Most homeowners can get by with an electric or cordless trimmer for maintaining smaller yards. However, if you need to trim large amounts of greenery, won't be near an electrical outlet or simply need more cutting power than most cordless hedge trimmers provide, a gas-powered hedge trimmer is your best option. Certain models may cut thicker branches more cleanly and quickly than electric and cordless models with a similar size blade. Be aware, though, that gas hedge trimmers are heavier, especially with a full gas tank. They also produce more noise and vibration than electric or cordless models -- not to mention the smelly exhaust and the engine's maintenance requirements. Furthermore, gas hedge trimmers can be pretty expensive compared with corded or cordless electric trimmers (with the exception of the Stihl HSA 65 discussed in the previous section), and you must periodically replace the air and fuel filters.
We found far fewer reviews for gas-powered hedge trimmers than we did for electric models, but several hedge trimmers made by Echo get positive comments from professionals and consumers alike. Editors at Popular Mechanics magazine recommend the 20-inch Echo HC-150 (*Est. $280) , noting that "Echo has a great reputation for its engines and this one didn't disappoint." It incorporates a commercial-grade air-filtration system that meets federal clean-air standards using a fuel-efficient two-cycle engine. At more than 10 pounds, the Echo HC-150, like other gas hedge trimmers, is significantly heavier than most electric hedge trimmers.
This Echo hedge trimmer has only about a dozen user reviews at HomeDepot.com, but all give it a near-perfect score. A recent discussion thread at Lawnsite.com offers more user feedback, all of it positive. The 20-inch Echo HC-150i (*Est. $310) adds Echo's i-start feature, which according to the manufacturer reduces starting effort by 75 percent. Dealers say this feature makes the HC-150i popular with customers, but we didn't find independent reviews of the model, so the claims are difficult to verify.
The Echo HC-165 (*Est. $450) has a longer 24-inch blade and convenience features like a rotating handle and vibration-reduction system. The Echo HC-185 (*Est. $470) has a 30-inch blade, but is otherwise mechanically identical to the HC-165. Echo's gas-powered hedge trimmers are commercial-grade tools, and they're backed by a five-year warranty for homeowner use.
Stihl makes a few gas-powered hedge trimmers, and This Old House magazine recommends them in a brief slideshow review. However, editors do not specify which Stihl hedge trimmer they recommend, nor do they discuss how they tested them -- if at all. Review site GaltTech.com mentions the Stihl HS 45 (*Est. $280) in its review of hedge trimmers, but editors instead recommend the Poulan Pro 25HHT (*Est. $190) gas hedge trimmer. The Poulan Pro 25HHT has 22-inch double-reciprocating blades, a 25cc two-cycle engine, and is fairly heavy at 11.8 pounds. Feedback is generally positive in more than 20 user reviews at Amazon.com, though the average rating is only 3.6 out of 5 stars. A few people note that the Poulan trimmer cuts through 3/4-inch limbs with no trouble; on the negative side, several users complain that it's hard to start.