Best garden vacuum 2022: The easy way to clear your garden of leaves and clippings

Stuart Andrews Ian Evenden
20 Jul 2022

Tired of raking up leaves and brushing off your garden debris? Our pick of the best garden vacuums will help you clear up in a jiffy.

We’ve all been there: you’ve swept or blown the garden clean only to face the arduous task of dealing with an enormous pile of leaves. Garden vacuums are the best solution, sucking up debris, mulching it and compressing it, ready to be disposed of with your garden waste or left to decompose in a compost bin.

This makes the best garden vacuums a surprisingly effective addition to your garden arsenal, especially when you need to clear the lawn in autumn or sweep up after your hedge has been clipped.

A good garden vacuum will take the hassle out of the most tedious of gardening tasks. Better still, many will double as a leaf blower, meaning you can reduce the entire lawn-cleaning process to a single efficient machine.

Below, you’ll find our favourite garden vacuums for all budgets and lawn sizes. We’ve also put together a buying guide, to help guide you through the buying process by answering a few burning questions.

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Best garden vacuums: At a glance

  • Best petrol-powered choice: McCulloch GBV 322VX | Buy now
  • Best-value option: Flymo PowerVac 3000 | Buy now
  • Best all-round corded option: Bosch UniversalGardenTidy | Buy now
  • Best cordless option: Black & Decker 36V Lithium-Ion Blower | Buy now
  • Best for a large garden: Billy Goat KV601 | Buy now

How to choose the best garden vacuum for you

The garden vacuum isn’t a sophisticated tool; it’s really just a tube attached to a big impeller, with a bag slung underneath. The impeller sucks in the leaves and debris, breaks it down into mulch and deposits it in the bag. As there’s not much tech involved, the prices can be very reasonable.

Do I want a garden vacuum or a leaf blower?

Why not have both? Because a garden vacuum works a lot like a leaf blower running in reverse, most models are either dual-purpose or convertible, allowing to blow leaves or suck them up with a flick of a switch or a quick refit or removal of the tubes and bag. You can make life a council worker (high-vis vest optional) and round up your leaves into a pile, then suck the pile up for easy disposal. Pure garden blowers tend to be a little smaller and lighter, but we’d say the dual-use models are worth the extra size and weight.

What features should I look for?

Garden vacuums are simple devices, so there’s not an awful lot to look out for. The big one is how they’re powered. Mains powered machines are reliable and powerful but come with the downside that you’re tied to a wall socket. That means dragging an extension cord around if you’ve got a good-sized lawn to deal with.

Cordless models don’t have that drawback, but they’re also not so beefy: you might struggle to shift wet leaves, especially if they’ve had time to soak on the lawn or driveway. What’s more, you’ll usually get around 15 minutes to half an hour of work out of them, which might not be enough.

Petrol models give you the best of both worlds, but you’ll need to keep the (flammable) fuel in a shed or garage and head to the petrol station for a top-up. You’ll also need to mix it with oil, as you’re more than likely dealing with a two-stroke engine, and any failure to do could cause damage before too long.

Capacity and conversion

The other key things to think about are the type and capacity of the bag and how easy it is to convert the machine from its blower to vacuum modes. Most garden vacuums use a simple bag to store any leaves and debris, with a zip to open it up before releasing the load into the bin. With some budget models, the bag tends to be cheap-feeling and badly designed, allowing the mulched leaves – especially if wet – to stick in place in the fabrics or around the zip or seams. It’s a small thing, but one that leaves you swearing when it’s time to empty out.

As for switching modes, some models simply have a switch that flips between blower and vacuum, but in other cases you’ll need to remove and reattach tubes, bags and handles when you want to change. This tends to make the device more effective in each job, though, so you need to weigh the hassle against the results.

One final thing to watch out for is the weight and ergonomics. These can be big, heavy machines that you’ll need to hold in place just above ground level, so comfortable handles, carrying straps and a low and well-distributed weight are all worth paying for. Some budget models get around this by attaching wheels at the bottom of the tube but try rolling these around on a lawn or driveway and you’ll find it doesn’t quite work out.

