Lawn machine snow blower. How to choose a snow blower: Say goodbye to shoveling


How to choose a snow blower: Say goodbye to shoveling

Whether you’re buying your first snow blower or replacing one you already have, it can be difficult to know what kind to buy. I’ll be breaking down major features and differences to help you know where to start.

Taylor Clemons is a tech writer and reviewer based near Cleveland, OH. After graduating from Tiffin University in 2011, they spent several years in lawn and garden manufacturing before working on their own (now defunct) game review site, Steam Shovel.

Taylor Clemons is a tech writer and reviewer based near Cleveland, OH. After graduating from Tiffin University in 2011, they spent several years in lawn and garden manufacturing before working on their own (now defunct) game review site, Steam Shovel.

lawn, machine, snow, blower

For quite a few years after I graduated college, I worked at MTD Products. They’re a manufacturing company that assembles powered lawn equipment like snow blowers, lawn mowers, and string trimmers. Having built, torn apart, and refurbished countless snow blowers, I have become intimately familiar with how each type works. And to help you make the most informed decision you can when shopping for a snow blower, I’m going to break down major differences between models. That way, you don’t spend a fortune on a machine that doesn’t do what you need it to.

There are countless model designs and configurations that vary between brands, and even between model years. But there are four main types of snow blowers: single stage, two stage, three stage, and powered shovels. But what does that mean? The stage refers to how many augers a model has for the snow to pass through; and the more augers a model has, the more powerful it is. A powered shovel is exactly what it sounds like: a snow shovel with a power source that looks like a hybrid of shovel and blower.

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Model types

Each model type has its pros and cons as well as ideal use conditions:

Single stage

A single stage snow blower is one of the smallest models available. It’s called single stage because it only uses one auger to sort of scoop and throw the snow out of the way; these are true snow throwers, since they’re basically powered shovels with wheels. They’re typically the weakest type, meant for either very short driveways or areas that don’t get more than a few inches of snow every year. Their compact design makes them easy to store in the off-season, but can be an issue when dealing with heavy, wet snow.

Two stage

A two stage machine uses two types of augers to deal with snow accumulation: a main auger to break up snow in front of the machine and gather it into the tub, and a secondary screw for more distance as the machine throws the snow to the side. These are the most popular choice for just about every customer as they can handle almost any length of driveway as well as deep or heavy snow. They’re also pretty affordable, with 24-inch models often retailing for under 1000.

Three stage

Three stage snow blowers are absolute beasts. They use three augers to break up very deep and heavy snow, and even ice accumulation, and blast it out of the chute. Some three stage models, like those from Cub Cadet, are capable of throwing snow up to 50 feet to the side and up to 20 feet in the air. These models are best suited for people who live in rural areas where deep drifts and ice can be more of an issue.

Powered shovels

These are very small, about 12-inches wide, handheld snow blowers. These are best suited for clearing off decks, porches, and walkways that have shallow snow cover. If you live in a duplex or other multi-family home, they’re great to have around for clearing stoops and communal walkways. Plus, they are incredibly compact, so they’re very easy to store in the off season. They’re also battery-powered, so you don’t have to worry about maintaining an engine or keeping gasoline on hand. The Kobalt 80 Volt Max and the Ryobi 40V brushless shovel are great options.

Tub size

So now that you know the difference between model types, we can move on to tub size. Most brands make 24, 26, 28, and 30-inch versions. Though it is possible to find much larger models, up to 4 or 5 feet wide, but these are meant for commercial use or, like the John Deer 100 Series. are designed as attachments for riding lawn mowers.

Mower attachment models have their advantages: they don’t have an engine to maintain, and they can clear even deep and heavy snow very quickly. However, they can be a pain to set up, since you have to manually remove the blade deck from your riding mower and attach an intricate series of belts to the drive pulleys. It can also be difficult to get your mower through deep or drifted snow if you have a separate storage shed, since their tires and drive axles aren’t meant for that kind of work. You can get tire chains for more traction, but they can also be a pain to put on, and they tend to tear up your lawn and damage driveways.

It really doesn’t matter how wide the tub is, since the power lies in the augers, but a 24 or 26-inch model, like the Craftsman Select 26. is about as wide as most people need. Larger tubs allow for a wider clearing space, which means you’ll get done faster (which is nice when the wind and freezing temperatures are almost unbearable), but they’re more difficult to store in the off-season since they take up much more space. You’ll want to measure the width of your driveway and choose a model that takes up between a quarter and a third of that width. That way, you can clear your driveway in as few passes as possible.

Gas vs battery

Besides auger configurations and tub sizes, the next feature to consider is the power source. Most snow blowers are gasoline-powered, which means you’ll have an engine to maintain: regular oil changes, fuel treatments, spark plug cleanings, etc. Newer gas-powered snow blowers also feature push-button or electric starts, which is a welcome improvement over frustrating rip cords; just press a button or plug it in for 30 seconds, and you’re off. Gasoline is also a somewhat more reliable fuel source, since you don’t have to worry about cold weather draining batteries of charge or causing any damage to batteries and chargers.

The obvious advantage battery-powered snow blowers have is that they’re cleaner-running and you don’t have to worry about storing gasoline. There isn’t much difference in power, since battery-operated equipment has made huge strides to keep pace with gas-powered equipment. If your HOA or city has restrictions on emissions, a battery-powered model is going to be the better choice. If not, and you have the space, time, and tools to maintain a snow blower engine as well as a lawn mower, a gas-powered model will work just as well.

Wheels vs tracks

As you browse through inventory, you may notice that some snow blower models have traditional tires and others have what look like tank tracks. Track-drive snow blowers are becoming more popular because they have better traction over hard-packed or wet snow than traditional wheels. But these models tend to be more expensive because they have more intricate builds and moving parts to put together. If there is ice build-up under the snow cover, it doesn’t matter if you have tracks or wheels, they’re all going to spin uselessly. Single stage blowers have small, plastic wheels with shallow treads, which means they can’t handle well in deep snow or anything that isn’t a dry powder. Two and three stage models have traditional, inflated tires with deep treads similar to what you’d find on a lawnmower; this gives more gripping power in deep and wet snow.

The tank-like track models have wide treads and tall, wedge-like protrusions to bite into hard-packed or ice-covered snow for superior traction. Wheeled snow blowers use pivot-turn controls for better maneuverability over track-drive models. This means that you can stop either the left or right tire and use it as a pivot point to make sharp turns, which is helpful for clearing angled walkways and wide drifts without collapsing a ton of snow on yourself. In the end, it all comes down to customer preference and budget. If you have the extra money to spend and want a bit of extra traction, go for the tank-drive model. If you want to spend less and don’t mind maintaining traditional tires, a regular wheeled snow blower is better for you.

