How to buy the best leaf blower
By Adelaide Gray
Only a few leaf blowers and leaf blower vacs can cope with damp leaves without blocking, and are also easy to use. This expert guide will help you find the best model for you.
There are lots of leaf blowers and leaf blower vacs available, so how do you start narrowing down the options? From the cheap and cheerful to the large and powerful, we'll show you how to go about finding the perfect model for you.
A good starting point for thinking about what type of leaf blower or leaf blower vac you need is to ask yourself these questions:
- How large is your garden? Are you looking for a model that is great for quickly tidying up a small patio or blowing leaves out of a border? Or do you want a more powerful machine that can shift a lot of leaves over large areas?
- How handy are you? Some leaf blower vacs can be converted between blowing and vacuuming with a flick of a switch, while others need to be reconfigured, which can be a fiddly, time-consuming job, especially if you're not particularly handy.
- Where do you want to use your leaf blower or blower vac? Do you need to suck up leaves on a gravel drive or are you clearing leaves from your flower border?
- How much space do you have to store a leaf blower or leaf blower vac? Models with collapsible tubes can squeeze into tight spots.
Choose the best leaf blower or leaf blower vac for you from our Best Buys.
Should I buy a leaf blower or a leaf blower vac?
Professional gardeners tend to use leaf blowers as leaf blower vacs can often slow the job down. Changing between blow and vac mode is often a fiddly process, vacs sometimes get blocked or damaged by sucking up stones and other debris, and collection bags can be damp and uncomfortable to have next to you as you work. Using a blower does involve picking up the leaves though. The easiest way to deal with this is to blow the leaves into piles and then use boards or leaf grabbers to pick them up. If bending is a problem for you, try using long-handled leaf grabbers. Read our advice about what to do with autumn leaves.
What type of leaf blower or leaf blower vac should I choose?
If you can spend more than £100, there are a few cordless battery-powered leaf blowers from brands, such as Bosch, Ryobi and Stihl, that are incredibly easy to use. The smaller models are great for clearing small patios where you need to blow leaves out from around pots, and are ideal for borders as they won't destroy your plants with strong blasts of air. Larger cordless battery-powered leaf blowers are an expensive option but are very convenient and simple to use. We've found a great model that has enough power and battery life to clear a medium-sized lawn or drive.
Although they are more expensive than corded electric leaf blowers or blower vacs, if you can find a cordless model that shares the same type of batteries with your other cordless power tools, it can save you the expense of buying multiple batteries and chargers.
Cordless battery leaf blowers are a great choice for more precise or delicate jobs
Pros: Cordless battery-powered leaf blowers are very simple to use and easy to store. They're great if you've got a complicated garden with lots of nooks and crannies to clear. They're great for clearing dust from sheds, too.
Cons: Cordless battery-powered leaf blowers are still very expensive. The smaller models aren't very powerful, so if you've got a lot of heavy, damp leaves to clear, they won't be up to the job.
Read our reviews of cordless leaf blowers.
Corded electric leaf blowers and leaf blower vacs are generally the cheapest option, and there are lots of different models to choose from, with a range of features.
The cheapest models have parallel blow and vac tubes, and you can change between them with a flick of a switch. This is very convenient, not least because it means you can clear some blockages by changing from vac to blow mode. However there are some drawbacks to these models. In our tests we've found that they lose power when you switch from blowing to vacuuming. They are also less easy to use in blow mode, as the dual tubes make them a bit bulky and heavy, so if you have a complicated garden where leaves get caught around pots and in nooks and crannies, then they can be a pain to use.
More-expensive leaf blower vacs need to be reconfigured to change between blow and vacuum modes. This can be quite complicated and time-consuming, as well as needing strength in your arms. They don't lose power between modes, however.
A good corded electric blower is quiet and comfortable to use with a jet of air which keeps the leaves under control.
Pros: Cheapest option, different features available to suit your gardening needs
Cons: Some can be fiddly to use or awkward to manoeuvre
Read our reviews of corded leaf blowers and blower vacs
These powerful machines range in price from £100 to £500, and unless you have a very large garden that needs clearing more than once or twice a year, they aren't really worth the hassle of maintaining the engine. The handheld models are less expensive than the back-pack models, but back-pack models put much less strain on your arms and are easier to handle, so if you're using your leaf blower for any length of time it may be worth splashing out on one of these.
Pros: Great for clearing large areas and tackling damp leaves. As they don't have a power cable they're great for getting around large obstacles such as trees or ponds.
Cons: Heavy, and some are extremely noisy. You will need to service your petrol blower to keep it running smoothly.
Read our reviews of petrol leaf blowers.
What features do I need?
Using a good leaf blower or blower vac will make quick work of dealing with autumn leaves, but a bad model will struggle to clear them. The following features can make all the difference.
Narrow nozzle for blowing
Most machines manage to blow the leaves into piles; it's the ones that do it quickly and efficiently with little effort from you that have the edge, so look for a machine that has a narrow nozzle to direct the blast, and the ability to control the speed of the air jet.
Easy access to the mulching blades
Manhandling lots of damp, heavy leaves is not pleasant, so being able to vacuum up wet leaves is a big plus. However blower vacs can easily clog. Check you can get to the mulching blades to clear blockages easily and safely. Look for a machine that has metal, rather than plastic, mulching blades, as these are less likely to chip or break if you inadvertently suck up a stone.
Waterproof collection bag
Ideally, you'd only collect leaves when they're dry, and some leaf blower vacs say this specifically in the instructions. However, the British autumn weather is rarely that obliging, so it's important to look for a leaf blower vac with a waterproof collection bag. We've found that collection bags often leak and leave you with a wet leg.
Comfortable handles and shoulder straps
As you have to support the machine and the collecting bag while using it, the weight of the machine, ease of use, and the comfort of the straps are crucial. Look for a soft-grip handle and a padded shoulder strap.
Leaf blowers will need to be stored undercover for most of the year. They are relatively small, and the best ones have a detachable nozzle for compact storage. Leaf blower vacs are bulky items, so if you have limited storage, look for one with a telescopic nozzle or one that can be taken apart easily.
Now find the perfect leaf blower or leaf blower vac for you by checking our leaf blower and leaf blower vac reviews.
Batteries and chargers for cordless tools
Manufacturers often have one or two standard batteries and chargers that can be used with a wide range of tools. Before you buy check to see if any of your existing tools has a battery and charger that can be used with the tool you are planning to purchase as this could save you a considerable amount of money.
As some people may already own a compatible battery and charger, these are sometimes not included in the price quoted for your tool, so check the small print before you buy.
Alternatively, you may see it as a good chance to buy a second battery for your tools. Batteries are sometimes cheaper when bought with a tool, and it’s often useful to have a second one charged and ready to go when you’re carrying out jobs that will take some time to finish.
Models that have batteries which can be shared in the same range of tools
Black & Decker GWC1820PC - shares the Black & Decker 18V lithium battery
Worx WG546E - shares the Worx 20V lithium battery
Stihl BGA 56 - shares the 36V lithium battery for the Stihl Compact Cordless range of garden power tools
Bosch ALB 18 Li - shares the 18V lithium baterry of the Bosch Power for ALL cordless tools
Stihl BGA 85 - shares the 36V lithium battery of the Stihl Cordless Power System