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Brush Cutter vs String Trimmer: Which Is The Best For Your Job

Do you have a yard space overrun with weeds and brush? Or perhaps you have a deck (like I do) with a corner that the mower just can’t quite get into. What you need is a string trimmer, or weed wacker, or wait…maybe it’s a brush cutter?

What in the world is the difference? To simplify, a string trimmer IS a weed wacker, and the term ‘weed wacker’ was originally the first brand name of a common string trimmer- created to get into those hard-to-reach places where weeds love to flourish.  A Brush Cutter serves a similar purpose, although, depending on the type of vegetation you need to cut, can be a much more powerful tool.

Both have a variety of different makes and models to choose from, and they both take care of your pesky overgrown areas, but you’ll need to weigh in on what is best for your space as you read on below.

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String Trimmer vs Brush Cutter Comparison Table

ModelCutting MaterialWeightPriceUsed for
String TrimmerNylon LineLightweightCosts start around $30Cuts grass and heavy weeds
Brush Cutter Metal BladeHeavy and require a body harnessCosts start around $150Cuts grass, heavy weeds, thick brush, and small trees

String Trimmer

Pros

  • Available in gas, electric corded, and battery cordless for economic efficiency
  • Can use it as a lawn edger and other hard to reach places
  • Generally light and easy to operate

Cons

  • Line breaks easily if not used correctly
  • Cannot handle brush or thicker weed stems
  • Turns small rocks into projectiles

Brush Cutter

Pros

  • Versatile use with different blade attachments
  • Powerful enough to cut brush and small trees
  • Gets into hard to reach places

Cons

  • Very specific cutting zone, can kick back
  • Cumbersome for large areas
  • Can thow materials back at the user

String Trimmers: Why Own One?

To start, string trimmers come in a variety of different versions. The more expensive models are the gas powered (2 or 4-cycle engine), and can get rather costly, but these can’t be beat when you have large areas to spruce up or yard to edge.

The more economical versions include the electric corded and battery operated, some running less than $50. Both are excellent choices for smaller yards, or for spaces that don’t require a lot of maintenance (or depending on your choice, extension cord reach).
Electronic versions, however, aren’t typically as powerful as the gas powered models. If thick grasses and heavy weed trimming are part of your yard maintenance, you might want to consider spending a little more money to save yourself the trouble of having to take care of the problem spots by hand.

Design

All varieties are similar in shape and size, and have a straight or curved shaft with a rotating head to which a nylon string attachment is connected. The main power is at the opposite end with a handle and hand grips of some sort in between.

They are made for ease of use, and speaking personally as a woman of only 5’4” stature, I find I have no trouble using one for long periods of time as they are lightweight and not at all bulky. The only issue I have had is with the various string line feed housings. Most come with a system that feeds the string as you wear it out, and then you have to restring the spool when it’s gone. I suggest buying a generic pivot style head as they are much more durable and make restringing easy if your model allows a replacement of the string housing.

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You might also be  interested in: Brush Cutter Reviews

However, not all models have this availability, so if you are in need of knowing how to restring your spool, this video makes it simple for most homeowner models:

Use

String trimmers were invented for the sole purpose of getting at weeds and brush that lawnmowers couldn’t reach, and to save you the trouble of having to break out the grass and pruning shears. They are fantastic for getting along the edges of the house, decks, fence lines, etc, as well as for lawn edging along drives and walkways, and for irregular sloped areas that may contain rocks or other obstructions impossible to mow.

Watch How It’s Used

Brush Cutters: What the Difference?

Brush cutters are basically a souped up version of a string trimmer with more horsepower and metal blade rather than a nylon string. Most brush cutters are a 2-cycle gas engine, and run significantly more than a string trimmer cost wise, so you’ll want to determine if your space calls for this type of machinery before you commit to a purchase.

Most places of purchase will put your brush cutter together for you as well, and attach the handlebar and your blade of choice, as well as give you a quick overview of use and safety if you ask. And safety IS important when operating this type of machinery since the metal blade will only cut in one direction, and can offer kick-back if used incorrectly.

Design

Brush cutters have a longer shaft for a larger working range than a string trimmer, and are equipped with an angled handlebar for control. They also are used with a harness to provide comfort and efficiency through weight distribution as they are much heavier than a string trimmer.  
They also come with a variety of blade attachments depending on what you need it for. Some models even allow you to cut through branches to trim up a tree rather than cut it down with special saw attachments. This is especially useful for low areas where a chainsaw may not be practical.

Use

A brush cutter is more powerful than a string trimmer, and although can clear grasses and weeds, or edge a walkway with the correct accessories, they are made for much more dense types of brush and undergrowth, and can even cut down small trees.

This is the machine you want if you have large, unruly areas that have more than what a lawn mower or string trimmer can handle. Brush, sapling, and tall weeds are easily cleared using a brush cutter, and hard to reach places can be accessed as well.
Whereas a brush cutter is incredibly effective, they are exhausting to use since your entire body is supporting the weight of the machine and the consequential vibration that is consistent with its use. I find it to be cumbersome, and too long in length for a person of my stature to use for any serious length of time, and if you are looking to clear a large open area, it is much more effective to hire a service to brush hog the space for you and go back in to clear up the edges if needed. A brush hog, or rotary cutter, is pulled behind a tractor to clear large areas of space of weeds and brush.

Watch How It’s Used

Which is Best For You?

If you are only looking to keep your fence lines cleaned up, walkways trimmed, and hard to access areas mowed down, than a good string trimmer is your best choice. Personally my 2-cycle string trimmer is invaluable, and even though a do a have a large half acre space that grows to thick weeds regularly, it is much more economical and budget friendly to hire out a company a few times a year to keep that area mowed down for me – plus my body thanks me!

You’ll need to determine which choice is best for your job before making a decision, as well as what you are looking at concerning a budget since a simple electric string trimmer can start at $30, but a good brush cutter is going to run close to $200 or more. However, if you have heavy brush and areas that grow to thick weeds, and you don’t want to hire out to keep the area mowed down, then a brush cutter is most likely what you are going to need.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and we’ll get back to you with any answers you need. And as always, feel free to share!

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!

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