No groundcare professional, estate manager, or gardener’s collection of equipment is complete without a hedge trimmer. However, when it comes to buying a hedge trimmer, there are many facets to consider and think about. If you want to ensure you buy the perfect hedge trimmer for your needs, then read this buying guide from the team at Hughie Willett Machinery first…
What is a hedge trimmer?
Let’s kick things off with the basics; what exactly is a hedge trimmer?
Whilst this may seem like a question with an obvious answer, the sheer range of hedge trimmers available today means it’s actually a question with a nuanced answer.
Here at Hughie Willett Machinery we define a hedge trimmer as a ‘powered cutting tool that is designed to trim, cut, and generally shape hedges, shrubs and bushes’.
Hedge trimmers - which are sometimes also called shrub trimmers or bush trimmers - can be electric, petrol or battery powered - and this is the power used to power the cutting mechanism.
Here at Hughie Willett Machinery, our focus is on the petrol and battery variety of hedge trimmers, as these are more suitable for prolonged use by groundcare professionals throughout the course of a working day and domestic users for home use.
What are the different types of hedge trimmer?
Whilst there are hundreds of different models of powered hedge trimmer available, you’ll find that they fall into two distinct categories.
Handheld hedge trimmers
As their name suggests, hand-held hedge trimmers are trimmers where the cutting blade sits at the same level as your hands. This type of hedge trimmer can be used to cut shrubbery and vegetation at a similar level to the height of the operator.
Pole (long reach) hedge trimmers
Pole hedge trimmers are a type of hedge trimmer that features the cutting mechanism mounted at the end of a pole or telescopic shaft.
This allows the user to cut shrubbery and hedges that are above head height, e.g. tall hedgerows.
What are the main parts of a hedge trimmer?
Although hedge trimmers do vary from model to model, they generally have the same overall parts and components.
The image below shows the main components and parts you can expect to see on a powered hedge trimmer:
The parts numbered above are as follows:
Blade support rod - this is the central rod of metal which the metal cutting blades are connected to.
Blade - the blade moves back and forth to cut which creates the cutting action. In this case, the hedge trimmer has a double-sided blade (i.e. blades on both sides of the blade support rod).
Handle - this is used to provide additional grip for stability and manipulation of the hedge trimmer. It would normally be the user’s subordinate hand that grips this handle (e.g. if you are right-handed, your left hand would grab this handle).
Motor - depending on the exact model you buy, the hedge trimmer will have a petrol, electric or battery-powered motor. It’s this motor that makes up the ‘bulk’ of a hedge trimmer’s body.
Pull start - on petrol fuelled hedge trimmers, there will be a pull start which is used to fire up the motor.
Fuel filler cap and fuel tank - on petrol hedge trimmers you will find a fuel filler cap and associated fuel tank.
- Rear handle - the rear handle is the main ‘grip’ for a hedge trimmer, and will typically feature a trigger switch. It’s this switch, when pressed in conjunction with a secondary trigger switch, that starts up the cutting blades.
Note - depending on the model of hedge trimmer you buy, the secondary trigger switch can be located along with the main trigger switch on the rear handle OR be situated on the front handle. In either case, the two switches must be pressed together to start the cutting blades. This is a deliberate safety measure.
How much do hedge trimmers cost?
This is a question which has a very varied answer and depends upon the type of hedge trimmer you buy, the brand, its features and more.
Here at Hughie Willett Machinery, we stock hedge trimmers across a broad range of price points. At the time of writing (May 2023), we have hedge trimmers available from just over £90 for a basic battery-powered trimmer, up to £600 plus for the most powerful pole hedge trimmers.
Hedge trimmer buying considerations
As you’ve read so far, there are a wide range of hedge trimmers available on the market. Below, we’ve set out the considerations you should think about when shopping for a hedge trimmer.
Power source/fuel type
One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make when selecting a hedge trimmer is the power/fuel source.
