Hedge Trimmers: What To Know Before You Buy

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If you're thinking about adding a hedge trimmer to your yard maintenance tool collection, this guide will help you choose.

Whether you like your home landscape to look tidy or more like a park in Disney World, if you’ve got hedges and/or large shrubs, a hedge trimmer can be a wrist, hand and time saver. Choose a hedge trimmer with features that make sense for you and your yard and you’ll never regret the purchase.

What is a Hedge Trimmer?

A hedge trimmer is a machine that cuts and prunes hedges and shrubs. The blade ranges from five to 26 inches long, ideal for cutting through branches up to 1/2- to 3/4-in. thick. Anything thicker requires a different pruning tool, says Vince Christofora, owner of Woodstock Hardware in Woodstock, New York.

Types of Hedge Trimmers

Hedge trimmers are grouped by their power source into three main categories: battery-, electric- and gas-powered.

Battery-powered

Battery-powered tools have had a major impact on the market, Christofora says, especially compared to gas-powered tools. “Now the battery ones are just as powerful and provide the same amount of flexibility,” he says. Battery-powered hedge trimmers can run for up to two hours when fully charged. They weigh about eight to nine pounds, require little to no maintenance and cost between $150 and $400.

Electric-powered

Electric hedge trimmers need an extension cord and an outlet, but can run for as long as you need them. If your hedges are about 100 to 200 feet from your home and you’ll only use it a few times a year, Christofora says an electric hedge trimmer can be the most inexpensive choice; average cost is $30 to $200.

Electric trimmers are less than ideal, he says, if the hedges are more than 200 feet away because the trimmer will start to lose power. You’ll also need a long extension cord that could cost up to $100.

Gas-powered

Gas-powered hedge trimmers are best for homeowners or professionals who trim hedges regularly, Christofora says. They’re higher maintenance than the battery-powered and electric trimmers because the engine runs on a mixture of gas and oil. And the engine may need occasional repair, especially after spending a cold winter in the garage.  Gas-powered hedge trimmers can cost from $150 to $600.

Hedge Trimmer Features

When shopping for a hedge trimmer, consider these features.

  • Weight: Battery-operated and electric hedge trimmers are easier to use than gas-powered trimmers because they weigh half as much. An electric hedge trimmer can weigh as little as five pounds with a blade as short as five inches!
  • Vibration and noise: Gas-powered hedge trimmers vibrate and are noisier than electric hedge trimmers, making them less comfortable to use. All hedge trimmers will make some noise so Christofora recommends buying hearing protection (headphones or ear plugs), along with vision protection and work gloves for safety. Note: A hedge trimmer can be as loud as 103 decibels (dB); anything louder than 80 dB can cause hearing damage or loss.
  • Single- or double-action blades: Hedge trimmers blades are single-action (one moving blade and one static blade) or double-action (two blades moving in opposite directions). Christofora says double-action hedge trimmers are helpful if you’re shaping your hedges, or if you’ll be using your hedge trimmer for extended periods because they vibrate less than single-action hedge trimmers.
  • Blade teeth: The teeth can be spaced 1/2- to 1-1/2-inches apart. If the blade teeth are close together, they might not be able to handle more unruly hedges. So don’t buy a hedge trimmer with narrower teeth if you’re cutting through 1/2- to 3/4- inch hedge growth.
  • Safety: Look for auxiliary handles, blade guards and lock buttons. The lock button ensures that the tool won’t turn on unless a second button is pressed.

How to Choose a Hedge Trimmer

When deciding between the three types of hedge trimmers, Christofora recommends answering these questions:

  • How much do you plan to use the trimmer?
  • How far from the home do you plan to trim?
  • Are you familiar with small engine repair?
  • Do you already own any battery-powered tools? What brand are they?

There’s always a low-key option for the gardener with a small amount of trimming — a people-powered pair of hand trimmers.

All prices and links were current as of publication.