Different Types of Snowblowers – Which One is Right for YOU?


Snow.

Some people love it, some people hate it. Which are you?

Personally, I fall into the latter category, and I dread the white stuff blanketing the neighborhood every year.

Especially because of the need to constantly be clearing the driveway.

And to do that, you need the right tool for the job.

In this article, we explore the different types of snowblowers and help you choose the best machine for your property.

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Snowblower Types – Too Long, Didn’t Read

If you’re in a rush, and you don’t have time to check out the full article, here are the basics in summary.

There are predominately three types of snowblower:

  • Single-stage.
  • Two-stage.
  • Three-stage.

And each of these may or may not be powered by:

  • Corded electric.
  • Rechargeable battery.
  • Gas.

And they can be:

  • Walk-behind wheeled.
  • Walk-behind track-drive.
  • Tractor/ATV mounted.

To find out what all of that actually means, stay with us, as we take you through all-things snowblower.

We also have a section on snowblower features, so you can decide what you need your machine to have, as well as alternatives to snowblowers if you’d rather not use such a tool at all.

person using a snowblower

Do I Need a Snowblower?

Before you start scratching your head about the best type of snowblower, and all its bells and whistles, perhaps it’s prudent to decide if you need one at all?

Consider how much snowfall your region gets every year and whether this can be managed without the need to use an expensive machine.

How often are you genuinely going to use it? Are you aware of the maintenance and upkeep costs?

Snowblowers are generally for use in residential areas, where homeowners are required to maintain their portion of a sidewalk, as well as their own driveways to allow vehicular access.

It’s unlikely you will need a snowblower if you don’t fall into this category, and/or you only have a small amount of land to clear.

Check out our snowblower alternatives towards the end of this article for more info.

Why the Right Snowblower is Important

A cautionary tale, if you’ll permit me.

I have a friend who has a giant (and I mean giant) paved driveway that can take several vehicles, or at least two RVs. His neighbor, on the other hand, has a tiny, gravel strip for a single car.

Giant concrete driveway neighbor has a two-stage, gas-powered beast of a snowblower.

Tiny gravel driveway neighbor has a small, cordless electric, single-stage snowblower.

Neighbors being neighbors – they look out for each other. Should it ever snow heavily when one is away, the other will clear their respective driveway and sidewalk. Nice, huh?

You can probably tell where this is going, right?

A particularly large dump of snow occurred one winter, and both neighbors had the opportunity to help out the other.

And one neighbor, in particular, regretted it.

The poor cordless electric machine was choked out by the sheer amount of snow it tried to shift, with the battery dying before it had barely made a dent.

And it wasn’t even that suitable for his own driveway in the first place – being just a single-stage snowblower. The gravel surface soon took its toll.

That, my friends, is the reason why you need to keep reading and choose the right snow blower for your needs!

But if either of these two neighbors sounds like you, then this article on the best snowblowers for large driveways, and this piece on the best snowblowers for gravel driveways should help you out!

What Kind of Snowblower Should I Buy? The Main Types

Man clearing snow while snowing

When discussing snowblowers, you’ll most commonly find that the word “stage” comes up on more than one occasion.

But what does it mean in this context? Let’s find out.

Single-Stage Snowblowers

Single-stage snowblowers are so-called because they just have one method of throwing the snow – a single auger at the front of the machine.

When the snowblower is powered on, this auger rotates relatively quickly, and propels snow out of the chute in the same motion. As with most snowblowers, the chute is usually located on the top of the machine.

Single-stage snowblowers are designed for smaller driveways and patios, and/or for areas where there’s a more moderate snowfall each year.

And because the auger typically comes into contact with the ground – with no front scraper bar – then they’re not suitable for use on gravel driveways.

Go here for a full, in-depth review of the best single-stage snowblowers on the market.

Typical clearing width – 12-22-inches.

Snow depth – 12-18-inches.

Two-Stage Snowblowers

Two-stage snow blowers have the same auger design as a single-stage model, only now they have the addition of an impeller – a rotating wheel that sits behind the auger, and sucks in the white stuff.

The auger actually turns more slowly in a two-stage machine, feeding the snow into the faster impeller, which then forces the snow up and out of the chute.

As you might expect, with this extra help, a two-stage snowblower can handle greater volumes and is more suitable for medium to large driveways, patios, and sidewalk areas.

