With “leaf-peeping” season underway in Vermont and elsewhere, taking a road trip to gaze at the fall colors is a popular weekend activity. It’s only a matter of time, though, before all that vivid foliage is littering yards, driveways, decks, patios, and front walks. For $500 or so, a gas-powered backpack leaf blower can make quick work of the mess but is more than most homeowners need. Leave the backpack blowers to landscape professionals and go with a handheld blower instead. We found electric models for less than $100 and gas leaf blowers for under $150.
The most powerful leaf blowers are typically gas-powered and force out a high volume of air at a high velocity. The volume is measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM, and velocity is measured in mph. Try to avoid paying for more power than necessary. If you have a small yard without many trees, a less powerful blower, be it gas or electric, will be lighter, quieter, and cheaper. Remember, this is a handheld blower, so you don’t want something so heavy it tires you out quickly. After all, one reason for trading in a rake is avoiding a sore back. Likewise, excessive noise can damage your hearing and has prompted some communities to restrict or even prohibit the use of leaf blowers, particularly gas-powered models.
The benefits of an electric leaf blower go beyond less noise, lower weight, and a cheaper price. Many electric blowers also vacuum and mulch; some gas blowers do, too, but not well -- at least in this price range. Budget gas blowers typically have two-cycle engines that require the proper mix of gas and oil, but electric blowers just get plugged in and turned on. Electric blowers also don’t expose users to fumes, as do gas blowers, some of which run afoul of California Air Resources Board emissions standards. Residents of that state can’t buy leaf blowers that aren’t CARB compliant.
Of course, one major drawback to an electric blower is that you’re tethered to an electrical outlet, which limits your range to the length of an extension cord. You can buy cordless leaf blowers, but they’re even less powerful and don’t hold a charge for long.
Other features to look for include a metal impeller (the fan-like whirligig that moves the air and mulches leaves), which will last longer than a plastic impeller, and variable speed, which protects delicate flowers or other landscaping from strong blasts of air.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable leaf blowers.
- The Toro 51599 Ultra electric blower vac (starting at $70) has impressed hundreds of consumers who posted reviews, some of whom had used gas blowers previously and weren’t sure what to expect from an electric. The Toro Ultra provides a lot of power for its size, and the metal impeller can chop up 16 bushels of leaves into one bushel of mulch. This leaf blower weighs just 7.5 pounds and registers 67 decibels, making it the quietest on our list. (Where to buy)
- The gas-powered Husqvarna 125B (starting at $143) is the heftiest of our picks but boasts a powerful engine that blows out 470 CFM. Gas blowers can be difficult to get going, but reviews say this model starts on the first pull. It’s also CARB compliant. (Where to buy)
- The Craftsman 74828 electric blower vac (starting at $70) vacuums and mulches and features an oscillating tip so you don’t have to move the blower from side to side as you walk. This model has a metal impeller that mulches at a 16:1 ratio and, according to reviews, resists damage from small rocks and other debris. (Where to buy)
- The Weed Eater FB25 (starting at $77) is not as powerful as other gas blowers, but consumers find it effective for small areas. Several reviewers are repeat customers who previously bought the same model and used it for years. It weighs just 8.1 pounds. (Where to buy)
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