With autumn comes a deluge of leaves that not only look untidy but can be dangerous as they become wet and slippery. Any proud house owner would do well to invest in a leaf blower or garden vacuum for the easiest way to tidy up. We’ve reviewed and listed the best options here.
We’ve reviewed a selection of cordless leaf blowers at Trusted Reviews, and the list here comprises the best. We’ve reviewed both leaf blowers and garden vacuums, and products that do both. Leaf blowers are better for large amounts of debris, letting you blow everything into one pile for easy disposal. Garden vacuums suck everything up and can be handy for getting rid of rubbish, but they take longer to operate on larger jobs as you have to move around to pick up everything. Combination tools do both jobs but can be fiddly to set up and operate.
Of the models we’ve tested, two stand out. The Stihl BGA 85 is the most powerful leaf blower we’ve seen – but it’s expensive. If you want something more wallet-friendly, the Bosch ALB LI is a great choice, particularly if you have other tools that use the Bosch batteries.
How we test leaf blowers and garden vacs
Each time we test a leaf blower or garden vac, we collect 3kg of damp leaves and scatter them over a 40m2 patch of lawn. We then time how long it takes to blow the leaves into a pile. Along the way we look at how easy the device is to handle, its level of power and how loud it is.
For blowing power, we stand at a fixed point and simply use the blower to create an arc in the patch of fallen leaves. We then measure the distance cleared by the blower. We use damp leaves on a lawn; this is where a blower really shows its mettle. For clearing dry leaves and other detritus off hard surfaces, even weak blowers provide ample range.
As for loudness, we hold a decibel meter at head height while operating the device at its usual position to the side of the body.
For vacs we then suck up the whole pile and assess how well the vac coped, checking for blockages, whether it can take in the whole pile and how easy it is to empty. We also assess how easy it is to switch from blowing to vacuuming modes – some multi-tube combi blowers can prove quite fiddly to switch over.
1. Stihl BGA 85
The finest handheld leaf blower we’ve tested
- Very powerful for a battery leaf blower
- Variable speed makes it versatile
- Easy to operate and manoeuvre
- 23-minute battery life is impressive for the power output
- Quite large for a non-multi-function blower
- Extremely expensive
- Doesn’t include either a battery or charger in the base price
The Stihl BGA 85 is quite simply the finest handheld leaf blower we’ve ever used. Its combination of sheer power, with accurate controls and battery power portability, makes it effortless in operation. Battery life of 23 minutes means it isn’t quite suitable for super-big gardens, unless you’re happy to either invest in multiple batteries or wait half an hour between sessions for the one battery to charge. However, the power on offers means you’ll get plenty done in those 23 minutes.
The downsides are that it’s quite bulky, plus it’s expensive for a single use tool. Weaker battery-powered units are far more compact and lightweight, while Stihl’s own mains-powered combined leaf blower/garden vacuum is nearly half the price of the BGA 85. Other battery-powered models do come at a premium, but the BGA 85 is around twice the price of most rivals. This is a premium product and you really do pay for it.
If you’re simply after the ultimate handheld leaf blower then this is the one to get. It’s powerful, versatile and effortless to use. However, it’s quite large and very expensive for a device that still requires you to bag up the leaves manually.
2. Bosch ALB 18 LI
A handy all-purpose tool for smaller gardens
- Batteries and charger work with full Bosch range
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Great for smaller jobs indoors and out
- Compact design
- Overall output is too weak for bigger jobs
- Only 10-minute battery life
- Expensive, if bought standalone
In some respects the Bosch ALB 18 LI does fall fundamentally short of being a competent leaf blower; it isn’t powerful enough to make a quick and easy job of clearing a large volume of leaves from a lawn. Certainly, if you’ve got anything more than one mid-size tree in your garden it will take far too long to be practical, especially if the leaves and ground have become wet.
However, as something of a general-purpose blower tool it’s more useful. For blasting away dust and leaves from your patio, clearing out the cobwebs from your shed, doing the odd bit of dusting and, of course, clearing smaller patches of leaves from your lawn it’s more than up to the task. What’s more, its compact and lightweight form makes it easy to handle and battery operation means you don’t have to faff about with cables or petrol to get it going.
If you’re buying the ALB 18 LI standalone with a battery, its £85-£90 price is a little steep considering its limitations. However, if you already have some Bosch 18V cordless tools and batteries then for £60 it’s a good addition to your collection.
3. Ryobi RBV3000CESV
A versatile, powerful and easy-to-use combi vac/blower/shredder
- Combination vacuum, blower and shredder
- Powerful shredding
- Quite loud
- Not cordless
The Ryobi RBV3000CESV is a versatile, powerful and easy-to-use combi vac/blower/shredder. Its appeal lies in several areas.
For a start, it offers a slightly easier changeover system than most, thanks to a switch altering the flow of air through the blower. You still end up having to swap some components around, but it’s an altogether slicker affair than most and means you don’t have to hold it in a different orientation for suck and blow modes, in turn ensuring the controls remain within easy reach.
This is also a very powerful machine, with a wet-leaf-on-grass blowing range of 2.5-3 metres. It offers two speeds, with the lower speed still providing a 2.2-metre blowing range. It’s a loud machine, however, ranging from 85-97dB depending on its speed.
