With snow blowers in heavy rotation already 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, in its tough snow-blower tests Consumer Reports has found a lot of differences in their performance. Here are some of the best and worst snow blowers from our tests.

Three-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
For the biggest storms that leave more than 18 inches of snow behind, two three-stage snow blowers, the Cub Cadet 3X 30" PRO H, $2,400, and Cadet 3X 30” HD, $1,650, were nearly identical in our tests. 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.
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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.


Need a new snow blower? For more choices see our full snow-blower ratings and recommendations of almost 80 models in all types, sizes and prices.
 

Two-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Two-stage machines are ideal for removing wet, heavy snow up to 18 inches deep. At 30 inches wide, both the Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm 30, $1,500, and the Craftsman 88976, $1,600, were tops of those we tested. They both have 357 cubic centimeter engines for impressive snow removal speed, throwing distance, and plow-pile clearing. Plus the Troy-Bilt has such premium features as one-hand steering and heated handgrips, and its three-year warranty is one year longer than Craftsman’s.
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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 did a good job with the plow pile.
 
Compact-Two Stage Gas Snow Blowers
Typically 6 to 8 inches narrower than traditional two-stage snow blowers, compact two-stage machines work the same but are easier to store and ideal for clearing up to 12 inches of snow. The Cub Cadet 2X 24” HP, $950, scored far better than more expensive models in the category including the Honda HSS724AW, $2,200. The 24-inch-wide Cub Cadet is easy to maneuver, cleans down to the surface, did well with snow removal speed, and conquered the plow pile—though if speed is your top priority, the Craftsman 88173, $680, was faster—and costs much less.
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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.
 
Best Single-Stage Snow Blowers
Clean up after light to medium storms of up to 9 inches of snow with these machines, which pull snow in using just the auger. The Toro Power Clear 721 QZR 38743, $680, had the fastest removal speed of the single-stage machines in our tests, with very good plow-pile removal, but throwing distance was only so-so.
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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 Snow Blowers
The newest breed of snow blower is a single stage design that runs on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Cordless blowers are best at tackling a scant 6 inches of snow. The EGO SNT2102, $600, is twice as expensive as the best performing plug-in electric model we tested, the Toro Power Curve 1800 38381, $300, but it performed better on every task from speed to plow pile removal.
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The Snow Joe iON18SB, $400, has a similar design to the EGO but less powerful 40-volt batteries, compared to the EGO’s 56-volt. That lack of power was evident in our tests when the Snow Joe scored poor marks for speed, plow-pile removal, and throwing distance.