If you went shopping for a Toro snow blower last winter, yours was a single-stage model or a significantly larger and more expensive two-stage model with a 28-inch or larger auger. To find a more compact two-stage machine, which adds an impeller to the usual auger, you had to look to other manufacturers. But at the recent Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+Expo), a trade show for outdoor power equipment and related gear, Toro showed us three new models that fill the gap.
Among the many new Toro products on display at GIE+Expo, the company showed three gasoline-powered models in the Power Max series. (The former, higher-end Power Max series has been renamed the Power Max HD.) To keep the price of even the highest-end model at $1,000 or below, the three have one-piece frames that cost less to manufacture but, the company said, offer more strength and better support the auger housing. In place of shear pins, which break to protect the transmission in case the machine is overtaxed, Toro uses stiffer pins that still protect the transmission yet take more punishment before snapping.
The new models use four-stroke Briggs & Stratton engines, have electric start and 11-inch impellers, and come with three-year warranties. Common to all three is an anti-clog feature that not only reduces chances of clogging but also makes it much harder for a user's hand to come in contact with the impeller. (Users are nevertheless strongly advised, as with any snow blower, to shut the snow blower off and only use a clearing tool or another tool, such as a broomstick, to free clogs.)
The Power Max 724 OE, $799, has a 24-inch clearing path. The Power Max 726 OE, $899, and 826 OE (see photo), $999, are 26-inch; both have joystick-controlled chutes. For all three models, Toro offers a lifetime warranty on the chute, deflector, and anti-clog system, claiming they're durable to -104 degrees F.
These and other snow blowers have already made it into stores. You can find the Power Max 726 OE at Home Depot; the others are sold through dealers and HomeDepot.com. But before you start shopping, don't miss our buying advice and our latest Ratings of single- and two-stage models.