We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A good wood chipper can solve a number of problems around the yard. For starters, you save yourself having to lug away all that rough garden waste – and increasingly, it's becoming illegal to dump garden waste in landfills. In many areas, you can't burn your garden waste, either.
A wood chipper can reduce the quantity of garden waste you’re grappling with enormously. If you like to compost, it's a great way to start that process, creating material that would otherwise take years to rot down. You can also use chipped wood for mulching or creating rustic garden paths.
So a wood chipper is a great idea, but which one is right for you?
Should you buy a wood chipper with a gas motor or an electric motor? What kind of cutting mechanism should it have? What size do you need?
At BestReviews, we wrestle with these questions so you don’t have to.
As we review and test products, we follow a strict rule to never accept manufacturer samples. It's important to us that we remain unbiased and trustworthy at all times.
The wood chippers in the matrix above made it through our stringent selection process, and each receives our independent stamp of approval.
If you'd like more detail on particular features, please read our complete wood chipper review below.
Bill has been a hardware store owner, locksmith, and general home repair guru for over 40 years. His ability to solve problems and repair every item in every situation is a true gift. In his spare time, you may find Bill working in his garden, tending to his perfectly manicured lawn, or riding his bike.
The names given to tools that shred and chip can be confusing. Shredders, chippers, and chipper/shredders have a similar layout and do similar jobs, but there are some important differences between them.
A wood shredder has flails or hammers that are similar to wood chipper blades but aren't sharp. Small wood shredders use nylon cord like you'd find on a weed wacker. They're designed to break down leaves and twigs by beating them to a pulp. They do the job quite well, but they only work with modestly sized waste. They don't have the engine power or the right blade to chip branches.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
YARDMAX Chipper Shredder w/Briggs & Stratton Engine
Power To Pulverize
When you need to cross a muddy field to chip a big pile of recently trimmed brush, you'll be glad you invested in the Yardmax. The Briggs & Stratton engine offers great performance and near-legendary reliability. The tough steel frame and pneumatic tires allow it to take rugged terrain in its stride. The big hopper makes feeding easy. A collection bag is not included, and it would have been nice, but that's about the only criticism we have of this powerful package.
A wood chipper has a much more powerful motor and strong internals designed to chop branches into small pieces. There are two common types of wood chippers: rotating disk/blade chippers and drum chippers.
Rotating disk/blade wood chippers have either a disk with inset blades or a blade much like that found on a rotary lawn mower. This type of wood chipper cuts at a 45-degree angle to the branch being fed. It's fast and efficient and produces regular-size chips, but notably, soft and stringy materials can cause occasional jams.
Drum chippers have a horizontal drum inset with blades. They chop material as it is fed past. Many heavy-duty commercial wood chippers adhere to this design because it can cope with almost any kind of material, wet or dry. However, it does tend to produce randomly sized waste.
The size of branch a wood chipper can cope with varies from model to model, but commercial wood chippers will easily tear through branches several inches across.
Stand well to the side of the chipper when you are feeding wood into it. The machine can kick out larger pieces of wood; standing to the side will ensure the wood pieces don’t strike you.
A wood chipper/shredder doesn't have the brute force of a dedicated wood chipper, but these machines are common due to their ability to handle the materials found in most gardens and yards.
They'll chip a decent-size branch and also mulch leaves and other light organic material. For many homeowners, this is the ideal combination.
A wide hopper and big wheels are great features to have in a wood chipper. The former lets you dispose off big branches and the latter lets you maneuver the machine over rough grounds.
The best wood chipper for the vast majority of people is undoubtedly a wood chipper/shredder combination, as it offers great all-round versatility.
For the purposes of this report, we're going to focus on that type of wood chipper, although the individual aspects we're going to look at are pertinent to all wood chippers and shredders.
Use a long stick or pole to help you feed wood directly into the chipper. Never put your hands into the hopper while the chipper is running.
As with most garden power tools, you have a choice between two motor types when you select a wood chipper: gas or electric. Gas wood chipper motors are usually around 200cc and produce six to seven horsepower. We recommend reputable brands like Briggs & Stratton or Kohler, both of which are known for their durability. Electric wood chipper motors usually have 14 or 15 amps of power. Anything with a motor power lower than that might struggle to give an adequate performance.
Commercial wood chippers are invariably gas-powered, but homeowner models are evenly split between gas and electric. If you have a large acreage, a gas-powered wood chipper is the only sensible solution. Yes, you could run an electric model off a portable generator – but then you'd have to put gas in that!
If you have a medium plot, the choice between gas and electric becomes a question of personal preference. For smaller plots, an electric model is more maneuverable and generally easier for you – and your neighbors – to live with.
In some states, gas motors must be CARB-compliant. Check this out before you buy.
Gas motor pros
Considerably more power; can chop larger branches
Most are four-cycle (four-stroke); no oil/gas mixing
Gas motor cons
Noisier than electric
Not as easy to start
Regular maintenance required
Keep your wood chipper well-maintained. Perform safety checks before each use to ensure safety devices work properly and that there are no wood pieces lodged in the blades.
