If you’re lucky enough to have a plethoric garden with a lot of greenery, including trees and bushes, you’ll need a way to deal with fallen and trimmed leaves, branches, and other foliage that has fallen into your yard. What better way to dispose of this waste than by turning it into wood chips or nutrient-rich mulch (also known as “lawn vitamins”)?
To do this, you’ll need to get yourself one of the best chipper shredders. These handy machines effortlessly chop up smaller branches and twigs, as well as leaves and other small garden debris, into bite-sized chips ready for scattering around the lawn. The produce can also be used to decorate flower beds, walkways, and for other landscaping projects.
To learn about the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best chipper shredder for every type of garden and landscaping need, we spoke to Stefan Bucur, gardening and landscaping expert, and owner of Rhythm of the Home, and Katie Burdett, owner of modern sustainable living site, Growing With Gertie.
“When shopping for a chipper shredder, there are three main things to look for: the type of power, the capacity ratio, and its ability to vacuum,” Bucur says.
Burdett adds that you should refine your search based on your individual needs. “Ask yourself whether you are chipping just small twigs and leaves or larger branches, and whether you will be using it just seasonally or all year-round,” she says.
Our pick for the best chipper shredder is the GreatCircleUSA Wood Chipper. This model has a three-in-one chipping, shredding, and mulching capacity, can take branches of up to three inches in diameter, and can quickly create wood chips and mulch for lawn nutrients or landscaping design.
Great CircleUSA Heavy Duty Wood Chipper Shredder
Why You Should Get It: It has a great reduction ratio of 15:1 and can handle branches up to 3 inches in diameter.
Keep in Mind: You should avoid shredding pine cones, twigs, and leaves.
Taking the top spot on our list of the best chipper shredder models is the GreatCircleUSA Wood Chipper. Its 15:1 reduction ratio can turn 15 bags of waste into just one bag of mulch that’s ready to be scattered around the yard for nutrients (or discarded, if you prefer). This is a powerful and reliable chipper shredder—particularly impressive given its mid-range price.
The machine’s capacity to shred branches that are up to 3 inches thick, along with its speed of 3,600 RPM, make it a stellar pick for anyone needing a more heavy-duty chipper shredder for medium-sized and larger yards, but its capabilities don’t end there. For larger gardening jobs, the shredder can be towed by a lawn tractor, large lawnmower, or other garden vehicle.
It features a top hopper to put in your garden waste, as well as a large conical chute that makes it a breeze to load in your branches, but you shouldn’t be putting any pine cones or fresh, green twigs and leaves in it otherwise it might get blocked. It also has the capacity to add a detachable vacuum attachment for easy cleanup of leaves, although you’d have to purchase this separately.
At 104 decibels, it is rather loud, but this is to be expected of a machine chopping down wood at great speed (remember to always wear hearing protection when operating it).
Price at time of publish: $685
Product Details: Dimensions: 24.1 x 30 x 41.6 inches | Power: 6.5 HP | Power Type: Gas | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 3 inches | Reduction Ratio: 15:1
Sun Joe CJ601E Electric Wood Chipper
Why You Should Get It: It’s highly affordable and superb for a small yard.
Keep in Mind: It has a small 1.5-inch capacity and doesn’t collect the chippings.
The compact and lightweight Sun Joe CJ601E Electric Wood Chipper/Shredder is the best chipper shredder for those on a budget. It weighs just 25 pounds, and comes on two handy 6-inch wheels which, along with the top handle, make it super easy to wheel around the yard. It’s also effortless to put away after you’ve finished using it and takes up minimal storage space in your garage or garden shed.
Though it only has a maximum capacity for 1.5-inch twigs and branches, this should be fine for smaller gardens with shorter and thinner trees, or bushes and larger plants that have been pruned.
This machine, believe it or not, has an even better mulching ratio than some commercial-grade chipper shredders, and is able to turn 16 bags of lawn debris into just one.
There’s a hopper on the top of the machine with a hatch that opens to put twigs in. When open, the machine will stop running and will only start shredding once you’ve safely closed it and turned the locking knob—a safety feature that gives this affordable machine extra marks in our books. It doesn’t collect the chippings, but the wheels help you spread the mulch around the lawn as it’s being made.
