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String Trimmer vs. Lawn Edger: Which One Do You Need?

Grainger Editorial Staff

String Trimmer vs. Lawn Edger

When it comes to lawn maintenance, the right tool can make all the difference. Edgers and trimmers are versatile tools that help you reach hard-to-mow places and give your yard a professionally landscaped look. But with so many options, what’s the difference between an edger and a trimmer and do you really need both?

Trimming vs. Edging: What’s the Difference?

Lawn trimmers and edgers are both designed to help you with landscaping or gardening, but they have quite a few differences, including their primary uses, construction and versatility. Use our guide to explore the key differences between trimmers and edgers to determine which is best for the job at hand. 

String Trimmers

String trimmers use a flexible line to clip grass and weeds around trees and along flowerbeds, fences, buildings and other barriers. Trimmers can perform detailed landscaping in areas lawn mowers can’t reach. Light and heavy-duty field trimmers, brush cutters and multi-tool attachment trimmers are designed to tackle thick brush, tough weeds and tall grass. 

Types of Trimmer Heads

There are several different types of string trimmer heads available:

Traditional/Fixed-line Trimmers: This is the most common model. It contains a spool of string inside and works by cutting the string lines according to the length required for the given task. Some trimmers come with a preloaded spool. Otherwise, you will manually feed line through the holes on the trimmer head (approximately 6 inches) or insert a precut line. Every time the string wears down, the trimmer head either automatically advances the string or sometimes the user needs to manually move the string. 

Bump Feed Trimmers: These require the user to gently bump the trimmer on the ground to feed the string. Bump feed trimmers work like traditional heads, except they’re spring-loaded and typically have a large button on the outside. Once the spool is loaded with string, you can bump the trimmer head against the ground to help advance the line each time it wears down without taking the head apart.

Locking Head Trimmers: These feature a simple disc with a hole through which you feed a shorter, precut length of string that locks into place. You simply replace any worn-out or broken line with another precut piece each time it wears down. However, you will need to purchase packages of precut string to replace it or cut it yourself from a larger spool. 

Shaft Type

String trimmers feature various shaft types, including straight, curved, flex-cable, foldable, multi-tool attachment and telescoping. Straight shaft trimmers are best for cutting hard-to-reach areas, whereas a curved shaft trimmer doesn’t reach as far, but it’s lighter and provides more control when trimming. The curved shaft is also more ergonomic, making it more comfortable to operate for extended periods. 

Lawn Edgers

Instead of a trimming line, a lawn edger uses a blade to cut up to 4.5 inches deep to help define your lawn’s edges and boundary lines. Similar to trimmers, edgers are available in curved and straight-shaft designs. Manual turf edgers are also available.

Not sure if your lawn needs a dedicated edger? Some trimmer models feature detachable heads and a variety of multi-tool attachments. This allows you to have various lawn tools at your disposal that won’t take up a lot of space. Replacing the head is simple; you just unlock the shaft, remove the tool head and place the other tool on the end of the shaft. While some trimmers and edgers can do the job of both tools, the overall results may not be as effective.

When to Use an Edger or Trimmer

Knowing when to use a string trimmer or an edger depends on a variety of factors. It’s important to consider the size of your lawn or garden, maintenance needs and overall budget. Use this chart to help you determine which tool is right for the job at hand to keep your lawn looking sharp. 

  Trimmer Edger
Usage Gets into hard-to-reach spots along lawn edges and around obstacles
Often used to remove weeds
Helps define edges of lawns and gardens along flowerbeds, walkways or pathways
Not meant to be used for weed removal 
Types Gas: 2-stroke, 4-stroke
Corded and cordless options
Trimmer/edger combination kits
No manual versions
Manual: Shear, Rotary, Spade
Gas powered
Electric powered
When to Use Used right after mowing to give grass a uniform appearance
May be used to clip grass along the edge of a lawn or garden before an edger is used
Should be used after mowing and trimming
May not be efficient for large yards
Multi-Purpose Usage A string trimmer can sometimes double as an edger Edgers can’t be used as a trimmer
Frequency May be used often to maintain lawn shape, edge and to remove weeds May only be needed to edge a lawn once it starts to lose form

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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