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The best snow blowers: It's time to ditch the shovel

Snow drifts and ice accumulation don't stand a chance against a snow blower, saving you time and energy so you don't have to get up before sunrise to shovel your walkways and driveway.

A snow blower may seem like a superfluous piece of equipment until you wake up one winter morning to find your driveway, and car, buried under a foot or more of snow. Deciding which kind of snow blower to buy depends on how much snowfall your area gets per year, what kind of snow you get, and how long your driveway is. A single stage snow blower is best for light accumulation, short driveways, and powdery snow. Two and three stage snow blowers are best suited for heavy, wet snow, deep accumulation and drifts, and longer driveways and walkways. You can also get powered snow shovels, which are handheld snow blowers that are great for clearing off patios and decks, or even lawn mower mounted models for wider clearing areas and better throwing distance. 

Snow blowers also come with either a gas or battery-powered engine. While both are comparable in clearing speed and power, battery-powered snow blowers are cleaner-running than their gas counterparts, making them ideal for cities and HOAs that may have restrictions on engine emissions. The downside to battery-powered snow blowers is that they have relatively short run times and very cold temperatures can drain batteries of charge or damage batteries and chargers. Gas-powered models can run as long as you have gasoline available, which is ideal for anyone with a longer driveway or who helps out elderly neighbors to clear their walkways; the downside is that you have another engine to maintain with fuel treatments in the off season and regular oil changes.

Below, I've rounded up some of the best snow blowers available. I've broken down their features such as engine capacity, auger configuration, and clearing capacity to help you decide which is right for you.

Troy-Bilt Storm 2420

Well-rounded machine

Troy-Bilt Storm 2420
Home Depot

Configuration: Two stage | Tub width: 24-inches | Engine: 208cc | Drive: 8 speed self-propelled

This model from Troy-Bilt is an almost perfect option for just about any driveway. It features a clearing tub that is 24-inches wide and 20-inches tall, allowing it to safely clear snow accumulation and drifts up to 12-inches deep. The main auger has serrated blades for breaking up hard-packed, heavy, and ice-covered snow, and the center-mounted chute crank makes it easy to change the throwing direction so you don't have snow blowing back into your path. It's self-propelled, with 6 forward and 2 reverse speeds, and the heated hand grips mean you won't freeze your fingers off trying to clear your driveway before work. 

Pros

  • Heated hand grips
  • Serrated auger blades
  • Self-propelled

Cons

  • Electric start requires extension cord
  • Very small gas tank (half gallon)

Cub Cadet 3X 26-inch

Big power in a small package

Cub Cadet 3X 26-inch
Home Depot

Configuration: Three stage | Tub width: 26-inches | Engine: 357cc | Drive: 8 speed self-propelled

This three stage snow blower from Cub Cadet is designed for heavy snowfall, ice, and slush. The three auger design gathers snow into the tub and blasts it out of the steel chute to clear snow more quickly than a two stage model. The 26-inch tub can handle accumulation and drifts up to 16-inches deep, and the LED headlights make it easy to see where you're going in the dark. It has heated hand grips for more comfortable operation in colder weather, and the electric start feature makes it quicker and easier to get the engine started than a traditional rip cord. 

Pros

  • LED headlights
  • 3 stage design
  • 16-inch accumulation clearance
  • Heated hand grips
  • Electric start

Cons

  • Steel chute can clog with ice faster than a plastic chute
  • Electric start requires extension cord

Toro Power Clear 721

Small but mighty

Toro Power Clear 721
Home Depot

Configuration: Single stage | Tub width: 21-inches | Engine: 212cc | Drive: 1 speed self-propelled

Single stage snow blowers are great for short driveways and areas that don't get a lot of snow accumulation. The Toro Power Clear 721 has a clearing width of 21-inches and can handle accumulation and drifts up to 9-inches deep. The 4-cycle engine uses either a rip cord or push-button electric start to get running, and it has the power to launch snow up to 35 feet to the side. The snow blower also uses a self-propelled drive to make it easier to clear your driveway; when you want to change directions, simply let go of the throttle lever and you can back up, turn, or pivot with ease. And while this snow blower is already incredibly compact, the handlebar folds for easier storage. 

Pros

  • 4-cycle engine doesn't require fuel/oil mixing
  • 212cc engine
  • Self-propelled
  • Electric start

Cons

  • No chute crank; must manually turn chute
  • Single forward speed, no reverse speed

Toro 60-Volt Power Max E

No gas, no problem

Toro 60-Volt Power Max E
Home Depot

Configuration: Two stage | Tub width: 24-inches | Engine: 60V battery-powered | Drive: 8 speed self-propelled

This battery-powered, two stage snow blower from Toro is a great option not only for anyone looking for a greener solution for clearing snow, but also for anyone who doesn't have the time or tools to maintain a traditional gas engine. Home Depot is bundling two 60V batteries and charging stations with this snow blower, so you don't have to worry about spending extra money to get started. The snow blower itself has 3 battery bays, giving you the option for more clearing power and a slightly longer run time. 

