Have you ever found yourself standing in your yard, looking over your lawn, and wondering if you should be using a lawnmower or a string trimmer to keep it looking at its best? It’s a tough decision if you’re not that well acquainted with yard work.
But by learning the differences between these two tools, you can streamline your lawn maintenance tasks to get the most out of them and make your life easier.
Lawnmowers and trimmers serve different purposes when it comes to yard maintenance. Mowers are perfect for cutting large areas of grass and achieving a uniform look throughout your lawn. Trimmers, on the other hand, work to get into tight spaces and clean up the edges of your lawn.
Whether you’re an experienced gardener or someone just getting to grips with a new lawn, this article will provide you with all you need to make the most out of your tools. So grab a cup of coffee and join me as we explore the key differences between lawnmowers and trimmers, and discover how to choose the right one for every task.
Lawn Mowers vs String Trimmers
Before we dive into the differences between mowers and trimmers (also known as weed eaters or whackers) and how they are best used, let’s start with a brief explanation of each tool.
Lawnmowers are the workhorses of the yard. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small push mowers to big ride-on models. Their main job is to cut large areas of grass quickly and efficiently.
Trimming, shaping, and edging are where the trimmer comes in handy. It’s a smaller, handheld tool that can get into tight areas that a mower can’t reach, like around trees and flower beds.
Both tools have their pros and cons. Lawnmowers require more upkeep and can be a bit more pricey to operate, but they can handle big jobs with ease. Trimmers, on the other hand, are more affordable and easier to maintain.
They also do a better job at edging and getting into tight spaces. However, they’re not built for cutting large areas of grass quickly.
Let’s look at each type of tool more closely to identify the jobs they’re best suited for.
Lawn Mowers – Types and Uses
Modern mowers come in a range of sizes and different types, but we can sort them into three broad categories to make it easier:
Manual Push (Reel) Mowers
Reel mowers are lightweight tools that you have to manually push across the lawn to make them work. The blades are arranged on a cylinder or reel that spins as you move forward and cut the grass with a scissor-like action against a static blade on the bottom.
Most typical consumer models don’t have an engine making them affordable and easy to use. Another big benefit is that they require very little maintenance. Check out this article if you want to learn more about these tools.
Rotary mowers powered by either a gas or electric engine are the most popular type among homeowners and for good reason. They’re powerful and versatile, and there are models available to fit most budgets.
The most basic rotaries require you to push them along yourself with the motor just used to spin the blade. However, many people go for a self-propelled model where the engine also powers the wheels, making them easier to push.
Ride-on mowers are larger machines such as lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers. They’re comfortable to use and have the added benefit of a seat but are very expensive to buy and run.
Types of Lawns Each Mower is Suited For
The mower that you choose will largely depend on the size of your lawn, the terrain, and the type of grass you’re cutting.
Push reel mowers are best suited to small lawns that are completely flat or with just a very gentle slope. They don’t cope well with bumpy lawns or long grass.
Rotary mowers that you manually push are suited to small to medium-sized lawns with relatively flat terrain. Self-propelled models will also work well on larger lawns or for those with hilly terrain.
All types of rotary mowers will cope with cutting down areas of longer or rougher grass as well.
Ride-on mowers are ideal for very large lawns or commercial properties with lots of areas to cover. If there are lots of obstacles, such as trees or flower beds, a zero-turn mower may be the best option to look into.
Pros and Cons of Using a Lawn Mower
- Easy To Maintain A Uniform Lawn: Lawnmowers are designed to provide an even, consistent cut across your entire yard. This not only looks good but also promotes healthy grass growth by allowing sunlight and nutrients to reach every part of your lawn.
- Options for All Yards and Budgets: From push reel mowers to self-propelled gas-powered models to powerful lawn tractors, there’s a lawnmower to fit every yard size and budget.
- Efficiency Over Large Areas: Self-propelled and riding mowers can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, making them ideal for quickly cutting large areas of grass.
- Limited Trimming Abilities: Mowers struggle to reach tight spaces, such as around trees, fences, or garden beds, making them less effective at trimming edges. For these tasks, a trimmer is often the better choice.
- Expensive: Purchasing a lawn mower can be a significant investment, especially if you opt for a high-quality, powered model. Additionally, the ongoing costs of fuel, maintenance, and repairs can add up over time.
- Storage Requirements: Lawnmowers typically require more storage space than trimmers, which can be a concern for those with limited garage or shed space.
- Environmental Impact: Gas-powered mowers produce emissions and can be noisy, which may be a concern for eco-conscious homeowners or those with strict neighborhood regulations. Electric mowers are a more environmentally-friendly option, but they may not have the power necessary for larger or tougher lawns.
Proper Use and Maintenance Tips for Lawnmowers
One of the biggest drawbacks of mowers is that they require a lot of maintenance to keep them running properly. You also need to know how to use one properly to operate it safely.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you get the best out of your equipment.
