When there’s snow on the ground for shoveling, it can be tempting to run out and buy a snow blower. After all, they do make short work of clearing the driveway. But before investing, it’s important to learn about the key features of these machines in order to choose a model that fits the bill.
The best snow blower for a property will depend upon the amount of snowfall, how much sidewalk or driveway needs clearing, and whether the area is flat or sloped. Keep reading to learn the top tips and recommendations. And to make sure we were suggesting only top-notch products, we performed hands-on testing with the following snowblowers.
- BEST OVERALL: Troy-Bilt Storm 26 in. 208 cc Gas Snow Blower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Briggs & Stratton 22-Inch Single-Stage Snow Blower
- UPGRADE PICK: Cub Cadet 2X 30″ MAX Snow Blower
- BEST BATTERY: EGO Power+ 24 in. Two stage Battery Snow Blower Kit
Types of Snow Blowers
Many people first think about snow blowers in terms of the path width that a snow blower can clear. That’s definitely a consideration—especially if it’s a large area that needs clearing—but the real challenge is finding the snow blower most suited for the amount and type of snow the region is likely to experience.
Manufacturers describe snow blowers as “single-stage,” “two-stage,” or “three-stage,” and these designations refer to how the snow blower removes the snow.
Single-Stage Snow Blowers
Single-stage snow blowers (also called “snow throwers”) feature a horizontal auger at the front of the machine that rotates rapidly, scooping up snow and tossing it out the chute. The motion of the spinning auger creates the force that blows the snow from the chute. While this is a simple design, it has its limitations: single-stage snow blowers generally do not generate sufficient power to blow the snow more than 15 to 25 feet away.
The auger blades on a single-stage blower skim the ground during operation, so the machine can effectively clear flat and smooth paved areas. Because the blades are so low, however, they tend to pick up small rocks and toss them out the chute, making single-stage blowers unsuitable for clearing gravel driveways. Most single-stage blowers can clear a 12- to 18-inch swath of light, fluffy snow, and they’re available in both gas- and electric-powered models.
Two-Stage Snow Blowers
Two-stage snow blowers, which are usually fuel-powered, feature a powerful impeller fan that works in combination with an auger to draw in snow and forcefully throw it out the chute. A two-stage snow blower can shoot snow in excess of 35 feet, depending on the power of the fan on a particular model and the weight of the snow.
Two-stage blowers can handle wet snow as well as fluffy snow and clear a swath ranging from approximately 12 inches to 30 inches (or more). Unlike their single-stage counterparts, two-stage snow blowers are suitable for use on gravel driveways because their auger blades don’t touch the ground.
Three-Stage Snow Blowers
Three-stage snow blowers are the big boys in the snow removal world. In addition to an auger and impeller fan, they feature an accelerator that grinds chunks of ice and powerfully expels snow and slush from the chute. It’s not unusual for a three-stage blower to throw lightweight snow a distance of more than 50 feet.
These muscle-bound machines can clear paths as wide as 40 inches, depending on the specific model. For those with truly heavy-duty snow-removal needs, a three-stage blower might be the machine for the job. Just keep in mind that these models are often very expensive.
In addition to choosing among single-, two-, and three-stage snow blowers, there are other factors to consider. How much room is necessary to store the machine, whether a gas-powered or electric model best suits the property’s needs, and the amount of snowfall in the area can help narrow down the choices.
Size and Weight
Electric snow blowers are the lightest, weighing around 30 to 65 pounds, followed by cordless models that weigh anywhere from 50 to 75 pounds (though in some cases, much more). Gas-powered snow blowers are in the heaviest category and can weigh 100 to 300 pounds or more.
Removing snow from flat sidewalks and driveways is straightforward with most snow blowers, but trying to push a heavy snow blower up an incline can be a workout for even the most physically fit.
