Leaf Blower Buying Guide (Types of Leaf Blowers Explained)

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Last updated: April 17, 2023

If you have a reasonably sized yard with various trees, you’re going to have to deal with large amounts of leaves when fall kicks in.

Cleaning up those leaves isn’t necessarily a big deal, but the bigger your yard and the more trees you have, the more time-consuming this clean-up job becomes. In that case, it may be worth purchasing a leaf blower.

In this comparison guide, I am going to walk you through the different types of leaf blowers that are available, such as gas-powered versus electric, and handheld versus backpack. All of these leaf blowers come with pros and cons, and also their own price tags.

Types of Leaf Blowers

Let’s first outline the different types of leaf blowers, and further below, we’re going to look at the different ways leaf blowers can be powered.

There are three different types of leaf blowers that you can choose from:

  1. Handheld leaf blowers
  2. Backpack leaf blowers
  3. Walk-behind leaf blowers

Let’s discuss these three types in more detail to help you determine which machine might be best for your personal needs.

1. Handheld Leaf Blowers

Handheld leaf blowers are by far the most common in household backyard environments. They are usually the most affordable, while still offering more than enough performance to manage the yard.

Handheld leaf blower
Handheld leaf blower

As the name suggests, a handheld leaf blower has a big handle at the top to operate the blower with one hand. Often they come with a handy shoulder strap to make them even easier to carry around.

I’m going to discuss the power source in more detail further below, but with handheld blowers, you have the choice between corded electric, battery-powered electric, and gas-powered.

Have a look at my buying guide with reviews of some of the best battery powered handheld leaf blowers for some excellent options.

2. Backpack Leaf Blowers

A backpack leaf blower is literally just that; a leaf blower that you can carry around like a backpack. For some, that will be more comfortable than carrying a handheld machine.

Backpack leaf blower
Backpack leaf blower

They’re typically more expensive than their handheld counterparts and can typically also deliver a bit more power. They are also available as both electric as well as gas powered.

If your yard is reasonably large and you’re looking for a bit more comfort when cleaning up leaves, investing in a backpack leaf blower is definitely something to consider.

Have a look at my buying guide with reviews of some of the best battery powered backpack leaf blowers for some excellent options.

3. Walk-Behind Leaf Blowers

Walk-behind leaf blowers are suitable for managing large areas. They are the most powerful type of leaf blower and are designed to cover larger areas of leaf build-up.

Walk-behind leaf blower
Walk-behind leaf blower

The CFM (cubic feet per minute, see below) produced by walk-behind leaf blowers typically far exceeds the CFM produced by handheld and backpack-style leaf blower machines, which is what makes them so suitable for large areas.

But if you’re looking for a leaf blower for use in the backyard, you’re probably not going to need an expensive walk-behind leaf blower.

Electric vs Gas Leaf Blowers

Leaf blowers obviously need power in order to do their job, and this comes down to the choice between electric and gas:

  1. Electric leaf blowers
    • Corded
    • Cordless (battery powered)
  2. Gas powered leaf blowers
    • 2-cycle
    • 4-cycle

Let’s discuss the electric vs gas-powered comparison in more detail.

1. Electric Leaf Blowers

Electric leaf blowers are either corded or cordless.

When they are corded, you’re going to need to plug them into an electrical outlet. When they are cordless, they are powered by a rechargeable battery.

An electric leaf blower is much more common in an average household environment, as it is more affordable, less noisy, and perfect for smaller spaces to manage.

Corded electric leaf blower
Corded electric leaf blower

Pros and Cons

Electric leaf blowers are far less noisy than gas-powered machines, which is an important consideration, especially when living in a dense neighborhood.

Another advantage of electric leaf blowers is that they are reasonably environment-friendly compared to gas-powered machines and are typically also lighter.

The biggest drawback with electric leaf blowers is that there are limitations in flexibility. With a corded machine, you can only go so far as the length of the cord (although they are pretty long), and with a battery-powered machine, you can only keep blowing until the battery runs out.

