What the best hedge trimmer has

  • Plenty of power. If you have older hedges with thick branches, you will want a comparatively powerful machine to trim them.
  • A rotating blade. When you need to trim between hedges and walls, fences or other plants, it's good to have a rotating blade that allows you to hold the unit comfortably and safely while cutting at different angles.
  • Locking on/off switch. If you like to trim your hedges in one work session, a lock-on switch will reduce fatigue as you trim. Conversely, if you will be working near children, dogs or other distractions, a switch that requires continuous pressure to operate is a safer option.
  • Lightweight construction. What you consider "lightweight" is subjective, but the lighter a trimmer is the longer you'll be able to use it before fatigue sets in. If you're not sure how much you can handle, try the trimmer in a store (go through the motions without actually powering it up) or rent a model you're considering to make sure it's right for you.
  • Tolerable noise levels. Professionals wear earplugs and eye protection when using any power tool, and you should, too -- but some electric and cordless models are so quiet, they probably won't bother the neighbors.
  • A good warranty. Users report occasional durability issues with even the best hedge trimmers, sometimes right out of the box; look for a model that has at least a two-year warranty.

Know before you go

How big is your property? If you have a lawn or garden that extends less than 100 yards from the most convenient power source, you may be able to use a corded hedge trimmer. However, if your outdoor space is larger or involves some odd obstacles, you'd be better off with a battery-powered or gas trimmer.

Do you want to cut branches thicker than half an inch? Most hedge trimmers are recommended to cut up to 1/2-inch branches. If you need to cut something a half-inch wide or more, you'd be better off with a chain saw or manual shears.

How often do you plan to use your hedge trimmer? If your plants only require occasional trimming (a few times per year), then a cheaper electric or cordless model makes sense. For more frequent jobs, spending the extra money for a more powerful gas trimmer can save you both time and money in the long run.

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