Brands, quality, and when to return an item

If you can name any lawn mower brands, you know who makes snow blowers. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there’s no reason to maintain brand loyalty, because it could cost you money that you don’t need to spend. I can’t speak to brands like Toro and Ryobi, but I can tell you with confidence that Troy-Bilt, Craftsman, Cub Cadet, and Ariens are all made out of basically the same things. They’re stamped from the same steel, use the same engines and wiring harnesses, and all work the same way. You’re basically paying for paint color and stickers. Sure, high-end brands such as Cub Cadet have fancy features like heated handle grips, motorized thrower chutes, or serrated tub edges for cutting through drifts, but the basic structure of just about every snow blower is nearly identical.

Now, this doesn’t mean that branding doesn’t matter; it just doesn’t matter when it comes to construction. If you like a particular brand because they offer great warranties or their customer service is easy to deal with, by all means, stay loyal.

Customer reviews are going to be your biggest asset when shopping for a snow blower, or really anything. Personally, I like to comb through 1 and 2-star reviews first since they can give you an idea of common problems like missing hardware for assembly, mechanical failures, or customer service issues. You can also weed out poor reviews that have nothing to do with the product itself; many people like to complain to brands directly about shipping issues, in-store pricing, and other things that brands themselves have no control over. Once a store like Lowe’s orders a shipment, they can price it however they wish, and Troy-Bilt has no liability for the mark-up. This also goes for shipping: if your box or crate was damaged in transit, the fault lies with the shipping company, not Cub Cadet.

Once you’ve identified any common problems, you can move to looking through 4 and 5-star reviews. I like to specifically check reviews that have been edited after a customer has had the item for a while or have been submitted after a few weeks or months of use. These will give you a great picture of how difficult assembly may be, minor issues that may crop up, or major failures that may happen after heavy use.

How to start a MTD yard machine snow thrower

If you have a snow blower delivered to your home without expert assembly, whether to save money or because you’re comfortable putting it together yourself, and you notice missing hardware or damaged, non-critical, parts, do not return the unit to the store. Call the brand’s customer service or after-market parts line to get a replacement. Things happen: stuff gets forgotten on the assembly line or parts fall out of the crate in transit, but they aren’t worth the hassle of returning the entire unit. If you can stand to wait a few days for a part to ship to your home or nearest home improvement store, do so. If not, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s often have small parts like shear pins or wheels in stock; just call ahead to make sure your local store does, indeed, have the item you need as online stock can be a bit off from actual inventory. If you notice major damage to the engine, augers, or tub that would make the snow blower unsafe to operate, then you should return it to the store for a refund, repair, or replacement. But a slightly dented tub isn’t going to hurt anything, and it’s not going to look perfect and shiny after you use it a few times anyway.

Buying with confidence

You are now armed with plenty of information to help you find the best snow blower that fits your budget and equipment needs. But you may have a few more questions about your specific driveway situation.

Can I use a snow blower on a gravel driveway?

Yes! You can use a snow blower on just about any type of driveway, including gravel. But to ensure that you don’t accidentally scoop up a bunch of stones that can break your augers or throw chute, you’ll want to set the skid shoes (those little plastic pieces on the sides of the tub) up a bit higher to give you some ground clearance.

I have a pretty long driveway, so would a plow be a better option?

If you live in a rural area and have a fairly lengthy driveway, a truck or lawn mower-mounted plow may be a better option for you than a snow blower. For starters, you won’t have to deal with wind blowing fine snow back into your face and driveway, and you won’t get chilled to the bone inside your truck. Plows are also a good choice for unusually shaped driveways like those with large curves or circular designs. While newer snow blowers have pivot controls that make them easier to maneuver, it still may be difficult to clear curved drives.

If you have questions about a particular model of snow blower you have your eye on, it’s best to contact the brand’s customer service if you’re shopping online, or ask a store associate to explain specific features and pricing. And once you have your new snow blower delivered and assembled, you can say goodbye to getting up at 4 AM to shovel so you can make it to work or your kids can get to the bus stop.

Snow Removal Attachments for John Deere Lawn Mowers

The winter months always seem to sneak up on us. We’ve barely put away our lawn furniture and grills, when out of nowhere, it’s time to trade in your lawn mower for a snow blower.

A big advantage of owning a John Deere lawn tractor is it can transform into a powerful and effective snowplow. Lawn tractor owners can add a John Deere snow blower or front blade to their mower to make quick work of removing snow. And there are plenty of attachments — including weather enclosures, seat covers, tire-chain attachments, wheel weights, and more — that add comfort and safety to your winter wonderland experience while enhancing your tractor’s snow removal performance.

A Quick and Easy Run-Down of the Advantages of Owning a Lawn Mower/Snow Blower Combo:

With a traditional walk-behind snow blower, removing snow from your driveway can be taxing, especially when the temperature plummets. Using a snow blower attachment on your lawn mower allows you to spend less time in the cold — enabling you to simply sit down and steer the machine instead of pushing a snow blower up and down the driveway.

Lawn mower/snow blower combos also remove more snow than standard snow blowers. By using the tractor’s more powerful motor, the snow blower won’t bog down as easily, allowing it to handle heavier and deeper snow. Some models can even handle more than 20 inches of snow at a time. And, they’re considered by most, to be easier to use than traditional snow blowers.

John Deere Attachments

Whether you’re operating a 100 Series or an X700 Series there are attachments suited for your mower. Matching the right size blade and blower to your model is important for performance. Attachment size is related to the horsepower, weight, and frame size of your tractor. A few examples are:

John Deere 44-inch, 2-Stage Snow Blower for 100 Series Tractor

John Deere’s 44-inch snow blower for the 100 Series lawn tractor works well in all snow conditions, but it’s ideal for homeowners in heavy-snow regions. This model is more effective than single-stage snow throwers when operating in wet, heavy snow. It provides consistent snow placement in all snow conditions because of the tractor’s high speed. The low-speed auger picks up snow and moves it toward the center of the machine, where the high-speed rotor blows it up to 50 feet out of the chute.

Faster rotor speed provides a maximum throwing distance up to 50 feet, plus the high-speed rotor provides consistent snow placement even in variable snow conditions. John Deere has streamlined the installation and removal process for reduced initial set-up time. There are both single-stage vs dual-stage blowers, with both belt-driven and shaft-driven power.

John Deere 54-inch Front Blade for X700 Series Tractor

John Deere also offers a 54-in. front blade for the X700 Series lawn tractor. This front blade is excellent for pushing away light snow or other loose material and is constructed for good performance and long life. The blade surface is curved to roll the material, rather than push, which requires less power and increases blade capacity. A bolt-on, replaceable cutting edge takes most of the wear to greatly extend the life of the blade. The blade also comes standard with equipment for controlling it right from the tractor’s seat, and the blade can be angled left, right, or used in the straight-ahead position.

Most lawn tractor manufacturers have snowplow or snow blower attachments available. There are universal plow and blower attachments available for purchase as well, with many that cost as much as a lower-priced walk-behind snow blower. Converting your lawn tractor to a snow removal machine is easy. While there’s a bit more to the job than hooking up an attachment, preparation and access to your owner’s manual ensures you’ll be clearing your driveway in no time.

