Best Outdoor Power Equipment Gifts for the Holidays
Top choices in snow blowers, generators, chain saws, and more
Outdoor chores don’t stop for a holiday break, so we asked the outdoor power equipment experts at Consumer Reports for their top picks from among our recommended products. Not every choice is appropriate for every user, and not everyone wants another gas engine to maintain—especially if their property is modest enough for an electric model. So your best bet is to check return policies and get a gift receipt.
Check our buying guides for the products below before venturing forth into that holiday shopping jungle. Remember, models sold at dealerships might be easier to shop for, since you're likely to get more sales help at those retailers at this time of year than at a home center or department store.
A novel, second impeller in the front helps make the 30-inch, two-stage Cub Cadet 3X 30HD 31AH57SZ710, $1,650, a top performer. Super-fast clearing and enough throwing distance to clear wide driveways are the major perks, along with easy steering and slick controls. The price includes electric starting and a headlight. It's the perfect pick for large driveways, consistently heavy snows up to about 24 inches—or occasional winter dumpings where the recipient wants the ultimate in clearing speed.
For less snow or where you typically have more time to clear snow, the 24-inch, compact two-stage Craftsman 88173, $680, has impressively quick and clean removal with the necessary muscle for dense plow piles. Other models, though, got more distance with what they picked up. Features include an overhead-valve engine that should start easily and run efficiently when properly maintained, along with electric start and multiple speeds. On the minus side, it lacks single-hand controls (which let the operator hold down both control levers with one hand), a single-lever chute adjustment, and freewheel steering (so turning requires more muscle). Noise is below the 85-decibel level at which we recommend hearing protection, though that's still a smart precaution.
And for those who rarely get more than about a foot of snow at a time, the single-stage, gas-powered Toro Power Clear 721E, $570, outdid all others in this category. The Toro was the only single-stage gas model to make short work of our test plow pile, and its removal speed was impressive, too. Another plus: As with most other models of its class, it cleared down to the surface and was easy to handle. For more snow blower picks, see our full snow blower ratings.
Providing ample power, cleanly and consistently, are top strengths of the 6,300-watt, gasoline-powered Kohler PRO7.5E, $1,400. You get a number of helpful features for the price, including electric start, low-oil shutoff (which protects the engine from overheating if the oil level dips too low), and fuel shutoff, which prevents leaks and keeps gas from getting trapped in the fuel system and spoiling during storage.
For $500 less, the Generac RS7000E is rated at 7,000 watts and performed almost as well as top-scoring models that cost hundreds more. Features include fuel shutoff, electric start, and a low-oil shutoff. It also comes with wheels. It’s noisier than other top-performers and power delivery isn’t quite as smooth as on the Kohler, but for $900, it’s tough to beat. See our generator ratings for more top picks.
Ultrafast cutting and relatively lightweight help justify the higher price of the 16-inch, gas-powered Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230. So do a chain brake and tool-free chain adjustment, along with a durable blade cover. As with other gas-powered saws, it requires a mix of gas and oil for fueling its two-stroke engine. We strongly advise hearing protection and other protective gear for the operator.
For lighter duty in a machine that needs no engine maintenance, the plug-in electric Worx WG303.1, $100, was faster and better balanced than its larger 18-inch sibling, the Worx WG304.1, despite having a shorter bar. Indeed, cutting speed was on a par with the fastest light-duty gas saws we tested. Other pluses include a chain brake, tool-free chain adjustment, and a durable bar cover for safe storage. But as with other plug-in saws, the operator will need to work within 100 feet of an outlet—and you'll need a generator to use when the power is out. One caveat: There's no vibration dampening. We advise hearing protection and other protective gear for the operator. Need more picks? See our full chain saw ratings.
The Echo PB-255LN, $200, doesn't come cheap, but this gasoline-powered handheld blower gets the job done with lots of sweeping power for big leaf piles and enough loosening oomph for embedded leaves. There's spring-assisted starting and a five-year warranty. The Echo was also very easy to handle. If the neighbors’ peace and quiet are a consideration, note that this blower was fairly quiet from 50 feet away—the model name's "LN" stands for low noise. (We still recommend hearing protection for the operator.) But since the engine is two-cycle, it requires a mix of gas and oil for fueling.
Prefer to give a powerful blower with no maintenance? This ratings champ among corded-electric handhelds, the $60 Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51602, had superb sweeping and vacuuming and impressive loosening of embedded leaves and other debris. The powerful unit was nevertheless easy to handle and use, and neighbors hearing it from a distance shouldn't have much to complain about. We still, however, recommend hearing protection for the operator.
For the person who tops your nice list this year, you might consider the EGO LB6002, $300. This pricier electric backpack blower has the power to blast through embedded leaves as well as many gas models, all with effortless starts and no emissions. The absence of a gas motor means it’s also quiet enough to use without hearing protection. It can only run up to 30 minutes between charges, so if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, you might consider an additional battery. Check out our full leaf-blower ratings for more choices.
Anyone thinking about a string trimmer as a gift might find one more easily online in many parts of the country. For a top choice in a gas-powered model, consider the curved-shaft Stihl FS 38, $130. It’s relatively light (10.5 pounds) and easy to handle, yet it was superb at regular trimming and edging along with tall grass. Controls proved easy to use. And like most trimmers, this one has two trimming lines.
Choose the curved-shaft Black+Decker GH3000, $70, if you want the easy starts and low maintenance of an electric, and the trimming needs would fit within the 100-foot limit of a power cord. Pluses include trimming, edging, and tall-grass performance on a par with some lighter-duty gas trimmers, all while using a single cutting line and weighing in at a mere 6.9 pounds. See our full string trimmer ratings for details.
Nothing can blast stains off a deck or clean mildew from siding like a pressure washer. The trouble is, they don’t know the difference between a patio and a person. While there’s always some risk involved in using these tools, we feel those that come equipped with zero-degree nozzles—which concentrates the full power of a unit into a single, pinpoint blast—pose an unnecessary risk and cannot therefore be recommended.
Fortunately, the NorthStar 1573021, $850, was among the strongest performers in our test and does not come equipped with a zero-degree nozzle. It blasts through tough stains and was among the most powerful units tested. At 112 pounds it’s bulky and can be tough to maneuver, and it requires a 240-volt electric receptacle, which you’ll need to install if you don’t have one outdoors or in your garage.
For lighter jobs, go for the GreenWorks GPW1951, $190. It comes with nothing narrower than a 25-degree nozzle and held it’s own when it came to cleaning, though it lacks the power of top-rated models. It’s packed with helpful features including a hose reel and a built-in soap tank—plus its light weight makes it easy to maneuver. See our full pressure washer ratings for details.