Give your landscape a crisp, manicured look—we’ll show you how to choose the right edger for the job.
Go on a power trip
For small lawns with cool-season grasses, a half moon or other manual edger may do the trick. But if you have more than a few dozen yards of grass to edge, you’ll want a power edger. You can rent an edger, of course, but it saves time and money to buy one, especially since some edgers cost the same as just two or three rentals.
As with all power tools, go for the most power with the least weight, at least for models without wheels. Check the blade size—some are as long as 9 inches and cut as deep as 2 inches. Also see if the edger will cut at an angle. This is a nice feature for fancier turf edges and for laying some types of metal or plastic edging.
Another feature to look for is trenching capacity. This is useful for laying cable or running electrical line through a conduit underground. Some edgers have built-in trenching capacity; others have a kit you purchase separately.
Give it some gas
There are two basic types of power edgers: gasoline and electric. Gasoline-powered edgers (photo A) are the most powerful—and power is important, since an underpowered or badly designed edger will gnaw at turf and make a sloppy edge. Gasoline edgers are also the most expensive; most start at about $150. And since they operate on two-cycle engines, you have to deal with sometimes-fussy starters (an especially acute problem in cold weather), some basic maintenance, and mixing fuel with gasoline.
Weight is not an issue with most gasoline edgers because they have wheels—either one wheel to guide them or four to support and guide them. Some four-wheeled models have a neat “curb hopper” feature where one wheel adjusts to go up on a curb or sidewalk to avoid tipping the machine.
The electric edge
Electric edgers (photo B) are wonderfully light and quiet, allowing you to use them late on a summer evening or early on a weekend morning. They also vibrate less than gasoline edgers, and they have no emissions to choke you or the planet.
Electric edgers are available in both corded and battery-powered models. Corded edgers tend to be more powerful than their battery counterparts, but you can use them only so far from the power source. Fortunately, slicing through the cord is seldom a problem for most edgers, but do look for a “cord retention system,” a feature that keeps the cord plugged into the machine.
Battery-powered edgers have most of the same advantages of corded types but also let you move far away from an electrical power source and not mess with a cord. They tend to be slightly heavier, with less power. If it doesn’t have a wheel, look for a lightweight model; if it does have wheels, a heavier model will work fine.
Other power tools, such as string trimmers and power hedge trimmers, can also be used as edgers, either with a built-in feature or by purchasing additional parts. The more powerful the engine on the machine, the better any attachments will function. Often the least powerful type of edger is the string trimmer that, with an adjustment of the head, can be turned into a string edger. These are okay for trimming a little off the edges around sidewalks and pavement, but they don’t slice well through soil.
Do your homework
Since edgers vary in quality and ease of use, try out a few to see how they perform. See how they fit in your hand. Talk with the sales clerk about how easy or difficult the controls and start-up will be. If the edger doesn’t have wheels, carry it around a bit to see how heavy it is. Will you be able to hold it for an hour or more?
Ask about return policies, and keep your receipt. Unlike, say, a snow blower, an edger is easy to load up and return if you’re not satisfied once you’ve tried it out. Most home and garden centers will allow you to return a power tool as long as you have a receipt and it’s within a specified period of time (usually 30 days).
Choosing a power edger
Our buyer’s guide to getting what you need.
Advantages: Most powerful type. Has wheels to support weight (usually no more than 15 pounds). Some types can make trenches, a plus if laying cable or installing metal or plastic edging. No cord, so you can use it anywhere.
Disadvantages: Loud, has emissions. Two-cycle engines mean more problematic starting, regular maintenance, and mixing oil with gasoline.
Price: $150 to $400 for noncommercial types
Electric bladed edger
Advantages: Quiet, no emissions. May or may not have wheels; if the latter, look for lighter weight. Blade does a far better job of cutting than string.
Battery-operated type allows freedom of movement but often has less power than corded.
Disadvantages: Electric is less powerful than gas, generally. Corded types limit your range and are awkward. Battery-powered types have limited operating time.
Price: $100 to $250
Electric string edger
Advantages: Quiet, no emissions. Usually the least expensive. Very lightweight: sometimes just a few pounds.
Disadvantages: String may have trouble cutting all but the softest grasses.
Not very good for edging beds and borders but will cut grass along sidewalks and drives. Electric is less powerful than gas, generally. As with electric bladed types, corded models limit your range and are awkward. Battery-powered models have limited operating time.
Price: $25 to $150