What every best Hedge Trimmers has:
- Plenty of power.
- A rotating blade.
- Locking on/off switch.
Historically, cordless electric trimmers have given up some power to their corded electric- and gas-powered cousins -- but they've now developed to the point that even professionals say top cordless models can measure up to the power of a gas trimmer.
With less noise than gas trimmers, no exhaust emissions and no extension cord to hold them back, lithium-ion (Li-ion) powered cordless hedge trimmers are starting to look like a very attractive option indeed -- as long as you don't mind toting a few pounds of battery around and you remember to recharge the batteries when you're done.
The undisputed Cadillac of cordless hedge trimmers is the 36-volt Stihl HSA 66 (Est. $220). That's the price of the bare tool, minus battery and charger. If you already own other Stihl Li-ion gardening tools, they can use the same battery and charger. Otherwise, you'll also need to budget for the cost of the basic Stihl AP 80 battery (Est. $130), which provides about 60 minutes of run time, and the Stihl AL 300 rapid charger (Est. $80), which can charge that battery to 100 percent capacity in 50 minutes.
The Stihl HSA 66 is marketed as a commercial model, but homeowners with lots of hedges or a large yard to cover say it meets their needs perfectly. Meanwhile, the experts say it does just as well at heavy-duty commercial work as the gas models do. "This machine is a brute," says Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics. "It comes as close to gas-engine performance as any cordless tool can."
The 20-inch blade provides a nice balance of cutting speed and maneuverability, and its 3,000 cutting strokes per minute are enough to power through branches easily. The Stihl HSA 66 leads the pack for safety features too, including an integrated tip protector, dual triggers to ensure you keep both hands on the trimmer at all times, and a variable-speed control on the rear trigger. Extended-run batteries are also available -- the AP 180 (Est. $170) offers more than two hours of run time, and the backpack-carried AR 900 (Est. $850) suits a contractor's needs, providing up to 11 hours of continuous use. If you opt for one of those upgraded batteries, the Stihl AL 500 high speed charger (Est. $120) can cut charge times considerably, taking just 25 minutes to bring the AP 180 to a full charge.
We do have two small reservations with the Stihl HSA 66. One is that that, while user feedback is generally glowing, there's also very little of it. Stihl hedge trimmers are sold primarily through authorized local dealers rather than large retailers such as Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com. You can find a list of dealers in your area at the Stihl site.
The second reservation is its price. If your hedge trimming needs are more modest, we spotted a few models that can do a more than credible job while leaving a few -- or many -- extra dollars in your wallet.
Among those, the 18-volt Ryobi P2660 ONE+ Lithium-Ion Cordless Hedge Trimmer (Est. $120) is worth considering. That price includes a Li-ion battery that provides about 30 to 40 minutes of continuous use and a charger. If you already have Ryobi landscaping tools, the hedge trimmer can be purchased as a bare tool as well as the Ryobi P2606B (Est. $70). Spare batteries, the Ryobi P122 (Est. $100 for two), are also available.
Although the Ryobi can't match the Stihl's brute force and cutting speed, it's still powerful enough to cut through branches up to 3/4 inches thick and it has a couple of user-friendly features that make it particularly convenient for homeowners doing occasional work. Its handle rotates 90 degrees in either direction; this, combined with the 22-inch blade, makes it easy for both right- and left-handed users to maneuver the power trimmer into tight places. It also has a charge indicator, so you can see at a glance how much juice the battery has left. At 7.5 pounds with a battery, it also notably lighter than the Stihl, which weighs in at 9.5 pounds with the base AP 80 battery, and 10.7 pounds with the extended run-time AP 180 battery.
Feedback comes primarily from users, and is glowing for the most part; the P2660 garners over 110 user reviews thus far, with a rating of 4.8 stars and recommendations from 99 percent of owners. The bare tool version, the Ryobi P2606B gets even more feedback -- over 245 reviews -- and the same 4.8 star rating, as well as recommendations from 100 percent of owners.
Finally, if budget is a major consideration and you don't have a lot of large hedges or bushes to trim, the 20-volt Black & Decker LHT2220 (Est. $85) is a terrific low-cost choice. Powered by a Li-ion battery, it's rated to cut up to 3,000 square feet on a single charge, which users say translates to about 30 minutes of run time. The battery is included, but if you have other compatible Black & Decker garden power tools, it can be bought without the battery as the Black & Decker LHT2220B (Est. $60) . Spare Black & Decker LBXR20 (Est. $35) are also available.
As is the case with the Ryobi, at 22 inches, the blade's reach is more than suitable for most homeowner needs. The trimmer is rated for branches of up to 3/4 inches in diameter, though user feedback indicates that you'll be happiest if you expect good performance on those that are 1/2 inch or less. As with the Ryobi, user feedback is strong. At Amazon.com, the versions with and without the batteries earn a combined rating of 4.7 stars based on more than 1,600 reviews. Feedback is a little less, and a little more reserved at HomeDepot.com, but still strong overall. The LHT2200 earns a rating of 4.5 stars based on more than 233 reviews, with 93 percent recommending it.
As noted in our write ups, all three of these cordless trimmers are part of an interchangeable battery program; you can swap the batteries between tools of the same voltage from the same manufacturer, essentially giving you an extra spare battery every time you buy a new tool (or letting you save money by buying more tools in the same line without a battery).