It’s hard to picture the blowing snow in your driveway while you’re enjoying a cold drink in your backyard in the middle of August, but winter’s not that far away.
It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing yourself for the inevitable.
If you’re like me and you dread the idea of having to shovel your driveway a snow blower is the perfect solution.
That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide that will tell you everything you need to know to make sure you choose the best snow blower for you.
There are a range of different alternatives when it comes to snow removal.
Instead of the old-fashioned manual snow shovel, you can choose from a range of electric or gasoline powered snow shovels, snow throwers and snow blowers.
There’s something for every budget.
You don’t have to choose the most expensive option – that might be overkill for your needs.
If you have a small driveway, the best snow blower for you could be quite inexpensive.
With so many options, it can be overwhelming. No worries we’re going to help with that.
In this guide you’ll find information on the different sizes of snow blowers and snow throwers.
We’ll explain the difference between a snow blower and a snow thrower.
We’ll also talk about the different manufacturers and cover the pros and cons of each.
If you have questions about snow blowers, you’ll find the answers below.
- Snow Blower vs. Snow Thrower
- Electric vs. Gas Snow Blower
- Different Types Of Snow Blowers
- 7 Great Features To Consider
- What’s Available In My Budget?
- Is One Manufacturer Better Than Another?
- Final Thoughts
Snow Blower vs. Snow Thrower
While you might hear the term snow thrower and snow blower used to describe any type of machine that removes snow from your path the terms aren’t interchangeable.
They’re actually two very different machines.
So, what’s the difference between a snow blower and a snow thrower?
A snow thrower is a single-stage snow removal machine.
In plain language, what that means is that it picks up the snow and throws it out the chute all in one continual motion.
It’s a simple set up and it works well for removing light snow – up to about 3 or 4 inches of accumulation.
A snow thrower is not meant for heavy snow removal and will easily get bogged down if you try to use it for that purpose.
A snow blower uses a two-stage process to remove snow from your walkways and driveways.
They’re bigger machines and a little bit more cumbersome, but they can also move a lot of snow.
In the first stage, the snow is gathered by an auger that churns it up and sends it to the impeller, which blows it out the chute in the direction you choose.
The auger breaks up any icy chunks making it easier to throw it out the chute and that means there’s less of a chance that it will get bogged down.
Snow throwers are highly efficient little machines, but they tend to leave snow piled up close by.
A snow blower can throw the snow up to 40 or 5o feet.
That allows you to make fewer passes and you don’t have to worry about moving the same snow more than once.
If you live in an area with the occasional light snowfall, a snow thrower is more than enough for the job.
They’re less expensive and don’t usually require a lot of maintenance.
If you never see more than a couple of inches accumulation during a snowfall, a snow blower is just overkill.
They’re more expensive and because of the more complicated two-stage process, there are more working parts.
That means you will need to do more yearly maintenance to keep your machine in good working order.
If you do see a lot of snow in your area during the winter months, a snow blower is worth the expense and as long as you take care of them you’ll get years of use out of one.
What Is Right For Me?
The bottom line is this – one machine isn’t better than the other.
They’re both good choices depending on your situation.
A snow thrower is the best choice in areas with the occasional snowfall and a snow blower is better if you live in a winter wonderland.
Electric vs. Gas Snow Blower
Many consumers are starting to become more conscious of the environmental impact their purchases are having.
That’s a good thing, but it’s not the only consideration when it comes to snow removal machines.
There are tons of choices if you have your heart set on an electric or battery powered snow thrower or snow blower.
The question is can they do the job as well as a gas powered machine?
The simple answer is, it really depends on where you live and what type of climate you’re faced with.
If you’re adamant that your snow removal machine has to have no negative impact on the environment then your only choices are an electric or battery powered machine.
Even the most efficient gasoline powered snow blowers give off some carbon emissions.
An electric snow blower can be used in any environment.
It doesn’t matter if your average snowfall is two inches or two feet.
They just don’t remove snow as well as gas powered models in heavy snowfalls.
That means a little extra work to get the job done.
An electric model will bog down in heavy snowfalls if you’re not careful.
A quick look at each type of machine’s strengths and weaknesses will make things a little clearer.
Electric Snow Thrower
An electric snow thrower is a simple machine. It simply pushes the snow out of your way as you go all in one process.
They’re lightweight machines – under 20 pounds. That makes them easy to operate for everyone.
They work fine if you’re only dealing with the occasional dusting, but for anything more significant, they simply won’t do the job.
You can’t use an electric snow thrower or shovel in heavy snow.
The machine will bog down, or worse, you’ll overload it and burn it out.
They aren’t meant for heavy snowfall environments.
Their main advantages are that they are inexpensive and of course that they give off zero emissions.
