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We researched and tested dozens of models, evaluating ease of use, safety features, and overall value. Our top recommendation, the Great CircleUSA Heavy Duty Wood Chipper Shredder, has an excellent reduction rate, is easy to use, and comes with an attachable vacuum for mulching.
Here are the best chipper shredders.
Best Overall: Great CircleUSA Heavy Duty Wood Chipper Shredder
Handles branches up to 3 inches
Excellent reduction rate
Leaf vacuum attachment available
Can be towed by lawn tractor
Discharge bag is flimsy
Assembly instructions unclear
Who else recommends it? Bob Vila also picked the Great CircleUSA Heavy Duty Wood Chipper Shredder.
What do buyers say? 80% of 800+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
When you have a lot of trees in your yard, falling branches are par for the course. Cleaning yard debris is easy with a wood chipper shredder like the Great CircleUSA Heavy Duty Wood Chipper Shredder. As our best overall option, this multi-functional machine can handle branches, leaves, limbs, and chips up to 3 inches in diameter using power from a seven-horsepower (HP) engine.
This chipper shredder boasts a 15:1 reduction rate, meaning it can transform 15 bags of lawn waste into one bag of mulch. As a safety note: this product should not be used for pine cones, palm fronds, vines, or fresh greens. For added convenience, this wood chipper shredder comes with attachments for a leaf blower or towing it across larger yards with a lawnmower, ATV, or another method of transportation.
While assembly isn't complicated, the instructions may be challenging to follow. And though less expensive than others on our list, this option is also costly but offers a level of efficiency that makes the price tag worth it.
Best Budget: Sun Joe CJ601E Electric Wood Chipper
Easy to operate
Small storage footprint
No collection bin or bag
Small feeder chute
For urban gardeners who want to create mulch, the Sun Joe 14-amp Electric Wood Chipper is a very good addition to the garden shed. Its small size and ease of operation will turn 16 bags of yard waste into a single bag of mulch in a short time.
After a quick assembly and connection to an electrical outlet, the chipper is ready to go. Able to handle limbs and twigs up to 1.5 inches, you will need to carefully feed them into the top hopper using the included paddle. The wood comes out the perfect size for mulching around plants and shrubs. Leaves also feed through quickly; however, they do not shred very finely. If you like them to almost disappear, this model cannot produce that result.
There is no collection bag which makes moving the mulch to the desired area more difficult. Prepare to bring a wheelbarrow and shovel to finish the job.
Best High-End Splurge: DK2 Kohler Engine 3-in-1 Chipper Shredder
Large capacity feed bin
Does not handle wet yard waste well
Bolts require frequent tightening
Billed as a commercial, heavy-duty chipper, the DK2 Chipper Shredder & Vacuum has all the features you need to care for a large yard or garden. The chipper has a large capacity feeder shoot and chips branches up to 3 inches in diameter. Sold with a vacuum attachment to gather leaves and a tow bar, you can make quick work of leaf removal by attaching it to a lawnmower or ATV. The vacuum is removable with just three bolts.
Reviewers report the chipper shredder has a difficult time handling wet leaves and green plant material. However, almost all chippers have this disadvantage. However, it does an excellent job reducing dry yard water to mulch with a 20 to 1 compression ratio. Dry leaves are shredded into very small pieces ideal for compost or leaving on lawns.
After every use or midway during a day of use, take the time to carefully check all bolts and tighten them as needed. The vibration of any chipper during operation can cause bolts to loosen.
Best Gas: Craftsman 250cc Briggs & Stratton Gas Wood Chipper
Large, easy-to-empty collection bag
Excellent use and care manual
Lower reduction rate
Heavy to move
No tow bar
If you have a large yard with lots of fallen limbs, then you need a powerful chipper shredder. This Craftsman model with a Briggs & Stratton engine is a workhorse. The very heavy construction can withstand a full day of use and accommodate limbs up to 3 inches in diameter in the self-feeding chute.
The hopper is designed for leaves and small twigs. All the debris is collected in a five-bushel collection bag that is easy to disconnect and empty. As with any machine, the key to longevity is how well you maintain the machine. The manual offers detailed instructions and timelines for the care of the engine and blades.
With its steel construction and powerful engine, this smooth-operating chipper is heavy to move around. However, you can purchase and attach a tow bar to use with a lawn tractor.
Best Composting: Earthwise Electric Chipper with Collection Bin
Easy to use
Low reduction rate
Every gardener knows the benefits of adding compost to the soil. It improves plant growth by increasing airflow, water, and nutrients to the plant roots. All around the yard, compost ingredients are free and just waiting, but they should be shredded first. The Earthwise Electric Chipper is perfect for gardeners who want to start composting.
The chipper comes with a 10.5-gallon collection bin to catch the shredded matter and transport it to the compost bin or pile. Simply feed leaves and twigs into the hopper with the help of the tamper tool. The hopper opening is wider than other models for faster feeding. However, since the chipper is not extremely powerful, the reduction rate is only 10 to 1, leaving larger pieces of wood and leaves that may not be attractive as mulch but still good for composting.
