Budget paper shredders are smaller and less powerful, and many lack the convenience and safety features of pricier models. That said, if you only plan to shred paper on occasion and don't need to destroy things like credit cards or CDs, a budget paper shredder might be all you need.
The best home paper shredders typically cost more than $100, so the Fellowes Powershred DS-3 (*Est. $75) is a comparative bargain that earns top marks from owners reviewing it at four different sites. At Fellowes.com, for example, a whopping 98 percent of the more than 80 reviewers say they'd recommend this crosscut paper shredder to a friend. It has two important safety features: a power switch hidden in the back (to prevent accidentally turning it on) plus a sensor that turns off the shredder if a hand gets too close to the insertion slot -- a plus for homes with children and pets.
The Fellowes Powershred DS-3 is a wastebasket-style paper shredder; emptying it requires lifting the motor off the 5-gallon bin, though owners say the fold-up handle eases this task. An opening in the front of the bin for paper that doesn't need shredding lets this shredder double as a recycling bin. We found quite a few comments from owners who appreciate this feature.
The metal cutters on this Fellowes paper shredder carry a five-year warranty, but the overall warranty on the machine is for one year. The Fellowes DS-3 runs continuously for up to five minutes, then its overheat protection kicks in, requiring a cool-down period.
Another crosscut shredder, the Fellowes Powershred W11C (*Est. $65) is slightly larger and more powerful, shredding paper into shorter strips (1.375 inches or 35 mm, compared to 2 inches or 50 mm for the DS-3). However, the W11C places the power switch on top where it could still be accidentally turned on, rather than on the back. Nor does the W11C have the safety sensor that shuts off the shredder if a hand gets too close to the opening.
Another budget-priced wastebasket-style paper shredder, the
In more than 30 reviews at Amazon.com, only a couple of owners complain that the Royal HT88 broke, with one admitting he overloaded it. But for a simple, light-duty shredder, the HT88 looks like a good bet.
For half as much, the Walmart 6-Sheet Crosscut Shredder with Easy Lift Handle (*Est. $25) also gets excellent reviews from more than 200 owners, though it hasn't been included in any professional tests. The Walmart paper shredder, made by Aurora, has overheat protection and a safety feature that shuts down the motor when anything bigger than paper or a credit card is forced into the slot. Security-wise, the Walmart shredder could be better, as it shreds paper into pieces that are short but wide -- 5.5 mm compared to 4 mm for most crosscut shredders. That could make it easier for a thief to piece documents back together. But if you're mainly shredding non-critical documents, it might be all you need. Walmart doesn't specify the capacity of the bin, but it looks to be about 3 gallons.
A desktop shredder, the Aurora AS420C Desktop Crosscut Shredder (*Est. $30) has an even smaller footprint: about 9.5 by 7 by 10 inches, with a 1.32-gallon bin. It's classified as a crosscut shredder, but some users reviewing it at Amazon.com complain that some of the paper shreds are big enough to leave legible data. One reviewer at Amazon.com says "I could clearly read the wording on every single piece of paper that it shredded." (The 5 by 47 mm pieces are both wider and longer than on most of the dozens of paper shredders whose specifications we checked.)
The main complaint about this shredder, though, is that a normal sheet of paper must be folded into thirds in order to fit into the narrow slot. Having to fold each sheet and insert just one or two at a time, combined with a 10-minute maximum runtime, means this shredder is quite light-duty indeed. Its usefulness is further limited, even for home users, since it can't cut up credit cards.