Experts and owners say a blend of performance and user-friendly features make the Craftsman 88173 the best two-stage gas snow blower. Handling is excellent with the 88173's plow-style handles, multiple speeds and one-handed operation. The four-stroke engine and steel auger are burly enough to clear the toughest snow storms. Paul Sikkema with snow blower website MovingSnow.com calls the 88173 a great value because of "the combination of features, durability, service and parts availability."
Compact design is easy to drive and operate. Even though the Craftsman 88173 is a larger snow blower, it earns top scores for handling. Paul Sikkema from MovingSnow.com says the "quick-turn hanging discharge chute is very robust and reliable," with a crank that's accessible while in motion to rotate the chute 180 degrees. The machine starts easily with either the electric start or the pull cord, say users at Sears.com, and one describes the controls as "easily in reach and clearly labeled." Although fairly quiet for a gas snow blower, according to reviews, experts still recommend wearing hearing protection.
Beefy snow blowing power. The Craftsman 88173 is the largest snow blower in our report, sporting a 208 cc four-stroke engine powerful enough to tear through berms packed by a snowplow. The 88173 is fast, efficient and removes snow down to the pavement, according to a leading consumer organization, though it doesn't throw snow quite as far as some. "This machine works very well, even in wet heavy snow," says one owner at Sears.com. Sikkema says this compact two-stage snow blower has "way more power than you will ever need." He praises the throttle control, which allows users to idle the engine.
Quality machine at a good price. Costing less than $700, reviewers say the Craftsman 88173 is a great value. At Sears.com, one owner calls it the "best snow blower in this price range." At MovingSnow.com, Paul Sikkema names it one of the best values partially because of Craftsman's "service and parts availability." Few owners mention how long the 88173 lasts, but many call it durable and well-built and say Craftsman provides excellent customer support. The 88173's limited two-year warranty is typical for snow blowers but is shorter than warranties from Toro.
As part of their snow blower report, editors review the Craftsman 88173 alongside 50 other models of two-stage gas snow blowers. Their evaluation includes tests to see how well each thrower can clear a packed snow bank without bogging down and sweep down to the pavement.
Review: Snow Blowers Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, December 2012
Paul Sikkema, editor of snow blower website MovingSnow.com, says the Craftsman 88173 presents the best value because of its price, features and reliable brand reputation. He recommends it for clearing up to 16 inches of snow and for gravel driveways. The powerful motor and innovative chute are his favorite features.
Review: 2014 Craftsman 24 inch 208cc Model 88173 Snow Blower Review, Paul Sikkema, Oct. 2, 2013
The Craftsman 88173 earns an average score of 4.5 stars from about three dozen owners here. Most recommend this snow blower for its beefy performance, excellent handling and easy-starting four-stroke engine. A couple of owners report mechanical issues.
Review: Craftsman 24'' 208cc Dual-Stage Snow Thrower, Contributors to Sears.com, As of October 2013