Chainsaws vs. Hedge Trimmers – Which to Buy

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When it comes to maintaining hedges, shrubs and trees, do you go for a chainsaw or a hedge trimmer? The answer depends on what type of yard work you are going to do. To make your decision making easier, this article compares the two garden tools. As you will see, chainsaws and hedge trimmers have a lot of similarities and differences.

A hedge trimmer is best used for trimming shrubs, bushes and hedges. It can cut stems up to .75 inches in diameter. Chainsaws on the other hand, can cut down entire trees and are more suited for heavy duty tasks.

Hedge Trimmer vs. Chainsaw Comparison

In a nutshell, here are the major differences between a hedge trimmer and a chainsaw. The rest of this post goes into detail about these aspects.

Hedge TrimmerChainsaw
Cutting capacityCan cut stems from .75 to 3 inches in diameterChainsaws can cut down entire trees
Best used forTrimming shrubs, bushes and hedgesFelling trees, bucking, cutting wood
PrecisionSmooths hedges and bushesRough cuts, rough finish
Ease of useEasyIntermediate to difficult
Safety featuresExcellentExcellent
PowerFor light to medium yard workHeavy duty woodcutting

Chainsaws and hedge trimmers are both available in gas, electric and battery (cordless) varieties. However, a gas chainsaw is more powerful than a gas hedge trimmer. The same thing with electric and cordless variants. But more powerful is not always better, as it depends on what you need.

The capabilities of both chainsaw and hedge trimmer depend on its power source, so keep that in mind when comparing both tools when deciding what to buy.

What is a Hedge Trimmer?

A hedge trimmer is a tool used to cut, trim and shape hedges, bushes and shrubs. It runs either on gas, electrical power or batteries.

When to use a hedge trimmer? As the name suggests, a hedge trimmer is meant to shape hedges, shrubs and bushes. You can also use it on grass and weeds. With a powerful hedge trimmer you can shape and cut heavy shrubs quickly.

What is a Chainsaw?

A chainsaw is a type of saw that uses a chain to cut wood and other materials. Chainsaws run on gas, electric power or cordless batteries.

A chainsaw is often used to fell trees, lumber and others. They come in various sizes, ranging from the portable to gas-powered models with 20 inch or larger blades such as the Poulan Pro PR5020.

When to use a chainsaw? Chainsaws are used to fell trees, cutting and chopping large pieces of wood. A chainsaw makes it easy to make log into lumber and collect firewood. The more powerful the chainsaw, the larger trees and logs it can cut.

That quick overview shows how different chainsaws and hedge trimmers are, but which one do you really need? To answer that question you need to compare the two a little more in-depth.

Cutting Capacity

Most hedge trimmers can cut woody plants or branches up to .75 inch thick. There are some models which can handle 1-2 inches, but most are limited to less than an inch.

Chainsaw cutting power depends on the type. There are mini chainsaws like the Bei and Hong Mini Cordless which are used for trimming and light wood cutting. Then there are those 36 inch bladed chainsaws used by professionals for chopping trees. Most chainsaws for home use have 14-20 inch blades, which can go through most trees.

If you have a large property or need to do a lot of tree cutting, a chainsaw is the best option. But if you most cut and shape bushes and shrubs, a hedge trimmer is ideal. If you have to maintain hedges and cut a lot of wood, you need both.

Precision and Finish

Hedge trimmers do an excellent job shaping hedges and shrubs just the way you want it. It takes little effort to trim and achieve the look you want. You guide the blades where they need to go and they do the rest. It is fast and more efficient than manual garden shears for sure.

Chainsaw cuts are rough and that is understandable. If you are cutting down a tree, there is no need for finesse. Once the tree goes down and cut into smaller chunks, the refining process can begin. But as far as chainsaws go, it is all about chopping and cutting. The finishing touches are left to other tools.

This again shows the difference between the two. One is not better than the other, it is just that they things differently and are used on different materials (most of the time).

Weight and Ease of Use

Hedge trimmers are lighter and easier to move around. You can use it for long periods without tiring. Chainsaws are large, heavy and will wear you down if you don’t take breaks.

A chainsaw with an 18 inch blade weighs anywhere from 8 to 15 lbs. Mini or portable chainsaws weigh just around 5-7 lbs. while the most powerful ones weigh at least 20 lbs. often way more.

The more powerful the hedge trimmer, the heavier it is as well. Electric and cordless trimmers are lighter than gas. If you are using an electric model and it slows down, check out this guide.

Most hedge trimmers weigh 5-7 lbs. This makes it easier to use and it won’t wear you out as fast as a chainsaw will. The trade-off is that trimmers are less powerful. But again this is not just about power but your requirements.

If you are shaping and trimming hedges, you must be able to move the tool as efficiently as possible. This is why ease of use and the light weight are essential for hedge trimmers. In contrast, chopping trees does not require as much movement, so it is fine for chainsaws.

Safety Features

All chainsaws and hedge trimmers have safety features. The blades on a trimmer are held in a guard to keep you safe. Chainsaws have anti-kickback mechanisms and guards to protect you. Due to their size and design, chainsaws are more dangerous than hedge trimmers.

Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when using either tool. These include safety goggles, gloves, chaps, long sleeve shirt, a helmet and steel toe boots. While hedge trimmers and chainsaws have taken strides to protect you, it is always better to have full PPE on.

Read the user manual before using any of these tools. Use your hedge trimmer or chainsaw only as indicated in the manual. If you encounter overheating, turn the machine off and let it cool down.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a chainsaw as a hedge trimmer?

Trimming hedges and shrubs requires finesse and a chainsaw is too much of a blunt tool for this. If you want to try this, use a mini or portable chainsaw, which is designed for trimming. Do not use large chainsaws because hedge branches are too thin and won’t produce the resistance needed by a large chainsaw.

Can I use a hedge trimmer to cut branches?

A high end hedge trimmer can cut a 2-3 inch diameter branch, but lightweight models can only handle .75 of an inch or less. Obviously these tools cannot cut trees or branches that are more than 3 inches thick.

Which should I buy, a chainsaw or hedge trimmer?

It depends on what you have to do. If you have to chop large trees and logs, a gas chainsaw is better. But if you spend most of the time trimming hedges, a trimmer is the one to get.

Should I get a gas, electric or cordless hedge trimmer?

Gas hedge trimmers provide the most power but are also the heaviest. Electric and cordless trimmers are more portable, though not as powerful. This is also generally the case with gas, electric and battery powered chainsaws. If you want more power, it is going to weigh more.