Best Gas Single-Stage Snow Blower
Lately it seems like every year the old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting bigger, deeper, and more frequent snow storms. I don’t know how much stock put into the Farmer’s Almanac, but one thing is for sure: if you live in one of the colder parts of the United States, sooner or later it is going to start snowing, and when it does, you want to be prepared. And as any of us know, a lot of preparation goes into getting ready for what winter has to bring. We have to winterize our home, get the storm windows installed, make sure the central heating is ready to go, and pull the heavy comforters and quilts out of the closet.
There is a lot of work to do in the yard, too: you have to get your vegetables beds ready for the winter by mulching or planting a cover crop and getting cold frames put in over those late fall vegetables. And if like me you have an average sized driveway and walkways to keep clear of snow all winter long, you had better make sure you have a solid snow blower in your garage.
I gave up on clearing snow from my driveway with a shovel years ago. It does not matter if you are a young person or if you are getting on in years: trying to shovel out a long driveway that is buried under several inches of snow in subzero temperatures is a lot of work and no fun at all. I can’t count the times I used to finish shoveling out my driveway and sidewalks and come into the house without being able to feel my nose. And once I did get warmed up and thawed out, all I had to look forward to was aching shoulders and a sore back for the next few days.
As some point I decided that I had had enough of that, and I bought my first snow blower. I will admit that I had no idea what to look for – back then there was no Internet that you could use to quickly look up a dozen different types of snow blowers and learn all about the various kinds available. My first snow blower was a little, cheap thing that was nothing like what I have in my garage now. But wow, what a difference it made! Even with that small snow blower, I was able to clear my entire driveway and sidewalks in less than half the time it used to take me with a shovel. And when I was done, my back and shoulders felt great. I was hooked, and I have not picked up a snow shovel since, although I have upgraded my snow blower.
Since then, I have learned a lot about single-stage snow blowers, and now I know exactly what characteristics you need to know about in order to find the best model out there. It can seem like there is a lot to keep track of – I sure remember that feeling – but there are a few basic things to look for to make sure you are getting the best single-stage snow blower available.
1. Best Gas Single-Stage Snow Blower Characteristics
1a. Wide Clearance
The first characteristic that is going to make a single-stage snow blower great is the width of its clearance. This is arguably one of the most important things to take into consideration when you are shopping for a new snow blower, single-stage or otherwise. It’s pretty clear why this is the case: the clearance width on the snow blower is going to determine how many passes it takes to finish clearing your driveway or any other area. The fewer passes you have to make in order to get the snow off the driveway, the less time you are going to have to spend out in the cold and wind.
And that is really the whole point – or most of it, anyway. Clearing snow by hand with a shovel seems to take forever, and once you are finished, your fingers are cold, your face is frozen, and you are going to need the hot water bottle and some aspirin for your back. Not only that, but half your morning is probably gone. With a single stage snow blower, you can get the job done quickly – but exactly how quickly is entirely dependent on the blower’s clearance width.
One of the advantages of gas powered single-stage snow blowers is the fact that they are able to support considerably wider clearances than electric models can, and that is one of the main reasons so many consumers keep opting for them. Gas single-stage snow blowers have a range of clearance widths between about 16 and 22 inches. If you want the best gas single-stage snow blower, go big or go home: given an option, you should almost always go for the larger model.
Gas single-stage snow blowers with clearance s at the highest end of the range are going to be able to clear your driveway in two third of the time it takes snow blowers at the low end. Let that sink in for a moment. You can see why it makes sense to go big: if a sixteen inch snow blower can clear your driveway in thirty minutes, a 24 inch snow blower will finish the job in twenty. When the wind chill is below zero and temperatures are dropping fast, those extra ten minutes can often mean the difference between whether or not your nose starts to get frostbite. So: get the snow blower with the widest clearance you can find.
1b. Snow Cut Depth
The next characteristic that is going to determine whether or not a gas single-stage snow blower is one of the best on the market is how high its snow cut depth is. The snow cut depth is the height of the snow blower’s intake, and if it is not high enough, you will not be able to take on deep snow fall. Even if you live in a region of the United States that typically experiences rather moderate snow fall – less than six inches or so – I’m sure that every once in a while your area does get a serious blizzard, even if it is once every few years. (If you live in a region that routinely experiences very heavy snow fall – more than a foot and a half – you may want to take a look at two-stage snow blowers.) And when that blizzard does arrive, you are going to want a snow blower in your garage that can handle it.
As with clearance widths, the advantage gas powered single-stage snow blowers have over electric ones is that they can support much higher snow cut depths. Gas single-stage snow blowers’ snow cut depths fall into a range from about ten to sixteen inches. This is a really good range, as you can see – but just like clearance width, if you want the best single-stage snow blower, you should go for the one with the highest snow cut depth.
It doesn’t matter if your region rarely gets more than six or eight inches at a time. Even if blizzards are not all that common in your area, what is going to happen if you are out of town for a week and it snows on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday? You are going to be faced with a serious accumulation of snow in your driveway, and a snow blower with an eight inch snow cut depth is not going to be able to clear it for you. Then you are stuck knocking down drifts with a shovel – and your snow blower will be sitting in the garage, useless until you get snow to a depth that is manageable for it.
