocks and bed edges in a 16-inch wide path. About $90; STIHL. The curved-shaft version is about $50.
C. Troy-Bilt: The curved-shaft string trimmer turns into a blower at the flip of a lever so you can blow an edge clean after trimming it. About $70; Troy-Bilt
Extension poles: Increase the reach of attachments like the pole saw and hedge trimmer.
A. Dethatcher: Steel tines rip pull up the dead thatch layer in a 22-inch-wide swath. About $300; ECHO
B. STIHL extensions: Offers two extensions, both providing 37 inches of reach. Steel (shown), about $65; and the much lighter carbon fiber extension, about $130; STIHL
C. Electric starter: Start your Troy-Bilt electric-start-capable trimmer with the flick of a switch and forget about pulling the ripcord. About $40; Troy-Bilt