How expensive is cheap lawn equipment?
April 13, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Is Stihl really worth it.

My two year old Ryobi gas powered string trimmer just died. Repair cost is approaching new purchase price. Too big a place for an electric string trimmer. Stihl is pretty expensive, but everyone who owns anything by Stihl, seems to love it. Should I go cheap again, or go expensive?
posted by Classic Diner to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Like most things, it probably depends on how hard you plan to use it. If this is something you're going to use regularly and for big jobs, it may be worth springing for the better gear. There's a reason contractors tend to do that. But if you're only using it a handful of times to trip a few feet of edge around your lawn, it probably isn't. The price differential should help you tip that scale one way or the other.
posted by valkyryn at 8:01 AM on April 13, 2011

string trimmer/spool trimmers (in my opinion) are fairly interchangeable, assuming you aren't doing daily work, and maintain the tool.

Do you know why your trimmer died ? And the repair cost: is that buying parts to do it yourself, or paying a shop to fix it ?

I did spring extra for a stihl chainsaw.

string trimmers are also notoriously finicky about maintenance, gas, etc. So even if you spring the extra bucks, but don't take care of it, any one will crap out on you.
posted by k5.user at 8:04 AM on April 13, 2011

I recommend a Husqvarna if you like the quality of Stihl. You should be able to save a little money.
posted by michaelh at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2011

With the purchase of your second Ryobi you will be approaching the cost of the Stihl.

The second Ryobi is unlikely to be better than the first.
posted by nickjadlowe at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

DH says: I'm a big fan of Stihl chainsaws but I haven't liked their trimmers as much as Echo trimmers. I got rid of both of the Stihl trimmers I owned as I found them finicky starters. My Echos reliably fire up on the second pull, year in, year out. YMMV.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:31 AM on April 13, 2011

Stihl frist, Husqvarna second. Like a lot of things, you'll spend more money buying cheap stuff than if you just bit the bullet and bought quality. You won't be disappointed.
posted by Capa at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2011

My sorely-learned lesson with gas-powered equipment is to only buy brands that are sold and serviced locally. That means Stihl and Huskvarna, and never what they sell at the big box store. It costs about 25% more, but you gain that back several times over, not just in reliability bur also in ergonomics and good design.
posted by Forktine at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2011

The newer Stihl stuff is awesome. Seems so start just by picking it up and smiling at it. And if you get one of the pro-grade models with the interchangeable accessories, your trimmer can also be an edger, a pole pruner, a hedge trimmer, a mini tiller, a sweeper, etc. So you can use the same power plant for several different tools.

Also, as others have mentioned, most shops (big and small) will work on Stihl, which often isn't the case with other brands.

Also, "My two year old Ryobi gas powered string trimmer just died."
Like others have said, buy quality once, or buy cheap often. I've got an old Toro walk-behind mower built in '81, and an old Stihl trimmer from around '90 or so, and they both still run great.
posted by xedrik at 9:02 AM on April 13, 2011

I have a friend who works in a power equipment store and he swears by Stihl. He used to like Husqvarna but says their quality really went downhill when they started selling them at big box stores.
posted by TedW at 9:09 AM on April 13, 2011

My dad would never use anything but Stihl, and that's all I need to know. So yes, spring for it.
posted by thejanna at 9:41 AM on April 13, 2011

Response by poster: @ k5; the string trimmer was getting progressively harder and harder to start, until the pull cord broke. $60-80 to replace the pull cord at a small engine shop, and the manual seems to corroborate the shop's claim that the pull cord is put on in a manner making repairs very, very time consuming. After that repair, then there is addressing the difficulty starting.

Thanks everybody for your comments. I'm going to the local dealer to look around.
posted by Classic Diner at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2011

I recently made the same decision, actually. My 11 year old Ryobi trimmer head died - the motor just seized up as far as I could tell, I couldn't even pull the cord any more. One thing to keep in mind about the Stihl - if you're replacing a Ryobi, chances are the Ryobi was one with interchangeable attachments. Any investment you've made in Ryobi attachments will be down the drain if you buy Stihl, as those attachments will not work.

For me, this made the decision a no-brainer, as it turned the difference between a $300 Stihl trimmer vs a $90 Ryobi trimmer, into a choice between a $70 power head and almost $1000 in attachments that would have to be replaced.

I'm absolutely certain that the Stihl would have lasted longer than the Ryobi that I bought, but not fifteen times longer.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:31 AM on April 13, 2011

Response by poster: @ deadmessanger: I always planned on buying the attachments, but never got around to it. Had I bought all those attachments, I'd have already purchased another Ryobi.
posted by Classic Diner at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2011

Should you bail on your old trimmer, I'd highly suggest dorking around with it to see what you can do .. I'm by no means specially talented, but I've changed the pull cords on 2 lawnmowers, 1 rototiller and 1 mantis. There's lots of casing to take off or work around.

But that doesn't address why the Ryobi wasn't starting. Was it 2 or 4 stroke ? Bad gas, clogged air filter, misaligned choke, deposits in the fuel lines ? etc. Again, if you give up on it, might as well look into that too. Never hurts to take apart stuff to figure out how it works, and if you aren't worried about making it run again, all the more so. The engines on weedwhackers are knockdown simple, especially on a 2-stroker.
posted by k5.user at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2011

Response by poster: @ k5: get out of my head. If I upgrade equipment, and take the time to become one with a (mediocre) small engine, my lawn work should be much less frustrating in the future.
posted by Classic Diner at 11:03 AM on April 13, 2011

We used to use only Stihl, Echo, or Husqvarna in my old tree company. But we used the equipment every single day, and down time meant no money.

IOW, what valkyryn, the first responder, said: depends on how much you are going to use it.

Even I wouldn't pay top dollar for an Echo or Stihl (brands I love dearly) for a machine I'd use six times a year. But I wouldn't go rock bottom, either. Ryobi is a good brand.
posted by Xoebe at 11:33 AM on April 13, 2011

Every lawn care truck I see has almost exclusively Stihl equipment. That was good enough for me. I really like my Stihl trimmer and chainsaw.
posted by kjs3 at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2011

I have a 6-year old Honda 4-cycle trimmer that has proven to be tough as nails. Twice weekly use trimming about a third acre without one single problem. My neighbor has a Stihl FS-110 (4-mix). The Honda was $350 and weighs a couple pounds more than the Stihl. They are both really good machines. The Honda is quieter then the Stihl and doesn't require oil/gas mix but the Stihl seems to be quite nice, too.
posted by bz at 5:57 PM on April 13, 2011

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