How to buy a hedge trimmer

Hedge trimmers: How to buy the best hedge trimmer

  • Petrol, cordless and electric hedge trimmers explained
  • Match your garden hedge to the right type of hedge trimmer
  • What to look for in the shop

Which type of hedge trimmer?

There are three main types, based on their power source. 

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Choose a corded electric hedge trimmer if your hedges are near a power socket.

Mains electric hedge trimmers

Mains electric hedge trimmers have a power cable so you can only use them close to a power socket or with an extension lead. They're fairly light and easy to use and suitable for most small to medium-sized gardens.The major worry for most people is keeping the power cord out of the way of the blade. You'll also need to use an RCD because of the risk of accidentally cutting the power cable.

Cordless hedge trimmers

Cordless hedge trimmers have a battery that can be removed and recharged indoors. They're as easy to use as a corded electric trimmer but have the advantage that you don't need to worry about cutting the cable. In our latest tests they all cut for over 20 minutes on one charge and some for over an hour.  Cordless trimmers have blades up to about 52cm and narrowly spaced teeth, so are only really suitable for regularly trimmed hedges.

Petrol hedge trimmers

Petrol hedge trimmers by comparison are large, heavy machines. They're useful if you have large or overgrown hedges that are far from a power source. But as with all petrol machines they are noisy, create exhaust fumes and can be tiring to use for long periods. 

To discover the best models of each type, see our Best Buy hedge trimmers.

 
Hedge trimmers

Petrol hedge trimmers can be heavy and tiring but are useful on hedges away from the house

How long are your hedges?

Small hedges

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 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 boundary hedges, a powered hedge trimmer will certainly take the effort out of this regular task. One with a blade 45-60cm long will save time. 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.

 

Tall hedges

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

Blade length

The longer the blade the quicker it will cut, but it will also be heavier, more unwieldy and more tiring to use. For a typical garden hedge a blade 45-55cm long should be fine. 

Tooth spacing

For regularly cut hedges a gap between teeth of 16-20mm is sufficient. If you encounter branches wider than this occasionally you'll need to use secateurs or loppers. If you want to cut a very woody or overgrown hedge look for one with a wider gap, up to 30mm with a more powerful motor.

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A wraparound handle makes it easier to use a hedge trimmer to cut vertically or horizontally.

Weight

Bear in mind that you will be holding a hedge trimmer at arm's length so anything that weighs more than about 3.5kg can be very tiring to use for any length of time. Check the weight of the machine before you buy, trying it out in person if possible. If you have weak arms go for a shorter blade – for example a 48cm instead of 60cm version.

Comfort 

If you can, check the balance too – it should be balanced when held by the front handle to save unnecessary effort. Check also that the handles and switches are comfortable, especially if you have very large or very small hands. Make sure you can reach and press down the switches easily and that the machine feels comfortable to use when cutting vertically or horizontally.

Cable length

If you decide to opt for a mains electric machine, check the length of its cable – you’ll probably 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 any power sockets you’ll use, and test it regularly.

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