Here are some other points to consider when choosing a shredder.
If you have the room, consider one of our recommended models. They are 20 to 25 inches tall, which means that they can store more waste between emptying. You can also find desktop models, which have a smaller footprint. Keep in mind that this type might shred more slowly, and you might need to empty it more frequently than larger, more-expensive machines. One desktop model that we tested but which is discontinued easily handled credit cards, discs, and staples.
If you store your annual tax records or other important documents on data discs, make sure you choose a model that can handle them.
If you'll shred papers only occasionally, say when you sort through your monthly bills, consider a model with an "auto" button. This feature lets you keep the shredder at the ready, without the noisy motor running, until you insert papers and other items. You won't have to turn the shredder on and off as you work.
If you frequently shred large piles of paper, consider a model like the Swingline EX100-07 Stack and Shred ($225). It lets you stack up to 100 sheets on an interior shelf and then slowly shreds while you attend to other tasks.
Because you'll want to keep tabs on the shredded paper so that the bin doesn't get too full and possibly interfere with the shredding, look for a machine with a window for monitoring the shredded buildup. Some machines, including the GoEcoLife GXC120Ti ($200) and the Staples SPL-TXC10A ($100), lack a window but have an indicator light that lets you know when the drawer is full.
We didn't find serious safety hazards with any of the tested shredders during testing. All tested models are designed with a slat that should be too small for children's fingers to get caught. Note that wastepaper-basket shredders, which lack drawers, tended to be top-heavy, making them more prone to tipping over. Models with drawers were also easier to empty.
The best time to buy a shredder is from fall through spring tax season. That's when retailers sell the most shredders and often put them on sale. Also ask about a trade-in. Staples, for example, will give you $50 for an old shredder when you buy a new one, as long as the new one you're buying retails for $149.99 or more, even if it's on sale for less.
Read the owner's manual
Follow the instructions to prevent paper jams and other problems. For example on some models, when we inserted papers on an angle rather than straight in, the pages folded over. On others, when we inserted items not recommended in the owner's manual, such as unopened envelopes with glassine windows, the machines occasionally jammed or didn't shred properly. And when we slipped a credit card into the wrong slot on one shredder, the card was sliced into just three pieces, leaving the number potentially easy to read.
Also check the manual for directions on how often to clean and oil the shredder to improve its performance and help it last longer.
Finally, to ensure the greatest security and to thwart a truly dedicated paper pilferer, dispose of shredded materials over several trash-collection cycles.
Check our Ratings of shredders (available to subscribers) to find the model that fits your needs.