Picking up leaves each fall is a task that never seems to end. It seems like they just keep coming. Getting them into piles is only the beginning. From there, you have to pick them up and bag them. Or do you?
Stuffing leaves in a bag is only one way to get rid of them. And it’s not a very efficient one, at that. But a leaf vacuum can make the chore so much easier. It speeds it up and does a more thorough job.
Why Use A Leaf Blower/Vac
A leaf blower with a vacuum function can save a lot of work, mess, time, and even space.
Leaves tend to blow all over the place. When you pick them up with a rake or by hand, you tend to lose some in the process. Then you have to get them in a pile and try to pick them up again. A leaf vacuum saves you from this – all you need to do is point and suck!
That in itself is messy. A regular leaf blower pushes the leaves where you want them to go. It can be difficult to control them, though. And at the same time, the flow of air is kicking up dust and pollen. Not a pretty sight!
Of course, it can be quicker to use a vacuum, too, since you don’t have to go through multiple steps of raking, bagging, raking some more, bagging some more, etc.
Leaf vacuums usually also mulch the leaves as they pick them up. This means they’re already packed tightly. You’ll use fewer bags to dispose of them. You end up with four or five times the amount of leaves in the same space. Manufacturers advertise higher levels. But those are achievable only under perfect conditions.
Leaf vacuums can almost always be used as leaf blowers, too.
How To Choose A Leaf Blower With Vacuum
There are several qualities to look for in a leaf vacuum. Choosing well will help you get the most out of it each time you use it.
First, consider how the unit is powered. There are gas, corded electric, and battery-powered units on the market. Of course, corded electric is only suitable when you don’t have to go far from an electric outlet. Batteries give you more range but the shortest time to use them before you need to recharge. Gas-powered units are usually the most powerful and offer a great combination of range. But they’re generally heavier than the others, which can become a literal pain in the neck.
Speaking of weight, this is a really important factor. You’ll be carrying this tool around. And you’ll be adding leaves to the weight as you go along! Lighter is better as long as it can get the job done. Some models have a wheel on the end of the tube. This can slightly relieve the weight, although it’s more of a guide than a support.
CFM and MPH are other important factors. CFM stands for “cubic feet per minute” and refers to the volume of air that passes through the vacuum. MPH is, of course, “miles per hour” that the air blows. These two are affected by the motor as well as the size of the tube.
How finely the unit mulches the leaves is also important. The finer the mulch, the more leaves you can suck up before changing the bag. There’s no standard term for this, so we’ll use “mulching ratio” in our reviews. In general, a leaf vacuum does an “ok” job of mulching; you’ll likely find yourself wanting to run everything through a second time.
Of course, you want to be sure the bag is easy to empty while also being durable. Most bags hold between one and two bushels (9 and 18 gallons). Broken zippers or poorly-attached zippers seem like one of the most common issues with leaf vacuums. However, we suspect that in many cases this is due to overloading.
Our Picks for the Best Leaf Vacuums
We’ve looked at some of the top leaf vacuums on the market. Here are our recommendations.
- Power: Electric Corded
- CFM: 440
- MPH: 250
- Bag size: 12 gallons
- Mulching ratio (advertised): 16:1
- Weight (empty bag): 8.6 lb.
- Warranty: 2 years
This leaf vacuum from Sun Joe is a great tool at a good price. It’s one of the most powerful models we’ve seen. It’s also light compared to most other models.
Of course, you don’t always need that much power. There are six speed settings on this model. It’s easy to switch between vacuum and blower modes, too.
You can use up to 100 feet of 14-gauge extension cord with this. That’s a good range; if you need more, though, you’ll probably want to look at a gas model instead.
We found this model easy to hold and use. There’s a wheel at the base of the tube. It helps a bit with balance and also protects a bit against bumping the tube against rocks or roots.
The vacuum works well as long as it’s held at the right angle. Of course, it struggles with damp leaves.
The mulcher can leave some rather large chunks, but overall does a decent job. The impeller is made of sturdy aluminum so it should hold up well.
