Snowmen, snowball fights, sledding, building an igloo, snow angels, skiing, and snowboarding. Snow can be really fun.
Except when it’s on your driveway.
Let’s face it – clearing snow is a chore that nobody enjoys, and the older we get, the more difficult it becomes.
That’s when you know it’s time to treat yourself to a snowblower. But which type is right for you?
We’ve already covered a single-stage vs two-stage snow blower contest.
However, a great many people have to contend with such a huge amount of the white stuff every winter that they need something with a little more oomph.
So, let’s put the big boys to the test in a 2 stage vs 3 stage snow blower match up.
Who will come out on top? Read on to find out. A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow if you still need help with your choice.
- Short Answer to Two-Stage vs Three-Stage Snow Blower
- In-Depth Look at 2-Stage VS 3-Stage Snow Blowers
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Each
- Two-Stage VS Three-Stage Snow Blower Examples
- Things to Consider Before Making the Buy
- A Note On Safety
- What’s The Difference Between a Two-Stage & Three-Stage Snow Blower?
- What Do Stages Mean in Snow Blowers?
- Are Three-Stage Snow Blowers Worth It?
- What Is The Best Two-Stage Snow Blower?
- What Is The Best Snow Blower For A Senior?
- How Do You Use a Snow Blower?
- Do Snow Blowers Work On Wet and Heavy Snow?
- Should You Use a Snow Blower On a Gravel Driveway?
- How Should I Maintain My Snow Blower?
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Short Answer to Two-Stage vs Three-Stage Snow Blower
Before we delve deeper into the ins and outs of these two heavyweight snow shifters, for anyone in a rush, here’s the short answer.
Both two-stage and three-stage machines can be used in the same kind of snow conditions, with roughly the same height of snowfall.
Where a three-stage model excels, is for heavier, compacted snow and ice, or just generally for heavier-duty cleanup.
If you feel you need help to break up the snow before shifting it – then you should consider a three-stage machine.
In-Depth Look at 2-Stage VS 3-Stage Snow Blowers
What is a Snow Blower?
There are generally three different types of snow blowers available. One-stage, two-stage, and three-stage.
One and two-stage models can be electric or gas-powered. Three-stage snow blowers are only powered by gas.
They’re used to remove snow from unwanted areas, such as driveways, sidewalks, and other thoroughfares.
They work by using a powered auger to suck up the snow and force it through a discharge chute to be deposited in the direction you choose.
It sure beats the effort and fatigue you experience shoveling by hand, and they will get the job done in a fraction of the time, too.
What is a Two-Stage Snow Blower?
While a one-stage snowblower just uses an auger to collect the snow, a two-stage machine adds an extra little kick.
As well as the rotating auger at the front of the unit, a two-stage snow blower incorporates an impeller rotor, which adds more power in order to intake and discharge more snow.
They can handle a greater load than a one-stage version, and because of their design, they’re more suitable for using over uneven terrain.
Two-stage snow blowers are ideal for using on gravel driveways, paths, or turf, or anything where the surface under the snow might be in danger of being lifted.
It will be able to clear heavy and wet snow up to around two feet in height, with a clearing path width usually anywhere between 20-40 inches.
A two-stage snowblower will be able to throw the snow up to 60 feet away.
What is a Three-Stage Snow Blower?
Three-stage snow blowers also use the front auger system – which is the first stage. The second stage is the impeller rotor, which increases the machine’s ability to shift heavier snowfalls.
The third stage is an additional two augers (or accelerators). One sits in front and the other behind the main blade at a 90-degrees angle to it.
These augers work to initially break up particularly heavy packed snow and ice, wet or dense material that you would otherwise need a shovel or pick to attack.
They usually have a clearing width of between 20-30 inches and can deposit snow up to 50 feet away.
Like the two-stage version, they’re also suitable for plowing over gravel or uneven terrain and can be used on moderate inclines – so long as it’s not too steep.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Each
Just to keep things nice and clear, I’ve included some advantages and disadvantages below – specifically related to the face-off between two and three-stage snow blowers.
If I’ve missed anything – do let me know.
Two-stage snow blowers are expensive, but they’re usually cheaper than three-stage versions. If you find that you don’t actually need a three-stage, then you could probably save yourself some cash.
