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1 October 2020

How to buy the best hedge trimmer

Cutting box topiary or tackling overgrown leylandii hedges? Need a standard or long-reach hedge trimmer? Our expert guide will help you pick the best trimmer for you.
Adele Dyer

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.

Want to know which model you should buy right now? Take a look at our best 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?

Our interactive tool will help you choose the best type of hedge trimmer for your needs.

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.

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.

How much do I need to spend on a hedge trimmer?

Corded electric models 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.

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 can cost as much as £200 for a cordless hedge trimmer with a high-voltage lithium-ion battery. 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.

Finally, if you need a long-reach hedge trimmer, you can pick one up from 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.
  • Teeth spacing The distance between the teeth of your hedge trimmer will have a direct effect on the stems it can cut. Wider teeth are powerful enough to slice through bigger branches, but need a larger motor.
  • Hand guard Always make sure you're safe when using a hedge trimmer. Built-in hand guards will stop your fingers from going near the teeth of the machine.
  • Wraparound front handle This handle has an 'on' switch and runs around the length of the hedge trimmer's handle. Its position makes it easy to change from cutting the sides or top of a hedge.

For more on essential hedge trimmer parts that sort the Don't Buy models from their Best Buy alternatives, see our in-depth guide on hedge trimmer features explained.

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.

Discover which models we recommend with our guide on the top five best hedge trimmers for small hedges.

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.

Find out which models are Best Buy corded, cordless and petrol hedge trimmers.

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.

Read about our recommendations in our guide to the top five best hedge trimmers for large hedges.

View all Hedge trimmers
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