While it is designed for light-duty gardening tasks, it’s virtually maintenance-free and, since it’s an electric model, there’s no gas and fumes to deal with—all you have to do is plug it in and off you go.
You will, however, need a long outdoor extension cord to give you more room to roam. In addition to branches, this machine can mulch brush and leaves, and the manufacturer backs its product by a full two-year warranty for extra peace of mind.
Price at time of publish: $150
Product Details: Dimensions: 20 x 26.23 x 36.75 inches | Power: 14 amp | Power Type: Electric | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 1.5 inches | Reduction Ratio: 16:1
DK2 Kohler Engine 3-in-1 Chipper Shredder
Why You Should Get It: It’s a heavy-duty machine that can be used by smaller professional businesses, and it can even vacuum.
Keep in Mind: Like most chipper shredders of this type, it’s not made for fresh and green garden debris.
This chipper shredder weighs a hefty 170 pounds and is made for tough jobs, and can even be used commercially (although it’s less than half the price of other commercial models).
The heavy-duty DK2 Gas Kohler Engine Direct Drive 3-in-1 Chipper Shredder has a large top hopper for you to throw in bunches of smaller branches, twigs, and waste. It also has a side chute for feeding in longer branches.
The chutes can take branches of up to three inches in diameter, which are then chopped up swiftly and efficiently by the double-edged carbide cutting blades thanks to the powerful Kohler engine and speed of 4,000 RPM. Since it chops so quickly, you might be tempted to overfeed it, but it’s best not to as this could cause it to clog, as could feeding it very wet debris. It can, however, take on pine cones.
It has large three-inch ATV locking wheels with off-road tires and a tow bar for easy maneuverability, and a drop stand to secure it in place while you’re working. There’s also an ergonomic handle to help move it around. The tow bar can be attached to lawn tractors or ATVs, and can also be detached for more compact storage.
The expulsion chute is adjustable to allow you to direct the waste where it suits you. As a gas-powered machine, it has a pull start, and features a removable key to automatically shut it off for extra safety. It also includes a removable leaf vacuum kit. The machine comes with a three-year commercial warranty on the engine, and one year for the chassis.
Price at time of publish: $1,400
Product Details: Dimensions: 70.86 x 36.22 x 47.63 inches | Power: 7 HP | Power Type: Gas | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 3 inches | Reduction Ratio: 20:1
Power King Gas Powered Commercial Chipper Shredder Kit
Why You Should Get It: It can live up to professional use, has a whopping 14 horsepower, and can shred branches with a diameter of up to 5.75 inches.
Keep in Mind: It’s not self-feeding, and it weighs 430 pounds.
If you’re a landscaper or professional horticulturist, or even if you’re an avid gardener with a large plot of land to tend to, a machine like the Power King Gas Powered Commercial Chipper Shredder Kit will help you expertly clean up quickly and effectively. The machine’s 5.75-inch branch capacity, dual steel blades with a rotation speed of 2,530 RPM, and auto cut feed can save you time and manpower.
This machine is CARB-compliant, meaning it meets the current emission standards set by the California Air Resources Board. It also sports a four-stroke, 14 horsepower Kohler engine, and even has an electric start to help get it up and running without a hitch even in colder weather (although there is a key and pull start, too). It has a 12-volt battery to power the electric start, and hour meter, and the battery conveniently charges while the engine is running.
There’s a removable tow bar that can attach to your tractor or lawn mower—the machine weighs 430 pounds so moving it without a vehicle is rather strenuous. With each purchase, you also get some handy extras including a weatherproof cover to keep it protected from the elements, replacement blades when the mother blades start to show signs of wear, and wheel base extension kit for transportation.
It’s especially designed for hardwoods and, though it won’t get clogged easily with softer items like leaves, it won’t turn them to mulch, but rather just push them through as is. The feed and exit chutes both feature quick-release latches for easy clearing of any debris. There’s a three-year engine warranty, and a one-year warranty on the chassis and parts.
