Sometimes bigger is better, especially when shopping for the best snow blower for your large driveway. The wider your snow blower the quicker you’ll finish clearing snow. It’s about efficiency, nothing more, nothing less. Do you want to spend more time than you have to going up an down your driveway, and your sidewalk. Personally, I strive to minimize the time I spend on tedious chores, like snow clearing, vacuuming and washing dishes. How about you?
You’ll regret waiting to buy a snow blower on the first day it snows and you’re not ready. I know, because I remember one year when I couldn’t get out of my driveway to get to the main road, which was cleared of snow. Snow shovels are inadequate for significant snow. Our bodies can’t emulate the snow clearing ability of a snow blower, no matter how fit and young you are. A snow shovel is a good way to put out your back.
We say it repeatedly here — the smart decision is to plan ahead, buy ahead, act preemptively and buy a quality snow blower before the first major snowfall. Most retailers are fully stocked with the latest models by the beginning of October. If you’re astute, you can probably find a good deal early in the season, but stock consistently dwindles as we march deeper into winter.
But remember—once the first major snowfall happens, things become quite unpredictable. Everybody who was late is now rushing to buy whatever they can get their hands on, and the best models might not even be in stock at that point, leaving you with an inadequately powered snow blower.
What Makes a Snow Blower Good for Large Driveways?
Maybe your driveway is over 100 feet long. Or maybe it’s 1000 feet long. Some driveways are so large, you might as well strap a plow to the front end of your ATV and take a quick drive to clear up the snow. Blowing snow from long driveways can be quite annoying.
Honda HSS1332AAT / Track Snow Blower
All you want to do is clear up that massive driveway as quickly and easily as possible. So how do you do it? With a snow blower of course. But you need to consider two things—clearing width, and intake depth. A wider clearing path means you make fewer passes. Let’s say you have a driveway that’s 288 inches wide (24 feet).
With a 24” snowblower you would have to make 12 passes. That number is reduced to 10.6 with a 27” snowblower. And with a 32” giant like the Honda HSS1332ATD, you can get the job done in just 9 passes.
We recommend a clearing width of at least 27 inches for wide driveways, along with a powerful engine and variable speed transmission to keep the blower rolling along at a brisk pace.
For longer driveways, we don’t recommend tracked snowblowers as they have a lower maximum speed (although tracks are really good on inclined terrain).
Most 2-stage snowblowers will be able to handle large driveways, as they have the ability to process huge amounts of snow per minute.
What’s the difference between 2-stage and single stage snow blowers? We discuss that later in the article, so read on to find out. If you want a self-propelled model you’ll have to spend a little more and get a 2-stage model, but if you have a flat driveway you can get away with a cheaper single stage model.
2-stage snow blowers are self-propelled, assisting you to move the snow blower through deep snow. It makes a significant difference to the amount of force you need to apply to move the machine. Does your driveway have a lot of curves and turns? If so, power steering is essential, since it allows your snowblower to rotate on a dime without putting in much effort. On older models without power steering, you’ll have to put in quite a bit of work to change directions since you’re basically wrestling with a 200 lb. hunk of metal buried one foot deep in snow.
Another feature you want on a snowblower for clearing large driveways is single-handed operation. You can use one hand to change speed, chute direction, and make other adjustments while driving the snowblower with your other hand. If it gets really cold where you live, consider heated handles. On driveways that are more than 60 feet long, you will end up with hands that feel numb and lifeless even with thick gloves protecting them from the cold weather.
Remote chute control is nice to have, especially if it is windy outside. You never know when the wind might change direction and blow your snow in a completely different path from what you were originally expecting. And if you are going to work in low light conditions, make sure your snowblower is equipped with some good LED headlamps.
VIDEO | Drift Cutters in Action
Got some really tall snowdrifts to deal with? Install drift cutters on your snowblower intake. These come in handy when you need to deal with those giant piles of packed snow at the end of your driveway, a gift left behind by the municipal snowplow. And finally, don’t forget the adjustable skid shoes, common on 2-stage models.
