We updated this guide in September 2022 to ensure all products vetted by the Home Improvement Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute were in stock and correctly priced.
While a powerful leaf blower is best for blasting thick blankets of leaves from your yard, a leaf vacuum is more about the finish work. Any of the top picks featured here will quickly suck up smaller piles of leaves and debris from under bushes, around foundation walls and even out of your gutters. Think of it as the perfectionist’s outdoor power tool, a must-have for homeowners who like to leave no leaf unturned during routine yard clean-ups.
Here’s the good news from the Good Housekeeping Institute’s latest review of leaf vacuums. Many of the best models combine vacuuming and blowing in a single device, so you don’t have to worry about buying, storing and maintaining separate tools. To come up with this roundup of winners, our experts considered both vacuuming and blowing power (as well as mulching, when applicable). The following picks perform well across all modes and are also solidly built and easy to operate.
Our top picks:
After checking out our picks, read on for more details on how our testers choose the best leaf vacuums, plus everything you need to know to find the right model for your home. Also, check out our other expert advice on yard care, including tips for mulching and our latest round-up of top-rated lawn mowers.
Best 3-in-1 Leaf Vacuum
Worx Electric Trivac
Our experts like the versatility of the corded-electric Worx Trivac, a powerful three-in-one blower, vacuum and mulcher that handles each task with ease and efficiency. In our testing, it was particularly adept at scarfing up leaf fragments and other small debris. “I like that it’s equipped with an on-board conversion switch, so that you can flip between functions quickly and without the hassle of separate tubes and attachments,” says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute, who tested the Worx over several weeks at her home on Long Island, NY.
She notes that the curled end of the vacuum tube was helpful for sucking leaves from gutters and other hard-to-reach places. The Worx’s metal impeller has an 18:1 reduction ratio, meaning it can mulch 18 bags of leaves down to one, and this model comes with a 10-gallon reusable collection bag. One possible downside is the cord, which can be a nuisance to drag around and also means you’ll need an exterior-grade extension cord if you have a large yard.
Best Electric Leaf Vacuum
Toro Electric Ultra Blower Vacuum
This Toro is another plug-in leaf vacuum that scored points with our testers for its combination of power and lightweight design. “It’s a great choice for homeowners with small to mid-size yards,” says Rothman, who notes that the Toro is an easy to use and affordable option that gathered and removed leaves quickly in our tests. Our experts like the variable speed control, which makes it easy to adjust the power in both vacuuming and blowing modes. The device is also easy to operate, thanks to its push-button electric start and quick-release latch that lets you switch from blowing to vacuuming without tools.
Best Value Electric Leaf Vacuum
Sun Joe Electric Handheld Blower/Vacuum/Mulcher
This budget-friendly three-in-one leaf vacuum, blower, and mulcher performed as well as some models costing two and three times as much. “Like its cold-weather brand mate Snow Joe, whose snow blowers we test, Sun Joe has established itself has a value-driven name in outdoor power equipment that often punches above its weights,” says Rothman. The device’s 14-amp motor blows up to 240 miles per hour with six adjustable speeds so you can tailor it to various tasks, and testers say it’s easy to switch between modes. Rothman also called out the dedicated gutter cleaning kit, with its 15-foot telescoping attachment that makes it easy to blast leaves from gutters from the safety of the ground.
Best Gas Leaf Vacuum
Husqvarna 2-Cycle Gas Blower Vacuum
Don’t want the hassle of a cord? A gas-powered leaf blower is the way to go, especially if you also don’t want to compromise on power. This Husqvarna gas-powered leaf vacuum can move a lot of air in a hurry — 425 cubic feet per minute at a speed of 170 miles per hour. Our experts say it should perform capably whether you set it to vacuum, blow or mulch leaves and other yard debris. The lightweight construction and ergonomic design maximize comfort and control, while the cruise control setting is nice if you have a lot of leaves to suck up and don’t need to switch speeds. Just be prepared for noisier operation, enough that you’ll definitely want to wear ear protection.
Best Value Gas Leaf Vacuum
Craftsman 2-Cycle Engine Leaf Blower
This Craftsman features a robust 2-cycle engine from a reliable name in the small engines used in a variety of outdoor power equipment. Our experts say the vacuum’s lightweight design reduces hand and arm fatigue. They also like the feature set, which includes a translucent fuel tank and variable speed motor, helpful when switching between yard cleaning tasks or moving across different surfaces, from thick lawns to paved driveways. As with all gas-powered blowers, the Craftsman is fairly noisy, so take that into consideration if there are neighbors close by.
Best Backpack Leaf Vacuum
Black + Decker Backpack Blower Vacuum
If your property has a lot of leafy trees, it might make sense to upgrade to a backpack-style leaf vacuum. Our engineers say this corded electric Black + Decker model is also good for blowing and mulching, especially in small to mid-sized yards (like all corded models, it’s not ideal for larger properties because of cord constraints). Testers say the two-speed blower is capable of moving a decent amount of air very quickly. This model comes with an easy-to-carry backpack-style collection bag and has an impressive 16:1 reduction ratio in mulching mode.
