If you're in the market for a new snow blower, you're in luck. According to ConsumerReports.org, the latest models are "bigger, better, and friendlier" than ever, and competition among big-box retailers has driven prices down. Depending on your needs, you can expect to spend anywhere from about $100 to over $1,500.
How much you'll need to spend depends primarily on how much snow you get and how large an area you need to clear. For a small area like a patio or deck covered with an inch or so of snow, an electric snow shovel may be enough, and you can buy a good one for $100 or less. However, for heavier jobs, your choices include an electric or gas single-stage snow blower, or a gas-fueled two-stage model.
Single-stage electric snow blowers are the lightest, quietest and least expensive in this group; they generally cost between $100 and $300. With clearing paths ranging from about 11 to 18 inches in width, they are roughly the size of a walk-behind lawn mower. If you need to clear four inches of snow or less on relatively small and level paved surfaces, an electric single-stage blower will suit your needs. The downsides: you're tethered to an extension cord, and single-stage blowers can't be used on gravel or other loose surfaces since their augers scrape the ground. The auger's rotation is the only thing that propels single-stage blowers, so most don't handle slopes very well, either.
Single-stage gas snow blowers are larger and more powerful than their electric counterparts, with clearing widths of 18 to 22 inches and a price range of about $350 to $750. They handle eight to ten inches of snow, though like their electric counterparts they can't be used on gravel and may have trouble climbing slopes. These larger single-stage blowers can clear an area more quickly and can handle deeper and heavier snow than an electric model. Gas single-stage blowers also have longer throwing distances, meaning the snow discharged through the chute is deposited farther away from the area being cleared. A longer throwing distance is especially useful for clearing wide driveways, so you're not piling up snow on one side as you clear the other.
Two-stage snow blowers are the priciest and most powerful of all; you can pay from around $500 to over $1,500 for one, depending on its size, power and features. Clearing paths on residential models range from 22 to 30 inches, and these larger machines clear deeper, wetter snow than a single-stage gas model can. Throwing distances are also longer. According to Paul Sikkema of MovingSnow.com, "If you regularly get 6 to 14 inches of snow at a time or you don't want huge piles of snow along your driveway a two-stage snow blower is a must." Sikkema believes that a 24-inch model is big enough for a two-car driveway up to about 60 feet long.
For more information on what to look for in a snow blower and which models get the best reviews, see ConsumerSearch.com's comprehensive report on snow blowers.