Blow Snow, Not Your Savings

Unless you live in a region that's regularly slammed with substantial snowfall, there's no need to spend a fortune for a snow blower that will see only occasional use. A cheap snow blower (or snow thrower, as less powerful single-stage models are known) can reliably clear small to medium-size driveways, walkways, decks, and patios of about half a foot of snow, or more if you're willing to make multiple passes. The cheapest sub-$200 snow blowers are usually corded electric models, but spending a bit more can buy the cordless convenience of a battery-powered blower or the added power of an electric-start gas snow blower. We researched expert and owner reviews to round up the best snow blowers under $500, and also included a few pricier picks for shoppers tackling serious snowfalls that require more heavy-duty machinery.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Snow Joe Ultra SJ625E
Our Picks
Snow Joe Ultra SJ625E

Pros:

  • 15-amp motor, on the powerful side for an electric blower.
  • Can manage up to about 10 inches of powdery snow with ease, users say in reviews.
  • Wide 21-inch path.
  • Steel auger (cheaper models often use plastic).
  • Relatively lightweight (around 36 pounds), for easy handling.
  • LED light for nighttime use.
  • Earns high praise for quick and easy assembly — less than 5 minutes by most accounts.

Cons:

  • Can't handle wetter snow, which leads to clogging and reduced throwing distance, many users say.
  • Requires an outdoor extension cord that can be pricey.

Takeaway: The corded electric Snow Joe Ultra SJ625E does a fine job even on heftier accumulations of powdery snow, owners say. They love the lightweight frame and no-hassle upkeep of this Snow Joe electric blower. Many say it's good for clearing a deck, a walkway, or small driveway. Some reviewers warn that this electric single-stage snow thrower is underpowered for wet snow, however, and the rubber blades attached to the steel auger aren’t much of a match for compacted snow or ice — but they are more damage resistant than plastic blades and stand up better to gravel and other underlying yard debris. Reviewers also grouse that the cord gets in the way, but this is a complaint levied against all corded electric models. Users say this machine beats a snow shovel any day and score the Snow Joe brand tops among electric blowers for reliability.

Greenworks 2600502

Pros:

  • Longer warranty (4 years) than most snow blowers, gas or electric.
  • Very lightweight and easy to maneuver, at only 32 pounds, and compact for easy storage, users say.
  • 20-inch path, slightly wider than other cheap electric blowers, so fewer passes may be necessary.
  • Less maintenance than a gas blower.
  • Relatively quiet; owners compare the noise to a loud vacuum cleaner.

Cons:

  • Too many flimsy plastic parts to stand up to long-term use, many users say.
  • Some reports of units that were dead upon first use.
  • Models that come with an outdoor extension cord are more expensive.
  • Recommended 50-foot cord length may not be sufficient for long driveways and sidewalks.

Takeaway: Budget-conscious buyers who don't regularly battle blizzards should be pleased with the single-stage Greenworks 2600502. Users who've gotten used to managing the cord praise the ability of this lightweight electric blower to clear snow up to about 8 inches. Even with some complaints regarding durability and construction, the majority consensus is that, among sub-$200 snow blowers, this 13-amp snow thrower is hard to beat.

Wen 5662

Pros:

  • Very inexpensive for an 18-inch electric snow thrower.
  • 13.5-amp motor, a decent amount of power for the price.
  • Handles up to 6 inches of fresh snow with relative ease, according to user feedback.

Cons:

  • Working around the cord can be awkward, some owners complain; cord not included.
  • Plastic blades struggle to clear rough surfaces and heavy snow, users say.

Takeaway: If you live in an area where you see only a dusting of snow a few times a year, this inexpensive single-stage corded electric snow thrower from Wen is a good, base-level option. It’s perfect for decks, patios, and walkways, users say, though anything more than a few inches of dry snow will be a challenge to clear. Professional tests don’t usually consider cheap snow blowers like this one, but user reviews of the Wen 5662 Snow Blaster are plentiful; they’re also quite positive for the most part, barring a handful of buyers who complain of receiving defective units and a few whose expectations for the clearing power of this budget blower may have been set a bit too high.

Snow Joe iON 18SB

Pros:

  • No fussing with a power cord.
  • LED headlight.
  • Very lightweight, at only 32 pounds, making it easy to lift and maneuver.
  • Good marks for surface cleaning in expert tests.
  • 8-inch snow intake makes it well-suited for occasional use and light accumulations.
  • Less noisy than gas models.
  • Energy Star certified.

