No one likes to wake up to a driveway full of snow.
Especially when that frosty layer of powder means thirty minutes to an hour of hard labor before a full day of work.
Thankfully, a snow blower can cut your morning driveway clearing time down substantially. Most homeowners are able to clear their driveway in a quarter of the time it takes to shovel the same area. For most folks, the time savings alone make the investment entirely worthwhile.
But, not all snow blowers are created equal.
Pick up the wrong model and you may end up spending more time fixing the thing than you would have spent shoveling. Or worse... the machine might not be able to keep up with the downpour on your driveway.
Snow blowers are available in a number of different styles. From compact electric-powered models to large commercial-grade machines, you can find a one to meet your needs.
We’ve taken an in-depth look at some of the top snow blowers on the market and identified the best models available.
If you’re looking for a new way to clear your driveway, keep reading for a closer look at some of the best machines out there for clearing your driveway.
If you’re looking for the best snow blower, look no further than the Toro Snowmaster 724 QXE.
With a clearing width of 24 inches, this model is a great size for the average two-car driveway and is more than capable of handling heavy snowfalls.
The high-capacity auger system allows you to pick up material quickly and consistently throw it to a distance of about 40 feet.
Like many of their lawnmowers, this machine is also fitted with Toro’s unique Personal Pace system. Rather than selecting a single speed from a clunky, difficult to maneuver control system, this machine will match your walking speed once the drive wheels are engaged.
This makes it easy to plow after a big storm or heavy downpour at a pace that’s comfortable for you or move more quickly if it’s a little lighter.
This machine is also very easy to start with a simple push-button starter. A pull cord starter is also built right in just in case.
Users can easily direct the flow through the chute with a joystick-like control situated conveniently on top of the machine. Direct the chute in virtually any direction with a flick of the control stick without walking away from the main controls.
In addition to a well-designed auger system, this Toro also has a powerful 212cc engine that’s more than capable of moving the white stuff quickly and thoroughly.
With very reasonable pricing, the Toro Snowmaster 724 QXE is an easy choice for anyone with an average size, paved driveway.
Despite its size and feature set, this Toro is a single-stage blower. So, just be aware of this when shopping.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller and more maneuverable, check out the Ariens Path-Pro SS21.
This model is a bit smaller than the Toro 724 QXE with a 21-inch clearing width but is still an excellent choice for paved, residential areas.
The Ariens Path-Pro SS21 has a more compact footprint overall with a handle that folds easily and a smaller auger. This makes it easy to store when you’re done with the machine and much more convenient to pack away during the warmer months.
A 208cc engine provides plenty of power and a push-button starter makes getting this model up and running much easier on those cold mornings.
But with just one drive speed, you will be a little more limited on the time it takes to clear your driveway.
The chute on this model can be easily adjusted by hand and can throw that wonderful white stuff up to 35 feet. You’ll have to move the chute by hand though as you change direction. There are no external controls.
Besides its compact size and maneuverability, one of the best features of this model is the price. You get the solid reliability of an Ariens product for a very reasonable price.
While this model performs well with lighter precipitation and smaller areas, it’s not quite as efficient with the heavy, wet stuff you might see after a big storm or big driveways. Much of this is due to the simple fact that this model has a single-stage system.
If you live in an area that really gets dumped on in the winter, you need a machine that’s made to work hard. The Troy-Bilt Storm Tracker is built to move large amounts of powder quickly and efficiently.
Whether you just have a long driveway or routinely get storms that drop more than one foot, this machine is ready to get those tough jobs done right. A big 277cc engine provides plenty of power, while an oversized steel auger churns through heavy powder quickly.
This unit rides on a set of heavy-duty tracks too. This makes it easy to make quick turns while plowing through just about any type of terrain. A large chute helps move material out of the way quickly.
One really nice feature of this model is the addition of heated handles. Clearing your driveway and sidewalk early in the morning can be cold, lonely work .
Keeping your hands nice and toasty while you work is a feature that anyone who’s spent time shoveling before a long day at the office can appreciate.
This Troy-Bilt also has power steering which is really a must with larger, heavier units like this model.
A two-stage setup really helps this machine perform a high level.
