An overview of gas, electric and battery-powered hedge trimmers
A hedge trimmer can be a huge time- and muscle-saver for anyone who has a yard. Whether you just need to shape a few shrubs, or you have acres of hedgerows, a hedge trimmer will make short work of the job. Choosing the best hedge trimmer starts with gauging the size of your yard and the kind of plants you grow. A bigger property needs a trimmer that has the power to keep working long enough to finish the job and one that can handle larger diameters.
Electric hedge trimmers are quiet and efficient. If your property isn't very large, electric hedge trimmers (sometimes called corded hedge trimmers) are small and light enough to move around easily. They're also the least expensive type of trimmer. Unlike gas models, they're quiet and don't have any unpleasant emissions. There are a couple of drawbacks: They limit your range, and there is a risk of tangling or cutting the cord while you work -- but that can be avoided with careful management.
Cordless hedge trimmers offer greater freedom of use. There is no cord to limit how far you can roam. They're quiet too, and don't produce any emissions. The drawbacks are that you're limited to how long the trimmer's battery lasts on a charge and you have to carry the battery itself, which can add several pounds of weight to the trimmer.
Some cordless trimmers come with two batteries. If one runs out, you can swap it for the other and continue working. Trimmers designed for commercial work often have the option of a backpack battery that offers long run times while keeping the trimmer down to a manageable weight. If you know you will need to use the trimmer frequently or for long periods, your other option is to invest in a fast-fill charger for quick recharge times.
Cordless trimmers have advanced to the point that the top models have become viable alternatives to gas-powered trimmers, even in heavy-duty commercial applications. So if you thought battery-powered trimmers were always underpowered, it might be time to take another look.
Gas hedge trimmers are the power players in the landscaping world. They cut through thicker branches than electric models and cut cleanly, leaving precision cuts and lines. They're also a top choice if you're dealing with a lot of property as a gas tank can be refilled infinitely, compared to the limitations of electric corded and cordless models. The drawbacks are the noise and the emissions, but owners say it's worth the extra power and speed.
Many reviewers still consider gas hedge trimmers the best option if you have a large area to trim. They're heavier and noisier than electric trimmers and cordless models, and they emit exhaust -- but they're still the most powerful hedge trimmers and will make short work of an otherwise lengthy job.
Finally, if you're edging and trimming grass low to the ground, you might benefit more from a string trimmer than a hedge trimmer. Once you're done with either, a leaf blower is one of the easiest ways to clean up.
Hearing and eye protection
For professionals using any power tool (including hedge trimmers), the industry standard is to use both eye and hearing protection. Homeowners would do well to follow suit; although many hedge trimmer manufacturers don't release the decibel ratings for their tools, some models definitely exceed the threshold for causing damage to your hearing.
Wearing earplugs is a cheap, comfortable way to protect your hearing; we provide a full report to help you choose the most comfortable and effective models.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Electric Hedge Trimmers: Looking for an efficient hedge trimmer without the noise and fumes of a gas model? We select the best electric hedge trimmers including Black & Decker models.
Best Cordless Hedge Trimmers: Which cordless hedge trimmers are best? Editors say Stihl is the top manufacturer of cordless hedge trimmers; Toro and Black & Decker are worthy runners up.
Best Gas Hedge Trimmer: What are the best gas hedge trimmers? Editors say Husqvarna and Poulan Pro make the top gas hedge trimmers.
Buying Guide: Before you go shopping for a hedge trimmer, read up on what to look for so you can find the model that best fits your yard size and lifestyle.
Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top hedge trimmers, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.