How we test hedge trimmers

Hedge trimmers: How we test hedge trimmers

  • Which? experts test hedge trimmers on real hedges
  • Ease of use and safety assessed to find our Best Buys 
  • We've tested hundreds since we began in 1982, so we know what makes a good one

How we decide which hedge trimmers to test

Which? tests the best-selling hedge trimmers. We also look for newly launched or interesting models, and best-selling brands such as Bosch, Flymo, Ryobi and Stihl, particularly if they have innovative features.

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What makes a Best Buy hedge trimmer?

Check out our video to see how a Best Buy hedge trimmer will make a real, practical difference to you. 

 

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Our testers cut 5m of conifer hedge with each hedge trimmer

Hedge cutter tests

Two experienced testers used each machine to cut 2.5m lengths on the side of two types of hedge, both 2m high – a dense conifer hedge and a sparse but woody deciduous hedge, composed mainly of blackthorn and hawthorn. They rated the quality of finish and timed how long each hedge trimmer took to complete the task. They also cut a 2.5m section of the top of the hedges.

What can hedge trimmers cut?

For the most recent round of testing, we dropped the test on the deciduous hedge and added a new lab test to find out the thickest branches each trimmer could cope with. 

We tried batches of 10 freshly cut branches of increasing thickness from 5 to 30mm until the trimmer could no longer cope or they didn't fit between the teeth. We found that most hedge trimmers could cut live wood that would fit into their teeth.

Which are the easiest hedge trimmers to use?

Three testers, representing a range of heights, ages and experience, assessed each hedge trimmer for ease of use, taking into account how easy they would be for an older or less able gardener to operate. 

They rated the machines on 18 criteria, including how easy they are to carry around, how comfortable the handles and switches are, how easy to use for vertical or horizontal cutting and whether noise, vibration, weight or balance are a problem. 

All our hedge trimmer reviews include all their scores for performance and ease of use.

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We time how long each cordless hedge trimmer cuts before it needs re-charging

Cordless hedge trimmer battery life

In addition to the standard tests above, our testers ran the cordless trimmers continuously on a tougher twiggy hedge and timed how long the battery lasted. They also rated how easy the battery was to remove and refit.

Hedge trimmer safety

We check hedge trimmers for electrical and mechanical safety. They should be designed in such a way that it's impossible to injure yourself in normal use. Features we look for include:

  • Two separate switches so you have to keep both hands on the machine 
  • The blades should stop the instant you release one of the switches, so touching a still-moving blade is impossible 
  • The blade should have blade extensions – fixed teeth that extend well beyond the cutting teeth so you can’t do serious damage if you accidentally brush the trimmer against your leg

Over the 30 years we’ve been testing hedge trimmers, safety features have improved considerably. In the early days we campaigned to improve safety features and these have now been incorporated into international standards and adopted by all manufacturers.

How Which? scores hedge trimmers

The score is made up of 50% performance and 50% ease of use. For cordless trimmers, battery life makes up 20%. Although the tests for cordless and corded hedge trimmers were done at different times, we’ve analysed the results for the two types together. 

A mains electric trimmer has to score over 70% to be a Best Buy. Cordless trimmers are generally slower and don't leave such a neat finish, petrol machines are powerful but heavier, noisier and more tiring to use. Best Buy cordless and petrol hedge trimmers score more than 65%.

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