Homeowner Tool Review: Toro Ultra Blower Vac Leaf Blower

Among the many “joys” of home ownership is the never-ending cycle of home maintenance. Since fall is the time when many homeowners find their lawns and driveways buried under a thick layer of brown, red, and gold, I thought it would be worthwhile to post a brief review of the Toro Ultra Blower Vac that I use to manage leaves at my home.

Toro Ultra Blower Vac - 51609 12 amp

My main leaf battle takes place next to my driveway. A large tree on the corner of my lot drops probably hundreds of thousands of leaves at this time of year, spread out over at least a month. For the first year after buying our home I did my best to manage the leaves with brooms and rakes, but after two seasons of that I was ready for… more power.

After doing some research I found the Toro Ultra Blower Vac, which I paid $75 for on Amazon (it’s currently $70 at the time of writing). The Toro Ultra Blower Vac fit all my criteria:

  • It’s electric, so no nasty fumes or gasoline to deal with, relatively less noisy, and fewer parts to break.
  • It is powerful enough to take care of all my leaf and fir needle-clearing needs.
  • It’s lightweight and relatively compact—easy to store in my garage.
  • It cost less than $100.

Here’s a video I made this weekend, cleaning up the season’s first leaf dump.

In this video I’ve compressed about forty-five minutes of leaf blowing and vacuuming into roughly three minutes. With rakes and brooms this job probably would have taken me two hours. I’ll need to do this almost weekly for the next couple of months to keep up with all the leaves this tree drops. I definitely consider the Toro Ultra Blower Vac to be $75 well-spent.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Peter Witting says:

    Good info – look forward to more of this kind of stuff.

  2. 2
    Marc says:

    I’ve got the exact same one and I agree it works like a champ especially for the price. It also mulches the leaves up while sucking them into the bag so you can get more into your can/leaf bags.

    Note, however, that Tim edited out all the times he dumped the bag attachment. It sucks up the leaves so well that it fills the bag quickly. It’s especially good for maple trees with the awful helicopter seedlings that are the bane of my existence every fall.

    We (which is to say my wife) just bought it this fall so we’ll see how well it holds up from season to season.

  3. 3

    Almost all my leaves fall right on the lawn so I just collect them with the grass clippings. I must say that even though I absolutely love my house and all trees, I’m getting sick and tired of all the yard work eating up a large chunk of time on weekends. Something to consider for starry-eyed first-time homebuyers.

  4. 4
    mike says:

    Perhaps the more efficient purchase would have been a chainsaw? One and done – never deal with the problem again.

  5. 5
    AxlRose says:

    How’s it do with big pine needles? Those things stick into my lawn like darts and are hard to rake out without damaging the grass.

  6. 6
    The Tim says:

    RE: mike @ 4 – Hah! I have a chain saw actually. I like the tree though, so I have no plans to make firewood out of it.

    RE: AxlRose @ 5 – Hmm good question. There aren’t any pine trees near my house but there is one a few blocks away. I don’t think my extension cord will reach that far but maybe the flipper who is fixing up that house wouldn’t mind if I came and cleared a few of his pine needles…

  7. 7
    David B. says:

    RE: Jillayne Schlicke @ 3 – Yard work is the thing I miss the least about owning a home and it is the reason that I am interested either in a condo or something with as small a lot as possible (which I’d have low-maintenance landscaping installed on).

  8. 8

    RE: Jillayne Schlicke @ 3
    A Possible Cure

    Get rid of flower beds and replace everything with lawn…..as much work as lawn is, the flower beds eat up 10 times the time weeding per sq ft. It looks a bit worse; but does cut labor hours significantly. A bad starting gas mower can waste time and greatly aggrevate too….I went electric since my lawn is smaller.

  9. 9

    RE: mike @ 4

    I Got a Name Brand Large Electric Chain Saw for $35 about 8 Years Ago

    The money its saved on “Charity Christmas Tree Collection” using yard waste garbage can pickup alone paid for it. I lost a 15′ fir tree in that bad ice storm we had a few years ago so used the chain saw to cut it up and piled the 2′ sections of branch and trunk in a big pile in my back yard….7 or 8 yard waste garbage can loads later [approx 3-4 months] it was taken away free that winter [just before I had to mow the lawn again]….would of cost $200-300 to have it professionally cut down and truck removed.

    Yes a chain saw is a good investment.

  10. 10
    Astro Kermit says:

    I have a much bigger yard and I’d like to also clear out my neighbor’s leaves (since they will eventually blow into my yard). Any recommendations for a gas blower? Besides being more reliable (at the cost of range), are electric ones more powerful?

  11. 11
    mike says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 10 – You must really dislike your neighbors if you’re considering getting a gas blower.

