If you just want the answer, it’s simple — a 3-stage snow blower has an extra impeller at the front, referred to as the “accelerator impeller. This addition spins faster than the auger, and engineered to break up hard snow or ice, if needed. Otherwise, it simply speeds up the rate of snow removal.
2-Stage / Husqvarna ST227P
3-Stage / Troy-Bilt Vortex 2490
Large-scale commercial operations, like road clearing crews, mostly use 3-stage snow blowers. At home, most have always considered a 2-stage machine as the best solution. Though many homeowners, especially those dealing with heavy snow and ice, now view 3-stages as the way to go. We’re going to take a detailed examination of this topic. If you’re torn between a 2-stage vs 3-stage snow blower, we’ll provide some clarity.
2-Stage vs 3-Stage Snow Blower
A quick comparison between 2-stage and 3-stage snow blowers will reveal one obvious point, a 3-stage snow blower is going remove large volumes of snow and ice much faster than one that only has 2-stages. Is it really that simple? When you start considering the costs involved, it isn’t too straight forward. A 3-stage snow blower is going to be the most expensive option. Your maintenance costs will also be higher if you’re using a 3-stage machine. A 2-stage snow blower is going to be lighter, as it has less metal components.
To gain more insight into 2-stage vs 3-stage snow blowers, we should look at how these machines work. A better understanding of snow blowers work, will help you make the appropriate decision as to which type of snow blower is best for you.
VIDEO | 2-Stage vs 3-Stage Snow Blower (CUB Cadet)
Two-Stage Snow Blowers
A 2-stage snow blower breaks the snow and ice into small pieces and then blows the debris from a chute in two stages. This is in contrast to a single stage snow blower that uses the auger to break the snow and ice, then throws it from the machine in a single stage. With a single-stage snow blower, the auger is used for both purposes. Doing the job in a single stage.
A 2-stage snow blower has an auger and an impeller. This allows for two stages which makes the machine more effective, especially for thick snow and ice. Stage one uses the auger to churn up the snow and ice, breaking it up as it works. For the second stage, the impeller lifts the snow and blows it away from the machine through a chute.
2-stage (left) vs 3-stage (right)
Using two stages, instead of one, has several advantages. The most important is probably the depth capability of the auger. Because the auger is not required to lift the snow, it only loosens it, the full diameter of the auger can be utilized. The power of the auger is concentrated entirely on removing the snow and ice.
Two-stage snow blowers are self-propelled and can be used with one hand. They also perform better on an incline, when compared to single stage machines.
❄️ Learn more, read our article : Single-stage vs Two-stage snow blower.
Three-Stage Snow Blowers
For quite a while, most homeowners have only focused their attention on 2-stage vs 1-stage snow blowers. The cost and size of 3-stage machines has detracted from their appeal. Although, they’ve been around since the 1970s, 3-stage snow blowers have only recently been considered by home users. Many manufacturers have introduced smaller, more cost effective 3-stage snow blowers for domestic use. This has broadened the scope of the 2-stage vs 3-stage snow blower issue.
Like their 2-stage snow counterparts, the 3-stage snow blower uses an auger to break down the snow and then dispels it through the chute by means of an impeller. The third stage, which gives the 3-stage snow blower superior capabilities, is the additional high-speed auger. This auger is generally referred to as an accelerator auger. As the name suggests, the accelerator auger speeds things up.
By using an additional third stage auger, 3-stage snow blowers can clear ice and snow up to 50% faster than a 2-stage alternative. The 3-stage machine is operated in same way as a 2-stage snow blower and does essentially the same job. A 3-stage snow-blower simply does this much faster.
2-Stage vs 3-Stage Snow Blower
Which type should you buy?
I suppose the real question you need to ask is that of time vs money. Since both 2-stage and 3-stage snow blower are equally adept at dealing with heavy snow and ice, you can achieve the same results. The actual capacity of the machine will depend on the horsepower, auger size, and depth of the intake. Various size options are available for both 2 and 3-stage snow blowers. Though 3-stage snow blowers tend be larger and more powerful.
Choosing a 3-stage snow blower over a 2-stage equivalent (with the same depth capacity) will allow you to clear the same amount of snow much faster. You’ll be paying more for the machine. The 3-stage snow blower needs more specialized maintenance, and this will also cost more. So a 2-stage snow blower is the obvious first choice if don’t intend spending too much. With that said, neither 2-stage nor 3-stage snow blowers are all that cheap.
If you have a particularly large area to clear, the time-saving advantage to using 3-stage machine can be worth the extra cost.
More factors to consider when buying a snow blower
Once you’ve decided between a 2-stage vs 3-stage snow blower, there will some other things to consider. There could be a number of factors that can affect your ease of use, as well as your costs. I’ll give a brief overview of what to these may be. Regardless of whether a snow blower uses 2 or 3-stages, these considerations will remain the same.
- Track vs Wheels: Most of the snow blower you see have wheels. While wheels work well in most instances, tracks provide better traction. This can be of great value, especially if your yard has slopes that you need to negotiate. Track snow blowers can be more complicated to turn in a restricted area though. Track snow blowers are often more expensive and require slightly more complicated maintenance.
- Gas vs Electric: If you’re set on buying a 3-stage snow blower, a gas engine is your only option. Three-stage snow blowers are intended for heavy-duty work, the lower power output of electric motors simply don’t cut it in this situation. While you’ll mostly find this to be the same with 2-stage snow blowers, there are some electric options. Though the most powerful 2-stage machines will all use gas engine.
- Chute Rotation: While not critical, the rotation of the chute, and how this is done, can make your life easier. The angle of chute rotation varies with different models and some are more complicated to rotate. An electrically operated chute is the easiest to use. When it comes to how many degrees the chute can rotate, that’s a matter of versatility and may not be all that important to some users.
- Comfortable Operation: Things like padded, or even heated grips will make things easier and allow you to work more comfortably for longer. You should also consider handle positions and where the controls are located. Most 3-stage and 2-stage snow blowers allow you to lock steering position, enabling you to operate the machine with one hand. This gives you a free hand to make adjustments to the machine whilst working. Look at whether the height adjustments work for you.
- Convenience: Extra functions, like a headlight, or electric starting, are nice but not essential. Quite often, these extra items are only available on the more expensive models. Since these are not essential in any way, the more budget minded buyer may not want to pay extra for these features.