How to Turn Your Tractor into a Snow Blower?

Remove the Deck

You’ll need to remove the deck to make room for your bracket and attachment (and to give you extra ground clearance). Make sure to store your deck inside and away from the weather to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Put Chains on the Back Tires

Most lawn tractors are not heavy enough to handle a serious snow removal job—without some help, that is. So put chains on the back wheels, especially for non-4WD tractors, to give yourself the extra traction you’ll need. This is particularly critical if the area you’re plowing is steep, narrow, or includes sharp turns.

Mount Bracket and Plow or Blower Attachment

Plow blades or blower attachments generally come with a bracket that attaches to your tractor first. Only once the bracket is in place is the attachment installed. Some brackets can remain on the tractor, allowing you to add or remove the attachment without tools, which is a serious time saver.

Attach Rear Weights

Some extra weight in the back of your tractor can help to keep you from slipping on icy or snowy terrain. You can add weight by attaching a weight bracket to the back of your tractor and adding weights to it or add wheel weights directly to the rear tires.

In general, plow blades can get closer to the ground, and therefore remove more snow, than blowers. So, when making your decision on the type of attachment you want, consider what kind of snowfall you get and whether you have a problem with thawing and refreezing. If you find that you spend a lot of time in your new tractor-turned-snow remover, you can purchase a snow cab to keep yourself safely out of bitter wind and weather while you work.

Come spring, your tractor can be converted right back to its lawn-cutting duties.

Additional Features

There are some additional features that may make one lawn mower snow blower combo more attractive than others. Most of these features are about convenience, which can be a big deal on a cold day.

Some models include one-handed or electric lift systems that allow you to raise and lower the machine while still seated. You’ll like the ability to adjust the angle of the discharge chute from the seat of the tractor.

Some models can be paired with adjustable skid shoes and replaceable wear plates that allow the snow blower to ride along the ground without damaging the unit itself.

Whatever you decide, know that John Deere has the right combination for your needs so you can spend less time-fighting Old Man Winter and more time enjoying the wonders of the season.

For more information on equipment troubleshooting and maintenance, contact your local RDO Equipment Co. store.

Eddie Stevens is an account manager for RDO Equipment Co. Lawn Land store in Bismarck, ND, where he has worked for the past three years. His favorite part of working at RDO is interacting with customers and finding the exact equipment they need.

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​The Best Snow Blowers

After another round of research, we remain confident in our picks. We have added test notes on the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE’s work on 16 inches of wet snow in a New Hampshire storm.

Shovels work for snowy stairs and walkways, but on a wide-open driveway or patio, you can’t beat a fast, effective, easy-to-use snow blower. After seven New England winters of testing, the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE 24-inch snow blower is the first tool we reach for, even with larger, pricier machines in the same shed. Its speed blows away everything else we saw in our tests, and its simple, intuitive controls make clearing deep snow a job you can (almost) enjoy.

The best snow blower

Two unusual features—a high-capacity auger and a drive system that matches your pace as you walk—make the SnowMaster faster and easier to maneuver than any other snow blower we’ve tested.

lawn, machine, snow, blower

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 999.

The Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE even worked faster—and did a better job—than larger, more expensive competitors, thanks to the distinctive design of its auger and drive control. Unlike the cumbersome manual-shift speed controls of typical blowers, Toro’s intuitive Personal Pace drive system synchronizes the speed of the blower’s wheels with how fast you’re walking. This model also has a convenient electric start and a smooth joystick chute control that lets you easily direct snow where you want it. It can toss snow up to about 40 feet, and it’s the ideal machine for a paved two-car driveway (up to about 80 feet in length) and for snowfalls that are consistently in the range of 6 to 18 inches. It does not have a reverse drive, so it requires more physical maneuvering than more traditional two-stage snow blowers. It’s also not the best pick for unpaved surfaces, so if you have a gravel driveway or a large lawn area to clear, the Cub Cadet, an also-great pick, is a better option.

Almost the best snow blower

Like our pick but with a slightly smaller engine, the 724 QXE shares the other unique snow-clearing abilities that make the 824 QXE so effective.

Buying Options

The Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE, a slightly smaller version of the 824 QXE, was our previous top pick. The 724 QXE is a great machine, and the only difference between it and the 824 QXE is that it has a 212 cc engine instead of a 252 cc engine and it costs a little less. In our tests it could easily handle up to 12 inches of wet snow with little issue. It can fit the needs of many, and is a great option if our top pick is sold out.

Better for gravel driveways

This traditional two-stage blower, ideal for 6- to 12-inch snowfalls, is heavier and slower than our pick but offers a great combination of features for the price.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

If the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE is not available, or if you have a gravel driveway (up to about 80 feet in length), consider going with the more traditional Cub Cadet 2X 26 IntelliPower Snow Blower. It’s not as fast or intuitive as the 824 QXE, but this 26-inch model is a well-done version of a standard two-stage blower, and it stands out for offering nice features at an excellent price. It has power steering—a must for a heavier two-stage blower like this one—a durable metal chute, a convenient electric start, and large, 15-inch tires that help give it good grip in the snow. This combination of features is usually reserved for blowers costing hundreds more. This replaces the Cub Cadet 2X 26 HP, our previous 26-inch pick, which is being discontinued. The new model has a digital throttle that matches the engine output with the task at hand, making for a more efficient engine and less bogging down. This new model costs about 100 more than the older one.

lawn, machine, snow, blower

A cordless option

The battery-powered Ego SNT2405 eliminates the need for gas and engine maintenance. It’s quiet and easy to use, but it will struggle in deeper, heavier snows.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

If you would rather avoid the use of a gas-powered engine and all of its noise, exhaust, and maintenance, we recommend the Ego Power SNT2405 24-inch Self-Propelled 2-Stage Snow Blower. Although it’s not strong enough for every situation, it should be sufficient for anyone who deals with lighter snowfalls and doesn’t have an extensive amount of clearing to do. In our tests, the Ego SNT2405 provided about 26 minutes of run time, which was enough for us to clear a 150-foot driveway in addition to a three-car parking area. We used the Ego SNT2405 in 6 inches of light and fluffy snow—a forgiving test—and we would not expect the same performance if the snow were wet, heavy, and dense. The controls are nice, and the adjustments are easy. Compared with the other cordless snow blowers we’ve tested, the SNT2405 is easier to use and has a longer run time.

The best snow blower

Two unusual features—a high-capacity auger and a drive system that matches your pace as you walk—make the SnowMaster faster and easier to maneuver than any other snow blower we’ve tested.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 999.

Almost the best snow blower

Like our pick but with a slightly smaller engine, the 724 QXE shares the other unique snow-clearing abilities that make the 824 QXE so effective.