Best Snow Blower For Large Driveways
Husqvarna ST227P / 27” 2-Stage
Ideal for: Two and three-car driveways between 50 and 100 feet in length (or even higher). Wet snow, densely packed snow, icy slush, up to 20 inches thick.
Pros: Premium build quality, the housing is made from durable metal alloys which are rust resistant. Tires seem heavy duty, and the 254cc engine packs more than enough torque to drive this beast through the tallest of snow piles. It even has heated handle grips!
Cons: Honestly it is very hard to find any negatives for this product, but we did hear about complaints made by owners regarding belt failures. And while that issue might have been rectified in later revisions of this model, it apparently uses a non-standard belt size which makes parts sourcing and maintenance difficult.
The first thing you notice when you get hands on with this snowblower is how compact it is relative to the performance it boasts. The ST227P is by no means a small machine, but compared to all the other 2-stage 250cc snowblowers out there it seems a lot more manageable in terms of size. Maybe the trigger operated power steering contributes to that effect, since it makes steering this 212 lb. beast as easy as pressing the trigger on a game controller. They should have added an electronic 4 way joystick control for the discharge chute, since the 2 lever manual implementation seems a little more clunky and can’t be operated with one hand.
You have one lever in front of the plastic dash for turning the chute around, and a second lever located in the left section of the dash which moves the deflector up and down. It isn’t that bad honestly, and we can’t really take any points away from Husqvarna since they included heated handles in what is otherwise an entry-level/lower mid-range 2-stage snowblower. In the dark of winter, you’ll find some extra comfort when operating the ST227P on the coldest mornings. Heated handles are not insignificant, and are typically found on more expensive models.
Performance is absolutely on point, this snowblower can take on piles as tall as 30 inches which is way beyond its official rated specs. The bucket is around 20 inches tall and there are plastic skid shoes, so you don’t scratch the paved driveway or garage floor. X-trac tires with deep grooves grab onto snow really well, and the axle is made from steel for extra ruggedness. Don’t feel like tugging on the starter cord? No problem—just hook up the electric starter to an outlet and your snowblower will start with the push of a button. The regular recoil starter is your backup starting method if you don’t have electricity, capable of easily starting the 7.5hp 4 stroke engine starts up within one or two pulls even at negative temperatures.
All the switches and levers are oversized, so you have no trouble operating them while wearing gloves. And all the important controls are placed in well thought out positions. You get premium control cables which won’t wear out as fast as the regular ones. A serrated ribbon auger slices through dense snow piles and icy slush with ease, so you can tackle the heaviest snow without any issues whatsoever.
Designed to deal with large driveways and wet snow, the Husqvarna ST227P is an extremely capable dual stage gas powered snowblower for both homeowners as well as professional landscapers. It can be used by businesses, municipalities, schools, etc. but we are going to review this model from a homeowner’s perspective as it is actually one of the more reasonably priced two-stage snowblowers you can purchase. As far as features go, this Husqvarna blower has everything you need including power steering + a 7 speed friction disk transmission (6 forward and 1 reverse).
You get handles with adjustable height, electric start, LED headlamps, single handed operation, and the solid build quality that we’ve come to expect from all Husqvarna products. This snowblower will deal with the tallest snowdrifts and can handle a 3 car driveway with relative ease.
Briggs & Stratton 27” (1696619)
Best Value 2-stage snow blower for big driveways.
Ideal for: Homeowners with large properties, extra long driveways, and areas that experience over 14 inches of snowfall.
Pros: Reliable 1150 Snow Series engine, electric start, LED headlamps, built to handle the varying pressure as it moves through snow. massive intake height of 20 inches, intuitive controls.
Cons: No trigger controlled power steering or heated handles.