Another good option for anyone looking for a more heavy-duty machine is the Cub Cadet 243cc Two-Stage. This model is an excellent choice for anyone needing to plow uneven surfaces or a gravel driveway.
With a 26-inch clearing width, users can clear up to about 16 inches in depth with this unit’s large auger.
Quick, zero-turn power steering allows you to turn very quickly with this model despite its larger, heavy design.
Big 16 inches tires provide good clearance and plenty of traction on varied surfaces. Six forward speeds and two reverse speeds provide plenty of speed for varying conditions.
One interesting feature of this Cub Cadet: bright LED headlights. If you ever find yourself clearing your driveway after work or bright and early in the morning, built in lighting could come in very handy.
Like most machines in this price range, this Cub Cadet has an electric starter and pull cord as a backup. The chute also throws material about 40 feet and can be easily adjusted with a control stick.
Another well built heavier duty choice, the Husqvarna ST224P is a two-stage model with a large 24-inch clearing width.
This Husqvarna is another bigger machine made to handle the aftermath of heavier downpours. If you have a large area to clear or uneven ground to cover, the big pneumatic tires on this model are built to handle those challenging situations.
Six forward speeds and one reverse gear give operates plenty of choices depending on how quickly you’re ready to move on those cold, early mornings.
And, like many heavy two-stage units, this Husqvarna is equipped with power steering to help you turn quickly and more easily.
The Husqvarna ST224P does also come with LED headlights and hand warmers built right into the controls. Controls for the chute are also really easy to use and provide lots of adjustment — both side to side and vertically.
A 208cc engine drives this unit, making just over 6 horsepower.
The price is perhaps one of the best features of this model. For a two-stage machine, it is very competitively priced — giving buyers a lot of features along with Husqvarna’s well known reliability.
Dealing with fuel, oil and the headaches that often come with small engines isn’t for everyone.
If you’d rather not deal with the hassles of a small engine or would simply like to be a bit more gentle on the environment, the Snow Joe SJ625E is our top choice for an electric thrower.
While this unit isn’t going to move quite as much of the fluffy stuff as some of the heavier-duty gas-powered models available, it’s great for smaller driveways and areas with lighter precipitation. With a clearing width of 21 inches and the ability to plow through up to 12 inches of the white fluffy stuff, this Snow Joe can easily handle the common amounts of snowfall most homeowners deal with.
One big advantage the Snow Joe SJ625E does have is its weight. At less than 50 pounds it is very easy to move around — even for the smallest users.
The Snow Joe SJ625E does not have an adjustable speed control though. It is powered, you’re just limited to one speed. Since this model is so light, the lack of different drive speeds isn’t quite as big of a problem as it would be with a heavy gas-powered model but it’s still a limitation.
A single LED headlight helps light up dark driveways while a metal and rubber auger picks up material.
This model is not battery powered, meaning that you will not need to wait for batteries to charge. But, you will be tethered to an extension cord which could present a challenge depending on the size of your lot.
One of the most exciting features of this unit is the price. At about one-third of the cost of a comparable gas-powered model, this Snow Joe is a very appealing option. Plus, there’s no added expense for fuel, oil, or small engine maintenance.
Buying a snow blower is a big investment. With most models priced at $500 or more, it’s important to make sure you fully understand what you need and which models can most effectively get the job done.
Before you head to the store or start looking at models, take a few minutes to consider these important factors:
Do you have a two-car driveway or just a single lane?
Don’t forget about length either. If you have a long driveway, you’ll want a model that can effectively move a lot of material.
Corner lots or homes with lots of road frontage tend to have long sidewalks and your neighbors and community will appreciate it if you keep those sidewalks clear.
Another really important factor to consider is the terrain around your home.
If you have a gravel driveway or lots of steep hills, you’ll need to consider these carefully before making your purchase. Many Snow blowers and throwers work well on flat paved surfaces but uneven ground and gravel surfaces are a different story.
Even if you have a large driveway, light annual precipitation might allow you to get by with a smaller or less powerful machine.
If you haven’t lived through a winter in your home yet, talk to your neighbors and do some research on the average winter conditions in your area. But, if you’ve been clearing your driveway with a shovel, you should have some pretty intimate knowledge of the typical winter weather in your area.
