Brushcutter or Grass Trimmer: Which One Should I Use In My Garden?

Brushcutter in Use
Once the summer growing season is well under way, the grass is at its longest and lushest, meaning a brushcutter or line trimmer is almost essential.

Line trimmers and brushcutters (sometimes collectively known as “stick trimmers”) are vital parts of the horticultural armoury, but to the newcomer the sheer variety of machines on the market today can be baffling. There is, for example, a big difference between a lightweight domestic grass trimmer designed for tidying up long grass and weeds around the garden and a heavy duty industrial brushcutter, which is better suited for quick clearance of dense scrub and undergrowth on undeveloped land.

As such it is important to do a little research before making a purchase. Luckily there are a few simple considerations which will help ensure that you make the right decision and herein we will go over a few of the basics, including your preferred power source, the cutting equipment and the way in which different handle types can make a big difference when taking on challenging jobs. First off, the power source…

Electric Corded Grass Trimmers

The power source used by your grass trimmer or brushcutter will go a long way to determining the kind of vegetation you can cut and the size of the area you can maintain effectively. The power source will also make a big difference to your user-experience; electric machines, for instance, are quieter, cleaner and more straightforward to use than petrol machines but typically lack the power for tougher professional work. As such the power source should be your first consideration when picking a new trimmer.

Bosch Electric Grass Trimmer
Electric grass trimmers offer excellent power and cutting performance in a clean and easy to use package.

Those with smaller gardens are almost certainly best served by one of the many excellent electric grass trimmers on the market these days. These machines are reassuringly easy to use and maintain, so even inexperienced gardeners will be able to achieve great results. Built for convenience and manoeuvrability, electric grass trimmers are easy to handle and designed for trimming long grass, nettles and weeds in a domestic setting. Owning an electric trimmer will also allow you to tidy up in areas which are difficult to access with a conventional lawnmower, such as along lawn borders or around ornaments, ensuring a truly pristine finish in every corner of your garden.

Corded models are by far the most common type of electric grass trimmer and are suitable for the majority of smaller home gardens, allowing you to simply plug into the mains and set to work. Bosch is the current king of the corded electric grass trimmer, with machines like the ART 23 Easytrim providing a great option for first-time buyers on a budget. Other manufacturers also produce electric trimmers worthy of your attention though; Efco’s 8091 electric grass trimmer, for instance, benefits from the inclusion of a flexible steel shaft with a self-lubricating liner to help guarantee consistently excellent cutting results for years to come.

Cordless Trimmers & Brushcutters

Those with larger gardens or complicated lawns, however, might find that being tethered to a mains power outlet is unhelpful. If this is the case in your garden, you should consider the benefits of battery power. Modern cordless trimmers feature hi-tech lithium-ion batteries to help ensure effective cutting even in tricky situations. This means that they can provide the cutting power and freedom to roam required for working in larger gardens, but without the extra hassle and expense of running a petrol machine.

Bosch Cordless Trimmer In Use
The ease of use and flexible nature of the cordless or battery powered grass trimmer makes them a favourite amongst urban gardeners.

Bosch is again the industry leader when it comes to battery-powered grass trimmers, with machines like the ART 26 LI boasting an enviable reputation for efficiency and ease of operation. Husqvarna’s 136 LiC, however, is proving that the cordless trimmer has a very important place in the future of home gardening thanks to its ergonomic design, powerful performance and long-lasting battery technology. In fact, battery technology has made such incredible advances lately that newer battery-powered brushcutters like Husqvarna’s 536 LiR, ECHO’s ESR-2300L and Bosch’s GFR 25 Professional are now proving that demanding commercial work can also be tackled quickly and efficiently without having to resort to a petrol machine.

Petrol Grass Trimmers & Brushcutters

Nevertheless, when it comes to challenging clearance work most professional users still prefer to use a petrol machine. This is because petrol grass trimmers and brushcutters are better suited to long days of constant use, making them ideal for trimming undergrowth and mowing in areas where grass is too long or rough to maintain with a lawnmower. Typically fitted with powerful two-stroke and four-stroke engines, ranging from around 25cc to more than 50cc in commercial-grade machines, petrol trimmers and brushcutters are what you will need when taking on serious cutting work.

Echo Brushcutter in Use
Petrol brushcutters are a must for clearing dense, heavy grass that would otherwise clog-up a rotary lawnmower within seconds.