Cons:

  • Not enough power to deal with heavy snow; don't expect to easily clear more than 3 to 4 inches at a time, several owners warn.
  • Many say this single-stage blower clogs easily and has a limited throwing distance.
  • With up to 50 minutes of run time per charge, the battery might not last long enough for larger jobs.
  • Some complaints of long recharge times.

Takeaway: Although the battery-powered Snow Joe iON 18SB can't compete with the very best cordless snow blowers on power, and it clears only an 18-inch path, many owners say this Snow Joe snow thrower has the chops to chew through lighter snowfalls on smaller driveways and sidewalks. They also say it's hard to beat the quiet engine and cord-free, lightweight maneuverability compared with bulkier gas blowers. For those who want the option of switching between battery power and corded power for longer or tougher jobs, there’s also a hybrid version, the Snow Joe iON 18SB-HYB. It runs at 13.5 amps when plugged in and is a bit more expensive than this model, but it can sometimes be found on sale at bargain prices.

Ego SNT2102

Ego SNT2102 Review

Pros:

  • More powerful than cheaper cordless blowers, with two 56-volt batteries.
  • High-efficiency brushless electric motor.
  • Can handle up to a foot of powdery snow and smaller accumulations of wet snow, users say.
  • Top marks from experts for surface cleaning and handling.
  • 35-foot throwing distance, so snow won't pile up where users don't want it.
  • No fussing with extension cords.

Cons:

  • Heavy for an electric blower, at 64 pounds.
  • Hard to manage on rough surfaces or in heavier accumulations, some experts and owners claim.
  • Still slower and less effective than gas blowers, experts say.

Takeaway: The single-stage Ego SNT2102 is for consumers who long for a low-maintenance cordless snow blower with the power of a gas model. Although it comes with a comparatively hefty price tag, this is one of the only electric models we researched, corded or cordless, that users say is capable of slicing through up to a foot of powder without getting bogged down. That performance, which compares favorably with an electric-start gas snow blower, combined with the convenience of a cordless electric model might be well worth the added expense.

Toro Power Clear 721E

Toro Power Clear 721 E Review

Pros:

  • Generous 12.5-inch intake height and enough power to capably manage heavier snowfalls, including icy deposits.
  • Top-grade performance in expert tests for handling, plow pile removal, and surface cleaning.
  • 212cc engine, among the most powerful in this class.
  • Convenience features including self-propulsion and push-button start.
  • Fold-down handle and chute for easier storage.
  • 4-cycle engine with separate tanks for fuel and oil; no premixing required.
  • 2-year guaranteed-to-start (in one or two pulls) warranty along with Toro’s full 2-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Some say the manual-adjust chute can be a hassle to manage.
  • In tests, Toro snow blowers are relatively noisy compared with other brands.
  • Single-stage snow blower; not designed for use on gravel or rough surfaces.

Takeaway: Reviewers and owners alike commend this Toro electric-start gas snow blower for its capable performance. Experts at Wirecutter call it “the gold standard” in its class, and that pronouncement is seconded at MovingSnow.com, where the Toro Power Clear 721 E is named “one of the best value snow throwers on the market.” With a 21-inch clearing width and plenty of power to clean snow down to the pavement, this blower is a solid choice for homeowners looking to make short work of medium-size driveways, sidewalks, and other flat surfaces. Users say it can easily handle 6 inches or more of the wet and heavy stuff, and even a foot of snowfall is no match for this machine. Although we saw a handful of complaints that the chute can be difficult to attach and doesn’t always remain in place, most owners are more than satisfied with this simple-to-use, easy-to-maneuver, and quick-to-start Toro snow thrower.

Toro Power Clear 518 ZE

Toro Power Clear 518 ZE Review

Pros:

  • Very light for a gas blower, at 58 pounds.
  • Locking deflector to direct snow high or low and a discharge chute that rotates 210 degrees to throw snow where users want it.
  • Backup electric starter and variable speeds.
  • High marks in expert tests for throwing distance, surface cleaning, and handling.
  • Collapses for easy storage.
  • 4-cycle engine with separate tanks for fuel and oil; no premixing required.
  • 2-year, guaranteed-to-start warranty in addition to a 2-year full-coverage warranty.

Cons:

  • Struggles somewhat with wet snow, according to reviews.
  • Rubber paddles don't make much of a dent in tightly compressed snow, some users say.
  • Reports of paddles breaking and screws loosening or falling out.
  • Some users complain that the oil tank is awkwardly positioned, making refills difficult, and the gas tank lid can be hard to remove.

