Whether you are a professional landscaper, an undeveloped property owner, or a homeowner, there is a good chance you will eventually need to clear out a tree before too long. Unfortunately, cutting down a tree leaves an ugly stump jutting out of the ground. That is why we have put together a list of the 3 best stump grinder we could find. We also provide a helpful buyer’s guide, so you know what to look for in a quality stump grinder. Personally, we think the PowerKing is without question the best stump grinder available.
Best Stump Grinders in 2020
1. PowerKing PK0803 – Best Walk-Behind Stump Grinder
PowerKing is an interesting product because it is not actually its own company but is instead a subsidiary brand of QVTools. It is important to note that “QV Tools” with a space between the “V” and the “T” is a different company than “QVTools” without space. The parent company of PowerKing, the one without space, is a solid OEM manufacturer of outdoor equipment. Thankfully, this product is made in the USA which all but ensures that the company will put out a solid product. In fact, the PowerKing stump grinder leads the market in most of the relevant categories and is easily our Editor’s Choice best stump grinder reviewed.
King of the Hill
A quick look at the pros is pretty much all you need to see to make your decision, but we will go through exactly why this is the undisputed best stump grinder that we came across.
On top of that, the PowerKing also comes equipped with the most powerful engine we saw at an impressive 14 hp. Aside from the fact that this provides significantly more torque than most of the other stump grinders we saw, it also helps keep the PowerKing in good working order for a longer period of time. To top it all off, this stump grinder is also the least expensive product on our list – there really is not much else to say.
2. NorthStar 296026 – Best Small Stump Grinder
NorthStar is a bit like some other brands on our list in that it is part of a larger umbrella company, but the parent company, Northern Tool, is not an outside company. Instead, NorthStar is one of many brands in that company that aims to provide high-end products a focused market – in this instance, it is often larger outdoor equipment that has a gas-powered engine. That said, NorthStar is not strictly a professional-grade brand, and this particular NorthStar stump grinder is definitely a consumer-grade model – though the brand does have a larger, more powerful professional-grade model. Still, this is actually a reasonably suitable product for some professional purposes which is why we rated it our best portable stump grinder reviewed.
This makes it more than manageable to pick up the NorthStar grinder with two people and take it pretty much anywhere. However, NorthStar was not content to produce the lightest stump grinder we saw as they also made the product able to collapse in on itself for even easier portability. While this compact size necessarily limits the power and cutting range you can get, the Honda GX160 engine at least keeps it in the game.
3. Toro SGR-13ST – Best Commercial Stump Grinder
Toro is easily one of the most well-known and reputable brands in outdoor equipment, and they are also the only company on our list that explicitly specializes in this market. However, this is by far the most expensive stump grinder we reviewed. With that kind of price tag, you likely expect that the Toro SGR-13ST blows the competition out of the water. What may then surprise you is that while still solid, the Toro SGR-13ST only leads the products on our list in a single category – and not by that much either. That said, this stump grinder is significantly easier to use than the others which is why we ranked it our best DIY stump grinder.
While the Toro SGR-13ST may not lead our list in most of the meaningful specs and features, it does still make a solid second-place showing. For one, the difference in power between the Toro SGR-13ST and the most powerful stump grinder we saw is 1 hp. That said, a much bigger concern, at least for a professional-grade product, is the fact that its above grade is barely over 1’. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, the Toro SGR-13ST does have the deepest below grade of 11” – though that is only the best by 2”.
Despite what you might otherwise think, the power of a stump grinder is important but likely not the most important quality to consider. Granted, you definitely do not want to get a badly underpowered stump grinder but is more due to inconvenience than it is performance. An underpowered stump grinder will usually require longer to do the same job and might even require different cutting techniques. That said, it is important to understand that stump grinders, due to the rigor of their work, use gasoline-powered engines which makes this consideration a bit trickier. While the amount of power those engines produce is necessary to cut the stump, it will also impact the longevity of the stump grinder.