Better for gravel driveways

This traditional two-stage blower, ideal for 6- to 12-inch snowfalls, is heavier and slower than our pick but offers a great combination of features for the price.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

A cordless option

The battery-powered Ego SNT2405 eliminates the need for gas and engine maintenance. It’s quiet and easy to use, but it will struggle in deeper, heavier snows.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Why you should trust us

We’ve been testing snow blowers for multiple winters in New Hampshire, the Hudson Valley, and Buffalo, New York. I’m a lifelong New Englander, and I’ve spent countless hours operating snow blowers—both in clearing my own rural property and in cleaning up construction sites during my 10 years as a general contractor.

Snow blowers are complicated, feature-laden machines, so to wade through the technicalities, we spoke with Paul Sikkema of, an independent website dedicated to all things snow blower. Sikkema has been using snow blowers for the past 50 years and has been kind enough to share his expertise on numerous occasions since we first published this guide. Since founding in 2008, Sikkema has written more than 350 snow blower reviews. Here’s more info about how he operates his site and about his interest in snow blowers.

To get technical details on a few models, we also interviewed Toro marketing manager Christine Cheng and senior design engineer Derek Duchscherer, as well as Troy-Bilt brand marketing director Megan Peth.

Plus, we read everything we could about snow blowers, spending hours scouring the reviews of current models at as well as many on the Home Depot website. We also found the website of retailer Snow Blowers Direct useful for researching and comparing models.

Who this is for

Unless you look forward to a heavy snowfall as a way of getting a good workout with your trusty snow shovel, you’ll likely welcome the convenience of a good snow blower. With a blower, you can clear a large area and deeper snow much faster, which is especially important if it’s frigid out or you have to drive somewhere quickly. Using a snow blower is also much easier on your body, minimizing muscle and back strain. Everyone has heard stories of people ending up in the emergency room after a session of strenuous shoveling.

With a good snow blower, clearing your driveway and walking paths is almost like, well, mowing your lawn. (Okay, clearing heavy snows might be more akin to mowing a field.) You simply fire up the engine and direct the blower through the area that needs clearing, aiming the blown snow off to the side and out of your way. The better models are equipped with electric start, so getting the machine going takes only the push of a button (and plugging an extension cord into a nearby outlet). Thanks to power steering, you can move the blower through the snow with minimal effort—no pushing, pulling, leaning, or tugging. And a four-way chute control lets you change both the direction and distance of the thrown snow without stopping the machine.

But a full-size snow blower is a big investment that not everyone needs to make. If you need to clear only a walkway, a few front steps, or a single parking space, a snow shovel might be a better fit.

Another consideration: As expensive as a full-size snow blower is, over time owning one is likely cheaper than hiring a plow—in New England, we’ve seen local plow services charge 50 to 75 each time they show up, and sometimes it’s more than once during a big storm. With even six or eight snowfalls per winter, it doesn’t take long to add up to the cost of a nice snow blower that should last at least 10 years.

The downsides? Maintenance and storage. Maintenance for gas models involves oil changes, belt tightening, and off-season storage. Many may not want to deal with that, and ignoring it will reduce the machine’s lifespan. As for storage, a full-size snow blower takes up as much space as a particularly bulky lawn mower, so plan for it to occupy a big corner of the garage.

How we picked and tested

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. As a guideline,’s Paul Sikkema writes, “if you live North of Interstate 70 you should not consider a single-stage snow blower for your primary snow removal tool.”

Two-stage blowers are the type that most people who truly need a snow blower have traditionally owned. These designs have both a front auger (the first stage) that feeds snow into the machine and an impeller (the second stage) that tosses it out of the chute. Two-stage blowers are heavy, and as Troy-Bilt’s Megan Peth told us, they have “engine-driven wheels that can handle uneven terrain and reduce the amount of effort it takes to remove snow.” We looked for models with power steering to assist with maneuvering these heavy machines.

Quality 24- to 26-inch two-stage models start around 1100, and they tend to include features we think are worth the investment: easily adjustable throwing chutes, larger wheels that can gain traction, intuitive controls, an effortless electric start, a reverse gear, and good service support, in addition to power steering. Of course, you can skip that stuff and pay less. But as Sikkema told us, “You can’t imagine all of the people who write me and the first thing they say is, ‘I don’t want to spend more than 500, but I also want it to last 20 years like my old one.’” Unfortunately, that’s not realistic.

A two-stage blower that’s 24 to 26 inches wide is typically best for handling about 6 to 18 inches of snow on an area that Sikkema says maxes out at roughly an 80-foot-long, two-car driveway. Larger models, with a width of 28 to 30 inches, are good for consistent snows of 15 to 20 inches or more, on driveways up to 150 to 200 feet. We didn’t look at anything over 30 inches. As Sikkema told us, “30-inch is the practical limit of residential snow blowers.” Recently a number of companies have released cordless electric two-stage snow blowers. They’re not as strong as gas-powered blowers and usually only come in a 24-inch width.

Single-stage gas blowers are less expensive but not as powerful, and they have other limitations. As Sikkema said, “People buy single-stage snow throwers because of the price, not because it is the right snow blower for them.” He said single-stage blowers “will only work on a hard surface like blacktop, cement, or a patio.” A single-stage blower has one front paddle that, as Toro’s Christine Cheng told us, “scoops up the snow and throws it out the chute in one motion.” The paddle is typically designed to hit the ground so that it propels the blower forward as it’s moving snow. This design eliminates the need for engine-driven wheels, but as Cheng warned, they’re not recommended for gravel driveways (unless you want to pick up and launch every loose rock you come across). These smaller blowers start to lose their effectiveness at around 6 to 8 inches of snow.

Corded and cordless electric single-stage blowers are similar to gas models but tend not to have any kind of propulsion and reach their limit around 5 inches of snow. The paddle typically doesn’t hit the ground, so moving the blower is all up to you. But for small, flat, paved areas, electric models can work as long as you can get everything cleared while the machine is tethered to an outlet. Cordless models have the limitation of run time and a fairly high cost, but we’re always on the lookout for a good, balanced cordless alternative.

Last, the unclassifiable Toro SnowMaster design, introduced in 2015, combines elements of single- and two-stage models; we’ve found it to be extremely successful, and you can read more about it in the next section.

Also know that gas snow blowers require ongoing maintenance, including oil and filter changes. The owner manual will have a maintenance schedule (not following it can void your warranty), and you can find more advice from Repair Clinic and Jack’s Small Engines. If things do go wrong, you should know how you’ll get parts and service. All quality blowers have at least two-year warranties, and some companies and retailers sell extended service plans for in-home service and coverage of wear and tear. We recommend purchasing from a service-oriented store such as Home Depot or a local power-equipment retailer.

When you’re shopping for a snow blower, it’s important to know that there are only a few manufacturers. A company called MTD makes Craftsman, Cub Cadet, and Troy-Bilt models. The Husqvarna company makes units under the Husqvarna, Jonsered, and Poulan Pro brands. Ariens makes Ariens and Sno-Tek models. In many cases, these brands indicate quality differences (Ariens, for example, represents a step up over the budget Sno-Tek). But in other instances, the distinctions are less clear: Troy-Bilt and Craftsman, for example, have many blowers that are nearly identical and simply sold at different retailers. In contrast, Toro makes only Toro blowers.