Takeaway: This 99cc single-stage Toro model is light, compact, and cheap for an electric-start gas snow blower. While the Toro Power Clear 518 ZE doesn't have the oomph of more expensive blowers, and its 18-inch clearing path is a bit narrow, users say it's plenty adept with snowfalls of about a foot. It’s also got many of the same features that make our top choice, the Toro Power Clear 721 E, so popular. For consumers who don’t want, or need, to wrestle with a lot of machine, the modest weight and easy operation of the Power Clear 518 ZE make it simple to use from start to finish. And the affordable price tag on this entry-level gas blower makes it particularly attractive for bargain-minded consumers.

Troy-Bilt Storm 2410

Troy-Bilt Storm 2410 Review

Pros:

  • Tackles wet, icy snow and accumulations up to a foot with ease, users say.
  • Convenience features including self-propelled drive, push-button electric start, and remote chute control.
  • 6 forward speeds and 2 reverse speeds.
  • 24-inch clearing width.
  • Very good marks from experts for speed, plow-pile removal, surface cleaning, and handling.

Cons:

  • Heavy, at 195 pounds.
  • A 2-stage gas snow blower can be overkill if snowfall is only moderate.
  • Remote chute control can be finicky, reviewers say.
  • Experts warn that a lack of freewheel steering can make it more difficult to turn.

Takeaway: Though a bit outside the Cheapism price range, this impeller-equipped Troy-Bilt two-stage gas snow blower is one of the best values on the market for buyers who want a more powerful machine for quick snow pickups of even heftier snowfalls or to clear rough surfaces like gravel or dirt. The Troy-Bilt Storm 2410 also receives kudos for relatively rugged construction, with several users saying it lasts for years with proper maintenance.

Cub Cadet 3X 26"

Cub Cadet 3X 26" Review

Pros:

  • Can handle even the biggest snowfalls and be used on gravel, dirt, or hilly terrain, users say.
  • Extra-wide 26-inch clearing path.
  • Dual augers and an induction accelerator break up snow and push it into the impeller, helping make cleanup quicker.
  • Convenience features including heated hand grips, trigger-controlled power steering, push-button electric start, and a headlight.

Cons:

  • Heavy, at 267 pounds.
  • Shear pins that protect the gearbox break too easily, some users grouse.
  • High-speed accelerator may make a mess with smaller amounts of snow, experts say.

Takeaway: This Cub Cadet snow blower is pricey, no doubt, but a solid value for a three-stage blower that's powerful and fast enough for large, frequent snowfalls. This electric-start gas snow blower is also in another league compared with many two-stage and single-stage snow blowers when it comes to features, with a headlight, heated hand grips and power steering to make it easy enough to maneuver with one hand despite being relatively heavy. If you need serious snow-clearing power and appreciate convenience, too, the Cub Cadet is a relatively affordable option well worth considering.

Buying Guide

Buying Guide

To research and compare snow blowers, we consulted snow blower reviews from expert sources such as Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, and MovingSnow.com, all of which do product testing. We also plowed through thousands of online reviews from current and past owners of cheap snow blowers on the websites of retailers including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, and Sears. Most reviews focus on performance, maneuverability, durability, and ease of use. All in all, reviews indicate that buyers who match the specs to their particular needs and have realistic expectations are satisfied with cheap snow blowers.

Several familiar and a few not-so-familiar names rule the cheap snow blower market. Some are are brands with well-established reputations in selling power tools like leaf blowers, string trimmers, power washers and even log splitters. Among those brands with models in the Cheapism price bracket are Toro and Troy-Bilt, which make a range of electric and gas blowers. Well-respected names like Cub Cadet and Poulan Pro offer some inexpensive gas snow blower models, while Snow Joe and Greenworks make cheap corded and battery-powered electric blowers. Big names including Honda, Husqvarna, and Ariens focus on pricier, higher-end gas models, while Ego makes a higher-end cordless blower.

As with many appliances, there are a lot of brand names but not a lot of outdoor power-equipment manufacturers. The Ohio-headquartered company MTD makes Craftsman, Remington, Troy-Bilt, Yard Machines and Cub Cadet snow throwers. Husqvarna makes Poulan Pro, while Ariens makes Sno-Tek.

Electric vs. Gas Snow Blowers

It's important to carefully consider your needs before deciding between electric and gas. Corded electric snow blowers are lighter and lower maintenance than their gas counterparts, but require access to a power outlet and an extension cord that can stand up to the elements (generally not included). You can opt for a cordless model, but expect to pay a premium for that convenience — and there's the risk of dealing with a dead battery before the job's done.

