Three-Stage Snow Blowers Are Quicker at Clearing. Here Are the Best From CR's Tests.

If you need to move piles of snow in a hurry, a three-stage snow blower is for you

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Person using a three-stage snow blower to clear snow Photo: Damian Eduardos/DPI

Raise a frostbitten hand if you like clearing snow. We thought not. Fortunately, three-stage snow blowers, sometimes called snow throwers, tackle that woeful winter chore up to 30 percent faster than two-stage models, in part because they can clear deeper snow with a single pass. 

“Upgrading from a two-stage to a three-stage snow blower adds an accelerator, boosting the power with which snow can be discharged from the chute,” says Misha Kollontai, CR’s test engineer in charge of snow blower testing. Kollontai is referring to a third auger, perpendicular to the collection augers, which corkscrews into drifts and zips snow, ice, and slush into a discharge impeller to be jettisoned out of your path. Two-stage blowers have the collection augers and impeller but don’t have the accelerator, and single-stage models rely solely on a quick-turning auger.

Here’s a look at how CR evaluates snow blowers and other snow-moving equipment as well as the top-rated three-stage snow blowers.

How CR Tests Snow Blowers

It’s fascinating 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,” says Dave Trezza, who performs much of our hands-on snow blower testing. “That’s the reason we use a mixture of a certain type of 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 mound that simulates a plow pile, like the ones the town plows leave at the foot of your driveway.

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

The Overall Score for each model combines results from these performance tests as well as results of our survey of thousands of CR members, which informs our brand reliability and owner satisfaction ratings.

We test single-, two-, and three-stage snow blowers from brands including Ariens, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Honda, Husqvarna, Toro, and Troy-Bilt. We also look at lighter-duty, single-stage, and two-stage electric blowers from brands such as Ego and Snow Joe, as well as power snow shovels from brands like Greenworks and Toro. Two-stage and three-stage snow blowers are the most powerful and can clear 16 to 18 inches of snow in one pass. They range in width from 24 to 30 inches, and models at the narrow end of that spectrum are considered “compact.” Single-stage models are typically 21 inches wide and can clear snow up to 9 inches deep in a single pass.

Smaller and lighter, power snow shovels are designed to go places where a snow blower would be overkill (think: along a very short walkway or on an elevated deck). They’re corded or battery-powered and can generally clear up to 6 inches of snow. We test them just like snow blowers, but we use far less of the sawdust mixture—because for anything deeper, you’ll want a traditional snow blower.

CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of the top-performing three-stage snow blowers. And if you are shopping for a snow blower, check out our snow blower buying guide.

Paul Hope

As a classically trained chef and an enthusiastic DIYer, I've always valued having the best tool for a job—whether the task at hand is dicing onions for mirepoix or hanging drywall. When I'm not writing about home products, I can be found putting them to the test, often with help from my two young children, in the 1860s townhouse I'm restoring in my free time.