For our hands-on testing, we’ve spent the past seven winters using a number of snow blowers in Buffalo, New York, and in rural New Hampshire. Most of this testing time has consisted of simply using the snow blowers in a normal fashion: clearing the driveway, the walkway, and the frozen plow mess out by the mailbox. This extended testing has allowed us to use the snow blowers in everything from deep, fluffy drifts to slushy, sloppy, day-after melts. Having several of the best-rated machines on hand for multiple seasons has allowed us to do thorough side-by-side comparisons, a process that has revealed key distinctions in performance and has helped us determine the best snow blowers for multiple situations.

Our pick: Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE

The best snow blower

Two unusual features—a high-capacity auger and a drive system that matches your pace as you walk—make the SnowMaster faster and easier to maneuver than any other snow blower we’ve tested.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 999.

After all of our research and years of testing, we’ve found that the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE 24-inch snow blower is the best fit for most snow-covered driveways, and without question the fastest snow blower of all the models we looked at. The SnowMaster design is a unique hybrid style, combining elements of single-stage and two-stage models. We’ve used a SnowMaster through four New Hampshire winters, and we continue to be impressed with its snow-clearing abilities. We even put it head-to-head against a 30-inch two-stage Troy-Bilt behemoth, and in each test the smaller SnowMaster got the upper hand. In fact, with this machine in the shed, we haven’t seriously considered using any of our bigger, pricier snow blowers.

What makes the SnowMaster so fast is the combination of a distinctive single-auger design and Toro’s Personal Pace drive system. The auger, while technically a single-stage design, is atypical of those smaller machines in two ways: speed and shape. According to Toro marketing manager Christine Cheng, the SnowMaster’s auger spins 10 times faster than that of the company’s compact two-stage snow blower. It has the same turning speed as a regular single-stage version, but “it has a 25 percent higher tip speed due to the larger-diameter rotor, which provides greater throw distance versus the single stage.” That means it throws snow faster and farther. As for the shape, the sides are designed to pull snow toward the center portion, which then throws the snow. A regular single-stage design has a more “gentle curve,” which results in “a portion of the snow that does not go up the chute,” Cheng said.

Toro’s Personal Pace drive system, popularized in the company’s mowers, is the other part of the speed equation. The speed of the wheels reacts to the amount of pressure you put on the handlebar—the faster you walk, the harder you press, and the faster the SnowMaster goes. If you slow down, reducing the pressure on the grip area, the speed of the wheels slows as well. The entire time, the machine is matching your pace, and because of the fast-spinning auger, the SnowMaster is clearing snow as quickly as you can walk.

In testing the SnowMaster, we were always very comfortable at the higher speeds, because we knew we could slow down in an instant. We could also fly over lightly snowed areas and promptly slow down when the snow got thick. With a regular two-stage machine, we usually defaulted to a moderate speed and kept it there because the manual shift to slow down or speed up was too tedious to bother with for a short stretch.

We tested the SnowMaster 824 QXE head-to-head against the 30-inch Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP, using each machine to clear a 100-foot-long, 4-foot-wide path through 8 inches of snow. The SnowMaster did the work in half the time of the Storm even though it’s 6 inches (20 percent) narrower. Not only was it quicker, but it also cleared down to the ground better.

We also ran the two blowers on 4 inches of soaking-wet driveway slush (the kind that’s more water than snow), and again the SnowMaster 824 QXE did a better job. The lumbering two-stage Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP constantly clogged up at the chute, so we had to keep stopping and shutting it down to clear it. The auger of the SnowMaster, in contrast, was fast enough to keep the slush flying through the chute, prohibiting any blockage.

The SnowMaster 824 QXE does not have power steering like most two-stage blowers do, but due to the hybrid machine’s light weight, it is still a maneuverable snow blower. The SnowMaster weighs only 131 pounds, nearly a hundred pounds less than a comparable two-stage machine like the 215-pound Cub Cadet 2X 24. Because the SnowMaster maneuvers like a lawn mower, you don’t have to shift constantly between forward and reverse when clearing a tight spot—you just pull the unit backward. Doing so is impractical with heavier two-stage units, which need power steering and a reverse gear in order to be maneuverable; we didn’t miss those features at all on the SnowMaster.

The SnowMaster also has a nice joystick-style chute control that you can operate on the fly as the blower is moving—an invaluable feature when you’re blowing, say, the area between a house and garage, or any other tight space where you have to continually move the chute and deflector to drop the snow right where you want it. We like that the same joystick controls both the chute and deflector; many other models have two separate controls.

We looked for the ceiling of the SnowMaster 824 QXE’s capabilities and discovered that at about 16 inches of heavy, wet snow, the engine starts to bog down. It’s a clear sound, and once we recognized it, we simply eased off a little and started taking smaller passes or going a bit slower. As this video shows, the machine still clears the snow, but with the deeper drifts it goes at a normal pace rather than at the race-car speed you might be used to. The most difficult part with this kind of snow is making the first pass, when the machine is dealing with a full load of snow. After that, it’s much easier because it’s only taking off as much snow as the blower can handle.

We’ve relied on a SnowMaster through five New Hampshire winters, and in that time we haven’t had any real issues with its capabilities, even with the frozen plow mess at the end of the driveway. In a heavy snowfall in early 2023, we again had great results with a SnowMaster we’ve been testing for two years. As with any snowblower, it’s about being aware of what the machine can handle and moderating what goes into the chute.

The truth is, after using the SnowMaster, we have completely changed the way we view snow clearing. In the past, moving snow was something we had to do after a storm, maybe even the next morning. It took hours, and it was drudgery we didn’t look forward to at all. But because of the SnowMaster’s sheer speed and ease of use, the task is now something we can dash through in less than an hour. Because the SnowMaster is so fast, we also have the option to do a quick mid-storm pass with larger snowfalls, when the snow is still fluffy, rather than waiting until the next day. By taking this approach, we’re hardly spending any more time snow blowing, and we’re also not stressing the SnowMaster with an inordinate amount of snow.

We’re not alone in our high opinion of the SnowMaster design. Paul Sikkema thoroughly tested the SnowMaster 824 QXE and came away impressed. You can read his detailed walkthrough for even more info.

After using the SnowMaster, we have completely changed the way we view snow clearing.

Finally, Toro covers the SnowMaster machines with a three-year limited warranty (PDF); the chute is guaranteed for life.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Toro recommends that the SnowMaster be used only on paved surfaces, because the speed at which the auger moves leaves the possibility of launching a rock. “We’re being cautious,” Toro marketing manager Christine Cheng told us. We did much of our testing on a smooth gravel driveway and didn’t notice any more rock ejections with this model than we did with any two-stage blower. The machine comes with adjustable skid shoes that raise the scraper bar off the ground and make it harder for loose gravel to get caught in with the snow. If you adjust these pieces higher, there’s less likelihood that stones will get jettisoned, but it also means a thin layer of snow will remain on the driveway, which is par for the course no matter what kind of snow blower you’re using.

