Best Cheap Paper Shredders
Published on By Maralyn Edid
AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Review
From $50 Best
This unit does heavy-duty shredding (CDs included) without overheating. It also comes with a safety feature that triggers an automatic shutdown if a foreign object (like tiny fingers) comes into contact with the blade.
The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut shredder has garnered more than 2,300 reviews on the ecommerce vendor's site and earns an average four-star rating. Although this model is described as a "medium-duty" shredder, reviews indicate that it handles what passes for heavy-duty shredding by home users without overheating. AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cutter reviews say it easily shreds up to 10 sheets and some say it manages the advertised 12 sheets. Paper clips and staples pose no obstacles, either, many users assert.
Quite a few also report they have exceeded the recommended 5-minute continuous run time. One reviewer, for example, claims to have shredded materials for 90 minutes straight, with just one auto shutdown when the machine got too hot. Users really like the efficiency and many report relying on it to shred backlogs of sensitive documents.
AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut reviews at Fat Wallet, are divided, with some extolling its virtues (such as price) and others grumbling about design or reliability issues. As with all inexpensive shredders, reports of malfunctions and total breakdown within days or weeks of purchase appear with some regularity.
This all-purpose shredder can chew paper (up to 600 sheets a day, according to the specs), credit cards, staples and paper clips, as well as CDs and DVDs -- the latter two through a dedicated slot where these media are shredded into four pieces. The primary paper throat is 8.7 inches wide. The shredding mechanism sits atop a 4.8-gallon bin and must be removed to empty the basket. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut shredder (starting at $50, Amazon) features SafetyShred, which triggers an automatic shutdown if an object that the machine isn't designed to destroy enters the shredding slot. It can be reversed to clear jams, and comes with a one-year limited warranty.
The combination of features and overwhelmingly positive feedback make the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet shredder a hands-down top pick.
Fellowes Powershred W11C Cross-Cut Shredder Review
From $75 Best
This durable shredder may be noisy and a bit top-heavy, but it does the job quickly and efficiently. It boasts an 11-sheet capacity and can shred for up to 5 minutes before needing a 20-minute cool down.
"Value" and "efficient" are two adjectives that show up with some regularity in Fellowes Powershred W11C reviews. This cross-cut shredder claims the affections of users who appreciate the 11-sheet capacity and its utility for home and small office shredding needs. In posts at Walmart, for example, reviews assert that the Fellowes Powershred W11C is relatively quiet and zips through eight sheets but is just a tad slower when tearing into 11; it also thoroughly chews through credit cards and card stock. And while the instructions warn against inserting unopened junk mail, one user reports on the company website that doing so is problem-free. Users advise that oiling the works about once a month helps to keep things running smoothly and the noise level down.
The Fellowes Powershred W11C (starting at $75, Amazon) earns an average 4.7 out of 5 for safe operation in reviews on the Fellowes site and an average 4.2 for style and design. Indeed, a handful of posts at a variety of review sites grumble about a top-heavy design that's prone to tipping over. The shredding head must be lifted off to empty the container, but at least, one user notes, a handle makes that easy. We also read some complaints about limited durability.
Fellowes categorizes this model for "household" use and specs say it can shred up to 5 minutes before needing a 20-minute cool down. Users pretty much affirm that, with one review describing the Powershred W11C as "relentless." It is designed to handle credit cards and staples in addition to the usual paper, all of which fall into a 4.75-gallon bin after passing through the 9-inch throat. The shredder features a patented safety lock and comes with a general one-year warranty plus a three-year warranty for the cutter.
Although the price sits at the very top edge of the Cheapism ceiling, hundreds of positive reviews for the Fellowes Powershred cross-cutter argue for including it on the list of best shredders. Chances are you won't be disappointed.
