If you're looking for a snow blower that's inexpensive and doesn't take a lot of muscle to move around, consider a top-rated electric thrower. Electric snow blowers are lightweight, easy to handle and require less maintenance than other types of snow blowers. All the current electric models we spotted are single-stage and cost between $100 and $500.
Electric snow blowers are less expensive to operate because they don't require oil, fuel or annual engine service. Most use a power cord, which must be purchased separately. The cost of the cord will vary depending on its quality and length -- figure on $25 to $75 or so. Your extension cord must be heavy-duty (12-gauge or better), rated for outdoor use, and be long enough to reach from the electrical outlet to the furthest point you want to clear with the snow blower -- 100 feet or more is typical, but that can vary up or down depending on your property.
According to expert comparisons, electric machines are suitable for light-duty work but don't match the speed or power of a gas snow blower. They're best for light snowfalls of 6 to 8 inches of powder, or denser snow up to around 4 inches. Anything more, and you are likely to overheat the motor and possibly permanently damage the snow blower.
Experts and owners say the combination of superb handling and performance earns the Toro 1800 Power Curve 38381 (Est. $300) top ratings among electric snow blowers. User-friendly controls, effortless handling and a compact design make it one of the easiest snow blowers to use. The Power Curve 38381 ranks first among electric units in one comparison by an independent reviewer -- though that's somewhat faint praise as this tester is unimpressed by electric snow blowers in general.
Owners offer more positive assessments, however. We spotted hundreds of user reviews spread over a number of sites, and this Toro snow blower generally scores 4 stars or better. As an example, we see more than 350 reviews at HomeDepot.com, though many are originally posted on the Toro web site. Be that as it may, the Toro 1800 Power Curve earns a 4.3-star score, with around 90 percent of owners saying that they would recommend it to a friend.
Those posting to SnowBlowersDirect.com like it even more, and these reviews are all from the site's customers. It earns a 5-star rating after more than 100 reviews, with all users saying that it earns their recommendation. The site's "snow blower expert" Joe Delulio also recommends this Toro electric snow blower, calling it "The perfect tool for residential use." The largest accumulation of user reviews can be found at Amazon.com -- again, all unique to that site. Here, the Toro earns a 4-star rating following more than 1,000 reviews.
While these user reviews are strong, relatively speaking, not everyone is happy. We spotted some user reports of snow throwers that failed on their first or second use, or from those that found even this relatively lightweight snow blower too much of a burden to push around. Others say that that satisfaction comes from understanding the limits of this snow blower and not expecting performance that matches a two-stage gas model (covered in our discussion of gas snow blowers elsewhere in this report).
For a basic, inexpensive electric snow blower, reviews say the Greenworks 26032 (Est. $190) 12 Amp 20" Corded Snow Thrower is a good pick. Its lightweight frame makes this snow blower an easy handler, and Greenworks' four-year warranty is the longest in our report. With a 500-pound-per-minute capacity, the Greenworks 26032 isn't as powerful as the Toro 38381; owners say it is best on powder up to 6 inches deep. Expect slower operation and some clogging if you're clearing wet snow. It's not been tested by professionals, but user satisfaction mirrors that of the Toro -- and it's the #1 Best Seller in snow blowers at Amazon.com, with a 4-star rating after more than 1,000 reviews.
Even if an electric snow blower is right-sized for your expected snowfall and property, many find wrangling the long -- often 100 feet or more -- power cord a pain. Among cordless electric snow blowers, we found the best feedback for the Snow Joe iON18SB (Est. $400). The 40 amp-hour lithium-ion battery is rated to give the iON18SB around 40 minutes of run time -- and one professional test found 30 minutes of performance under real-world conditions. That clearly limits usefulness to only smaller urban and suburban properties. It's also not the fastest worker -- rated at a little less than 500 pounds of snow per minute.
That level of performance, along with long recharge times and short throw distances, are enough to earn the Snow Joe iON18SB a pretty dismal rating in the one professional review we've seen -- albeit from a reviewer that downrates all electric snow blowers, cordless or otherwise. But user feedback, though more limited than with the corded snow blowers listed above, explains that the key to happiness with the Snow Joe is understanding that this isn't the snow blower to buy if you live where foot or more snowfalls are a regular occurrence or on a property with long walkways and driveways to clear. Most who opt for this model seem to get that: The iON18SB earns an impressive 4.7-star rating after about 70 customer reviews at Amazon.com, with only four owners rating it less than 4 stars. We note several user reports of the Snow Joe successfully blowing away accumulations of 4 to 6 inches. The snow blower accumulates fewer reviews at HomeDepot.com -- around 30 at last look -- but similar satisfaction with a 4.6-star rating, and 96 percent of owners posting there recommend it.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Snow Blowers: Learn all about the different types of snow blowers, and how to find the right one for your climate and property. Editors name top choices, as well as good alternatives to consider
Best Gas Snow Blowers: For serious snow clearing only a serious gas snow blower will do. These are the top single-stage and two-stage gas snow throwers as identified by experts and users.
Best Snow Shovels: Is a snow blower overkill for where you live and the snowfalls you typically get? If so, a good but not-so-old-fashioned snow shovel could be a reasonable choice. Here's what to look for to find a snow shovel that will clear your walk without breaking your back, along with some top choices to consider.
Buying Guide: Having the wrong snow thrower for your property could be worse than having no snow thrower at all. Here's what to look for to find the right snow blower for your needs.
Our Sources: These are the professional and user reviews we consulted to find the best gas and electric snow blowers. They are rated and ranked according to their expertise and helpfulness.