Brushcutter Best in test

Brushcutter: 4 models tested

Last updated May 2018

A brushcutter is an ideal garden tool for anyone who has a lot of grass, brushwood or woody vegetation to clear a couple of times a year. You can fit both a reel of line and a variety of blades on a brushcutter head. This gives you a wider range of possible tasks. The time it takes to clear an area is largely affected by your technique and speed of movement. If the brushcutter is sufficiently powerful and equipped with the right tools, it will immediately remove any weeds as you move it over the ground. With the right technique, you will be able to clear the area both quickly and safely. However, if your brushcutter's performance isn't up to the task, you'll be stuck in the same place for a long time. For example, the blade can get stuck in woody vegetation and be unable to cut it, and weeds may bend rather than being cut. Either the brushcutter will be able to do its task or it will be completely incapable. So it's very important that you buy a brushcutter that's competent enough to cope with the tasks you need it for.

A brushcutter is like a chainsaw with a long shaft and rotating blades. You put on a harness to which you attach the machine, and you then control it with the bike-style handlebars. Because it's heavier than its sibling the strimmer, and has more motor power, the harness is an important accessory. You need a good harness and an effective anti-vibration system for good ergonomics. It's also important to choose a brushcutter that has a good balance between power and weight. You should be able to use the brushcutter for the whole of the operating time without feeling discomfort. If you know that you have quite dense clumps of brushwood or reeds that it may even be difficult to get in amongst, you need more power and also need to assume that the machine will be heavier. However, if you've got less dense tall grass and brush, you can drop down a size and probably also a weight class.

Accessories

Both blades and line tend to be included with a brushcutter. But what type of blade is included? There are different types of blade for different purposes:

● Grass blade - intended for grass and smaller weeds
● Compost blade - intended for tough clumps of grass and brush
● Brushwood blade - intended for brushwood
● Saw blade/brushcutter blade - intended for woody vegetation

The advantage with blades is that you don't have to worry about the line breaking or the thickness of the brushwood you're clearing. A blade is usually able to cope with both dense brushwood and less dense bushes. The disadvantage is that you don't get the same cutting width. In simpler conditions, therefore, it's best to use line as this is more effective. If you have sensitive areas in the garden, line also entails less risk of damage. Because the line can break, it's important that you choose a brushcutter that can cope with sufficiently thick line for the task you need it for, and that it's easy to top up the brushcutter with new line. You can buy prewound line reels that you simply install, but it's cheaper to buy loose line and spool it on yourself. The standard line thickness is about 2.4-2.7 millimetres.

As the blade on the brushcutter gets blunt, you may need to sharpen it. It can therefore be a good idea to also buy the tools to file it with - a file and a file template.

Remember to use suitable safety equipment when using your brushcutter. Safety goggles, gloves, safety shoes and hearing protection are recommended.

Products tested

Best in test How the test was made

We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. We tested the brushcutters in different environments with different types of vegetation. For example, we used them in fields of tall weeds, in dense vegetation and brush, in tall grass and on reeds in and along the edges of ditches.

The brushcutters have each been used for an entire session each time. In other words, we filled the tank and used the brushcutter until the petrol ran out. After each session we have replaced the blade/line before the next one - partly to evaluate how the brushcutter can deal with different tasks with different tools, and partly to see how easy it is to replace these attachments. We evaluated the operating time and focused on this quite heavily in the tests, as time efficiency is also affected by the user's technique and speed.

We have looked closely at the following aspects of each brushcutter:

Performance: How powerful is it? What tasks can it cope with? What are the limits in terms of each brushcutter's capacity? How quickly does it work?
Ergonomics: Is the brushcutter well balanced? Is it easy to navigate the controls during use? Does the harness distribute the weight well?
Operating time: How fuel-efficient is the brushcutter? How long can you run it on one tank?

We have also included factors such as noise level, accessories and build quality. All aspects have then been examined in relation to the price of the brushcutter to arrive at an impartial score.

Stiga SBC 226 JD

Good value for money, medium-strength brushcutter with a long operating time

Power source: Petrol Cylinder volume: 25.4 cc Tank volume: 0.65 L Line diameter: 2.4 mm Cutting width: 43 cm Power: 0.7 kW Weight: 7.2 kg Miscellaneous: Semi-automatic line feed, brush blade 3T (255)
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The Stiga SBC 226 JD is our best in test because it's relatively strong given the price, and has a long operating time. In terms of strength, it can cope with a good deal of the brush that we attack with the brush blade. However, it tends to get stuck when used on woody vegetation or in tall, thick grass. The brushcutter has what's described as an easy start function, but it still takes 5-6 pulls to start from cold. Once it's warmed up, however, it's easy to start. Assembly is simple once you've done it a couple of times. There are three parts to be screwed together in a particular order. The same applies to the line reel, which is strong and relatively easy to install. The line reel is semi-automatic and is fed out by tapping the head on the ground, which works without problems.

However, the brushcutter only includes a simple harness, which impairs the user experience somewhat, as the body is unevenly loaded. Nor is the harness well padded, and the brushcutter is quite heavy. These disadvantages become obvious when you've run the machine for a short time. However, it's easy to attach and remove the harness. Another disadvantage in purely ergonomic terms is that the throttle button is large and slippery while the vibrations are simultaneously considerable. After a little while, these factors can have an impact on your hands. The operating time with a full tank is estimated as around 1 hour 20 minutes. That's really good. The price is also a plus, and might explain some of the disadvantages such as the choice of harness. Given its low price, the SBC 226 JD is therefore an excellent alternative if you have a small budget.

