Best and Worst Snow Blowers of 2019

Paul Hope

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A good snow blower will clear your driveway in about a quarter of the time it would take you to shovel it. The very best models can slice through 18 inches of snow and hurl it 40 feet or more, clearing a path as fast as you can push the machine along. 

Although all snow blowers scoop up snow and shoot it out a chute, Consumer Reports has found significant differences in how they perform.

How We Test Snow Blowers

It's fascinating that no two snowflakes are alike, but that presents a problem for Consumer Reports' testing protocol. "We need to run our tests with something we can standardize, for consistency," explains Dave Trezza, who oversees snow-blower testing at Consumer Reports.  “That's the reason we use a mixture of a certain type of sawdust, saturated with water, instead of snow."

The mixture we use can simulate a standard snowfall or be molded into a mound that simulates a plow pile, like the ones the town plows leave at the foot of your driveway.

In each test we time how fast a model cuts through the dense mixture and note how far the sawdust is thrown and how clean the surface is.

The Overall Score for each model combines results from these performance tests as well as results of our survey of 17,000 CR members, which informs our brand reliability and owner satisfaction ratings.

We test single-, two-, and three-stage snow blowers from brands, including Ariens, Troy-Bilt, Honda, Cub Cadet, Craftsman, Husqvarna, and Toro. We also look at lighter-duty, single-stage electric blowers from brands like Sun Joe and Ego.

Two-stage and three-stage snow blowers are the most powerful and can clear 16 to 18 inches of snow in one pass. They range in width from 24 to 30 inches, and models at the narrow end of that spectrum are considered "compact." Single-stage models are typically 21 inches wide and can clear snow up to 9 inches deep in a single pass. 

CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of the top-performing gas- and battery-powered models from our ratings.

The Best Single-Stage Gas Snow Blowers

These tools are generally much smaller than two and three-stage models, and meant to clear snow up to about 9 inches deep. They have an auger, just like the bigger units, but don't have the impeller that helps larger machines clear quickly. 

Best Single-Stage Battery-Powered Snow Blowers

Battery-powered single-stage snow blowers are a small but growing category. The best still aren't as good as the best gas models, but they're better than plug-in electric models, and they free you of gas, cords, and engine maintenance. 

Snow Blowers to Skip

Characterization of the group, universal for all, maybe reliability data too or cost

Say all 3-stage score very good or better, and on the other side, we don't recommend a single corded electric. Below are the worst performers in each wprst performer of all models we tested. 

 

2-stage gas

2-stage compact

1-stage gas

1-stage battery

 

Three-stage: The 24-inch-wide Craftsman 88870, $1,200, lagged in snow removal speed and throwing distance, although it aced removing the snow pile at the end of the driveway and was easy to handle.

Two-stage: The 30-inch-wide Husqvarna ST230E, $1,300, does well at removing snow quickly, but it has confusing controls and sub-par predicted reliability for a machine this pricey. 

Compact two-stage: The Poulan Pro PR241, $650, turns in only average performance on most performance tests, and has the worst predicted reliability of any brand in our ratings. 

Single-stage gas: The Ariens Pro Path 938034, $450, is sluggish to clear and really struggles at tackling a large plow pile of snow. 

Single-stage cordless electric: The Snow Joe iON18SB, $400, is designed like other cordless blowers but a lack of power was evident in our tests. The Snow Joe scored poor marks for speed, plow-pile removal, and throwing distance.

The Worst Snow Blowers

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The Worst Snow Blowers

Test

The Worst Snow Blowers from Our Tests

Snow blower performance in our tests varies wildly. It’s hard to go wrong with a three-stage model, all those we’ve tested score well enough for us to recommend. On the flipside, none of the corded electric models we’ve tested are worth buying—they tend to be underpowered, plus you’ve got to contend with an extension cord in damp snow. For the remaining four types, we’ve highlighted the worst in class, below.

The Worst Snow Blowers

The Worst Snow Blowers

The performance of most snow blowers in our tests varies widely. The exceptions are three-stage models—all of which we recommend—and on the flip side, corded electrics—none of which we think are worth buying because they're so underpowered.

For the remaining two types, battery-powered single stage and single-stage gas, we’ve highlighted the worst in class so you can be sure to avoid them.

Snow Blowers 101

Not sure what the difference is between a single-stage and three-stage snow blower? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, CR expert Dave Trezza explains to show host Jack Rico everything consumers need to know about these snow-tossing machines.



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