When you’re five-years-old, snow is the best thing that can happen. When you’re 35-years-old and need to dig your car out to get to work at 7.00am, it’s the worst thing that can happen.
If you’re still hauling snow and breaking your back with a shovel, we don’t need to tell you that there’s an easier way to do it. Get. A. Blower. You’ll be able to clear a large areas and deeper snow so much faster, without almost killing yourself in the process. If you live in a place where sub zero temperatures and snow drifts bigger than a horse on its hind legs are commonplace, please, save yourselves and get a blower.
Most blowers have push-button stars, therefore minimising physical effort before you even begin. Who wants to be yanking at a start motor at dusk? Nobody. Likewise a four-way chute control lets you can change both the direction and distance of the thrown snow without having to stop the machine, so that makes things speed up a lot, too.
A snow blower is a big investment (both literally and financially), so it’s imperative that you pick the right one for the job – and that depends on the frequency and depth of snowfall, the landscape you need to clear and, of course, your budget.
Snow blowers start at about $120 for a basic single-stage electric versions and hit the $500-mark for two-stage gas models. Obviously any extra features like LED headlights or reverse gears will make things more expensive. If you need a more powerful option, three-stage snow blowers start at about $1,000.
Snow blowers have traditionally fallen into two categories: single-stage models for places with minimal snowfall - up to about 6 inches at a time - and two-stage models for heavier snow areas. Two-stage blowers are essential if you have heavy snow. They have a front auger – stage one – that propels the snow into the machine and an impeller – stage two – that blasts it out. The thing with two-stage blowers is the weight, but the decent models do have power-steering to make them easier to maneuver.
If you get a lot of snow, then you’ll need a two-stage blower with a 24 to 26 inch-wide reach. With a reach this wide you’ll pick up efficiently between six to 12 inches of snow. The larger machines have a width of 28 to 30 inches and that’s what you’ll want to get through snowfall of 15-plus inches, particularly if you don’t just get a lot of snow, but it snows a lot.
Another thing to consider is the power supply. Basically you’ve got gas or electric, with electric models all the more popular these days because they don’t emit any fumes – or cost you in gas. Here’s our round-up of the best snow blowers currently on the market.
1. Honda HSS928AAT: Best overall
This beast is a top-of-the-range, hugely powerful blower that you can rely on to get the job done. Its Track Drive technology requires no assistance as it clears the snow and the electric joystick chute control means you can easily control the discharge of snow with your fingertips. The Automotive-Style DC Electric Key Start means you just turn the key and you’re off.
Honda’s exclusive hydrostatic transmission allows you to match the ground speed with the conditions, so it slides through the biggest snowdrifts like a knife through butter.
Add to this Honda's pliable, low-temperature rubber tracks with sure-gripping cleats that give you incredible traction through pretty much any snow condition. With this machine, you won’t have to worry about slipping and sliding if you’re on sloping ground.
- Read the review: Honda HSS928AAT
2. Troy-Bilt Squall 208XP: Best lightweight model
A lightweight, US-built, powerful snow thrower that’s recommended for clearing light to moderate snowfall of around six inches. Its ergonomic design makes it easy to maneuver - even for someone without a lot of physical strength - and despite its smaller size compared to other models it works through all kinds of snow without any effort.
The Deluxe Ergonomic Handle improves comfort and maneuverability, and its E-Z Chute™ allows you to adjust the direction of snow discharge up to 190 degrees. With dual-LED headlights that provide added visibility in low-light conditions, you can shift snow at dawn or dusk without worrying about poor visibility. When not in use, this model takes up minimal space thanks to its fold-down handle.
- Read the review: Troy-Bilt Squall 208XP
3. Cub Cadet 2X-26": Best two-stage
A powerful and reliable, two-stage snow blower for use on smooth or gravel driveways, this machine will clear a serious amount of snow with little effort. It’s easy to maneuver, helped by its single-hand, four-way chute control that allows you to change the direction and pitch of the snow as you’re clearing. Its long-range, powerful LED dual headlights are its best feature - you can take this blower out at dawn or dusk and not have to worry about poor visibility.
Its ideal for up to a foot of snow, and the huge motor - not to mention the handy trigger-control power - means it handles pretty effortlessly, too. Oh, and it’s made in the USA, so there’s another reason to go for this model.
The Cub Cadet has an impressive six forward and two reverse speeds, so you can clear snow at your own pace. Its push-button electric start means that it’s reliable even in extreme conditions, and the 26-inch clearing width and 21-inch intake will clear your driveway in no time.
