Waking to a fresh blanket of snow brings back memories of our childhood, with school called for the day and the only thing on your agenda: sledding with friends. But we’re not kids anymore, and the realization that we have to dig out the car and head to work quickly clears the nostalgic fog from our minds. If you’ve finally gotten tired of shoveling, need to replace an aging snowblower, or just want something bigger and better, then we’ve got snow removal options for you. The snowblowers here run from petite to some of the largest available and include both battery- and gas-powered models. If you expect snow that needs clearing this season, you’ll find a snowblower on this list that’s ideal for you.
What You Need to Know About Snowblowers
Gas- or Battery-Powered
The big limiting factor for cordless snowblowers is how long they’ll run. If the battery dies, there are two options: Put a second battery in, if you have one, or put it on the charger and wait. Battery options do have their advantages, though. They produce no fumes, emit very little noise, are simple to operate, and can be stored anywhere in your home. Typical cordless units can handle snow up to 13-inches deep and run up to 30 to 45 minutes. Gas snowblowers can easily handle snow 20-inches deep or more and, with enough gas, run for hours on end. And if you run out of gas, just add fuel and keep going. The choice comes down to how much snow you typically get, and how much space you have to clear.
One-Stage or Two-Stage
Much like the choice between gas or battery power, choosing one or two stages has a lot to do with snow volume and the area to be cleared. One-stage blowers are so called because they have one curved paddle that collects the snow and ejects it. This limits how far the snow can be thrown, as well as the amount that can pass through the machine. One-stage units are simple to operate, light, easy to maneuver, and less expensive than two-stage machines. Two-stage units have a horizontal auger that collects snow and pushes it to a separate, rotating impeller that ejects it. Two-stage machines can throw snow 30 to 60 feet, which makes it easier to clear large areas without piling snow that you’ll just have to move again.
The main purpose of a drive system is to adjust and convert engine RPMs to an appropriate speed to drive the machine forward in various conditions. There are two basic types of transmissions: friction disc and hydrostatic.
Friction-disc transmissions are simple, mechanical devices that employ a rubber-edged wheel that presses on the face of a large pulley. By repositioning the wheel on the face of the pulley, the machine will speed up or slow down—closer to the center for slower, close to the outside edge for faster. Snowblowers with friction discs will often have six forward speeds and two reverse, controlled by a lever on the dashboard. And these machines typically have a live axle, which means both wheels are attached to a solid axle and will always spin at the same rate.
Hydrostatic transmissions pump hydraulic fluid through hydraulic motors, which convert the flow to mechanical rotation. On these machines, drive speed is independent of engine speed and there are no fixed number of “speeds.” The lever controlling speed can be positioned at any point in its range. “Hydro”-drive machines are capable of slower speeds than those with friction disc drives, which is good for very deep or heavy snow. Due to the complexity of hydrostatic transmissions, they can be significantly more expensive than friction disc units.
There are two features that help improve steering. The first uses triggers under each handle to control clutches that disengage the wheel on the corresponding side. The opposite wheel continues to drive, turning the machine in the direction of the stopped wheel. The other feature incorporates a differential gear on the axle, which allows the wheels to spin at different speeds.
Tracks or Wheels
Tracks provide greater grip and stability, which make them very good on slopes, loose surfaces like gravel, or areas that tend to get icy snowpack. They are often easier to keep going nice and straight. Wheels work well in most situations but can often slip on hills and small patches of ice. It takes more parts to manufacture a track drive than a wheeled drive, so tracked units tend to be more expensive. In the end, the decision comes down to budget and terrain.
How We Tested
Our team of test editors carefully selected these snowblowers after rigorous research and testing of these and similar products. The units represent the breadth of options available to the consumer right now and are some of the most reliable and effective you can buy.
Now, testing snowblowers out of season is challenging without one key element: snow. We discovered that outdoor power equipment manufacturer DR Power, in Vermont, uses wet sawdust for product testing and development out of season. So we got a dump truck full of sawdust from our local sawmill and sorted out our test methodology.
