Cheapism: Best budget leaf blowers

Several makers offer inexpensive leaf blowers to tackle fall yard cleanup.

Every autumn, for a few weeks only, the trees put on a spectacular show. Audiences rave about the vibrant leaves. Then, like a crimson curtain, they fall, smothering grass and cluttering walkways. Sometimes all it takes to keep them at bay is a rake and a steady supply of elbow grease. But if you’re low on the latter or you have a lot of ground to cover, you can buy a good gas leaf blower for less than $130 or an electric model with a cord for around $70.

Here are four top picks from

The Hitachi RE24EAP (starting at $129) delivers a lot of power for the price. In online reviews, users crow about how easily it clears away leaves and other flotsam and jetsam lying around the yard. They assert that the gas-powered machine is a cinch to start and not nearly as loud as expected. (Where to buy

The Toro Ultra 51609 (starting at $70) is the quietest and lightest leaf blower on this list, weighing only 7.5 pounds. Yet the power of this electric blower surprises consumers who previously owned only gas leaf blowers. Reviews point to the variable speed motor, which helps users precisely navigate delicate plantings and other obstacles. (Where to buy

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The Weed Eater FB25 (starting at $77) is a perennial favorite that counts repeat buyers among its reviewers. They’ve found the gas-powered machine adept at corralling leaves and easy to operate and control. (Where to buy

The Black & Decker LeafHog LH4500 (starting at $67) is an electric model that scores of reviewers declare sufficiently powerful, durable and easy to handle. Reviews suggest that the trademarked oscillating nozzle isn’t just a gimmick. It proves handy for breaking up clumps of leaves. (Where to buy

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Both electric leaf blowers listed here can not only blow but also vacuum leaves into a bag and turn them into mulch. The impellers that pulverize the leaves are made of metal, so they’re more durable than the blades on many other low-end leaf blowers. An electric model is generally a lighter, quieter, cheaper choice than a gas leaf blower — provided you won’t be straying more than about 100 feet from an outlet. (Cheap cordless models tend to be feeble and run out of juice quickly.)

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Even with a lightweight gas blower like the Weed Eater FB25 (which weighs the same as the electric Black & Decker LH4500 — 8.1 pounds), you have to account for the extra heft of a full fuel tank. Dealing with gasoline can also be a messy business, not to mention a continual cost. Gas must be mixed with oil in just the right proportion to feed the two-cycle engines on most inexpensive gas blowers. That said, countless consumers happily put up with the associated chores, cost and fumes for one simple reason: power. Wet leaves, pinecones, sticks and other detritus are less likely to stymie a gas model.

Just be sure your city allows gas leaf blowers and note the decibel limits on any noise ordinances (Noise Pollution Clearinghouse catalogs local laws). California residents also must look for models sanctioned by the California Air Resources Board. Both gas blowers listed above comply with CARB standards.

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Full report on cheap leaf blowers