It’s glorious to see the leaves as they turn from green through to golden brown in the autumn months, but once they start to fall and cover our gardens, it’s a different matter. While those that settle on beds and borders can be left to rot down over the winter to act as a mulch, piles of leaves on lawns, paths and patios are best cleared away to prevent them becoming a hotbed for pests and diseases or creating a dangerously slippery surface once the wet weather arrives.
Depending on the size of your garden and amount of leaf fall, a rake or broom may do the job and keep you fit at the same time. However, for larger spaces and a variety of surfaces and locations, leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums are the best solution – easy to use, they effortlessly blast fallen leaves into manageable piles ready for collection.
And much as a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums come into their own at other times of the year too, making lightwork of tidying up after pruning or lifting unsightly debris that gathers on paths and in corners. Whatever the season, stay safe and wear protective goggles and ear defenders while using them.
We researched the most popular leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums on the market, putting them through their paces in all weathers to bring you a list of the best cordless leaf blowers as well as cordless and electric leaf blower vacuums.
Each model has a detailed list of pros and cons for clarity and has been rated according to ease of use, handling, performance, and value for money. Every leaf blower and leaf blower vacuum has scored a minimum of four out of five stars, so you can buy with confidence.
Lumbered with lots of leaves? Check out our test of the best gardening gloves to collect them in comfort, and while you’re at it, why not learn how to make leaf mould – a super compost and soil conditioner – as well as how to make your own leaf mould bin.
- Difference between a leaf blower and a combination leaf blower vacuum
- How to choose the best leaf blower
- Should I buy a leaf blower or leaf blower vacuum?
- Best leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums to buy at a glance
- Best leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums to buy in 2021
- How we tested leaf blowers
Buyers’ guide to leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums:
Quite simply, a leaf blower will lift wet and dry leaves from paths, grass, borders and pavements. The wind speed it generates blows leaves into a pile, which you can either leave to decay or collect and put on the compost, in your green waste recycling, or store in bags to make leaf mould. A leaf blower vacuum, not only lifts wet and dry leaves, but sucks them up too, passing them through a blade, which cuts and mulches them and then deposits them into the bag attachment. You can dispose of them as you would with a leaf blower but they have the added advantage of being shredded so they will decompose more quickly when added to the compost or used to make leaf mould. However, leaf blower vacuums can get blocked-up, may need more maintenance, and also tend to be more expensive, but they are more efficient when it comes to keeping your garden leaf-free.
There are three types of leaf blower and leaf blower vacuum available, each with their own pros and cons:
- Cordless leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums: There are lots of pros with this type of blower – in addition to being lightweight, quiet and environmentally friendly, they don’t need messy petrol or a restricting power cable. However, they can be more expensive if you’re buying batteries and chargers as extras to the cost of the tool and you’ll need to check the run time if you have a larger garden. The power output for these blowers are measured in volts.
- Electric leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums: Often at the budget end, these are low maintenance and, like cordless types, also lightweight. That said, the power supply cable is limiting as well as potentially hazardous. The power output for these types of blower is measured in watts.
- Petrol leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums: While they deliver plenty of power and, just like cordless types, can be used anywhere, their environmental impact is a consideration, as is the hassle of buying and storing petrol. They’re often heavy and noisy and will need more in the way of maintenance too.
If budget is a consideration, electric blowers and leaf blower vacuums will offer plenty of choice featuring brands like Ryobi, Stihl and Bosch, whereas if you’re after more power, petrol types will be more suitable. However, both come with a few downsides – whether it’s the hazardous and restrictive electric cable, or smelly, noisy side effects of using petrol. Cordless offer the perfect solution with an easy-to-use battery, lightweight body and quieter noise levels. Also, as technology improves, prices are becoming more affordable.
Find out more about choosing cordless garden tools with our in-depth guide.
There are several features to look out for when choosing a leaf blower or leaf blower vacuum.
- Variable speed controls – whether you’re buying a leaf blower or leaf blower and vacuum, you’ll want to consider the air speed (measured by metres per second), and airflow (measured by cubic meters per hour). Dry leaves are light and easy to shift, but wet, compacted leaves and other debris will need more power. Variable speed control is a useful feature as it allows you to change the speed and power depending on where you’re working – you’ll want to be gentle around plants whereas more oomph will help on lawns.
- Nozzle size – in general, the narrower the better, as the air flow is more concentrated, giving more control when it comes to corralling the leaves into a pile.
- Mulching blades – Metal blades are tougher than plastic, as well as more durable, so are the preferable choice.
- Collection bag – While not essential, a waterproof collection bag makes things a lot more comfortable if you’re working in wet weather, as it prevents moisture from soggy leaves dripping through the bag and onto your legs.
- Comfort features – Soft-grip handles and a padded shoulder strap will help make it more comfortable to use the leaf blower or leaf blower vacuum for any length of time.
