When choosing a gas model, it's important to find one with good handling and reliability. Although there are no battery run times and power-cord lengths to deal with, "handhelds get uncomfortable after 45 minutes" because of their weight, says Sal Vaglica at This Old House magazine. If you need the power of a gas blower, but want something that's a little easier to use -- though often more expensive -- we cover backpack gas blowers elsewhere in this report. For smaller properties and light duty, an electric leaf blower might also be a good choice.
Our Best Reviewed handheld gas model, the Hitachi RB24EAP 23.9cc Handheld Blower (Est. $130), stands out for its high-quality parts, excellent sweeping ability and ease of use. This model, which has a top airspeed of 170 mph, features a commercial-grade engine that meets California's tough air-quality standards. It also has a variable-speed trigger and large, two-finger throttle lever for easy operation, although it doesn't vacuum or mulch. It is relatively light at 8.6 pounds and has the longest warranty -- seven years -- of any blower model we found.
The 23.9cc Handheld Blower earns a Best Buy recommendation in one large comparative test, and it earns a 4-star rating (though not best overall status) from Roy Berendsohn of Popular Mechanics, who says it has an effective airstream and can even move soggy debris and prickly seedpods. Owner reviews are near stellar. At Amazon.com, it earns a rating of 4.5 stars based on feedback from more than 1,650 owners. Feedback is similar at Lowes.com -- 4.5 stars based on more than 1,400 reviews, with 95 percent saying they recommend this gas powered leaf blower. Regardless of the site, users say the Hitachi gas blower starts up easily, has good airflow and handles well, although some say the location of the inlet valve makes it prone to pull on clothing.
We also saw some strong recommendations for the Stihl BG 55 C-E (Est. $180). Some expert reviews are of a predecessor model, the Stihl BG 55, but regardless, feedback is glowing. Like the Hitachi the Stihl earns Best Buy status in a large, comparative review, and is rated best overall in Popular Mechanic's eight gas leaf blower round up. Despite lower air speed and volume ratings than some competing blowers, Roy Berendsohn says that it moves debris better than many blowers with more impressive specs; "the airstream is optimized, focused and less turbulent," he notes.
One issue that plagued the Stihl BG 55 were owner complaints that it was, simply put, a pain to start. That seems to have been cleared up in the BG 55 C-E. Stihl blowers are sold primarily through local dealers, so the best place to read user reviews is on the company's site. Where we saw sorry feedback for the earlier model, the big step up in the revised version is a simplified starting system and it seems effective. The blower rates a 4.6 star score, based on feedback from more than 275 owners.
Both the Hitachi and the Stihl are blowers only. For those who want a gas-powered blower that also vacuums and mulches, the Husqvarna 125BVx (Est. $180) draws some good feedback. It has a top airspeed of 170 mph and comes with an adjustable-length tube as well as flat and round tube tips so you can match the equipment to your task. The blower tube is lined up with the handle, which the company says puts less stress on the wrist and arm, and the variable-speed trigger locks, so you don't need to keep pulling on the trigger. The vacuum feature impressively mulches leaves and other debris, cramming what normally would fill 16 bags down into one. The Husqvarna blower/vacuum has a two-year warranty.
The Husqvarna 125BVx is included in the comparative test of nearly 60 blowers conducted by ConsumerReports.org. It also earns praise from Sal Vaglica of This Old House magazine, who says it's "excellent" at sweeping and "very good" at vacuuming. He also commends the unit's user-friendly design, but finds the impeller small. Among users, the Husqvarna 125BVx gets good feedback, though the Hitachi blower rates better still. For example, it earns a score of 4 stars based on more than 420 reviews posted at Lowes.com. Feedback is similar at Amazon.com -- 3.9 stars following more than 360 reviews. Most say the Husqvarna 125BVx sweeps and vacuums very effectively, and they like the comfortable handle. Some report breakdowns or clogs, and some complain that fuel lines can break after one or two seasons, or less, especially with fuel with high ethanol content, but this is considered an easy fix for the mechanically inclined.