CFM and MPH Ratings
Air velocity (measured in miles per hour) is what gets leaves moving. Air volume (measured in cubic feet per minute) keeps the leaf piles moving over a large area. In general, blowers with higher cfm and mph ratings perform better than units with lower numbers, but not always. A well-designed blow tube can more than make up for the difference in specs. The Echo PB-255LN, for example, has the lowest cfm-to-mph ratio of all the machines, yet it outperformed other handheld units with higher air movement ratings.
Manufacturers list engine size in cubic centimeters (cc). More cc usually means more power, but the cfm and mph ratings are better guides to overall performance.
Vibration Reduction. Vibration increases fatigue and causes hand and finger numbness and tingling. The better units mount the engine on springs and add vibration-dampening to the handle and extra padding to the backpack. Look for those anti-vibration components.
Rotational Control. The spinning impeller and air speed create a ‘gyro’ effect that rotates the machine off center, so you have to constantly steer it back. That leads to arm fatigue. The better machines cancel out the gyro effect and refer to this feature as ‘rotational control.’
Quick Storage. Some models have a quick-disconnect tube so you can store the unit in less space. On backpack models, look for a tie-down strap to secure the blow tube to the frame.
Warranty. Echo, Ryobi and Hitachi offer a longer manufacturer warranty right out of the box. But Stihl and Husqvarna extend the warranty if you buy and use their two-cycle oil or canned premixed gas.
Shop locally and check online reviews
Check out several brands at different small-engine repair shops/dealers and home centers. If they have demo models, fire up a few and compare the feel and comfort. Narrow your choices and then check online customer reviews to spot consistent negative comments.
Read the store’s return policy
Many local and online stores allow you to return an unused leaf blower. But some won’t allow returns once you’ve added fuel.
Buying online is a commitment
Buying online might save money, but only if you’re happy with the purchase. If you change your mind and want to return the blower, prepare to dig deep because return shipping can be expensive depending on the model.
Know your local ordinances
Many homeowners’ associations and city ordinances limit leaf blower use to certain times and decibel levels. Check local regulations before you buy a gas, corded or cordless blower.
Buy for your dominant hand
All handhelds can be used with either hand, but the air intake tends to suck your pants into the screen. To avoid that problem, choose a model with the intake located opposite your dominant hand.