The best hedge trimmer for you will depend mainly on the size and extent of hedges and shrubs in your yard.
You may be able to get away without a powered trimmer altogether if you have a very small amount of trimming to do. Alternatively, you could consider a mini trimmer, or a convertible grass shear / mini trimmer such as the Sun Joe HJ602C (read our review here).
If you only have a small amount of trimming and it’s not too far from an outdoor power outlet, a small electric hedge trimmer may be your best bet.
Large or long
If you have a bigger trimming job, you should consider a trimmer with a longer blade – usually the longer the blade, the quicker the job, as a longer blade will cut more with one movement by the operator than a shorter blade.
If your job extends too far from an outdoor power outlet (generally about 100 feet), you will need to consider either a cordless or gas hedge trimmer. Pros and cons of each type are listed above.
Generally, if your hedges or shrubs are so extensive that they would take over an hour to cut, you'll need to either consider a gasoline hedge trimmer, or a cordless trimmer with at least 1 extra battery, so you can keep 1 battery on charge until the other runs out.
If your hedge is over about 5 feet, consider an extendable hedge trimmer - it's unsafe to use a hedge trimmer on a stepladder. Alternatively, consider using a regular hedge trimmer with a scaffold platform.
In general, a longer blade will complete your trimming job faster. However, a longer blade also implies more weight & more fatigue for you, so the best length for your needs is a trade-off. Also, a longer blade can be unwieldy if you have a small hedge or a complex shape to cut.
Most hedge trimmers on the market today have double-sided blades - this makes the trimmer more versatile, and better for intricate work such as shaping, but is slightly heavier than a single-sided blade. If all the teeth are on one side of the blade, the blade can be longer for the same total weight, and a longer blade can do more cutting in a single sweep.
You will also need to consider the tooth spacing - theoretically, a hedge trimmer can cut any branch that will fit between its teeth, though in practice you will need one of the more powerful trimmers to cut through thick, old-growth branches. Hedge trimmers with a 3/4" gap between teeth are now common.
Using a hedge trimmer can cause fatigue, especially if you have a long trimming job, or are cutting at height. The heavier the trimmer, the faster it will tire you out, so be aware of the weight before you decide which model to buy.
Bear in mind it may be worth opting for a slightly heavier model if it has enough power to get your trimming job done faster than a slightly lighter but less powerful trimmer.
Vibration, handles and balance are the 3 main factors affecting operator comfort. You should look for a trimmer that has two handles, preferably with multiple power switches to allow you to use the trimmer in different orientations.
Dual-action blades (not to be confused with double-sided blades) cause less vibration than their single-action equivalents, but they are slightly heavier and generally more expensive than a single-action trimmer. Basically a single-action blade has 1 moving blade and 1 stationary blade, and a dual-action blade actually comprises 2 moving blades cutting against each other in opposite directions.
Gasoline hedge trimmers will always cause more vibration than either corded or cordless electric trimmers.
A typical electric or cordless hedge trimmer will produce noise at around 90dBA (similar to a motorbike 25 feet away), whereas a typical gasoline hedge trimmer will be in the 97 to 103dBA region (similar to a jet flying overhead at 1000 feet, and around double the noise level of an electric trimmer).
Hearing protection is advised with all types, but the noise of the gasoline trimmer will cause fatigue sooner, not to mention upsetting the neighbors and potentially falling foul of local noise regulations.
Many hedge trimmers are now available with a rotating head, which allows you to hold the trimmer in its normal position while cutting either horizontally or vertically. This reduces fatigue and contributes to safety.
Hedge Clipping Collector
It is possible to buy a hedge trimmer with an attachable tray, which collects clippings for you to tip out, rather than leaving them all over your yard (or your neighbor's yard)
The most common battery technology currently available is Li-ion. This type of battery can store more energy in a smaller and lighter package than earlier rechargeable battery types – it’s the same type of battery used in laptops, mobile phones and Tesla electric cars.
Li-ion batteries don’t suffer from the “memory effect” of older battery technologies. However, there are some issues with performance and longevity. A Li-ion battery can be permanently damaged if it is allowed to discharge below a certain level, and it will last for more charging / discharging cycles if it is not overcharged. The chargers supplied with the batteries are sophisticated devices, meant to deal with these challenges.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for battery charging and storage for the best results, and never store Li-ion batteries for long periods fully discharged.
Check both the battery life between charges, and the time to recharge, before you decide which trimmer to buy. If the battery will not last long enough for you to complete your trimming job you may need to buy a second battery, or consider another trimmer with longer battery life.
A two year warranty is fairly typical for hedge trimmers. Be aware that residential hedge trimmers are not built for commercial or continuous use, and this type of use will invalidate the warranty.
Many trimmers now come fitted with a hand guard, to protect the operator from flying debris being flung back from the blades.
To reduce the chance of accidental starting, and increase safety, look for a trimmer which requires both hands to press a button before starting.
Some trimmers come with a built-in brake, which will stop the blades almost instantly once the trimmer is turned off, reducing the chance of accident or injury.
Personal Protective Equipment
Ear, eye and hand protection is a must when using a hedge trimmer. Earplugs are an inexpensive way to protect your hearing. Wear safety glasses or goggles, and a decent pair of gloves. Non-slip footwear is also essential.
Consider the factors above before you decide which trimmer to buy. For more information on the most popular cordless hedge trimmers available today, check out our reviews.