Leaf Blower Buying Guide
Turn Over a Few Leaves

Maple, birch, or oak. As fast as a tree can shed its leaves, a leaf blower is there to make short work of amassing the mess. But a leaf blower is not just a once-and-done seasonal landscape machine; it’s useful year-round. Leaf blowers come in handy for summer’s sandy decks and spring’s windblown walkways, as well as light snow.

There are lots of leaf blowers on the market, including gas, corded electric, and battery-powered. They also come in a variety of styles, from handheld units to backpack and wheeled models. It’s tough to know which type is right for you.

Consumer Reports tested nearly 60 leaf blowers to compare and rate their performance, prices, and features, all to help you determine the best model for your needs.

How CR Tests Leaf Blowers

CR’s test engineers rope off a standardized swath of grass and dump bag upon bag of leaves inside the boundary. Backpack blowers and wheeled blowers get a larger area with more leaves because both are designed for larger yards and professional landscaping crews.

Some years we go through 2,500 pounds of leaves in the process. Because we can’t rely on that quantity to fall on our Yonkers, N.Y., campus each autumn, we often start collecting and storing fallen foliage a year in advance.

For our tests, we select a broad mix of the models you’ll see at home centers and hardware stores, with tools from brands including Black+Decker, Echo, Ego, Hitatchi, Husqvarna, Jonsered, Ryobi, Stihl, Toro, and Worx.

Gas vs. Electric: Picking the Right Leaf Blower

Speed, convenience, budget—all are important considerations when weighing gas vs. electric. 

In the handheld category, gas blowers are still the fastest way to clear a yard full of leaves. But the best corded-electric blowers are powerful enough for many big jobs, though you’ll have to stick within 100 feet of a power outlet (most outdoor extension cords top out at that length).

Gas handheld leaf blowers go anywhere, but they weigh and cost more than corded electrics—and they’re noisier. They also require fueling and maintenance. Cordless-electric versions offer less power than gas models and limited runtime per battery charge. But these units are lightweight, typically weighing in at less than 10 pounds.

Backpack blowers typically cost more than handheld blowers, but  they offer more power and transfer weight from your arms to your back and shoulders. Backpacks tip the scales at 22 pounds. 

Got lots of leaves and a level property? Wheeled blowers pack the most power by far. They also take up the most storage space, can be tough to push and control, and bear the biggest price tags of all these categories.

Some handheld blowers also inhale yard debris via a vacuum, a feature that comes in handy for sucking up leaves as they fall or for taking care of stragglers. But their relatively small tubes limit how much you can vacuum at once.

A Word About Noise

As anyone with an early rising, yard-obsessed neighbor can affirm, a running leaf blower can get really loud. Product labels list decibels, so you can compare noise levels as you shop.

Some communities prohibit leaf-blower use during certain hours; others restrict gas blowers altogether because they tend to be louder than electric models. In California some communities ban all leaf blowers, no matter how quiet their operation.

Check your town’s regulations or go to the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse for a nationwide list of guidelines. Then check the 50-foot noise scores in our leaf blower ratings. Models that scored Excellent should meet the toughest limits, and those that scored Very Good or Good are likely to meet most restrictions. But keep in mind, blowers that are relatively quiet at a distance can prove to be deafening up close.

Protect Yourself and Be Kind to Others
• Wear hearing protection, especially with models scoring Good or lower in our noise tests at ear level.
• Wear goggles and a dust mask.
• Keep people and pets far away from the area you’re clearing.
• Avoid running even the quietest blowers very early or late in the day.

Leaf Blowers by Type

Selecting the right leaf blower comes down to your terrain, yard size, and budget. Both gas and electric models take much of the work (and blisters) out of raking up fallen leaves and other yard and driveway debris.

