Got leaves? This time of year most of us do: on our lawn, our driveway, walks, roof, gutters. Nothing more quickly relocates leaves to more desirable areas than a leaf blower. Given that leaf removal is an autumn priority, we went to work to help you find the right model leaf blower to get the job done. To that end, we tested 10 machines across several popular categories. We evaluated traditional gas engine models and two-stroke models that take the familiar 40:1 and 50:1 fuel-oil blends. And half of the machines we tested were powered by a battery, the most ever in our test history—electric blowers continue to improve and impress.
Check out some of our top picks below, or scroll down for more in-depth reviews of these and other options, plus buying advice.
What You Need to Know About Leaf Blowers
Gas or Battery Powered
We know from experience that the run time of handheld cordless leaf blowers is brief, but we never measured it until this test. As for gas-engine machines, they often run for an hour or more on a tank of fuel. Battery options appeal for several reasons: They produce no fumes, are simple to operate (there’s no gas engine to start), and are remarkably powerful. For extended leaf-clearing sessions, however, they require more than one battery. Gas-engine blowers have longer run times than cordless blowers, and if you’ve got severe leaf clearing ahead, there’s no substitute for their power and their ability to be rapidly refueled and keep going.
Backpack or Handheld
By taking the load off your arm and wrist, a backpack model can enable longer sessions; you may be less tired when you’re done. Also, a backpack model permits you to stop blowing leaves and move a gas grill, or some yard furniture, out of the way without putting it down. And, you don’t have to bend down and pick it back up. On the other hand, these are bulkier machines and can take up more space in your garage or shed. Handheld models are smaller, lighter, and may be more maneuverable in tight spaces.
So, which do you buy?
The thicker and wetter your leaf cover and the more debris mixed with it, such as twigs and nuts, the more leaf-moving power you need. If all you have is a thin layer that’s no deeper than the top of your shoes, a handheld or light-duty backpack will suffice. Either gas or electric should work. Ankle-deep leaves, especially if they are wet, call for a gas or electric backpack blower. Shin-deep leaves and deeper? Call in a pro-grade gas-engine backpack blower. If you need your machine only to sweep leaves or grass clippings from a driveway or sidewalk, go with a light-duty option—you won’t need as much power to move them across pavement, which has much less friction than grass.
How We Tested
All the blowers in this review were subjected to a battery of tests to get a clear impression of performance and usability. We performed an erosion test by hitting a 6×14-foot trapezoid of pavement covered in sawdust with a single blast, to help visualize the airflow of each blower; they were used to clear a layer of leaves from a 6×12-foot rectangle of grass; run time of the cordless products was measured while operating continuously at full power; and our final test to measure air speed was perhaps the most unusual in the history of testing at Popular Mechanics. It took a while, but we found a precise instrument that could measure speeds up to 250mph, in an airplane. We took our blowers to a small rural airport* in Pennsylvania and measured air speed using the anemometer on an Extra 300L aerobatic aircraft with a robust anemometer to handle the conditions the plane sees in aerial acrobatics. Airspeed was corrected for temperature and altitude, as measured on an Aspen Avionics EDF 1000 EFIS.
All weights below include gas or batteries. Sound levels were measured at the operator and 75 feet from the operator
*Special thanks to James Krisovitch, for the use of his air strip, airplane, and time.
Handheld Leaf Blowers
Craftsman BV245 CMXGAAMR27AV
Decibels: 98dB / 78dB
The Craftsman is a mid-price, mid-performance machine that starts easily and delivers sufficient power. The leaf and sawdust tests revealed that this model works better sweeping pavement than moving leaves over grass. It has several features that make it easy use. First, there’s a sticker on the blower housing to remind you that it takes a 40:1 fuel ratio. Next, the blower nozzle has two distinct raised tabs that help you maintain a firm grip as you lock the nozzle on. Finally, its On/Off switch is a spring-loaded momentary type that cannot be locked in the Off position. But the blower has a pronounced gyroscopic effect that makes it fatiguing on your wrist during long leaf-clearing sessions.
Decibels: 101dB / 72dB
Don’t be misled by the DeWalt’s low air speed, the slowest in the test. The airstream is well-shaped and productive. It carved out a large rectangular area in our sawdust test. The tool has good balance, and we found it was easy to use it in a sweeping motion in our leaf test. It cleaned out the area quickly, if not perfectly. Its brief run time, however, suggests that the tool is best used on small patches of leaves or for jobs like construction-site cleanup or sweeping out the garage. Its design for these purposes is clear, judging by the hefty skid plate below the blower housing and battery that should help this tool withstand rough-and-tumble use.