Considering the majority of a stump grinder’s work will ultimately be accomplished by the engine, this is arguably more important than the power it can generate. This is especially true considering that there is not a reputable stump grinder on the market that is under a grand in price. This means that any and every stump grinder is an investment, and the most important component of that investment is the engine. In this instance, you should look for an engine manufactured by a company known for small block engines. Basically, the engine should be manufactured by outdoor equipment or even motorcycle engine manufacturer like Honda.
Out of the qualities that directly affect the effectiveness of a stump grinder, the cutting range is likely the most important. That said, grinding down a stump actually requires consideration of cutting the stump both above and below ground. While it may seem more of aesthetic consideration, it is also important to remember that numerous species of tree with an intact root structure will simply start to regrow.
The cutting range of a stump grinder is determined by two grade, the first of which is the above grade. The above grade refers to the maximum height that a stump grinder can cut into safely, though this is actually the less relevant cutting grade. This has more to do with the fact that you can ensure that the stump itself falls within the above grade with other tools. Basically, if the stump is a bit above the cutting grade of a stump grinder, you can always take a chainsaw and lower the stump enough to be ground down. You cannot do the same thing with a stump grinder’s other cutting grade though. Regardless, it is still important to get a stump grinder with an above grade that is around 12” or more to prevent you from having to make a riskier cut with the chainsaw.
As you may have figured out based on the prior discussions, the below grade of a stump grinder refers to how low below ground-level the stump grinder can cut. This is easily the most important consideration when choosing a stump grinder, so long as everything else at least meets the general industry standards. This is because there are not really any other tools that can make cutting a stump below ground any easier like there are for cutting the stump above ground. Another reason that the below grade is so important is that many trees will regrow if you do not destroy the root structure below ground. Unless you want to have to spend significant time and energy digging out the area around the stump, you will need a grinder that can go down and clear it out. That said, the below grade is almost without exception shorter than the above grade, so expect a range of about 9”, though anything closer to a foot is great.
This may seem a bit of an odd quality to consider for a product that is expected to come with a gas-powered engine, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it for a minute. It all comes down to a single question: where are you going to have to use the stump grinder? While there may exist a few exceptions with extenuating circumstances, the overwhelming majority of stumps to be ground will be found outside. On top of that, a tree’s root structure almost necessarily dictates that the stumps to grind in a given area are liable to be multiple feet away from one another. As such, if you need to clear out a larger area as opposed to occasional use, chances are that you will need to transport your stump grinder. If your stump grinder weighs more than 200 pounds, you begin to get to a point where it will be more difficult to load and unload.
Stump grinders are a fairly straightforward product without too many bells and whistles, but there are a couple of features a grinder can add that are legitimately valuable. For instance, the ability to walk the stump grinder with the assistance of the engine is a great benefit. This feature allows you to more easily transport the stump grinder from one location to another as well as load and unload it. Another extra feature that adds legitimate value is the inclusion of a side discharge function. This feature ensures that the ground up bits of the stump is directed away from the grinder to prevent any jamming from occurring.
Other features that can provide some functional benefit include a clutch that can handle the sharp jolt of the blade first contacting the stump as well as a brake that can prevent the grinder from breaking itself or even injuring its user. Also, many of the lighter stump grinders on the market include handles that make it significantly easier to pick up for loading/unloading and general transport purposes. Some stump grinders even include features that make it easier to raise or lower the stump grinder’s grade when cutting into the wood.
Best Way to Remove Stumps
Sometimes, the stars just align and provide the best performing product in a market at the lowest price. Oddly enough, this is the dynamic we see in the stump grinder market as the PowerKing is the top performing product in nearly every meaningful category while also still having the lowest price tag. Whether you need a powerful motor to rip through a dense stump or a wide cutting range, the PowerKing has you and your wallet covered.
That said, the PowerKing is almost 400 pounds which can be fairly difficult to transport – especially over uneven terrain. For a more compact profile that is more portable, we recommend the NorthStar which is only about 130 pounds. On top of that, the NorthStar stump grinder can collapse into itself to make transporting it even easier. Just be sure the 5.5 hp engine and narrow cutting range can handle the job.