Snow blowers

Snow Blower Buying Guide
Snow Blower Buying Guide
Snow Blowers 101

Staying a step ahead of Old Man Winter takes preparation. Depending on your average snowfall and the type of terrain you need to clear, you might need to add a snow blower to your cold-weather arsenal.

You can spend as little as $200 for one that will handle light dustings, and well over $1,000 for a model that takes care of heavier snowfalls. Wherever you live, our Snow Blower Buying Guide will help you find just the model you need to blow away Mr. Freeze.


Choose the Right Snow Blower

You don’t need a behemoth model to get efficient snow clearing. You'll find compact, easier-handling machines work well on smaller driveways, while mid-sized models can dispatch drifts left by the occasional heavy storm. Large or hilly driveways and deep snow, however, demand a larger snow blower with power-driven wheels.

While some manufacturers and retailers push big-name brands, we found that performance has more to do with design than the engine that powers it. Bigger engines (typically expressed in cubic centimeters of piston displacement, or cc) and wider clearing swaths are great, but our snow blower ratings show size isn't everything. Some smaller machines can out-clear and out-throw the big boys for less money. Here’s what you need to know.


Types of Snow Blowers


A green, single-stage electric snow blower.

Single-Stage Electric

Single-stage electric snow blowers are best for short, level driveways, decks, and walkways with snow levels less than four inches. About the size of a small walk-behind lawnmower, single-stage electrics are the lightest, quietest, and easiest models to use.

The technology is basic: A plastic auger pulls in the snow and throws it out the chute in one step. But the auger can also pick up and throw gravel, so keep people and pets a safe distance away.

An electric motor frees you from fueling and engine maintenance, but a power cord can limit range and maneuverability. Working in swaths under 20 inches can mean clearing requires multiple passes. And their modest power is no match for steep slopes.

The two battery-powered models we tested were similarly weak.

A red, single-stage gas snow blower.

Single-Stage Gas

Single-stage gas snow blowers are a good choice for level, mid-sized, paved driveways and walkways with typical or expected snow levels of less than eight inches.

These models free you from the limitations of a cord. They're fairly light and easy to handle and take up about as much storage space as a mower. They also clear a larger swath (20 to 22 inches) and offer electric starting.

Their gas engines are also four-cycle, requiring only straight gasoline. But like electrics, they're a poor choice for gravel driveways. Their auger provides only modest pulling power, and they tend to veer sideways on steep slopes. They also require regular maintenance. Safer Snow Blowing Tips
Snow Blower Maintenance

A bright yellow, two-stage gas snow blower.

Two-Stage Gas

The biggest, baddest of the bunch, two-stage gas models are best for long, wide driveways with snow levels above eight inches. Some models clear a swath up to 30 inches wide, and their driven wheels can handle steeper inclines.

Like smaller models, two-stage gas snow blowers use an auger to pick up and throw snow, but they add a fan-like impeller behind the auger to help throw snow out the chute and are propelled by engine-driven wheels. A few newer models add a second impeller, in front of the auger, for breaking up packed snow.

Two-stage snow blowers are best for clearing snow on gravel, since the auger doesn't touch the ground. But these are relatively heavy and expensive compared to smaller models, and they can take up as much storage space as a lawn tractor. 


Interactive Video Buying Guide

In the interactive video below you can skip to chapters on machine basics, job size, troubleshooting, and other must-know topics.


Snow-Blower Gotta-Haves

Even a well-maintained snow blower can have problems. Keep these extra items handy to ensure your machine is operational when you need it most:
• Belts. You’ll need one drive belt for single-stage machines and two for two-stage models.
• Shear pins.
On two-stage models, they protect the engine and transmission by breaking if the auger hits something too hard. Keep extras on hand.
• Fuel stabilizer. If you’re running your snow blower every week, you won’t need it until you stow the unit in the spring. But when the machine sits idle, gasoline in the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor breaks down and thickens. Adding stabilizer to your fuel can slow down this process.


Features to Consider

A good snow blower blends competent clearing ability with smooth, single-lever chute control that sends snow any direction you want it to go. Retailers typically have floor samples you can check out. Be sure you're comfortable with the height of the handle and with the chute adjustment controls, which you'll be using frequently. Here are other important features to keep in mind.

Ariens snow blowers are available at outdoor power equipment dealers and Home Depot. It's a leading marketer whose model line consists of single- and two-stage gas models with available electric start and snow clearing widths of 21 to 30 inches.
Craftsman is made for and sold by Sears, and can be purchased online and in Sears and Kmart retail stores. Also a leader in snow-blower sales, Craftsman markets single- and two-stage gas models with snow clearing widths of 20 to 30-plus inches and available electric start. The Craftsman Professional line features models with snow clearing widths up to 45 inches.
Another market leader in snow-blower sales, Toro sells a variety of electric models in addition to single- and two-stage gas models at outdoor power equipment dealers and Home Depot. It markets the electric models under the Power Curve and Power Shovel line names and the gas models under Power Shift, Power Max, Power Clear, and Snow Master. Electric models have snow-clearing widths of 12 to 18 inches, gas models 16 to 28 inches, and available electric start.
Troy-Bilt is the MTD-made brand sold in Lowes. Gas-powered snow blowers feature single- and two-stage four-cycle engines, a mix of electric and recoil starters, and snow-clearing widths of 21 to 45 inches.
Yard Machines snow blowers are made by MTD and sold at Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, and hardware stores. Its gas-powered snow blowers feature single- and two-stage four-cycle engines, a mix of electric and recoil starters, and snow-clearing widths of 21 to 30 inches. Yard Machines markets a low-cost electric model with a snow clearing width of 15 inches.
Additional snow blower brands to look at include: Cub Cadet, MTD, Briggs & Stratton, Murray, Honda, John Deere, and Steiner.
Summer Snow Blower Testing