Safety Precautions: Before using your mower, be sure to inspect it for any damage or wear and tear. Always wear proper safety gear, such as goggles and ear protection plus sensible clothes. For more info, check out my collection of the most important lawnmower safety tips.
Mow In Regular Patterns: When mowing, be sure to follow a regular pattern for a neat finish and to avoid missing any areas of grass.
Don’t Mow Wet Grass: Avoid mowing when the grass is wet as this can result in a poorer cut and will clog up your lawnmower as well.
Trim Long Grass First: If the grass is very long then it’s best to use a weed eater first to cut it down to a manageable length.
Maintain Your Mower: Finally, regularly clean and maintain your mower, including sharpening the blades, changing the oil and air filter if it has an engine, and storing it in a dry, covered area.
String Trimmers – Types And Uses
In this section, I’ll dive into the world of trimmers, exploring the various types available, their suitable tasks, pros and cons, and proper use and maintenance tips.
String trimmers use a spinning nylon string to cut through grass and weeds. Also called weed eaters, weed whackers, nylon trimmers, or rotary trimmers (plus a few more variations!), they all refer to the same type of garden tool.
Available as either gas-powered or electric models, each type offers different levels of power and convenience.
Often preferred by professionals, gas-powered trimmers pack a punch when it comes to power and efficiency. They’re ideal for larger yards and heavy-duty trimming tasks.
Electric trimmers are available in corded and cordless models. Corded trimmers are lightweight and low-maintenance, while cordless models offer the convenience of portability without the hassle of dragging a power cord around the yard.
What Yard Maintenance Tasks Are Trimmers Best For?
String trimmers in general are perfect for trimming around obstacles, such as trees, flower beds, and fences. They are also great for edging along sidewalks and driveways, giving your yard a crisp, clean appearance.
Gas-powered weed eaters are powerful machines that are well-suited for tackling overgrown grass, thick weeds, and brush. They are ideal for larger yards or properties with rough terrain where a lawnmower may struggle.
Electric trimmers on the other hand are more suitable for small to medium-sized yards with lighter trimming needs. These weed whackers are perfect for maintaining garden borders, trimming around obstacles, and general upkeep without the noise and emissions of a gas-powered model.
The Pros and Cons of Using Trimmers
- Precision: Trimmers allow you to reach tight spaces and carefully shape your yard with accuracy, where lawnmowers might struggle.
- Lightweight: Most trimmers are lighter and easier to maneuver than mowers, making them perfect for smaller or sloped yards.
- Versatility: With various attachments available, trimmers can double as edgers, brush cutters, and more.
- Limited Cutting Width: Trimmers have a smaller cutting width compared to lawnmowers, meaning they may not be the best choice for tackling large areas of grass.
- Physical Effort: Trimming can be more physically demanding, as it often requires holding the tool for extended periods and bending or stooping to reach certain areas.
- Untidy Finish: It’s almost impossible to get a neat, manicured finish to your lawn if you use a weed whacker to cut it.
Can You Mow Your Lawn With A Trimmer?
If your mower is out of action, you can definitely give your lawn a trim with a string trimmer, but it’s very easy to scalp the grass if you’re not careful. It will also take you much longer to do a large lawn.
As I mentioned in the ‘Cons’ section above, it’s almost impossible to get the same type of uniform finish with a weed whacker that you get with a mower, but if you have nothing else to use it’s worth a try.
Proper Use and Maintenance Tips for Trimmers
Safety First: Trimmers always fling up stones and dust no matter how careful you are so always wear appropriate protective gear, such as safety glasses, gloves, and closed-toe shoes. Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using your trimmer.
Maintain the Cutting Line: Replace the trimmer line as needed to ensure clean, even cuts. Regularly inspect the line for tangles and wear and tear and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for replacement.
Clean Your Trimmer: After each use, clean debris from the trimmer head, cooling fins, and air filter to prevent clogging and overheating. For gas-powered models, check the spark plug and replace it if necessary. For a more detailed guide on how to clean your trimmer, you can check out this article.
Store Properly: When not in use, store your weed eater undercover away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. For electric models, remove the battery before storing.
Periodic Maintenance: For gas-powered trimmers, schedule regular tune-ups and oil changes as recommended by the manufacturer. Keep an eye on the air filter and fuel lines, replacing them as needed.
By now, you have most likely come to the conclusion that you need both of these garden tools at your disposal to make yard chores easier when asking yourself if you need a trimmer or a lawnmower.
You can cut the grass on your lawn with a trimmer if you’re in a pinch but don’t expect the finish to be anywhere near as good as when using a mower of some kind. On the flip side, there are jobs such as clearing areas of tall grass and weeds that are best left to a weed eater.
So the best advice I can give is to purchase both a lawnmower and a trimmer so that you are able to tackle all the grass and weed-cutting jobs around your yard with ease.
With affordable options on the market for both types of machines, a little bit of research on the best ones for your yard will mean that you can obtain both without breaking the bank.