If there’s a slope to maneuver, consider buying a self-propelled snow blower. With this snow blower type, the wheels pull the machine forward, so all that’s necessary is to guide the machine and follow along. When clearing snow from a gravel driveway, make sure the machine is a two-stage or three-stage snow blower to prevent throwing rocks.
Like most outdoor maintenance machines, snow blowers might run on electricity, gas, or diesel. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
- Electric-powered snow blowers are typically small, affordable single-stage machines intended to clear light snow up to about 8 inches deep. They need to be plugged into an outlet with an extension cord. This limits their performance and range, making them best suited for those who receive minimal snowfall and have relatively short sidewalks and driveways.
Electric-powered snow blowers are also handy for clearing snow from decks and steps because they’re lightweight enough to lift and move. An added bonus: These machines don’t create fumes and don’t raise concerns about where to store fuel.
- Gas- and diesel-powered snow blowers boast a lot more power than electric blowers, and they don’t restrict their operators to the length of an extension cord. With a blower like this, it’s possible to clear deep and heavy snows all along a driveway and then continue down the sidewalk to clear a neighbor’s drive as well.
- Battery-operated cordless snow blowers are relatively new to the snow removal market and quite promising. They benefit from fume-free operation as with an electric blower, but they don’t need an extension cord. That said, runtime is usually limited to around 30 minutes before the high-capacity battery needs recharging. But in many cases, they can continue past 30 minutes by swapping in a spare battery.
Clearing Width and Depth
Single-stage snow blowers (also known as “snow throwers”) are designed to remove snow in swath widths ranging from around 11 inches to 22 inches. A two-stage snow blower will clear snow in a swath up to 30 inches wide, and a three-stage snow blower can clear up to 40 inches in a single pass. Only single-stage and two-stage models are designed for home use, however. Three-stage blowers are considered to be commercial machines.
Wheels vs. Tracks
Snow can be slippery, especially if it has a chance to melt slightly and then refreeze. This makes it hard for even self-propelled snow blowers to power through, but this is where track-drive snow blowers shine.
Instead of wheels that can lose traction when maneuvering through heavy or slippery snow, the tracks on a track-drive model dig in and help pull the machine along. Another difference is in price: A gas-powered snow blower runs an average of $450 to $1,000, while a track-drive blower will set a shopper back $3,500 to $4,200 or more.
Some of the best snow blowers include extra features that make the work easier and more comfortable. Accessories designed to elevate the experience of using a snow blower include:
- Heated handles keep the user’s hands warm in frigid temps.
- Lights let the user start clearing away snow before dawn.
- Speed controls adjust how quickly the self-propelled wheels turn.
- Automatic safety shutoff if the user releases the handles prevents losing control.
- Electric starters allow for pull-free starts and less strain on the user.
Our Top Picks
When searching for a snow blower, it’s important that it is able to clear away a typical amount of snowfall, is dependable, and is easy to operate. Since individual conditions and snowfall depths vary widely, so do the following models. But to ensure that they’re high quality and worthy of their price and your consideration, we performed hands-on testing with all of the following snow blowers.
Anyone on the hunt for an all-around capable snow blower may want to check out the Troy-Bilt Storm 26-inch snow blower. This gas-powered model can handle small properties while being heavy duty enough to hold its own on large ones as well. It features two self-propelled drive wheels with big, chunky tires for plenty of surface grip. Also, the electric start makes firing it up a breeze.
Overall, we really enjoyed using the Troy-Bilt Storm 26-inch model. First, we liked that the chunky tires offered plenty of grip—even on loose, grainy snow. We also liked that the chute controls, including angle and trajectory, were easily accessible from the control panel. While it doesn’t seem to throw snow as far as other models, it was very effective at removing plowed snow from the end of a driveway. Also, starting this model was very easy; it started on the first pull almost every time.
- Type: Two-stage
- Width: 26 inches
- Self-propelled: Yes
- Very easy to start
- Chunky tires offer plenty of grip
- Chute control from the control panel
- Doesn’t throw snow as far as the other models
Get the Troy-Bilt snow blower at Walmart.