Best Cordless Leaf Vacuum
Greenworks Cordless Blower Vacuum
Our experts have been testing Greenworks products for the better part of a decade and they’ve come to know the brand as a leader in battery-powered outdoor equipment. This cordless leaf vacuum is another example, with its combination of reliability and performance. Though air flow isn’t what you’ll find with gas or corded-electric devices, the battery-operated model allows you to clear and remove leaves unrestricted by a cord. Our engineers say the brushless motor should deliver a long runtime and improved torque, while also reducing strain and extending the vacuum’s lifetime. Though the device can convert from a vacuum to a blower, it uses separate tubes for each function, so it’s not as easy as flipping a switch, the way you can with other top picks.
Best Walk-Behind Leaf Vacuum
Troy-Bilt Gas Chipper Shredder Vacuum
Take one look and you can see right away that walk-behind leaf vacuums are a different breed of lawn care equipment. This one from Troy-Bilt adds in a chipper and a shredder, nice if you live on a large property with a lot of trees and fallen branches. Our experts only admired it from afar, but they’re impressed by the specs, starting with the 24-inch-wide vacuum head, which helps you cover a lot of ground fast during the leafiest weeks of fall. The 7-foot vacuum hose is helpful for sucking up smaller leaves and twigs from under bushes. But make no mistake: weighing in at 116 pounds, this walk-behind leaf vacuum is a lot of lawn gear, so make sure you’ll put it to work before making the investment.
How we choose the best leaf vacuums
Our product experts start by surveying the marketplace to identify top-selling leaf vacuums that you’re most likely to find at stores and online. They also attend trade shows and industry events like Equip Exposition to stay on top of the latest in lawn and yard care. Next, they identify brands that have performed the best and proved the most reliable through years of testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute. They also consider newer brands with unique features or innovations.
Based on an extensive review of technical data, our experts selected various models for hands-on testing, which started in our Lab where we assessed ease of assembly, quality of construction, convenience features and more. Various product experts also took leaf vacuums home to evaluate them in the real-world conditions of their yards. Performance tests focused on how quickly and cleanly models sucked up small piles of leaves around the yard, as well as from gutters when that feature was offered. They also evaluated usability — for example, how easily the bag goes on and off, intuitiveness of the controls and the run-time of battery-powered vacuums.
What to look for when choosing the best leaf vacuum
There are several general factors to consider when deciding which leaf vacuum is best for you. Whether or not the vacuum can convert into a blower or mulcher, you’ll want to pay attention to a vacuum’s power type, the size and form of its collection bag, as well as its weight and durability.
Power type: Leaf vacuum engines can be gas-powered, battery-powered or corded electric. The power type that is best for you depends largely on the size of the project.
- Gas-powered engines tend to be more powerful but are also louder and more difficult to start.
- Cordless leaf vacuums have a limited runtime and are best suited for light-duty clearing work.
- Electric engines have a cord that restricts mobility but ensures an unlimited runtime.
Collection bag form and size: Some collection bags can be worn on the user’s back while others are attached directly below the engine. Backpack collection bags may have a greater volume than those that hang directly below a handheld engine. If your vacuum has mulching capabilities, you’ll want to make note of its reduction ratio in order to determine how many shredded leaves can fit inside of the collection bag (for example, a mulcher with a 10:1 ratio can fit 100 gallons of dry leaves in a 10-gallon collection bag). Many collection bags are reusable while others are disposable.
Convertibility: If you’re looking to purchase an all-in-one tool that’ll help you combat fallen leaves and debris, you may want to consider one of the many engines that can convert between leaf blowing, vacuuming and mulching. It’s important to consider the ease of converting between different capabilities when purchasing a convertible tool. Some convertible vacuums/blowers/mulchers are equipped with a switch that allows them to convert from function to function. Other machines come with different tubes or nozzles that you have to attach and detach in order to convert.
Weight: Most leaf vacuums are handheld and relatively lightweight. If you’re looking for something more heavy-duty, like a more powerful leaf blower that also has strong vacuum capabilities, you’ll have to consider that more powerful engines tend to be heavier and possibly more difficult to operate.
How is leaf vacuum power measured?
There are a few factors involved. If the equipment has a mulching mode, you also want to pay attention to its claimed capacity.
- Vacuuming power: The power of a leaf vacuum is determined by how much air it is able to take in, which is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), and how quickly it does so, which is measured in miles per hour (MPH). The ideal combination of the two measurements depends on the nature of the vacuuming work.
- Blowing power: Like vacuuming power, blowing power is decided by a combination of airflow (CFM) and speed (MPH). The power of a blower is measured by how much air a blower is able to push out and how fast it does so. Convertible engines often have similar vacuuming and blowing power, but it’s important to know both when purchasing a convertible machine.
- Mulcher reduction ratio: This is the ratio between the number of bags of leaves that the vacuum encountered and the number of bags that the leaves were reduced to through mulching. Most mulchers have a reduction ratio of either 10:1 or 16:1.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab provides expert reviews and advice on all things home-related, including leaf vacuums. In his role as Director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, Dan DiClerico brings more than 20 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products, including all kinds of outdoor power equipment, for Good Housekeeping, as well as brands like Consumer Reports and This Old House. He has vast hands-on experience with every brand included in this report, as well as many others that didn’t make the cut.
For this report, Dan worked closely with Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about products across the home improvement space. She also routinely tests leaf vacuums and other kinds of outdoor power equipment at her home on Long Island, NY.
Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.
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