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In addition to being quieter and easier to start, electric tools have another advantage over gas-powered models: Electric gear from the same manufacturer can share the same battery, and, if you buy strategically, you can save money by skipping extra batteries and chargers.
That’s welcome news because in Consumer Reports’ tests of string trimmers, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers, electric lawn tools finally pack the power to go head-to-head with gas models. If you’re ready to make the switch, follow the tips below to get the most bang for your buck when buying electric power gear.
Consider the Whole Tool Suite
“People naturally want to buy into the same battery system,” says David Trezza, who oversees string trimmer testing at Consumer Reports. That makes perfect sense. If you already own the Troy-Bilt TB510 electric lawn mower, $500, and need a leaf blower, you can snag the Troy-Bilt TB4300, $279, for the lower price of $179 if you buy it without the battery and charger. Buying into a brand’s platform with a single tool gives you the battery and charger to power most of its other products and brings down the cost of adding more tools to your collection.
Buy the Most Used Tool First
If you plan to buy electric replacements for all your yard tools, “it’s a good idea to start by buying the tool that’s most important to you,” says Frank Spinelli, who oversees our lawn mower tests. As with gas-powered tools, it’s rare that all the tools from a single manufacturer do well enough in our tests to recommend.
If you use a string trimmer often to keep a small lot well-manicured, start with the Ryobi RY40220, $170, which is one of our best buys. For tasks you do less frequently, such as removing tree limbs, consider adding the Ryobi RY40511 chain saw, $200. It didn’t fare as well as other models in our tests but will still get the job done.
Weigh Battery Lifespan
“When you measure the lifespan of a lithium-ion battery, you’re really looking at the number of times it can be cycled through a full drain and recharge,” says Simon Mui, a lithium-ion battery expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Mui notes that many modern lithium-ion batteries can last for 1,000 cycles, so you can get years of use out of a single battery-powered tool.
If you’re using one battery to power multiple tools, that same 1,000 cycles get spread across them all. “Remember, if you power multiple electric yard tools with a single battery, you’re aging it that much faster,” Spinelli adds. “It’s the electric equivalent of using the same gas engine to power multiple tools, which would cause it to die that much sooner.”
When You Need More Than One
If you typically work on your yard using your mower, trimmer, and other tools all in one day, consider buying more than one battery. “Batteries have gotten really good, to the point where you can use a string trimmer to tidy up your entire yard on one charge, even if you’ve got a few acres,” Trezza says. “But if you finish trimming and want to use that battery to power a leaf blower, it may not last long before you need a charge.”
That doesn’t mean you need to buy every electric tool with its own battery, but consider buying your first few with their own batteries, then buying cheaper bare tools thereafter. With that approach you’ll always have an extra battery on hand, and, assuming you care for the batteries properly, the lifespan of each should be extended.
Buy Batteries Strategically
You’ll generally get the best deal on batteries when they’re sold with the tool. Take Ego. Its 7.5-amp-hour battery—the largest size it makes, which powers the Ego LM2102SP lawn mower, $600—costs a whopping $398 purchased on its own. But the top-rated Ego SNT2102 snow blower, $799, comes with two of those batteries and a charger for what you’d pay for the batteries alone.
Unfortunately, the opposite doesn’t hold true here: If you bought the batteries à la carte to power other tools, you’d still shell out $399 to buy the snow blower without batteries. If you need extra batteries, shop around to see whether you can get a better deal by buying an extra tool.
Electric Tool Suites to Consider
Here are some standout electric tools from our tests that can share the same batteries. All prices include a battery.
Ego (56-volt battery)
- Ego LM2101 push mower, $500
- Ego LB5302 handheld leaf blower, $210
- Ego LB6002 backpack leaf blower, $300
- Ego CS1401 chain saw, $249
- Ego ST1501-S string trimmer, $199
- Ego SNT2102 snow blower, $799
Troy-Bilt (40-volt battery)
Stihl (36-volt battery)
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