Decibels: 99dB / 72dB
The Echo blew leaves completely out of the test rectangle, and it carved a flame-shaped area out of the sawdust box, revealing a dense, productive, and well-shaped airstream. We applaud Echo’s designers for the offset blower tube, which lines up with the handle, giving you better aim and somewhat better control over the machine’s recoil—note that any handheld blower with this much power is tiring to use, and the Echo is no exception. Our dislikes are minor. The two-position stop switch found on the Echo makes it easy to unknowingly try to start the machine with the switch in the Off position. Also, the black-on-black markings for the choke position are hard to read and can contribute to hard starts.
Run time: 86 min, 30 sec | Decibels: 94dB / 66dB
This is a remarkable machine. With the large battery, it is the heaviest blower, weighing even more than the gas-engine Stihl. And it also is the most expensive. You can cut that cost by using a smaller and less-expensive $349 version of the 56-volt battery, which brings the total price down to about $749. In terms of power, you have nothing to fear with the Ego. It blew the leaves out of the test rectangle faster and farther than every blower except the Stihl. We particularly liked that the handheld part of the blower is only 6.4 pounds. It’s tethered to the battery by an electrical cord–which allows you to switch hands—something you can’t do with many backpack blowers.
Run time: 11 min, 15 sec | Decibels: 99dB / 68dB
We liked many things about the Makita; chief among them is the fact that the blower takes the same 18-volt batteries as other Makita power tools. It also has a comfortable trigger and balance that causes the machine to hang in your hand at the perfect angle. In the leaf test, we found that its focused and somewhat narrow airstream is highly accurate and perfect for cleaning up edges without disturbing adjacent materials. However, it didn’t sweep the area as clean as other, more-powerful machines. If you use it on serious leaf cover, you’ll have some cleanup ahead of you with a mower or maybe a rake to finish the job.
Backpack Leaf Blowers
―MOST COMPACT BACKPACK―
Greenworks Pro BPB80L00
Run time: 19 min | Decibels: 97dB / 73dB
The Greenworks is the lightest and most compact of the backpack blowers we tested. In its Turbo setting, the blower’s airstream forms an effective leaf-moving zone (the outside edges of the airstream appear to be less powerful). The machine also scored high marks for its comfortable and highly adjustable shoulder straps, handle comfort, and the 90-degree elbow that connects the impeller housing to the flexible blower tube. The elbow permits the blower tube to pivot straight up, so it takes up less space when stored in the garage or shed.
Decibels: 99dB / 73dB
Remington calls its backpack blower the Slinger, for its light weight and compactness. We liked its fast starting and the easy-to-use shoulder strap (though the blower does rock a little at full throttle). The Remington produces a reasonably fast air stream and its sawdust test pattern shows clean edges all the way out to the far end where it flattens and feathers off. It did reasonably well in the leaf test at full throttle. Bottom line: The machine is effective with leaves on grass and should have more than enough power for hard-surface sweeping over moderate distances. It is a bit loud, though.
Run time: 47 min, 31 sec | Decibels: 87dB / 67 dB
This is a good machine that delivers a wide, nearly perfect symmetrical air pattern with a well-defined boundary that reaches all the way out toward its end where it flares into consistent branches. That shape and volume contribute to debris-moving efficiency, in both the leaf test and when we swept the parking lot clean after the sawdust tests. It was the quietest blower, a relief to the testers (and to our neighbors). The machine also gets high marks for comfortable control surfaces such as its handle and trigger and its shoulder straps, which are well padded and highly adjustable. The cruise-control lever, however, is difficult to pivot, and the flexible blower tube seems a bit too short, also making for a difficult pivoting motion.
Stihl BR800 C-E Magnum
Decibels: 100 dB / 77 dB
The test’s largest blower and the second heaviest is an air-moving monster. In the sawdust test, it swept out a gigantic bulb-shaped pattern that emptied almost half the particulate from the zone. It blew leaves out of the test rectangle and scattered them 20 feet away. For laughs, we found that it can skim a 4.6-pound. brick over pavement like a hockey puck. For all its raw power, the Magnum impressed us by how easily it starts. Its spring-loaded starting mechanism is positioned horizontally, so you can yank it while the machine is mounted on your back. As for demerits, the Stihl is much louder at a distance than other blowers. A reason to pass? Only if you have legitimate concerns about disturbing the peace.
―EASIEST TO REFUEL―
Troy-Bilt TBP4BP EC
Decibels: 99dB / 74dB
The Troy-Bilt posted the second-fastest air movement, and in the tests with sawdust and leaves, it performed well. Its air pattern is small and well-defined. The machine’s shoulder straps and large lumbar support are nicely padded, making this the most comfortable backpack model we tried. The blower starts easily, and Troy-Bilt also sells a battery-powered start tool ($35, not included) that’s somewhat like a cordless drill. Once charged, the tool plugs into a receptacle on the blower and you spin start its engine. Further guaranteeing an easy start, the Troy-Bilt’s choke markings are clear, and its momentary stop switch prevents you from trying to fire it with the switch in the Off position. Finally, its nozzle twists on firmly and easily thanks to a large raised tab that helps you get a firm grip on it.