Snow blower buying guide
Depending on where you live, a snow blower may be a luxury or an absolute necessity.
When deciding to buy one, consider how much snow you get in an average winter and how big the area you need to clean around your house to keep your car running smoothly.
If you have a short driveway and a garage attached to your home, you may be able to get away with a good snow shovel. Or if you live in an area that is rarely hit by winter storms, it may be better to save the money you would spend on blowing snow and hire a plow truck once or twice a winter to shovel it out for you.
But if you get three or more big snow storms a year, or you can’t be cooped up in your house while you wait for a plow job, a snow blower is for you.
Choose the right snow blower
Snowmobiles in our range in price from $180 to $3,000. Features and size dictate the price; here’s what you need to think about when you’re in the process of blowing snow that’s best for you.
Snow blower stages
All snow blowers use an auger to scoop the snow up from the ground and out the chute. On single-stage snow blowers, the corkscrew nozzle is the only tool that moves the snow.
Two-stage models have an auger but also use an impeller, which is a fan that helps to force the collection of snow from the back of the auger, out through the discharge chute. The impeller helps the two-stage model to collect snow quickly and send it away.
Three-stage models have an auger and an impeller but add something called an accelerator, which helps force the collection of snow from the auger to the impeller. These machines can clear quickly and throw away. Single-stage machines tend to perform the worst, and we recommend only a few types.
Most snowmobiles use gasoline engines, and these models do the best. You will find other types of power cords, which can be used with an extension cord up to 100 feet from your home, but none do well enough for us to recommend. A small but growing number of battery-powered electric motors are also available, and two-stage battery types are often the most effective.
Wheels vs. Tracks
The majority of snowmobiles have wheels, including all-stage models and many two- and three-stage models. For the one-step model, the user pushes or pulls the snow blower.
On two-stage and three-stage machines, the wheels are driven by the engine, making those tools better-suited to clear large areas, where you get tired of pushing and pulling. Some two- and three-stage lumilinko have tracks, like those on a tank, instead of wheels.
They are better for hilly and uphill drives because they add more traction, but they tend to be harder to open at a higher level of terrain.
How we use snow blowers
It’s interesting that no two ice creams are alike, but that presents a challenge to consumer reports’ testing protocol. We run our tests with something we can compare to, for consistency. That’s why we use a mixture of some kind of sawdust, filled with water, instead of ice.
The mix we use can mimic snow fall or be formed into a pile that resembles a plow pile, like the ones left by city plows along your driveway. In each test we measure how fast the model cuts through the thick mixture and see how far the sawdust is thrown and how clean the soil is.
The total score for each brand combines the results from these performance tests with the results of our survey of 32,000 cr members, which informs our brand’s reliability and owner satisfaction rating.
Brand loyalty indicates the number of problems with the fifth year of ownership of gas snow blowers, or the fourth year of ownership of electric and battery powered snow blowers. Owner satisfaction reflects the percentage of cr members who would recommend their machine to a friend or family member.
We test single-, two-, and three-stage snow blowers as well as one-stage electric snow blowers and one-stage and two-stage battery snow blowers.
Types of snow blowers
Single-stage electric snow blowers are ideal for short, level driveways, decks, and walkways with snow levels less than 6 inches. Compared to the size of a small walk-behind lawnmower, single-phase electrics are light, quiet, and easy to use.
The technology is original: plastic snow drags through the snow and throws it out of the chute in one step. But the auger can also pick up and throw rocks, so keep people and pets away.
An electric car frees you from the heat and maintenance of the engine, but the electric cable can limit the range and mobility. Working in areas less than 20 centimeters may mean that more cleaning is required. And their moderate strength is unmatched by the slopes.
Battery-powered snow blowers
Like plug-in electric snow blowers, battery-powered snow blowers trade to make it easier. They start immediately and eliminate the need for gas, oil, or engine maintenance, but they just don’t pack as much power as gas models.
Power snow shovel
Small and light, powerful snow shovels are designed to go to places where blowing snow can be very heavy (including short paths or raised roofs). They are corded or battery-powered and can usually clear up to six inches of snow.
Single-stage gas snow blowers
Single-stage gas snow blowers are a good choice for level, medium, paved driveways and walkways with normal or expected snow levels of up to 9 inches.
These models free you from cable restrictions and are usually much more expensive than large two-stage and three-stage machines. They are light and easy to handle and take up almost as much storage space as a chainsaw.