Gas Two-Stage Snow Blower Buying Guide
The simple fact is that many of us enjoy the idea of a healthy snowstorm. Whether it is so that we can have a white Christmas, or enjoy winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, and building snowmen with our kids, or we just like the idea of sitting comfortably in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate as snow drifts quietly pile up outside, there are a lot of reasons we can enjoy a good snowfall. But that does not mean any of us relishes the idea of clearing snow from our driveway or sidewalks. But that is the reality of snowy winters, so we may as well make the best of it.
One of the best ways to make clearing snow from our driveway a much more enjoyable experience is to get rid of the old aluminum snow shovel and switch over to a snow blower. Unless you are a professional athlete or a teenager, clearing snow by hand is not a very easy activity. Many of us suffer needlessly from back and shoulder pain that is directly related to shoveling snow. When it gets deep enough, shoveling snow can be downright dangerous work, as snow gets surprisingly heavy rather quickly. With a snow blower, you can clear snow much more easily and far more quickly than you could with just a shovel.
There are a few different kinds of snow blowers available these days, and each one is designed to handle different kinds of jobs. There are electric snow blowers that can be battery powered or have to be plugged in; these produce no carbon emissions and are better for the environment but also less powerful than gas snow blowers. Of the gas powered snow blowers, there are two-stage and single-stage types. Single-stage snow blowers have just one piece, the auger, which both scoops up the snow and throws it through the chute at the top of the snow blower. Two-stage snow blowers (also called two-stage snow throwers) have an additional piece, the impeller, which is like a fan that pulls snow up out of the auger and propels it through the chute. In this guide, I will be discussing the best two-stage snow blowers.
Two-stage snow blowers’ augers do not make contact with the ground while they are clearing snow, unlike single-stage snow blower’s augers, which do. That means that two-stage snow blowers are better for driveways that are unpaved or covered in gravel. Single-stage snow blowers will pick up gravel or other detritus from unpaved areas and fling it, along with the snow, through the chute. This can risk damaging the snow blower and is also a safety hazard for obvious reasons.
Two-stage gas snow blowers are also generally the most heavy duty snow blowers available today, which means they can support wider augers and intake heights than other snow blowers, and also can generally clear heavier, wetter snow. They also tend to be the more expensive snow blowers on the market today. They are ideal for unpaved driveways or for any driveways that are more than about 20 yards long.
1. Gas Two-Stage Snow Blower is a Good Buyer’s Choice
A gas two-stage snow blower is a good buyer’s choice for a number of reasons. First of all, these are the most powerful snow blowers you can find on the market today. Gas powered snow blowers are more expensive to power than electric snow blowers, and they also produce a lot more carbon emissions than electric ones, but consumers consistently opt for them in spite of environmental concerns because of the power they provide. Electric snow blowers are great if you just have a short walk or a parking space to keep clear, but they will not be able to tackle anything that is a whole lot bigger than that.
Electric snow blowers have other drawbacks compared to gas powered snow blowers. If they are plug-in, their range is limited to only fifteen or twenty yards, and avoiding the cord with the snow blower can be an unwelcome challenge. And if they are cordless, you have to make sure the battery is always fully charged so that you won’t be caught off guard by a snow storm.
The power that gas mowers have available to them allows them to offer a number of great advantages to their owners. Gas two-stage snow blowers can support much wider augers than electric or even gas single-stage snow blowers can. The wider auger size means they will be able to clear a driveway in fewer passes. Fewer passes translates directly to less time spent clearing the snow; the sooner you are done with the job, the quicker you will be back inside, out of the cold. Nobody wants to spend an inordinate amount of time clearing snow from their driveway, even with the convenience of a snow blower, so the faster you can finish the job, the better. This is especially true if your driveway is more than about 20 yards long, in which case you will most likely want to get a two-stage snow blower. Otherwise you will find yourself spending far too much time clearing your driveway.
Gas two-stage snow blowers can also support a taller intake height than single-stage or electric snow blowers can. If you live in an area that has snow storms that routinely drop more than six or eight inches of snow, you are probably going to want a two-stage snow blower that has the kind of intake height that can handle that much snow. Otherwise, you will have to be out during the snow storm clearing snow while it is still accumulating, before it gets too deep for your shorter snow blower to handle. That means multiple trips to the garage and potentially hours of work, outside, in the cold and snow while it is falling. Not only is that a major hassle, it is potentially bad for your health as well.
Gas two-stage snow blowers are designed so that their auger does not touch the ground while you are using them to clear snow. Unlike single-stage snow blowers, which have augers that do make contact with the ground, two-stage snow blowers are ideal for driveways that are not paved. On driveways that are covered in gravel or otherwise unpaved, a single-stage snow blower will be picking up small stones and flinging them out of the chute along with the snow. This can be a potential risk factor for damaging the snow blower and is also a considerable safety hazard. If you have a property that has unpaved driveways that need to be cleared, you should by all means opt for a gas two-stage snow blower.
Gas two-stage snow blowers are also designed to be easier to maneuver than single-stage snow blowers. In a single-stage snow blower design, the auger is what propels the mower as it makes contact with the ground. This provides some propulsion, but the operator often has to provide additional pushing power to keep the single-stage snow blower moving forward. On a gas two-stage snow blower, there is a drive system that propels the snow blower. Often, two-stage snow blowers will have a number of speeds you can choose from, and can even drive in reverse. This makes the job considerably easier. When you have a fairly large driveway, you are not going to want to be pushing a heavy snow blower through six or eight inches of snow.