We hosed down the sawdust, mixing it thoroughly as we did. When we arrived at what felt like the proper consistency, we pre-tested a couple of machines to gauge how it would work. We also weighed one cubic foot of our imitation snow and found it was exactly 21 pounds. Average wet snow weighs about 20 pounds per cubic foot, so we were in the right ballpark.
For the first test, we set up an area 8 feet by 6 feet by 5.5 inches. This converts to exactly 22 cubic feet, or 462 pounds of “snow.” We recorded the time it took us to clear the test area with each machine. For the second portion, we created a dense, wet, sawdust snowbank and used each snowblower to break through it. In the course of testing, we also recorded our impressions on starting, turning, chute operation, ease of use in general, and any other notable features.
It’s important to note that wet sawdust, while it is similar enough for testing purposes, is not snow. It’s heavier than most snow and much less slippery. So our test is a bit tougher on these machines than the snow most users will encounter. We should also note, cordless models are more sensitive to the heavier material than the gas machines. We fully expect these machines to perform better when used in actual snow. As soon as snow is available, we’ll continue the testing and update our reviews.
Ariens Professional 32 Hydro Rapidtrak
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 420cc | Fuel delivery: Carburetor | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Hydrostatic, with track | Speeds: Variable, forward and reverse | Width: 32 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, manual
The Professional 32 Hydro Rapidtrak sits near the top of Ariens’s commercial product line. It is designed for very heavy residential or commercial use, and that’s evident just by looking at it. The grips are connected to the frame with large, box section steel tubing that does not flex—at all. The skid shoes are faced with half-inch steel, which will hold up to a lot of use before they need replacing. And, with a big 420cc engine and 32-inch clearing width, the machine can clear 91 tons of snow per hour, so Ariens claims. The “Rapidtrak” features three positions, adjusted by pulling a single lever beneath the right hand grip. The first position lifts the back of the track up so the machine rides on the two large drive wheels, making it very nimble so it behaves like a wheeled machine. The second sets the track flat for normal operation, and the third puts pressure on the front of the auger housing/intake, helping it dig into hard, packed snow.
We cleared our test area with this Ariens in two minutes and 45 seconds, and found it, for its size and weight, simple to operate. The hydrostatic drive, combined with a differential, helps make it as easy to turn as a wheeled snowblower in many cases. In the snow bank test we were able to creep slowly into the dense, packed material, break through without pushing or clogging, and throw our wet sawdust 36 feet. The remote-operated chute and deflector should throw actual snow much farther, enough to clear wide driveways and parking lots.
Rounding out the features is a lever that disengages the hydrostatic drive to allow the machine to roll easily when not running. This is especially helpful when loading the Professional for transport or tucking it away for storage. The rig also comes equipped with heated hand grips, a halogen light, and drift cutters. We’ll say this: For that price, the Rapidtrak had better be the best.
—EASIEST TO STORE—
Powered: Battery | Volts: 60 | Amp hours: 4.0 | Width: 20 in. | Stages: 1 | Chute: Manual
The smallest of the snowblowers we tested, Greenworks’s 60-volt model is designed cut a path 20-inches wide in snow up to 10-inches deep. Our tests were a little hard on this single-stage machine—the heavy, dense wet sawdust was difficult to process. Despite this Greenworks is light and easy to maneuver, it required a little effort to work our way through the 5.5-inch-deep test area. To clear down to the pavement took seven minutes and eight seconds. Pushing into the sawdust too hard stalled the paddle auger, but we quickly learned how much we could load the unit without it coming to a stop. Our 20-inch-deep, packed sawdust snow bank was a lot more than this machine was designed for, so understandably, it was an effort to break through it. Regardless, we were impressed with what the machine could do under our test conditions—and it’s better than shoveling.
The unit has a remotely operated chute that can throw snow up to a claimed 20 feet. We got it to throw 14 feet, which is decent considering the weight of the material. Greenworks says the four-amp hour battery has a run time of up to 30 minutes, which should be enough to clear a short driveway and sidewalk of three- to six-inch-deep snow. As with any cordless snowblower, wetter, denser snow will run down the battery quicker. So a good snow-clearing strategy would be to go out when it hits four or six inches and clear it quickly, then repeat as necessary.