  12. 12
    Chuck C says:

    Astro K,

    I’m looking at a new gas blower too. The Stihl BR600M has gotten good reviews. Also the Echo PB770 is their new top of the line and has also gotten good reviews. Depending on how much property you plan to clear, you may not need something as large/powerful as the above listed (but see my comment below). Other quality brands to consider would be Husqvarna and Shindaiwa. There are, of course, YouTube videos comparing all of the above. Since the only dealers/servicers in my town are for Stihl, I’m leaning that way. Makita has a 4-stroke model on the market now, but I haven’t really investigated it.

    I’m shopping for a new blower because when I bought the one I currently have (a smaller Echo backpack) I broke my own cardinal rule of power tool purchasing – always buy the most powerful tool available! I got the “smaller” one at the time so that my wife would feel comfortable using it when I’m out of town. That never happened of course, and the leaves just pile up while I’m gone. And then get rained on. And driven over. Which makes them exceedingly difficult to blow around. My little Echo backpack just isn’t really up to the task of moving piles of wet maple leaves the size of dinner plates. I need more power! (cue Tim Taylor’s growl). I essentially live in the woods, so I have LOTS of leaves to move. In the leaf blower world, it’s all about air velocity and CFM!

  13. 13
    ChrisM says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 10 – Stihl. Another possibility is simply renting a blower for the short time you need it.

  14. 14
    Erik says:

    Rake them. Tim owns a lot and half or 2 lots. Doesn’t seem like a large task to to pull the 10 dollar rake out and rake the leaves. You could have raked your yard 10 times over by the time you researched a blower, figured out how to use the blower and wrote a blog on it. Sorry to be a Debbie downer, but if you want to be frugal and take the easiest route, use a rake.

  15. 15
    Matt B says:

    I bought a Toro blower like Tim’s in 1993, and 20 years later it still runs like a champ. I’m not as conscientious though – I don’t bring it out until all the leaves are down. Some call it neglect, I call it maximizing my free time :-)

  16. 16
    Peter Witting says:

    RE: AxlRose @ 5 – Those 4-6″ pine needles are tough! I wait until there is a big blow – usually end of November – which really cleans out the big pine in my front yard. Once there is a thick mat of needles, i can rake/pull them back almost like a blanket. Same thing with the gutters. For some reason, they are easier to handle as a mat or layer, rather than just a few at a time.

  17. 17
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Astro Kermit @ 10 – Get the biggest gas-powered blower that you can afford. Skip the lower-end models (homelite, etc) as the vibration will be much worse than on the higher-end models (Stihl, Echo). I started out with a free Homelite, and then was given a non-running Echo (needed a carb kit), and there is no comparison between the two. Consider the following:

    1) Most of the noise from the blower is not from the engine or motor, but from the fan. My neighbors have gone through a few electric blowers, and they are equally annoying to gas-powered ones IMO.

    2) With a more powerful blower, you can get the job done quicker, thus minimizing the TIME that yourself and others are exposed to the annoying noise. And you need all the power you can get if you are blowing wet leaves stuck onto the sidewalk or driveway. The higher-end gas blowers also are variable-speed, so you can dial back the power when you want to gently blow leaves off of beauty bark or other landscaping materials.

    3) Dealing with a 100′ long extension cord is not fun and can really slow the job down.

    I blow the leaves out of the street INTO my yard where I rake them up and/or mulch them with the mower. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who simply blow the leaves into their neighbors’ yards or into the street.

    If you do get a gas-powered blower, at a minimum use a fuel stabilizer such as Stabil. If you can, use alcohol-free gasoline (see http://www.pure-gas.org for where to find it) as this will not go bad quickly like regular pump gas does (the alcohol draws in moisture which ruins the carb, and the alcohol dries up the rubber fuel lines and seals as well). My “mix” (2-cycle) gas, using the above tips, will stay fresh for over a year without any issues. When the gas goes bad it doesn’t have the same volatility to ignite and you’ll end up with frustrating no-starts.

  18. 18
    phile says:

    I bought a toro ultra blower,used it twice and the third time I went to use it,nothing dead as a door nail

  19. 19
    Anna Cao says:

    RE: phile @ 18 – Are you sure you’re using a 12 amp supply? What kind of extension cord are you using?

  20. 20
    Jeff says:

    That is certainly not mulched well. Some of those leaf pieces were huge.

  21. 21
    Eric says:

    I also like this one! I got one like this but it already broke. I was looking to replace it with the same model but it got higher, it’s now priced just a bit lower than $90. I’d probably wait if this will go lower. Great review, by the way!

  22. 22
    Annie says:

    What about pine straw on the roof? Pine trees are tall and my house is two story with two gables that catch pine straw. I need a long extension to fit on my blower so it can blow up high enough and yet blowing down!

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