If you've got money to blow, then Stihl has just the leaf blower for you. A leading lawn-gear brand in the dealer chain, Stihl sells mostly reasonably priced, gasoline-powered models that tend to do very well in our tests. But then there's the BGA85, the company's first cordless-electric leaf blower. It costs $500 to $640, depending on the battery/charger combo you need.
We first reported on the Stihl BGA85 last fall when the company announced it. At the time, we expected the blower to cost $300. But unlike a gas or corded-electric leaf blower, a battery-powered blower doesn't necessarily come with a battery. Or a charger. As it turns out, this model is sold with neither. That makes its price with a 36-volt, lithium-ion battery and charger, $500, higher than anything else in our leaf blower Ratings except the wheeled, gas-powered Little Wonder LB160H, $800.
You could blow off concerns about price if the model were a winner in your outdoor cleanup chores. But the BGA85, while impressive overall, performed only about mid-pack with other electric (but corded) models. Its power for sweeping was roughly that of the corded blowers—a notch below the better gas models—though its oomph for loosening moist, embedded leaves was only so-so.
And you'll have to work quickly. The standard battery runs for about 10 minutes before it needs recharging. A higher-capacity battery, which gives you about 20 minutes of run time, is available for $250. Depending on which battery/charger combo you buy, the blower could end up costing up to $640. Stihl is offering $100 rebates on purchases of any of its cordless tools plus a battery until September, according to a spokeswoman.
Stihl wasn't the top-performing brand in any category, but we otherwise liked the handful we tested. They include, among gas models, the BG55 handheld, $150, and the BR 380D backpack, $300. For a corded-electric, consider the Stihl BGE 61.