A big drawback of this unit is that it’s loud. At 96 decibels, it can be annoying. It’s like standing next to a motorcycle.
- Power: Gas
- CFM: 391
- MPH: 165
- Bag size: 18 gallons (listed as 2 bushels)
- Mulching ratio (advertised): 12:1
- Weight (empty bag): 12.6 lb.
- Warranty: 5-year consumer / 2-year commercial
Echo offers this great gas-powered leaf blower/vacuum with a large bag and good power for picking leaves up or moving them about. It runs quietly and offers durability and reliability.
The purchase includes separate, differently-sized tubes for blowing and vacuuming.
The bag has a zipper to easily empty it without disconnecting it from the unit. However, you can also disconnect it if you prefer; it uses a velcro strap to hold it on.
The recoil starter works well, but it’s still a recoil starter. Not a big deal, but it’s worth being aware of if you would have any difficulty handling it.
The impeller in this unit is plastic. We didn’t have problems with it, but we’d prefer something more durable.
It’s also a rather heavy unit compared to other models we’ve recommended. A shoulder strap is included, but it doesn’t have any padding for the shoulder, so you might want to switch it out.
- Power: Electric Corded
- CFM: 350
- MPH: 210
- Bag size: 9 gallons (1 bushel)
- Mulching ratio (advertised): 18:1
- Weight (empty bag): 12.1 pounds
- Warranty: Limited 3 years
Worx doesn’t disappoint with this high-quality leaf vacuum and blower combination. Of all the models here, this one looks most like a vacuum cleaner and does a great job getting the task done.
It’s easy to change modes with just a switch. The impeller is metal and does a great job. As always, it’s not an “ideal” mulching machine, but it does cut down on the volume of the leaves.
The machine also runs at a quiet 50 dB.
The biggest complaint we’ve heard about this has to do with the quality of the bag. The sewing isn’t always up to snuff. We wouldn’t say it’s a common issue, but at times users have had to deal with the zipper pulling apart from the bag itself.
It’s a heavy model and can be slightly awkward to carry because of its construction. But it gets the job done, whether blowing or sucking!
We recommend an extension cord of at least 12 gauge and a maximum of 100 feet for this unit.
- Power: Electric Corded
- CFM: 350
- MPH: 250
- Bag size: 14 gallons (1.5 bushels)
- Mulching ratio (advertised): not given, but says it will shred debris to under ½ inch.
- Weight (empty bag): 8.9 pounds
- Warranty: 2 years complete
This electric blower from Toro will give you a great balance of important elements. We can’t say it’s tops in one particular area, but it stands out as an overall performer.
It offers great power as both a leaf vacuum and a leaf blower. As a mulcher, it’s competitive with other leaf vacuums. It will substantially reduce the volume of your leaves, even though the end product is still on the large size for mulch. The metal impeller is a definite plus.
It’s lightweight but durable. It also runs quietly at around 68 dB.
The bag holds a bushel and a half. We’ve seen smaller but we’ve also seen larger. Like many other brands, there are sometimes issues with the zipper not staying attached.
You should use a 14-gauge cord at a maximum of 100 feet.
- Power: Gas
- CFM: 400
- MPH: 180
- Weight: 12.2 lb.
- Warranty: Limited 2 year
Last but not least, we consider this Troy-Bilt Gas leaf blower a great option, too. It offers decent CFM and MPH.
The gas motor has a recoil starter that works well and will get you going quickly.
At 12.2 pounds, this unit weighs in right in the middle of our recommendations. A bit lighter would be nice, but it’s not bad, either.
It’s not too annoying when it comes to noise. It’s similar to a tuned car going by or music at a decent volume in the house.
This is only a leaf blower, however. Troy-Bilt previously offered a version with a vacuum but it appears to be discontinued.
A leaf vacuum can make your autumn chores easier and help in your mulching at the same time. A good one will give you the range you need and enough power to pick up dry leaves without a problem. It will also mulch them fine enough that you can save a lot of space. It’s a great tool that can save you lots of time!