Snow blower reviews suggest that anyone who regularly receives up to a foot of powder or significant amounts of wet snow should spend extra for a gas model. A single-stage gas snow blower is typically a bit more powerful than a single-stage electric snow thrower and, in some instances, the greater clearing ability of a two-stage gas snow blower or a three-stage snow blower could be a necessity.

While with gas snow blowers a cord or a dead battery is not a worry, the trade-off is that users must stay on top of routine maintenance, such as checking oil levels and replacing fuel filters. Some find also that starting a manual gas snow blower can be challenging, making stepping up to an electric-start gas snow blower a worthwhile upgrade.

Expensive vs. Cheap Snow Blowers

All electric snow blowers and most cheap gas blowers are single-stage models that rely on augers (usually rotating rubber paddles, though even some cheap models have steel augers) to gather up snow and send it through the discharge chute while helping pull the machine along. The auger in a gas or electric single-stage snow blower scrapes the ground, so it should be used only on paved/smooth surfaces.

Those who get a bit more snow or have rough surfaces to clear may want to step up to a gas-powered two-stage snow blower instead of a gas or electric single-stage snow thrower. Two-stage gas snow blowers use an auger (usually made of serrated metal) to churn up snow and an impeller to help send it out the chute. They can handle heavier snowfalls and uneven terrain or gravel because the auger doesn't contact the ground. Three-stage snow blowers, the most expensive of the bunch, work like two-stage gas snow blower models but are much faster. They are the best snow blowers for users who get a lot of snow and want to deal with it as quickly as possible. (Note: Although the term “snow blower” is often used when speaking of single-stage models, they are more accurately named “snow throwers.” With single-stage units, snow is scooped up and projected — or thrown — outwards in a single motion. With two-stage and three-stage snow blowers, the fan-like impeller makes all the difference.)

For the most part, two-stage snow blowers are $500 and up, while three-stage blowers run at least $1,000. The market for sub-$500 snow blowers is dominated by electric snow throwers and single-stage gas snow throwers. Some cordless electric single-stage snow throwers, however, fall well above the budget range.

Power

Manufacturers often indicate the power of a snow blower in cubic centimeters (CCs) for gas models and amps for electric blowers, which can make it confusing to compare models. CCs refer to the volume of piston displacement in a gas-powered engine. The greater the displacement, the more powerful the engine. The same is true for the amp rating in an electric motor — the more amps (a unit of measure for electric current), the more powerful the motor. In the case of battery-powered blowers, higher voltage means more power.

Reviews indicate, however, that more power doesn't necessarily mean better performance. Indeed, a slew of satisfied reviewers say many of the less-powerful, sub-$500 snow blowers we researched do just fine for light snowfall on small, paved areas and deftly blow away top layers of deep snow.

Still, expectations are usually higher for gas snow blowers, and users' satisfaction often depends on how well they have matched a snow blower's capabilities with weather conditions in their area. While an electric or single-stage gas snow blower could be the best snow blower for lighter use, they may struggle when it comes time to clear a snow pile left at the end of the driveway by a snow plow, and buyers who live in very snowy climates should seriously consider a two- or three-stage gas model instead.

Clearing Width and Intake

The amount of snow that the best snow blowers can clear also depends largely on their design. The clearing width affects how many passes you have to make to clear away the snow. A wider path gets the job done faster. The clearing width for the cheap snow blowers we researched ranges between 18 and 21 inches. More powerful gas models, especially two- and three-stage machines, are more likely to clear wider paths.

A related feature is the intake height, which determines the clearing depth, or how deep the snow blower cuts during each pass. If you live in a region where the snow really piles up, you'll be frustrated constantly if the intake isn't high enough. A low intake in high snow means making several passes over the same area and removing the snow in layers, or venturing outside during a storm several times to clear the snow before it gets too deep. A good rule of thumb: The intake height should be at least 2 inches higher than the depth of the snow.

On most cheap snow blowers, the intake ranges from nine to 13 inches. Although that means they have a clearing depth of nearly a foot of snow at a time, single-stage snow blowers and power snow shovels generally are best for light duty on smooth surfaces with accumulations up to about 6 inches. Reviewers who expect these machines to power through larger amounts or manage very wet, heavy snow are often disappointed when they find they need to make several passes with even the best small snow blowers. A higher intake generally comes with a larger machine and a higher price tag. On two- and three-stage blowers, the intakes typically range from 16 to 23 inches.

Weight and Maneuverability

If light weight is a key requirement, it's no contest: Electric snow blowers win out big time as the best budget snow throwers. The electric models on our list start around 32 pounds. The heftiest, a battery-powered single-stage electric snow thrower meant to compete with gas blowers, tops out at 64 pounds. For an even lighter option, a power snow shovel can make quick work of smaller, constricted spaces where a blower would be too awkward. (One that we have recommended in the past is the Toro Power Shovel 38361. It sells for just over $100 and weighs only 13 pounds.)

