Hedge trimmers: How to buy the best hedge trimmer
The best hedge trimmer will not be the same for everyone. Whether your hedges are close to the house or far away, small and easily managed or huge boundary hedges, you need a hedge trimmer that will fit your needs.
We help you choose whether you need a corded electric hedge trimmer, cordless battery hedge trimmer or a petrol hedge trimmer. You might also need a long-reach hedge trimmer. We also tell you everything you need to know to decide which features suit your hedges.
If you already know which one is right for you, look at our hedge trimmer reviews to compare features and prices.
Which type of hedge trimmer?
There are two main types of hedge trimmer, standard ones where the handle is directly connected to the blades, and long-reach hedge trimmers where the blade is at the end of a shaft so that you can cut the tops of tall hedges from ground level.
Once you have decided which kind you want, then decide how you want it to be powered.
Corded electric hedge trimmers
These are usually lightweight, can be quite powerful and are useful in most gardens where you can reach all your hedges with the attached cable and possible an extension cord. Expect to pay from around £50 for a basic model up to around £180 for a powerful hedge trimmer.
As you will need to plug into the mains, think about how far your hedges are from the house and whether you will need a long extension lead. Accidentally cutting the cord is possible, so work with the cable out the way over your shoulder and always use a residual current device (RCD) to protect yourself from electric shock if you cut the cord.
Cordless hedge trimmers
Cordless hedge trimmers give you the freedom to cut hedges further away from the house, and there is no cable to accidentally cut through. Higher powered 36V batteries are powerful, and are starting to rival petrol hedge trimmers.
Batteries typically last around 20 minutes, but some will last up to an hour. The best batteries recharge in about 60 minutes. If you have a larger hedge, think about buying a second battery to finish the job.
You can expect to pay around £50 for a budget cordless hedge trimmer, but more powerful models can cost as much as £200.
Petrol hedge trimmers
Petrol hedge trimmers are great for cutting large hedges, especially those with thicker branches, that are away from a main power source. Unlike electric hedge trimmers, you do not have to worry about the extension cord reaching or the battery running down. Instead you just need a can of petrol, with the two-stroke oil mixed in, sitting ready to refuel and carry on.
The downside is obvious. All petrol driven tools are noisy, heavy, they vibrate and many can be difficult to start. However if you have the strength to handle them, they are powerful and you will get through your pruning quickly.
Petrol hedge trimmers cost between £150 and £200.
To discover the best models of each type, see our Best Buy hedge trimmers.
Long-reach hedge trimmers
If you have tall hedges, the safest and quickest way to cut them is from the ground. Long-reach hedge trimmers have a long shaft that can be adjusted in length, and the cutting blade sits at the end of this. The blade can be tilted to cut the top of the hedge or the side. We have reviewed several long-reach hedge trimmers, so have a look at our guide to long-reach hedge trimmers.
What are your hedges like?
If you have a small hedge and don’t mind a little exercise, a pair of hand shears might be all you need.
If you only have a limited amount of hedge to cut fairly close to the house, a mains electric hedge trimmer with a cutting blade up to 45cm is the best option. Our Best Buys are quick, leave a neat finish and are easy to use. If you hate the hassle of dealing with the power cable, consider a cordless hedge trimmer.
Lots of hedges
If you have lots of hedges to cut, look for a hedge trimmer with a longer cutting blade. We have Best Buy hedge trimmers with a blade length of up to 70cm or more, which will cut significantly more in a single sweep than one with a 45cm-long blade.
If your hedges are too far from the nearest power source, a petrol hedge trimmer is a sensible option. But consider also a cordless machine – some come with a spare battery, or you could buy an extra one to extend the cutting time.
Find out which are Best Buy corded, cordless and petrol trimmers in our hedge trimmer review.
If you have a number of tall hedges, it might be worth considering a long-reach hedge trimmer, which will allow you to reach the top of a high hedge without a ladder. We've tested corded electric, cordless and petrol versions. Read our guide on long-reach hedge trimmers here.
Buying a hedge trimmer
The longer the blade the quicker it will cut, but it will also be heavier, more unwieldy and more tiring to use. If you have a lot of large hedges to cut, a 70cm blade will cut more hedge in a single sweep of the blade. But such a long blade will be cumbersome if you have smaller hedges, such as low box hedging around beds, then a 45cm blade will be much easier to use.
In theory, hedge cutters can cut any branch that will fit between its teeth. Most hedge trimmers have teeth between 16mm and 22mm apart. If you need a hedge trimmer to cut larger branches, make sure you choose one that has some power behind it, so for example with a 600W electric motor or a petrol motor. Also remember that for occasional larger branches, loppers or secateurs will give a cleaner, neater cut.
Using hedge trimmers can be tiring as you will be constantly moving them, putting strain on your arms, shoulders and back. If you find hedge cutting hard work, you may prefer to opt for a light model. You can see the weight of all the hedge trimmers we have tested in the hedge trimmer reviews. However if you have a lot of hedges to cut, you may prefer to opt for a slightly heavier model that will cut more quickly, such as some of our Best Buy hedge trimmers with longer blades.
To avoid unnecessary strain, look for a hedge trimmer that is rated highly for the comfort of its handles and switches and that is well balanced. You may prefer to go to a shop or dealer to try one before you buy.
If you decide to opt for a mains electric machine, check the length of its cable. Some only have a 6m long cable, while others give you a more generous 10m.
You’ll probably still need an extension lead to reach the farthest point in the garden and the far side of the hedge. Make sure you have a residual current device (RCD) to protect yourself from an electric shock if you cut the cord. Test the RCD regularly to make sure it is working properly.
Cordless hedge trimmers come with a wide variety of batteries types and capacities. Lithium ion is the most common battery type now, the same kind you find in a mobile phone, although some older models are sold with Ni-Cad batteries. The batteries vary from 12V right up to 56V and the higher the voltage the more power they can push through the motor.
Batteries typically last from 20 minutes up to an hour and recharge times are at best around an hour and at worst around four hours long. If you have a lot of hedges to cut, it is worth investing in a cordless hedge trimmer with a higher voltage battery to get through the work quickly. A second battery may also be an option, but be aware these can be very expensive. We have seen batteries that cost as much as the hedge trimmer itself.
Check whether a second battery is cheaper to buy as a bundle with the hedge trimmer, as in some instances it can be more expensive to buy just the battery later on. Occasionally cordless hedge trimmers are sold without a battery at all, so made sure you know what you are getting.
We know that batteries often fail and this is both expensive and frustrating. Try to store you battery around half full, and at room temperature, rather than in a cold, damp shed.