Larger storms are spawning bigger, brawnier snow blowers. But you needn't buy the largest, widest model to get competent clearing. You'll find smaller, easier-handling machines for smaller driveways and midsized models that can handle the occasional heavy storm. Large or hilly driveways and consistently deep snow, however, demand a larger snow blower with power-driven wheels. Use this snow-blower guide to find the right model for your needs.
Don't fall for sales pitches
Some manufacturers and retailers push big-name engines at the expense of other brands. But we've found that performance has more to do with the design of the snow blower itself than the engine that powers it.
Don't go by size alone
Manufacturers and retailers also push bigger engines—typically expressed in cubic centimeters of piston displacement, or cc—and wider clearing swaths. But as our Ratings show, size isn't everything when it comes to snow blowers. Some smaller machines, while usually not as fast, can out-clear and out-throw the big boys for less money.
How to stay safe
Snow blowers cause thousands of finger injuries each year, including amputations, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don't ever clear a clogged discharge chute or auger housing with your hand. Most machines now come with a plastic clearing tool, but a broom handle will do.
Besides snow, a snow blower—particularly a small, single-stage model—can pick up and throw ice, gravel, and other objects. Keep people and pets away when you're working. Wear hearing protection with gas-powered machines. Wait until a gas model's engine is cool before refueling. For electric models, use an outdoor extension cord with a ground-fault-circuit-interrupting feature, and keep the cord away from the spinning auger.
Heavy exertion and cold temperatures can also be a dangerous combination. Take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Seniors and people with hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes should consult a doctor before using a snow blower. If your driveway is especially long and two or more cars wide, consider having it plowed.