Hedges can look spectacular when they're all neat and tidy, but they do require a fair amount of maintenance to keep them looking schmick. And with the mixture of heights, odd angles, a heavy weight and very sharp blades, hedge trimming can be a potentially dangerous experience, so you'll need to make a note of safety features.
Electric and cordless hedge trimmers range from around $59 to $299 plus a battery pack which could add up to $200 for some models, but the battery may be interchangeable with other garden or power tools. Petrol models can also be found in this price range, but for a heavy-duty petrol model you should expect to pay a fair bit more.
The battery hedge trimmers we tested can weigh from 2.3 to 4.7kg. How well it balances is also important so try one out in the store or borrow one from a friend to see how it feels.
Will you need to cut through thick branches or do simple trimming of leaves? If there is significant cutting involved you'll need a more powerful model. Generally, models with larger tooth gaps (at least 2cm) are more suitable for heavy-duty hedging.
Can be laser-cut for increased accuracy and longevity.
Wrap-around front handle
Loop-shaped handle facilitates handling the tool for trimming horizontally, vertically or at an angle. Rear handles may also rotate for vertical or horizontal trimming.
A hand guard will help prevent debris being thrown back towards the user. A good safety feature to look for is a safety switch on both handles, so the trimmer won't start or run unless both handles are gripped. This keeps your hands out of harm's way.
Located at the end of the cutting head, preventing the blades from damage in case you accidentally hit a hard surface while trimming (like the wall or ground).
Battery hedge trimmers are great for most households and many brands have batteries which are compatible with other power or garden tools. They're light, relatively quiet and you can always have a spare battery to hand if your power depletes. However, some models can feel underpowered when cutting thick branches, and a greater load will deplete the battery faster.
Generally cordless battery-powered hedge trimmers operate on full power until the battery runs out, so you won't have to worry about it running at less than 100% as it slowly powers down to flat.
Electric (AC) hedge trimmers are light and handy, and there's the advantage of a constant power source (unless there's a power outage, of course). Make sure your extension cord reaches your power point and it meets the correct requirements for outdoor use (check the manual). If your hedge is more than 30m from your house, these are not suitable since extension leads won't reach that far. Take care if unsnagging cords from ladders or foliage.
Petrol hedge trimmers are usually fuelled by 2-stroke engines requiring a lubricant and petrol mix (although 4-stroke engines are also available). They're suited for professionals and home owners with tough hedges to maintain, and tend to be more powerful than a battery engine. While good for thicker branches and large amounts of hedging (due to their longer runtime), they can be noisier, more polluting (with fumes near your face) and heavier than electric or battery types. CHOICE hasn't reviewed petrol hedge trimmers.
After each use, clean off debris from the blades with a dry brush and use a spray lubricant. Over time, the blades will become blunt and won't cut as effectively. Some brands may have blades that can be removed and sharpened either professionally (contact your local dealer) or at home. But very cheap models may not have serviceable parts.