Aurora AS420C Desktop-Style Cross-Cut Shredder Review
From $29 Good
A small model with a 4.5-inch shredding slot, users nonetheless appreciate its desktop convenience for light use. The Aurora As420C is especially popular with first-time shredder owners who don't want to make a major financial commitment.
The diminutive Aurora AS420C Desktop-Style Cross-Cut Shredder suits users who like to shred on the spot, according to reviews. Posts at Amazon and Target crow about the convenience afforded by its size. Reviewers report keeping it close at hand for daily shredding sessions, reading the message and immediately shredding the document, and storing the unit in a desk drawer or inside a cabinet near the spot where mail is sorted. The Aurora AS420C also pleases users with its ultra-low price.
The biggest complaint recorded in Aurora AS420C reviews is the narrow width of the shredding slot -- ironically, the design feature that underlies its popularity. About half the size of the throat on most other shredders, the 4.5-inch slot enables a very compact footprint but can handle only a maximum thickness of four layers, which means folding a standard letter-sized sheet of paper in half before inserting. Some users who otherwise commend the performance find this step irritating.
Features include auto on/off and reverse modes. The model is rated to run for two minutes at 4-sheet capacity before needing a cool down period, and the 1.3 gallon bin holds the equivalent of 40 sheets of paper. The Aurora AS420C (starting at $29, Amazon) can also decimate paper clips, staples, and credit cards. It comes with a detachable power cord and a letter opener.
A combination of budget pricing, unimposing silhouette, and simplicity of operation make the Aurora AS420C Cross-Cut Shredder a decent selection for light personal use -- but only if you're not one to let sensitive documents pile up.
Royal CX80 Paper Shredder Review
From $47 Good
This fit-anywhere cross-cut shredder features two slots -- one for up to eight sheets of paper and the other for credit cards. A reverse switch comes in handy if you accidentally overfeed the paper slot.
The Royal CX80 scores well in reviews with experts and consumers. Bestcovery, for example, names it one of the best paper shredders overall, citing features such as the reverse run for clearing jams and the slide-out basket. Experts at Good Housekeeping commend the fast shred speed but report that 100 sheets is the maximum for a single shredding session. In users' Royal CX80 reviews at sites like Staples and Overstock.com, they write that the shredder works to its stated eight-sheet capacity and its slim profile means it nestles easily under a desk. The few dings directed its way concern the relatively small 2.75-gallon bin, the angle of the throat (can be tricky to load, asserts one review), and the modest price. One user even admits this latter attribute caused some initial hesitation, but it was quickly dispelled once seeing the Royal CX80 (starting at $70, Amazon) in action.
This model can handle up to eight sheets of paper in one pass (including staples) through its 8.75-inch throat, and one credit card at a time through the smaller, dedicated slot. There's an auto start/stop, and the transparent pull-out bin lets you quickly see when it's time to empty the contents. Users apparently like not having to take apart the shredder (i.e., lift off the shredding head, as is the case with other models) when disposing of waste.
Given the price point and host of user-friendly features, the Royal CX80 is a good choice for consumers with modest shredding requirements.
Royal 85MX 10-Sheet Cross Cut Review
From $70 Think Twice
Even though this model boasts a 3-gallon basket atop convenient casters, users report inferior performance, with frequent motor stops, jams, and breakdowns.
Practical features aside, Royal 85MX 10-Sheet Cross-Cut Paper Shredder reviews are discouraging. We found little more than a handful of online comments about this model, most of which are several years old. And those posted at Amazon are weighed down by the negative. Users like the dedicated shredding slots, pull-out basket, reverse switch, and rolling casters well enough, but their Royal 85MX reviews groan about performance. They cite constant paper jams that are hard to clear out and failure to live up to the stated 10-sheet capacity. Several report that two sheets is about all this model can handle without choking. They add that the throat is hard to feed and breakdowns of one sort or another are likely to occur.
The Royal 85MX (starting at $70, Amazon) sits atop locking casters and contains a 3.8-gallon waste bin that is pulled out for emptying. There is also an automatic start/stop function and special slots for paper, CDs, and credit cards.
