Brushcutter buying guide

Brushcutter buying guide

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Petrol and electric brushcutters are designed to cut back tall grass, brambles and undergrowth. Bladed brushcutters are more powerful and often carried like a backpack but can also be wheeled, self-propelled, or included as a 4-in-1 multitool. Electric strimmers are typically mains-powered and used to maintain small gardens.

Important features

  • Petrol brushcutters
  • Electric brushcutters
  • Trimmer line and blades
  • Backpack or wheeled
  • Garden size
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How to choose the right brushcutter

Main types of brushcutters

Main types of brushcutters

Brushcutter characteristics

Task

Surface area

Brushcutter type

Power supply

Power rating

Cutting width

Borders, pathways, lawn edging

< 500 m²

Strimmer

Battery- or mains-powered brushcutter

250 to 1000 W

20 to 35 cm

Lawn edging; cutting back brambles, undergrowth and long grass.

< 2000 m²

Brushcutter

Electric or petrol (2 or 4 stroke engine)

1000 to 2000 W or 30 to 40 cc

25 to 40 cm

Cutting back brambles, undergrowth and tall and dense grass.

< 5000 m²

Backpack brushcutter

Petrol (2 or 4 stroke engine)

40 to 65 cc

30 to 40 cm

Cutting back brambles, undergrowth and tall and dense grass.

< 10000 m²

Self propelled brushcutter

Petrol (2 or 4 stroke engine)

250 to 200 cc

50 to 65 cm

Mowing; cutting through brambles, undergrowth and tall grass

< 10000 m²

Rough grass mowers

Petrol (2 or 4 stroke engine)

250 to 200 cc

50 to 65 cm

Cutting back brambles, undergrowth and tall and dense grass.

> 10000 m²

Ride on brushcutter

Petrol (2 or 4 stroke engine)

250 to 400 cc

70 to 100 cm

What is a brushcutter used for?

What is a brushcutter used for?

If you're hoping to remove undergrowth, trim brambles, clear a sloped area or even tidy up the edges of your garden, you’ll soon realise that a conventional lawnmower won't be the best tool for the job. Even an electric strimmer will only get you so far and in many instances what you really need is a brushcutter. These tools are best used alongside a lawnmower to cover areas that are tricky to access, have dense vegetation or are spread over very uneven terrain.

Designed to work on various types of terrain and to tackle different types of vegetation, your brushcutter will soon become your best friend in the garden! These tools are easy to operate and require little maintenance. You'll have the choice between:

  • an electric brushcutter;

  • a petrol brushcutter

  • a backpack brushcutter;

  • a wheeled brushcutter;

  • and a ride on brushcutter.

Follow our guide to find the best brushcutter for your needs.

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Brushcutter

Different types of brushcutters

A range of different brushcutters is available on the market and your choice of model will ultimately depend on the features of your garden.

Strimmer

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The strimmer is the baby of the brushcutting family. These tools can be mains- or battery-powered and are ideal for tidying up path edges and verges after mowing. An edge trimmer is able to cut through grass and soft plants with ease using round or square nylon line.

Lightweight and easy to use, strimmers are generally suited to smaller areas and have power ratings ranging from 250 to 1000W.

Basic brushcutters

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Handheld brushcutters can be electric or petrol powered (with a 2 or 4 stroke engine). They can be fitted with nylon line or blades and are a step up from a basic strimmer. Jobs like neatening up the edges of a lawn won't pose any problems, but these brushcutters should also be able to get through brambles and light undergrowth as long as the tool is designed to do so (a cutting blade will work best for these tasks). Work on steep or hilly terrain is also possible provided the area covers less than 2000 m².

The cutting width of this type of strimmer ranges from 25–40 cm Heavier than a basic strimmer but just as easy to use, the power rating of these tools sits between 1000 and 2000W for an electric model and 30 to 40cc for a petrol model.

Backpack brushcutters

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This type of brushcutter is equipped with a petrol engine (2- or 4-stroke) which is carried like a backpack. It is identical in every other respect to an electric strimmer. Wearing the engine on your back allows you to wield greater power (over 40cc), and means the brushcutter can be used to tackle larger areas (up to 5000 m²) and denser vegetation. The cutting width of these brushcutters varies from 30 to 40cm. This is the most suitable machine for rough terrain, heavy undergrowth and slopes. But beware that the engine can weigh up to 10kg!

Self propelled brushcutters

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Self propelled brushcutters are generally equipped with a 4-stroke engine with a 150–200cc capacity (or 3.5 to 6.5hp). These machines are ideal for large surfaces of up to 10,000 m² and might also be known as wheeled strimmers or wheeled brushcutters. This type of machine can feature a cutting width of up to 65cm and will effortlessly cut through tall grass, shrubs and thorny bushes. The chassis has a specially shaped nose which helps it to penetrate dense vegetation. Most models have large wheels for better traction on difficult terrain. That said, these brushcutters aren't very well suited to steep slopes or thick undergrowth.