They’re lighter than three-stage models (although still very heavy for the most part).
You will usually find that two-stage snow blowers have larger clearing heights and widths. They can throw the snow much further than three-stage versions.
For wet, heavy snow or packed ice, a two-stage snow blower doesn’t come close to a three-stage for shifting it. If that was the case, there would be no need for a three-stage snow blower at all.
The con for the two-stage snow blower is the pro for the three-stage. There’s nothing else like it for shifting heavy snow and ice.
Three-stage blowers will likely come with all the bells and whistles, too. Hand-warmers, hydrostatic transmission, aluminum gearboxes, headlights, zero-turn drive systems…if you’re going to pay through the nose you might as well get your money’s worth.
Three-stage snow blowers are very expensive. If you’re looking at the best quality expect to pay well over $1000.
Given that they use more parts, they will also need a lot more maintenance over time than two-stage models.
They’re very heavy. Two-stage models aren’t exactly a bag of feathers either, but three-stage snow blowers are weighty machines.
The clearance swath of a three-stage snow blower is often smaller than a two-stage.
Track-drive snow blowers can come as two or three-stage versions, but they share one thing in common – they shovel snow with the drive power of a tank.
The nature of the track drive means that you have unparalleled control and stability in the harshest of conditions. Uneven terrain is no sweat.
Exorbitantly expensive for most people.
Unnecessary in urban areas.
It should also be noted that for both stage two and three snow blowers, track drive or otherwise, one of the most significant disadvantages is the sheer level of noise when you run them.
These things are not quiet machines – so be warned.
Two-Stage VS Three-Stage Snow Blower Examples
I’ve included a small selection of example products and reviews to give you an idea of the differences between the two types, and the kind of machines that are available on the market today.
Champion 224cc Gas Snow Blower
This is a powerful two-stage snowblower from Champion that boasts a 224cc engine with a 120V electric start. It offers the user plenty of control options, including six forward and two reverse speeds, and a wide clearing width and height so you can get the job done faster.
It can handle snowfalls of up to 12-inches deep, with the effective carbon-steel auger working with the powerful impeller that gives you a clearing distance of up to 43 feet.
The cold weather engine is designed to be reliable whatever the temperature and the discharge chute has easy-to-adjust controls so you can deposit the material exactly where you want it.
- Compact for easy storage.
- Tough and durable.
- Very powerful.
- Steel chute.
- No heated hand grips.
- Instructions are confusing.
Briggs & Stratton Elite 1530 Snow Blower
Another good example of a two-stage snow blower is this model from Briggs & Stratton – so you know it’s already going to be a beast of a machine.
Featuring a powerful 306cc trademark professional engine that’s designed to start reliably and destroy the snow, the push-button electrics will get the motor running down to 20 degrees below zero.
There’s a generous clearing with of 30-inches and a height of 20-inches, so you can handle moderate to heavy snow with ease.
With dual-trigger steering for tight cornering at the end of your driveway, a free hand control system for one-handed operation, and a tough-as-nails steel construction with a notched auger, this is a snow eating animal from the gasoline engine stalwarts.
- Dash mounted chute controls.
- Highly maneuverable.
- Name to trust in engines.
- Heated hand grips.
- Steel dash construction.
- Aluminum gear box.
Cub Cadet 357cc Gas Snow Blower
Cub Cadet are another US company that need little introduction when it comes to outdoor power tools and equipment. This is one of their Three-stage snow blowers backed by a powerful 357cc engine with an electric start.
The 3X’s unique high-speed induction accelerator draws snow through the system, creating an effortless forward motion that will have your driveway clear in no time at all.
Featuring power-steering with intuitive finger-tip controls, a large 26-inch cutting width, durable steel chassis, and chute, and able to chomp snow up to 26-inches in height, this is an ideal machine if a two-stage blower just won’t cut it in your neck of the woods.
- Quality construction.
- Heated hand grips.
- Very powerful.
- Reputed snow blower company.
- Snow skids.
- 200-degree rotating chute.
- Not ideal on steep terrain.
Troy-Bilt Vortex 2490 Gas Snow Thrower
The aptly named Troy-Bilt Vortex is a three-stage snow blower that’s powered by a 277cc engine with an electric start. It has intuitive, touch-and-turn handling controls with power-steering to improve maneuverability and ensure you can make swift work of your driveway.