For affordable and efficient snow removal on paved driveways and sidewalks, check out the Briggs & Stratton 22-Inch Single-Stage Snow Blower. This model can clear a 22-inch-wide swath of snow in a pass and comes with a push-button electric start. It also features an auger-assisted drive system that allows the movement of the rubber-edged auger to pull the machine along (though it is not self-propelled).
This model features an adjustable discharge chute that can rotate from one side to the other with a directional crank located near the handle. The snow blower’s intake chute will handle snowdrifts up to 12.5 inches high and toss the snow up to 30 feet. It clears paved surfaces only, though; no gravel drives for this one.
We didn’t have high hopes for this model, but it truly shined in some aspects. First, we were surprised to see how far this Briggs & Stratton threw snow—just as far as some models costing twice as much. We also liked that it was lightweight and easy to maneuver and that assembly (which is required) was fairly straightforward. While it’s anything but ideal for uneven, rough terrain, it excels on flat and even surfaces.
- Type: Single stage
- Width: 22 inches
- Self-propelled: No, but features auger-assist
- Easy to assemble
- Throws snow surprisingly far
- Lightweight for easy maneuvering or storage
- Not practical for uneven terrain
Get the Briggs & Stratton snow blower on Amazon.
For those with heavy-duty snow removal needs, Cub Cadet’s 2X MAX 30-inch snow blower might be the answer. This large model features a 357-cc gas engine to power its two-stage removal system and self-propelled wheels, allowing it to burrow through heavy snow. It features heavy-duty construction with a steel liner in the chute, as well as chute rotation and angle controls in the control panel. The Cub Cadet also features onboard headlights for safety on those snowy nights or very early mornings.
First, let’s get the price out of the way: Yes, it’s expensive, but what a powerhouse the Cub Cadet turned out to be during testing. We pushed this thing through the heaviest of snowdrifts and banks to see how it would do. We did break a couple of shear pins (our fault, not the machine’s), but the heavy-duty construction is no worse for wear. We found the power steering to be an excellent addition, making it easy to manipulate in even deep snow (thanks to the 16-inch knobby tires). The large engine gave this model power far beyond any of the other snow blowers. We also really liked the heated hand grips, but who wouldn’t?
- Type: Two-stage
- Width: 30 inches
- Self-propelled: Yes
- Powerful engine propels heavy snow with ease
- Heavy-duty construction
- Power steering for easy maneuvering
- Cozy hand warmers in the grips
- Not a budget-friendly model
Get the Cub Cadet snow blower at Cub Cadet.
Whether the snow piles up on the sidewalk, patio, or even a gravel driveway, this two-stage snow blower can push through. Despite being a battery-powered model, this snow blower has a two-stage system to scoop and throw snow up to 50 feet, as well as self-propelled wheels for easy pushing.
This battery-powered model runs for up to 135 minutes before the batteries need recharging. The drawback to this machine is that it weighs 220 pounds, though if the user takes advantage of the 200-degree adjustable chute and the 50-foot throwing distance, these features can help reduce user fatigue. Also, the onboard headlights add a bit of safety.
We’re big fans of the EGO Power+ 24-inch snow blower. First, we like that this thing is so much quieter than a gas-powered model and even easier to use (though the throttle and auger controls are reversed from a typical model). Also, we found that this model threw snow so far that we truly had to be careful with where we aimed it. While it does have a throttle that adjusts the overall output of the machine from “eco” to “turbo,” we found that we could handle everything on eco and get our batteries to last as long as possible. Do note that when we buried the auger in extremely heavy piles of snow too quickly, it did stall—but at low speed, this rarely happened.
- Type: Two-stage
- Width: 24 inches
- Self-propelled: Yes
- Powerful yet quiet
- Throws snow every bit of 50 feet
- Easy to use
- Can stall if overloaded too quickly
Get the EGO Power+ snow blower kit at Ace Hardware.