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    Long operating time, strong
  • Unergonomic harness, heavy
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4 of 5

Best price at:

Husqvarna 525 RX

Strong brushcutter for both small and larger clearing projects

Power source: Petrol Cylinder volume: 25.4 cc Tank volume: 0.51 L Line diameter: 2.4 mm Cutting width: 30 cm Power: 1 kW Weight: 4.9 kg Miscellaneous: T35 strimmer head, semi-automatic line feed, 255-4 brush blade

The Husqvarna 525 RX is a brushcutter suitable for anyone needing a bit more power in an easy-to-carry machine, although given the price, the power could have been better. It's pretty good on both tall grass and well-grown brushwood, but it struggles a bit with really thick clumps. As a hobby machine, though, it's impressive. The semi-automatic line feed works very well, feeding out the line when you press the head against the ground. You get about an hour and ten minutes' operating time from a full tank. This is very good, given the tank volume. We also like the fact that it's easy to assemble and start using.

The 525 RX is also user-friendly. You understand immediately how everything works. All of the buttons and controls are close together and there's no difficulty making adjustments. You can start the brushcutter from cold with just 2-3 pulls. And you switch it off easily by pushing forward a stop control. This then goes back automatically into the starting position. Unfortunately it only includes a simple harness, which we think is a bit stingy given the price, but it fits well and the padding seems to be sufficient for the weight of the machine. We would have liked there to be a much better grip on the handle, as it's slippery and plasticky. However, we like the fact that the throttle system is designed so that the upper button is the larger one, instead of the lower one as is the case on so many other machines. This means that it's never difficult to control the brushcutter's power. Overall, we feel that this is a good value for money brushcutter for anyone needing an economical, powerful and light machine.

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    Powerful, good operating time, weight
  • Slippery handle, simple harness
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4 of 5

Best price at:

AL-KO BC 4125 II-S

Budget brushcutter for lighter work

Power source: Petrol Cylinder volume: 32.6 cc Tank volume: 1 L Line diameter: 2.4 mm Cutting width: 41 cm Power: 0.9 kW Weight: 7.8 kg Miscellaneous: Semi-automatic line feed

The AL-KO BC 4125 II-S is a brushcutter primarily suited to anyone cutting lighter vegetation such as grass and brush that isn't densely packed. In other words, the performance is what we'd expect in this price class. It's quite a heavy and bulky machine to carry around. It feels particularly heavy because it only comes with a simple harness with very little padding in. You feel this on your shoulders and back after using it for a while. We estimate the operating time with a full tank to be around 1 hour 15 minutes. This is OK, but given the tank volume and brushcutter performance we would have liked more.

Something we really like about the BC 4125 II-S is the semi-automatic line feed. This makes it easier to run in tough terrain that wears the line out quickly, because you don't have to stop at regular intervals and pull out more line. The line lasts well during use. The grip is also good. It's made of patterned rubber so that your hands don't slip, and the buttons are a reasonable size. At the same time, many details of the machine feel relatively plasticky. The overall experience is that AL-KO is making well considered choices in order to reduce the price. You get a brushcutter that's primarily suited to cutting grass and weeds, with reasonable ergonomics and build quality and a pretty good operating time. However, we recommend that you upgrade to a better harness.

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    Good for cutting grass, good grip
  • Heavy, poor harness
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3.5 of 5

Stihl FS 89

Brushcutter with good balance and ergonomics

Power source: Petrol Cylinder volume: 28.4 cc Tank volume: 0.71 l Line diameter: 2 mm Cutting width: 42 cm Power: 0.95 kW Weight: 5.8 kg Miscellaneous: AutoCut C 25-2 cutting tool, ø 250/25 brushwood blade

Stihl's FS89 is designated as a strimmer, but could just as easily be categorised as a simpler brushcutter given its performance. It can be fitted with a blade and has what's described as a 4-mix motor. This is a motor that takes the best from both two-stroke and four-stroke motors: high thrust, high torque, low emissions and low noise level. In purely practical terms, this means that you can use normal oil-mixed petrol and simultaneously obtain fast acceleration. As long as the grass isn't too tall or thick, the FS89 is fine. In heavier terrain, however, it has to struggle harder and isn't so convincing. The line feed is semi-automatic, but doesn't always work perfectly. However, on the positive side, you can reverse the line into the reel if you happen to get too much out.

Stihl manufacture many useful accessories, and the ergonomics of this machine aren't bad. The package includes both safety goggles and a harness with double shoulder straps. The harness has enough padding and redistributes the weight very well. This is by far one of the best harnesses we have tested. The brushcutter also feels well balanced. It doesn't feel heavy even using it from a full tank to empty, and the weight is evenly divided over the body. Unfortunately, the rubberised grip is very smooth, so if your hands get hot or damp it can become slippery. The throttle buttons are also slightly over-dimensioned. A full tank of petrol lasts for about an hour and five minutes, which is OK, but not great given the large tank volume. It's easy to change line and blades. The FS89 is most suitable for users who often need to trim grass but who also sometimes want to do simpler brushcutting. However, the price is more on a level with stronger brushcutters.

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    Very good harness, can reverse feed line, easy to use for long sessions
  • High price, slippery grip
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3.5 of 5