Hedge trimmers are typically available with three types of fuel source:
Battery hedge trimmers
Battery hedge trimmers are powered by an on-board lithium-ion battery. As a result, they are free of the power cords which are associated with electric hedge trimmers, and are thus easy to handle and manoeuvre; there’s no annoying cord to get tangled up in.
Battery hedge trimmers also have the advantage of generally being quieter than their petrol counterparts, with no exhaust fumes to contend with.
The downside of battery hedge trimmers is that they have a limited amount of power. Not only that, but as the power in the trimmer’s battery diminishes, you often find that the cutting power of the trimmer diminishes too.
Once the trimmer’s battery is empty, you’ll need to recharge it - which in many cases can take two to four hours. Of course this can be extended by having more than one battery and switching between batteries (e.g. having one on charge whilst the other is in use).
This means that battery hedge trimmers are not always suitable if you intend to work on large tracts of land or use the trimmer continually throughout the day.
Having said that, though, some battery hedge trimmers - such as those manufactured by Husqvarna - feature energy saving modes (Husqvarna’s energy saving feature is called savE™). This allows you to either set your trimmer for maximum power at the expense of power longevity, or vice versa, reducing cutting power to sustain battery life.
Electric hedge trimmers
Electric hedge trimmers - as their name suggests - are a type of trimmer that is electrically powered via a cable connection to a power supply.
This type of trimmer has the advantage of being able to operate continuously and consistently. Unlike battery trimmers which require charging, and which have diminishing cutting performance as the charge declines - corded electric hedge trimmers can just go on and on and on…
Electric hedge trimmers do share a common benefit with battery-powered hedge trimmers, though; they’re zero emission! Unlike petrol trimmers which give off exhaust fumes, electric hedge trimmers do not give off any smoke, exhaust or other fumes.
However, electric trimmers are not without their downsides. For one, being powered via an electric cable means these types of trimmers can be a little more cumbersome to use. What’s more, they can also be limited by the length of their power cable. The alternative involves using an extension cable - which can also be a tiresome task.
Petrol hedge trimmers
Petrol hedge trimmers are widely regarded as the ‘go to’ type of hedge trimmer - particularly for groundcare professionals, groundsmen, estate managers and others who need to use trimmers regularly and for long periods of time.
Petrol hedge trimmers generally have a 2-stroke motor which produces the distinct high-pitched buzzing sound with which they are associated.
The advantages of using a petrol hedge trimmer include the ability to work for long periods of time with consistent cutting performance. Plus, petrol hedge trimmers can be refilled in only a few seconds. And, you don’t need to find a charging point or electrical socket. A jerry can filled with petrol is all you need.
Petrol hedge trimmers also tend to be the most powerful types of trimmer, being able to cut through thicker shrubs, twigs and other greenery compared to electric or battery hedge trimmers.
The only real downside of petrol hedge trimmers is that they give off exhaust fumes. However, the latest models of hedge trimmer feature low emission motors, which are designed to be considerably greener than older motors.
Summary - which power source/fuel type is best for you is very much dependent on how you’ll be using your trimmer. Home and small-scale users will find battery and electric models the best. Commercial groundcare professionals will find petrol trimmers the most suitable.
Like many other types of groundcare machinery, it’s important to buy a hedge trimmer that has enough power for what you’ll be using it for.
As a general rule, you’ll find that petrol hedge trimmers are the most powerful, followed by electric hedge trimmers and then battery hedge trimmers.
Be aware though; whilst it may be tempting to simply buy the most powerful hedge trimmer you can afford, you don’t necessarily want to do this. A hedge trimmer that’s too powerful may be unwieldy and difficult to use - especially if you need to carry out relatively delicate tasks like the shaping of shrubbery.
In order to gauge the power of a petrol hedge trimmer look for the ‘power output’. For petrol hedge trimmers this will be displayed as ‘bhp’ (brake horsepower). For electric or battery hedge trimmers the power output is displayed as ‘kW’ (kilowatt).
