Snowblower 101: How to Choose and Maintain This Winter Tool

A man using a snowblower in his yard.

Snow blowers save time and energy when it comes to clearing snow from your yard, including the driveway and sidewalk, which are a constant chore in the winter. In comparison with shoveling, a snow blower is an amazing invention. Choosing the right snow blower depends on several factors, including how deep the snow is, how much ice needs to be cleared, how quick the snow blower works, and how much money you want to spend. Snow blowers can range from several hundred dollars to over a thousand, depending on the local weather. Avoid spending too much on an overpowered snow blower or having one that doesn't quite fit your needs by knowing what to look for before you shop.

Single-Stage or Two-Stage

The major difference between single-stage and two-stage snow blowers is the depth of snow that needs to be removed. A single-stage (electric) snow blower will work well on several inches of snow, but anything deeper than that, and a two-stage snow blower may be more effective. Single-stage blowers are smaller, lighter, and tend to work well on flat surfaces such as driveways or sidewalks. Two-stage snow-blowers are larger, more powerful, and designed to clear more than a foot of snow in a jiffy.

Gas or Electric

A gas-powered snow blower will remove more snow than an electric one, as they tend to have more power than electric models. If you’re looking to remove deeper snow, a gas model may be your best bet, especially if you’re opting for a single-stage model. While older gas models used to have a cord to pull and start the machine, many newer models have an electric start, which makes starting it up in the cold much easier.

If you live somewhere where you only have to remove a few inches of snow from time to time and you want something that takes up minimal space in the garage, the small electric model is probably the way to go. It’s smaller, lighter, and starts up easily.

The Auger

A machine that has augers that touch the ground are designed for flat, paved surfaces, and not for gravel driveways or hilly areas. Larger, two-stage snow blowers that have the augers above a metal scraper are designed for deeper snow and can be used on gravel. The position of this auger and whether it touches the ground will determine what kind of areas you can use the machine on.

The Chute

Every model has a different design for the snow expelling chute, and which way it throws the snow. Some snow blower chutes have a metal handle attached to them that allows you to turn the chute to the left or right, making it easy to adjust the direction in which the snow is being thrown. Other machines, especially the larger ones, have a switch that can be used to move the chute up, down, left or right.

The larger and more powerful the machine, the larger the price tag. The least expensive models tend to be single-stage electric snow blowers, but these clear the least amount of snow and are designed to be used on flat sidewalks and paved driveways only. Choosing a gas model will increase the price, as well as the size and power of the snow blower you choose.


Many snow blowers are built with a safety feature that stops the auger of the snow blower (the spinning blades) when you let go of the handle.

Make sure never to try and clear a packed or jammed snow blower with your hands, unless you want to lose a finger. Always use the clearing tool that comes with the snow blower, a stick, or other tool. Ensure the machine is off before you use the tool to clear the chute.

Maintenance and Care

To get the most out of your snow blower, the owner’s manual will have the best care and maintenance advice for your particular model. There are a few extra things you can do to keep your snow blower in its best condition that may not be mentioned in the owner’s manual. If you have a gas machine, a fuel stabilizer can keep the fuel in the tank in its best condition during times when the machine is stored and not in use for long periods of time.

For all models, keep your snow blower as clean as possible and wrap and tie all cords before storing the snow blower until its next use.