They’re great to have on hand in mild climates where snow doesn’t happen often and doesn’t last long.
Electric Snow Blower
An electric snow blower is a step up from an electric snow thrower.
These are two-stage machines with an auger and an impeller just like their gasoline cousins.
An electric snow blower will comfortably handle snow accumulation of between 6 and 9 inches.
Like an electric snow thrower, they’re also environmentally friendly so they produce zero emissions.
They don’t have the horsepower of traditional gasoline models so they aren’t ideal if you’re dealing with 1 or 2 feet of snow at a time.
They can work in such situations, but it’s a challenge.
Gasoline Powered Snow Blower
For those living in northern climates gasoline powered snow blowers are quite popular.
These machines can easily cost more than $1000, but you get a lot of snow removal power for your buck.
A good machine will cut through a couple of feet of snow with little effort.
Some of the better models are even self-propelled and do most of the work for you.
They do have a couple of drawbacks.
Because they’re powered by gasoline, they give off harmful emissions.
Modern machines are efficient and their impact is minimal, but there will always be a carbon footprint when using a gasoline-powered model.
It’s up to the individual to decide if they’re okay with that.
The other concern with gasoline powered snow removal machines is that they have an internal combustion engine.
That means they have a lot of moving parts and require regular maintenance.
If you don’t take proper care of them, they will break down.
If you’re not very handy and you don’t want to pay someone else to do repairs for you, a gas-powered snow blower may not be the best option.
Different Types Of Snow Blowers
In our snow blower buying guide, so far we’ve explained the difference between a snow thrower and a snow blower.
We’ve also looked at the advantages and disadvantages of choosing gasoline or electric.
Now I want to turn our attention to all of the different snow blower types available.
There’s so much to choose from.
In addition to the types we’ve already talked about there are also three-stage gasoline powered snow blowers, there’s the choice between electric or battery powered zero emission machines and there’s also the question of extra bells and whistles to consider.
Two-Stage vs. Three-Stage Snow Blowers
Anyone that’s ever had to remove a foot or two of thick, wet snow off their driveway will know what a challenge that is.
Well now there’s a type of machine that makes this type of snow removal easy and straightforward.
What we’re referring to here is a three-stage snow blower.
A three-stage snow blower is equipped with a secondary auger called an accelerator that allows it to make short work of even the heaviest snowfall.
They are easily the best snow blowers on the market today, but they’re also the most expensive.
You’re not likely to find a three-stage snow blower for less than $1000 and the best ones cost in excess of $2000.
Forking out a couple of grand on a snow blower may seem excessive, but for those of us that live in the Snow Belt it’s a worthwhile purchase if you can afford it.
These machines will help you save time because of their large clearing width, usually between 24 and 30 inches, and their powerful snow clearing ability.
Three-stage snow blowers are heavier, but they’re usually self-propelled so that’s not a major drawback.
7 Great Features To Consider
There are tons of extra features to consider when shopping for a snow blower.
In this section, we take a look at the most popular and the most useful ones.
You may be surprised at some of them.
1. Multi-Speed Machines
If you’re willing to spend a little extra on your snow removal machine you might want to consider a multi-speed machine.
These snow blowers are at least partially self-propelled and they usually have more than one speed.
Kicking it up a gear can really come in handy if you have a driveway with a steep incline.
Your legs are still going to get a bit of a workout, but the machine will do most of the work for you.
2. Simple Chute Controls
The best snow blower is one that meets all of your needs.
Some people have no issue having to crank a chute by hand to change its discharge direction, but for others chute controls are a make or break feature.
Many modern machines allow you to change the direction of your chute with a slight touch on a joystick.
If convenience is one of your top considerations, you’ll definitely want to consider a snow blower that has this type of automatic chute control.
As winter gets closer, the days get shorter and that means fewer hours of sunlight.
By the time the snow starts to fall there’s a good chance that it will be dark by the time you get home from work.
That can make clearing the snow from your driveway a bit of a tricky proposition.
Sure, you can turn the lights on over your garage, but you’ll still have to deal with some dark areas if you have a long driveway that makes it hard to see what you’re doing.
The best snow blowers now come equipped with LED headlights.
This makes it easy to see any obstacles or unwanted surprises in your way.
It also makes it easier for cars to see you if you’re shoveling the end of your driveway.
It’s a great safety feature to have and worth paying a little more for.
We’ve already touched on the benefits of accelerators when we looked at the difference between two-stage vs. three-stage snow blowers.
An accelerator is an extra auger that speeds up the snow removal process and makes sure any ice chunks are fully broken up before they hit your impeller.
Snow blowers with this feature are expensive, but highly efficient.
Starting outdoor power equipment can be one of the least enjoyable tasks for any homeowner.