With a price that hits the top of the Cheapism range and a performance that fails to impress, the Royal 85MX proves to be a poor value compared with the other shredders we researched.
Where to buy
Identity and other types of data theft -- not to mention all those scary television shows about hoarding -- have made shredding essential for individuals as well as organizations. Unless you want to tear up all your old tax returns by hand, you need a paper shredder. For frugal consumers, that means a cheap paper shredder. Given the array of choices, which one should you choose in the under-$75 set?
Cheap Paper Shredders Buying Guide
Some experts say the best time to buy a shredder is in the fall and on through spring tax season. That's when sales are strongest and retailers often put them on special. The most popular brands include Fellowes, Aurora, Royal, and several store brands, such as Staples.
According to our research, the best cheap shredders are the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder (starting at $50), which also chews up CDs and credit cards and delivers heavy-duty shredding capacity at an affordable price. The Fellowes Powershred W11C Cross-Cut Shredder (starting at $75), another best pick, provides powerfully reliable performance for personal and home office needs. Our basket of good cheap paper shredders holds the Royal CX80 Paper Shredder (starting at $47), well-liked by buyers for its functionality and easy bin removal. Those who opted for the Aurora AS420C Desktop-Style Cross-Cut Shredder (starting at $29) laud its compact size and portability. One model that doesn't make the grade is the Royal 85MX 10-Sheet Cross Cut (starting at $70) due to reports of performance shortfalls.
Aside from chopping up sheets of paper, many shredders also can do a number on entire envelopes of junk mail, staples and paper clips, credit cards, CDs and DVDs (some of which may contain financial or other personal data). If you expect to need all those capabilities, make sure to choose a cheap paper shredder that can meet them, such as the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet, which boasts a dedicated slot for digital media, or the mid-tier Staples 30-Sheet Strip-Cut Shredder, whose starting price of $120 makes it too rich for our list.
If you have a major project, such as shredding 10 years' worth of medical records or your collection of college journals, think about using a one-time bulk shredding service, such as Shred Nations or Shred-it, which come to your home or office for onsite shredding. Tech Media Network says 30 pounds of paper can be dispensed with for $35 to $40. Shredding at Office Depot costs 99 cents a pound and FedEx charges 79 cents a pound.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Looked for in the Specs
Cross-Cut Shredder.There are essentially two kinds of shredders in the budget range: strip cut and cross cut. The former shreds into narrow strips lengthwise or widthwise, depending how you load the paper. The Aurora AS810SD (starting at $30) is an example of a strip-cut shredder. Although they accommodate more paper and are useful for demolishing junk mail, strip-cut shredders are not recommended for sensitive material, as a dedicated identity thief can reassemble these crude cuts fairly easily.
Cross-cut shredders slice and dice paper and other media both vertically and horizontally, creating a confetti-like shape that assures greater security. All of our cheap paper shredder picks are cross-cutters.
Moving up the security ladder gets to models with a micro, or diamond, cut, which turns documents and such into diamond-shaped bits. Micro cut is reserved for high-end shredders that cost upward of $300, well beyond the Cheapism zone.
High Shredding Capacity.The amount of paper a cheap shredder can handle at one time, or in one "pass," is a crucial consideration for most buyers and the basis for many ratings. The standard for units designed for home or small office use ranges from five sheets to 15. Specifications for all the models we researched satisfy this requirement but for the Aurora AS420C, which can take a maximum feed of two sheets of paper folded in half, for a four-sheet thickness (it also can take one credit card). Reviews indicate that not all shredders live up to their advertised capacity (see next page). But don't think just in terms of single sheets. Consider a three-page junk mail letter folded into thirds and inside an envelope. Three pages folded triple is equivalent to a thickness of nine sheets. The two sides of the envelope add two more sheets, for a total of 11. In other words, if you'll be shredding a lot of junk mail, or mailings with multiple sheets, be sure to choose a paper shredder with more stated capacity rather than less. Note, however, that many cheap shredders, like the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet model and the Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut Shredder (starting at $23), balk at accepting windowed envelopes.
