Two-stage gas snow throwers have even more power, and can clear between 8 and 16 inches of snow. These heavier, self-propelled blowers handle driveways on an incline, uneven surfaces and deeper, wetter snow. Unlike single-stage augers, two-stage auger blades don't touch the plowing surface, so this blower can be used on gravel and other loose-surface driveways. As a result, a thin layer of snow is left behind. Most consumer-grade, two-stage gas snow blowers have clearing paths that range from 21 to 31 inches wide.
The Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP is a reviewer favorite in this category. Its 357cc, four-cycle engine is powerful, and features such as power steering, heated handgrips and a headlight add to its ease of operation. With a 30-inch clearing width, 21-inch intake height and 12-inch serrated steel auger, the Storm 3090 XP easily moves through deep snow, experts say. It also has six forward and two reverse speeds, as well as one-handed operation -- you can engage both the drive wheels and the auger/impeller with one hand. Your other hand remains free to adjust the direction and angle of the discharge chute using the joystick control without having to stop the machine.
The Craftsman Pro 88830 is essentially a rebranded version of the Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP; both are manufactured by MTD. Reviewer Paul Sikkema at MovingSnow.com says the only difference he could find is that the 88830 has drift cutters, which you can buy for $25. He names both snow blowers best buys based on an analysis of their features. Both are covered by two-year warranties and are included in the latest ConsumerReports.org ratings, although the Craftsman is evaluated based on its similarity to the tested Troy-Bilt. Two other MTD-made 30-inch, two-stage gas blowers are also rated based on their similarity to the Storm 3090 XP: the Yard Machines 31AH65FH and the MTD Pro 331AH65FH .
Experts say the Ariens Deluxe 28 is a great snow blower for the money. It doesn't have heated handgrips or power steering, but it features an electric start, a headlight, a 14-inch auger and a three-year warranty. Moreover, reviewers say its 250cc Briggs & Stratton engine gives it great snow-removal power. It can throw snow up to 50 feet and tackle piled-up snow left by plows at the end of your driveway; one owner says he even uses it on his lawn to clear paths for his dogs. The Ariens Deluxe 28 has a 28-inch clearing width and a 21-inch intake height.
If you're on a budget, the smaller Craftsman 88957 features a 179cc engine, a 24-inch clearing width, one-handed operation and a 12-inch serrated auger. Like other Craftsman snow blowers, it has six forward and two reverse speeds, plus an electric push-button starter. There's no power steering, however, and a headlight is optional. MovingSnow.com's Paul Sikkema says the 88957 "is a great, basic, reliable machine. It is just the right size for single- and two-car driveways up to 80 feet long."
The slightly more powerful Craftsman 88970 is also called a good value by experts, and it gets excellent ratings from more than 95 owners at Sears.com. This blower has a 26-inch clearing path, a 208cc engine, electric start and single-handed operation with four-way joystick chute control. Sears classifies it as a "medium use" blower and MovingSnow.com agrees. Paul Sikkema writes: "You should seriously consider this machine if you regularly blow more than 3 to 6 inches of snow on driveways in the 16-by-80-feet range." The Craftsman 88970 is also tested and rated by ConsumerReports.org.
Another well-reviewed blower is the Ariens Sno-Thro Compact series, which includes the Compact 22 and the Compact 24 . The Compact 22 has a 208cc Ariens engine, a clearing width of 22 inches and an intake height of 20 inches. It can throw snow up to 40 feet. Features include an electric starter, a halogen headlight, joystick chute control and single-hand operation. Ariens snow blowers are covered by a three-year warranty.