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We got a foot of snow today..
While a foot of snow is a non-story in Rochester..(it slows the city down for about 5 minutes, but then things are right back to normal..)

a foot of snow does however have a big impact on me personally! ;)
I have a LARGE driveway to shovel!


A storm like this requires over an hour of serious strenuous shoveling to clear the driveway..
its really a bit too much..


This is the third winter in the new house..and its time to get a snowblower..(snow-thrower)

I know next to nothing about them..actually, I have never even used one even once in my life..
I did some reading on-line..
found about about:

electric (no good)

single stage (no good)
double stage (what I need)


any tips or advice?
features to look for?

favorite brands?

I plan to head to the library to look through past issues of Consumer Reports before I buy..which I always like to do..


thanks,
Scot


 

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Sears 2 stage Snow Thrower $729.99 (just the first price I saw, when I did a search, there were others of much higher price).

Divided by the number of uses total before having to have it serviced... Ummm??? 6 times per year? and guessing 3 years between serious (as in $$$) servicing,

Thus 18 uses yielding a cost per use of: $40.55 PLUS gas and oil!

Add the intangables of your time, effort, numb fingers, blood, sweat and tears, etc....

What does it cost to get the kid across the street to do it for you?

I have two different pairs of fellows (adults!) in my neighborhood that are vieing for my dollars and charge me between $15.00 and $20.00 each time to hand shovel a 40-ft sidewalk, 20-ft front walk, 8-ft x 10-ft front porch, 120-ft x 10-ft driveway, 20-ft backwalk, 10-ft x 15-ft deck (and 50-ft of the driveway is between two houses with no place to toss the snow to the side so it has to be carried, or shoveled multiple times ahead, to one end of the houses to be moved off the drive).
 

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Here's mine... works great. Bit pricey but it does the job with a great throw. You can get them cheaper than the retail prices they show on the Toro website.

Whatever you get I recommend 2 essentials...one is a light(unless your driveway is well lit) and the other is an electric start which is handy when the temps are sub zero. Regardless, knowing the storm that's moving through both our areas today a snowblower sure is great.

http://www.toro.com/home/snowthrowers/gastwostage/826LE.html

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Why would it need serious (as in $$$) servicing after only 3 years?
what kind of servicing?

yes, I know they basically have two motors (main rotor plus the impeller, for a 2-stage thrower)
so its more complicated than a lawnmower...but still..are they really that expensive to maintain long term?

I have no neighbor kids to hire..
I could hire a plow service..
but I dont know that cost..seems much more expensive in the long run..
(a quick look on-line shows winter plowing contracts for $200-$300..my driveway is on the larger side for the area..house is set-back from the street further than most..so lets say $300 a year)

im looking to get 10 years at least out of a snowblower..
So thats $70 a year..(not counting gas and maintance or repairs..just the machine..minor repairs I can probably handle myself)
lets say $100 per year over 10 years including gas/maintance..

versus $200-$300 a year for the plowing contract..

I have never heard of snow throwers being particularly troublesome machines..
yes, they are more complicated than a lawnmower..but they also get less use..
 

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At forty something I bought a Craftsman, 24 inch, two-stage, 8 hp snow, electric start, snow blower for $1200 plus tax. The cost should be about 25 percent less in the US.

Three years later I spent $300 to have Sears pick it up, clean the carb, replace the belts and deliver it.

At six years it would have cost $600 pick it up, clean the carb, replace the belts, replace the clutch, and deliver it. No thanks! I sold it and paid a local plow service $250 a year to clean my double driveway.

No more getting up an hour early, freezing my butt off pushing a heavy blower around at 6 AM so we could get out of the driveway. Then have do it again when we arrive home at 7 PM because the city plow had filled it back in. The plow service has it done before I rise, and comes back just after the city plow passes to clean it out before we get home.

No large machine taking up a lot of space in the garage or gas cans to store. As my dad often said, “Nobody ever listens to free advice”. But it is less expensive and far easier to hire a plow service than buy a snow blower.


That little brass thing in the back of the left snow bank is a 5 foot lawn light last March.
 

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Scot,
I have a old Snapper single stage. About 20 years old it just keeps running and running. I just purchased a Ariens two stage for when the city decides to plow in the drive.
 

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I never knew that a 2 stage has two motors, I thought they were one motor with a gearbox with two outputs. I suppose there are both kinds.

My experience with mechanical snow removal equipment is quite limited, I have run one a few times and it was a frustrating experience trying to get the shoot aimed without having to mess with it excessively and getting it to remove snow down to the pavement without throwing rocks and debris all over.

I have seen neighbors...