Corded-Electric Blowers

Corded models typically weigh 8 pounds or less and are designed for one-handed use. No-hassle push-button starting and zero exhaust emissions are pluses, as is power that approaches what you’ll get from handheld gas blowers. But the power cord limits your mobility and can prove to be a hassle around trees and other obstacles. Consider an electric blower if a power outlet will always be within 100 feet of the work area.
Cost: $30 to $110

 

Cordless-Electric Blowers

Lightweight (generally less than 10 pounds) and maneuverable, these units are gaining popularity for people who shun the maintenance requirements of a gas-powered model—and don’t want to be tethered to a power cord. Know that by going free-range, you will sacrifice some power. Rechargeable batteries run for about an hour tops, so if the chore takes longer, you’ll have to hit the hammock and relax while your battery juices up.
Cost: $150 to $300

Gas-Powered Handheld Blowers

Gas models can go anywhere, and they never require a charge. You do need to yank a pull-cord to start the engine, and gas engines require periodic tune-ups. Most models weigh about 10 pounds. And though they’re quieter than they used to be, gas models are still quite loud—the user should always wear hearing protection. The majority have two-stroke engines, which require mixing fuel and oil. Those with four-stroke engines let you skip that step, and they run cleaner.
Cost: $90 to $220

 

Gas-Powered Backpack Blowers

These blowers typically add power over handheld blowers. Most weigh 17 pounds or more—nearly twice as much as gas-powered handheld blowers. But your back and shoulders, rather than your arms, support the weight. Like handheld gas models, they’re a bit noisier than electrics. They can’t vacuum or shred. And they cost more than handheld blowers.
Cost: $160 to $480
 

Gas-Powered Wheeled Blowers

Need lots of oomph to quickly clear a sizable area? A wheeled blower might fit the bill for large yards. But this type brings a few drawbacks: Wheeled blowers can’t vacuum or shred and require about 8 feet of storage space. They are bulky, at 100 pounds or more, and more difficult to maneuver and push, especially uphill. They’re usually noisy and expensive—though a few models are surprisingly quiet and should meet even the toughest noise limits. Large four-stroke engines require no mixing of fuel and oil.
Cost: $280 to $800

 

Leaf Blower Buying Guide Video

For more, watch our video below for the basics on leaf blowers, plus useful tips and a comparison of handheld, backpack, and wheeled models.

Leaf Blower Features

Some leaf-blower features add convenience; some enhance safety. Here’s what to consider:

Brands To Consider

This leading marketer of electric and cordless leaf blowers uses the Leaf Hog line name on some models. Black+Decker makes lightweight, plug-in electric models that weigh 5 to 8 pounds. Black+Decker leaf blowers are among the most widely available and can be found in mass merchants, home centers, web retailers, and hardware stores.
Craftsman is one of the leading brands of electric and gas leaf blowers. The Craftsman gas leaf blower line includes handhelds and backpacks. Craftsman is made for and sold by Sears, and models can be purchased online and in Sears and Kmart stores.
Echo makes professional-grade handheld and backpack gas leaf blowers. Its gas blowers tend to be lighter weight but offer considerable power. They’re available at Home Depot, outdoor power-equipment dealers, and hardware stores.
Stihl makes professional-grade gas leaf blowers and high-end electric models. It sells exclusively through outdoor power-equipment dealers. Stihl uses the HomeScaper line name on some consumer-grade models.
Another leading brand of electric leaf blowers, Toro makes lightweight plug-in electric models that weigh 5 to 8 pounds. Toro uses line names Power Sweep, Super Blower, and Power Blower on some of its models. Toro leaf blowers are among the most widely available and can be found in mass merchants, home centers, web retailers, and hardware stores.
Weed Eater sells electric and gas leaf blowers. The products are value-priced, and many are lightweight. Weed Eater can be found at mass merchants, web retailers, and hardware stores.
Ego makes battery-powered handheld and backpack-style blowers. Ego leaf blowers use the same 56-volt battery that powers their electric lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, and snow blowers. Ego leaf blowers and other outdoor power tools are available online and at Home Depot.
Other brands on the market include Hitachi, Homelite, Husqvarna, Ryobi, and Troy-Bilt.
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