Electric motor pros
Quieter than gas motors (though chipping can still be loud)
Easy to start
Lighter than gas models
Virtually no maintenance
Electric motor cons
Not as powerful as gas motors
Range limited by cable
Can't be used outdoors in poor weather
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
LawnMaster FD1501 Electric Chipper Shredder
Lightweight and Portable
At a little over 26 pounds, the LawnMaster FD1501 is a fairly lightweight and portable machine. This is thanks, in large part, to the manufacturer's extensive use of plastics. Owner feedback concerning durability is more positive than the norm, with only a few negative comments related to construction. You might not call the LawnMaster a “rugged” machine, but it's not fragile, either.
If you're going to dispose of what comes out of your wood chipper rather than use it as mulch or compost, you'll be interested in how much your original pile of garden waste is going to be reduced.
While the materials that make up your waste will have an impact on the reduction ratio, you can expect a ratio somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1.
In terms of waste reduction, electric wood chippers can be just as efficient as gas models.
Snap large branches in half and tear off small shoots from the branches before you turn on the chipper. Small bits of wood will feed into the chipper easier.
Homeowner wood chippers have rotating disk or mower-type blades. Though there are rare exceptions, a gas-powered wood chipper will generally take a maximum branch diameter of three inches. Most wood chippers with electric motors have a maximum capacity of 1.5 inches.
Notably, the figures above are maximums, and it's fair to say that a manufacturer's max-capacity specs are usually optimistic. Landscape professionals and owners will tell you that you might be able to get a dead-straight branch through at those sizes, but real capacities are usually somewhat smaller.
But even at reduced capacity, these are still adequate capabilities for the waste collected in the majority of yards and gardens. If it's too big to chip, it's probably worth keeping for kindling.
Should you get an electric wood chipper or a gas-powered wood chipper? The majority of homeowners with modest plots would find an electric wood chipper/shredder perfectly adequate. But if you've got a lot of ground to cover and sizable branches to break down, a gas-powered wood chipper is a sensible long-term investment.
We offer the following tips to enhance your ease of use when chipping wood.
Consider a wood chipper with a wide chute/hopper. This makes the wood chipper easier to load.
Consider a wood chipper with a tall chute if you’re dealing with long branches and don’t want to stand there holding them. However, if you’re dealing with mixed materials, you may prefer a shorter hopper, as they are easier to load.
Never operate your wood chipper around children or allow a child to help you.
Consider a wood chipper with a lid. Some wood chippers have a tendency to throw material back out. A lid can help prevent this.
Choose a wood chipper with easy access to the blade area. It's almost inevitable that your wood chipper will jam at some point. When it does, you want to be able to get to the blade area quickly.
Consider a wood chipper with solid wheels. Almost all wood chippers come with wheels, and the cheapest wood chippers have solid plastic ones that are prone to breakage. Better are plastic or alloy wheels with solid rubber tires. Best of all are pneumatic tires, though these are only of major benefit on poor terrain or if you're towing your wood chipper behind a yard tractor or truck. (Larger chippers often have tow hitches for that purpose.)
Where will you store your wood chipper? Most electric wood chippers are easy to find a home for when not in use. Gas-powered chippers can be quite large, however, so check the dimensions of the product and your available space before making a purchase.
Gas-powered wood chippers have larger capacities and are more likely to be used in tough environments. For this reason, most body parts are metal, and these machines are more durable as a result.
Electric wood chippers have steel blades and frames, but most body parts are plastic. This makes them much lighter, but in theory, it also makes them more prone to damage. If you care for the apparatus properly, however, there's no reason that a plastic wood chipper shouldn't last as long as a metal one.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
LawnMaster FD1501 Electric Chipper Shredder
Great for Small Branches
The LawnMaster is a low-cost, lightweight wood chipper that will do a good job of chopping up small branches. It will reduce your refuse by a 10:1 ratio – quite a useful tool if that's what you need. Because the LawnMaster is not overly powerful, you do need to trim side branches off and feed them as individual pieces. Also, because of the blade construction – which is flat and rotates at a high speed – the LawnMaster is not so good at chipping small twigs and leaves.
We usually make a proviso about low-quality products, and the same goes for cheap wood chippers. If you see a product that is notably below the price range of well-known brands, ask yourself why. We all like to save money, but is it really a bargain, or has the manufacturer kept the price down by cutting corners?
Among the better wood chippers, there's a distinct price difference between electric models and their gas-powered counterparts.
Electric wood chippers usually sit in the $100 to $150 price range.
Gas-powered wood chippers typically cost between $600 and $1,000, depending on the specifications.
Follow these safety precautions when you use your wood chipper.
Read the manufacturer's instructions first.
Always wear work gloves and a face shield when using a wood chipper.
Wood chippers are loud. Always wear ear protection when you operate one.
Waste can occasionally be thrown back out of the chipper. Never peer down the chute when the wood chipper is running.
In the event of a jam, always turn the wood chipper off before investigating the problem.
Never try to exceed the stated maximum branch sizes.
Never leave a wood chipper running unattended.
When not in use, keep your wood chipper inside a storage building, or cover it with a tarp to protect it from the elements.
A collecting bag is a nice addition to a wood chipper, though it’s not common. Tough garden refuse sacks are available for a relatively low cost.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.