As it clears snow up to 24-inches wide and 21-inches deep in one pass, you can get in from the cold faster.
The tough, 12-inch accelerator spins ten times faster than the auger to really break down packed snow, while the four-way remote pitch and chute control allows you to easily manage and change snow discharge direction.
- One handed operation.
- In-dash headlight.
- All-wheel drive.
- Large traction tires.
- East-start in cold temperatures.
- Heated hand grips.
- Chute is a little hard to move.
Ariens Professional Rapidtrak 420cc Snow Blower
I’ve included this track-drive snowblower to give you an idea of the professional standard of machines – which are still available to the general public if you don’t mind dropping a lot of $$$.
Wisconsin company Ariens manufacture some top-drawer, heavy-duty power tools, sort of like the Cadillacs of the snowblower world.
This beast offers a whopping 420cc AX engine to shoot snow up to 60 feet. It’s a two-stage version, with three adjustable track positions for superior traction and control in the toughest of conditions.
It can clear a huge 28-inches of snow, so even if you’re going up and down hills, you’ll have the power and control to get the job done.
- Top-of-the-line snow blower.
- Has headlights.
- Handgrip warmers.
- Trigger less auto turn steering.
- Variable speed hydrostatic drive system.
- Very expensive.
- Overkill for most residential areas.
Things to Consider Before Making the Buy
If you still need some extra help, here are a few pointers that you should bear in mind if you’re thinking about purchasing a two-stage or three-stage snowblower.
The Type and Size of the Job
If you live in a part of the country that gets particularly severe snowfalls, then you might want to consider opting for a three-stage snowblower.
This is especially true if you anticipate having to hack through wet, dense, heavy or icy snow.
Two-stage snow blowers would be preferable if you don’t need the extra power. Remember that they can also clear larger areas faster, so if you have more driveway, a two-stage might be the way to go.
For shifting snow in the country, or if you have uneven or hilly terrain, then look into purchasing a track-drive snowblower. You certainly won’t need it for a townhouse or urban condo patio.
It’s always worth mentioning that – although snow blowers offer considerable respite from manually shoveling snow – they still take effort to use and control.
It’s not a magic machine that can do it for you – they haven’t invented that yet.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider your own strength and ability to use these potentially dangerous machines.
Regular accidents happen with snow blowers (over 6000 hospitalized incidents a year) so you want to make sure you’re capable of using one before you add it to your cart.
Snowblowers aren’t small. Even the compact machines have bulk and will take up space. And although some have folding handles, you still need to take into consideration where you’re storing the thing when not in use.
Don’t even think about lifting two or three-stage snow blowers – so you need to have an easy-access, same-level storage option such as a tool shed or garage.
It’s not unheard of for people to purchase such an item only to realize they have no suitable place to put it.
Use a little common sense and plan ahead. You can’t hang these things on the wall.
As you can see, two and three-stage snow blowers will set you back a pretty penny. Even one-stage snow blowers aren’t the cheapest tools on the market.
Are you going to get a lot of use out of it? How bad are the conditions? Do you need something that is as heavy-duty as these machines?
Then always buy the best you can afford – so long as you suit your choice of tool to the job it’s being bought to do.
A Note On Safety
With snowblower related injuries a real problem each year, it’s worth mentioning a few tips when it comes to their safe operation.
Always wear eye and ear protection, as well as good-quality work gloves that will provide you with grip and control. Snowblowers are very loud, can throw up potentially harmful material, and the vibrations can cause discomfort.
Don’t wear any loose or ill-fitting clothing. And certainly don’t wear a scarf, tie, or anything that might get caught up in the spinning blade.
Never put your hand inside the auger to clear debris – always use the clearing rod/cleaning tool provided or a scrap of wood.
What’s The Difference Between a Two-Stage & Three-Stage Snow Blower?
They do exactly the same job, but the main difference is that a three-stage machine has additional accelerator or auger blades to grind up the snow as it’s being sucked into the machine.
Three-stage snow blowers are designed for tackling packed, dense, wet, heavy or icy snow, as the unit can break it down without the need for using hand tools.
As a side note, three-stage snow blowers are likely to have more features as standard, just to improve your comfort, control, and overall user experience.
