The Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 22 is a good solution for those who want a small two-stage snow blower, say experts. It's comparable in size, price, performance and features to the top-rated single-stage Toro Power Clear 621 QZE (*Est. $770) , which has a 21-inch clearing path. The Ariens has a 22-inch clearing path, a 20-inch intake height and an impressive snow-throwing distance of up to 40 feet. If you'd rather spend less for a two-stage model, experts recommend the 24-inch Craftsman 88957 (*Est. $650) , but it's not quite as powerful and doesn't have a headlight.
Experts and owners say the Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 22 is easy to handle, thanks in part to its relatively small size. It has folding handles as well, so it takes up less room in storage. It has a 208cc Ariens OHV engine that requires only routine maintenance and should perform well for years, according to reviewers. The Compact 22 has the usual six forward and speeds with electric ignition; single-hand operation frees the other hand to use the joystick that controls the chute. Although this blower doesn't have power steering, you can disengage one of the drive wheels to make it easier to turn and maneuver.
One satisfied owner writes, "Purchased machine just before Groundhog Day storm and had a great time clearing my drive and the neighbors'. I highly recommend!" Another likes that the Compact 22 has a headlight, saying he can use his blower in the early morning or the evening. One small negative is the deflector must be adjusted manually, and the blower is noisy enough to make hearing protection a good idea.
Thanks to a powerful engine for a snow blower this size, the Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 22 clears even wet, heavy snow quickly, and can throw dry snow up to 40 feet. One owner says it "really does throw snow at least 25 feet even if it's slush, and if it's a decent cold snow, expect 30-40! It really makes clearing drives fun." Users say this is especially helpful when you clear a pathway wider than 22 inches and have to make two passes -- you can throw the snow well out of your way. And since the chute rotates up to 205 degrees, you can direct snow over a wide area. Paul Sikkema of MovingSnow.com writes that the Compact 22 "is designed to devour snow like the big boys." Owners and experts say it's well suited to use on average to large, hard or gravel surfaces.
ConsumerReports.org includes the Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 24 in its latest ratings chart, and this model is similar enough to the Compact 22 to give a good idea of how it might perform in objective tests. We found more than 115 owner reviews of the Compact 22 at HomeDepot.com that provide a wealth of information about its actual performance. Paul Sikkema writes a single-product review at MovingSnow.com.
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The Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 24, which is slightly larger than but quite similar to the Compact 22, is included in a ratings chart available to subscribers. Editors use objective tests to rank 22-to-24-inch two-stage snow blowers.
Review: Snow Blowers Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of Dec. 2011
While Paul Sikkema's review of the Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 22 covers the 2010 model, the 2011 version is identical. He writes that the Compact 22 is "one of the best small snowblowers on the market. This small machine has many of the features found on the larger machines (six speeds, remote chute), yet is small enough for your single-car drive."
Review: 2010 Ariens 22 inch Compact Series Model 920013 2-Stage Gas Snow Blower Review, Paul Sikkema, Sept. 30, 2010
The Ariens Sno-Thro Compact 22 is one of Home Depot's best-selling snow blowers, and plenty of owner reviews attest to this. More than 120 users give this blower an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, and we saw very little negative feedback. More typical are comments like this one: "Simply put, the best snow blower I have ever owned."
Review: Ariens Compact 22 in. Two-Stage Electric Start Gas Snow Blower, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of Dec. 2011