This Greenworks snowblower is ideal for apartments or townhouses without a lot of storage, as it will easily fit in the bottom of a closet. The unit comes equipped with LED lights, in case you have to be up before the sun to dig out the car. And, because it’s battery powered, you won’t wake anyone up doing so.
—BEST MANUAL CHUTE—
Toro Power Max HD 828
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 252cc | Fuel delivery: Carburetor | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Friction disc | Speeds: 6 forward, 2 reverse | Width: 28 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, one-handed
At 28-inches wide, Toro’s Power Max HD 828 is big enough to tackle large areas but small enough to maneuver on most walkways. HD, for “heavy duty,” means that the 828 features steel construction of all the major parts, including the intake housing, discharge chute and deflector, impeller housing, and frame. In fact, the only significant plastic parts we found were the belt cover and control panel cover.
We really like Toro’s “Quick Stick”—the combined chute and deflector control—which takes very little effort to reposition on the fly. In the snow bank portion of our test, we were able to direct and throw the sawdust 34 feet, sweeping either left or right—a bit less than the claimed 45 feet, but wet sawdust isn’t as slippery as snow and doesn’t throw as far. In our area test, we were able to clear the sawdust quickly and efficiently, in two minutes and 46 seconds.
The recoil starter on the Power Max HD 828, which we used most of the time, didn’t require a lot of effort to pull, starting in just one yank, with the choke on when cold. The electric start, powered by an extension cord, is handy for super cold days, when thicker oil makes it harder to pull the recoil starter. Other features include adjustable skid shoes that can be lowered or raised for clearance on gravel or to scrape pavement clean, a differential axle for easy turning, and a single LED headlight. This machine is ideal for home owners with medium to large driveways.
—MOST POWERFUL SINGLE STAGE—
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 250cc | Fuel delivery: Carburetor | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Auger-propelled | Width: 22 in. | Stages: 1 | Chute: Remote, electric
Simplicity touts two-stage power in a one-stage snowblower with its 22-inch 1222EE. Indeed, this has a bigger engine than some two-stage models, and its power was evident in our testing. When eased into the wet sawdust, the load on the engine increased, and it responded with a satisfying rush of throttle as it tried to keep up. It took four minutes and 20 seconds to clear our test area, and it was able to throw the sawdust 27 feet.
In the snow bank test, we did have to put some effort in to work the 1222EE into the packed sawdust, but the machine churned through and ejected it forcefully. The 1222EE comes equipped with a serrated blade on the auger to help break through tough snowpack like you might find piled at the end of a driveway. A rocker switch remotely controls the chute on the fly without you having to stop to aim the ejected snow.
The 1222EE is reasonably small, easy to maneuver, and can be used to clear a lot of snow. It’s a good choice for people who don’t want a bulky machine but need to clear an average-size driveway without too much slope. And it comes with an electric starter (though that only works when the 1222EE is plugged in), but it fires up easily enough with the recoil starter. Dual lights provide illumination on short winter days.
―BEST ELECTRIC CHUTE―
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 357cc | Fuel delivery: Carburetor | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Friction disc, with track | Speeds: 6 forward, 2 reverse | Width: 28 in. | Stages: 3 | Chute: Remote, manual
The Craftsman SB650 has one more “stage” than most other snow blowers its size.
Normally, the auger pushes snow to the center, which is swept toward the intake housing and the impeller by the snow behind it. The SB650’s third stage is a front-facing auger in the center and acts like a screw, pulling snow back into the impeller faster. This is an advantage when clearing dense snow left by plows at the end of the driveway or heavy, wind-driven snow drifts. The third stage digs its way into the dense snow, rather than just scraping the edge of it.