But we did find other reasons to stick to a flat surface (even if it’s a flat gravel driveway). The Personal Pace system can have difficulty on uneven ground such as a bumpy lawn. If the front of the snow blower jams on something, you naturally end up pressing in the Personal Pace handle, which gives the wheels a burst of juice—and that causes the SnowMaster to be a bit herky-jerky. If you’re just clearing a quick path to the woodshed or a dog run, it’s something you’ll likely learn to deal with, as we did. Still, if you have a lot of lawn clearing to do, we suggest considering the Cub Cadet 2X 26 HP.

Also, while the lack of a reverse gear wasn’t a problem for our testers, it does take some strength to maneuver the machine. We think that anyone in moderate physical condition should be able to handle the SnowMaster, but if you’re concerned about your strength, the Cub Cadet will be a less strenuous option.

Steeper inclines can pose a problem for the SnowMaster 824 QXE, as the combination of the small tires and the light weight can lead to a loss of traction. The driveway we used for testing has a 5.5 percent slope throughout much of it, and we never had any problems, but if you have notably steep areas to clear, you may end up putting more push into the machine than you’re used to. The heavier Cub Cadet 2X 26 HP is a better option for steep inclines.

Although the SnowMaster 824 QXE is a fast snow mover, its weight and size impose some limitations. Because it’s so light, we found that the machine sometimes rode up over packed snow rather than knifing under it. In one instance, 5 inches of especially heavy snow didn’t cause issues for the SnowMaster, but it struggled on the tire lines where a car had driven out—those took a few passes to break up and remove. The crusty, crunchy next-day plow mess at the end of the driveway sometimes needed a little busting up with a shovel before the SnowMaster (or any other two-stage blower) could blow it away. At around a foot of heavy, wet snow, the SnowMaster starts to bog down.

We also wish the chute could turn a wee bit further. Up at the end of the driveway by the road, it’s nice to be able to toss the snow to the side and a little behind. The SnowMaster 824 QXE can go a few degrees more than 90, but hardly enough to make a real difference in that regard. Our other picks all go further, allowing you to throw the snow a little to the rear of the blower.

Finally, this model has no headlight. Although that’s a relatively minor feature, we appreciate any added illumination, even if it’s just so that passing cars can see us better at the end of the driveway. But the lack of a headlight in no way offsets all of the benefits of the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE. And over the years, we’ve actually found that wearing a good headlamp is much better for snow blowing than depending on a machine’s headlight, because a headlamp lets you put light anywhere you want, not just in front of the blower.

Runner-up: Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE

Almost the best snow blower

Like our pick but with a slightly smaller engine, the 724 QXE shares the other unique snow-clearing abilities that make the 824 QXE so effective.

Buying Options

The Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE, a slightly smaller version of the 824 QXE, was our previous pick. We recommend getting it if you can’t find the 824 QXE—as is often the case once December hits.

The 724 QXE is a great machine, and the only difference between it and the 824 QXE is that it has a 212 cc engine instead of a 252 cc engine. In our tests, the 724 QXE could easily handle up to 12 inches of wet snow with little issue, so it should fit the needs of many people.

With only about 100 to 150 separating the two models, all other things being equal, we think most people would be happier over the long term with the more powerful version. But when the slightly more powerful 824 QXE is not an option, look at the 724 QXE before any alternatives, because it shares so many of the unique snow-clearing abilities—the same chute control, Personal Pace system, and electric start, as well as the 24-inch clearance width of the auger itself—that make the entire SnowMaster design so effective.

Also great: Cub Cadet 2X 26 IntelliPower Snow Blower

Better for gravel driveways

This traditional two-stage blower, ideal for 6- to 12-inch snowfalls, is heavier and slower than our pick but offers a great combination of features for the price.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

If the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE is not available or if you have a gravel driveway (or you clear a lot of lawn area), we recommend the Cub Cadet 2X 26 IntelliPower Snow Blower. This model is good for regular snowfalls of roughly 6 inches to 1 foot on a two-car driveway that’s up to about 80 feet long. The Cub Cadet is a reliable machine with a well-rounded feature set. Like all good-quality two-stage blowers, it has an electric start and no-mar skid shoes—these features make the machine easy to get running and make it safe to use on a deck or patio without leaving scratches. It also has power steering, large tires, and a durable metal chute. This is an upgraded version of our previous pick. The major improvement is the addition of a digital throttle which regulates the power based on the task at hand. This works to prevent the engine from bogging down.

Because it’s a two-stage model, the Cub Cadet 2X 26 IntelliPower Snow Blower is much heavier than the SnowMaster 824 QXE, so the power steering is crucial. A small trigger at each handle stops the corresponding wheel, which causes the blower to turn on a dime (or a slow arc, if you’re just intermittently tapping the trigger). After having gotten used to a two-stage blower with power steering, we can’t imagine going back to the days of wrestling one around at the ends of the driveway. (Although the trigger system is an essential feature for a two-stage blower, at the same time it feels tedious compared with the far more maneuverable design of the SnowMaster.)

In fact, power steering is a major reason this Cub Cadet is special: Many other high-end two-stage blowers have power steering, but most of them cost hundreds more. In fact, most blowers in this price range don’t have power steering.

Two other features distinguish the Cub Cadet 2X 26 IntelliPower Snow Blower from other 26-inch machines. First, it has two headlights, one on each side of the control area, facing forward. Many blowers have only a single light in the center, which does more to illuminate the back of the chute than the driveway. Although we recommend wearing a headlamp if you’re clearing snow in the evening, the Cub Cadet’s two lights do offer increased visibility and a better chance that passing drivers will see you if you’re cleaning up the end of the driveway.

Second, the Cub Cadet has 15-inch tires, which are at least an inch larger and provide better traction than those on many 24- and 26-inch blowers.

A hand crank below the dashboard controls the side-to-side movement of the chute, and a joystick at the controls operates the up-and-down movement of the deflector cap. As on the SnowMaster 824 QXE, you can make adjustments while the blower is moving, but doing so with these controls is not as easy as using a four-way joystick.

Being a traditional two-stage blower, the Cub Cadet uses shear pins. These pieces hold the auger blades to the auger axle, and they’re designed to break if the auger gets jammed, preventing damage to the blades or engine. The blower will likely come with a few extras, but we recommend checking the owner manual for a part number so that you can order more.

Cub Cadet covers the blower with a three-year limited warranty and a five-year limited warranty on the auger gearbox.

Also great: Ego Power SNT2405

A cordless option

The battery-powered Ego SNT2405 eliminates the need for gas and engine maintenance. It’s quiet and easy to use, but it will struggle in deeper, heavier snows.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

For a snow-blowing experience that is free of exhaust, gas, maintenance, and the noise of a small engine, we recommend the cordless Ego Power SNT2405 24-inch Self-Propelled 2-Stage Snow Blower. Although it does not match the Snow Master 824 QXE—or any of our other recommended gas models—in clearing ability, speed, or overall power, it does perform well with lighter snowfalls and has the run time to handle a decent-size driveway. Just know that it might not be strong enough to handle the crusty plow mush at the end of the driveway, so you may need to do some shovel work there.

