Experts and owners say a blend of performance and value make the Craftsman 88173 the best two-stage gas snow blower. The four-stroke engine and steel auger are burly enough to clear the largest snow accumulations. Unlike single-stage snow blowers, it works well with gravel driveways. Handling is decent, and this Craftsman model is called well balanced, but the lack of any kind of power assist can make turning harder than with some other snow blowers.
Tough turns but easy otherwise. If the Craftsman 88173 has an Achilles heel it is that it lacks any kind of steering assistance, meaning you will need to put your back into turning the snow blower. Despite that, Paul Sikkema at MovingSnow.com says that most should be able to handle this snow thrower with little trouble. Otherwise, ease of use rates well. There's an electric starter to ensure that the machine fires up quickly and reliably, even in cold weather. Sikkema raves about the redesigned EZ Chute control, which lets you change the direction of the snow ejection chute on the fly. He calls it "one of the easiest and fastest to use." He also likes the longer than typical chute, which blows the snow farther and makes it less likely that some will blow back into your face. 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 considered a compact two-stage snow blower, but it sports a 208 cc four-stroke engine powerful enough to tear through berms packed by a snowplow. Sikkema says the motor has "way more power than you will ever need on a 24 inch snow blower." Some users agree that it can be overkill, but others say the power is just what's needed to handle any amount of snow (up to nearly two feet) and type -- from light powder drifts to heavy, dense-packed snow piles -- with ease. One comprehensive test rates it very good or better in all snow-removal tasks.
Quality machine at a good price. Though its list price is higher, the Craftsman 88173 is often available for $700 or less, making it a great value in the eyes of all the experts that have reviewed it. Most owners agree. Sikkema also names Craftsman's "service and parts availability" a factor in his calling it "one of the best value snow blowers." Few owners mention how long the 88173 lasts, but many call it durable and well-built, and add that Craftsman provides excellent customer support. The 88173 is covered by a two-year warranty.
As part of its snow blower report, ConsumerReports.org editors review the Craftsman 88173 alongside other compact two-stage gas snow blowers. Testing is comprehensive, and looks at how well the snow thrower handles different types of snow removal tasks.
Review: Craftsman 88173, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Paul Sikkema, owner 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 anyone who typically gets as much as 16-inches of snow at a time, and notes that it can clear drifts of up to two feet. The powerful motor and innovative chute control are his favorite features. He also likes the long and durable polymer chute, saying that it "has proven just about indestructible."
Review: 2014 Craftsman 24 inch 208cc Model 88173 Snow Blower Review, Paul Sikkema, Sept. 2, 2014
The Craftsman 88173 earns an average score of 4.5 stars from more than 150 owners here, earning it the site's Buyer's Pick designation. Most recommend this snow blower for its beefy performance, excellent handling and easy-starting four-stroke engine. A few owners report mechanical issues.
Review: Craftsman 24'' 208cc Dual-Stage Snow Thrower, Contributors to Sears.com, As of October 2014