However, petrol trimmers range significantly in terms of size, power and price, so the best machine for you will depend on your needs; spot trimming in large gardens and other expansive areas, for instance, can be easily tackled with a relatively lightweight machine such as Sanli’s manoeuvrable GTB26 line trimmer, while for the toughest cutting work a backpack mounted brushcutter, such as Honda’s UMR 435 T, will ensure the power and freedom of movement required to get the job done. There are plenty of options in between these two extremes too though, so you can be pretty sure of finding a petrol trimmer perfect for your requirements.

Cutting Equipment: Nylon Line vs. Metal Blades

Equally as important as the power source is the type of cutting equipment with which your stick trimmer is equipped. This will determine the kind of vegetation that you can cut, so when picking a machine you will first need a good idea of what kind of cutting work you will be doing. Broadly speaking your choice will be between a nylon line trimmer head and a metal brushcutter blade.

Portek Nylon Trimmer Head
The type of cutting device you use on your brushcutter will be determined by the nature of the vegetation you’re attempting to clear.

Nylon line trimmer heads are designed for cutting long grass and other light vegetation, so dedicated grass trimmers will come with these as standard. These days most nylon line trimmer heads also incorporate a variety of user-friendly features to enable quick loading and advancement of the cutting line. The new ‘Load & Go’ trimmer head from Efco, for instance, features both semi-automatic line advancement (enabling you to advance the cutting line to an optimal working length by simply tapping the trimmer head against the ground) and a quick-loading system which allows the reel to be replaced in around twenty seconds without any additional tools. User-friendly systems like this therefore ensure that you can work efficiently without wasting time and effort on fiddly maintenance procedures.

Brushcutter blades, on the other hand, will tear through denser vegetation with ease, so if you expect to be taking on challenging cutting work you will need a machine capable of accepting a metal blade. Many brushcutters come with both a nylon line trimmer head and a blade as standard, allowing you to switch between the two to suit the job at hand. Others are capable of accepting a blade as an optional extra, so even if you don’t have plans to clear any scrub for the time being it is definitely worth checking whether the machine you are buying is compatible for the future.

Handles: D-Loop vs. U-Style

If you’ve followed this guide so far hopefully you now have a better idea of the type of stick trimmer that will suit your needs. Another important consideration, however, is the type of handle on your machine. This will have a major impact on the manoeuvrability of your trimmer, so it is vital to pick a machine suited to the application for which it is needed, especially if you will be using your trimmer for extended periods of time or for specialised jobs, such as clearing expansive areas of long grass or conducting precision spot trimming.

Honda Brushcutter_Loop Handle
Loop handle brushcutters are best suited to applications where controlled cutting is of premium importance.

As a general rule, dedicated grass trimmers come equipped with a D-loop handle. These handles are designed for comfort and accurate cutting, thereby ensuring that you will stay in complete control when trimming lawn borders or working in confined spaces. Due to the ubiquity of D-loop handles on this kind of machine, however, you’ll likely want to pay more attention to additional ergonomic features designed to improve comfort during operation, such as the full anti-vibration system boasted by Shindaiwa’s user-friendly T243XS petrol grass trimmer.

Your choice of handle becomes more important if you are buying a powerful brushcutter for heavier cutting work. Machines with D-loop handles benefit from the same precision as grass trimmers, making them ideal for spot clearance when tidying up thistles, nettles and brambles in larger gardens. A D-loop handle will also ensure freedom of movement, so these machines are good for working on uneven ground or embankments. Alternatively, you could invest in a machine with a bike-style U-handle, which will be better suited to clearance of large amounts of long grass.

Honda Brushcutter_Wide-Grip Handle
The wide-grip style of handle is most useful where large areas of vegetation can be cleared using a side-to-side scything motion.

We can see the difference that this can make when we compare two otherwise similar machines, such as Efco’s powerful DS 3800 S and DS 3800 T brushcutters. Both come with hardworking 36.3cc two-stroke petrol engines and a choice of nylon line or brushcutter blade for effective cutting in a range of situations, but the DS 3800 S is fitted with a D-loop handle and the DS 3800 T comes with a U-style dual handlebar. Thus, while the DS 3800 S is great for spot trimming, the DS 3800 T enables an efficient scything motion for mowing in open areas, while also ensuring optimal working posture at all times. A U-style, wide-grip handle is therefore a must have when taking on heavier grass cutting workloads, as it will prevent muscle strain over prolonged periods of operation.

Hopefully this brief overview has clarified a few of the mysteries surrounding grass trimmers and brushcutters and you now have a better idea of the kind of machine that will best serve your needs. If you’d like any more advice though, please feel free to contact us here at Lawnmowers Direct and our friendly sales team will answer any questions you might have.