Minimum 8.5-inch Shredding Slot.Most cheap shredders have a similarly sized "throat" through which you feed the material to be shredded. For letter- and legal-sized documents, a throat narrower than 8.5 inches would be tight and likely an exercise in frustration as you struggle to insert the paper.
The 4.5-inch throat on the Aurora AS420C requires that an 8.5x11-inch sheet be folded at least once, but this model sits in our bucket of good cheap paper shredders anyway because of its extremely low price and desktop or stow-away convenience for light personal use. Still, low-key grumbling about throat width surfaces in online review comments.
Safety Features.The best paper shredders have some kind of safety feature. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut shredder boasts ShredSafe technology. Effectively, this means that when a foreign object -- human or otherwise -- gets too close to the shredder throat, the unit automatically shuts off. Other brands have their own safety mechanisms. Staples shredders, for example, feature Blade Guard, a mechanical feature that covers the shredder's sharp teeth, and the Fellowes Powershred W11C has a patented safety interlock for shutting down the shredder when the head is taken off the basket.
What We Ignored in the Specs
Bin Style and Capacity.Shredders come in two basic bin styles: pull-out console and wastepaper basket. With the former (found on the Royal CX80), you empty the device by pulling out a basket-size drawer that collects the shreds. With the latter, you lift the shredder mechanism off the basket holding the shreds. The choice is a matter of personal preference, and users note that both can make a mess when dumping into a larger container. (Tip: Line the basket with a bag from the grocery store.)
As with any waste receptacle, the larger it is, the less frequently it must be emptied. Bin sizes for cheap paper shredders generally range from very small, about 1.5 gallons to 8 gallons. Among the models we researched, the Aurora AS420C features the smallest bin (1.3 gallons) and the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet and Fellowes Powershred W11C feature the largest (4.8 and 4.75 gallons, respectively). Several users say the 2.75-gallon bin on the Royal CX80 seems a bit small, but optimal bin capacity really depends on how much shredding you plan to do and how often you want to empty it.
And remember, shredded paper has excellent recycling potential as everything from garden mulch to packing filler.
Paper Shredder Reviews
Shredding capacity -- the ability to get a job done efficiently and without jamming or overheating -- is users' primary interest, according to paper shredder reviews. But a few other features occasionally come under scrutiny, such as run time and durability. We didn't pay attention to comments about noise because shredders invariably are deemed very noisy or just plain noisy.
Shredding Capacity.Paper shredder reviews reveal that many users of the better budget models are satisfied with their ability to chew up paper, and, where relevant, credit cards and other media. But online comments also reveal that some users find that the models we researched don't live up to manufacturers' stated claims about shredding capacity with each pass. (Tip: Make a habit of inserting fewer than the maximum number of sheets; users say doing so puts less stress on the machine and promotes longevity. Also, oiling the shredding mechanism regularly keeps things running smoothly; check manufacturer's instructions.)
The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut (starting at $50) gets credit in an expert review at Bestcovery for handling the full allotment without jamming or overheating -- CDs and DVDs, as well, according to users' paper shredder reviews, even though a few claim that the machine's comfort level is less than 12 sheets. The Fellowes Powershred W11C (starting at $75) seems to manage its stated 11-sheet capacity without breaking a sweat, assert a majority of paper shredder reviews. Several note that it plows through six to eight sheets but slows down when faced with 11.
The two-slot Royal CX80 (starting at $47) gets an overall "B" from Good Housekeeping, whose experts found that it handles 12 sheets at a time without freezing up even though it's rated for eight. User reviews, however, report that it slows down when confronted with eight sheets but shreds them just fine. Reviews also note that the dedicated credit card slot makes mincemeat of the little plastic rectangles. Paper shredder reviews at Target say the desk-top Aurora AS420C (starting at $29) does its job perfectly well, but strains somewhat with more than one folded sheet.
