Should I get a chipper/shredder or a vac/shredder?

There are many ways to perform leaf cleanups in the fall. Some lawn care business owners do things a very manual way by raking leaves into a pile and then hauling that pile away. Others utilize more expensive equipment to speed up the process while improving their profits. If you find yourself wondering which equipment you should go with when it comes to leaf  cleanups, this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum should help.

One lawn care business owner wrote “well, fall leaf clean up time is upon me and I still don’t have a way to shred leaves and clean up fallen branches yet like the way I want.

To solve this, I have been looking online at first for used equipment, as I can’t afford much more than $500-$600 at the moment. Initially, I was looking into getting a chipper/shredder and wanting something that chips up to a 3″ branch. Then I came across a chipper/vac that says it can do a 3.5″ branch, so I started to wonder if that sort of gadget would make any sense to purchase.

My current dilemma is whether I should look to invest in a chipper/shredder OR would it make more economic sense to purchase a shredder/VAC. Would one be better than the other? Currently the way I deal with leaves is to rake them onto a tarp then drag them to my trailer. I have found a walk behind lawn vac but I am thinking if I went that route, I would rather get a pull behind unit, that could be towed behind my mower.

It seems to me the pull behinds are expensive but as the old saying goes ‘you get what you pay for.’

A second lawn care business owner said “as a lawn care business owner and a homeowner of a large property, over the years I have purchased quite a few chippers / shredders / leaf vacs. Most of the low cost chipper/shredder units, will work fair to good on leaves but they do not have the power to chip branches much over 1 1/2″ and do a good job.

To scale up my equipment from the low end chipper / shredders I experimented next with a chipper/shredder that was driven by the PTO on my landscaping tractor. What I found was even with a 24 h.p. diesel engine, when you put wet leaves into the shredder or a 4″ piece of hard/softwood, it would really bog down. Because of this lack of performance, I ended up selling that unit and went with a commercial tow units shredder/chipper unit which also runs on diesel.

If leaves are the main thing you are looking to dispose of, and you want to keep a watchful eye on how much you spend, I would suggest getting a vac / shredder unit that would be towed behind your commercial mower. They do an excellent job at vacuuming and shredding leaves. Many also have a small chipper for limbs but as I pointed out, they are pretty useless.

If your goal is offering fall year clean ups, I would go with a tow behind vac rather than spending time making a pile of leaves on your tarp and then dragging it to your trailer.

When it comes to purchasing a chipper/shredders, bigger is better but you may find yourself quickly out priced while looking at those units. If this happens, rather than throwing your hands up in defeat and calling it quits, I’d simply suggest you have to realize you must crawl before you can walk. If you can’t afford the equipment that will make you the good money now, you’ll have to chug along with what you can afford until you can save enough to upgrade. That is what I did and it has served me well up to this point.”

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