My Stihl has been good so far (FS80 new a year ago) and the 3 y.o. Echo SRM2400 I got used last fall runs fine. I recently got a Shindaiwa T-18 from a homeowner, very clean and well kept, very lightweight and well balanced, my eyes popped when he told me he got it in 1990! It's been worked on a bit, but my only complaints (I'm sure they've been resolved 13 yrs later) are it floods easily when starting and the cutting head is awkward to spool and it bumps to easily, oh and no line cutter on the sheild. I like using it better than I do the Stihl, which now feels heavy! The Shinny doesn't have as much power as the Stihl. I don't know what the new Shinny's are like, but this one surprised me at it's age, and I like using it more than the Stihl, 12 years older- go figure.
I run Stihl FS 85RT. The trimmer is just a little over a year old and it was pretty decent, but since last august, I've been having problems with it. My trimmer is really moody, especially in hot weather. I used to think the hot weather helped things because there was a time when it would start on 2 pulls. Now, all it does is die if you flip it up for edging for a long period of time, then it floods, and then you can't get it started again. More importantly, it takes about 5 pulls to start and with 95-100 degree weather here, I'm not really into yanking my brains out trying to get it started when I'm tired and want to go home, plus it makes you look like and ----- when people see you're having equipment troubles. The verdict : Buy a Redmax or Shindaiwa. I've just been through so much BS with the thing I don't want anyone else to go through it. I'd sell it, but my dealer is great and I wouldn't get much for it, plus I have the edger attachment for it as well. Whenever I break down, my Stihl dealer takes care of me right away. I'd say go with whatever you can get a good dealer relationship with.
I used to think that Echo was the best for the past 9 years we've been in business. But the 2 we purchased this year will not cold start easily at all (probably because you can't adjust the carb) any more.
Someone told me that Redmax and Shindaiwa made good ones though
I have an Echo 260 - bulletproof little machine, absolutly reliable and never in two seasons had any problems with it. Had to replace two line spools though due to normal wear and tear.
The only problem I have with it is the line shield or trim guard. It's far to narrow and will cover you with debris and leave your legs bleeding. I did a little modification to mine - I took an old shield and profile cut it and riveted it onto the existing shield to make the shield wider - the modification works perfect.