When you're shopping for a new snow blower (also referred to as a snow thrower), it's important to be informed. The more you know about the different types of snow blowers, their available features, and the different brands, the better the decision you can make for you and your home. When shopping for snow blowers, ignore ratings for horsepower and focus, instead, on your specific needs.
There are several types of snow blowers that you can purchase, each of which is appropriate for different situations.
The most basic of snow blowers is the single-stage electric. These small snow blowers have a clearing swath of between 11 and 18 inches. They don't have driving wheels, but they do have rubber-tipped augers that pick up and toss snow, a process that aids in propelling the machine forward. These snow blowers are best for short, level driveways, for decks, and for walkways with snow that reaches no depths greater than about four inches. These are the lightest, quietest, and most maneuverable of snow blowers available and because they're electric, you don't have to gas them up or perform regular maintenance. The rubber-tipped auger, however, can potentially pick up gravel and toss it, and the narrow clearing swath means you'll likely have to make several passes to clear even narrow walkways. Because they have no driving wheels, single-stage electric snow blowers are almost impossible to use on steep slopes. And don't forget about their power cord: it limits maneuverability and range.
The single-stage gas-powered snow blower is a good choice if you have a level, mid-sized, paved driveway and if you will be clearing snow with a depth no higher than about eight inches. These are more powerful than the single-stage electrics, and they're still relatively light and easy to maneuver. Unlike the single-stage electrics, these machines are fueled by gasoline, which means that while you don't have an electric cord limiting your range, you do have to fill it up periodically and perform regular maintenance on the engine. Single-stage gas snow blowers have a clearing swath of between 20 and 22 inches. Like the single-stage electric, these snow blowers have no real driving force, which makes them difficult to handle on slopes.
Two-stage gas snow blowers feature engine-driven wheels. They have an auger, like the other models, that pick up and throw snow as well as an impeller that helps throw snow out of a chute located at the top of the machine. These snow blowers are best for long, wide driveways that regularly experience snowfall deeper than eight inches. They have clearing swaths as wide as 28 to 30 inches and can handle steeper inclines than the other models because of their engine-driven wheels. Two-stage gas snow blowers are a must-have for gravel driveways because the auger doesn't actually touch the ground. These snow blowers are, however, expensive and heavy, they require a lot of storage space, and their gasoline engines require regular maintenance.
Snow blowers can come with a variety of features that will make your job easier. The more features a snow blower has, however, the more expensive it will be. You can purchase one of these machines with electric starting, a feature that makes starting up much easier in cold weather. Some models have headlights that make it possible for you to maneuver in the dark. Most two-stage snow blowers have five or six speeds for the wheels, a feature that will help prevent clogs when you push through thick, heavy snow. Luxury features include hand warmers on the handle to keep your paws toasty warm.
Because snow blowers are hardly ubiquitous, knowing the best brands is difficult. The three market-leaders in snow blower sales are Ariens, Craftsman, and Toro. Ariens and Toro snow blowers are available at Home Depot and at specialty equipment dealers; Craftsman is sold exclusively by Sears and K-mart. Troy-Bilt is a brand manufactured for and sold in Lowe's home improvement stores. Yard Machines manufactures low-cost electric models that are widely available at retailers like Wal-Mart, Lowe's, and Home Depot.