A two-stage snow blower is the most common type in most residential areas that see a generous annual dump of snow.

This article on the best two-stage snowblowers will tell you everything you need to know about them.

And if you’re having trouble choosing between one and two, this piece on one vs two-stage snowblowers will light the way.

Typical clearing width – 20-40-inches.

Snow depth – up to 24-inches.

Three-Stage Snowblowers

You’ve got the hang of this by now, right?!

A three-stage snow blower has an auger, and an impeller, but where it differs is with the addition of an accelerator, which spins perpendicular to the auger.

Think of it like a motorized corkscrew – which is designed to break up ice, and shift heavy, wet, and/or packed snow.

Three-stage snow blowers are absolute monster machines, and they can displace as much as 50% more snow than two, and certainly single-stage models.

They can also launch snow up to 50 feet away – so be careful when pointing the chute in a certain direction.

Your neighbor might not thank you if they come home to double the amount of snow in their driveway!

Check out this article on two-stage vs three-stage snowblowers for a more detailed comparison between the two more powerful options.

As such, you really only need one of these if you’re in the frozen wastes of the Midwest, for example. (Basically, for shifting massive amounts of snow and ice on an industrial scale every year).

Typical clearing width – 24-30-inches.

Snow depth – up to 24-inches.

Man Clearing Snow with a Snow Blower

Snowblower Power Options

Aside from the main types of snowblower stages, you will have to choose the power source when you’re in the market for a new machine. Again, there are three options:

Corded Electric

The cheapest, and most basic power option is the humble corded electric model.

Compact, lightweight, and affordable, they’re typically made from heavy-duty plastics, although the auger might be steel.

Provided you’re plugged in, you’ll have constant power – but cords can be restrictive, and limit range.

Even with yards of extension cord, they can be restrictive – and often dangerous, with an added trip hazard – or worse.

Cordless Battery

Offering more freedom than a corded model, battery-powered snow blowers are great for small to medium-sized areas.

Whereas gas vs battery lawnmowers can be relatively comparable, battery snowblowers were not so similar.

They weren’t much of a thing a couple of years ago, as it was felt that such machines wouldn’t ever have the power to efficiently shift snow. At least, not as effective as a gas-powered machine.

But battery snowblower tech is improving all the time, and there are some great options out there – many as part of a range of tools that can use the same power pack.

Gas Powered

At the time of writing, if you really need to move a heavy dump of snow from one place to another, then there’s no substitute for a gas-powered snowblower. (Short of a plow – but more on that, below).

Capable of shifting heavy, wet snow and ice, gas-powered machines are incomparable for the big jobs, but they do have several unfortunate downsides.

They require the most maintenance, and you need to make sure you’re always using the right oil for your snowblower (follow that link for some of the best).

They’re also very loud, with serious noise pollution and fuel emissions. If you can help it at all, try an alternative.

Wheels/Track Drive/Mounted Snowblowers

Let’s take a look at how the snow blower is going to actually move. Once again, there are typically three options:

Wheels – Most snowblowers will be equipped with a set of wheels at the rear of the machine. They might be powered (forward/reverse), or they might not.

You should also check the size of the wheels, and look for heavy-duty tires with a deep, grippy lug for the best control through the snow.

Track Drive – An upgrade in power comes with an upgrade in price. Snowblowers with tank-like tracks offer unbeatable grip in icy conditions, but they don’t come cheap.

Still, if you’re trying to remove snow from a property with any kind of hilly terrain, then a track-drive snowblower is what you need – and nothing less.

Mounted – If you’re not keen on any walk-behind models, and you have the space and the right vehicle for it, then a mounted snowblower might be the best choice for you.

Not to be confused with a plow, a mounted snowblower is exactly that, an auger and a chute that is mounted on an ATV or garden tractor – and throws the snow, rather than push it.

Again, these machines don’t come cheap, and you’re looking at not much change from $2000 even for a basic one.

Snowblower Features

Man using a snow thrower

Below, you’ll find a rundown of useful snowblower features, which you should consider before making a purchase.

Clearing depths/width – As equally important as the stage choice, the size of the snow blower is going to determine how wide and how deep a path it’s capable of clearing with each pass.

Variable speeds – Having a choice of speeds (both forward and reverse) is an absolute boon. You might be able to finish faster, and/or you can slow down to tackle particularly stubborn areas of packed snow.