Price at time of publish: $3,500
Product Details: Dimensions: 65 x 47 x 54 inches | Power: 14 HP | Power Type: Gas | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 5.75 inches | Reduction Ratio: 10:1
Sun Joe 15-amp Silent Wood Chipper/Shredder
Why You Should Get It: It pulls the debris in without you having to push it, and collects waste in its bin—all at a very reasonable price.
Keep in Mind: Its 1.7-inch branch diameter capacity means it’s better suited to a yard with smaller trees or bushes.
It may only have a branch diameter capacity of 1.75 inches, but for anyone with a smaller yard with plenty of fallen leaves and pruned bush trimmings to clear, the reasonably-priced Sun Joe Electric Silent Wood Chipper/Shredder is the best chipper shredder for you. This machine has 7-inch wheels and weighs under 39 pounds so it can be pushed around the yard with ease.
It’s low maintenance and only needs an occasional blade sharpening and brushing. It’s a breeze to put together and only takes minutes to assemble straight out of the box. Being electric, it’s eco-friendly, doesn’t give off fumes, and you only have to plug it in and turn it on to get it started. You’ll need a 14-gauge extension cord to use it, though.
The machine stops when you open the hopper, and automatically starts back up again once you close it and lock the knob. It can even shred green debris, something that a lot of much more expensive shredders are unable to do. It also comes with a bag to collect the mulch, although you can remove it if you prefer to let it fall straight on the lawn as you go along.
By far the most impressive thing about this electric chipper shredder is its ability to mulch at a 20:1 ratio, making extremely fine mulch that can be used on the lawn and in flower beds to provide nutrients. This mulch will also prevent roots from overheating in hotter weather, and frost heaving in the colder months.
Price at time of publish: $165
Product Details: Dimensions: 23.50 x 12.50 x 16.50 inches | Power: 15 amp | Power Type: Electric | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 1.7 inches | Reduction Ratio: 21:1
Best with Vacuum
Troy-Bilt Gas Chipper/Shredder with Vacuum
Why You Should Get It: It can vacuum up the mulched waste into its integrated collection bag for even easier garden clean-up.
Keep in Mind: It has an 8:1 reduction ratio which is not as good as some other similarly priced chipper shredders.
Not all chipper shredders come with the ability to vacuum, but, as Bucur tells us, “if you are looking to clean up leaves and small twigs, it’s a good idea to invest in a model with a vacuum or a vacuum attachment.” Troy-Bilt’s Gas Chipper Shredder Vacuum is a three-in-one machine that can chip wood, shred leaves, and vacuum up any unwanted debris.
This powerful, CARB-compliant machine has a 159cc OHV engine (which converts to around 5.5 horsepower), and has chromium steel blades that self-sharpen and won’t need to be sharpened professionally as often. It has both front and rear wheels that make pushing its 125-pound weight easier.
Its steel hopper is large enough for effortless loading of sticks and small branches, while its chipper chute can take on those longer branches. Made for residential use, this self-feeding shredder comes with a 7-foot suction hose and a 24-inch wide vacuum head.
The shredder has a side discharge nozzle and a bag to collect chippings. Though it works best with dry leaves, it can also pick them up if they’re wet. It comes mostly pre-assembled; you’ll just have to attach the push handle and install the accessory hose, which should only take around half an hour. It even comes with some engine oil to get you started.
Price at time of publish: $609
Product Details: Dimensions: 39 x 26.5 x 26 inches | Power: 5.5 HP | Power Type: Gas | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 1.5 inches | Reduction Ratio: 8:1
Wen 15-amp Rolling Electric Wood Chipper/Shredder
Why You Should Get It: It’s small and compact, and provides easy portability thanks to its light weight and 6-inch wheels.
Keep in Mind: It’s best for smaller yards.
For chipping and mulching the lawn at the same time, you’ll need an easy-to-push chipper shredder, and this Wen Rolling Electric model fits the bill perfectly. This rolling shredder has a 15-amp motor that shreds garden debris at a rate of 130 cuts per second, and 6-inch wheels that help it roll around. There’s also a large and comfortable-to-hold handle to maneuver it around effortlessly.
The hopper is at the top, and there’s a safety feature whereby the machine won’t cut if the hopper is open, so you’ll be safe from its two sharp 7-inch blades which are preinstalled. It also comes with overload protection. The support stand is large and sturdy, keeping it safely in place which the machine chips away.
