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

Taking care of a lawn is a challenging task. Some would think it only requires some watering and mowing, but a lot goes into achieving a green and lush-looking lawn. Aside from the water systems, mowers, fertilizers, and herbicides, there are other tools that can be used to make it look as if professionals did your yard. 

Some examples of these tools are string trimmers and lawn edgers. These two can be easily confused with one another because they have similar functions such as taking care of the areas and edges that mowers can’t trim. That’s why some people may use one for the other, which would still work, but each one produces a different result and is designed to get a specific task done easier and faster than the other.

Continue reading to find out if you need a string trimmer or an edge trimmer (or maybe both) so you can achieve that well-manicured tidy lawn.

What is a String Trimmer?

A string trimmer is a lightweight and easy-to-use lawn tool used for removing grass and weeds. Aside from string trimmer, some people also call this device a line trimmer, weed eater, or weed wacker.

This tool has a long shaft and a rotating head at the bottom which rapidly spins a string or flexible line, allowing it to efficiently and easily cut through grass and weeds. This string or line is spun at a high velocity, so it’s important to wear protective gear such as eye masks, earmuffs, gloves, pants, and boots when using it to prevent injuries. 

As mentioned, string trimmers have a shaft, which varies between two types: straight and curved. Straight shafts tend to offer more length, making it easier to reach around fences or under shrubs. On the other hand, some people prefer curved shafts because it feels more comfortable to hold.

Source: Amazon

When do you use a String Trimmer?

If we have lawnmowers to cut grass, why do we need a string trimmer?

Since lawnmowers tend to be bulky, it can be difficult to mow areas near fences, steps, sidewalks, driveways, and pathways. To remove grass and weeds in these spots, you will need a string trimmer. It has a compact head that can easily reach these areas, helping you keep your lawn level and well-manicured. You can also use string trimmers to remove grass or weeds that grew through the cracks in your driveway, sidewalk, and other paved areas.

If you have shrubs, flower beds, and trees, it can also be difficult to mow the space around them. With string trimmers, you can safely trim around your garden beds and other plants. You also won’t be able to properly mow irregular or unleveled parts of your yard with a lawnmower, unlike with string trimmers.

You might be thinking that you won’t need a lawnmower anymore, but it would be difficult to cut your entire lawn with just a string trimmer because it has a small cutting width. String trimmers are best used after mowing your lawn - so yes, you will still need a lawnmower. This device will help you level the grass and achieve that well-manicured look by fixing the spots that your lawnmower has missed.

Different Types of String Trimmers

There are two basic kinds of string trimmers: gas-powered and electric. The electric type can be further divided into corded and cordless. Choosing the right type depends on your preferred power, portability, noise level, and the size of your yard and type of terrain.

Gas-Powered String Trimmer

This type of string trimmer is portable and more powerful than the other types. I’ve mentioned that string trimmers have a small cutting width, and gas-powered ones have the largest cutting swath, making it the easiest to use when cleaning a large lawn. They also have longer run time than cordless or battery-powered string trimmers.

Source: Amazon

Unfortunately, there are also some drawbacks. Gas-powered string trimmers tend to be louder than electric ones, as well as emit fumes. You will also have to deal with refilling it with gas and oil. This kind is more expensive than the other types - so if you really want a more powerful and portable string trimmer, then the price would be worth it.

Corded Electric String Trimmer

If you’re on a budget or have a smaller yard, you can opt for a corded electric string trimmer. It will produce less noise and won’t emit fumes. This type is also lightweight, but you will have to give up on portability. You will need an extension cord - or several - so you can reach all areas of your yard.

Corded electric string trimmers also have less power and are capable of smaller cutting swaths. This means it may be difficult to clean a whole yard unless you have plenty of outdoor outlets or longer extension cords.

Cordless or Battery-Powered String Trimmer

If you prefer electric ones with more portability, there are also cordless string trimmers on the market. These ones are smaller and can be easily stored.

It runs on batteries, so there might be times that you have to stop working on your lawn so you can change the battery pack or recharge it. You can buy a spare battery pack so that the short run time won’t become a disadvantage.

Note: The string used in trimmers can also differ in thickness, but not all string trimmers accept different sizes. So if you want to experiment with this, look for a model that can accommodate varying thicknesses. 

What is a Lawn Edger?

A lawn edger is a tool used to define the lines between the lawn and other areas of your yard such as garden beds, pathways, driveways, and sidewalk. It has a blade that neatly cuts overhanging grass or weeds, perfectly separating the turf from these paved areas.

Source: Amazon

Basically, it creates distinct boundaries around and inside your lawn. This device can be manual or motorized.

When do you use a Lawn Edger?

Does your yard still look sloppy even after mowing, weeding, and raking it? Even after all these, if you don’t take care of the small thin overhanging grass at the edges of your turf, your yard won’t have that well-manicured look.

