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Whether you're creating yards of perfectly straight hedging or transforming garden shrubs into stunning sculptures, the right hedge trimmer is invaluable. But which tool best fits your needs?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Today’s market offers everything from electric hand-held shears to heavy-duty, contractor-grade hedge trimmers.
To help you find the right tool, we at BestReviews rolled up our sleeves and got to work evaluating the best hedge trimmers on today’s market. To ensure objectivity, we don't accept manufacturer samples.
We select and pay for our products just like you would. Our process guarantees that our results and recommendations are unbiased — something you can trust.
The five hedge trimmers featured in our matrix, above, are all excellent tools. After much analysis, we chose to endorse them because each delivers a higher level of performance and value than the competition.
So how do you find the best hedge trimmer for your needs? There are many issues to consider: electric vs. gas, blade type, blade length, blade gap, and much more. We outline these considerations in our shopping guide, below.
Corded electric hedge trimmers are extremely easy to use. Just plug the tool in, press the trigger, and away you go. These trimmers are lightweight (typically five to seven pounds), quiet, and release no emissions. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance hedge trimmer for a small yard or garden, you may wish to consider this type.
However, a corded hedge trimmer restricts your range somewhat, and for safety reasons, you can’t use the tool in damp conditions. Furthermore, you could jeopardize your own safety by inadvertently cutting the cord while trimming. (Yes, it does happen.) If you’re looking for a durable and versatile hedge trimmer for extensive use, you might want to consider a gas-powered model instead.
A corded electric hedge trimmer is a good choice for someone with limited physical strength or mobility. But before you buy one, make sure it can cope with the types of branches you wish to cut. Better models can handle branches of about one-half inch in diameter, but they’re not meant to cut this type of timber all day.
Cordless electric hedge trimmers are just as easy to use as corded trimmers, but they typically weigh more (between 7 and 18 pounds) and exude more power. In fact, when fully charged, some cordless electric trimmers match the power of small- to mid-sized gas machines.
Like their corded counterparts, cordless hedge trimmers are quiet, require little to no maintenance, and produce zero tool emissions. If you live in an area where noise could be a problem (near a school, for example), this could be the best choice for you.
But cordless tools lose power as the battery drains, and recharge times can be annoyingly long. In sum, whether you go for a corded or cordless model depends on your personal situation and preference.
If you opt for a cordless hedge trimmer, choose one that takes Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries rather than Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cad) for best performance.
In general, gas-powered hedge trimmers outshine electric trimmers in the performance department. You won’t experience a power drop as the battery drains, nor will you have to worry about staying within the confines of your extension cord. These machines usually weigh between 11 and 17 pounds (similar to a cordless electric) and are known for their durability.
On the downside, this type of hedge trimmer requires regular maintenance, releases exhaust emissions, and creates lots of noise. You’ll have to mix gas and oil for its two-cycle motor, and you may experience some difficulty getting the trimmer to start.
Modern gas hedge trimmers aren’t the dirty, smelly machines they once were. They deliver massive power, and short of the time it takes to re-fuel your gas tank, you could easily use this tool all day long. Professionals prefer them, and if you’ve got a lot of hedge to cut, you might prefer them, too.
Hedge trimmer blades have teeth on one or both sides of the cutter bar. Single-sided blades are preferred for straight work (because there's no chance of them cutting on the back stroke). Double-sided blades are ideal for shaping and topiary. However, this is an extremely broad generalization.
Single-sided blades are safer, as you're always cutting away from yourself, though they do favor right-handed people. Lefties can soon acclimate, although may prefer a double-sided blade.
Many hedge trimmers have one fixed blade and one oscillating blade. On high-end machines, the two blades move in tandem, rendering a fast, clean cut.
What’s the best length for a hedge trimmer blade? A span of 18 to 22 inches is common, and this length suits most people. However, blades can be as long as 40 inches or as short as 13 inches.
There are no fixed rules about size, but if you're trimming a formal hedge, we recommend you opt for a blade slightly longer than the width of the hedge.