We needed a benchmark to compare our other models to, so we used our tried-and-true Craftsman SB470 two-stage snow blower. This model is 2 years old now, but it’s proven itself to be powerful and dependable in every storm. Since we purchased it, Craftsman has added heated grips (we wish we had them), but the current model looks largely the same, and we wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it again.
We chose this model originally because of its 28-inch chute and 243-cc engine, which we knew could handle the snow we’re used to seeing. The tall, knobby tires dig into snow without an issue, and the two-stage removal system throws snow far enough to clear driveways and walkways. Ultimately, we used our experience with this machine’s self-propulsion system, two-stage snow removal, and overall reliability as the standard for our test.
- Type: Two-stage
- Width: 28 inches
- Self-propelled: Yes
- It’s been reliable and quick to start for 2 years
- Grippy, knobby tires for digging into snow
- Plenty of power thanks to its 243-cc engine
- No heated grips on the model tested, but the current version has them
Get the updated Craftsman snow blower at Lowe’s.
Overall, the Troy-Bilt gas snow blower’s easy start, handy chute control, and chunky tires make it a great choice for anyone hunting for a two-stage, self-propelled model. But for those who don’t mind spending a little extra, the Cub Cadet snow blower’s power steering, large engine, and heated grips make a pretty good case for purchasing this high-end model.
How We Tested the Best Snow Blowers
We tested some serious machines for this guide, so we needed to wait for a real snowstorm to try them out. With about 10 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, we cleared two 75-foot-long four-car driveways, about 200 feet of sidewalks, several small walkways, and the plow-piled snow at the end of the driveways with these models.
First, we tested how easily these models started. We used the pull cords to test how difficult they were to start by hand. Then, we hooked each up to an extension cord to test their electric starters. Next, we ran these snow blowers over rocky, uneven terrain. The recent thaw before the storm caused several deep mud ruts, which were perfect for the test, allowing us to determine which models were the best for rough areas.
For our next test, we cleared the driveways and sidewalks, using each model in a side-by-side test to see which were most effective and compared their throwing. Finally, we used the two-stage models on the heavy-duty plowed snow left behind by the snowplows. All the while, we noted maneuverability, power, control, and the added features like heated grips, lights, and more.
That’s a lot of information about the best snow blowers, and it might feel like your wheels are spinning on ice when trying to make a decision. The following section aims to answer the most frequently asked questions, so be sure to look for an answer to your question below.
Q. What is the difference between a snow blower and a snow thrower?
The terms “snow blower” and “snow thrower” are used interchangeably, but there are a couple of technical differences. While both clear away snow, a snow thrower is a single-stage machine, and a snow blower can be a single-stage, two-stage, or three-stage machine. Snow blowers clear a wider swath and are better suited for heavier snows, while snow throwers work well on light snow.
Q. How do you use a snow blower?
For the best results, use a snow blower just after the snow has stopped falling when it’s still light and fluffy. Make uniform passes down and back on the sidewalk or driveway, adjusting the discharge chute as necessary to toss the snow off of the surface.
Q. How do you start a snow blower?
You may have to pull a manual recoil cord to start a gas snow blower, although many start by push button these days. Cordless and electric models start at the push of a button.
Q. How do you clean a snow blower carburetor?
A dirty carburetor can keep a gas-powered snow blower from starting or cause it to emit dirty, smoky exhaust. A carburetor cleaner will dissolve the gunk and debris so your machine will run more smoothly. To clean the carburetor, you’ll need to remove its cover, which may come off differently depending on the make and model. Consult your owner’s manual to find out how to reach the carburetor.
Q. How do you store a snow blower?
The best spot to store a snow blower is either in a garage or storage shed during the summer when it’s not in use. If you don’t have the extra space, you can store it outside under a waterproof tarp.