We tested the Ego SNT2405 on 6 inches of light, fluffy snow—basically, the easiest kind of snow to clear. Under these circumstances, it worked great with about 26 minutes of run time, but we would expect more of a struggle and a shorter battery life with heavier snows. Under these conditions, it cleared the plow mess at the end of the driveway but still struggled a little, and we expect that with denser snows it would have much more of a problem or simply wouldn’t be able to do the job. We performed our testing in New Hampshire, and for areas that get snows at the northern New England level, we recommend either sticking with a gas snow blower or understanding that a big, wet, heavy snow might outmatch the Ego SNT2405—and with many snows, you’re likely to end up clearing the end of the driveway by hand.

In our nearly half hour of battery time, we were able to clear a 150-foot driveway and a three-car parking area. We even had enough juice left to blaze a 75-foot path to a chicken coop. This experience amounted to about eight minutes more run time than we got from the Ryobi RY40870 40V HP Brushless 2-Stage Snow Blower, which we also tested. The Ego SNT2405’s charge time is about two hours, less than that of any competitors.

The Ego SNT2405 runs on two 56-volt 7.5 Ah batteries. We like that it comes with a dual-port charger, which reduces downtime by requiring only one charging session to get the snow blower back up to full capacity. The Ryobi RY40870, in contrast, comes with four batteries but only a two-port charger, so in order to get that model to full capacity, charging is a two-step process that, if efficiently done, takes four hours (two hours for each pair). The SNT2405’s batteries are compatible with the rest of Ego’s lawn and garden tools, but keep in mind that the 7.5 Ah batteries are pretty large and will add weight to a handheld tool such as a leaf blower or a string trimmer. Ego is also in the process of releasing a version of the snow blower that comes with two 10 Ah batteries, which will likely have an even longer run time but be even heavier.

lawn, machine, snow, blower

The controls on the Ego SNT2405 differ from those on a gas snow blower, but they’re familiar enough that we didn’t take long to get accustomed to them. The biggest change is that you can control the auger speed as well as the drive speed. In our tests, this meant we could dial down the auger speed (saving battery life) to match the snow conditions and the speed we were moving. For safety reasons, starting the auger is a two-handed process, which is awkward at first, but eventually we were doing it without much thought.

This snow blower has no power steering, so it does need to be muscled around a little. The self-propelled drive can go in reverse, though, which helps with turning it around at the end of a driveway.

You control the SNT2405’s chute with two joysticks, one to adjust the rotation of the chute and the other to raise and lower the hood. This arrangement is a little tedious and made us appreciate the smooth, single joystick of the SnowMaster 824 QXE.

We found other minor touches that we liked about the SNT2405, such as the handle height adjustment. Because this Ego model is so easy to use, you might distribute snow-blowing duties among multiple people in a household, and raising and lowering the handle is a relatively simple process that does not require removing the entire handle, as it does on the Ryobi.

One downside of the Ego SNT2405, aside from its general limitations on power and run time, is that it doesn’t have much in the way of a battery-indicator light. You can sort of look in the battery compartment and see the indicator lights on the individual batteries, but the lid of the compartment quickly gets covered with snow. Because we succumbed to the trance-like nature of snow blowing, we ended up with a dead snow blower positioned pretty far from our garage. Instead of muscling it back, we ended up deserting it for a night while we charged up the batteries.

What to look forward to

For the 2022/2023 winter season we’re testing two new cordless snow blowers. The Toro Power Max e24 60V Two-Stage Snow Blower (also available in a 26-inch version) is more expensive than the Ego Power SNT2405, but it has a couple of features that we’re curious to test now that we have the SNT2405 to compare it with. First, the chute control looks similar to the (very successful) one on the SnowMaster 824 QXE, an area where the SNT2405 felt a little clunky. Also, engaging the auger looks a lot simpler, which, again, was a little awkward on the SNT2405. The Toro cordless blower needs two batteries to run but provides a third port for added run time if you own other tools in Toro’s 60-volt system. It comes with two single battery chargers, which means you can fill both batteries at once, but you need two plugs to do so.

We’re also looking at the Ryobi 40V HP Brushless 18-inch Single Stage Cordless Snow Blower. This is a nicely-priced single-stage blower that runs off the Ryobi 40-volt platform. We’re looking at it as a possibility for people who have only small areas to clear.

The competition

The other cordless model we tested in our latest round, the Ryobi RY40870 40V HP Brushless 2-Stage Snow Blower, is priced on a par with the Ego SNT2405 but has a shorter run time and lacks some of the finer touches. In fact it wasn’t until we used the Ego that we realized how frustrating some aspects of the Ryobi are.

The Ryobi RY40870 needs two batteries to operate, but it has room for four and comes with four. With all of them engaged in the snow blower, you get increased run time. But the battery life with all four batteries still falls short of what we saw from the Ego’s two batteries. In our tests, we got close to 20 minutes with the Ryobi, short of the Ego’s 25 to 26 minutes. That 20-minute stretch was enough for us to do quite a bit of clearing, but the real difficulty lay in the charging. Like the Ego SNT2405, the Ryobi RY40870 comes with a two-port charger, but with four batteries, this means that you need to swap out the first two once they’re full. We found this step easy to forget, and during one snow we realized that we had only two fully charged batteries because we hadn’t put the other ones on the charger. It’s unfortunate that Ryobi offers no onboard charging system that would allow you to just plug the snow blower in and know that the next time you need it all four batteries would be filled.

We found a number of other inconveniences in the RY40870, too. First, the handles were uncomfortable to hold, as the ends of the drive and auger levers flare slightly outward, and that’s right where we naturally placed our hands. Even with gloves on, we felt the odd shape of the levers press into our palms, and they wore our hands right out. Had the batteries not died, we probably would have had to take a break just to rest our hands. We started the process of lowering the handles to see if that would remedy the situation, but to do that, we discovered, we needed to remove and readjust the entire control console, a time-consuming and awkward process (on the Ego SNT2405, the control console can slide up and down while remaining attached). In trying to disengage the Ryobi control panel, we realized that we were unable to remove one of the holding bolts because it was blocked by the wiring harness. Frustrated, we gave up.

Another inconvenience of the RY40870 is that the lid to the battery compartment is spring-loaded to the closed position. This design choice is understandable considering the amount of snow that is likely to be around when you’re moving the batteries in and out, but it also creates a true annoyance while you’re dealing with the batteries. The batteries click into the snow blower with some force, so getting them out can take two hands—not an easy task while you’re also trying to prop the spring-loaded door open.

While trying to assemble the RY40870, we realized that a bolt had not been shipped with the snow blower. We read some reviews on the Home Depot site indicating that other people had had the same experience.