Power steering – Likewise, having a snowblower that can turn on a dime is another huge advantage, as lugging a heavy machine around a corner – or to face back in the other direction – ain’t at all fun.

Skid plates – Heavy-duty plastic “shoes” on the main housing, skid plates are so designed to allow the snowblower to move easily over the surface, and purposefully leave a layer of snow – so as not to damage your driveway.

For gravel driveways – skid plates are crucial.

Chute controls – Let me tell you – good chute controls are ESSENTIAL on a snowblower.

If you can’t easily manipulate the direction of snow (which always needs to change – depending on your orientation), then you’re going to turn the air blue, get covered in the cold stuff, and take three times as long to do the job.

Trust me on this one! For the past couple of seasons, I’ve had to zip tie an unruly chute in place, and the time it takes me to stop and adjust at the end of each pass is frustrating – to say the least!

Electric start – Super useful in freezing temps, and/or if you need to stop and start the machine for whatever reason. They also prolong the life of the starter cord.

Dead-man switch – The aptly named function that kills the machine if the operator becomes incapacitated. An extremely useful safety feature that all-powerful snowblowers should come with.

LED headlights – While I don’t advise using a snowblower in the dark for safety reasons – headlights can help significantly on gloomy, cloudy days, or if you’re trying to catch the last of the light in the evening.

Chute cleaning tool – For the love of all things – please don’t stick your hand down the chute. A good snowblower will come with a dedicated cleaning tool – so you can keep your fingers.

Heated hand grips – Even if you’re wearing some of the best winter work gloves (follow that link for more), your hands can still feel the nip when it’s especially cold. Heated hand grips are the answer.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and there might be other features I’ve not included here on your snowblower or the snowblower you’re interested in.

Snowblower Alternatives

Some folks are still not comfortable swapping their lawnmowers for snowblowers, and so here are a few suggestions for alternatives to these machines.

And speaking of the lawn, just because it might be covered in snow doesn’t mean it can’t be helped! Here’s an article on how to care for your lawn in winter.

Snow shovels – Perhaps the obvious choice. Incredibly cheap, with zero emissions, little or no maintenance, and a near-flat learning curve. They’re ideal for maintaining smaller properties and walkways.

The problem is, using one can be utterly back-breaking. Perhaps you should try one of these awesome electric snow shovels for some extra help?

Snowplows – Designed for particularly large properties/driveways, a snowplow is an excellent alternative to a snowblower and is for shifting snow on a more industrial scale.

Of course, the downside is you need the appropriate vehicle to mount it on. But if you do have an ATV or tractor, check out this review on the best snow plows currently available.

Leaf blowers – If you have a light dusting, why not consider using a leaf blower to clear it out of the way? One of the more powerful gas leaf blowers should be suitable – or perhaps a commercial backpack blower.

Either way, you’ll need something that’s capable of some decent CFM (Cubic Force per Meter), and those things are going to run LOUD. Probably best used in the sticks, rather than a residential area.

Delegation – Getting someone else to do it for you is the mark of greatness.

Snow removal services are a thing, but you can also persuade the youngster(s) to help you out – or a local college kid if you have none of your own. Just make sure to offer a couple of bucks to sweeten the deal.

How to Choose the Right Snowblower

I bet you didn’t realize just how much there is to consider when choosing a new snowblower!

Even with all this information, it can still be a challenge to pick the right one, and so here are a few final pointers as a reminder:

For small driveways, where the snow is likely to be no more than 12 inches – a single-stage snow blower is ideal.

But if that driveway is made from gravel, then you need to step up to a two-stage snow blower – and make sure it comes with skid shoes.

For medium to large driveways, a two – or possibly three-stage snow blower is going to be a better choice. Go for a three-stage machine if you anticipate trying to shift packed snow and ice.

If you’re on hilly or uneven terrain, consider a track-drive snowblower.

Generally speaking, the type of snowblower you choose will come down to the size of the area it needs to cover, and the type, and depth of the snow it’s going to shift.

For more information, the video below offers a visual guide to each option.

Summary

There are many different types of snow blowers available today, and choosing one can be a bit of a headache if you’re new to the market.

I hope this article has provided you with enough confidence to make the best purchase for your needs – and the needs of your property.

Let me know which version you’ve gone for, and why – or if you have any snow-blowing stories you’d like to share with the community.

Stay safe out there, stay warm, and happy snow-blowing!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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