Though it’s not listed as self feeding, if the blades remain sharp, they will pull the wood through with minimal pushing needed on your part. Thanks to its electric functioning, very minimal maintenance is required. It starts easily with a simple flick of its on switch, and it also comes with a collection bag and push stick.
It works best on softer woods and lawn clippings, twigs, and foliage. It can take hardwoods that are a bit thinner in diameter—cedar wood can go through easily, while it may struggle with fully leafed branches.
Price at time of publish: $124
Product Details: Dimensions: 21 x 16.5 x 36 inches | Power: 15 amp | Power Type: Electric | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 1.5 inches | Reduction Ratio: 17:1
Landworks Mini Wood Chipper Shredder
Why You Should Get It: Though it’s small, it has a lot of power, an impressive 15:1 mulching ratio, and can take branches up to 3 inches in diameter.
Keep in Mind: It requires some extended assembly.
While our picks for the best chipper shredders in the budget, electric, and rolling categories are also compact models, none of them can handle branches up to 3 inches in diameter, like this Landworks Mini Wood Chipper Shredder. More like a professional machine in a smaller package, this powerful little shredder has two chipping knives for 3-inch capacity chipping and ½-inch diameter capacity shredding.
It has solid 10-inch all-terrain PU wheels and a wide handle to move it around, and there’s a resting bar to keep it in place when you’re stationary. It’s only 30 inches high so won’t take up too much storage space, and it weighs a reasonable 130 pounds that’s easy to push around the yard and maneuver.
Loading it on a truck can also be a one-person job as opposed to some of the other more professional chippers. The large hopper makes loading debris in a doddle, and chippings are expelled from the side chute. Its powerful 4-stroke, 7-horsepower single cylinder engine works on 87+ unleaded gas (ethanol is not recommended), and can hold 0.7 gallons at a time.
It has the capacity to attach a leaf vacuum, although this would have to be purchased separately. To assemble it, you’ll have to install the stand, the wheel rack and wheels, the handle, the hopper and hopper guard, and the suspender. You’ll also need 13 and 10 millimeter wrenches.
Price at time of publish: $660
Product Details: Dimensions: 34.6 x 32.2 x 22.8 inches | Power: 7 HP | Power Type: Gas | Maximum Diameter Capacity: 3 inches | Reduction Ratio: 15:1
The Bottom Line
With a powerful four-stroke, 7 horsepower OHV engine, a speed of 3,600 PRM, and a 3-inch branch diameter capacity, our pick for the best chipper shredder is the GreatCircleUSA Wood Chipper.
This model is a mid-range chipper shredder that is made for residential use but can also tackle smaller grade professional tasks too. It also has the capacity to vacuum, though you’ll have to purchase the vacuum kit separately.
What to Know About Chipper Shredders Before Shopping
Dimensions and Power
Chipper shredders are rather large items of garden machinery. They can be anywhere from 20 to 70 inches in height or length, depending on whether their design is vertical or horizontal, and approximately 15 to 50 inches in width.
Gas chipper shredders typically have a horsepower of around 6 to 14 horsepower, whereas electric models can be rated anywhere from 13 to 16 amps.
“In terms of dimensions and horsepower, the rule of thumb is that the bigger the chipper shredder is, the more horsepower it will be able to produce,” Bucur says.
It’s good to remember that bigger chipper shredders will usually cost more upfront, and they will also have a higher consumption of gas on every run.
“This can negatively affect your cost yields especially if you want to save money by switching your home’s heat production on mulch derivatives,” says Bucur. “If you don’t have a large estate or garden, it is better to be conservative with the dimensions and horsepower of the chipper shredder you plan on buying.”
Wood chipper shredders can either be powered by electricity or gasoline, and the biggest difference between them is the power output. While gas-powered models are more powerful, both options have their uses.
Gas chipper shredders: Gas shredders are used for larger homestead projects or commercial use since they typically have more power than electric models, and offer better mobility because they do not have to be connected to an electrical plug. If you need to clean up larger debris and thick branches, then a gas-powered chipper shredder is usually the better choice, as it can accept a larger diameter branch.