- Read the review: Cub Cadet 2X-26"
4. Snapper XD 82-Volt MAX: Best cordless
This cordless snow blower is a godsend if you get tired of the faffing around with extension leads – especially the bit where they inevitably freeze before you’ve even got your gloves on. This model does a pretty quick charge - just 30 minutes - and has a generous run time of 45 minutes (top tip: if you have a huge amount of snow to clear you can buy a second battery that you always keep charged, so you can simply swap them over when the one you’re using runs out of juice).
We like that the motor is positioned at the bottom of the machine on this model, which gives it greater traction and therefore makes it easier to control. Anything that makes a machine easier to control in icy conditions is a winner, right?
The Snapper throws snow up to around 20 feet, and its 12-inch clearing width means it’s ideal for medium-sized driveways, decked areas or patios where you can expect light to moderate snowfall.
- Read the review: Snapper XD 82-Volt MAX
5. Ariens Deluxe 28 921046: Best for maneuverability
Rest assured that if you have hellish winters, this machine will make light work of clearing snow. It’ll plow through all kinds of snow conditions – from crisp, fluffy coverage to the heavy, wet piles you’ll end up break your back shifting if you attempt it with a shovel.
The US-made Ariens is equipped with auto-turn steering, to give maximum control, precise turns and a smooth operation without the bother of needing to use levers or triggers.
The clearance width is 28 inches, with a height of 21 inches. With a clearance like that you can clear your driveway with minimal strokes, thus reducing the time and physical effort a less powerful machine would require.
- Read the review: Ariens Deluxe 28 921046
Gas vs electric snow blowers
Our list of snow blowers includes gas and electric models, and the price is a good indication of which is which. The gas snow blowers start at nearly $600 and go to over $1,000. In contrast, the electric blowers are priced between $100 and $300. Electric snow blowers cost half as much, but you get decidedly less bang for your buck when it comes to design and functionality. With that said, if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snowfall, a less powerful electric snow blower may be exactly what you need to keep your walkways free of snow.
In high snow volume areas, a gas snow blower is practically a necessity. Gas blowers are built out of durable steel and they are generally designed to handle huge amounts of snow, even up to 20 to 25 inches deep. Additionally, snow blowers with a two-stage system have a special auger that breaks up snow and ice before blowing it out of the shoot, which makes them especially effective in high snowfall areas. The power disparity between electric and gas is noticeable with most power yard tools, but it’s especially impactful when it comes to snow blowers.
How long do snow blowers last?
How long your snow blower lasts depends on the brand, how much you use it and how well you take care of it. Proper maintenance and preparation for the off season help with longevity, so read more about how to maintain your machine above.
It’s a good idea to take your snow blower in every year or two for a tuneup – if you use it frequently during the winter, we recommend an annual tuneup. It costs between about $60 and $120 to tune up a single-stage snowblower and between $80 and $200 for a two-stage model. A regular tuneup involves cleaning, changing the oil and installing a new spark plug, among other things. If the machine needs major repairs or special parts, it may cost more. Components like belts need to be replaced every five to seven years or so.
Multiple online sources say that snow blowers made between the 1960s and 1980s were better constructed and built from better materials than those manufactured today. Allegedly, many of these old snow blowers are still going strong. Consumer Reports estimates you can expect a snow blower today to last about 10 years, but with proper maintenance, you can double its lifespan or more.
Three-stage snow blowers
Our lineup of snow blowers consists mainly of two types: electric single-stage and gas two-stage snow blowers. If you live in a moderate snowfall area an inexpensive electric single-stage blower might be all you need. If you live in a heavy snowfall area, a powerful two-stage snow blower is almost essential. Some manufacturers have taken it to the next level and released three-stage snow blowers, which can remove snow with even more power and efficiency.
A three-stage snow blower processes snow in three phases: auger, impeller and an added impeller called an accelerator. The added accelerator is designed to increase its capacity for breaking up snow and ice, making it faster and more efficient at removing snow. It can easily remove 18 inches of snow with a single pass, but it can handle even deeper snow with multiple passes. This will also help you power through plow piles, that build-up of snow and ice at the bottom of your driveway. Even some of the best two-stage snow blowers can get bogged down on this section of your driveway, especially in high snow volume areas.
Cub Cadet was the innovator of the three-stage snow blower, and they still manufacturer some of the best on the market. The Cub Cadet 3X 30” HD snow blower is an example of one of their best models. It has all the convenience features most people look for: electric start, headlight, heated handgrips, multiple speeds and freewheel steering for excellent handling. It can power through the toughest snow conditions with its three-stage technology and will plow through deep snow, including plow piles, as quickly and efficiently as any snow blower out there.
