Oct. 26, 2011 at 10:27 AM ET
Depending on how you look at it, shoveling snow can be a good way to get out of the house and get some exercise or a good way to strain your back and freeze your bum off. If you tend toward the latter, you can make the job quicker and easier by picking up an electric snow shovel for as little as $100. With high-end snow blowers commanding a few thousand dollars, even $500 is a bargain for a model bearing a name like Toro or Craftsman.
Low-cost snow blowers -- or snow throwers, as they’re also known -- can rid the average driveway, walkway, deck, or patio of up to eight inches of snow. Unlike pricey, two-stage snow blowers, which have an impeller to hurl the snow, models in this price range use an auger not only to churn up the snow but also to throw it and help propel the machine along. The augers on these snow blowers graze the ground, making them suitable for smooth surfaces such as a paved driveway but not for rougher ground.
Electric models have many advantages over their gas counterparts. They’re cheaper, lighter, quieter, and easier to start and maintain. However, a gas-powered snow blower can handle a larger space and isn’t restricted by a cord. Choose one with push-button electric start to avoid the sometimes strenuous pull-cord start.
Power is typically listed in amps for an electric motor and cc’s for a gas snow blower. No matter what the measure, the higher the number, the more powerful the machine. A larger snow blower that cuts a wider clearing path can finish the job faster. The intake should be at least two inches higher than the snow, so note that number if you live somewhere that sees deep snowfalls. (Meteorologists at AccuWeather.com predict that winter will hit the Midwest particularly hard this year.) Look for a model that can throw snow at least half the width of your driveway (or the widest area you need to clear). An adjustable chute lets you aim the flying snow.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable snow blowers.
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