Lawn mowers and snow blowers have traditionally been started by using a pull cord.
It works, but it can sometimes take more than one pull.
That can be hard on the shoulders and if you have any kind of physical limitations, it may seem almost impossible.
In the last few years, manufacturers have come up with a better solution.
Premium snow blowers now come equipped with an electric start option.
These are a plug in feature so you will need an available outside outlet to use them, but that’s a minor inconvenience if you’d like to save your shoulders from the wear and tear of a pull cord.
If you’re wondering what you should be looking for in a good snow blower this is a must have feature.
6. Turn Assist
If you’re in the market for a large snow blower with a 30-inch clearing path, you should give strong consideration to one that’s equipped with a turn assist feature.
This works by pulling on a trigger located on the handlebars.
It forces the wheel on the side of the trigger to move quicker than the one on the other side.
It makes turning a heavy machine much easier.
Again, you will pay more for this feature, but if you aren’t looking for a major workout every time you use your snow blower you should definitely add this feature to your shopping list.
7. Heated Comfort Hand Grips
One more feature that we feel is worth a mention is heated handlebar grips.
This might not be necessary if you live in a mild climate, but it’s a welcome comfort if your typical winter is accompanied by frigid temperatures.
A great pair of gloves may not be enough, but if you’re equipped with heated handlebar grips and gloves you’ll barely feel the cold.
What’s Available In My Budget?
It should come as no surprise that the more of the above mentioned features you add the more expensive the machine will be.
Only you can decide what the essential ones are.
You’re basic manual snow shovel will cost as little as $20, but even a simple electric snow shovel will cost more than $100.
Depending on the features you choose your snow blower may cost anywhere from $100 to $3000.
You won’t find a gasoline powered snow blower for under $300.
In the $100 to $200 price range, you’ll usually have to opt for a single-stage snow removal machine.
These are fine for mild climates where you’ll normally never see more than 3 or 4 inches at a time.
In the $300 to $500 range, you’ll find many electric two-stage snow blowers to choose from.
These can be great little machines and they’re perfect for snowfalls up to about 8 or 9 inches.
You may also be able to find some entry-level gasoline powered options at this price point.
When you’re willing to spend more than $500 on a snow blower, you have a lot more options.
At this price point, you’ll find some surprisingly powerful battery powered models with the convenience of cordless operation that are still zero emission machines.
You’ll also find some powerful gasoline powered options.
The more features you add the higher the price.
Is One Manufacturer Better Than Another?
There are dozens of snow blower manufacturers to choose from.
Some of the most popular names include Troy-Bilt, Ariens, Craftsman, Toro, Husqvarna, Cub Cadet and Snow Joe.
All of these manufacturers offer quality products, but there are differences.
Products in the premium category are the best snow blowers on the market.
The best snow blower brands include Troy-Bilt, Ariens and Cub Cadet.
The price for their best models will range between $1000 and $2500.
They’re not cheap, but they’re packed full of features and offer powerful snow clearing options.
These premium snow blowers are widely available at physical dealerships, but may be harder to find through online purchase options.
Cub Cadet offers a three-stage snow blower that retails for around $2400.
That may seem expensive, but you get a lot for the price.
We’re talking multi-speed, assisted turning, headlights, heated hand grips, a 30 inch clearing path, electric push start and of course a comprehensive warranty.
Troy-Bilt and Ariens offer products with similar features.
All of them have stellar reputations.
Best Value Snow Blowers – Craftsman & Toro
If spending more than $1000 seems a little extreme for a snow blower there are still some great products under $1000.
Craftsman and Toro are two of the most reliable names in the mid-priced snow blower category.
Their best machines usually range in price between $500 and $900.
You won’t get a three-stage machine at that price with heated handle grips and turn assist, but they do offer features such as LED headlights.
You can also find machines in this price range that offer a 28-inch clearing path and ones that are capable of handling more than a foot of snow.
Best Budget Snow Blowers – Husqvarna & Snow Joe
For those on a tight budget some trusted names include Husqvarna and Snow Joe.
These manufacturers offer quality products, some for under $200.
Snow Joe is a popular manufacturer of budget corded electric and some battery-powered models as well.
Husqvarna also offers some budget conscious electric snow blowers under $500, although they also have a line of expensive gas powered models that retail for more than $1000.
Both of these manufacturers have solid reputations, although the budget models are understandably made from cheaper materials – you’ll see more plastic than metal.
If you’re on a tight budget the Snow Joe entry models would be our recommendation.
You might have thought there wasn’t much to consider when purchasing a snow blower, but this article will probably have changed that opinion.
There are many different things to consider including features, manufacturers and of course electric vs. gasoline powered snow blowers.
You should now be ready to make an informed choice.
Good luck with your snow clearing duties this winter!