Track drive snow blowers
If you’ve ever seen a snow cat you have some idea what a track drive snow blower is. A snow cat uses tracks in place of wheels to give it constant contact with the ground for maximum control over snow of any depth. A track drive snow blower works on the same principle. Track drive technology is available on either two- or three-stage gas snow blowers and is designed to handle serious snow with maximum traction. You can use track drive blowers on all types of surfaces – steep paved or unpaved surfaces.
One of the disadvantages of track drive snow blowers is that they handle like a tank and are harder to maneuver than a wheeled snow blower. Most of them require you to engage a handle-mounted trigger to turn. Many models also allow you to adjust the speed according to the terrain and depth of the snow. This is a good option for some high snow volume areas, but you should be aware of both its strengths and limitations before buying one.
What's the difference between single and two-stage snow blowers?
Single-stage snow blowers are available in gas and electric models. They are simple snow blowers that have an auger, which is the blade that gathers snow to blow out of the chute. These machines are quite easy to maintain, and they work well for small driveways, sidewalks or decks that have 8-inches of snow or less on them. Electric snow blowers are quieter than gas models and are the easiest to maintain, since gas isn’t involved. However, you have to be careful not to run over the cord.
Are electric snow blowers any good?
For some situations an electric snow blower is a great solution. Gas yard tools are almost always more powerful than their electric counterparts and that is especially true of snow blowers. If you live in a high snow volume area and consistently have snowfalls of 2 feet or more, a gas snow blower is essential. But if you live in the valley or in an area where snowfalls of 2 to 6 inches are common, an electric snow blower is ideal. Some people who live in high snow volume areas have both a gas and electric snow blower on hand to use for storms of varying severity.
Electric snow blowers are easier to maneuver than gas snow blowers, so it’s a tool one of your kids can use to clear snow off a deck or a driveway after a less severe storm. Lighter storms typically won’t produce snow that requires a big two- or three-stage snow blower. While shoveling is a good option sometimes, it can get tedious even in an area that consistently experiences moderate snowfalls. It’s nice to have a reliable electric snow blower you can plug in to quickly clear a patch of snow before work.
Do gas snow blowers need oil?
Like any gas tool, snow blowers require oil. How you go about putting oil in your machine depends on the type of engine it has. Most snow blowers made after 2006 have four-cycle (also called four-stroke) engines. Four-cycle engines have separate fill ports for gas and oil, so you don’t need to mix fuels. You should change the oil at least annually, preferably before it starts snowing.
If your snow blower has only one fill port, it has a two-cycle (two-stroke) engine, and you need to mix fuel. If you only put gas in a two-cycle engine and fail to mix in oil, it can damage the engine and possibly render the snow blower inoperable. Be sure you’re using the right kind of oil. Also, two-cycle engines have gas/oil ratios of either 50:1 or 40:1, so you need to check that you’re mixing the right amounts.Most fuel caps show the correct ratio, and the owner’s manual should also include all the details you need. If you don’t want to mess with mixing fuel, you can purchase premixed two-cycle fuel.
How do snow blowers generate power
Gas power packs a punch when compared to electric in most power tools, but that is especially true of snow blowers. You can feel this difference in the amount of power transferred to the wheels. This makes gas-powered snow blowers much easier to maneuver and push through snow.
Engine displacement is one way to measure power in a snow blower and other power tools. This measures the volume of gas taken in by each piston in cubic centimeters. As gasoline pumps into the engine, the pistons push ignited gas through the machine. The more cubic centimeters of gasoline pumped through the snow blower, the more power the snow thrower produces.
Gas snow blowers are usually built to clear more snow and cut a wider path than their electric counterparts. Most snow blowers clear a path of roughly 2 feet. Two- and three-stage gas snow blowers are often powerful enough to clear snow from parking lots and tough areas like plow piles at the bottom of a driveway.
How to remove snow from a gravel driveway with a snow blower
Logically a person might shy away from using a snow blower on a gravel driveway. It seems unlikely that you could effectively remove snow without taking a lot of gavel with it, potentially injuring someone or damaging property by flinging rocks through the chute.
However, you can safely remove snow on gravel with the right snow blower, properly adjusted. You need a snow blower with plastic skids along the bottom of the auger housing. This keeps the blades off the ground so they don’t stir up gravel and throw it into the auger.
Next, you need to set the lock in the highest position, usually called the Transport position, so the auger housing is set at an angle above the gravel. Ideally, you also want a snow blower with tracking wheels instead of regular tires. This allows you to position the snow blower at a continuous upward angle above the gravel.