When it comes to selecting a hedge trimmer that’ll work best for your particular applications, the cutting mechanism is an essential thing to think about.
The cutting mechanism on powered hedge trimmers varies depending on the exact model you purchase, however, in general you’ll find that hedge trimmers feature a finger-bar style cutting mechanism.
This type of cutting mechanism centres on a long metal bar (known as the blade support rod) which extends from the body of the hedge trimmer. On this metal bar is located the cutting teeth.
Single or double cutting action
When looking at the cutting action of hedge trimmers, you’ll find that you have two choices:
- Single cutting action hedge trimmers.
- Double cutting action hedge trimmers.
Single cutting action hedge trimmers
Single cutting action hedge trimmers are made with one set of cutting blades that only have cutting teeth on one side. These blades have a support rod running alongside them to keep them straight.
On this type of hedge trimmer, only one of the cutting blades moves backwards and forwards. The other cutting blade remains stationary.
Double sided hedge trimmers
Today, you’ll find that the majority of hedge trimmers are built with double sided blades. This means they have cutting teeth on both sides of the blades.
In this configuration, hedge trimmers feature two cutting blades - one on either side, with a blade support running down their length to keep the blades straight.
In addition to the cutting mechanism itself, it’s also a good idea to check the cutting speed of your chosen hedge trimmer.
This is typically measured in cuts per minute and will be written as cut/min. As you’d expect, the faster the cutting speed, the more work you’ll be able to get done.
Cutting speeds on the majority of hedge trimmers tend to vary from 3,000 cut/min up to 4,000 cut/min.
You can find the cutting speed of many of our hedge trimmers within the individual product description.
Don’t forget to check the length of your chosen hedge trimmer’s blade support rod.
Here at Hughie Willett Machinery, you’ll find hedge trimmers with blade support rods that vary in length from 18-inches (45 cm) all the way up to 30-inches (75 cm).
Are you wondering which length is right for you? The general rule is that the longer the blade on your hedge trimmer, the more work you can get done. After all, you’ll have a larger cutting surface which you can sweep over shrubbery.
However, before you rush off and buy the longest possible hedge trimmer you can find, bear in mind the following point; with longer blades, you may find that the hedge trimmer is not only more unwieldy and harder to handle, but it’ll be heavier too.
So, if you think you’ll be undertaking tasks like shaping and finely trimming, it may be better to plump for a shorter blade.
For most users, a hedge trimmer with a blade of between 45 cm and 60 cm is sufficient. However, if you expect to do heavy-duty work or considerable volumes of trimming, then go for a longer blade of 60 to 75 cm.
Another point to consider when selecting a hedge trimmer is the ‘tooth gap’ on the cutting blades.
The tooth gap - which refers to the spacing between each of the blade’s teeth, is important, as the size of the gap will determine the diameter of the vegetation you are able to cut.
If the tooth gap is too narrow, you’ll find that the hedge trimmer gets jammed up on even light shrubbery.
The tooth gap usually comes in 2 variants - standard and fine/topiary. The standard size is suitable for the majority of hedge cutting work. But if you are working on ornamental topiary, box hedges, green sculptures, etc you may find the fine / topiary models of hedgecutter produce a much cleaner, more accurate cut.
So, what size tooth gap should you be looking for? We suggest that a tooth gap of between 16 and 20 mm will be sufficient for the majority of cutting jobs.
Will you be using your hedge trimmer for prolonged periods throughout the day? Or will you just be using it for a few minutes to trim a hedge?
How you answer these questions will determine how heavy you want your hedge trimmer to be. For example, if you’re going to be using your hedge trimmer professionally all day, then you’re not going to want it to be too heavy. Otherwise, you’ll find that you get arm, neck and backache.
The general rule is “lighter is better’’. You’ll find that the majority of professional hedge trimmers - especially those from brands such as Stihl and Husqvarna - range from 4 to 5 kg in weight. This is a manageable weight for the majority of people.
