Choosing the right Snow Thrower

Car covered in snow.
Car covered in snow.

When it comes to picking the right snow thrower, there’s lots of advice out there. Especially from the manufacturers of each brand of machine. Advertisers will say “go big” and why not? There’s more money to be made that way. But bigger is not always better. So let’s talk a little bit about developing a buyers strategy.

Understand the task at hand.

Flat terrain or hilly? Drifts or simple open area removal? Depth of snow fall? Heavy, consistent, intermittent, price range, serviceability, wet, fluffy, etc? The bottom line is that the wrong tool for the job can be a pain. And when it comes to choosing which direction your money will go, it pays to make an informed decision.

Size does matter 

Bigger often sacrifices maneuverability. Smaller offers convenience at the cost of performance. There are some pretty aggressive machines out there that may simply be too much to handle and a few slick little numbers that look nice in the garage, but don’t do much in the thick of it. Know your enemy! Know what you need to accomplish and make an informed decision.

You get what you pay for…sort of.

When it comes to pricing, you can go as high as you like. But when it comes to quality, it’s a good idea to regard the professionals. Non-biased third parties like Consumer Reports are an excellent resource for factual information. Of course, authorized dealers for reputable brands are biased (to a point), but keep in mind that selling you a bill of goods is not in their best interest. If the quality of the equipment doesn’t stand up to the hype, then the dealership is the one held accountable. If nothing else, authorized dealerships can provide you with answers to your questions. Not sure about the dealership, go straight to the manufacturer(eg. www.snapper.com) or consult the Better Business Bureau.

A few points to consider…

Pricing generally ranges from around $200 to over $4,000. Keep in mind that warranty and serviceability can effect the overall cost of keeping and maintaining your machine. $200 on the floor can mean $300+ after the first tune up. Gas powered engine driven machines are designed to be repaired. This doesn’t mean that electric units do not function well. But when it comes time to fix the machine (and it will come time to fix it), consider whether it will be worth the price; or possible at all.

Be cautious when purchasing anything with an ambiguous engine brand. It may look like a Honda, but that doesn’t make it a genuine Honda. These are often called “knock off’s” and you can find them all over the internet and in some retail locations. And while the price may be “right”, when it comes time to find parts, you may find your local technician scratching his head. That means “no service”. Don’t worry. When it stops running, you can always weld a mail box to the top of the machine and leave it by the curb.

What’s the difference?

Snow throwers move snow in either single or dual stages.

Single stage

Designed for lighter work, the rotating auger lifts the snow, forcing it upward and away in a single stage. Single stage throwers are often lighter and easily maneuverable, but the smaller size can require multiple passes for complete snow removal. Some single stage throwers are electric and require an extension cord to operate. While these are quieter, the plastic chassis and relatively few moving parts make them less viable for repair in your local repair shop. Finally, single stage throwers tend to have one operating speed…”go”. Consider how long you want to spend pushing this thing around in twenty below temperatures before purchasing.

Dual stage

Dual stage throwers lift the snow with a turning auger, forcing the snow upward through an adjustable discharge chute (often with the assistance of an additional discharge fan). This chute can be repositioned to deflect the snow in a chosen direction. Dual stage throwers are generally gasoline powered, are bigger and heavier. Because of this, many come with a self-propel drive system. There are mid-sized (20 to 22 inch clearance) and larger sized (28 to 30 inch clearance) units and may come with such optional features as electric start and/or headlights. These are best used for larger areas, or areas with routinely packed snow.

Whenever possible, put your hands on the actual model before purchasing. Using a snow thrower can be a time consuming process. The last thing you want is for an uncomfortable angle, controls that are difficult to employ, or a poor match in size (resulting in stooping). Once again, if its uncomfortable in the store, imagine dealing with it in sub-zero temperatures.

The Need for Speed

Adjustable speed is one of the most important functions of a snow thrower. Move too slow, you can clog, drag, or get stuck. Move too fast and you’re just going back for seconds. Four to six forward speeds are average with Dual stage throwers. Another thing to inquire into is the “Dead Man” control. This safety function stops the turning auger when the handle is released.

Whatever snow thrower you choose, remember to be safe this winter. Happy throwing!

-Bill

Did you enjoy this article?
Signup today and receive free updates straight in your inbox. We will never share or sell your email address.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to Mad Mimi ( more information )
Bill Brown

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.