It has no heated handles or trigger operated power steering, but is just as effective as the Husqvarna ST22P when it comes to plowing snow. The Briggs & Stratton 1696619 is your best friend after a blizzard strikes. Thirty inches of wet snow? Not a problem for this beast. Its serrated ribbon augers are designed to chop down large blocks of snow into manageable chunks, while simultaneously introducing air into the snow to make it fluffier and lighter. This snow after being processed by the auger is then sucked up by a metal impeller, when shoots it all out from a 200° rotating chute that is controlled via a dash mounted crank. No fancy electronic gadgets on this snowblower. But it does have an electric start, which works if you have a cord since there is no onboard battery. That’s a mild inconvenience, having to plug a cord into an outlet every time you wish to use electric start. But on the bright side, you don’t have to worry about dead batteries.
With its 1150 Snow Series 250cc engine, the Briggs & Stratton 1696619 generates up to 11.5lb-ft of torque which is slightly less than what the Husqvarna makes. Both use a friction disk transmission, although the Briggs & Stratton model includes an extra reverse gear. The engine is designed to start at temperatures as low as -20°F, and all the controls—choke, start/ stop, etc. are oversized to be more glove friendly. Giant 14 x 4 tires provide excellent grip, but you can throw some chains on them if you need extra traction for icy terrain or slopes. The single LED headlamp is located at the front of the dash, in a secure spot where it won’t hit trees. The handle is height-adjustable which means everybody in the family can comfortably operate this machine irrespective of their height.
This is the “pocket friendly” version of Briggs & Stratton’s 27 inch snowblower. Part of their Standard Series, model 1696619 (so easy to remember, right?) is equipped with all the basic stuff—push button electric start, hand cranked remote chute control, a variable speed friction disk transmission, etc. The auger gear case is made from aluminum, which isn’t the sturdiest choice for such an application but that is standard issue in most of these entry level to midrange dual stage snowblowers. One advantage it has over the Husqvarna is its dual reverse speed, the Husqvarna only has one reverse speed. Not that it’s a big deal or anything, but perhaps you’re one of those guys who wants their snowblower to move just a bit faster in reverse.
Snow Joe 21” / ION100V-21SB-CT
Best Single Stage snow blower for large driveways.
Ideal for: Light to medium snowfall between 4 and 10 inches, dry fluffy snow up to 12 inches or wet snow up to 8 inches.
Pros: Extremely easy to start, zero noise, zero fumes, zero maintenance, more powerful than a 15amp corded electric snowblower, 30 foot throwing distance, very capable of handling wet snow unlike some battery powered single-stage snowblowers.
Cons: At 69lbs it is a fair bit heavier than most other cordless single stage snowblowers (mainly because of that massive 100V 5Ah battery pack).
Snow Joe is the market leader in high performance cordless snowblowers, and the ION100V-21SB is their crown jewel. It packs a behemoth of a battery—100 volts and 5Ah. But all that juice is needed to power its massive 2800W brushless motor which will chew through 500Wh of energy in less than 30 minutes of regular use. But that’s not bad at all, since you’ll usually be done with the work in less than 10 minutes. Unless you are trying to clean a 3-car driveway that is 60 feet long, in which case you’re better off purchasing a 2-stage gas powered blower.
Does the ION100V-21SB beat 2-stage gas models? No way, and you’ll be very disappointed if you purchase it expecting something like that to happen. But it does match up very well against single-stage gas powered snowblowers and the performance is nearly identical to that of a Toro Power Clear 721. Which is a 212cc single stage gas powered model with a 21” clearing width.
