First, you want to look for the overall weight and dimensions. This is huge, because not all of us have massive unused storage sheds, and storing this when not in use can be a real concern for many people. The dimensions may not always include the size when it’s fully extended (such as the handles if they are collapsible), so be sure to look at user reviews and user submitted photographs to ensure it’s not going to be too big.
Next, you want to look at the thickness of the actual blades. These need to be replaced every few years, no matter how good they are, but thicker blades may last for three to four years, at only 1.25x the replacement cost of standard sized blades. This can be huge if you’re snowblowing every single year, and want to maintain maximum power to cut through all that powder.
Power steering is a great feature, and while it’s included in many two-stage snowblowers, it’s still something that you need to actually identify. Don’t go under the assumption that a two-stage automatically has power steering. This can help you use it one-handed for difficult areas or while multitasking, and makes pushing it a much smoother, more glide-friendly process.
On that note, another feature that will increase your handling is a joystick. Not like old game consoles, this joystick sits in the middle of the handlebar, and can control the pitch and rotation of your chute while helping you steer one-handed. This is a major tool to make sure you aren’t hurling chunks of ice at your car, house or other things in your front lawn that can be easily damaged. Changing the rotation on your chute is a basic function, but no two chutes are created equal, bringing us into our next piece of information.
Chute height matters, plain and simple. The taller the height, the more control you’re going to have. Nothing is worse than a stubby chute that hurls snow in a powdery mess without any control. Taller chutes usually come with more controlled chute spouts, meaning you can minimize the diameter at which the snow comes out. The goal is to create a snow bank if possible, not simply spread it all over a different area of the yard.
The chute material also matters. Often times, steel chutes can actually rust far before a plastic chute would break, which is why we recommend going with plastic when available. They’re designed to withstand the vibrations from the motor, while dually propelling high volume amounts of snow, and therefore are built to last. There’s nothing wrong with steel if it’s the only option, just be sure to dry it off during storage so you don’t end up finding rust the next time you open the shed doors.
Headlights are a major bonus if you work early in the morning. This is usually a premium or add-on feature, but it can help you avoid throwing snow on your neighbor’s car, your car, or in the path of mail carriers and package delivery personnel. The headlights are often about 300 lumens, meaning they’re not going to shine through your neighbor’s windows and wake them up. Even though using a snowblower that early in the morning can be loud and aggravate neighbors, you have to get to work one way or another, and the headlights will be a big bonus.
When it comes to tires, you want to stick with airless. These provide better traction, because it’s solid, corrugated plastic or rubber against the snow and ice. Getting a flat tire while snowblowing just sounds silly, and usually means you can’t use it. We should add that replacement costs on air-filled snowblower tires can be extremely expensive, and not to mention inconvenient if you didn’t order one ahead of time.
Last but not least, electric starters are optimal so that you aren’t leaning down and hurting your back on startup. No more pulling lawn mower-style ripcords and damaging your shoulders, or getting that sore lower lumbar.