Three best leaf blowers
Raking the yard might be good exercise, but blisters and backaches are no fun! The solution is a leaf blower, and there are lots of models to choose from, but deciding on the right combination of power and features can be something of a challenge.
The following leaf blower buying guide is packed with valuable information to help you find the right model for your outdoor spaces, at the right price. We've also focused on a few of our favorites to illustrate the wide variety of performance and value available.
Considerations when choosing leaf blowers
Leaf blower features
Performance: You'll see numerous figures that relate to performance. Gas engines quote cubic centimeters. Corded electric models usually quote amps. Cordless versions quote volts. These are all largely irrelevant. The important figures to note are air volume and airspeed.
Air volume is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). This can be from 130 to 2,000 cfm.
Airspeed is measured in miles per hour (mph). This can be from 60 to 250 mph.
In basic terms, high air volume means you can force air over a wide area, moving large amounts of debris. Raising the airspeed gives a narrower jet of air, which is useful for shifting damp or stubborn material. Leaf blowers come with one, two, or variable speed. Variable speed is preferred because it gives more control over when to sweep lots of dry leaves and when to focus on difficult spots. Interchangeable nozzles might also be provided, enabling you to switch between a wide fan or a narrow jet of air.
It's not a question of one being better than the other. In an ideal world, you want high numbers for both air volume and airspeed.
Power: You have three choices when it comes to power: cordless electric (battery), corded electric (mains), and gas (usually two-stroke, although there are four-stroke models available).
Cordless leaf blowers are convenient but have modest performance. Most of these models are best used to clear hard surfaces like patios and drives. On the upside, they're quiet and lightweight, with no cord to drag around or gas to carry. Easy push-button electric start motors are available. On the downside, these are the least powerful, and recharging can be slow. The solution is to buy a spare battery, but they are expensive.
Corded electric leaf blowers are lightweight, easy to use, and offer good performance for the money. They are ideal for the average yard. However, the extension cord can be a nuisance, and some models are noisy. Corded models sometimes have wheels at the end of the blower tube to help support the weight. Others might have a shoulder strap.
Gas-powered leaf blowers are durable and have a lot of power. These models are best if you have a lot of acreage. Gas leaf blowers are usually easy to start. Your movement is unrestricted by power cords, and you can add fuel and work as long as you need to. On the downside, these machines are loud and heavy, and you need to carry gas and oil with you. These leaf blowers also require regular maintenance, although it isn't difficult. Check gas-powered models for California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliance. Lower emissions are required in an increasing number of states.
Other leaf blower considerations
Attachments: Multiple options -- blower, vacuum, mulcher -- give you greater flexibility. It's a feature most often found on corded electric leaf blowers.
Blades: Impeller (fan) blades can be plastic or metal. Metal is considerably more durable.
Bag: If one is supplied, the bag needs to be a reasonable size or you'll be emptying it every few minutes.
Controls: Large handles and chunky controls make leaf blowers easy to use with gloved hands.
Backpack: A backpack should have broad shoulder straps, good padding, ventilation and, if possible, a hip belt to spread the wight for added comfort.
Leaf blower prices: You'll pay anywhere from $50 to $250 for a cordless electric leaf blower, depending on battery voltage and amp hours (Ah). Higher Ah batteries maintain performance longer. Be careful if you see cheap "bare tools." It means the battery isn't included, and the battery is a major part of the cost. Small corded electric blowers can be found for around $30. High-end models rarely exceed $120. Good handheld gas-powered leaf blowers start at $120. Backpack models cost $200 and up. Huge, four-wheeled walk-behind leaf blowers can cost over $1,000.
Q. What's the advantage of having a mulching leaf blower?
A. A blower -- or a vacuum with a bag -- enables you to quickly collect leaves, grass cuttings, and other debris, but the amount of material stays the same. A mulcher shreds the leaves, reducing the volume by 60% or more. Dried leaves are notoriously slow to compost, and mulching speeds up the process considerably. Mulch also makes a good top dressing for flower borders and between vegetable rows, helping to feed plants and suppress weed growth.
Q. Do I need to wear any safety equipment when using a leaf blower?
A. You should always wear ear protection with equipment that produces over 75 decibels of sound, and most gas-powered leaf blowers are louder. Although corded electric models might not break that barrier, ear muffs or ear plugs are still a good idea. So are sturdy garden gloves. There could be sharp twigs or other items hidden among the debris. You don't want to cut yourself while emptying the collecting bag, for example.
Leaf blowers we recommend
Best of the best: Husqvarna Backpack Leaf Blower
Our take: High-performance, professional-grade blower for those with large spaces to manage.
What we like: Excellent power from easy start, CARB-compliant motor. Ventilated backpack for increased comfort. Hip belt helps spread weight for good balance and control.
What we dislike: Loud. Blower only -- no vacuum or mulching.
Best bang for your buck: Toro UltraPlus Leaf Blower Vacuum
Our take: Feature-packed electric blower for small- to medium-size gardens.
What we like: Blows, vacuums, and mulches. Speed control available in both modes. Bottom-opening bag makes emptying easier. "Concentrator" attachment focuses air to blow wet and heavy debris.
What we dislike: Struggles to mulch twigs and large leaves. Could be quieter.
Our take: Lightweight tool for those who want the convenience of cordless.
What we like: No gas. No cord. An ideal solution for those with a modest yard. Quiet. Variable speed. Charges in an hour.
What we dislike: Not good with damp grass or leaves. A 4Ah battery would be better but is very expensive.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.