Note that the ION100V-21SB is available in two forms-with battery and charger (complete kit), or just the Core Tool (CT). The one we are reviewing today is the Core Tool version, named ION100V-21SB-CT. You can purchase the 100V 5Ah battery pack if you don’t already own 100V Snow Joe tools, and pair it with the iON100V-RCH rapid charger that takes this 100V 5Ah battery from zero to full charge in just 100 minutes. The iON00V-21SB doesn’t have a self propelling drive, which means it’ll take more strength to push this around compared to a heavier 2-stage model. This starts to get pretty tough after about 8 or 10 inches of snow, but the auger assist does provide some help by using the rotating augers to make the snowblower claw its way across the terrain. Just make sure you don’t use it on gravel or dirt, unless you want rocks flying out of the discharge chute and into your neighbors windows.
There are no skid shoes, so you should stick to paved surfaces that you know are clean beforehand. You can control the rate at which it creeps forward by adjusting the auger speed, although that function is mainly to control the throwing distance and plowing rate. You will notice that there are two separate battery bays placed side by side which means you can install two 5Ah batteries to get a full 60 mins of run-time. Or, you can combine two 2.5Ah batteries to get 30 minutes of run-time. You can even combine a 2.5Ah and 5Ah battery, the power sharing system will intelligently source energy from both batteries to maintain optimal performance even as they start getting low on charge. Snow Joe ensures fade free power, so your performance won’t drop as the charge levels go down.
We’ve reviewed the ION100V-21SB previously, and declared it to be the most powerful cordless electric snowblower money can buy. And we still stand by our previous statement, since no other manufacturer has laid claim to its throne as of yet. Powered by a massive 100V 5.0Ah lithium ion battery, the ION100V-21SB features a brushless motor for maximum performance and efficiency. This is a 2800W motor, which is more powerful than most motors you find on corded electric snowblowers. To give you an idea, a 15amp motor drawing power from a 120V outlet can have a maximum power rating of 120 x 15 = 1800 watts. The cordless Snow Joe is rated at 1000 watts higher! Now we believe that 2800W figure isn’t with sustained load, rather a peak power rating. Either way, its very impressive and the massive 30 foot throw distance tells us that Snow Joe isn’t messing around.
If you want more details and photos, read our indepth review of the Snow Joe 100V single stage snow blower. I really wish they gave it a name you can easily share with people. PS. I rant about this in the review.
Snow Joe : 22” Snow Blower (SJ627E)
Best corded-electric snow blower for a large driveway.
More of a “snow thrower” than a snowblower, this tiny single-stage corded miracle weighs just 34.6lbs. Think that through for a while—you’re getting a 15amp 22” snowblower that is about as big as a briefcase when the handles are folded down, and it weighs under 35lbs. It even has LED headlamps on the front, along with electronic chute control and a cute little chute clearing tool which is provided for free. Does your cordless snowblower come with a free chute clearing tool and an onboard storage space for said tool? Didn’t think so. Jokes aside, this snowblower performs incredibly well for its size, and it even boasts a plowing capacity of up to 840lbs/ min.
Ideal for: Clearing wooden decks, patios, 1 car driveways, walkways, sidewalks, steps, and other narrow spaces where a larger single stage snowblower won’t fit.
Pros: Extremely lightweight, barely takes up any floor space when handles are folded, great performance for a 22” snow thrower, powerful headlamps for working in low light conditions, electronically controlled chute, 4 blade rubber auger with steel core.
Cons: It is quite hard to push through snow that is any thicker than 8 inches, and the cord limits your mobility.
Do you want an electric snowblower that’s so small you can literally use it to blow snow off your steps? Check out the Snow Joe SJ627E, a nice little 35 pounder made from light composite materials which reduce overall weight without compromising on structural integrity. It has electronic chute adjustment, although you could just bend down and adjust the chute manually if you wanted. It feels more like a broom on wheels than anything else, because of how tiny and maneuverable it is. The auger uses a 4 paddle design and features a steel body with rubber on top, unlike most paddle auger designs which just strap rubber augers onto a central steel shaft. As a result, the SJ627E’s auger is more rigid and scoops up heavier snow more effectively. But it is also more vulnerable to rocks and other obstacles as a result of this design choice.
