Comparing a cordless brush cutter with a petrol strimmer for thick bramble

The average UK city dweller will probably never have the need for anything more powerful than an electric or cordless strimmer to keep his lawn looking trim. Because of the space restraints, the majority of houses within the inner-city boundaries have small to medium-sized gardens and not a lot of wild foliage to deal with.

Folks who are lucky enough to live in the beautiful British countryside, or even on the outskirts of our grand cities, may find that those strimmers aren’t quite up to dealing with thicker and tougher vegetation like brambles, and so need something with a bit more bite.

A question I’m always asked by our customers is which is better for getting rid of thick bramble – a cordless brush cutter? Or a petrol strimmer?

In this article, we will take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of these tools and try to answer that very question for you, but first, we will clear a couple of things up for those of you who are new to gardening power tools.

Talking of garden tools, check out this simple but clever way of making a tool rack for your garage or shed-

What is a strimmer?

A strimmer, also called a grass trimmer, is a tool that is used to trim grass, particularly around the edges of your lawn and can be used in place of edging shears in some cases.

A strimmer consists of a long body with a couple of handles at one end and a spinning spool of nylon line at the other. This line is pulled out of the spool by a few inches at a time to act as a cutting blade and when it breaks, you simply pull more line through or use the auto-feed feature on the tool to do the same thing.

Recently there have been cordless strimmers released that don’t use the traditional cutting line, and instead have nylon blades that clip onto the rotating cutting head. These are meant to be more durable than cutting line, but the jury is still out on that as they are very recent additions.

There are three main types of strimmer available to you. You can opt for a corded electric strimmer, which is the easiest to operate and probably the best one to use for small gardens without a lot of obstacles, cordless strimmers that run on batteries and give you more freedom to move around, and petrol powered strimmers.

Petrol strimmers are easily the most powerful, and the type that is used by professionals to get larger jobs done much faster. We have an article comparing the different types of strimmer that you can read by typing it in the search bar at the top of the screen. We also have shared this video that explains how strimemrs work-


What is a brush cutter?

Also used for cutting back unwanted vegetation, brush cutters are often confused by beginner gardeners with strimmers but they are very different tools. What makes this problem worse, is that often, a powerful strimmer can come with two different attachments and so can be used as both strimmer and brush cutter.

Unlike strimmers, brush cutters don’t use a spool of line to cut with, and instead have a metal blade that usually has three or more teeth. This blade needs to be kept sharpened properly to get the most out of your brush cutter, but it’s an easy little bit of maintenance that anyone can do.

Again, brush cutters are available as corded electric, battery-powered cordless models, and petrol models, and they have the same pros and cons as you would find with the different types of strimmer, respectively.

I came across this video of two men racing to cut through long grass. One is using a brush cutter while the other is using an old fashioned sythe! Now that’s some skill.

Comparing a cordless brush cutter with a petrol strimmer for cutting thick bramble

Answering the question ‘which is better for cutting thick bramble’ isn’t as straightforward as you would think, and I’ll explain why in this section-

If we are comparing a cordless brush cutter with a petrol strimmer that only has the strimmer head, then I would say that the brush cutter wins hands down, despite not having anywhere near as much ‘muscle’ as a petrol-powered machine.

I say this because when it comes to cutting thick vegetation, especially stuff like bramble, nylon line is less than ideal, and can even be quite frustrating to deal with as it can break quite easily. A brush cutter blade, on the other hand, is designed to cut through things like bramble and even tree branches like a hedge trimmer, and will do so fairly easily, especially the more powerful cordless brush cutters from brands like Makita and Dewalt.

The thing you also have to consider though, is that most petrol strimmers either come with a brush cutter attachment or can be fitted with one that can be purchased separately fairly inexpensively, and this changes things somewhat.

A petrol strimmer fitted with a decent brush cutter blade, or even a petrol garden multi-tool, will tear through that bramble better than any battery-powered brush cutter, just because of the extra power provided by the engine.

Then there are other ways to slice through brambles, as this guy shows with his mulcher head attached to his strimmer. Not something I’ve ever tried, but very interesting to watch nonetheless.

However, there are a few drawbacks to using a petrol-powered machine which we will go over in this next section-

Petrol strimmer or cordless brush cutter- things to consider

While it is tempting just to go with the more powerful, petrol-powered tool, there are one or two things to take into consideration first, and we have highlighted them for you below-

Cordless brush cutters are easier to set up and operate than petrol strimmers

Cordless strimmers, lawnmowers, and pretty much all other cordless tools, are designed to be easy to use and are aimed at consumers and gardeners who like simplicity. All you really need to do with cordless brush cutters is charge the battery, then pop it into the slot on the handle and you’re ready to go.

Petrol strimmers are most often powered by 2-stroke engines and so they require you to mix the oil and the petrol together, using the correct measurements, before you insert it into the machine. Then there are a couple of extra steps to perform before you can finally start up the engine, so I would say they are the more complicated of the two tools, but no more complex than, say, a petrol pressure washer or petrol auger

Petrol strimmers produce more noise and fumes than cordless brush cutters

2-stroke engines are used in petrol gardening tools as they are very efficient when it comes to producing power from smaller displacement. The downsides to these engines are the extra noise and fumes that are produced by them as a by-product.

Cordless brush cutters run off lithium-ion batteries and so there are no fumes to deal with, and they aren’t as loud as petrol strimmers. They still produce noise, so don’t expect them to be silent, but they are comparatively quieter, and certainly not much louder than some electric lawnmowers out there.

Cordless brush cutters require less maintenance than petrol strimmers

As there are no spark plugs, oil filters, and other components in a cordless brush cutter, maintenance is actually just reduced to keeping the machine clean, the blades sharpened, and the batteries charged.

There is more maintenance required when dealing with petrol strimmers, but it isn’t anything that can’t be learnt fairly quickly. In fact, we have articles on servicing petrol tools right here on this site.
Another to consider is that a well-maintained petrol strimmer will last you for a very long time, whereas even the best looked after cordless brush cutter will need a battery replacement after a few years, and those batteries aren’t the cheapest things in the world.

At the end of the day, everything needs a little maintenance, even lawns themselves of course. Looks like someone forgot to tell this lady though-

Conclusion when compared

Both of these tools will do the job of cutting thick bramble, but the petrol strimmer will need to be fitted with a brush cutter blade to do so. Trying to cut through bramble with nylon line just isn’t worth trying, believe me.

At the end of the day, if you have a big garden, and you don’t mind a bit of maintenance, noise, and fumes, then buying a petrol strimmer with a brush cutter attachment is a viable option. For those who have smaller properties and prefer something that’s easy to use, and won’t upset the neighbours, a cordless brush cutter is the better option.

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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