So take my advice: the number two characteristic of the best gas two-stage snow blower is an extra high snow cut depth. Literally half the reason for buying a gas powered one is because it can support a high intake. So you might as well get the highest.
1c. Powerful Engine
Now, by narrowing down your search for the best gas single-stage snow blower to those that have the widest clearances and the highest snow cut depths, you should be able to get a fairly short list. But all of that height and width is not going to be any good if there is not a pretty powerful engine supporting the auger. Snow can get heavy quickly, and if you are clearing twelve inches or more it is going to take a lot of work to throw it thirty feet. This is especially true with single-stage snow blowers, in which the auger is doing all of the heavy lifting by itself. So you can see why having an engine that can back it up is really important if you truly want the best gas single-stage snow blower.
There are a number of things you should look for in the engine to make sure you are getting the best one in your price range. First of all, take a look at who the manufacturer is. If the engine is made by the same company that designed the snow blower, this is usually a good sign, because it means it was specifically manufactured for that snow blower’s product specs. If it is made by an outside company, it should be one of the better names in the business. This includes Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, and Honda.
Familiarizing yourself with engine specs is a good way to be able to quickly and accurately determine whether a particular model has the kind of power you need. The big three engine specs are horsepower, displacement, and torque. Most of us are familiar with horsepower: on the best gas two-stage snow blowers, it will be around six HP. But pretty much anything above 4.5 HP is going to be pretty powerful.
Displacement is the volume the engine’s pistons are sweeping on each cycle, and it is another good indicator of power. Displacement is measured in cubic centimeters (cc), and the best single-stage snow blowers will have at least 120 cc. Torque measures the angular force the engine is supplying, and is measured in foot-pounds. The more torque the snow blower has, the better it will perform overall. So: make sure the snow blower is made by a trusted manufacturer, has the best HP, highest displacement and torque, and you can be sure you will be able to depend on it.
1d. Quality Parts
Okay, now you have the three main characteristics of the best gas single-stage snow blower down. A machine with a powerful engine, high snow cut depth and wide clearance is going to be all but guaranteed to easily take care of a big driveway with deep snow fall without breaking a sweat. But what you should be asking yourself at this point is, will this snow blower hold up over the long term?
It is not enough to just have the widest intake and a powerful engine under the hood. To make sure a particular model is the very best gas single-stage snow blower in your price range, it has to have solid parts and manufacturing to ensure that it will be able to take the rigors of repeated use under tough conditions. You do not want to do all of the work of sifting through all of the options out there, and spend good money on a big snow blower with a high quality engine, just to have it break down on you in a few years. That snow blower has to be tough if can truly be called one of the best. Not only that: the quality and durability of its general components is an indicator of the overall excellence of the entire machine. So it is important to pay attention to it.
Without exception, the best gas single-stage snow blower should be made of steel components. The auger should be made of tough, high gauge steel that has been treated to make it hardened. The auger is doing all the work, and it is most at risk of coming into contact with hidden rocks or bumps, so it needs to be tough. Even better is if the steel auger has rubber tips or some other composite coating that will help protect the surface of your driveway from dings or scratches.
The body of the snow blower should likewise be made of steel. Stamped steel is good; welded steel is better. Steel will hold up to dings and dents, and protect the internal components of the machine much better. Snow chutes are usually made of plastic, but the best snow blowers either have durable composite plastic chutes or stamped steel chutes. A tough chute is important because it will be less likely that it will crack if a stray rock or pebble accidentally gets thrown through it by the auger.
1e. Other Considerations
At this point you should have a pretty short list of snow blowers to choose from: machines with durable parts, powerful engines and large intakes that can make short work of whatever Old Man Winter can bring your way. But if you want to be certain you are truly getting the best gas single-stage snow blower in your price range, in the end it is going to come down to the small things: little details and accessories that will truly give you an excellent experience clearing snow.
The size and weight of the snow blower are an important thing to look at. While single stage snow blowers with wide clearances and big engines are going to be somewhat heavy and have large footprints, there is a limit to how big and heavy they should be. You do not want a machine that is too heavy to operate or so wide that you can’t find space for it in your garage. The overall dimensions of the snow blower should not be larger than the clearance width, and there is no reason the machine should weigh more than eighty pounds or so.
The controls should be easy to use. Many snow blowers have manual chutes that you have to turn by hand: the best gas single stage snow blowers will have a crank so you can do it from the rear of the machine. Steering and engaging the auger should be easy to get used to, and there should be safety features like a dead man’s switch and a child safety lock. The snow blower should have an electric starter so you do not have to prime the engine and pull a heavy ripcord to get it going.
Accessories such as headlights are really useful to have, since there will be times when you have to clear the driveway early in the morning before you can get your car out of the driveway to go to work. On dark winter days, you want to be able to see what you’re doing. And speaking of early mornings, try to find a snow blower that does not have a particularly loud engine – you do not want to be waking up your neighbors if you can help it. If possible, make sure the engine has high fuel efficiency and is CARB-compliant so you are not producing too many emissions. If you can find a model that has all or most of these characteristics, then it will truly be one of the best gas single-stage snow blowers out there!
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