An often overlooked consideration is vibration. Should you be using your hedge trimmer on a prolonged basis throughout the day, then you need to think about vibration.
Petrol-powered hedge trimmers in particular have a reputation for vibrating as a result of the revolutions of the motor.
Newer models, however, often include anti-vibration systems. Husqvarna, for example, has developed its LowVib® anti-vibration system, which uses a series of dampeners placed strategically around the trimmer to absorb vibration. The result is a hedge trimmer that’s far more comfortable and enjoyable to use.
Stihl hedge trimmers use a similar system, whereby the oscillations from the trimmer’s motor are dampened in a way that reduces vibrations at the trimmer’s handles.
It is normal to see anti-vibration systems built onto more expensive hedgecutters. The cheaper models are often built without the anti-vibrations systems.
Ignition and smart-start system
The chances are, if you’re a professional groundcare professional, you’ll be starting and stopping your hedge trimmer multiple times throughout the day.
In which case, you want your chosen hedge trimmer to be easy to fire up.
So, look for hedge trimmers that feature smart-start ignition systems. Stihl hedge trimmers tend to feature an electric ignition module, which makes starting their trimmers easy.
Likewise, Husqvarna has developed their Smart Start® technology, which allows for fast starting with minimal effort. Many Husqvarna hedge trimmers also feature an ‘air purge’ system, which evacuates air from the trimmer’s carburettor and fuel system to make for even easier starting.
When you’re undertaking laborious tasks such as trimming shrubbery, you want your equipment to be comfortable to use and manipulate.
Bear in mind that trimming bushes and other shrubbery can often require you to manipulate your hedge trimmer considerably - so be sure to select one which has an ergonomic design.
Ensure that the hedge trimmer you select has a comfortable grip and ‘stance’. That is, it allows you to use the trimmer safely with both hands. The balance of the machine is a key consideration, as a well balanced machine reduces the users fatigue while working.
Some hedge trimmers feature rotating or pivoting rear handles. This makes these hedge trimmers especially easy to manipulate and use. Pivot handles make it much easier to switch from cutting the top of the hedge to trimming the sides of the hedge, while keeping the user's body in alignment and a good working position to avoid any strain.
Naturally, safety is an important concern when buying a hedge trimmer. After all, hedge trimmers - particularly the larger petrol models - can be fairly imposing and intimidating bits of kit.
So, be sure to select a hedge trimmer that includes safety features.
Almost all modern battery and electric hedge trimmers feature a key safety feature, which is two trigger switches (or throttle triggers). Both of these switches must be pressed simultaneously in order to activate the trimmer’s cutting blades.
Should one switch become unpressed - for example, if you trip and release one hand from your trimmer - then the cutting blades will automatically stop. This is an absolutely essential safety feature to look for on a hedge trimmer.
Note - you should also wear and use PPE when operating a hedge trimmer.
Finally, you’ll want to give some thought to the brand of hedge trimmer that you choose.
Here at Hughie Willett Machinery we’d always recommend selecting a trimmer from a well-known, trusted, proven brand such as Husqvarna or Stihl.
Brands such as Husqvarna and Stihl not only have decades of experience designing and manufacturing hedge trimmers that are used by groundcare professionals across the world, but they are also at the forefront of hedge cutter technology.
So, if you want a hedge trimmer that is safe, energy-efficient and able to deliver consistent, quality cutting performance, you need to buy a Husqvarna or Stihl hedge trimmer.
It’s for that reason that Hughie Willett Machinery stocks a huge range of the latest Stihl and Husqvarna hedge trimmers.
Where’s the best place to buy a hedge trimmer?
At Hughie Willett Machinery, of course! We are a main dealer for both major hedge trimmer brands - Husqvarna and Stihl.
Not only that, but our friendly and experienced sales team is able to provide you with advice and guidance on selecting the best hedge trimmer for your needs. We also offer an affordable servicing, maintenance and repair service for hedge trimmers.