Leaf Blower Buying Guide for 2020

Tired of raking leaves and sweeping grass clippings? It may be time to consider a leaf blower!

What to Consider When Buying a Leaf Blower

Fall leaves are beautiful, but they can also be a real pain when it comes time to clean them up. You’ll probably never be able to throw your rake in the trash, but leaf blowers can be a major time saver. With a powerful enough blower, you can even dispose of other yard waste objects such as small sticks, dirt and debris.

Consider Your Needs

The first step is to take a look at your needs. How big is your yard, and how many leaves do you deal with each year during fall clean up? How sensitive are you to noise? And how tight is your budget? The answers to these questions need to be weighed and balanced carefully to find the right blower for your specific circumstances.

There are two basic ways to categorize leaf blowers: the way they are carried (form factor), and the kind of fuel they use. Let’s look at the form factor first.

Types of Leaf Blowers

Handheld leaf blowers are the most popular option with homeowners. Self-contained units designed to be held in a single hand, these compact blowers are a great choice for relatively small jobs.

The term backpack leaf blower is a bit deceiving. While you still hold the blower in your hand, the motor sits in a shoulder harness and rides on your back. These tend to be more powerful than handheld leaf blowers and the harness makes them relatively comfortable to use. They’re a good option if you’re using the blower for a prolonged period.

Walk-behind blowers resemble snow blowers. The most powerful of the three, they’re also the least physically demanding to use, making them a great choice for large yards. However, homeowners with physical limitations should also consider the work involved in storing and maintaining a walk-behind blower.

Form factor is only part of the equation. Let’s look at the power source next.

Gas vs. Electric vs. Cordless Leaf Blowers

Gas-powered blowers are the most powerful tool for dealing with leaves. But they’re also the loudest, and require the most maintenance.

Corded electric blowers plug into a standard outlet. They require less maintenance than gas-powered blowers, but the limited length of their electric cord means they’re best suited to small yards. Without a gas engine or a battery pack, corded electric blowers are extremely lightweight. This makes them a great choice for homeowners who want an easy-to-maneuver blower for tasks like blowing out gutters.

Cordless electric blowers offer freedom from the cord, and newer models have power to rival low- to mid-range gas models. Those larger batteries do bring added weight, and battery life varies by make and model. Large yards might require multiple battery swap-outs to complete even if you don’t have many leaves.

Leaf Blower Features

Manufacturers tout two numbers, CFM (cubic feet per minute) and MPH (miles per hour). CFM is an overall measure of how much air the blower puts out. MPH measures how fast that air is moving. A high CFM will let you move many leaves at once, while a high MPH will let you blow away debris or wet leaves. If in doubt, opt for a model with a higher CFM.

Look for a blower that feels balanced in your hand, or that moves and adjusts easily. Functions such as speed control and the shutoff should be easy to reach, ideally allowing for one-handed operation.

Also, pay attention to the design of the nozzle. Wider nozzles excel at moving leaves while round nozzles are better at moving heavier dirt and debris. (Think of the wide and narrow head of a rake versus a narrower, more rounded shovel blade.) Many blowers offer the option to swap out the nozzle or use an adaptor to change the shape of the air flow.

Some handheld blowers have a vacuum option that allows for light mulching to reuse your yard waste. These usually struggle to get through a large pile of leaves but can be perfect for flower beds, where blowing is less effective and raking can hurt delicate plants.

Lastly, consider the noise level. Leaf blowers are notoriously noisy in volume (decibels) and pitch. Some people find the particular “whine” of one model far more annoying than a competing brand. (Wearing hearing protection while using a leaf blower is always a good idea.)

Leaf Blower Maintenance

Electric blowers require little maintenance. Simply wipe them down and watch out for dirt build-up on the air intake. If you use a mulcher, clean out small leaf particles from the bag and blower.

Gas-powered blowers require a tune-up every year or so, and of course you’ll need to keep gas on hand. (Two-stroke motors require a gas/oil blend. You’ll have to mix your own or buy pre-blended.)

Walk-behind blowers have more moving parts, so they also require more maintenance. Still, the average leaf blower doesn’t need as much maintenance as a lawnmower or similar lawn devices.

How Much Do Leaf Blowers Cost?

As a general rule, handhelds are the most affordable, followed by backpack blowers and then walk-behind models.

Prices vary greatly. Cordless handheld models run from $17 to $400, backpack blowers are in the $200 to $600 range, while walk-behinds can cost $200 to $1,200.\

All these prices are for models geared to homeowners. Professional blowers can cost significantly more, with reliability and power most DIYers will never need.