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String Trimmer vs. Brush Cutter – Different Tools for Different Jobs

String Trimmer vs. Brush Cutter – Different Tools for Different Jobs

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Paul Brown

Looking out at your perfectly maintained lawn on a beautiful sunny day is probably one of the most enjoyable things you can do. For those who don’t yet have that lawn, however, the idea of handling what seems to be the jungle that’s your property may seem to be a nightmare. What tools do you need to get up and going, and what’s the difference between these tools?

The difference between string trimmers and brush cutters is that string trimmers use strips of nylon to cut through light vegetation and grass while brush cutters use a metal blade for cutting back thicker overgrowths like thick brush and small saplings.

You can buy these tools separately or opt for a multi-attachment yard tool that is capable of serving multiple roles. I own a Stihl Kombisystem that has attachments for both string trimmer and brush cutter. Read on to learn the major differences between string trimmers and brush cutters, along with the pros and cons of each tool.

String Trimmers: What They Are and What They Do

String trimmers, also referred to as weed whackers, are a specific type of handheld tool used for cutting back overgrowth in your backyard.

As the name suggests, string trimmers work by using a small nylon string to cut back growth in your backyard. This string, moving very quickly, cuts through relatively thin vegetation such as grass or weeds that may be growing in your backyard. They’re light, easy to use, and help cover a large distance in a short time.

String trimmer head (uses nylon strands for cutting).
String Trimmer Head

Important to note, however, is that string trimmers are only to be used for this trimming of small vegetation. The nylon string, though easy to replace, isn’t very durable.

What that means is that if you go over rocks or are trying to cut through another form of vegetation that’s too thick, you’ll likely not actually cut the vegetation and will just damage the nylon string. Though all you need to do to replace the string is pull more out from the storage compartment, it’s important to know.

Brush Cutters: What They Are and What They Do

Brush cutters, similar to string trimmers, are another handheld tool used to cut back overgrowth in your backyard, but the type of overgrowth it’s meant to cut is different. While it can be used on grass and weeds, brush cutters are to be used on thicker vegetation.

Unlike string trimmers, brush cutters have a metal blade that’s used to cut thicker items (source). If you have sumac bushes in your backyard, you’d want to use the brush cutter.

Brush Cutter uses a metal blade.
Brush Cutter Head

Brush cutters are also different from string trimmers in the fact that brush cutters are more durable than string trimmers. Because they have blades rather than just a nylon string, brush cutters can cut through thicker vegetation and will take more time to get dull or break when cutting smaller vegetation like weeds or grass. 

However, when using brush cutters, if the blade were to be damaged, then, unlike a string trimmer, you’d need to replace the blade.

String Trimmers vs. Brush Cutters: Pros And Cons 

Though both string trimmers and brush cutters share quite a few similarities, there are key differences between the two. Below is a complete list of the pros and cons of getting both a string trimmer and a brush cutter.

Pros of a String Trimmer

Cons of a String Trimmer

  • String trimmers are weaker and can cut through less. Since string trimmers only use a small nylon string, they aren’t nearly as strong as a brush cutter. This makes it so they can cut through less, thus limiting their use.
  • String trimmers turn small rocks into projectiles. Likely the worst part of a string trimmer is that they turn small rocks into projectiles that shoot at your legs. Though when these rocks hit you it’s not a serious safety concern, it can hurt fairly bad momentarily.

Pros of a Brush Cutter

  • Brush cutters use a blade so that they can cut through more dense vegetation. If you have an area full of thick growth or simply are trying to cut through thicker vegetation, brush cutters are able to quickly cut through these objects with one chop.
  • Brush cutters blades are more versatile. Just like a lawnmower, brush cutters have a number of different blades they can use to get the job done. This makes it so that they can cut a wider variety of things, and do a wider variety of jobs.

Cons of a Brush Cutter

  • Brush cutters are heavier and slightly harder to use. Since brush cutters use a blade and have more parts, they’re generally heavier and harder to use. This also makes it hard to use brush cutters over a large area.
  • Brush cutters throw materials back at the operator. While most string trimmers have a “grass guard” so that the cut materials don’t come back at an operator, brush cutters don’t. This makes them slightly more dangerous to use.

Final Thoughts

Though used for different things, string trimmers and brush cutters are very similar, both easy to use, and have a lot of similar uses. When considering which tool to purchase, think about what your lawn requires you to do. If unsure of the specific challenges your lawn will provide, getting a brush cutter might be the safer route to go.

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