In testing, the SB650 feels much like any other snow blower. Power steering facilitates quick turns—pull a trigger below either hand grip to head in that direction. One advantage with this type of system is that the axle is normally locked, which made it easy for us to keep nice, straight lines. It took us three minutes and nine seconds to clear the 8 x 6-foot area. But during the snowbank test, we got to see just how the third stage worked as it consumed the dense pile of wet sawdust. The material gets to the impeller faster and at a steadier rate. We threw the sawdust up to 27 feet, although snow will go significantly farther.
The SB650 comes with long, poly skid shoes, which slide easily on pavement and won’t mar or scuff walkway pavers or fancy garage floor coatings. Other features include push-button electric start, a headlight on the control panel, and a single-hand discharge chute and deflector control. Craftsman’s SB650 is a good option for people with large areas to clear, as well as those whose property typically sees dense, packed snowbanks.
EGO Power+ 24″
Power: Battery (2) | Volts: 56 | Amp hours: 7.5 | Drive system: Friction disc | Speeds: Variable, forward and reverse | Width: 24 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, manual
We got one of the very first production models of EGO’s cordless, 24-inch, two-stage snow blowers, new for winter ’20/21. The steel-framed Power+ is very much like gas-powered units of its size, except for the electric motor and two 56-volt, 7.5Ah batteries. Those two things give the Power+ some distinct advantages in the noise and weight departments, being both quieter and lighter than its fuel-sucking counterparts. Using it won’t hurt your hearing or wake the neighbors, and you won’t be laboring to move it around in the garage to store.
EGO claims a run time long enough to clear an 18-car driveway—that’s an area about 130 x 12 feet—of eight inches of snow. This may be true with light, dry powder, but keep in mind the heavier and wetter the snow, the shorter the run time. Clearing our test area of sawdust—significantly heavier than all but the wettest snow—used up between 25 and 30 percent of the battery. It’s important to note we operated the auger in turbo mode to throw the sawdust as far as possible, a distance of 31 feet, but it does have a variable speed control. So you can adjust the auger as needed for the conditions and to preserve battery.
Using the Power+ is a breeze. With a differential in the axle and its relatively light weight, we found it very easy to maneuver. We like how freely the discharge chute moves through its 200-degree arc. But with a separate control for the deflector, it’s not as quick to adjust on the fly. Other features include four LED lights, adjustable plastic skid shoes that won’t mar garage floor coatings or walkway pavers, and adjustable handle height. The Power+ is one of very few cordless snow blowers with two stages, and overall, we were impressed with its capabilities. It threw wet sawdust well, which means it will have no problems in real snow.
―BEST ELECTRIC START―
Husqvarna ST 427T
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 369cc | Fuel delivery: EFI | Electric start: Yes | Battery: Yes | Drive system: Hydrostatic, with track | Speeds: Variable, forward and reverse | Width: 27 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, manual
The burly 27-inch Husqvarna ST 427T is a professional-grade machine, capable of extended and frequent use. A hydrostatic transmission drives a pair of tracks and offers a wide range of speed, as well as plenty of traction and stability. The snowblower has an electric start, with a battery on board eliminating the need to plug into an outlet. And since it has electronic fuel injection, there’s no choke to set. Just turn the key and it will start and automatically adjust the fuel mixture for a wide temperature range and higher elevations.
Clearing our test area took three minutes and 41 seconds, and it could have gone a little quicker—we got faster as we became more familiar with the hydrostatic controls. Once we had some time to get comfortable, it was easy to operate with one hand on the handle and the other controlling speed, the discharge chute, and the deflector. In our snow bank test, we threw the wet sawdust a remarkable 40 feet, and the ST 427T should throw snow even farther.
Two triggers, one beneath each handle, disengage the tracks on each side to control steering. The ST 427T has a lever on the console that allows the operator to bias the weight of the machine forward, to dig into packed snow, or back, lifting the front off the ground for better maneuverability when not blowing snow. And for those really dark, cold mornings, the ST 427T comes equipped with lights and heated hand grips.
