Great control, but some concerns. The Craftsman 88691 gets great expert ratings for its controls, particularly the single-lever chute adjustment. Owners say it also starts reliably, and they appreciate how easy it is to maneuver -- even on inclines -- thanks to its one-handed operation and power-steering system. As one Sears.com reviewer says, "The steering on this thing is incredible. My driveway is on a hill and this machine rides up and down it very fast." On the downside, the 88691 is quite noisy, so hearing protection is recommended.
However, some reviews complain about problems with new machines. For example, one had a transmission problem when purchased, and on another the joystick chute control is "constantly coming loose and makes it a pain to mess with the chute. I was told it was a design flaw." Another owner warns that after just one season and proper storage, "the engine and carburetor are rusted out so bad that it's a total loss." One poster says he spent almost $500 to replace a seized drive shaft, and needs to replace the carburetor as well after just three years. "It has never run properly from day one, and the Sears repairman…just kind of shrugged."
Short chute limits throwing range. Experts say the Craftsman 88691 works fast and does a good job of clearing snow, but doesn't throw it far because of its relatively short chute. However, most users find the chute to be adequate. One comments on Sears.com, "It throws the snow far enough so that I don't have to reblow it several times."
Paul Sikkema of MovingSnow.com says, "It handles occasional 12 inch and deeper snow falls," and advises using a lower gear for "the heavy stuff" and higher gears for light snow. He adds that the Craftsman 88691 will "easily handle 9 inches or more snow on a three-car drive 80 to 100 feet long." Users generally agree, saying there's no problem using this model in heavy or wet snow. A Minnesota-based reviewer says on Sears.com: "With my old snow thrower I often had to use a shovel when I got into some slushy snow, but I have been able to get through that slush with this machine. I did have to stop to clear the chute a couple of times, but still it did the job without having to resort to a shovel."
Clears fast and well -- if it works. Most reviewers agree that the Craftsman 88691 easily handles heavy, wet snow and berms, although its short chute limits how far it can send the snow. Owners love the power steering system, which makes maneuverability a breeze in all conditions. However, a significant number of users complain about blowers that never function properly from day one, or other problems including loose chute controls and sometimes complete failure after just a couple of years. For a similarly sized model with a more solid reputation, the Ariens Deluxe 28 (*Est. $1,100) is hard to beat.
Excellent The Craftsman 88691 isn't tested in this comparative review, but a very similar model is evaluated and the 88691 is projected to respond similarly. Detailed ratings and rankings are offered in categories including snow removal speed, handling and throwing distance.
Review: Snow Blowers Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of September 2012
Good Sikkema has spent years working with and on snow blowers. He praises the Craftsman 88691 as "a great snow thrower at a 'value' price."
Review: Craftsman 88691 (2013 model) Review (26") 208cc Two-Stage Snow Blower: The Perfect Snow Thrower?, Paul Sikkema, Sept. 19, 2012
Good Sears.com and Sears stores are the only places to buy Craftsman products. Nearly 80 users give the 88691 4 stars out of 5, along with a number of scattered complaints.
Review: Craftsman 26" 208cc Dual-Stage Snowblower w/ EZ Steer, Contributors to Sears.com, As of September 2012