While both these tools serve similar purposes, the main thing to think about is how many leaves you have to collect – if you can manage blowing leaves and debris into a pile to gather up by hand, then a blower will do the job and is a cheaper option. However, for larger gardens with more trees and shrubs, being able to suck up leaves will save time, especially if you go for models with a mulching option. Invariably these combination tools cost more, but if that’s not an issue, they are a worthwhile investment.
- Best Buy for performance: Makita DUB186Z 18V cordless leaf blower
- Best Buy for value: Vonhaus G-series cordless leaf blower
- Best Buy for value: Ryobi RBV 3000W leaf blower vacuum review
- Best Buy for value: Stihl SHE71 leaf blower vacuum review
- Stiga SAB 100AE cordless leaf blower
- Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V Whisper series
Makita DUB186Z 18V cordless leaf blower – Best Buy for performance
Our rating: 4.75/5
- Narrow, long nozzle for directional blasts
- Air speed 68m/s
- Three speed settings, plus additional pressure trigger to further control power
- Run time from 12 to 80 minutes depending on setting
- Speedy charge time of 45 minutes
- Compact and lightweight
- Battery position helps the overall balance
- Compatible with over 40 other Makita cordless 18V tools
- Removable nozzle for storage
- Three year warranty
- No charge level indicator on battery
- Expensive – but it is good value
A BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award winner for best performance, the Makita DUB186Z cordless leaf blower is light, compact and easy to use. It has one of the narrowest nozzles in the range we tested, which means it delivers a powerful but focused blast of air that tackles wet and dry fallen leaves more effectively than other brands. Generating an impressive air speed of 68m/s, (the highest in the group we tested), we also liked that there are three speed settings – low, medium and high – together with a pressure trigger that operates the machine and allows you to increase and decrease the power within each setting. This combination means you have plenty of control to manage wet and dry leaves whether they’re on a gravel path, a lawn or in a border – we found it even shifted compacted debris in between paving, and compressed wet leaves that had been trodden into the pavement. While you must hold the pressure trigger to operate, it’s in an accessible position so it doesn’t feel tiring, even with smaller hands. The soft-grip handle, together with the position of the battery, which slots in at the base, helps balance the leaf blower in a downward direction, making it comfortable to use for longer periods of time. With a run time of up to 80 minutes (on the low setting – 12 minutes on high), it was one of the top performers in the test, and the relatively short charge time of 45 minutes, means you can use this in larger gardens with lots of leaves to clear. It’s the most expensive leaf blower we tested, but as it’s part of the Makita LXT 18V cordless tool system, the 5Ah battery and charger are compatible across the range, and it comes with a three year warranty, so we think it offers good value.
Vonhaus G-series cordless leaf blower – Best Buy for value
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5
- Lightweight – 1.7 kg
- Compact for storage
- Handle vibrates
- 12 minute runtime
- Single speed
A BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award winner for best value, this remarkably compact leaf blower packs a punch. Despite coming in at just 1.7 kg, it’s very powerful, and made short work of both wet and dry leaves on paving, shrub beds, and gravel, though it struggled a little with dry and wet leaves on grass. Thanks to its lightweight construction and narrow nozzle, it’s easy to manoeuvre around the garden and put leaves exactly where you want them. This blower is fantastic for nipping around a small patio, terrace or front drive. It’s a reasonable price, and great value as its G-Series battery is compatible with the Vonhaus hedge trimmer, pole trimmer, and grass trimmer. However, though the grip on the handle is soft, the handle vibrates a lot in use, which gets uncomfortable. Its 12 minute runtime is also short, but it takes just an hour to charge.
Ryobi RBV 3000W corded electric leaf blower vacuum – Best Buy for ease of use
Our rating: 4.5/5
- Easy assembly
- Well balanced
- Slow to change vacuum attachment
- Short cable
This Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy is easy to use and set up. Mains powered, with a 10m cable, it has three modes of use: blowing leaves, grass and light hedge clippings; vacuuming them up and shredding them into a large holding bag; and using just the blower or the vacuum or with both assembled together, so you can swap quickly between the two jobs. It comes with a shoulder strap. Robust and well designed, a 3000W motor gives it plenty of power, too. The adjustable speeds are easy to change via a dial, but it is noisy when on full power.
It has a shredding ratio of 16:1 and this works well, producing consistent output, suitable for use as compost, leaf mould and mulch.
Ideal for small to medium gardens, this mid-priced blower vac is easy to use and it performs well. Only the assembly let it down, so we think it’s excellent value for money.