As for vacuuming and shredding, its powerful motor and extra metal shredding blades power through even large quantities of leaves with ease. It also shreds them to a nice fine texture that’s ideal for leaf mould/composting and easy to bag up.
With its ample 10-metre power cable and affordable sub-£80 price, this is a great mid-range combi option.
4. Stihl SHE 71
A basic but useful combination garden vacuum and leaf blower
- Excellent ergonomics make it easy to handle
- Powerful input and output, despite the modest 1100W motor
- A little quieter than the competition
- Multi-tube design is a pain for storage and switching modes
- A touch expensive for its power and feature set
- Shoulder collection bag a little awkward
For its type of combi garden vac and blower, the Stihl SHE 71 is excellent. Its powerful output makes short work of both blowing and vacuuming jobs, and its ergonomic design makes it easy to use, particularly in blower mode.
However, its shoulder-mounted collection bag is a little clunky, plus its lack of speed adjustment and modest power output do technically put it a little behind the competition, even if real-world performance remains very good.
Then there’s the fact that we’re still not convinced these multi-tube-style models are better than the true all-in-one designs that only need a switch to change between suck and blow. They’re less convenient to use and you have to find a place to store all the extra pieces.
Overall, though, the Stihl SHE 71 is an excellent combi garden vac and leaf blower, with particularly good ergonomics. It’s pretty basic for the price, but is nonetheless a decent option.
Black & Decker GW3050
A great mid-range leaf blower and garden vacuum combi
- Clever collection backpack
- Well priced
- Fiddly changeover button
The Black & Decker GW3050 is the company’s mid-range option, offering a step up in build quality and functionality from the cheaper GW2200. This means more power and greater ease of use.
One of the highlights of this combi is its backpack collection bag. This takes the strain off for longer vacuuming sessions and provides a much larger overall capacity. It’s also easy to empty thanks to a roll and clip closing at the end.
Also welcome is a variable speed motor. It doesn’t offer as much control as the best but it features several settings that range nicely in power and noise. At low speed, it will clear 2.4 metres of leaves while hitting only 79dB. At full whack, it will clear a whopping 3.1 metres of leaves at 86dB.
The GW3050 benefits from a simple changeover system, thanks to well-engineered clips that hold each component in place. Press the button and the pieces come away easily, unlike some. However, said button is hidden in a small hole, so you’ll have to find a screwdriver or similar to poke it to make the changeover.
Overall performance is excellent, with a great blower range and effortless vacuuming. It’s particularly impressive to find an all-metal blower/shredding fan too. The little rake attachment does come in useful, although equally, can get in the way sometimes; it isn’t a must-have.
All told, there’s just about enough here to justify this combi’s slightly higher price.
Gtech Leaf Blower (LB01)
A great leaf blower for anyone with other Gtech garden kit
- Powerful for a battery-powered model
- Quiet operation
- Battery compatible with lawnmower
- Expensive as a leaf blower
The Gtech Leaf Blower is an excellent, premium cordless leaf blower. It’s well built, offers impressive power, accurate controls and long-enough battery life at 20 minutes.
Its design is identical to that of the Stihl BGA 85, with the blower hanging perfectly balanced below a single handle into which is incorporated a variable-speed trigger switch.
At its lowest speed it emits just 60dB, and still has enough puff for light dusting duties. Meanwhile, at full blast it has an impressive 1.8-metre leaf-on-grass blowing range. Not quite up there with mains-power models, but plenty good enough for most tasks.
The trigger isn’t quite as easy to fine-control as that of the Stihl BGA 85, but it’s still a welcome and useful feature.
What will probably appeal to a lot of buyers is that this blower’s battery is also compatible with the Gtech lawnmower, and the two can be bought together for £399. Alternatively, for £129, the LB01 is a reasonable value addition to those who already have the mower. It’s just a shame there aren’t more devices in this Gtech range.
Overall, while offering a nice saving over the Stihl BGA 85, the Gtech LB01 still feels a bit expensive as a standalone purchase. However, bought as part of the Gtech battery-powered range, it’s well worth a look.
That was our pick of the best leaf blowers and garden vacuums. For more information on choosing the right model keep reading.
Garden vacuum buying guide
Best garden vacuum – How many leaves will you be clearing up? This sounds obvious (and it is), but it’s important. If you have a small garden then a smaller, lower-power blower or vac should suffice. Most people will be better off with a blower or combi blower and vac, but if you have a large amount of leaves then you’ll need a more powerful, longer-lasting machine to get the job done. If you have a large area to cover, don’t skimp on the machinery, as you’ll regret it later.
Best garden vacuum – Do you want to pick up litter too? If so, a straight garden vac without shredding is what you need. They’re not as good at picking up and storing wet leaves, but they’re a hugely versatile time-saver.
Best garden vacuum – Mains, battery or petrol, which is best? Most battery-powered models will last inside 30 minutes. The powerful models will clear quite a lot in that time, but if your garden is large, and you’re looking to work for several hours, a mains or petrol powered model will be required. Petrol models gives you range, but they tend to be more expensive and are generally something we’d only recommend if absolutely needed. For most households, a mains-powered combi and a long extension cord are your best bet.