In general, the longer the blade, the more difficult to control — but the faster it will cut.
Longer blades make it easier to keep hedges flat and square. Shorter blades are better for detail work.
In addition to blade type and length, potential buyers should consider a hedge trimmer’s blade gap before making a purchase. Blade gap refers to the distance between the blade’s teeth, and it defines the maximum branch circumference the tool can cut.
The average “amateur” hedge trimmer sports a blade gap between ⅜ and ¾ of an inch. A professional hedge trimmer blade gap, by contrast, can extend to one inch or more.
Our landscaping consultant, Luke, provided us with advice on how to cut timber with a diameter greater than the tool’s blade gap. To accomplish this, the user should move the trimmer in a “chainsaw” manner around the base of the timber. Not all manufacturers have approved this method, but it is one way to tackle large jobs. It’s also a timesaver since you can avoid switching devices as you work.
Luke’s chainsaw method reduces the risk of jamming, but problems could still occur. If your hedge trimmer jams, turn off the gas or unplug the electric unit before working the jam free.
Luke owned and operated his own lawn and landscaping business for over a decade. Founding the business and growing it prior to an acquisition, Luke led all procurement decisions, from the purchase of blowers and lawn mowers to weed whackers and tillers. Luke uses all of these machines regularly.
Without proper care, your hedge trimmer blade could grow dull and rusty over time. Luke offers the following tips for maintaining your hedge trimmer blade:
Older gas hedge trimmers sometimes develop a strong “idle” in which the blade moves back and forth even when the trigger isn’t pressed. If this happens, replace the product as soon as possible. In the meantime, double down on your safety precautions while using the trimmer — or avoid using it altogether.
The distance your hedge trimmer can reach, both with and without a ladder, can play a vital role in your landscaping success. Some hedge trimmers have a long reach by design. For example, if you’re tackling tall hedges of seven feet or more — and you want to avoid moving a ladder all over the place for safety reasons — Luke advises that you opt for a long-reach hedge trimmer.
We like the Black & Decker 18-Inch Cordless Pole Hedge Trimmer, pictured below. It’s not part of our top-five matrix because it’s not something that every person will need. But if you’re concerned about reaching distant hedges, shrubs, or limbs with your trimmer, this could be a good choice for you.
We note, however, that it can be physically draining to balance and handle a long-reach machine for any length of time. Even the most physically fit of gardeners can experience muscle fatigue when using one of these trimmers. If you’re a small person or not in the greatest of physical shape, this may not be the right option for you.
It's frustrating when corded electric hedge trimmers become unplugged. A cord lock can prevent this from happening.
A trigger lock allows you to work continuously without actually holding the the trigger. Professionals who work for hours on end like this feature.
Some machines sport a rotating handle. This feature makes switching from vertical to horizontal cutting easy and comfortable.
Quick Pruning Tips: Prune new deciduous hedges in the winter. Prune new evergreen hedges in the spring. Prune established hedges annually to help keep their shape.
Gas hedge trimmers may have anti-vibration and noise reduction properties that allow you to work comfortably for long periods of time.
Keeping extra battery packs on hand extends the amount of time you can use your cordless hedge trimmer. When one battery runs out, simply take it out and pop a fresh one in.
If you're concerned about gas emissions, look for a hedge trimmer that's CARB- and/or EPA- compliant.
Hedge trimmer warranties start at 12 months, but two years is common, and longer ones also exist.
You needn’t spend a fortune to get a good machine, but many cheap hedge trimmers offer false economy, so it pays to be careful. We're always cautious about cheap hedge trimmers because of quality issues, but it’s safe to say that you can sometimes find a reliable corded hedge trimmer for as little as $50.
Good cordless hedge trimmers start at around $120, though the models that rival gas-powered machines are likely to cost $200 or more.
The best gas powered hedge trimmers for home use cost between $200 and $250.
Professional equipment starts at around $300 but can exceed $500.
Always read the fine print carefully. Some dirt-cheap online deals consist of the “bare tool” only. The battery could end up costing you just as much as the tool itself.