Read the full Ryobi 3000W leaf blower vacuum review
Stihl SHE71 electric corded leaf blower vacuum
Our rating: 4.3/5
- Easy assembly
- Good vacuum power
- One power speed
- No shoulder strap
A Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for best small leaf blower vacuum, this mains powered electric model comes with a 10m cable, is easy to put together and surprisingly powerful. Blowing leaves, grass and light hedge clippings, it also vacuums them up and shreds them into a large 45-litre collecting bag. It has extra tubes to attach for each job and you can also buy an extra flat nozzle for more focussed blowing. The tubes come apart for storage and you can adjust their length according to your height and the job. While it doesn’t come with a shoulder strap, the two handles are well positioned and comfortable to use, plus the machine is very light at just 4.1kg. It has a comparatively small engine of 1100 watts but it feels powerful in both modes and it’s quieter than other larger machines we tested. The Stihl SHE71 leaf blower vacuum has only one power setting so you need to move further back from whatever you’re blowing to reduce the power or switch aperture on the tube. Quiet, light and simple to use, it’s ideal for gardeners of all abilities, but lacks variable speed settings and is comparatively expensive. It comes with a two-year warranty.
Stiga SAB 100AE cordless leaf blower
Our rating: 4.25/5
- Removable tubes for easy storage
- 30 minutes run time at normal speed
- Battery level light indicator
- Part of the Stiga 100 Series with xx compatible cordless tools(have asked PR how many)
- Two-year warranty
- Large nozzle so air flow isn’t as focused
- Only two settings
- Less effective with compacted, wet leaves
Easy to use, this cordless leaf blower operates at two settings that deliver a maximum air flow speed of 32m/s, so it copes well with general jobs like blowing wet and dry leaves off the lawn and gravel paths. However, the tube, which comes in two easy-to-attach parts, has a significantly wider aperture than the Makita DUB186Z leaf blower we tested, and as a result lacks the focused jet blast to shift more stubborn, compacted leaf matter and debris from corners and awkward spaces. It weighs the same as the Makita leaf blower but the battery slots in at the back end of the body as opposed to under the handle, which balances it in such a way that it feels heavier to use. However, we liked that the battery features a light indicator so you can gauge how much time you have left to finish the job. It takes 140 minutes to charge and has a run time of 30 minutes on normal speed and 20 minutes on boosted speed, making it ideal for small to medium-sized gardens. Unlike many of the other models we tested, you don’t have to hold down a trigger to operate this leaf blower, which may make it more comfortable to use for some. It also has a soft-grip handle, though we felt it would benefit from a bit more cushioning. Powered by a 20V 4Ah battery, compatible with other cordless power tools in the Stiga 100 series, it also comes with a two-year warranty. On the whole, while it might lack a few bells-and-whistles, we feel this cordless leaf blower is a good workhorse.
Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V Whisper series cordless leaf blower
Our rating: 4/5
- Removable tube for easy storage
- 15 to 20 minutes run time at normal speed
- Battery level light indicator
- Compatible with over 150 tools in the Ryobi 18V ONE+ System
- Three-year warranty
- Heavy, weighing 3.2kg
- Squeeze trigger only – no fixed variable speed settings
- Larger nozzle so air flow isn’t as focused
- Less effective with compacted, wet leaves
This cordless leaf blower weighs 3.2kg, so feels sturdy and robust, although it is one of the heaviest models we tested. Like the Stiga SAB 100AE, the battery slots in at the back end of the body, which we found affects the balance and makes it feel heftier to use – we preferred the battery position on the Makita DUB186Z. This large leaf blower also has a wide tube, which is easy-to-attach, but means the 49m/s air flow isn’t as focused as others we tested, like the Makita DUB186Z in particular – it will easily blow wet and dry leaves off grass, gravel and patio slabs, but isn’t as effective when it comes to shifting compacted leaf matter and debris that gather in corners and awkward spaces. It has a run time of 15 to 20 minutes, which means it can clear up to 800m2 in one 160 minutes charge and the battery light indicator is a useful feature, helping you to gauge how much time you have left to finish the job. Despite being part of Ryobi’s Whisper series, we didn’t feel it was noticeably quieter than the other leaf blowers we tested. Compatible with over 150 tools in the Ryobi ONE+ System, it comes with a three-year warranty.
We are currently in the process of testing a range of leaf blower vacuums to add to this page. We’ll publish as soon as we can, so please keeping checking over the next few weeks.
How we tested leaf blowers and garden vacuums
To see how well leaf blowers and leaf vacuums perform, the GW reviews team tested a range of models across a range of garden situations – removing leaves from lawns, borders and gravel paths, in both dry and wet weather. The leaf blowers and leaf vacuums were compared, and the following criteria used to calculate the scores, with equal weight given to each:
- Set-up & storage: We looked at the assembly needed, ease and clarity of instructions, any storage features and, where relevant, the battery charge time.
- Handling: We assessed ease of use, weight, noise levels, comfort and safety features.
- Performance: Considered the power and air flow control, plus run and charge time.
- Value for money: We considered all of the above, plus quality and design, the RRP including battery and charger, (where applicable) and the length of warranty.