With the included pair of batteries, you'll get about an hour of use out of your snow blower, which is plenty of time to clear most driveways and walkways; but if you help out elderly neighbors or neighbors who don't have snow blowers, you may want to consider buying extra batteries to keep up with your needs. The batteries reach full charge in about 3 hours, so even if a super cold night saps them of charge, you can top them up while you get some breakfast and clean off your car and still clear your driveway in time to make it to work. The 24-inch clearing tub and dual auger configuration can handle accumulation and drifts up to 20-inches deep, so even if your neighborhood gets hit by a nasty winter storm, you can still clear away the snow and slush.

Pros

  • Includes 2 batteries and charger
  • Joystick chute control
  • LED headlamps
  • 3 battery ports for more power
  • 3 hour charge time

Cons

  • 1 hour run time
  • Not suited for ice
  • No heated grips

Ariens Delux 30 EFI

Heavy duty

Ariens Delux 30 EFI
Lowe's

Configuration: Two stage | Tub width: 30-inches | Engine: 306cc | Drive: 8 speed self-propelled

This is a monster of a snow blower, capable of moving up to 70 tons of snow per hour. The 30-inch tub and serrated, dual-auger configuration can handle snow, slush, and even ice chunks up to 12-inches deep. The 16-inch tires use pivot-turn controls for better maneuverability, and the crank control for the chute makes changing blower directions a breeze. Heated hand grips make operation more comfortable in colder weather, and halogen headlights make it easy to see where you're going in the dark. With 6 forward and 2 reverse speeds, you'll be able to tackle accumulation and drifts in your driveway quickly and easily.

Pros

  • Pivot-turn controls
  • Heated grips
  • Serrated auger blades
  • Wide clearing tub

Cons

  • Small gas tank (.3 gallons)
  • Steel chute can clog more easily with ice/snow than plastic chutes

How do I choose the right snow blower for me?

ZDNet has a separate guide that breaks down everything you need to know about snow blowers:

Will a snow blower work on a gravel driveway?

Yes! A snow blower will work on just about any driveway, including gravel. But to ensure that you don't scoop up any stones that could damage the augers or throw chute, you'll want to set the skid shoes (the little plastic or metal pieces on the sides of the tub) up a bit higher to give you some ground clearance.

What's the difference between a single stage and a two stage snow blower?

A single stage snow blower has just one auger to scoop and throw the snow out of the way, whereas a two stage has two sets of augers: one to gather snow into the tub and one to throw it off to the side. Having two sets of augers means the snow blower will have more power when clearing snow, so they're well-suited for areas that get heavy snowfall every year or deal with wet snow fairly often. Single stage models are weaker, so they're best suited for light snowfall or powdery snow.

Which is better: A snow plow or snow blower?

While both serve the same purpose, a snow plow may be the better option if you have either a very long driveway or a driveway with a curved design. The longer you run a snow blower, especially if the snow is heavy or wet, the more you risk things like chute or auger clogs and running out of gas. And while some snow blower models have pivot-turn controls, it can still be difficult to use one with sharply angled or deeply curved driveways. A truck or lawn mower-mounted plow can clear snow quickly without the risk of clogs or running out of fuel, and they're easier to maneuver.

Are there alternative snow blowers to consider?

Here are a couple other options worth considering:

This handheld, powered snow shovel is a great option for anyone who lives in a multifamily home, apartment, or in areas with very little annual snowfall. It's design is similar to a string trimmer, using a 40V battery for power; the single auger can clear accumulation and drifts up to 6-inches deep, and can throw snow up to 22 feet away. The shovel uses a variable speed trigger to give you tons of control over how you clear off walkways, patios, and decks. This bundle includes a 40V battery and charger, but if you have other 40V Ryobi equipment, you can seamlessly integrate this powered shovel into your garage lineup.

This snow blower attachment is a godsend to anyone who has a snow removal business, lives in a rural area, or lives in an area that gets a ton of heavy, wet snow. It mounts on the front of your 100 Series John Deere lawn mower, which eliminates a second engine to maintain and provides better maneuverability than a standalone snow blower. The 44-inch tub and dual auger system can blast through drifts and accumulation up to 18-inches deep, throwing it up to 50 feet away. It also comes with a set of drift cutters (a pair of metal brackets designed to knock down very tall drifts for safer removal), tire chains, a counterweight bracket, and counterweights for safer operation in icy conditions. The augers have a one-handed operation design, so you can safely run the blower attachment and steer your mower, while an elongated crank allows you to adjust the thrower chute angle without having to get off the mower.

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