Electric chipper shredders: Electric chipper shredders are great for small-scale home use for small branches, leaves, and light maintenance in a smaller yard. Choose an electric model for small jobs like shredding leaves and twigs for the compost pile. They’re also more eco-friendly and don’t require as much maintenance as gas-powered chipper shredders. You will require either a generator or a long outdoor extension cord, though.
It’s worth noting, too, that gas chipper shredders have a lot more maintenance needs than electric shredders. In addition to blade sharpening (which should also be done annually or around every 25 hours or use), and clearing away of stuck-on debris—both of which are necessary with electric models, too—gas shredders require oil draining and changing, and checking for corroded spark plug and clogged air filters.
The maximum capacity stated on each chipper shredder’s product description refers to the largest size branch or debris you can put in it. There is no maximum load capacity as the machine chews up the debris and immediately spits it out when it’s all chopped up.
“Chippers and shredders will have safety devices built in that only allow the maximum size branch that the machine can handle,” Burdett says.
A chipper shredder’s reduction ratio lets you know how fine the texture of the produced mulch will be. The higher the ratio, the finer the mulch or wood chips. For instance, a 15:1 reduction ratio means that the machine will turn ten bags of debris into one bag of mulch.
The ratio you opt for could depend on whether you need to make fine mulch, or larger wood chips to decorate a path, for instance.
Your Questions, Answered
How does a chipper shredder differ from a chipper?
The main difference between a chipper and a chipper shredder is that a chipper is designed for woody material, while a shredder can handle more plant matter like dried leaves, and it’s all down to how their blades and internal machinery break down the material.
A chipper will just break the wood into small pieces but it won’t shred it into mulch like a chipper shredder. A chipper is also bigger than a chipper shredder and can handle much larger tree limbs.
“Chippers are mainly used for breaking down large quantities of wood and used in commercial settings, while chipper shredders are designed for smaller branches, debris, and leaves and are commonly used in gardens and yards,” says Bucur.
“Homeowners use shredders to chip the branches, as well as shred them for heating up their home using mulch, and use them for compost. So out of the two, chipper shredders are the ideal ones for residential use.”
What should you avoid putting in a chipper shredder?
Burdett advises avoiding putting “green” material or anything with lots of moisture in the chipper shredder. “This can cause clogging and damage to the machine,” she says. Other things to avoid putting in a chipper shredder is anything super hard and dense, like rocks, or very hard woods.
“Ideally you want to avoid adding elements or materials inside that are not made of wood,” says Bucur. “Within smaller debris, like a pile of leaves, sometimes rocks can be buried under the leaves, and can damage the blades, the replacing of which can be very time consuming and expensive.” Be mindful when adding debris to your chipper shredder to extend the life of your blades.
“You also don’t want to use the chipper shredder for rubber or butcher waste,” says Bucur. “This will gum up the blades and will make your chipper shredder more or less useless.”
Burdett stresses the importance of safety when using a chipper shredder. “Make sure to pick up a pair of safety glasses and ear protection at the same time as purchasing your chipper/shredder,” she says. And never try to dislodge any twigs or branches from the machine while it’s running.
How should you store a chipper shredder?
The best place to store a chipper shredder is in a protected storage area like a garden shed, garage, or barn. “It is important to store it indoors to avoid water damage and rust accumulation on the blades,” Bucur says.
While cold weather alone won’t cause any issues to your chipper shredder, it might take a while for a gas model to get going in the winter. “You might want to give a gas-powered chipper shredder a couple of seconds to warm up after extended exposure to cold temperatures before you introduce the wood inside the blades,” Bucur says.
Who We Are
This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has over ten years of commerce writing experience. Kat is also the commerce editor-at-large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading U.S. online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing.
For this article, Kat reviewed multiple chipper shredders, researching factors such as each machine’s horsepower, dimensions, power type, and maximum load capacity. She also spoke to Stefan Bucur, Gardening and Landscaping expert, and owner of Rhythm of the Home, and Katie Burdett, owner of modern sustainable living site, Growing With Gertie.
10 Gravel garden ideas for an easy, low-maintenance style
9 ideas for backyards big or small |
A Look Within the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Dinner