You won’t be able to take care of these edges with a lawnmower, especially since you can’t mow the sides of driveways, sidewalks, pathways, and other paved areas. You also won’t be able to neatly remove the grass near fences or around shrubs without damaging them. 

If you want to see those crisp and defined lines in your yard, you should get a lawn edger.  Lawn edgers are designed to create tidy and sharp edges between your lawn and paved surfaces. It is also used to fix the edging of flower beds and around the mailbox, making the divide look aesthetic. Based on the uses mentioned, the main purpose of a lawn edger is to make a lawn look more tidy and aesthetically-pleasing.

Different Types of Lawn Edgers

Similar to string trimmers, lawn edgers can be gas-powered or electric-powered. If you prefer not to use gas or electricity, there are also manual lawn edgers.

Manual Lawn Edger

Some people prefer using manual lawn edgers because they are simple and easy to use. This type can either be spade-based or roller-based. Manual lawn edgers with a spade look like an ax while roller-based ones have a wheel covered with spikes.

Aside from simplicity, manual lawn edgers are also less expensive, lower maintenance, and more durable. You don’t have to worry about refilling gas, finding an outlet, or replacing different parts. These are also easy to store and can be used anytime and anywhere.

On the downside, you will have to exert more effort when edging your lawn, especially if you have a big yard.

Gas-Powered Lawn Edger

If you tend to have thick grass or plenty of weeds around the edges of your lawn or you have a big yard, it’s better to get a gas-powered lawn edger. It would be taxing on you if you deal with heavy grass with just a manual lawn edger.

Source: Amazon

But it will still be tiring to use gas-powered ones because it tends to be heavier than the other types. That’s why some look for a model that comes with a fourth wheel. This device is also more stable, making it easier to edge straightly and go through your lawn.

This kind also produces louder noise than electric lawn edgers and can be a tad more expensive. If you don’t need to do heavy-duty trimming, you will be able to purchase a price-friendly but durable gas-powered lawn edger.

Electric-Powered Lawn Edger

If you prefer a quieter and more environment-friendly contraption, an electric-powered lawn edger is a good alternative. It combines the benefits of manual and gas-powered lawn edgers, well, some of them. 

Source: Amazon

Electric-powered lawn edgers can either be corded or battery-powered. Battery-powered ones offer the same portability as the other types, but it won’t produce the same power as lawn edgers that run on gas. On the other hand, corded lawn edgers are not as portable, but these offer more power than lawn edgers running on battery.

Both types are lightweight, small, and produce less noise, but won’t be as powerful as gas-powered lawn edgers. This means it would be challenging to work on edges of thick grass and weeds with an electric lawn edger.

String Trimmer? Lawn Edger? Or Both?

To help you decide which one you need for your home, let’s find out their other functions and the difference between the two devices.

Can a String Trimmer be used for Edging or Lawn Edgers for Trimming?

Aside from trimming grass, some string trimmers can also be used for edging. You can even find string trimmers that are also designed for edging. To edge your yard, you can turn the tool sideways so that the string is upright or vertical. When you use it for trimming, the rotating string has a similar orientation as a flying frisbee. When using it for edging, the rotating string would be oriented similarly to windmill blades. Once you got it upright, usually with a change of grip, you can use it to trim the edges.

It doesn’t apply to all types of string trimmers because there are some models that have wheels, so you won’t be able to turn it sideways. The same can be said for some lawn edgers, which may have wheels or be bulky that it can’t be oriented differently. 

It is difficult to use lawn edgers to trim grass in flat areas, especially if you have a manual one. You’ll have a hard time properly trimming open spaces or greenery that grew through cracks of paved areas with just a single blade nor will you be able to do it with a roller.

Differentiating the Two

If string trimmers can do edge work, why would you still need a lawn edger? String trimmers can help define boundaries in your yard, but you can only achieve that perfect crisp edge with a lawn edger. A string trimmer is usually used as a follow-up to maintain the edge you have created with a lawn edger.

So when you’re initially edging your yard, it’s best to use a lawn edger. Since this device is more stable, it makes it easier to define and cut a neat edge. With string trimmers, the results can be untidy, so you’ll have to do more work.

Benefits of Owning A...

String Trimmer

  • Being able to easily remove the grass and weeds in any area
  • It is suitable for cutting grass and weeds in unleveled or irregularly-shaped areas
  • If you have long grass near the edges, you can use this device to trim it before edging
  • This can be used to maintain boundary lines after achieving the perfect edge with a lawn edger

Lawn Edger

  • Defines boundary lines between the lawn and other paved areas or around garden beds and mailboxes
  • It produces cleaner and straighter lines when edging a yard
  • Best used for initial edging to avoid untidy or crooked edges
Kenneth Wilson
March 2, 2020
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Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.