This is a question I get asked a lot and it is an subject where I do have very strong personal opinions so you should take what I say as such. Read what I have to say below, research carefully and make up your own mind before buying your machine.
I would like to point out that at this point I do not sell brush cutters and I do not receive any commission for promoting any brands.
I feel that all the major brands are of a very high standard, quality and reliability, but my favourite by far is a Honda 4 stroke. I am a great fan of the Honda four stroke engines.
My first Honda brushcutter was purchased in early 1999 making it 16 years old and although I have never kept any records, it would have done well over a 1000 hours by now. Even after all this time and use it starts pretty much first time every time and with only a light pull on the cord.
I have used this brush cutter to tame two previous properties as well as developing, testing and abusing dozens of different prototype BrushDestructor blades. Other than oil changes it has never been serviced, the spark plug has never been changed or adjusted the clutch is still not slipping and the gear head is still the original, even though it has been subject to considerably heavier loads and weight from the BrushDestructor blade.
I have had this Brushcutter for so long that I cannot even remember where the manual is, let alone what type of oil to use and how often it should be changed. What I have been doing though, is to use the highest quality synthetic car oil, I have a 5 litre petrol can that I use especially for topping up my brush cutter and every time I refill the 5 litre can I change the oil in the Honda motor. I believe it is the quality of design and build of the Honda engine, regular oil changes, running the carb dry after each use, that have led to the long trouble free life of my Honda Brush Cutter, So if you have one, or are thinking of getting one, I recommend you follow the same procedure.
I prefer the loop handle brush cutter over the bicycle hand for the extra manoeuvrability and control I get over the cutting head that a bicycle handle brush cutter just cannot match.
The loop handle model gives me much easier and finer control of my brush cutter in all directions. I like the fact that I can easily hold the brush cutter on its side to very easily cut up fallen branches. I can work in much tighter and steeper areas, prune trees above head height and trim up to valuable trees with less chance of damaging them.
My preferred Engine size vary from the low 30cc to 40cc, which I think is the best size for most clearing needs, when you take into consideration, power, weight, noise, vibration and fuel economy. Personally I think you do not need to go any larger than this, unless you are of a large build, strong and using it for commercial purposes. If you use sharp blades and keep them sharp then there is absolutely no need to go to larger powered machines.
I really like the 4 stroke, even though they are heaver for the same power you would get from a 2 stroke engine. I like the more torque over a wide speed range they offer, so I do not have to run it flat out all the time. I like not having to mess around with mixing fuels, I like the lower noise, the fuel economy, less smoke and smell, but best of all I like the easy starting. Honda has a saying that there engines start first time every time and this has proven to be true and after 16 years my first 22cc push rod over head valve Honda still starts pretty much first time every time. My 35cc second generation over head cam model takes two pulls to start every time, which I think is probably due to a light er flywheel to keep weight down.
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