Using a garden vacuum

Masses of wet leaves are hard to shift, clog the nozzle and give your vacuum a lot to chew through, so it’s sometimes worth leaving it a few days if you’ve had a lot of rain. Use the blower function to blow your leaves and debris into piles, and – if you have a gravel path or driveway –blow them away from the gravel before you try to suck them up. While you can suck lighter leaves off gravel with the vacuum at its lowest setting, you don’t want to hear the noise one of these things makes when it sucks up any loose stones (or think about the damage they might do to the impeller).

Most of all, don’t feel you need to suck up every last leaf. It’s a garden, not your living room. You can also guarantee that, just when you think you’ve finished, the wind will blow in something else to deal with.

What else might I need?

Manufacturers recommend ear and eye protection as the powerful motors can be noisy and may kick up a lot of debris. You’ll want sturdy gardening gloves and shoes too. If you’re using a mains-powered model, an extension reel will be a necessity, as even the longest of supplied cables isn’t going to be enough to let you roam freely.

For a petrol model, you’ll need an approved container to collect the fuel from a filling station, and two-stroke oil (a small bottle is often supplied by the manufacturer to get you going) to convert standard unleaded into something the machine can use. Not doing this will eventually cause a lubrication failure, where the increased wear on the parts of the engine exposed to the fuel mixture will eventually make it seize up.

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The best garden vacuums you can buy

1. MacAllister MBV2800: The best low-cost garden vacuum

Price: £40 | Buy now from Screwfix

It’s a struggle to find a good garden vacuum for under £50, but the MBV2800 offers fantastic value for money. It requires four screws and a bit of self-assembly to hold the two-part tube in place, but with that done the unit feels solid – you’ll be grateful for the wheels and shoulder harness taking some of the near-6kg weight.

This is one spectacularly powerful vacuum/blower, blasting leaves off driveways or the undergrowth with ease in blower mode. Then, with the switch set the other way, it will suck them in and crunch them with an impressive mulching action. With no need to move tubes or attach the bag, all it takes is a flip of the chunky switch on the side. And if you find the things too intense or noisy – and you will do – you can adjust the ferocity using the dial in the handle. We found the zipped bag a little tricky to empty; but if you don’t want to spend too much money to simply rid some leaves, this is the garden vac to buy.

Key specs – Type: Electric garden vac, blower and mulcher, 2,800W; Bag capacity: 40l; Mulching: Yes; Dimensions: 119 x 18 x 65cm; Weight: 5.9kg

Buy now from Screwfix

2. McCulloch GBV 322VX: The best petrol-powered garden vacuum

Price: £170 | Buy now from Amazon

Thanks to a 25cc two-stroke engine, this blower/vacuum/mulcher can blow at speeds of up to 320km/hour, giving you the power you need to blow wet leaves off your soggy lawn or drag them from your driveway. It’s noisy at full tilt, dishing out around 108dB – not much lower than the average rock concert – but you can reduce it using the variable speed control, with a cruise control function to lock the current speed. The efficient new VX nozzle means that, while blowing, you can often get away with less.

The best things about the 322VX are that it’s relatively light, easy to start and ready to be taken all around the largest garden, with no worries about the cord or the battery running out, though filling and maintenance is a hassle. The worst thing about it is that switching it from blower to vacuum mode (or back again) involves detaching and switching all the tubes. At least the machine disassembles for easy storage, while the vacuum also mulches, compressing the waste in the bag by a ratio of 16:1. Left-handers should watch that the hot engine doesn’t touch them during use, but if you’re looking for a heavy-duty blower and vacuum, this is the one to buy.

Key specs - Type: Petrol Garden Vac, 25cc; Bag capacity: 45l; Mulching: Yes; Dimensions: 96.5 x 37 x 30cm; Weight: 4.4kg

3. Flymo PowerVac 3000: The best value blower and vacuum

Price: £79 | Buy now from Amazon

The Flymo PowerVac 3000 easily has enough power to sort out all but the largest gardens. The 3000W motor can push out air at speeds of 310km/hr, and had no problems blasting damp leaves on the driveway or hoovering them up from a set of concrete steps. It also shreds your debris down to tiny fragments, with a compression ratio of 16:1. Combine that with a 45L bag and you can clear a large area without stopping for an empty.

The Flymo is a little heavy at, but it’s well-balanced and feels extremely solid. It’s a bit noisier than the Worx WG505E, with a noise level of 83dB, but it’s nothing some ear protectors won’t block out. In fact, the only thing that really counts against it is that it’s more of a convertible than a true vacuum/blower; you have to detach the blower tube and a fan guard then fit the bag and vacuum tube every time you want to switch.

