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Cheap Leaf Blowers Buying Guide

Toro, Black & Decker, Craftsman, and Weed Eater dominate the market for cheap and higher-end leaf blowers, but there are other worthy players, as well. We researched cheap corded electric and gas leaf blowers and identified several in each category that stand up to scrutiny.

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For electric leaf blowers we like the Toro 51609 Ultra (starting at $70), which is top-rated by reviewers for impressive power and ultra-adjustable speed control, and the Black & Decker LH4500 LeafHog (starting at $67), which scores for ease of use and punchy performance. Among gas leaf blowers, our picks include the Hitachi RB24EAP (starting at $129) for its quick start and relatively light weight, and the Weed Eater FB25 (starting at $77) for durability and ease of assembly. Two cheap leaf blowers that disappoint are the electric Black & Decker BV2500 (starting at $48), which looks great on paper (plenty of power and features) but is undone by user gripes about durability, and the Ryobi RY09055 (starting at $99), which boasts a wallet-friendly price and a robust stream of air but reviewers assert it's hard to get going and often won't start at all.

There are two types of leaf blowers: gas-powered and electric (corded and battery, although we discuss only corded models). The choice of one over the other depends largely on your yard-maintenance needs and the size of your property. If you'll be clearing an area whose borders are within reach of a power source (usually about 100 feet), cheap electric leaf blowers offer definite advantages. In addition to being less costly than gas models, electric blowers tend to be lighter and quieter. They start without the hassle of pulling on a cord and don't give off gas fumes. Some budget electric leaf blowers also vacuum and mulch leaves and other organic debris (occasional small pebbles, too). On the downside, you must learn to manage the power cord, which can be challenging if there are lots of obstructions in place.

If you need to clear layers of leaves, pinecones, and thick twigs off a broad swath of territory, a cheap gas leaf blower is the way to go. Gas-powered models generally carry heftier price tags than electric but they pack more of a punch and you can clear a larger area because there's no cord to confine your range. That said, gas leaf blowers are messier (you must mix gasoline and oil in the proper proportions and keep up with the maintenance); starting the machine requires effort (and it may be temperamental); controlling the speed takes some practice; the cost of fuel and oil is ongoing; and you must be extra cautious about keeping flammable material around.

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After you've settled on either a cheap electric or gas leaf blower, the model's specifications are the next order of business. First is the speed at which the air exits the machine, measured in miles per hour (mph), and the volume of air pushed through, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the numbers, the better. Many of the best cheap leaf blowers feature multiple speeds so you can change up the air flow to suit the job. Next, pay attention to the weight and choose a machine that will be comfortable to carry. Some budget leaf blowers are three-in-one combos that vacuum and mulch in addition to blow leaves and debris, and these mostly come with additional components (for blowing or suctioning), collection bags, and sometimes extension tubes. In short, the key to buying a leaf blower on a budget is to match the capabilities of the machine to the task at hand.

Before buying a leaf blower of any type make sure local municipal ordinances permit them. Several communities -- particularly in California, which has very strict emissions standards -- ban gas-powered leaf blowers. Others restrict or prohibit leaf blowers because of noise. Most communities with such ordinances limit noise output to 70 decibels. Manufacturers have redesigned their products to make them quieter, but not all meet this standard, although several that we researched do.

A final note of caution: Cheap leaf blowers, and gas blowers in particular, are noisy enough to cause hearing loss, so wear ear protection. It's also a good idea to wear goggles and a dust mask as defenses against dust and pollutants, such as bird droppings and chemicals, that get blown around along with the leaves. And always remember to keep other people and pets away in case debris flies in their direction.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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