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One of the best and worst snow blowers.

Best and Worst Snow Blowers

The basics might be the same, but it's the performance that varies

With snow blowers already in rotation this month, you might be considering buying one—especially if you watched your neighbor quickly dispatch the snow as you labored in your driveway with a shovel. But don’t run out and buy one without first doing your homework.

Although all snow blowers basically work the same, by scooping up snow and shooting it out a chute, Consumer Reports has found a lot of differences in how they perform. Here are some of the best and worst snow blowers from our tests.

How We Test Snow Blowers

It's nice that no two snowflakes are alike, but that presents a problem for Consumer Reports' testing protocol. "We need to run our tests with something we can standardize, for consistency," explains John Galeotafiore, who oversees snow blower testing at Consumer Reports. “That's the reason we use a mixture of special sawdust, saturated with water, instead of snow."

More on Snow Blowers

The mixture we use can simulate a standard snowfall, or be molded into a plow pile. You know—the ones the town plows leave at the foot of your driveway.

In each test, we time how fast each model cuts through the dense mixture, and note how far the sawdust is thrown and how clean the surface is. 

We test single-, two-, and three-stage blowers from brands including Ariens, Troy-Bilt, Honda, Cub Cadet, Craftsman, Husqvarna, and Toro. We also look at lighter duty, single-stage electric blowers from brands like Sun Joe and Ego.

Snow Blowers to Skip

These models can move snow but you can do a bit better without spending much more.

Three-stage: The 24-inch-wide Craftsman 88870, $1,200, lagged in snow removal speed and throwing distance, although it aced removing the snow pile at the end of the driveway and was easy to handle.

Two-stage: The 26-inch-wide Power Smart DB7651-26, $685, was only so-so in critical areas like removal speed, throwing distance, handling, and controls—though it also did a good job with the plow pile.

Compact two-stage: The Ariens Compact 24 Track 920022, $1,580, has impressive-looking tank tracks, but it’s harder to turn, slow at removing snow, and didn’t do a great job clearing the plow pile. Also pass on the budget pick Yard Machines 31A-32AD, $500. Its one speed is slower than desired and the controls are not intuitive.

Single-stage gas: The Power Smart DB7001-21, $350, and the Poulan Pro PR621ES, $450, were the slowest at removing snow in our tests and struggled to remove the plow pile.

Single-stage cordless electric: The Snow Joe iON18SB, $400, is designed like other cordless blowers but a lack of power was evident in our tests. The Snow Joe scored poor marks for speed, plow-pile removal, and throwing distance.

The Best Snow Blowers in CR's Tests

Now that you know which snow blowers might disappoint, read on for the most impressive machines from our tests, ranging from cordless electric snow blowers to beefy three-stage gas models.

Three-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Cub Cadet 3X 30-inch HD PRO HYDRO
Price: $1,600
Overall score: 92
Ranking: 1 of 7 three-stage gas snow blowers
CR's take: For the biggest storms that leave more than 18 inches of snow behind, two three-stage snow blowers—this Cub Cadet, along with the nearly identical Cadet 3X 30-inch HD, $1,650—were tough to beat. Three-stage machines use three phases of snow processing—auger, accelerator, and impeller—to remove snow quickly. And despite being 30 inches wide, both machines are easy to maneuver because of their hydrostatic transmission, which feels carlike during turns and speed changes.

Two-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Ariens Professional 28 (ST28DLET Hydro Pro)
Price: $3,100
Overall score: 92
Ranking: 1 of 33 two-stage gas snow blowers
CR's take: The Ariens is a beast of a two-stage blower. Its mammoth engine, the largest we've seen on any two-stage snow blower, explains the steep price, and probably its top-tier performance too. It clears a giant plow pile effortlessly, and leaves a smooth surface in its wake. 

Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm 30
Price: $1,500
Overall score: 91
Ranking: 2 of 33 two-stage gas snow blowers
CR's take: The more modestly priced Troy-Bilt clears snow nearly as well as the top-rated Ariens, and does it for half the price. It's got a 357-cubic-centimeter engine, plenty of power to help it work through a plow pile and send snow flying, and it comes with heated handgrips and one-handed operation. 

Compact Two-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Husqvarna ST 224P
Price: $900
Overall score: 82
Ranking: 1 of 18 compact two-stage gas snow blowers
CR's take: This lean little Husqvarna is one of the most refined, feature-packed compact snow blowers we've seen. It's got a built-in headlight, heated hand grips, and one-handed operation. Plus it sends snow flying and leaves a clear path, blowing a 24-inch-wide swath with each pass. Like most compact blowers, it's not as fast to clear as the biggest models, but if you take it slow, you won't need to go back over your driveway a second time. 

Single-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Toro 721 QZE
Price: $700
Overall Score: 73
Ranking: 1 of 26 single-stage gas snow blowers
CR's take: It's rare that we see a single-stage snow blower that scores as well as most two-stage models. This Toro does. It's got the power to bore through a large plow pile and leaves a clean surface as it works. It can't throw snow as far, or as quickly, as bigger machines, but at $700 it's probably all the snow blower most folks need. 

Cordless Electric Snow Blowers
Ego SNT2102
Price: $600
Overall score: 57
Ranking:  1 of 3 cordless electric snow blowers
CR's take: Ego's top-rated electric snow blower is powered by two gigantic 7.5-amp-hour batteries, which work in the brand's top-rated push and self-propelled lawn mowers, chain saw, string trimmer, and handheld and backpack leaf blowers. As with those tools, Ego leads the pack, and this electric blower is perfect for a dusting of up to 6 inches. 

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