How to buy the best hedge trimmer
A good hedge trimmer can be a blessing, saving you time and preventing aching arms. Our expert guide explains how to shop for a hedge trimmer that gives a clean, neat finish to your hedge.
Picking the right hedge trimmer for you will depend largely on the kind of hedges you have in your garden and how many. For example, are you cutting formal, straight-sided dividing hedges or more informal, flowering hedges?
Below, we run through the key hedge trimmer features to look out for, also explaining the differences between electric hedge trimmers, cordless hedge trimmers and petrol hedge trimmers.
Video: how to buy the best hedge trimmer
Watch our video for our expert tips on how to choose the best hedge trimmer for your needs and budget.
What type of hedge trimmer should I choose?
Electric hedge trimmers
Pros: Cheaper than cordless or petrol, and often lighter.
Cons: Need access to mains power. Easy to accidentally cut the power cable.
Electric hedge trimmers 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 possibly an extension cord.
As you will need to plug it 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 over your shoulder and out of the way of the blade. Always use a residual current device (RCD) to protect yourself from electric shock if you cut the cord.
Cordless hedge trimmers
Pros: Can be taken anywhere. Easy to use.
Cons: Can be expensive. May need a second battery to finish long jobs. Batteries may be unreliable.
Cordless hedge trimmers give you the freedom to cut hedges further away from the house, and there is no cable to accidentally cut through.
Now, cordless models with higher-powered 36V batteries rival petrol hedge trimmers. Batteries typically last around 20 minutes, but some will keep going for 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.
The results of our most recent reliability survey show that many cordless hedge trimmer owners find the batteries to be unreliable – either they don't hold the charge well or don't charge at all. You might want to consider the price of replacing the battery when you work out how much the hedge trimmer will cost to use over its lifetime.
Most hedge trimmer manufacturers also now produce a range of tools that all use the same battery. As a result, you can often see 'bare' hedge trimmers for sale. These do not come with either a battery or a charger. Be aware, though, that the battery is often as expensive, if not more expensive, than the hedge trimmer itself and so the price will rise sharply once these are added in.
Petrol hedge trimmers
Pros: Better, faster cutting for large areas. Can trim anywhere.
Cons: Weight, noise and vibration are all inescapable problems. Can be hard to start the engine.
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 don't 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.
Long-reach, extendable hedge trimmers
Pros: Perfect for cutting tall hedges safely.
Cons: Often underpowered and can be unwieldy to use.
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.
Long-reach hedge trimmers can be found as corded electric, cordless or petrol models. Petrol long-reach hedge trimmers can often be sold as or converted to a multi-tool, and the hedge trimmer head can be swapped for a strimmer head or a pruner. This means you can effectively have several tools without having to buy more than one motor.
Corded electric hedge trimmers - are the cheapest to buy and you can get one from around £30. Most of our Best Buy hedge trimmers, however, cost more than £100, and our top-scoring hedge trimmer is around £140.
Cordless hedge trimmers - there are a few budget cordless hedge trimmers that cost around £40, but the ones we've tested for this price haven't scored well. More powerful models with a high-voltage lithium-ion battery can cost as much as £200. You also need to think about the expense of replacement batteries, which can cost as much as £100. Be aware that the cost of a cordless hedge trimmer is sometimes quoted for sale without the battery. Which? always includes the battery in the guideline price we show.
- Petrol hedge trimmers - cost from around £90, but expect to pay around £150 or more for a better model. Many petrol hedge trimmers are aimed at professional users and so you can pay upwards of £400 for a good model from a well-known brand.
- Long-reach hedge trimmers - sell for around £60 for a corded electric model or £100 for a cordless version. Extending petrol hedge trimmers start at around £90, but if you're after a good, reliable brand, you may have to pay in excess of £200. Multi-tools, which have a hedge-trimmer head that can be swapped for a strimmer or pruner, cost from £150 to around £400.
Best hedge trimmers: features to look for
- Blade length When you're shopping for a hedge trimmer, remember that the longer the blade, the more you will be able to cut with each sweep. However, longer blades are generally trickier to manoeuvre. For most gardeners, a 45-60cm blade is suitable.
- Teeth spacing Wider teeth are powerful enough to slice through bigger branches, but need a larger motor. Many have a fairly restricted width of up to 20mm between teeth, which is fine for an annual trim of a typical garden hedge, or for twiggy hedges such as privet. You will often see claims that the hedge trimmer can cut stems up to 33mm, but in practice we would not recommend using a hedge trimmer to cut such thick branches. If your hedge has branches larger than around 1cm, you will achieve a neater finish with loppers.
- Tip protector a short bar across the top to prevent you from damaging the blade if you knock it against a solid object.
- Catcher plate a piece of plastic or metal that can be attached along the length of the blade to sweep away cuttings.
- Hand guard prevents your fingers coming near the teeth and stops clippings from getting caught up around your hands as you cut.
- Blade sheath or guard protects the blade when carrying or storing the machine, preventing dust and dirt from getting onto the blade and blunting the cutting teeth.
- Wraparound front handle with an 'on' switch that runs around the length of the handle makes it easy to change from cutting the sides or top of the hedge.
- Rotating rear handle helps maintain the same grip when cutting vertically or horizontally.
- Battery Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly replacing Ni-Cad and often have higher voltages and capacity.
- Voltage high voltage lithium-ion batteries are increasingly common and there are now 56V and 72V batteries are starting to feature on hedge trimmers. These typically allow the hedge trimmers to run for longer between charges and to have more power, meaning they are more likely to cope with thicker branches.
- Battery indicator lights to show how much charge you still have in the battery. This allows you to plan your work and see when you will need to take a break to recharge the battery.
What size hedge trimmer do I need?
For 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.
For situations where you have a limited amount of hedge to cut close to the house, a mains electric hedge trimmer with a cutting blade up to 45cm long is the best option. Our selection of Best Buy hedge trimmers 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.
For 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 a significant amount in a single sweep. For hedges that are too far from the nearest power source, a petrol hedge trimmer is a sensible option. But also consider a cordless machine – some come with a spare battery, or you could buy an extra one to extend the cutting time.
For tall hedges
If you're dealing with 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.