Like the best-reviewed Toro Power Clear 621 QZE (*Est. $770), single-stage gas snow blowers excel at scraping flat, hard surfaces completely clear of snow. Using one's surface-scraping auger over loose objects and uneven surfaces could damage it, or project debris like missiles.
The Power Clear 621 QZE stands out for not only cleaning 8 to 10 inches of snow right down to the pavement but also powering through berms and doing it quickly. Experts and owners say this 89-pound blower is easy to assemble and handle, and has great controls for adjusting the chute remotely. In contrast, the Cub Cadet 221 LHP (*Est. $650) is harder to assemble and draws owner concerns for an auger that sometimes rubs against the machine or doesn't quite pick up all the snow.
Another Toro model, the Power Clear 180 (*Est. $400), becomes more easily mired in deep or wet snow. It also suffers from persistent issues with the carburetor, prompting a 2010 recall that, according to owner reviews, hasn't exactly resolved the problem. Finally, the Craftsman 88780 (*Est. $500) draws mixed reviews for its ability to handle snow deeper than about 6 inches. Owners say heavy snow slows the machine down significantly, and they don't like having to stop and adjust the chute manually every time they want to blow snow in a different direction.
When it comes to a snow blower that can handle the more complicated task of clearing gravel driveways, reviewers point to the Ariens brand. Owners appreciate that these machines are made in the U.S., and this brand dominates the ranking for two-stage blowers because they clear snow effectively and reliably. The numbers in Ariens snow blowers' monikers refer to the width of their clearing paths, and experts say the Deluxe 28 (*Est. $1,100) offers the best balance of features and powerful clearing performance for any type of snow, on any surface. It's followed closely by the Deluxe 30 (*Est. $1,400), which clears a slightly wider path.
The Ariens Platinum 30 (*Est. $1,650) is similarly powerful but comes with higher-end features such as built-in hand warmers and automatic traction control, although owners have mixed opinions about the latter. Two smaller models, the Compact 22 (*Est. $770) and Compact 24 (*Est. $900), offer excellent snow-clearing power and easier handling in close quarters.
Also produced by Ariens is the Sno-Tek 24E (*Est. $700). Reviews say it can handle all snow conditions, but we found some complaints about rust on the blower's body or skid feet, and owners say it can take some effort to turn.
The Craftsman 88957 (*Est. $650), 88691 (*Est. $860) and 88970 (*Est. $760) are generally less expensive than comparable Ariens snow blowers and can handle moderate snowfalls well. Thick snow, on the other hand, slows them down, and owners note concerns about quality control and pricey replacement parts. The Troy-Bilt Storm 3090XP (*Est. $1,100) is basically the same blower as the Craftsman Professional 88830 (*Est. $1,100); both are powerful, fast and easy to maneuver, and come with luxury features such as power steering and heated handgrips. Quality-control concerns pop up in reviews, however, particularly with the Craftsman version. Lastly, the Cub Cadet 526SWE (*Est. $1,000) powers through snow, but is criticized for design flaws like a headlight that's obscured by the discharge chute.