Be sure to look for a model with a clearing height equal or greater than the depth of some of your heavier storms.
Storage is a big concern for many homeowners.
While most of these machines take up no more space than the average push mower, it is another piece of equipment that you’ll need to store in a shed or garage. Be sure you have the space to properly and safely store the model you’re interested in purchasing.
Let’s face it, cost is usually the biggest factor when making a final purchase decision. There’s the model you’d really like to have and the one you can actually afford.
Just like anything else, the cost of these machines only goes up as you add features, capacity, and other improvements. But, with driveway clearing times dropping to at least a quarter of the time it takes to clear the same area with a shovel, the investment often pays for it itself.
Winter weather might be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time to pick up a new snow thrower. While many areas of the country do not begin seeing winter storms until well into the fall months, winter weather has a way of moving in before you’re ready.
If you’re looking to pick up a new snow blower, some of the best months to buy are March and April.
In late winter and early spring, most retailers are running low on their winter power equipment stock and are looking to bring in more seasonally appropriate stock like lawnmowers and other gardening equipment. You may not find quite as large of a selection at this time of year, but you’ll find the best deals available as sellers try to clear the shelves.
Some springtime deals may linger through the summer, but most sellers will have little to no stock remaining.
As fall begins and winter approaches, power equipment sellers begin bringing in a fresh slate of winter power equipment. Even though these models will be new, most sellers will run constant sales through the early fall just to sell as many of this very seasonal item as they can.
If you can avoid it, try not to buy one when winter is in full swing or right before a big storm is about to hit your area. Prices will be highest at this and selection will probably be poor.
Plan ahead and make your purchase early for the best deal. Plus, you’ll be ready long before the first winter storm strikes.
If you’ve never bought either of these machines before, you might be wondering if there’s any real difference between the two.
Both move snow out of the way, right? Is there really a difference.
The answer is: absolutely.
While there are some similarities, these two pieces of power equipment are actually very different animals. Both have their advantages, disadvantages and best applications.
Let’s start with the simpler of the two.
A snow thrower is typically a smaller machine. They usually have a 21 inch clearing width or narrower. These machines are smaller overall too with smaller wheels, a smaller auger, and a more compact and easy to store profile.
A snow thrower also uses a single-stage system to pick up and move material. The auger, which spins beneath the machine to pick up snow, also throws the snow out of the chute on top of the machine.
While this single stage system helps keep snow throwers smaller and simpler, it is not quite as efficient as the two stage systems used by some bigger blowers.
A snow thrower is a good choice if you have a small area to clear or do not get a lot of unpleasant winter weather.
Snow blowers operate under the same basic principle as a snow thrower. Snow is lifted off the ground by a big spinning auger and pushed into a chute.
But, these machines are typically bigger and often use a two stage snow removal system.
Because of the larger auger used by most blowers, they are usually bigger, more powerful, and more expensive than throwers. Most blowers have a clearing width of 24 inches or more.
But, blowers are much better at moving deep, heavy snow than snow throwers given their increased auger size and power.
If you have a big area to clear or get a lot of bad winter weather, definitely consider a blower rather than a thrower.
Most snow blowers come in one of two flavors: single stage or two stage.
Both of these winter cleanup machines have their advantages and disadvantages. But, for clearing large areas or bad winter weather, there’s one clear winner.
As the name implies, a single stage blower relies on a single step to both pick up snow and propel it out of the machine.
As it spins, the auger picks the white fluffy stuff up and blows it right out of the chute on top of the machine. If you think about it, there’s a beautiful simplicity to this method -- material is picked up and moved in one fluid motion.
But, the aftermath of a bad winter storm can be a real challenge for this system. Even a very large auger will have trouble pushing a lot of snow out of the chute and away from your driveway.
Single stage units are really best suited to smaller areas and locations where you typically get eight inches or less snowfall.
With a two stage unit, material is picked up by the auger and thrown into the chute where it is then blown out by an impeller. The impeller helps the unit pump powder out more quickly and much farther.
This allows you to plow through more snow more quickly and efficiently. You can also work through much deeper snow with a two stage unit.
Two stage units also almost always have powered drive wheels. This is another really nice feature if you’re constantly cleaning up after heavy storms.
Everyone’s home is different.