Key specs – Type: Electric garden vac, blower and mulcher, 3,000W; Bag capacity: 45L; Mulching: Yes; Dimensions: 87 x 20 x 30cm; Weight:

4. Bosch UniversalGardenTidy: The best all-round corded garden vacuum

Price: £88 | Buy now from Amazon

This corded model doubles up as a vacuum and a leaf-blower, converting between the two when you attach a slimline nozzle for leaf-blowing duties or a larger pipe and bag for vacuuming. The downside of this is that the conversion process takes a few minutes and involves attaching a handle and removing and replacing a release screw, but the hassle’s worth it. Rather than a blower that makes a poor vacuum or a vacuum that’s a huge and heavy blower, you get something that works well in either format, doing an impressive job of shifting leaves or sucking up a range of garden debris.

The good news doesn’t end there, either. In leaf blower mode it’s both very light and surprisingly quiet, with noise levels of around 99dBA thanks to Bosch’s ProSilence technology. As a vacuum, it mulches leaves and twigs to pack more into the 45 litre bag, while repelling dirt and moisture to keep the collected debris reasonably dry. It also feels fantastically well-built, to the extent that we struggled to get the vacuum tube apart when we packed it away. It hasn’t got the convenience of the cordless models or the power of the Flymo PowerVac, but the UniversalGardenTidy makes getting rid of leaves feel easy.

Key specs – Type: Electric garden vac, blower and mulcher, 1,800W; Bag capacity: 45l; Mulching: Yes; Dimensions: 115 x 23 x 67cm; Weight: 3.4-4.7kg

5. Kärcher BLV 18-200: The best garden vacuum for easy clearing

Price: £185 | Buy now from Amazon

Kärcher’s garden vacuum bends over backwards to make your garden clean-up easy. For a start, it’s cordless, meaning you can get around a large or awkward plot without having to worry about the trailing cable, and the basic 2.5Ah battery will give you around 15 minutes of vacuuming or blowing. It’s also well-designed and pretty easy on the arms and back, weighing in at just 3.5Kg with little wheels to support the lengthy tube while you’re working. There’s no need to attach or detach tubes to switch between blower and vacuum – all it takes is a flick of a switch – and the 45L bag and built-in mulching mean you’ll probably run out of charge before you need to empty the machine.

It can’t match the corded vacuums for power, so you might struggle with piles of large wet leaves. However, press a button and it’ll jump into a boost mode, which is great for clearing soggy clumps of rubbish or powering through when the pipe gets clogged. It’s an expensive machine and you have to pay extra for the battery and charger, which will set you back a further £110. However, it shares the same battery and charger system as Kärcher’s other cordless garden tools.

Key specs – Type: Cordless Garden Vac, 18V; Bag capacity: 45l; Mulching: Yes; Dimensions: 124 x 38 x 17cm; Weight: 3.5kg

6. Billy Goat KV601: The best garden vacuum for a large, gruff garden

Price: £1,215 | Buy now from Lawnmowers Direct

Replacing the much-loved KV600, this light commercial vacuum is the one to go for if you have a massive lawn and a lot of trees. It can suck up over 150 litres of leaves before it’s full, and if it finds a glass bottle or aluminium can along the way, it’s not going to come to any harm. A pure vacuum, the Billy Goat doesn’t convert to a blower and doesn’t even mulch. An optional hose kit extends its reach into flower beds and other areas a large, wheeled device weighing 53kg can’t reach. And, while it’s not self-propelled, the 190cc Briggs and Stratton four-stroke petrol engine gives it enormous power.

This is a noisy machine, so you’ll need ear protection, especially if you’re using it for long periods. Meanwhile, the hard-bottomed collection bag uses nautical fasteners rather than a zip, making it easier to get open when you want to empty it, but less prone to bursting open when you don’t. If you’ve got a good-sized garden full of leaves and debris, this goat will munch its way through the lot.

Key specs – Type: Petrol Garden Vac, 6hp; Bag capacity: 151l; Mulching: No; Dimensions: 68 x 110 x 158cm; Weight: 53kg

Buy now from Lawnmowers Direct

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