How big is your leaf-blowing job? A good electric or handheld gas blower will meet most people's needs -- but if you need to clear a large, wooded area, consider a more expensive gas backpack blower.
Will an extension cord reach? If you can reach all areas where you need to work with a 150-foot extension cord, you can save money and get good power with a corded electric leaf blower. If a cord won't reach, you'll need a gas blower -- or a cordless electric blower, but the only effective one in tests, the Stihl BGA 85 (*Est. $500 to $650 with battery and charger) is extremely expensive.
Do you need to vacuum leaves? Most electric leaf blowers can also vacuum leaves, grind them into mulch and collect them in a detachable bag. Look for a metal impeller blade (not plastic) to shred both leaves and twigs, ThisOldHouse.com advises. Some handheld gas blowers can vacuum, too, but they often sell the vacuum attachment separately.
How strong are you? Corded electric blowers weigh the least. The Best Reviewed Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609 (*Est. $70) weighs just 7.5 pounds, which users say makes the job much less tiring. Handheld gas blowers weigh at least another couple of pounds -- plus the weight of the gasoline -- which can fatigue your arm after a while. Gas backpack blowers can weigh more than 20 pounds, but thanks to the backpack design, owners usually find them easier to carry than handheld gas blowers.
Need to keep the noise down? Electric blowers are the quietest, by far. Some gas blowers roar more softly than others, but they're all noisy enough to disturb the neighbors. Most communities that ban leaf blowers only prohibit gas-powered ones, although some ban electric blowers, too.
Consider pollution and fumes. Gas-powered leaf blowers spew both into the air. Electric blowers create no local emissions.
Want to avoid maintenance? Electric blowers are basically maintenance-free. With gas blowers, you'll need to mix gas-and-oil fuel (as most blowers use two-stroke engines) or buy premixed fuel, drain the fuel tank before storing it for more than a month, clean the air filter every few hours of use, and clean or replace the spark plug and fuel filter as needed.
Don't forget hearing protection. All gas leaf blowers -- and most electric ones -- are loud enough that you'll need to wear earplugs or earmuff-style hearing protectors, experts say. Of all the leaf blowers discussed in this report, only the pricey cordless Stihl BGA 85 runs so quietly that you can get by without ear protection.