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I am planning to buy a weed eater/trimmer + edger but I am confused with the terms that are used. Is a weed eater the same as a trimmer? If not, what is the difference between the two?

Also, any insights as to what to look for when buying a weed eater/trimmer + edger would be very helpful.

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Weed Eater is the brand name of the first string trimmers. These days, people use Weed Eater and trimmer interchangeably the same way most people call facial tissue Kleenex (even though Kleenex is only one brand of facial tissue) or they say then need to Xerox something (even though Xerox is only a brand of copier).

As for insights into what to look for - it really depends on what you'll be using it for. Electric trimmers are usually lighter so they are easier to carry and maneuver but you are limited to the range of your extension cord (or the time of your battery charge if it's cordless). Gas trimmers usually have a bit more torque so you can use them on heavier foliage (and can also swap in saw blades, etc for doing shrubs and what not).

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    If weight is an issue, you can get a shoulder-strap lanyard thing for about $10. – Scivitri Jul 10 '12 at 18:56
  • There are heavier-duty electrical (even cordless) power-heads, that allow using same interchangeable head attachments. – theUg Aug 8 '13 at 15:26
  • Just for the record, although you didn't ask, 'Weed wacker' seems to be a synonym for weed trimmer. At first I thought it was a brand, as with 'Weed Eater', but I didn't find anything to confirm it, and people are saying it's a generic term. – Shule Jun 8 '17 at 15:19
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I'm going to answer this part of your question:

Also, any insights as to what to look for when buying a weed eater/trimmer + edger would be very helpful.

I'm by no means an expert, but having played with head replacement lately, I'll try some advice.

The main body of the trimmer will likely have options for larger engine sizes, which might limit the size of brush it can be used to cut. This will principally be a factor of the installed head, however. Also, different power source/fuel mixtures can be easier to work with. Personally, I'd like a 4-stroke engine so I can use the same gas tank as my lawn mower, but I've currently got a 2-stroke unit. Different 2-stroke engines require different fuel-oil ratios. I don't know that any engine functions significantly better, but things to take note of while looking.

There are many different types of head you can get for a trimmer. A string head works decently on small brush and heavy grasses, while a bladed head can cut thicker stalks. Heavier bladed heads can cut thicker brush. If you're planning to use this device for multiple purposes, look for something which can easily swap heads. If you're adding a bladed head, look for something in which blades can easily be replaced.

I've seen several bladed heads which say not to use them vertically. I'm not sure how much overlap their is between string trimmers and lawn edgers, but if you'd like to do both I'd definitely research carefully before purchasing.

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Weed Eater is a brand name but it's also become the generic term for a string trimmer. The one you need really depends on the size of your lawn and how tough the stuff is that you're going to need to trim. For a smaller lawn and grass trimming an electric weed eater will be your best bet from a price / performance point. For larger lawns and tougher weeds or brush you're better of going for a gas trimmer. If you're after serious power then get a commercial 2-cycle gas trimmer like one listed here: http://www.knowitalllearning.com/best-commercial-weed-eater/ If you don't mind about having power output bragging rights then a 4-cycle trimmer will be fine. You'll save your ears and the environment and still do plenty of damage to those weeds. If you want to go really green then get a decent battery powered weed eater. The good ones cost a few hundred dollars but work really well.

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I have been using string trimmers (this is what we call a “weed eater”) 5 days a week during the growing season on my lawn crew for 10+ years.

It does definitely depend on your budget and the size of the area you will be using it on and thus how many hours / season it will be used.

IMO if you can afford it- going with a stihl multi tool may be an excellent choice. They allow you to have a detachable half shaft with a string trimmer, or edger. Additionally you can buy hedge trimmer, brush cutter, and even lawn dethatcher half shafts and more. In terms of what particular one to buy- generally speaking I want the model with the best power (engine CCs) to weight (power head weight) ratio you can afford and seems reasonable for The application.

We have some stihl string trimmers that are so powerful you can practically cut down small trees with trimmer line (there’s a little hyperbole here but they are very powerful) but are quite a bit heavier than our other stihl trimmers which do quite well at trimming / edging but I wouldn’t want to use to trim down a hillside of 4’ tall grass (for instance).

If stihl is out of the budget echo has some nice widely available (in my area) string trimmers and combi units (with the detachable half shaft) in the “prosumer” price ranges. There are even some shindaiwa / red max replicants (can’t recall brand names right now) that have really attractive price points and I have seen perform well for friends in the lawn care business.

Hope this helps!

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