Plug it into an outlet, and the 15amp motor will make quick work of snow up to 8 inches thick. It can even handle wet snow, although we don’t recommend you try it out in more than 6 to 8 inches of wet snow unless you wish to end up with a burnt motor. Fortunately, the SJ627E has built-in overload protection which will automatically shut off power if you strain the motor too hard. The clearing path is 22 inches wide by 13 inches deep, which is more than what you get in the iON100V-21SB. That model has a more powerful motor and shifts snow at a faster rate to make up for its slightly smaller intake.
We recommend the Snow Joe SJ627E to homeowners who don’t expect any more than 8 to 10 inches of snowfall at a time, and don’t deal with wet snow too often. Also, just like the previous Snow Joe model—make sure you use this electric snowblower on smooth paved surfaces only. Patios, decks, concrete driveways are fine. However, gravel, stone walkways, and any bumpy terrain will damage the plastic scraper on this snowblower.
What Features To Look For In A Snow Blower?
- Multiple forward and reverse speeds — This gives you greater control over the pace of your snowblower, and you can choose to move slower or faster depending on how thick or thin the snow is (and at a pace you feel comfortable with).
- A powerful engine — Not only does this mean a higher maximum speed, but it also results in a faster spinning auger and impeller which allows your snowblower to dig its way through hard-packed snow and icy slush. And you also get more throwing distance without the need for a chute extension.
- 4-way joystick chute control — With a regular hand cranked chute, you can turn it left or right by rotating the crank manually. But you will still need a separate lever for adjusting the deflector, which is the flap at the top of the chute that swivels to change the angle at which snow is thrown. A 4-way joystick uses electronic motors to control both the chute and deflector, and is much more precise than a hand crank. It is miles ahead of the good old hand crank in terms of convenience.
- Heated grips — We’ve discussed this one before, but let us repeat that you will need a snowblower with this feature if you work on a ranch, orchard, or other large property. Staying out in the freezing cold for longer periods of time will take a toll on your hands, and the heated grips will keep you comfortable.
- Poly slide shoes — Metal slide shoes are more durable, but unless you’re working on gravel they are not recommended. Why? Because they will leave nasty scratches on your paved driveway and garage floor. And if you’re trying to clear a wooden deck with a snowblower that has metal skid shoes, you are pretty much guaranteed to ruin the wood.
- Electric start — Some snowblowers will have onboard batteries, while others will require you to plug the snowblower into an electrical outlet. Either way, this is a feature we can’t live without. Pulling the cord to start your snowblower while you’re stuck knee deep in a pile of snow isn’t a very pleasant experience. How about you get the engine revving with a button push instead?
- Onboard accessory storage — A lot of 2-stage snowblowers come with onboard storage for extra shear pins and a clearing tool. Remember—never try to clear the chute with your bare hands, even if the snowblower is shut down. Either use the clearing tool, or a wooden stick.
- Track drive — If your driveway is on an incline, conventional rubber tires will have a hard time finding grip to propel the snowblower uphill. And they can skid when you are going downhill, especially if your driveway is covered with icy snow. With a tracked snowblower you can traverse inclines with ease, and tracks are also great for surfaces with a lot of ice. They are brilliant for loosely packed terrain such as gravel or dirt, and can plow through deep snow piles that with ease.
Single Stage vs Two Stage Snow Blower
A snowblower despite all its parts and controls is a relatively simple device, at least conceptually. Its job is to scoop up snow from the front, and throw it several feet away. Now there are various types of snowblowers, and they use different techniques to accomplish this objective. Single stage snowblowers have an auger located within the “bucket” or front housing that is typically driven by an electric motor or small 4-stroke engine. This is typically a paddle style auger made out of rubber or plastic, and it picks up snow while spinning. This snow is then shoved up the discharge chute, and out from the top. Simple as that. There is just one “stage” which is the auger.
