Chipper Shredder Buying Guide

Buying Guide For Chipper Shredders

Chipper Shredders are becoming an essential piece of equipment for home owners that want to get more enjoyment from their yards and gardens without expending so much work on clean up chores.

But with so many units out there, which one is the right one for you? In this buyer’s guide, we will cover what chipper shredders do, how they work, and what type of unit you may want to consider for your yard.

First Things First: What Do Chipper Shredders Do, Exactly?

These bad boys can chew through fallen leaves and tree branches like no one’s business. They can turn yard waste into only a fraction of their former volume. This is great for mulching, composting or easy disposal. You can even use the mulch as landscaping material!


Hinged steel blades, called flails, rotate quickly inside shredders to finely chop up leaves, stalks, twigs, and even small branches. Waste is fed into a hopper and the raked or vacuumed into a ramp chute at ground level. The chopped material takes up as little as five percent the volume of the material fed into the machine, and the material is discharged onto the ground or into a bag for easy handling.


Chippers handle heavier, woody yard waste with ease. If you’re unable to burn fallen tree limbs, and you don’t have a vehicle to conveniently carry them off your property, you’re going to get a lot of use out of a chipper.

The amount and type of waste you’ll be handling will help you decide which units might be suitable. They’re equipped with heavier cutters or blades on drive wheels that chop wood into fine chips.

Combination Chipper Shredders

The flails on a shredder have fixed steel blades that rotate quickly to reduce bigger branches and tree limbs to manageable chips. Many units are suitable for home owner use, can handle branches up to 3” in diameter, while still handling your leaves and garden waste.

An electric chipper shredder will be less expensive but won’t be able to handle larger limbs. If you need to perform heavy chipping often, a gas powered chipper shredder will be a more appropriate choice.

Look for models with more and larger blades to reduce the effort needed to get material through the machine, but keep in mind that however many blades your unit has, they will have to be sharpened occasionally to keep your chipper shredder running efficiently.

There are two kinds of drives on chipper shredders:

Direct Drive

Whenever the chipper shredder motor is on, the blades are turning. Less expensive models are generally all direct drive

Clutch Drive

More robust models use a clutch to slow down the motor from the cutting blades when tough limbs bog down the in the cutter, and entirely disengage them when nothing is being fed into the chute. This forestalls many problems with jamming, which can be a problem when you overload a direct drive machine. If you choose a direct drive unit, look for those equipped with reversible feeds so you can back jams out of the cutters instead of having to free jams by hand which can be very dangerous.

With diversity and selection comes confusion. What’s better, a gas powered or an electric chipper shredder? How much capacity do you need? In order to decide which chipper shredder is right for your yard, you’re going to need to understand what’s available, how it works, and what you’ll be able to accomplish with each one. Let’s start by examining the types of units available:

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Electric Chipper Shredders

Most electric units are about the size of a golf bag. These handy tools make short work of a small yard or garden’s leafy waste. If the twigs you handle are no larger than 1”-3” these inexpensive, lightweight units will have your yard work done in no time.

Chipper Shredder Vacuums

These look like a walk-behind mower with a vacuum attachment. If your yard has hard-to-rake debris and mostly small twigs to contend with, these units are perfect. Look for units that have a secondary feed chute to handle branches up to 3” in diameter to handle all your clean up chores.

Standalone Wood Chippers

If you’ve got both traditional lawn work and lots of tree work to do, consider a standalone wood chipper for tree work and a chipper shredder for the rest of your yard and garden. Able to handle limbs 2-1/2” and up with ease, standalone wood chippers have bigger chutes and heavy-duty construction.

Wood Chipper Leaf Shredders

If your yard has you routinely handling tree limbs instead of mostly leaves and garden waste, a chipper shredder is for you. They come in portable, tow-behinds, or even power-take-off models that use your tractor drive shaft if you’re more of a farmer or woodsman than a home owner.

If you often cut down trees for firewood and need to handle the branches and leaves, some tow-behind models can handle up to 7” diameter limbs. If you handle a lot of branches, look for hydraulic feed that pulls the material through instead of requiring constant pushing. Some PTO models like the WoodMaxx Hydraulic chipper below have enough power to handle logs up to 8” or more with ease. Gas-powered chipper shredders that can handle up to 3” diameter limbs start at around $600.

A Year-Round Workhorse

Fall is when the average home owner has the most yard waste, and it’s when most consumers start reading wood chipper reviews and thinking about purchasing a chipper shredder to deal with the carpet of leaves, pine needles, and garden waste that autumn brings.

However, once you own one, you’ll discover that they’re useful for year-round chores in your yard and garden. Before you buy, you should determine which chipping and shredding chores you’ll be doing the most, and choose a machine that’s optimized for your yard and garden’s needs.

Which Unit Will Be Right For You?

If your yard has only a few trees, and clean up involves only a few twigs and leaves, you can usually take care of everything using an inexpensive electric chipper shredder. Most shredders can handle small diameter woody material along with grass clippings and leaves.

If your property is larger, and has many trees, especially deciduous trees that are prone to losing limbs in wind storms, larger gas-powered chipper shredders can handle branches and limbs from fallen trees. It’ll still make short work of your shredding work, and all-in-one units that can chip tree branches can handle more shredding work faster.

If you have a large property that seems more like a woodlot than a yard, you’ll get better use from a large and powerful stand-alone chipper for tree work, and a dedicated shredder or chipper vac for use on your lawns. If you routinely use a chainsaw to handle wood in your yard, a PTO wood chipper will save you a lot of effort, time, and produce lots of usable mulch and landscaping quality wood chips.

No matter which unit you choose, you’re sure to finish your yard and garden chores sooner, and be able to spend more time enjoying your outdoor space instead of constantly working on it. With our comprehensive wood chipper reviews and buying guide, you’ll be on your way to finding the right unit for your specific needs.

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