Previously, we tested the Ego Power SNT2102 Snow Blower which usually costs around 650 and does not have any kind of self-propulsion. This omission is something we would be willing to forgive with a 200 snow blower, but it’s a lot more difficult with a model that is priced well over 500.

The Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm 30 was our previous upgrade pick, but because of a production delay, it will not be available for the winter of 2021/22. It looks to be back in stock for winter 2022/23, and is a good choice for someone dealing with a lot of snow. It’s a great snow blower and we’re going to watch for any stocking issues this season before fully recommending it again.

We tested two power shovels, the electric Toro PowerShovel 38361 and the cordless Snapper XD 82-Volt Max Snow Shovel. These models had no problems clearing 5 to 6 inches of snow in our tests, but the issue is that they offer no way to direct the snow; it just flies forward. Each machine could throw the snow quite far, but we found it a challenge to maneuver the shovels in a way that put the snow where we wanted it (and not in the neighbor’s yard). Also due to their minimal width, 12 inches, both power shovels required a lot more passes than a regular single-stage blower. Last, the Snapper is quite heavy to use for any extended period of time, due to the battery.

The Ryobi RYAC803 20 in. 13 Amp Corded Electric Snow Blower, is another blower we recommended, but that is no longer available. The similar Snow Joe Ultra SJ623E Electric Snow Blower will be available, but it has a much shorter warranty compared with that of the Ryobi (five years versus two years).

We researched Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, and Craftsman blowers, all made by MTD Products, and for the most part found similar builds and warranties. The feature sets vary from model to model, as does availability. Although they’re priced on the more affordable side of the snow blower spectrum, we’ve never had any issues with their performance or reliability. Of the MTD-made 26-inch, two-stage models we researched, the Troy-Bilt Storm 2665 typically costs 100 less than the Cub Cadet 2X 26 HP but doesn’t have power steering. We’ll stick with the Cub Cadet.

Cub Cadet and Troy-Bilt offer models (manufactured by MTD) that they refer to as “three-stage” blowers. In this design, a third impeller located at the center of the front auger feeds snow rapidly into the throwing impeller. These machines are great for moving massive amounts of snow quickly, but with smaller snowfalls, Sikkema told us, they “throw snow out the front all over the place.” The Home Depot customer feedback on these models isn’t as good as on traditional two-stage blowers.

At this time, we don’t feel confident recommending any Craftsman blowers. Previously, the Craftsman Quiet 208cc Dual-Stage Zero-Turn Snowblower (88694) was a pick of ours, but with the recent purchase of the Craftsman name by Stanley Black Decker, plus the continued financial troubles of Sears, we think the brand is in too much transition for us to recommend such a big-ticket item. We don’t know what will happen in the future, and Craftsman representatives have told us that the blower will continue to be supported, but in thinking of the large investment required for a snow blower, we feel more comfortable steering you toward a more stable company, especially when you can find other brands offering similar models.

Ariens is a highly regarded manufacturer of blowers. Their Deluxe 30 is usually a little more expensive than our previous pick, the 30-inch Troy-Bilt, and the engine is not as big.

The less-expensive Ariens Compact line lacks power steering, a feature we see as essential for a two-stage blower. The snow blowers in the Ariens Platinum series are simply too pricey, 2,000 for a 24-inch snow blower is asking a lot. These machines are designed for professionals, and given the impressive performance of the less-expensive models we’ve tested, we don’t think it’s necessary to invest this kind of money into a residential snow blower.

Toro blowers are typically more expensive than MTD-made blowers. Some Toro models have trigger power steering as the MTD blowers do, but others have a system similar to Ariens’s Auto-Turn, where the machine responds to your movements (if you tug the handles, the wheels react accordingly). Smaller Toro models, such as the Power Max 826 OAE, don’t beat out the Cub Cadet 26-inch blower in terms of value and features.

The 24-inch Husqvarna ST224P comes with hand warmers and an adjustable-height handlebar. It costs roughly the same as the 26-inch Cub Cadet and has a less powerful engine and smaller tires. The company’s 27-inch version splits the difference in size between the smaller 24- to 26-inch models and the larger 28- to 30-inch models, but it still has only 15-inch tires. Sikkema specifically does not recommend the Husqvarna ST230P, writing, “I feel there are better value 30 inch machines.”

Honda’s snow blowers are highly regarded, but they come with an extremely high price tag. The 24-inch model, the HSS724AW, typically costs 2,500, about twice the cost of the Toro SnowMaster 824 QXE. After having experienced the reliability and usability of our picks over multiple winters, we don’t see the need to invest that much in a snow blower.

We avoided any blowers priced under about 700, so we didn’t spend much time on lesser brands like Murray, Poulan Pro, and Yard Machines. Sikkema, for his part, has given Power Smart and Snow Devil a “Do Not Buy” designation, writing, “If you want the cheapest snow blower, if you don’t care if you can easily get it repaired, if you don’t care how long it will last. This is the snow blower for you.”

Tracked blowers such as the Troy-Bilt Storm 2690 XP are also available. These models are like regular two-stage machines but with tank tracks instead of wheels. Tracked machines sit on the periphery of the snow-blowing world—as Sikkema told us, they’re helpful for steep driveways or “large areas of gravel or turf,” but in the end “most people don’t need tracks.”

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Verified Reviews

I can’t speak highly enough for the work done on my Craftsman 42 inch lawn tractor. Came to my home on Saturday and thoroughly serviced and made repairs in a efficient and economical basis. 5 stars all the way around.

Our regular small engine repair person decided not to service our area this season, so I searched for another local business and I’m glad I went with Twin Cities Lawn and Snow Blower Repair! Jim was super helpful and was excellent with communication! I highly recommend and will use again in the future!

I have a 4 year old snow blower that has been causing problems for the past few years. The engine starts but doesn’t have enough power to push the snow and end even stops. I called this company to assess and resolve the problem. They promptly responded and picked up the snow blower from my home. So far, so good. The first quote I received included replacement of spark plug and other things that were clearly not needed. Spark plug in particular was replaced a year ago and was visibly new. Upon my questioning, I got a new quote that only included the repair of the engine (carburetor cleanup and tune up). 5 Days later, I asked to know an estimate time when it would be fixed. I was told I’ll let you know when it’s done. So, I had to basically wait and hope it would be done in an acceptable time. 9 days later, it was ready and dropped back at my house, literarily, a couple of hours before a forecasted snow storm. Unfortunately, it was still having the same problem as before. It was still very problematic to get all the snow out of the driveway. The next day I reached out through email and was told it could have been the extreme weather, very cold temperature, or the amount of snow (which in theory this snow blower should be able to handle) and received other tips. A couple of weeks later, another snow storm dropped about 4 inches of light snow. The temperature now was average for the winter and yet again, the snow blower did not work properly. I again told them about this situation and this time, after 3 days, I did not receive a response. Conclusion: I was charged 200 to fix a problem and that did not happen. They didn’t take charge of the work either and acted very unprofessionally.

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