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I go into many apartments and home offices and see the small inexpensive shredder. I wonder how many times it has jammed, or stopped working altogether. And then it ends up collecting dust and taking up valuable floor space.

I think people are tempted to buy a shredder because it’s inexpensive or because they saw a “Best Seller” listing somewhere. A “Best Seller” rating is a lot different than a “Top Rated” rating. “Best Seller” doesn’t reflect consumers’ actual experiences with the shredders. It doesn’t mean those consumers made the best choices for their shredders. “Top Rated” is a much better gauge of performance.

So many shredders to choose from, so little time…

Once you’ve found a “Top Rated” listing you trust, here are some tips for selecting the best one for your needs and budget.

Shredder capacity: Choose the capacity that you need and can afford. Are you patient and don’t mind shredding only 8 sheets at a time? Or do you want it to go faster and prefer a larger capacity shredder?

Paper shredding methods: I recommend the cross-cut or confetti-cut method. If you are hyper vigilent, then go with a micro-cut.

Basic functions: Most shredders feature an auto function. This starts the shredder motor when it senses paper or other media being inserted. Most shredders also have a reverse setting. This is useful for clearing out paper jams.

Bells and whistles: If you want more advanced features…

Auto-feeder – Lets you place up to 100 sheets in a tray to be shredded automatically. Sounds heavenly!

CD/DVD/Floppy Disc slot – Has a specific slot for shredding things like CDs, DVDs, floppy discs, and other heavier media.

Paper jam indicator – Lets you know that the paper shredder has a paper jam that needs to be addressed.

Overheat indicator – Lets you know that the motor is being overworked and needs to cool off.

Touch sensor – Stops the motor if it senses anything touching the paper entry area. This safety feature prevents accidental cuts.

Cost: I recommend you spend at least $100. See it as a long-term investment in your identity protection.

Brand/Model: I don’t think you can go wrong with Amazon’s Top Rated listings. As of February, 2014, the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet High security Micro-Cut Shredder is their #1 Top Rated shredder (see image). Do your due diligence. Make an educated choice and your shredder should last for some time to come.

Shredding Options: Finally, if you have a lot of shredding to do, if might be worth taking it to a FedEx Office or Staples store. They will have it shredded for you by the pound.

Alternatively, you can have a shred truck come to your apartment and shred on the spot while you watch. Call for a minimum cost estimate.

Or you can always wait for a free shred fest in your town. New York City’s annual ShredFest always takes place in May at various greenmarkets. Sometimes, there are other free Shred-a-Thons at other times of the year.

Finally, if you have a fireplace, you can always burn your important documents in there. Or if you ski, you can usually find an outside fire pit near the lodge.

Here is PC Magazine's 2024 list of the best shredders.

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