Rough grass mowers

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A rough grass mower is almost identical to a wheeled brushcutter but it can also be used to mow grass and lawns.

Ride on brushcutters

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These models are similar to wheeled brushcutters, but offer more power (8 to 20hp).  A ride on brushcutter will do exactly the same job as other models but can handle larger areas of over 10,000 m².

The cutting width is also greater (over 90cm), making for quicker and easier cutting. However, these machines don't do very well on rough or sloping terrain.

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Petrol brushcutters

Which brushcutter is best for my garden?

Which brushcutter is best for my garden?

In addition to the type of vegetation you want to clear, you'll have to think about the size of your garden. After all, there's no point in investing in the most powerful model if you're dealing with less than 1000 m². We've compiled a quick size guide to help you choose.

Small areas

  • Small gardens measuring < 1000m²: a strimmer is perfect for tidying up the edges of your lawn.

Medium-sized areas

  • Medium-sized areas < 2,000m²: sloping and / or obstacle-strewn terrain; grass, small shrubs, brambles – choose a mid-range electric or petrol brushcutter.

  • Medium-sized areas < 5,000m²: very uneven terrain with undergrowth, shrubs and tree stumps – go for a high-powered petrol brushcutter with an engine capacity of over 40 cc. A backpack brushcutter is recommended.

Large areas

  • Large areas < 10,000m²: slightly sloping and / or obstacle-strewn land; tall grass, shrubs and brambles – a wheeled brushcutter is perfect. A self-propelled model will make life even easier.

  • Large areas < 10,000m²: slightly sloping and / or uneven terrain; tall grass, shrubs, brambles and a lot of grass – a rough grass cutter will perform these tasks to perfection. Again, a self-propelled model makes for less work.

  • Very large areas> 10,000m²: more or less flat terrain; all types of vegetation – ride on brushcutter recommended.

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Petrol strimmers

How to choose an electric brushcutter

Why opt for an electric brushcutter?

How to choose an electric brushcutter

For a small garden measuring under 1000 m² in a city or suburban area, an electric brushcutter is ideal. If you don't want to maintain a petrol engine and prefer a quieter, lighter, more energy efficient tool, choose an electric brushcutter. However, the most efficient electric model is less powerful than a petrol brushcutter and to get the same performance as a petrol brushcutter, you will pay more for an electric model.

Cordless brushcutters can be quite expensive if you are looking for similar performance to a petrol brushcutter.

Corded vs. cordless brushcutters

How to choose an electric brushcutter

The main advantage of a cordless brushcutter is that it can be moved around freely without the restriction of a power cord. A corded brushcutter is cheaper than a cordless model for the same performance and the absence of a battery does extend its service life. These tools are also lighter – about 3.5kg compared to 6 kg for a cordless model. The maximum cutting width of corded brushcutters is similar to battery-powered models (35cm). However, cordless brushcutters will usually be fitted with nylon lines as opposed to blades. Cordless brushcutters have a maximum battery life of around 4 hours, including the top-of-the-range models. The longest battery life is provided by models with a separate battery pack designed to be worn by the user in a harness (28Ah and 56V, approx.).

Main characteristics of an electric brushcutter

How to choose an electric brushcutter

Electric brushcutters can be compared using the same basic characteristics as petrol-powered brushcutters: motor performance (power rating), cutting tool and cutting width, battery life for cordless brushcutters and weight (which can be substantial for battery-powered models).

  • Power rating: 750 to 1400 W on average but up to 2000 W for the most powerful models.

  • Battery life and performance: 18 to 56 V (the higher the voltage, the more powerful the motor); 2.5 to 28 Ah (the higher the ampere hour rating, the longer the battery will last between charges - around 60 minutes to 4 hours depending on voltage and usage).

  • Cutting tool and width: 1.2 to 2.4mm nylon line with bump feed technology; 25 to 38 cm metal blades.

  • Weight: 3 kg for corded models and up to 6.5 kg for cordless models.

Strimmers vs. brushcutters: what is the difference?

How to choose an electric brushcutter

The main difference between strimmers and brushcutters comes down to the cutting head which differs depending on application. Garden edges and borders are difficult to access with a lawnmower. Similarly, lawnmowers will struggle to reach weeds around trees, near the walls of the home or by fences. Strimmers are fitted with nylon line and the cheapest models cost about £50.

There are a lot of different names for these tools with manufacturers referring to strimmers, trimmers, brushcutters, grass line trimmers or grass trimmers.

The simplest way to tell brushcutters and strimmers apart is to look at the cutting head and the power rating of the tool. If the tool is powerful enough to cut undergrowth, it is a brushcutter. On the other hand, if performance only allows you to cut grass then it is a strimmer.

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Electric brushcutters

Different types of brushcutter tools

Different types of brushcutter tools

One of the advantages of a basic electric brushcutter is that you can change the cutting head depending on the type of vegetation you're working with. As a general rule, these tools have either several interchangeable heads or a hub to which you can attach the tool of your choice.