The Royal 85MX (starting at $70), on the other hand, takes heat from users for jams with just two sheets of paper, never mind the 10 it's supposed to handle. Posts also complain about the difficulty of cleaning out paper that clogs the cutters.
Run Time.Budget paper shredders universally have fairly short run times – generally on the order of 2 to 5 minutes, far shorter than those designed for heavy-duty office use. They also may need a longer cool-down period between bouts of shredding; specs for the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut, for example, stipulate a 30-minute cool down. Nonetheless, we found reviews of the models on our list that claim longer run times than expected: 20 minutes straight, says one paper shredder review of the AmazonBasics, which is quite a feat for an inexpensive machine. The Fellowes Powershred survived multiple sessions of decimating a 10-year paper build-up, according to one user, only to be undone by a rusty paper clip. Tests by experts found that the Royal CX80 maxes out at about 100 sheets per session while the design of the desktop Aurora AS420C makes it impractical for extensive workouts.
Durability.This is an issue that crops up with some regularity in paper shredder reviews. Although our top four picks seem to provide ongoing and reliable service -- at least for a few years -- for each of these models we found reviews bemoaning the short lifespan. Some reviewers report the unit failed from the get-go, others report total breakdowns within a matter of days or months. Problems cluster around jams that can't be cleaned out and unexplained motor failure. We also read a few reports about the automatic shut-off on the Aurora AS810SD strip-cutter (starting at $30) that kept on running even though no paper was being fed through. Of the models we researched, the Royal 85MX draws the most consistent negative comments about durability.
Additional Products We Considered
Aurora AS810SD 8-Sheet Strip-Cut Review
The only strip-cut shredder we researched, the Aurora AS810SD 8-Sheet earns decent reviews for both performance and features. At Target users report that the shredder deftly handles the advertised eight sheets of paper in one pass and is generally efficient. Aurora AS810SD reviews at Amazon are slightly less favorable, however. Many users consider it reliable but a few posts note failure of the auto start/stop function and caution about overtaxing the machine in any given shredding session.
In addition to the usual paper, staples, and paper clips capacity, the Aurora AS810SD (starting at $30, Amazon) also handles credit cards through its 8.75-inch throat. CDs and DVDs can be shredded through a narrower dedicated slot. The resulting paper strips are 1/4-inch wide and CD strips are nearly 1.5-inches wide. According to the company website, the basket volume is 3.2 gallons.
Overall good reviews suggest the Aurora AS810SD is a worthy buy, but only if you can tolerate a lower level of security. Experts prefer confetti-like cross-cut shreds, especially for documents with personal information, so figure out what you'll be shredding before tossing this model into your cart.
Walmart 6-sheet Crosscut Review
A Walmart exclusive, this 6-Sheet Crosscut Shredder is arguably a steal. Hundreds of reviews assign the shredder four or five stars at the company's site, touting virtues such as the performance-to-price ratio, the efficiency, and the safety. Quite a few assert it handily beats out costlier rivals. But even fans of the Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut Shredder make mention of a few hiccups. Many advise sticking with a maximum of four sheets at a pass, noting that six sheets pose too much of a challenge, and several report that it balks at windowed envelopes. Some also consider the 3.7-gallon waste bin to be a tad small, although that's about the size of the baskets found in other budget models.
The head of the shredder lifts off the basket for emptying, an action facilitated by a handle. There's a cover for the 8.7-inch slot during down times, as well as an auto-start function and a manual reverse to clear jams. The Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut (starting at $23, Walmart) can also shred credit cards, small paper clips, and staples.
It's hard to ignore the appeal of the Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut given the super-low price and more than passable performance. Its limited sheet capacity seems to be the primary weak spot.