Only two- or three-stage gas snow blowers are equipped to clear snow on gravel terrain. This process will leave a thin layer of snow on the ground, but this should melt after several hours in the sun.
Can you use a snow blower on wet snow?
The simple answer to the question is yes, a powerful snow blower will clear away wet snow, but very wet snow can get clogged in the chute, especially in the plow pile area at the bottom of the driveway. This isn’t to say it’s easy, and there is a tendency for this type of snow to get clogged in the chute. This is especially true if you live in a high snow volume area and you’re clearing large amounts of heavy, wet snow.
There are things you can do to help deal with this problem. First, you can spray a non-stick spray along the inside of the chute before you start plowing through the snow. You can also use a stick or a clean-out tool, which is included as an attachment with many snow blowers. You should always use a tool to clean out the chute, however. Using your hands is dangerous, as the release of tension from clearing snow can cause various parts to spring unexpectedly. Sometimes going faster can also help you get through tough snow, but at times this can cause the snow blower to shut off. Sometimes you’ll just have to experiment with different methods to see what works best.
Other things to consider when choosing a snow blower
The best snow blowers have a wide clearing path and discharge distance. An 18-inch clearing path is an average width, and the larger your clearing path is, the fewer passes you need to make to clear your surfaces. Blowers that can throw snow farther than 20 feet are ideal for large, wide driveways.
While most electric snow blowers plug into a wall outlet, there are many battery-operated models available as well. These are optimal for people who dislike a trailing power cord, as well as for owners of long driveways or areas that are hard to access.
Consider how easy each snow blower is to handle. Weight is a big factor when it comes to maneuverability. Generally, the lighter the snow blower, the less effort is required to push it along. Look for a snow blower with self-propulsion tech. This is an essential feature on gas snow blowers because they are so heavy, most people couldn’t push one without self-propulsion. However, it is far less common on electric snow blowers. Since they are lighter, most of them are maneuverable even without this feature.
Most electric single-stage snow blowers are propelled forward with a front paddle that gently slides on the ground. However, some single-stage blowers have front paddles that rest slightly above the ground. With this kind of snow blower you will be doing most of the work of pushing it through the snow, making it much more difficult to maneuver.
The best electric snow blowers have easy-to-use controls that are within reach. Look for a snow blower that has a rotating discharge chute with a crank or lever. If it has manual rotation, you will need to stop pushing and go to the front of your blower each time you need to change the direction of the snow discharge. The best snow blowers also include a safety release handle that stops the auger blades from spinning. Many of the best blowers have headlights to make plowing in the dark easier as well.
You want to have maximum control over whatever terrain you’re dealing with, whether you’re clearing snow on a flat driveway, an entire parking lot, on a hill or a winding path. In high snow volume areas with hilly terrain, you will want a dual- or triple-stage snow blower that can effectively chop up the snow and ice before blowing it out of the chute. A track drive snow blower is a good option for some high snow volume areas. See the above sections on three-stage snow blowers and track drive snow blowers for additional information. These powerful snow blowers almost always have about six forward speeds and two reverse speeds to allow for extra maneuverability over tough terrain. Changing speeds is most important for hills or if you’re dealing with uneven amounts of snow in your path.
Gas and electric snow blowers are, of course, priced very differently, which makes sense. Gas blowers have a lot more internal machinery and are mostly made of steel, being built for durability and power. You can buy small gas snow blowers starting at about $350 up to well over $1,000. If you live on the benches, the mouth of a canyon or other high snow volume areas, you’ll probably want to invest in a big gas two-stage snow blower that clears a path of at least 25 inches and has a snow intake of 20 inches or more. This kind of gas blower will generally cost in the $800 range. In areas with moderate amounts of snow a less expensive gas or electric snow blower may suffice. There are many electric snow blower options well under $200.
Warranty & Support
While electric snow blowers are much easier to maintain than their gas-powered counterparts, you should take into consideration the warranty coverage offered by the manufacturer. Many of the blowers in our lineup have warranties of two years. One exception is the Greenworks 2600502, which comes with a four-year warranty. Many manufacturers have extended warranty options. Ariens, for instance, will let you pay extra to get up to five years of coverage. You can also purchase extended warranties for one or two years from online sellers like Snow Blowers Direct, and they have both replacement and repair plans to choose from. While the decision to shell out even more money for extended coverage isn’t easy, knowing you will get all the repairs you need during the warranty period will provide peace of mind. If at some point you need to replace a part that is not under warranty, some manufacturers, like Toro and Sun Joe, let you purchase parts directly from them and they mail them to you.