What Do Stages Mean in Snow Blowers?
You might have heard about one-stage, two-stage, and three-stage snow blowers. The explanation of each is actually quite straightforward and uncomplicated.
A one-stage snowblower uses an auger to suck up the snow and push it through a discharge chute.
A two-stage snowblower uses the auger and an impeller for extra power.
A three-stage snowblower uses the auger, the impeller, and an additional dicing auger for breaking dense snow and ice.
Each machine has one, two, and three stages. That’s where the term “stage” comes from.
Are Three-Stage Snow Blowers Worth It?
Now, this is a very good question. While there are some people who swear by them, others think that you can get similar results with a powerful two-stage snow blower for a fraction of the cost.
But the fact of the matter is, for shifting heavy, dense, wet, or icy snow without first having to hack it to pieces, then yes – a three-stage snow blower is most definitely worth it.
Just make sure that it’s matched to the job you need it to do.
What Is The Best Two-Stage Snow Blower?
Again, a matter of opinion. Watch this space though, as there will be a full two-stage snow blower article and review coming soon so you can find out the answer for yourself.
What Is The Best Snow Blower For A Senior?
If you’re of advancing years then it’s important you purchase a snowblower that you can handle comfortably and with confidence.
Ideally, this machine should be as light as possible – which means you should be looking at single-stage snow blowers only.
However, depending on your circumstances and what you need the tool to do, this isn’t always practical. If you do need to go for a two-stage or even three-stage version, I would suggest the following.
Look out for machines that have easy-to-use, intuitive controls. Go for snowblowers with variable speeds, power steering, and self-propelled functions.
Snowblowers with zero-turn drive systems are great to help you maneuver a heavy unit when you need to turn around at the end of a pass.
An electric start is highly recommended. Starting an engine isn’t easy for anyone – let alone senior citizens. A corded, push-button start is a literal lifesaver, especially in colder temperatures.
Handgrip warmers aren’t essential, but they make it a much more pleasurable experience.
Look for snowblowers with a dead-man switch, so the until will automatically power off if nobody is at the controls or the user becomes incapacitated.
The more work the machine can do, the better it is for you.
How Do You Use a Snow Blower?
There are all sorts of tricks, tips, and techniques for using your snowblower.
Rather than continue to write pages upon pages of advice, I’ve included the video below which has plenty of information about snow blower use.
Do Snow Blowers Work On Wet and Heavy Snow?
Two and three-stage snow blowers will work on wet and heavy snow, but a one-stage model will struggle.
One stage snow blowers are only meant for light, fluffy snowfall.
If you’re really concerned that the machine just won’t shift the type of snow deposits you regularly experience, then you should opt for a three-stage version.
Just make sure that the product you purchase can handle the conditions you need to use it for. Again, snow blowers aren’t miracle workers – if the snow is too heavy, any machine is going to find it tough to handle.
Unless you’re using one of those commercial, jet-engine snow blowers, of course. That might set you back a few million, though.
Should You Use a Snow Blower On a Gravel Driveway?
Good question – and it depends on the type of snowblower.
Stage one snow blowers come into direct contact with the ground and scrape up the layer of snow and ice with a fixed blade or edger under the unit.
For that reason, they are not at all recommended for gravel driveways.
With two and three-stage snow blowers, the height of clearance can be adjusted. They also might use elevated skids for maneuverability.
So, you can use two and three-stage machines on your gravel driveway safely.
Remember that a two and three-stage snowblower will leave a thin layer of snow behind, whereas a single-stage will clear it completely on a paved surface.
How Should I Maintain My Snow Blower?
Perhaps one of the main disadvantages of any gas power tool is that it will need regular maintenance. It will need checking thoroughly before and after each time you use it.
If you want your snowblower to last as long as possible and offer peak performance for years to come, you need to keep on top of its condition.
Check out the video below for some great advice on how to maintain your snowblower.
When it comes to the battle between 2 stage vs 3 stage snow blowers, it’s not so easy to choose an overall winner.
It all depends on certain circumstances, such as what you need the machine for and how much snow it needs to shift.
Either way, I hope that this article has been informative and has gone some way into helping you make a decision. Which machine would you choose and why?
Bring on the blizzards!