If you wake up one morning and your toaster has given up the ghost, you mutter a few words beneath your breath, then pour yourself a bowl of cereal. A malfunctioning snow blower is another story, especially if it croaks in the middle of a major winter blast.
That’s why we took the time to survey more than 17,000 Consumer Reports subscribers who bought a new snow blower between 2011 and 2016 about their experiences with the machine. Along with our ratings of dozens of models, our exclusive brand-reliability data, which you’ll find alongside the snow blower ratings, is an essential tool in your search for the perfect snow blower.
Here are the key findings from the survey for heavy-duty and lightweight snow blowers:
Let’s say you’re shopping around for a two-stage gas snow blower, something that can move a lot of snow in a hurry. The Husqvarna ST230E might catch your eye. At $1,300, it’s relatively well-priced, and it was excellent in our snow removal-speed and throwing-distance tests.
Our testers were less impressed with the blower’s noisy engine and inconvenient controls. The real deal breaker, however, is Husqvarna’s high breakage rate. To wit, based on our survey, we estimate that 34 percent of consumers who own a two-stage gas-powered Husqvarna will experience a problem by the third year of ownership—that’s twice as high as the rate of the most reliable brand. Some owners reported engine trouble, and others had problems with the blower’s auger, controls, or transmission.
(Note that faulty engines that are not maintained properly during the off-season months—for example, with the addition of stabilized fuel—are not included in a brand’s estimated breakage rate.)
Among two-stage gas blowers, Sno-Tek was the only other brand that will break down almost as frequently as Husqvarna. As a result, neither brand will make our recommended list at this time, no matter how well the snow blowers perform in our tests.
Instead, our reliability data steers you toward snow blower brands such as Honda, Troy-Bilt, and Cub Cadet, which have some of the lowest estimated breakage rates among two-stage gas blowers. Check our snow blower ratings for top picks across each brand.
Light Snow-Removal Reliability
Honda also stands out among single-stage gas blowers, which we recommend for homeowners who deal with lighter snowfalls—say, a few storms per year of less than 8 inches or so. Toro, Craftsman, and Troy-Bilt have significantly higher breakage rates, though not so high that we won’t recommend certain models.
In fact, several Toro models are top picks for the category, and we also like the Craftsman 88782 for its solid handling and joystick-style chute control. If you opt for one of those models, be extra diligent with the maintenance, especially around the engine, which is the section of the machine most likely to break. Using fresh, stabilized gas and changing the oil regularly are two essential tasks.
We also surveyed owners of single-stage electric blowers, even though their middling power and speed prevents Consumer Reports from recommending any of them.
That said, if you have to deal with only a few inches of light snow, they’re an affordable option. Snow Joe and Toro are the only two brands we have data on. Both had fairly low breakage rates, though neither was more meaningfully reliable than the other. Toro has the edge for performance in our tests, such as it is, for the underwhelming single-stage electric category.
But even the strongest snow blower, with the power to move the tallest drifts, won’t do you any good if it’s stalled out in your garage. So before you pull the trigger on this major purchase, double check our reliability reports to improve your chances of a stress-free winter.
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