Both inside and out, many factors make your property uniquely yours. The snow blower that works for your neighbor might not be the right model for you and your space.
When looking at individual features be sure to keep the factors we discussed above in mind. Terrain, property size, and typical winter weather should all factor into your purchase decision along with, of course, your budget.
We’ve already discussed the differences between single stage and two stage snow blowers, but which is right for you?
Both have their pros and cons and neither is right for everyone.
Even though they’re not the biggest, most powerful winter weather cleanup tools around, single stage blowers are still an excellent choice for many homeowners.
One of the most compelling reasons to go with this type of blower is the size difference. Single stage units are typically smaller, lighter, and easier to maneuver for people of all ages and sizes.
If you have a smaller area to clear or get less snow, single stage units are usually the best option too. The smaller size makes it easier to get around and get things done without the added expense and storage requirements of a bigger machine.
Single stage snow machines are also really best suited to flat concrete surfaces. The auger in single state units contacts the ground as it spins, creating serious issues on uneven terrain. Gravel or bumps could damage the auger or the rest of the machine.
If you have a big area to clear or typically get a lot of winter precipitation, a two stage model is the way to go. Two stage units usually have a much higher capacity and can blow snow a lot further away from the area you’re trying to clear.
Another big advantage of a two-stage unit is the ability to use the machine on uneven or gravel surfaces. If you have a gravel driveway, lots of hills, or other steep or uneven areas, you really need a two stage unit since single stage units really can’t be used on anything but concrete or other hard surfaces.
The biggest disadvantages of two stage models are the size and cost. Most two stage units are well over 200 pounds and tend to cost more due to the larger size and increased complexity.
As if you didn’t already have enough choices to make when choosing a snow blower or thrower … you’ll also need to decide between gas or electric power.
Both power sources have a few very clear advantages and disadvantages along with some very subjective pros and cons.
They’ve only been around for a short time (compared to their gasoline-fueled counterparts), but electric lawn and garden tools have exploded in popularity.
After all, they’re incredibly easy to use and maintain. With no fuel or oil to mess with and not very little maintenance, what’s not to love?
Electric blowers and throwers do make the work a bit easier and are much quicker to get started -- especially on those cold mornings. They’re also typically very light and easy to move around.
Electric models also don’t pump out harmful exhaust while operating.
But, electric snow blowers are typically not nearly as powerful as the bigger two stage, gas-powered models. This makes them a poor choice for large areas or deep, heavy snow.
Another disadvantage to using an electric model is that you will either be tethered to an extension cord or limited to the battery life of a battery powered model. This, again, makes it tough to clear large areas.
If you have a small space, want to be careful about your environmental impact, or just want something simple, electric snow machines are a great way to go. The price of an electric model is also typically lower than a comparable gas model.
While gas engines can be messy, and do require more maintenance, a high-quality small engine can be used for many years with nothing more than a little fuel and routine maintenance when needed.
Gas-powered units also provide more power for much longer periods of time and are available in a wider range of sizes and types. Two stage machines, for example, are only available with gas engines.
Another advantage to traditional models is that they can be used on uneven terrain or gravel driveways.
The biggest disadvantages to purchasing a traditional model is the increased cost of the machine and the added cost of fuel and maintenance.
Another thing you’ll need to consider when shopping is the clearing width of the machine.
The clearing width is simply the width you’ll be able to effectively clear with the machine.
Snow blowers and throwers are available in many different sizes. From small 12 inch units to large 45-inch models, there’s a model to meet your needs.
If you just have a small driveway and don’t see much snow, a smaller model should be more than enough. But, if you have a lot of space to clear, you really should consider a bigger model so you’re not wasting precious time walking back and forth on your driveway and other areas.
Prices do increase dramatically with larger models though. Most machines with clearing widths larger than 26 inches are commercial grade and usually come with a commercial grade price tag.
A snow blower is a great investment that will save you hours of back-breaking work.
While some of these machines can get a bit pricey, there are models for every budget. Plus, the time you’ll save is usually more than worth the investment.
As you’re shopping, be sure to keep your needs in mind. Buying a model that meets your space and capacity needs is much more important than getting an eye catching feature you don’t absolutely need to have.
Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and can contact him via email.