―BEST VALUE GAS―
DR Power Pro 28
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 252cc | Fuel delivery: Carburetor | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Friction disc | Speeds: 6 forward, 2 reverse | Width: 28 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, manual
The DR Pro 28 two-stage snowblower is an excellent value when you compare width and throwing ability to cost. This model’s “EZ-Turn” steering incorporates a differential in the axle, which allows for quick 180-degree pivots with no triggers to pull. Levers on the dash panel operate the all-metal chute and deflector, and the machine threw wet sawdust 38 feet. The Pro 28 features a larger impeller—15 inches in diameter—than other machines of similar size. That, turning at the same RPM, can eject snow at a higher speed than a smaller one. So DR is able to achieve greater snow throwing distance with a smaller engine.
The Pro 28 cleared our test area in two minutes and 25 seconds, the fastest of any machine we tested, and easily cut through the dense, packed sawdust in our snow bank test. That said, we felt and heard more vibration than with some of the other models. Considering the cost and performance though, we can’t complain too much.
Even though using the plugged-in electric starter is very easy, it only takes one pull on the recoil starter to get the Pro running—this is how we started it for the bulk of our testing. DR provides two sets of skid shoes: regular steel and non-scuffing plastic. Other perks are drift cutters (to cleanly carve through drifts without making a mess), heated hand grips, and a dash-mounted headlight for better visibility.
—MOST POWERFUL CORDLESS—
Snow Joe iON100V
Power: Battery | Volts: 100 | Amp hours: 5 | Width: 21 in. | Stages: 1 | Chute: Manual
Boasting the highest voltage available in a cordless snowblower, Snow Joe’s 100-volt model has a five-amp hour battery to provide up to half an hour of use. If that isn’t long enough, there’s an additional bay to add a second, optional battery. One hundred volts is a lot of power, and it was evident as soon as we eased the iON into our sawdust test area. We had to take our time on the first full-width pass, as the machine shuddered a little as the paddle auger beat into the dense sawdust. This wasn’t surprising since it’s more unyielding than average snow would be. It took five minutes and 34 seconds to clear our test area down to the pavement due to that slower first pass.
Breaking through our sawdust bank took some patience. The machine was able to throw the sawdust 20 feet, so the claimed distance of 30 with real snow is reasonable. The iON is equipped with a variable speed auger so that it can be adjusted to match the conditions or throw farther—we used it at full speed in the heavy sawdust. The discharge chute is easily adjusted remotely, via buttons on the handle. Snow Joe slapped lights on the front, as well. With the power of this 100-volt machine, you’ll be able to throw snow clear of wider areas. But you may want to invest in a second battery to extend the run time.
―EASIEST TO START―
Troy-Bilt Arctic Storm 34
Power: Gas | Engine displacement: 420cc | Fuel delivery: Electronic injection | Electric start: Yes | Battery: No | Drive system: Friction disc | Speeds: 6 forward, 2 reverse | Width: 34 in. | Stages: 2 | Chute: Remote, manual
Troy-Bilt’s Arctic Storm is a serious contender for folks with a lot of ground to cover, or uncover as the case may be. It has a wide intake housing and auger capable of clearing a 34-inch path in one pass. Considering its size, we found the Arctic Storm to be surprisingly agile, due in large part to the “Touch ‘n Turn” steering—triggers below either hand grip, that when pulled, steer in that direction. At 34-inches wide though, it may be too big for narrow walkways or awkward in tight spaces.
The Arctic Storm just about swallowed the section of snowbank we build for testing—the intake housing is nearly as wide as our pile of wet sawdust. We did need to inch it in carefully at the lowest speed, alternately engaging and disengaging the drive wheels to avoid digging in too fast. We were able to throw the sawdust up to 31 feet, and expect that would increase significantly in normal snow conditions. Using the small joystick-type control for the discharge chute and deflector is a joy. With just a thumb, we could reach from the handle to quickly make adjustments on the fly. In our area test, we were able to clear the sawdust in just two minutes and 41 seconds.
Though this isn’t the only model with heated grips, the Arctic Storm has some of the best. They admittedly weren’t much help at the time of testing, but they warmed very quickly and will make for a more pleasant time working in the snow when the temperature drops. We found the Arctic Storm to be a good value compared to other machines its size and an ideal option for people with large driveways and parking areas to clear.
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