A double stage snowblower takes things up a notch. You have the auger at the front, just like a single stage blower. But then there is a second “stage” in the form of an impeller located behind the auger. The auger on a 2-stage snowblower doesn’t have to spin very fast, since its primary job is to gather snow and break it up into small chunks. This auger is made from steel, and has serrated edges to cut through ice. All the small chopped up bits of snow are then fed into the rapidly spinning impeller which forces the snow out the chute with much higher force compared to a single stage blower. Basically, the auger on a two stage blower makes snow easier to “digest” for the impeller which then does most of the heavy lifting. Two stage snowblowers use serrated steel augers, typically designed in a helix pattern. And there are two augers on the drive shaft to balance the load better. Shear pins connect the augers to their drive shaft, and these pins are what break first if the auger encounters a rock or similar obstacle.
The serrated steel augers slice up densely packed snow and ice, which makes 2-stage snowblowers much better at dealing with wet snow or icy snow. And their engines are larger too, since the same engine drives both the snow blowing mechanism and the wheels. Since 2-stage snowblowers are self propelled, they basically dig their way through giant snow piles with great force. Much better than what you can achieve by pushing your single stage snow blower using your body weight and arms. Be aware of the fact that single stage snow blowers generally don’t have skid shoes, which means they tend to pick up anything close to the surface, like rocks and various debris. Skid shoes provide clearance between your blower and the surface. Another advantage of two-stage models.
This is also why most single stage snowblowers use flexible plastic augers — to prevent from damaging your driveway and other surfaces you would clear snow from, like your deck. It’s best not to operate a single stage snowblower on an unpaved surface. Dual-stage snowblowers have their intakes located a few inches above the ground thanks to skid shoes on either side of the bucket. This means they won’t pick up low lying debris, and can be safely operated on gravel driveways.
To summarize—single stage snow blowers are nimble, cheaper, and a better choice for areas that experience light snowfall. You can even clean snow off your wooden decks and narrow walkways with one of them, a dual stage would be too heavy and wide for such applications. A dual stage snowblower on the other hand is pretty much the only choice you have for clearing large driveways, especially ones with over 12 inches of snow. Got a lot of wet snow or icy snow? Use a dual stage snowblower. And if your driveway is unpaved or you have to clear snow off uneven terrain, a dual stage snowblower will do a much better job. A single stage snowblower will scrape the ground and stall if the surface isn’t paved.
Types of Snow
Snow is formed when tiny ice crystals within the clouds accumulate to form a large flake of snow which is then heavy enough to make its way to the ground. But as you might have noticed, there are different types of snow—the powdery and fluffy kind that is dry and easy to shovel. Then there is the wet snow which contains a higher water content, it is heavier and harder for smaller snowblowers to throw. But snow is snow right? Why is it wet sometimes, and dry the other times? And how can it be “dry” when it is formed from water? Time to clear the confusion. The density, water content, and crystal type of snowflakes can vary significantly depending on surface temperature, humidity, etc. Snow type varies between different geographic regions.
When surface temperature is just above the freezing point, snow that lands from the clouds is going to melt partially. Snow crystals melt around the edges and the moisture in-between these crystals causes them to stick together as one cohesive mass. Small partially melted flakes combine to become large, heavy flakes. This is wet snow, perfect for creating snowmen and snow palaces. And you will need a two-stage snowblower with serrated steel augers to deal with several inches of this stuff.
Light and fluffy snow is formed when the air is very dry and cold. Because the air is so dry and below freezing point, small snowflakes that don’t stick together to form larger units. Thus the snow feels powdery. Dry snow is less likely to build up into piles, it just blows away with the wind for the most part. Five inches of dry snow when melted will yield just 0.5 inches of water. In contrast, the same amount of wet snow will yield 1 inch of water when melted. Snowblowers have a much easier time with dry, fluffy snow. And you certainly don’t need a two stage snowblower for this type of snow.