Buy a snow blower now before they sell out

Northeasterners who waited until today to go out to buy a snow blower might not find a great selection. Fortunately, despite a storm that dumped as much as 15 inches of snow in the area with sub-zero wind chills right behind it, we found that you can still find a model if you call around.

Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Sears stores we called in the hard-hit metropolitan New York region still had some inventory. Lowe’s in Orangeburg, N.Y., and Paterson, N.J., still had plenty of two-stage models with clearing widths of 24 to 30 inches. Two-stage models can clear snow more quickly than single-stage models because of an impeller behind the usual auger, which throws out what the auger collects. This type of snow blower also has driven wheels, which means less pushing, and wider clearing widths than you'll find in single-stage models.

For nearby Sears and Home Depot, the pickings were slimmer. Sears, according to a representative we spoke to, had “a little bit of both” single- and two-stage models. But while the Yonkers Home Depot still had several single-stage snow blowers, that store was down to a single Ariens two-stage model, about $1,000. Still, location matters: For the northernmost parts of the region that got only 4 to 6 inches this time around, a single-stage model can get the job done. Whichever type you're looking for, a call to the store can help determine how soon another shipment is expected. It may be that day.

Even if checking with nearby big box stores turns up nothing, don’t forget about local outdoor-gear dealers. We checked with a few manufacturers, including Toro and MTD, which makes brands such as Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, and Yard Machines, and inventory was mostly in place for supplying dealerships and big box stores alike.

Need snow-melt and shovels, too? For temperatures hovering in the single digits, don’t waste your money throwing down salt and similar products—they won’t melt anything until temperatures rise. As for shovels, you don’t need a big box store if you need one in a pinch; check your local supermarket or hardware store. Given a choice, though, pick the right shovel for the job.

And if you have a choice of snow blower, don’t buy one without checking out your options. Our buying guide for snow blowers offers all the shopping tips you need to pick a model you’ll be happy with for years, given proper maintenance. Then check out our Ratings of 99 models.

—Ed Perratore

More from Consumer Reports:
Low cost alternatives to high end appliances
5 signs the house you want to buy is a money pit
Washer and dryer features that save loads of money

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

View Comments