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Things to Consider When Buying a Chipper

Eeger Beever 2131

Whether you’re expanding your services, upgrading your fleet, or launching your own tree care company, a brush chipper is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make. Careful consideration before buying will help you choose the best chipper for your needs, saving you time, money – and headaches – over the long haul.

Application
What type of work will you be doing? The nature of the job and the volume and size of wood you plan to put through the chipper makes a big difference. A company specializing in tree trimming needs a much different chipper than a contractor performing land clearing and tree removals. Look at your local landscape. Will most of your jobs be in newer, residential areas with young trees that are smaller in diameter or in established developments with larger, more mature trees? These considerations determine the size and capacity of the chipper that’s best for you. You shouldn’t plan to constantly run the chipper at its maximum capacity. In general, the typical size of the wood you feed your chipper should be about 2/3 of its capacity, with occasional larger pieces. The opening size is intended to allow branches to fold in better, to allow multiple stems to be fed, and to provide smooth intake of material, not to be the size of wood you’re always feeding the chipper.

Buy too small of a chipper, and you risk spending time and money hauling the wood to another company for chipping, since many dumpsites no longer accept whole trees and large logs. Alternatively, you don’t want to waste fuel running a chipper that’s much larger than necessary. Anticipated growth also factors in to your purchasing decision; perhaps you’re concentrating on tree trimming now, but want to expand into takedowns. In that case, you’ll want a larger machine than your current needs would indicate.

Eeger Beever 1415

Going Beyond Chipper Size
While choosing the right size and horsepower of a chipper is an important decision, you should ask yourself these questions as well.

  1. How will you feed the chipper? Brush chippers are often called hand-fed chippers, but many tree services feed their chippers mechanically, using a skid-steer loader or feeding directly from a crane. If you plan to feed your chipper mechanically, make sure to buy a model with heavy-duty construction designed to take the bumps from butt-ends that will inevitably happen.
  2. Are you looking for a gas- or diesel-powered machine? Tier 4 requirements on diesel engines have driven their cost much higher. Still, some people prefer diesel engines, especially if their trucks and other equipment have diesel power. Having all of your equipment use the same fuel makes it easier on your crew for fill-ups. However, gasoline engines today have more fuel efficiency and better torque curves than older technology. Combined with the lower purchase price, this can make a gasoline-powered chipper an attractive option.
  3. What standard features does the chipper have? Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at various manufacturers’ chippers. Some models are designed as “bare-bones” machines that will do the job needed, while others are engineered with user flexibility and ease of use in mind. Chippers naturally take a lot of abuse and experience a great deal of vibration, so looking at their structure is important. A machine with a reinforced steel frame that’s built to disperse vibration will hold up better to the rigors of the job. Almost all chippers are equipped with automatic feed systems today. Some have additional features, such as height adjustable discharge chutes and telescopic towing tongues to fit a variety of tow vehicles. Some have hand-crank swivel discharges to make chip direction easy to adjust. When comparing chippers, compare all of the features you are getting; don’t focus strictly on the size of the feed opening.
  4. What features and options do you need? One of the most popular options available on a chipper is a winch. If the bulk of the material you’ll feed is smaller branches, a winch may not be necessary. For crews feeding large-diameter wood, a winch is literally a “back saver;” it can greatly improve efficiency, reduce operator fatigue, and lower the potential risk for back injury. If you plan to use a chipper with a winch, make sure you have a seasoned work crew trained in chipper operation and safety while using the winch. Other options that you may consider are items like cone holders, wheel chock holders, hydraulic swivel discharge, and more.
  5. How easy is it to conduct maintenance on the chipper? While no one wants to consider maintenance on a new machine, this can affect your long-term satisfaction with the chipper. Even a chipper running in tip-top shape will require regular knife changes and periodic adjustments of components. Even the toughest chipper will occasionally need repairs. A chipper designed to give you easier view and access points for maintenance can greatly reduce your downtime.
  6. Who is your local dealer and how well do they work with you? A dealer can be much more than your supplier for parts and service. A dealer who is engaged in the industry and who understands your business needs and the importance of reducing downtime can be a valuable part of your business model. Your dealer may have ideas that will improve your approach to business, whether with supplemental equipment or by keeping you abreast of new industry trends. In addition, they can help you to understand your financing options and shepherd you through the process. Even if you purchase a used chipper from a private seller, having a good relationship with a dealer authorized by your chipper manufacturer can mean the difference between having a stranger to order a part from and having a teammate who’ll go the extra mile to get your equipment back up and running as quickly as possible.
  7. What is the replacement part availability and cost? A wood chipper will need replacement parts; there is no avoiding it. If you choose to buy a chipper with frequent part replacement requirements and high parts costs, a seemingly good value based on low purchase price can diminish over time. Choose a ruggedly built chipper suited to your job and inquire about parts costs and wear life up front.

Putting in the time to careful research your options before making a chipper purchase will pay dividends throughout the life of your brush chipper.