Winter is a time where additional chores are added to your to-do list, and the biggest chore is always clearing out your pathway, driveway, and sidewalks, depending on where you live. This hefty task can be simplified with a two-stage snowblower that takes care of slippery slopes, rough terrain, and packed ice. We’ve taken a look at the very best two-stage snowblowers in 2021, and devised a guide to help you determine exactly what you’re going to need to conquer the wrath of winter.
What to Look for When Evaluating a 2 Stage Snowblower
Firstly, you want to look for the overall weight and dimensions of the 2 stage snowblower. This is important because not all of us have massive unused storage space, and storing this when not in use can be a real concern for many people. The dimensions may not always include the size when it’s fully extended (such as the handles, if they are collapsible), so be sure to look at user reviews and user-submitted photographs to ensure it’s the right size for your home.
The next thing you want to look at is the thickness of the actual blades. These need to be replaced every few years, no matter how good they are, but thicker blades may last for three to four years, only slightly over the replacement cost of standard-sized blades. This can be huge if you’re snow blowing every year and want to maintain maximum power to cut through all that snow.
Power steering is a great feature, and while it’s included in many 2 stage snowblowers, it’s still something that you need to actually identify. Don’t go under the assumption that a 2 stage snowblower automatically has power steering. This can help you use it one-handed for difficult areas or while multitasking and makes it much easier to glide smoothly over the most uneven pavements.
On that note, another feature that will increase your handling is a joystick. Not like old game consoles, this joystick sits in the middle of the handlebar and can control the pitch and rotation of your chute while helping you steer with one hand. This is a major feature to look for in 2 stage snowblowers to make sure you aren’t hurling chunks of ice at your car, house, or other things in your front lawn that can be easily damaged. Changing your chute rotation is a basic function, but no two chutes are created equal, bringing us into our next key aspect that you should consider in a 2 stage snowblower.
Chute height matters, plain and simple. The taller the height, the more control you’re going to have over how far the snow travels. Nothing is worse than a stubby chute that hurls snow in a powdery mess without any control. Taller chutes usually come with more controlled chute spouts, meaning you can minimize the diameter of the snow stream. The goal is to create a snowbank if possible, not simply spread it all over a different area of the yard.
The chute material also matters. Oftentimes, steel chutes can actually rust far before a plastic chute would break, which is why we recommend going with plastic when available. They’re designed to withstand the vibrations from the motor while dually propelling high volume amounts of snow, and therefore are built to last. There’s nothing wrong with steel if it’s the only option; just be sure to dry it off during storage so you don’t end up finding rust the next time you open the shed doors.
Headlights are a major bonus if you work early in the morning. This is usually a premium or add-on feature, but it can help you avoid throwing snow on your neighbor’s car, your car, or in the path of mail carriers and package delivery personnel. The headlights are often about 300 lumens, meaning they’re not going to shine through your neighbor’s windows and wake them up. Even though using a snowblower that early in the morning can be loud and aggravate neighbors, you have to get to work one way or another, and the headlights will be a big bonus.
When it comes to tires, you want to stick with airless. These provide better traction because it’s solid, corrugated plastic or rubber against the snow and ice. Getting a flat tire while snow blowing just sounds silly and usually means you can’t use it. We should add that replacement costs on air-filled snowblower tires can be extremely expensive, and not to mention inconvenient if you didn’t order one ahead of time.
Last but not least, electric starters are optimal so that you aren’t leaning down and hurting your back on startup. No more pulling lawn mower-style ripcords and damaging your shoulders or getting that sore lower lumbar.
Shopping Guide for a 2 Stage Snowblower
One of the difficult things about 2 stage snowblowers is that you get what you pay for. This is high-grade machinery, not a simple in-home purchase that has a massive amount of competition. Companies know that their products need to survive, and for that, they have to charge prices that keep them in business. That’s good because it breeds brand loyalty by nature: without it, companies could fail.
Extended warranties are usually a good option. You never know when you’re going to suck up a rock or something that could damage interior components, and those warranties come in handy. They also end up being more comprehensive than those included in the sticker price, and while it can sometimes feel like biting the bullet on the price tag, this is something you want to ensure will last even through accidents and mishaps.
One factor that greatly impacts the price is the climate where you live. If you’re in an area where the snowfall average is extremely high, you’re unfortunately stuck with a shorter list of viable (and often expensive) options. Snow depth is a big factor to consider when purchasing a 2 stage snowblower, so look at your local weather centers and try to find average yearly snowfalls for the last five years, and attribute your purchase decision accordingly.
What Are the Benefits of a 2 Stage Snowblower?
The wheels on a 2 stage snowblower are designed to carry better traction and work with you when moving up an inclined pavement or over tough, packed ice. If you live in an area where the temperatures can differ from time to time, and you endure more ice and sleet than snow, this is a major benefit that you simply can’t ignore.
You can clear out far more snow in a single pass with a 2 stage snowblower. Not only because of the wider frames (single-stage and electric models usually have a 14”-16” range, while 2 stage snowblowers can have from 24” and up) but also because you have a more complex system. The blade scrapes up ice and snow and launches it into an auger system that churns it up and spits it out of the dispersion chute. This means you’re not flinging ice at your own house or jamming up your snowblower.
Ice is the real villain in the winter. Clearing out snow is difficult enough, but when you also have a thick sheet of hard ice underneath, it makes it a dangerous place to walk. 2 stage snowblowers destroy ice close to the grass, asphalt and pavement, and create a walking path with much better traction. This is especially important if you are clearing up a sidewalk, and have regular foot traffic passing through. You want to avoid a lawsuit at all costs, meaning it’s best to keep your sidewalk as clear as possible.
Because these systems don’t actually touch the ground, they’re safe to use on gravel as well as loose dirt driveways without damaging the surface underneath. Nobody wants to find that they’ve ruined their lawn when the winter is over, and your lawn pops up out of the snow. The system is also adjustable, so if you need it slightly closer to the pavement to chip up ice, you won’t run into issues.
Single-stage or electric snowblowers tend to last for two to three years before major costly issues arise. With 2 stage snowblowers, you’re investing in a higher quality product that is designed to take a beating and intake far more snow than single stage models. More power, saved time, and the entire system lasts for longer, though keep in mind you might need to replace belts and blades from time to time. That’s something that you’ll run into with any snowblower model.
Q: Are snowblower and snow thrower the same thing?
A: Single-stage snowblowers are often referred to as snow throwers because, unlike two- and three-stage snowblowers, they don't have an impeller to blow out the snow. Instead, they throw the snow out of the shute once it's scooped up by an auger.
Q: Single-stage, two-stage or three-stage: which one's better for me?
A: Two-stage snowblowers are more powerful than the single-stage kind because they're better at clearing the snow and have a better throwing distance. Three-stage snowblowers, although expensive, are even more powerful and better snow clearing capacity. However, these bulky machines aren't suited for smaller driveways and homes.
Q: How do I store my snowblower when the winter is over?
A: Once the snow season is over, you want to make sure that your snowblower is safely stowed away so that it doesn't collect rust that can build up and damage your expensive machine. This is why it's best to empty out the fuel tank or add a fuel stabilizer to it to make sure that the gasoline doesn't oxidize over time.
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