Draws praise for excellent controls. The Craftsman 88970 doesn't have power steering, a headlight or heated handgrips. Even so, reviewers love its electric starter and the four-way joystick that lets you control the discharge chute without stopping the blower. An independent research organization awards the 88970 the highest score possible for its controls, and it draws kudos from Paul Sikkema of MovingSnow.com. Users appreciate the controls, too, but say the chute won't stay to the extreme left or right on its own.
Despite the 88970's lack of power steering, owners say they have no trouble turning it. "Forward and reverse gears for the wheels make going uphill a breeze," posts one at Sears.com. Sikkema agrees, saying that "good tires and good balance make this snow blower easy to operate." The Craftsman 88970 is self-propelled, with six forward speeds and two reverse gears. One-handed controls mean you can use your free hand for steering or adjusting the chute.
Although many owners love their Craftsman 88970 snow blowers, several recent reviews indicate problems, mostly with the Chinese-made engines. Users report that the engine either fails, or leaks oil right away and fails later. "Don't bother," warns one unhappy consumer. "Bought this snow blower 4 years ago and now the engine is shot. Worked great through most of last year until the gears started slipping."
Can handle anything given enough time. Experts say the Craftsman 88970 can clear 6 to 12 inches of snow quickly and deeper snow more slowly, and can handle the thick piles left behind by snowplows. It gets high marks for how well it cleans down to the surface. One owner writes on Sears.com, "Cuts through snow like butter and the 26-inch path means only one trip down the sidewalks. It works great even after the county trucks have added an extra foot of heavy, wet snow." He adds that the 88970 works flawlessly "every time" on 4 to 12 inches of snow, and several owners say it throws snow as far as 25 feet.
The 88970 is also fairly fuel-efficient; one Sears.com reviewer reports clearing "four very large driveways and a city block of sidewalks on a tank of gas." Experts like how quickly it moves snow, and owners agree: "I was able to clear my 100-foot, two-car-wide driveway in approximately 15-20 minutes, this is including what the plow left at the bottom of my driveway," says one. The 88970 is very loud, so hearing protection is strongly recommended.
Perfect for those not-too-big, not-too-small jobs. The two-stage, gas-powered Craftsman 88970 is light on features, but very easy to operate. It'll chew through almost any snow accumulation -- if you're patient about it. However, concerns about engine problems keep it from being a top pick.
Excellent The Craftsman 88970 is among 29 26-to-30-inch gas snow blowers tested by ConsumerReports.org for its latest rankings. Comparative ratings are shown in a chart that's available to subscribers.
Review: Snow Blowers Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of September 2012
Very good In this comparative review, Sikkema evaluates five MTD-manufactured snow blowers with 26-inch clearing paths that are sold under different brands. Criteria include engine size, price, chute control, skids and warranty. He says the Cub Cadet and the Craftsman have the best features, but the Craftsman is the best value. It also wins out on the availability of parts and service, and for its optional three- or five-year full protection plans.
Review: 2011 Craftsman, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt, Yardman, MTD Pro, Yard-Machines, Craftsman/MD Snow Blowers What's the Difference?, Paul Sikkema, Oct. 22, 2011
Good In this single-product review, Sikkema gives the Craftsman 88970 high marks, saying it's "a medium-sized snow thrower with a well-matched motor and all the basic features you need. The four-way chute makes it easy to operate and control where the snow goes." He also calls it a very good value for the price.
Review: 2011 Craftsman 26 Inch 208cc Snow Thrower Model 88970 Review, Paul Sikkema, Aug. 20, 2011
Good More than 110 owners rate and review the Craftsman 88970 here, giving it an average score of 4 out of 5 stars. The only negative comments come from owners who wish the blower included a headlight, and a few who say they received a defective unit.
Review: Craftsman 26" 208cc Dual-Stage Snowblower, Contributors to Sears.com, As of September 2012