The fact that gas two-stage snow blowers have better propulsion systems also makes them ideal for homeowners who have long driveways on an incline. It is not easy for most of us to maneuver a big snow blower uphill, especially when that hill is covered in snow and ice and potentially very slippery. In this case, you want a machine that can help you finish the job without exerting yourself too much, and a gas two-stage snow blower is designed to do just that.
The power that gas two-stage snow blowers have also makes them more versatile at clearing different types of snow. Electric snow blowers are typically not powerful enough to clear wet snow, and even single-stage gas snow blowers sometimes struggle with slushier snowfalls. But gas two-stage snow blowers are able to easily power through even the wettest and heaviest snowfalls without breaking a sweat. If you get a significant amount of snowfall in your region, you will want a machine that can deal with a range of different kinds of snow without any problems.
Gas two-stage snow blowers are some of the more expensive snow blowers you can find, and they tend to be rather more expensive than gas single-stage snow blowers. This is especially true for high-end gas two-stage snow blowers. But this is a case where you are definitely getting what you pay for: gas two-stage mowers provide a lot more power than electric or even single-stage snow blowers. They are able to clear bigger areas more quickly than other snow blowers can, and they can handle heavier snowfall and wet snow without any problems. For all of these reasons, even though they cost more up front and use more fuel over the long term, gas two-stage mowers are worth the investment if you have the kind of property that requires the kind of power and performance they offer.
2. Gas Two-Stage Snow Blower Buying Specifications
2a. Clearing width and intake height
These are probably two of the most important specifications to consider when you are shopping for a gas two-stage snow blower. One of the reasons these machines are so attractive in spite of their higher price tags is because they can support bigger clearing width and intake heights than single-stage snow blowers, so you might as well take advantage of that. An auger with a bigger clearing width will be able to handle a big driveway with fewer passes, which in turn will reduce the amount of time you have to spend clearing the snow and have you back inside your warm house a lot faster.
A bigger intake height is advantageous because it allows you to deal with heavier snowfalls than you could with a shorter snow blower. If you live in a part of the country that has fairly severe blizzards at least a few times during the winter, you are going to want a snow blower that can handle big jobs. Otherwise you may be forced to be out in the storm clearing snow as it is accumulating so that it does not get to deep for your snow blower. This can be a serious hassle as well as a health hazard.
2b. Engine size and horsepower
I keep talking about the power that gas two-stage snow blowers offer, and that is because the power is what allows them to support bigger clearing widths and intake heights as well as handle wet, slushy snow without any loss of performance. So naturally the size of the engine and the amount of horsepower it can offer are important considerations. Generally speaking, the engines of gas two-stage snow blowers range from about 120 to 420 cubic centimeters. A bigger engine will usually be able to provide more horsepower to the machine, and the horsepower on gas two-stage snow blowers ranges from about 6 to 24 HP.
More horsepower and torque on your engine will make the machine stronger overall, which will affect auger performance and drive speeds. A more powerful snow blower will be able to handle a wider range of snow types more easily, and it will also be able to support faster forward and reverse speeds. The faster and stronger a snow blower is, the quicker you will be able to finish clearing your driveway. A more powerful snow blower will also be better equipped to handle steep inclines without losing anything in terms of speed or performance.
2c. Drift cutters and skid shoes
These are important features to have on your gas two-stage snow blower, although they are not always offered on every model. Drift cutters are accessories that are mounted on either side of the auger housing. They are designed to knock snow drifts down in front of the auger housing so that the auger can scoop up the snow, and they also keep snow from falling over the top of the snow blower. If you tend to have windy snow storms in your area that cause snow to form deep drifts, drift cutters are practically a must have item.
Skid shoes are also optional accessories that are offered on some but not all gas two-stage snow blowers. They are mounted on the auger housing and can be engaged to lift the auger and intake off the ground. They are ideal for keeping the snow blower moving consistently over uneven ground, where the auger is in danger of making contact with the ground. They not only protect the auger from being damaged by uneven ground but also prevent the auger from accidentally scooping up any gravel or other detritus and damaging the impellor fan or chute.
2d. Wheel height and tire tread size
The wheel height is important, because bigger wheels will have better traction and stability on uneven ground. Presuming that you are interested in a gas two-stage snow blower because you have an unpaved driveway, it is a safe bet that the driveway is also uneven in spots. That means you will want to look for a two-stage snow blower with fairly tall wheels. Tall wheels are important on two-stage snow blowers because the auger does not drive the machine at all, so you want wheels that have enough torque to keep the snow blower moving forward smoothly.
You will also need a two-stage snow blower that has big, heavy duty tires with large, durable tire treads. This is especially true if your driveway is sloping downhill, as it will allow you to get more traction and control of the snow blower. Tires with bigger treads are less likely to slip on ice or slippery ground, which will help keep the snow blower moving forward and easier to control. You can also opt for additional snow chains for your tires, as they will make the snow blower even better at negotiating slippery ground without spinning or losing traction.
2e. Steering and control design
Gas two-stage snow blowers have a variety of steering and control options, and it is important to be familiar with them so that you are getting the kind that is right for you. Some two-stage snow blowers have single hand operation that allows you to easily adjust the speed and direction of the snow blower. High-end two-stage snow blowers will also offer heated handgrips so that you are not freezing your fingers while you are operating them. And many two-stage snow blowers have an optional “cockpit” made of clear plastic, so that you can operate them in some degree of shelter if you are clearing snow during a storm.
The design of the snow throwing chute is important as well. Some snow blowers have a manually operated chute, which requires the operator to shut off the auger and come around to the front of the snow blower to turn the chute by hand. Others have a crank that allows the operator to maneuver the snow chute from one side to the next while still at the controls. This is not only a more convenient design, it is also safer. Carefully consider the kind of controls available when you are shopping for a snow blower.