Guide to Buying a Snowblower

Snowblower Buying Guide

Photo credit: liz west / flickr.com



When shopping for a snowblower, you’ll come across a number of types, sizes and features. To determine which model is right for you, you’ll need to consider several factors, including the condition and size of the area you will be clearing, how much snow typically falls in your area, and how much room you have for storage.

Types
Snowblowers come in three types: electric, single-stage gas, and two-stage gas. Electric and single-stage gas snow blowers include augers that pull in snow and ice bits; two-stage gas snowblowers also include impellers, which force snow out of the chute.

  • Electric snowblowers: Small and wheel-less, electric snowblowers work well for small, level spaces. They are relatively quiet and easy to maneuver; however, because they have a power cord, they can only be used within reach of a power source.

Also, these models are not as powerful as gas versions, so they can be unwieldy on slopes and uneven surfaces, as well as in more than a few inches of snow. They can also spit gravel, so they are recommended for use on paved surfaces only. Electric blowers do not need fuel and require less regular maintenance than gas models.

  • Single-stage gas snowblowers:Still relatively small, single-stage gas blowers are slightly more powerful than electric versions and are well-suited for medium-sized driveways and sidewalks. They can handle snow depths of up to about 8 inches and work best on level surfaces. (Their engines are still not powerful enough to handle much of a slope.)Their two-cycle engines require a mix of gas and oil and regular upkeep. Single-stage gas blowers can throw gravel, so are better choices for use in paved areas. Many gas snowblowers come with a power cord that allows the machine to start with the push of a button, not the pulling of a cord.
  • Two-stage gas snowblowers: The heaviest of the three types of blowers, two-stage gas blowers are also the most powerful. They are a good choice for large driveways and in regions with deep snowfalls.

 

Because the wheels of these blowers are powered by the engine, they work on inclines. Two-stage gas snowblowers are larger than other versions, so they can be difficult to maneuver and require ample room for storage. Like single-stage blowers, many two-stage models come with the option of an electric start.

Features
Today’s snowblowers come with a variety of features, so consider options that will make yours easier to use. Most importantly, the snowblower should feel comfortable to use. Try out floor models at the store to determine if the height of the handles is right — or can be adjusted — and if the chute adjusts easily. (The chute aims the snow being blown to the side, so you will need to be able to adjust its direction as you work so the snow will go where you need it to.)

Other features include:

  • Safety Choose a model with a “dead man’s control,” which will stop the blade from spinning every time you release the handles.
  • Width Consider the width of the blower. Wider models require fewer passes to clear a walkway or driveway.
  • Controls A crank or joystick close to the handles allows you to adjust the height and direction of the snow being blown, without you having to let go of the handles. On larger two-stage blowers, look for controls that allow you to stop and start the wheels as wheels, which will make steering easier.
  • Clearing Tool Some models come with a plastic tool for clearing blockages in the blower.
  • Headlight A headlight lets you work at night and in low visibility.
  • Speeds Two-stage models typically have several speeds for both forward and reverse movement, which can help maneuver the blower.
  • Extras Some models allow for the height of the blower housing to be raised to clear obstacles, and some even have heated hand-warmers.

Pricing
Prices range widely for snowblowers. Electric models start as low as $200, while two-stage gas models can cost as much as several thousand dollars.

Jessica Tolliver is a writer and editor with 15 years of experience in covering home improvement and decorating topics for variety of publications, including House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens and Consumer Reports. She is also the author of two books on design.

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