A hedge trimmer can be a huge time- and muscle-saver for anyone who has a yard. Whether you just need to shape a few shrubs, or you have acres of hedgerows, a hedge trimmer will make short work of the job. Choosing the best hedge trimmer starts with gauging the size of your yard and the kind of plants you grow. A bigger property needs a trimmer that has the power to keep working long enough to finish the job as well as handle larger diameters.
Types of Hedge Trimmers
Today’s cordless hedge trimmers are quiet, powerful and emissions free. Their drawback is that you’re limited to how long the trimmer’s battery lasts on a charge. You also have to carry the battery itself, which can add several pounds of weight to the trimmer. That said, the introduction of lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology has improved things on both fronts to the point where the best performing cordless hedge trimmers have become a go-to choice for many, even for heavy-duty commercial applications. Cordless hedge trimmers designed for commercial work often have the option of a backpack battery that offers long run times while keeping the trimmer down to a manageable weight.
Electric Hedge Trimmers
If your property isn’t very large, and your trimming needs are modest, electric hedge trimmers (sometimes called corded hedge trimmers) are worth considering. They are small and light enough to move around easily. They’re also the least expensive type of trimmer. Like cordless models, they’re quiet and don’t have any unpleasant emissions. They do have a couple of drawbacks, however: They limit your range, and there is a risk of tangling or cutting the cord while you work. They are also the least powerful type of cord trimmer, so they are really only suitable for smaller urban or suburban properties.
Gas Hedge Trimmers
Gas hedge trimmers are the power players in the landscaping world. They cut through thicker branches than electric models and cut cleanly, leaving precision cuts and lines. They’re also a top choice if you’re dealing with a lot of property as a gas tank can be refilled infinitely, compared to the limitations (reach and run times, respectively) of electric corded and cordless models. They do have some significant drawbacks, however, including weight, noise and emissions, plus the extra maintenance that a gas motor entails. Still, gas trimmer fans say those hassles are worth putting up with for the extra power and speed that these landscaping tools deliver.
What the best hedge trimmer has
- Plenty of power. If you have older hedges with thick branches, you will want a comparatively powerful machine to trim them.
- A rotating blade. When you need to trim between hedges and walls, fences or other plants, it’s good to have a rotating blade that allows you to hold the unit comfortably and safely while cutting at different angles.
- Locking on/off switch. If you like to trim your hedges in one work session, a lock-on switch will reduce fatigue as you trim. Conversely, if you will be working near children, dogs or other distractions, a switch that requires continuous pressure to operate is a safer option.
- Light weight. What you consider to be light in weight is subjective, but the lighter a trimmer is, the longer you’ll be able to use it before fatigue sets in. If you’re not sure how much you can handle, try the trimmer in a store (go through the motions without actually powering it up) or rent a model you’re considering to make sure it’s right for you.
- Tolerable noise levels. All power tools, hedge trimmers included, can be quite loud. However, some electric and cordless models are so quiet, they probably won’t bother the neighbors too much.
- A good warranty. Users report occasional durability issues with even the best hedge trimmers, sometimes right out of the box. Look for a model that has at least a two-year warranty. Models rated for commercial use may carry warranties for as long as five years for homeowners.
Know before you go
How big is your property? If you have a lawn or garden that extends less than 100 yards from the most convenient power source, you may be able to use a corded hedge trimmer. However, if your outdoor space is larger or involves some odd obstacles, you’d be better off with a battery-powered or gas trimmer.
How often do you plan to use your hedge trimmer? If your plants only require occasional trimming (a few times per year), then a corded electric or lower-priced cordless model makes sense. For more frequent jobs, spending the extra money for a more powerful gas or cordless trimmer can save you both time and money in the long run. Keep in mind that regardless of the power source, residential hedge trimmers are rated for occasional use only
Do you need hearing and eye protection? For professionals using any power tool (including hedge trimmers), the industry standard is to use both eye and hearing protection. Homeowners would do well to follow suit; although many hedge trimmer manufacturers don’t release the decibel ratings for their tools, some models definitely exceed the threshold for causing damage to your hearing. Wearing earplugs is a cheap, comfortable way to protect your hearing; we provide a full report to help you choose the most comfortable and effective ones.
Gas or electric? Gas hedge trimmers have been the gold standard for professional landscapers for a long time, but top-rated cordless models have closed the gap and in some cases surpassed them. Skip models powered by older NiCd technology and go right for cordless models that use Li-ion batteries. They are lighter in weight and provide consistent power output right until the battery peters out. Corded electric models are terrific for lightweight trimming tasks on smaller suburban properties, and are among the least expensive type of hedge trimmer you can buy, but they don’t have the cutting ability of gas models or the more powerful cordless ones. If you are considering a gas model, keep in mind the extra maintenance they require, and don’t ignore the maker’s fuel recommendations; not following those to the letter can result in a costly repair that won’t be covered under warranty.