Wood Chippers: Renting vs. Buying

Updated: Oct. 13, 2023

Is wood chipper rental a better choice for you than buying? That depends on the answers to a few key questions.

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Whether caused by changes in climate, solar activity or natural cycles, wildfires have become increasingly more frequent and devastating, requiring people living in forested areas to take precautions. Homeowners who need to clear a 100-foot radius around their homes, as many fire authorities and insurers now require, could benefit from a woodchipper.

The property I share in Santa Cruz, California was right in the middle of the CZU lightning complex fire of 2020, and it miraculously survived. We benefitted from luck and courageous neighbors who defied evacuation orders to stay behind and stamp out spot fires.

Realizing we might not be so lucky next time, we hired a crew to clear the steep hills surrounding our home. The wood chipper they brought with them was powerful enough to grind four-inch logs. (If you’re looking for something similar, the Power King Chipper Shredder is an excellent pick.)

Buying such a machine wasn’t practical for us, nor would it be for most homeowners. But there are plenty of more manageable models available for folks on a smaller scale. The decision to rent or buy a wood chipper depends the size and amount of wood to be cleared, and how long you’ll need it for.

What To Know About Wood Chipper Rental

Most tool rental outlets, including The Home Depot, offer wood chippers for rent. Each outlet usually has a selection of models, so it’s important to know what size you need.

The two characteristics most important to know are motor size, measured in cubic centimeters, the throat size, measured in inches. In both cases, larger numbers indicate larger log capacities and higher rental fees.

Don’t pay extra for a chipper with a large log capacity if you’re only clearing twigs and branches from the ground. But if you need to fell small trees or clear sizable branches from redwood and Douglas fir trees, as we did, you’ll need extra power and a larger throat size.

Expect a two-inch capacity wood chipper to cost about $100 per day, $400 per week or $1,200 per month. A six-inch capacity chipper runs $165 per day, $740 per week and $1,850 per month. All prices are based on 2019 data from ForestryEquipmentGuide.com.

You’ll probably also need to choose among gas, diesel or electric models. Electric models are generally less powerful, and the cord prevents you from moving the machine around the property. But they’re cheaper to rent and easier to use, so if you can bring the brush to the chipper, they’re usually a more practical — and safer — option.

Wood chipper rental pros

  • In most cases, wood chippers are cheaper to rent than buy, depending on the size and how long you need it.
  • The rental outlet maintains the chipper, so it should be in good working order.
  • No need to arrange storage after you’re done.

Wood chipper rental cons

  • It might be inconvenient to track down the machine you need, and you have to pick it up and bring it back when you’re done.
  • If you need to rent a wood chipper more than once, the cost will probably be more than buying one.
  • You may have to book a rental well in advance, which means adjusting your work schedule based on availability.

What To Know About Buying a Wood Chipper

You may think a wood chipper would be prohibitively expensive to buy. But some smaller models, like the Sun Joe Electric Wood Chipper (read our review to learn more), cost only about as much as a lawnmower or snow blower.

A small machine like this may be good for brush piles, but not tree branches. A larger machine that can handle three-inch-diameter wood, such as the gas-powered Landworks Mini Wood Chipper, costs significantly more, but not as much as renting a similar machine for a month.

If you opt to buy a wood chipper, you’ll find a wide selection of gas and electric models available online and at home centers. In most cases, you can have the model of your choice delivered to your door.

Wood chipper buying pros

  • You can buy the exact model you need.
  • You can work on your own schedule without rushing to return the chipper before the rental outlet closes.
  • You can loan or rent the tool to neighbors.

Wood chipper buying cons

  • Upfront costs are higher, although they will even out if you use the tool a lot.
  • You’re responsible for maintaining the tool, and you need a place to store it.
  • You need to select a single tool that can meet all your needs.

Renting or Buying: Which Is Better?

Whether you want a wood chipper for fire prevention, general yard maintenance or generating mulch for your garden, you should be able to find the model you need for rent or for sale.

  • You’re better off renting if you need a gas-powered, large capacity machine for just one job. It’s more difficult to store and maintain a large machine than a small one.
  • You’re better off buying if you need a smaller capacity machine. Rental and purchase prices don’t vary as much for small models as they do large ones. If you regularly need a large-capacity machine to grind wood waste and generate mulch, you’ll save money and effort by buying.