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Electric leaf blowers are quieter and require less maintenance

With push-button starting, quieter motors and zero emissions, electric leaf blowers are very user-friendly. Unlike gas-powered models, there's no gas or oil to deal with, no annual engine servicing and no winterization required. Electric blowers use an extension cord for power, however, which limits how far you can go. "If a 150-foot extension cord provides sufficient reach, then a good corded electric blower is your best combination of power, quietness, and convenience," says Marcus Pickett at HomeAdvisor.com. Owners say they especially appreciate the ability to pick up the tool and start working right away.

You won't get quite as much power as with a gas leaf blower, but the best electric models are strong enough for most chores outside the house. Plus, many have lower speeds that are ideal for clearing debris from around delicate landscaping and blow-drying cars. Extension cords aren't included and present an additional cost. Use only a 12- or 14-gauge power cord that's rated for outdoor use.

Of the half-dozen or so top electric blower brands, Toro is a clear standout: Both experts and owners rate these leaf blowers as some of the best corded options. After researching several models, one HomeDepot.com poster says Toro "had most of the competition beat when it came to a corded yard tool."

With hundreds of positive user reviews, our Best Reviewed Toro Power Sweep 51585 (Est. $40) is head and shoulders above the rest. It's one of the easiest leaf blowers to use, with push-button starting, hassle-free controls and a 4.6-pound body. Owners are pleasantly surprised at the amount of power this budget-friendly blower generates; the Toro's 7-amp motor produces almost the same airflow as top-performing gas blowers. The 51585 is best for quick jobs, however; reviewers say it's not sturdy enough for extended leaf-blowing and requires more than one pass to move wet vegetation.

The Ultra Blower Vac 51609 (Est. $90) is another first-class corded blower from Toro. It adds vacuum and mulching abilities, converting from a blower without tools. Experts say metal impellers like those on the 51609 are more durable than plastic blades. In a side-by-side test, one leading consumer organization says the Toro's sweeping airflow is almost as strong as the top gas models, and it even outperforms the Husqvarna 125BVx (Est. $200) for vacuuming and mulching. "It not only is a really powerful blower, but it absolutely pulverizes leaves and pine needles," says one owner at HomeDepot.com.

However, the 51609 doesn't quite match our Best Reviewed Toro 51585 in terms of handling. It's a little heavier, and numerous owners report problems setting up the vacuum for the first time and emptying mulch from the bag. Both Toro corded leaf blowers include a two-year warranty, which is the industry standard.

Cordless blowers give you extra freedom at a higher price

Battery-operated leaf blowers may look innocuous, but new technology is producing efficient cordless tools that can hold their own alongside corded and even gas-powered blowers. "Cordless tools are revolutionizing outdoor work," says Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics, but most cordless leaf blowers are still best for light-duty chores. Sal Vaglica at ThisOldHouse.com says, "Cordless blowers move leaves with less noise than gas blowers, have no emissions, and aren't tethered to a cord. They also have less power, so they're best for a quick 'sweep' to clean up after mowing."

Expensive cordless batteries make up a large portion of the total cost of the tool, so expect to pay more for a battery-operated blower than a corded model. However, those that are already invested in a cordless tool system, such as those produced by Stihl or Black and Decker, can save a bit of money by selecting a cordless leaf blower in the same line (since it will use the same battery and charger system). Battery runtime limits operating time to about 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the battery size.

Very few cordless leaf blowers offer much in the way of power, but for gas engine-loving Berendsohn, testing Stihl's cordless tools was "a moment of reckoning." He adds, "It's the first cordless outdoor power equipment I've found that radically closes the gap between gas engine and cordless. [The tools are] light, clean, quiet and fast; you can snap in a battery and go."

Users and other experts agree that our Best Reviewed Stihl BGA 85 (Est. $500 and up) is the top cordless leaf blower. According to professional tests, it sweeps leaves just as well as the Toro 51609, but isn't quite as effective at loosening leaves embedded in a lawn and doesn't convert to a vacuum. Not only that, but the combination of effective power and freedom from a gas engine comes at a price. The BGA 85 costs about $300 without the battery and charger. It uses the same battery and charger as Stihl's other 36-volt tools, so if you already use those, you might be all set. Otherwise, expect to pay an additional $200 for the least expensive charger and battery, making this the most expensive leaf blower in this report. The BGA 85 is covered by a two-year warranty.

Black & Decker, the most popular brand of cordless leaf blowers at Amazon.com, offers a less expensive blower that includes vacuum and mulch capabilities. The 36-volt LSW36 (Est. $140) is also the highest rated battery-operated blower at HomeDepot.com. Owners say that its durability, blower performance and vacuum-mulch kit make it a great value. If you already use other power tools that run off of Black & Decker's 36-volt lithium-ion battery, the leaf blower itself can be purchased separately (Est. $70). Although the LSW36 isn't as powerful as the Stihl BGA 85 and is recommended for light-duty chores only, Black & Decker's three-year warranty is longer than the typical two-year coverage for electric leaf blowers.

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Toro 51585 Power Sweep 7 amp 2-Speed Electric Blower
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Husqvarna 125B 28cc 2-Stroke 170-MPH Gas-Powered Handheld Gas Blower (CARB Compliant)
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Toro 51609 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed (up to 235) Electric Blower/Vacuum with Metal Impeller
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Husqvarna 125BVx 28cc 2-Cycle Gas Powered 170 MPH Blower/Vac With Smart Start
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Black and Decker LSW36 40-Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Sweeper
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