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Chipper Shredder Buying Guide

Leaves, twigs and branches clutter a lawn, but a chipper shredder gives you an efficient way to reduce the debris and use it around the garden or landscape.

Man Using a Chipper Shredder.

Chipping and Shredding Basics

Man Using a Chipper Shredder.

Piling leaves and branches at the road for collection is time-consuming. Over time, the accumulated material can kill your grass. In some locations, ordinances prohibit leaves and brush in landfills, making it difficult to get rid of the debris. A chipper shredder — also known as a wood chipper — reduces branches, twigs and leaves to mulch and composting material, helping you keep your landscape looking its best. Chipper shredders range from light-duty electric devices to heavy-duty gasoline-powered machines that chop branches several inches in diameter.

A chipper shredder has a chute that accepts branches for chipping. A rotating blade or set of blades chops them into wood chips. The shredder mechanism handles light debris such as leaves and grass. As you feed the material into the shredder hopper, a separate set of hinged blades — also known as flails or hammers — shreds it. Some larger shredders can handle small twigs. Once the machine chips or shreds the debris, the processed material discharges onto the ground or into a collection bag.

The chipper chute and shredder hopper help separate you from the chipping and shredding mechanisms. Some models come with a paddle or tamper to feed debris while keeping your hands clear of the machine. 

Caution

Follow the chipper shredder manufacturer's instructions for use, maintenance and safety.

Choosing a Chipper Shredder

The size of your landscape and the type of yard debris you have are factors in deciding which type of chipper shredder you need.

Electric chipper shredders are low-maintenance machines for light-duty cleanup. Some function as shredders or mulchers only, grinding up leaves, grass clippings and pine needles. Others can also chip small branches. An electric chipper shredder starts easily, but requires an extension cord, which limits the work area. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for selecting a compatible extension cord and see Power Cord Safety Tips.

Gasoline-powered chipper shredders offer more power to handle heavier debris. Some models can chip branches up to 4 inches in diameter. These machines aren't limited by cord length, so they're practical for use around large landscapes.

Understanding terminology helps you compare different models.

  • Engine horsepower indicates the power of the machine. More horsepower means greater capability.
  • Chipper capacity specifies the largest-diameter branches the chipper can handle.
  • Reduction ratio describes how efficiently the machine reduces yard waste. For example, a 10:1 ratio means the machine can reduce 10 bags of yard debris to one bag of processed material.

While chipper shredders have similar components, there are several features you can look for to make the work easier:

  • A tow bar or trailer hitch allows you to use an ATV or lawn tractor to transport the machine.
  • An electric starter makes cranking a gasoline-powered chipper shredder easier.
  • A tilt-down hopper lets you rake leaves or grass into the shredder mechanism.
  • Self-sharpening blades and knives simplify maintenance.

Shop for Chipper Shredders

Good to Know

Some types of material, such as fresh vines, can get tangled in the machine. See the manual for types of material the chipper shredder cannot process as well as the maximum size material the machine can handle.

Chipper Vacuums

Chipper Vacuum.

A chipper vacuum is an alternative to a chipper shredder. This gasoline-powered machine resembles a push mower and is a good option if your main concern is leaves or pine needles. You run the vacuum over the lawn, collecting, shredding and bagging the debris. A chipper chute allows you to chop small branches and some models have hose attachments to vacuum leaves from shrubbery and plant beds. Self-propelled models are helpful in large, uneven or hilly landscapes.

Good to Know

Some leaf blowers can vacuum and mulch leaves.