2. Gas Powered Leaf Blowers

A gas-powered leaf blower is like a car in the sense that it needs gasoline in order to operate.

Gas-powered leaf blowers typically come as a 2-cycle or as a 4-cycle machine. Read this handy guide for an outline of the differences between these two engine types in the context of lawn care products.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are typically more expensive, more powerful, and also noisier than their electric counterparts. That said, with handheld leaf blowers, you will find that modern electric machines often outperform gas-powered models.

While they are certainly suitable for backyard work, gas-powered leaf blowers are more common in commercial and industrial environments, as they offer more power, flexibility, and durability.

Gas powered leaf blower
Gas powered leaf blower

Pros and Cons

The main advantage of using a gas-powered leaf blower over an electric leaf blower is performance. A gas motor, in general, is able to deliver more power than an electric machine can.

The other advantage of gas leaf blowers is that they offer a lot of mobility and flexibility. You can use them anywhere and anytime you like, as long as you have gasoline available. There is no cord to deal with it, and a full tank offers a much longer runtime than a fully charged battery.

The biggest drawback of gas-powered machines is the fact that it’s not the most eco-friendly way to clean up leaves in your garden. The fumes aren’t pleasant, so there is a pollution element to consider.

The other drawback is that they are typically much noisier than their electric and battery-powered counterparts, so your neighbors may not be too happy. Also note that they are often heavier than electric models.

Performance Considerations

When looking for a new leaf blower, apart from the type of leaf blower to choose, you will also need to look at its performance measurements, especially if you have a larger yard to look after.

Two of the most important measurements are:

  1. CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  2. MPH (Miles per Hour)

Let’s discuss these two measurements in more detail.

1. CFM

CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and is a measurement of volume.

It measures how much air is pushed out of the leaf blower pipe per minute. The higher the CFM, the more air is pushed out, and the more material can be blown away.

2. MPH

MPH stands for miles per hour and is a measurement of velocity.

It measures how fast the air leaves the leaf blower pipe. The higher the MPH, the faster air is pushed out, and the further material can be blown away.

When searching for a new leaf blower, these two measurements are almost always mentioned, as they determine how much power the leaf blower can deliver. The higher these two measurements, the better.

CFM and MPH are typically impacted by the motor type (electric, 2-cycle gas, 4-cycle gas), motor size, pipe design, and impeller design.

To give you a practical example, a smaller pipe usually leads to an increased MPH but also leads to a decreased CFM.

Average CFM and MPH ranges per leaf blower type:

  • Handheld:
    300-600 CFM and 100-250 MPH
  • Backpack:
    400-900 CFM and 150-250 MPH
  • Walk-behind:
    1000-8000 CFM and 150-250 MPH

Have a look at my guide explaining leaf blower CFM and MPH measurements in a bit more detail.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, you have the following options to consider when looking for a new leaf blower:

  1. Handheld leaf blower
    • Corded electric
    • Battery powered electric
    • Gas powered
  2. Backpack leaf blower
    • Corded electric
    • Battery powered electric
    • Gas powered
  3. Walk-behind leaf blower
    • Gas powered

Complicated? Doesn’t need to be.

Simply consider the size of your yard, how much leaf build-up you typically have, and how much money you wish to spend on a new leaf blower.

For an average-sized backyard with normal leaf build-up, a corded electric handheld leaf blower would be my recommendation. That is the most affordable and the easiest to handle leaf blower option.

But there is another option: the old-fashioned manual way. Have a look at my list of different types of rakes to see if using a rake to clean up leaves might be a viable solution for your backyard.


Leaf blower buying guide (types of leaf blowers explained)

Thomas Dunnett

The backyard is the perfect place to bond with family and friends, to have a good time, or to simply relax with some fresh air and a bit of sunshine. With this website I am hoping to share my passion for the backyard with you.

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