When winter storms hit and leave inches (or feet!) of snow on the ground, getting rid of all that snow quickly becomes a priority. But should you use a snow blower or a snow thrower? What is the difference, and which snow removal machine is best for your needs? This comprehensive guide examines the pros and cons of snow blowers and snow throwers to help you decide.
If you live in an area that gets more than just a couple inches of snow each year, investing in a quality snow blower or snow thrower is wise. Clearing piles of snow by hand or with a shovel is exhausting and time consuming.
A snow removal machine will make the task faster, easier and less physically demanding. But two different types exist—snow blowers and snow throwers. What distinguishes them? And is one better than the other for clearing snow?
Snow Blower vs Snow Thrower: Key Differences
While the terms “snow blower” and “snow thrower” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two snow removal machines:
- How Snow Is Gathered – A snow blower uses an auger or impeller to actively scoop up and ingest the snow, then blow it out a chute. A snow thrower has a rubber paddle or blade that scrapes along the surface and tosses the snow out a chute via momentum.
- Number of Stages – Most snow blowers are two-stage or three-stage machines, while most snow throwers are single-stage machines.
- Amount of Snow – Snow blowers can handle more inches of snow in one pass, generally 8+ inches. Snow throwers work best on lighter amounts of snow, usually 6 inches or less.
- Power Source – Snow blowers tend to be gas-powered, while snow throwers can be gas, electric or battery powered.
- Cost – Snow blowers are a bigger investment, often costing over $1000. Snow throwers range widely in cost but can be under $100 for a basic manual model.
So in summary, snow blowers actively ingest snow and can handle heavier snowfall in one pass, while snow throwers use momentum to toss light snow and are less powerful but often more affordable.
Factors to Consider: Snow Blower vs. Snow Thrower
Ready to choose between a snow blower and snow thrower for your snow removal needs? Here are some key factors to weigh:
Snowfall Amount in Your Area
- If you regularly get heavy, wet snowfall over 6 inches, a powerful two-stage or three-stage snow blower is likely the best fit. Their augers can handle greater depths in one pass.
- For areas with lighter annual snowfall of 6 inches or less, a snow thrower is usually sufficient. Single-stage throwers are ideal for smaller areas and 1-3 inches of powder.
Type of Snow
- Snow blowers excel at throwing and blowing denser, heavier snow. Their augers pulverize packed snow and ice.
- Snow throwers work best on light, fluffy snow of 6 inches or less. The paddle/blade can struggle with dense snow.
Size of Area Needing Clearing
- For large driveways and sidewalks, a snow blower will make quicker work of the space. Their wider mouths and higher power are better for large areas.
- Snow throwers are ideal for smaller spaces like steps, walkways and porches. Less expensive manual models suit small areas too.
- Most snow blowers run on gas engines. Good for heavy snow, no cord, powerful throw distance. Requires fuel and maintenance.
- Cordless snow blowers are also available, offering the power of a snow blower without a cord or fuel. No maintenance required and quiet operation. Run time per charge is the main limitation.
- Cordless snow blowers have advantages over gas models which ncludes easier to start, no fuel costs, quieter operation, and less maintenance. Gas provides longer continuous run time, but batteries can be switched out.
- Snow throwers can be gas, electric or battery-powered. Electric is convenient but limited by the extension cord length. Battery powered cordless avoids fuel but recharging is needed.
- Electric start available on some snow blowers for easy starting. Cordless snow throwers offer more flexibility.
- Cordless snow throwers run on rechargeable batteries, providing the convenience of no cord without needing fuel. Run time is limited per charge but batteries can be swapped.
- Snow blowers range from $600 on the low end to over $2000 for high-end models. Bigger investment but higher power. Cordless snow blowers are a good investment, a review of the best cordless electric snow blowers can be found here.
- Snow throwers offer a broad range of price points from less than $100 to around $1000. Great for smaller budgets.
- Manual snow throwers avoid fuel costs entirely and offer cheapest upfront cost. Require physical exertion to use.
Ease of Use and Maneuverability
- Snow throwers tend to be lighter and more maneuverable, especially single-stage models. Good for tight spaces.
- Snow blowers are heavier and less nimble, but their power helps them push through snow. Better for wide open areas.
- Triggerless starting on some models and power steering assist maneuverability for both machines.
So weighing these factors will help determine whether a powerful snow blower or more affordable and compact snow thrower is the right snow removal machine for your needs.
Single-Stage vs Two-Stage vs Three-Stage Snow Blowers
Snow blowers themselves come in different designs as well. Single-stage, two-stage and three-stage snow blowers work differently, with increasing power and ability to handle greater snowfall:
- Single-stage snow blowers use a high-speed auger to suck in snow and shoot it out a chute. Best for 6 inches of snow or less. More affordable but least powerful.
- Two-stage snow blowers use a slower auger to ingest snow, then a fan to blast it through the chute. Can handle over a foot of snow. Most common design for larger areas.
- Three-stage snow blowers add an accelerator above the fan to hurl snow even farther. Ideal for deep snow over 12 inches. Most expensive but highest performance.
So opt for a single-stage snow blower for light snowfall and smaller spaces, a two-stage for moderate snow up to a foot, and a three-stage for frequent heavy snowstorms.
Gas vs Electric vs Battery Snow Throwers
For snow throwers, power source is another key factor:
- Gas-powered snow throwers offer the most power and no cord, but require fuel and maintenance. Two- and four-cycle engines available.
- Electric snow throwers provide power and throw distance while just needing an outlet. Length of cord can limit working area.
- Battery-powered snow throwers run on a rechargeable battery. Convenient and cordless but limited run time per charge.
If you choose an electric or battery snow thrower, compare charge time, battery life and throw distance to pick the best model. Gas-powered suits larger areas.
Key Features to Look for
Here are some useful features and capabilities to look for when selecting either a snow blower or snow thrower:
- Electric start – Makes starting fast and easy, especially for snow blowers. Available on some gas and battery models.
- Power steering – Provides more control and easier maneuvering. Very helpful on larger snow blowers.
- Headlights – Allow use in low light and at night. Helpful if clearing snow early or late in the day.
- Heated handles – Keep hands warm in the cold. Make prolonged use more comfortable.
- Electric chute control – Adjust chute direction without stopping to throw snow where desired. Convenient feature.
- Scrapper bar – Helps on uneven surfaces for some snow throwers. Improves snow contact and clearing.
- Remote chute control – Rotate chute and adjust throw direction without leaving handlebars. Handy addon.
Think about your needs and pick features that will prove most useful for your snow clearing tasks.
Key Takeaways on Choosing a Snow Removal Machine:
- For heavy snow exceeding 6 inches, a two-stage or three-stage snow blower is best
- For light snow of 6 inches or less, a single-stage snow thrower often suffices
- Pick electric or battery power for more flexibility; gas for more power
- Snow blowers handle greater snow depth but snow throwers are often more affordable
- Match features to your usage: electric start, headlights, power steering etc.
With these tips in mind, decide whether a snow blower or snow thrower is the best choice to make snow removal fast, easy and painless when Old Man Winter comes calling. Get the right snow removal machine, and you can quickly clear your driveway, sidewalks and more to enjoy winter weather without the back-breaking work.