Nylon line vs. blades

Nylon line vs. blades

Trimmer heads

  • Double-line trimmer head for grass, soft plants and finishing off a lawn.

  • Quadruple-line nylon head for tall or dense grass and small brambles.

3-tooth plastic blades

  • 3-tooth blades for tall, dense grass, small brambles and light undergrowth.

Metal blades

  • 3 to 7-tooth metal blades for powerful petrol brushcutters; can be used for clearing and trimming brambles, undergrowth and branches of up to 3 cm in diameter.

  • Circular blades for powerful petrol brushcutters; can be used for intensive clearing and trimming, and cutting thick brambles, dense shrubs and branches of up to 5 cm in diameter.

Watch out for flying stones and grit when using a blade head. Protect your hands with gloves and your face with safety goggles, a visor or even a helmet. Don't forget to protect your ears with ear defenders because petrol brushcutters can be pretty noisy!

The cutting blade on wheeled brushcutters generally cannot be swapped out with other types of blade. It is therefore essential to choose the right blade for the type of vegetation you have. As a general rule, the default option will be a 'multipurpose' blade that can take care of tall, dense grass, small brambles and undergrowth. 

If you have particularly dense vegetation, you might want to invest in a second set of specialist blades.

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Brushcutter blades

Backpack and handheld brushcutters: accessories and extra features

Backpack and handheld brushcutters: accessories and extra features

  • A harness or shoulder strap is required for safe and efficient handling.

  • A dual-handle model makes your tool easier to manoeuvre over steep, uneven and obstacle-strewn terrain.

  • Quick change heads for rapid switches from one job to another.

  • A four-stroke engine is easier to start as it has a lower compression ratio than a 2-stroke engine.

  • For heavy-duty work with a petrol strimmer, a large capacity fuel tank is a plus – especially for backpack models.

Self propelled brushcutters and rough grass mowers: accessories and extra features

Self propelled brushcutters and rough grass mowers: accessories and extra features
  • An adjustable handlebar is an advantage in terms of comfort, especially for intensive use.

  • Cutting height adjustments via the handlebar is also handy, especially when clearing large areas.

  • An emergency stop system to ensure safety.

  • Large wheels with a special tread design provide better traction. Choose a model with wheel bearings.

  • A wide deck and an adjustable ejector chute also enhance safety.

  • A mulching mode is very handy for rough grass mowers if you have a large grassy areas to deal with.

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Petrol lawnmowers

Ride on brushcutters: accessories and extra features

Ride on brushcutters: accessories and extra features
  • An adjustable cushioned seat combined with engine cut-out in case of falls will enhance your comfort and safety.

  • Hydrostatic transmission and an electromagnetic clutch make for a smoother drive.

  • Go for a model that offers differential locking and agricultural-type deep-tread tyres for difficult terrain and mud.

  • An integrated brake system is a good choice; professional models even have ABS to avoid skids.

  • A streamlined model that offers tight turns and a lower weight point will be easier to handle.

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Petrol lawnmowers

How to care for a brushcutter

General maintenance

How to care for a brushcutter

The cutting surface of all types of brushcutter must be cleaned down after each use. Decaying vegetation left on the machine can end up corroding the metal parts. It's also important to check that your cutting head is firmly secured on a regular basis.

For electric models, you should check the condition of your power cable before each use.

Petrol brushcutter maintenance

How to care for a brushcutter

The maintenance requirements of petrol-powered models are a little more complicated:

  • Check the oil level, air filter condition and fuel level before each use;

  • During use ensure that the air filter does not become clogged by grass or vegetation;

  • Clean the air filter every 3-4 times you refill the petrol tank;

  • Every 2–3 months, depending on how often you use your brushcutter, check the condition of the spark plug wire;

  • Once a year, change the spark plug, bleed the engine, and check the condition of the drive belts (for self propelled and ride on models).

How to use a brushcutter safely

Safety equipment

How to use a brushcutter safely

Brushcutters are relatively noisy tools, and can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Noise-cancelling ear defenders or earplugs are therefore a must. You'll also need work clothes and suitable shoes (such as safety shoes). A visor is also essential to protect your eyes and face.

Garden tools to keep your outdoor space clear

Garden tools to keep your outdoor space clear

Some other garden tools can be used to maintain green spaces and undergrowth, such as:

  • a chainsaw;

  • a hedge trimmer;

  • a leaf blower;

You can also complete your tool collection with a garden shredder and/or trailer or wheelbarrow to carry your plants. For more versatility, check out multitools like 4-in-1 brushcutters which work as a brushcutter, hedge trimmer, pruner and strimmer all in one.

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Brushcutters and accessories

More information on gardening

 
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Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres, I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. For 4 years now, I am restoring and building an extension to a bungalow in the heart of the Welsh countryside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electrics, anything goes! My wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions and advise you on choosing your tools? Easy!

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