Best Portable: Wen 15-amp Rolling Electric Wood Chipper/Shredder
Compact and easy to move
Good reduction ratio
If you like to move a wood chipper around the yard rather than bringing the pile of debris to one location, then the Wen Rolling Electric Wood Chipper and Shredder is the best option. With an ergonomic pull handle and two large 6-inch wheels, it's easy to maneuver the machine into tight places. Of course, you’ll need an outdoor UL-approved extension cord that reaches every spot.
The machine is surprisingly powerful for a small electric chipper and can handle branches up to 1.5 inches in diameter. The two 7-inch blades produce a 17 to 1 reduction ratio in the collection bag. Backed by a 2-year warranty, this is a good choice for small yards.
Best with Vacuum: Troy-Bilt Gas Chipper/Shredder with Vacuum
Suctions and mulches leaves
Does not chip branches well
If your biggest lawn waste problem is leaves, then the Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder Vacuum may be just what you need. Rather than feeding debris into a chute, it operates like a lawnmower. With an adjustable height, the machine rolls along the ground suctioning up a 24-inch swath of leaves into the blades, turning them into mulch. The shreds are then collected in the two-bushel bag for easy placement as mulch or into the compost pile. Or, you can leave the collection bag off to allow the shredded leaves to remain on the lawn to increase the nitrogen in the soil.
Attached to the side is a 7-foot flexible hose to suction leaves and small twigs from shrub beds and tight areas. Since there is no feeder chute for branches, it is best to pick them up before using the vacuum unless they are very small.
Our top chipper shredder pick is the Great Circle USA 3-in-1 Wood Chipper Shredder (view at Amazon) for its ability to turn 15 bags of yard waste into one, as well as its limb-size capacity and price point. However, the best chipper shredder for you depends on the size of your yard, the type of waste you would like to reduce, and your budget. For an easy-to-use electric model, we love the Sun Joe 14-amp Electric Wood Chipperr (view at Amazon) for its quiet operation and small footprint.
What to Look for in a Chipper Shredder
Chipper shredders are typically powered by gas or electricity. Electric chippers are low-maintenance machines that are perfect for light cleanup—and they’re more environmentally friendly, to boot. Gas machines, on the other hand, are usually more powerful and not limited by a cord, but they may require more maintenance.
As you shop, you’ll notice chipper shredders have a “capacity,” which signifies the largest branch diameter the machine can handle. If you’re looking for a chipper to clean up twigs, a low-capacity machine is perfectly fine. However, if you want to chip thick branches, you’ll need to spend more on a more professional model.
The reduction ratio of a chipper/shredder is based on how many bags of debris it takes to create one bag of mulch. This is highly dependent on whether you are shredding leaves or chipping branches. A higher reduction ratio equals a finer textured bag of mulch.
For small urban yards, an electric chipper shredder is usually needed to take care of small branches and leaves. For yards over one-half of an acre, cleaning up after a large storm, or clearing areas for replanting, a large, gas-powered chipper shredder is recommended.
If you are mainly concerned with shredding leaves, a chipper shredder with vacuum capabilities is a good choice. Some large chipper shredders come with a vacuum attachment to suction leaves, or you can purchase a kit. You can also opt for a style of machine that resembles a push lawn mower—it sucks up material or chips and bags twigs, leaves, and debris as you navigate it around your lawn. However, these models can’t handle larger branches.
How is a chipper shredder used?
A chipper shredder is used to turn yard waste—leaves, branches, twigs, dead plants—into small pieces to reduce landfill space, improve compost piles, or mulch garden beds.
How do you operate a chipper shredder?
Most chipper shredders operate by feeding organic waste into a hopper or chute. Beneath the loading areas are blades or grinding teeth that pulverize the waste into smaller pieces. Some machines are self-feeding; others require the operator to push the waste into the grinding area with a tamper tool. There are vacuum-style chippers that run like a lawnmower suctioning the debris into blades that chop it into small pieces.
When operating a chipper shredder, it is important to wear safety goggles and ear protection and follow all safety precautions. Never try to dislodge blockages while the machine is running.
When should the blades be sharpened or replaced?
Most manufacturers recommend sharpening or replacing the chipper shredder blades after 25 hours of use. You can tell when to take action if the wood chips are rough, uneven, or shredded. Of course, if the blades break or bend, replace them immediately.
When do chipper shredders go on sale?
Most lawn and garden equipment goes on sale in the spring, before the summer growing season, and in the fall or winter. For example, the best time to buy lawn mowers is March through April, and October and December. If you’re looking for a deal on a chipper shredder, contact your local lawn and garden retailer or big box store to ask about sales on this item.
Why Trust The Spruce?
For this round-up, Mary Marlowe Leverette talked with commercial tree services and homeowners, read reviews, and tested chipper shredders. Carefully evaluating each machine's capacity, reduction ratio, power source, warranty, and durability, she has chosen the best type of chipper shredder for different yard sizes and gardening needs. Mary is a Master Gardener and has extensive personal and professional experience testing, reviewing, and writing about home and garden products. You can find more of her work on The Spruce.