With all the recent storms, snow blowers may be getting scarce in the stores. But that’s no reason to settle for a model now that you’ll regret buying later. In Consumer Reports snow blower tests, we found a handful of models that might leave you adrift when you’ve got lots of snow to clear. In fact, we discovered that different models from the same brand can vary widely in performance. For example, while we like two beefy easy-turning two-stage models from Ariens, others from that brand were disappointing. Here are five models to avoid and what to buy instead.
Two-stage gas snow blowers
In addition to having a single-stage snow blower’s usual auger for scooping up snow, a two-stage model has an impeller in the back that provides more force in flinging the snow up and out the chute. But though the 30-inch Husqvarna ST230E $1,300, and 24-inch Husqvarna 924HV, $800, were fine for both removal speed and throwing distance, awkward handling brought their scores down. On most snow blowers you grab controls such as the gear shift and move it where you need it. But with the two Husqvarna models, you must push down controls before adjusting them—something you don’t want to fuss with when you’ve got a driveway to clear. And the Husqvarna 924HV lacks a drive-wheel turning release, something an $800 model should have.
Better bets. For lots of frequent snow, consider one of two Cub Cadets, the 30-inch Cub Cadet 31AH57SZ710, $1,500, or 26-inch Cub Cadet 31AH55SX710, $1,300; or either of two Ariens models, the 30-inch Ariens 921032, $1,300, or 28-inch Ariens 921030, $1,000. For less snow, or less room for storage, you might prefer a compact, 24-inch two-stage model like the Craftsman 88173, $680, or (from Ariens) the Sno-Tek 920402, $600.
Single-stage corded snow blowers
None of the corded single-stage models in our tests were effective at removing snow quickly or ramming through plow piles of the kind left by municipal snowplows. But if you don’t get a lot of snow or just need something for the deck or a walk, one might suffice. Just don’t opt for the 16-inch GreenWorks 26022, $150, or 18-inch Snow Joe SJ623E, $250. Although the GreenWorks is claimed to have a 14-inch impeller, that’s the width of the array of fins it has instead of the chute and it got rock-bottom scores for all snow-removal tasks. The Snow Joe outperformed the GreenWorks only with its impressive surface cleaning, which should be no problem for any single-stage snow blower.
Better bets. We didn't recommend any models in this category, but the top-scoring model (though only fair overall) was the Toro Power Curve 1800 38381, $300. For more oomph, you’d need a single-stage, gas-powered machine. Among those, the 21-inch Toro Power Clear 621 38451, a CR Best Buy at $500, was impressive for quick clearing and chopping its way through plow piles.
Single-stage battery snow blowers
Battery powered equipment may be the future, but try telling that to Old Man Winter. The battery-powered Snow Joe iON18SB, $400, made the corded electric snow blowers look good by comparison. It’s useful only for very light snow, and its run time was only 30 minutes. Want more power and speed? Think shovel.
If you're shopping for a snow blower, check our buying guide, the video below, and our Ratings of almost 100 models.
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