The lightest (and least powerful) gas snow blower among our picks is just under 60 pounds, while the three-stage model we favor tops out at a hefty 267 pounds. Fortunately, a gas blower is also more likely to feature some form of self-propulsion and power steering, making it less of a beast to move. Still, gas blowers are likely to be bulkier, so users who need help clearing snow in tighter areas will want to stick to an electric model — or a tried-and-true snow shovel, electric or otherwise.

Throwing Distance and Discharge Chutes

Once the snow is churned up and compacted, it has to go somewhere. Specs detailing the throwing distance and chute rotation of a snow blower give a good indication of how far the snow will go and where it will land. Look for a model capable of blasting snow at least 20 feet. The maximum throwing distance of the blowers we researched ranges from 20 to 35 feet, although a few manufacturers don't provide this spec. Note that advertised throwing capabilities are only rough estimates. Reviews indicate that the amount and weight of the snow affect the throwing distance — for example, the heavier or wetter the snow, the shorter the distance.

These days, the chutes on most snow blowers are adjustable — typically offering a chute rotation of at least 180 degrees — which means you can aim the discharge in almost any direction (ideally not onto a neighbor's property). Blowers with adjustable deflectors can also shoot the snow high or low.

The discharge chutes on cheap snow blowers are invariably made of plastic, which some consumers report is prone to cracking in cold temperatures — although, on the other hand, it doesn't rust. Also, the chutes tend to clog with snow, which means having to turn off the machine and clear it out. (Never, under any circumstance, try this while the machine is running.) Some snow throwers come with a scoop for this purpose. Spraying the interior of the chute with WD-40 or silicone can also minimize buildup. Keep in mind that less powerful snow blowers are more prone to clogging simply because their engines aren't as capable at pitching the snow, particularly wet snow, out of the shoot as quickly as necessary to avoid backups.

Ease of Use

User-friendly touches can make a demanding winter chore easier, if not fun. Buyers who have switched from gas to electric snow blowers prize the ability to plug in and go for quick snow pickups rather than mess with a fuel tank and pull start. Apart from a few users who feel hampered by the cord (which can be run over, if you're not careful), most say electric blowers are easy to manage once you get the hang of it, which happens pretty quickly.

Even easier to manage are battery-operated cordless snow blowers that don't require an outdoor extension cord or a well-placed outlet. However, a significant downside to cordless snow blowers is that their batteries can run out of juice before the snow is cleared, so you might want to have charged spares on hand. High-efficiency brushless electric motors found on some cordless models can extend run time.

Other features reviewers appreciate include small touches like easy-to-operate power buttons that don't require constant engagement and snow-discharge chutes that are easy to aim. Bells and whistles like headlights, heated hand grips, and remote chute control are nice but uncommon on the cheapest blowers.

Gas snow blowers require more user engagement than electric snow blowers. Oil and fuel levels must be checked throughout the season, and the engine should be cleaned when snow is done for the year. A pull cord or recoil start demands priming the engine and setting the choke, and some users find the recoil action awkward, if not impossible.

But technological improvements have made the top gas snow blowers quite user-friendly. For one, the four-cycle engines now common at the cheaper end of the snow-removal equipment market have separate compartments for oil and gasoline, so there's no need to premix the two, as you would with a two-cycle engine. Several users report that their clothes no longer have the telltale odor that inevitably comes with a two-cycle model. In addition, opting for an electric-start gas snow blower can eliminate any struggles with the pull cord. Many bestselling snow throwers now have that feature.

Durability

The best budget snow blowers can last for many years — if properly maintained. Most of the snow throwers we researched come with two-year warranties, although we did see coverage as short as one year (primarily for sub-$200 snow blowers) and as long as five years. Regardless, a warranty doesn't mean much when there are 6 inches of snow on the driveway and the snow thrower won't start or a critical component shakes loose mid-clearing.

Long-term durability data on most of the snow-removal equipment on our list is scant. However, we did come across some reports of lemons that were defective from the get-go. There are also plenty of complaints about components breaking after a couple of snow-clearing sessions. Blowers that employ a lot of plastic parts particularly draw users' ire. Some reviewers say they just aren't strong enough to stand up to Mother Nature. Finally, there are countless reports of gas blowers that wouldn't work when pulled out of storage. Experts suggest this is often the fault of improper upkeep, as opposed to engine defects.