1) Do an Olympic "hammer throw" to a snowblower (you know, in a total fit, take the handle and spin around and around and let go, tossing the 'blankety-blank' thing across the driveway... I don't know what the world record is, but I doubt if he was a contender)

2) Take a sledge hammer to one, (this guy was just too small to try the Olympic throw),

3) Spend several hours trying to get one started, (this was back when I had good knees and did my own shoveling and I was done before he got it started),

4) Spend several hours trying to get one to restart after getting half of his driveway completed, (another neighbor called the Police on this guy for running the thing at 2:00 AM after he got it started (had to take the muffler off!),

5) Complain about how often he had to have it "repaired", (everything he had, had to be repair often),

6) "Brag" about taking it to the repair shop EVERY year before winter to make sure it works right, ( he often had to have it back to the shop for re-repair after one or two uses),

7) Buy a new one every couple of years (because he just can't live without one)

I have never seen one operate with anything like the reliability of a lawnmower, and I have always figured that to be because lawnmowers don't have to run in sub-zero temperatures.

Given my limited personal experience and what I have seen others do, I just don't see the value in buying one.


Have you ever seen "Red Green"???? Bolt the outhouse door to the front of your truck and plow the driveway with it! Oh wait! Not "bolt"... use Duct Tape.
 

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I'd agree you need to balance out the pro's and cons of doy vs pro's. Around here the pro's will do most driveways for between $20 & $40 a job with a contract for the year. I made the mistake of buying a single stage which has a rubber strip on the single impeller to drag itself along but on gravel and grass or even uneven concrete driveways it's a pain and often I find it less physically demanding to simply use a shovel. My next purchase will be a two stage with a headlight. I love the Honda powered products for longevity. I rented somplace from a lady who had a garden and wanted it tilled up. Since part of my rent was odd jobs i dragged her old Honda tiller out and checked the gas tank it was empty. checked the oil. It was full. Could have used changing though. Checked the spark plug it was fine and looked new. Put fresh gas in it. It fired up on the second pull. I've seen photos of the tracked snowblowers by Honda even. Having run a DR trimmer that is NOT self steering I'd opt for a snowblower that has powered steering. Even if I have to spend more and buy larger than I really need. It's just that much less horsing around.

MY single stage with all it's faults for blowing on surfaces it's not truly made for is still in great shape. I'll pass it on to a friend that will be losing his teenage labor soon and has a much smaller concrete driveway probably next year.

Chas

P.S. Who came into work this morning BEFORE it started snowing and now 13 hours later is finally leaving to go home and deal with this foot of snow and now freezing rain.
 

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For light snows 3 - 5 " single stage are just fine.( I even used it in deeper snow but takes a little longer) I had to replace the scraper bar on the bottom once in 20 years.
 

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My toro single stage is now 17 years old. I've replaced the scapper blade once and the impeller rubber once. A couple of spark plugs and new primer button. That's not many parts for 17 years. I have a concrete driveway about 26 feet wide and 70 feet long. I live in S.W. Michigan about 16 miles inland from Lake Michigan. (Lake effect snow!) The rubber impeller gets right down to the concrete if you catch it before you drive on it. The wife says I'm pretty anal about keeping the drive bare. It's only the small 2 cycle engine, I think 3 1/2 horsepower. Really a little small for my drive way at 26 x 70. I doesn't always blow the snow across the whole drive. That's okay if the wind isn't blowing and you can start down the middle and blow both directions. This morning about 3 inches of heavy granular sleet, frozen rain. I had the driveway done in about 15 minutes. I also can pick this up for the back deck, clear the sidewalks and front porch with it, you can't do that with a two stage.

BUT, I also have a two stage, 4 cycle Huscavarna, 5.5 horsepower for the back driveway. It is a gravel drive and about 200 feet long. I also use it to make paths for the dog and cat so they will go outside once in a while. No repairs in 4 years. Change the oil, drain the gas in the spring, fresh gas in the fall and starts first or second pull everytime. If the snow gets deep I use it to clean the front drive too. At this horsepower I have had no need for an electric start.

I don't think the cold weather is a factor in engine repairs. I use synthetic oil in the engine of the bigger blower. The front auger and impeller each have shear pins to save the drive gears/shafts if you do something like suck up the dog leash. I know that from experience.

If you get as much snow as pictured by Paul I would go with the two stage. They do chew thought the plow piles at the end of the drive!!
 

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With all the folks on health kicks just keep on doing by hand and look at all the good exercise you get plus staying in shape. Also you do not have to worry about something else to store and buy gas for. Later RJD
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks everyone!
good stuff..keep 'em coming! ;)

my driveway is 30 X 65 feet..
but thats 3-lanes..I only clear two in the winter..
so I actually shovel about 20 X 65..

JAmarti,
thats very close to your driveway size!
but I dont think I could get away with a single-stage..
might work fine for 6" and under..but shoveling that much isnt a big deal, because I can push the show all the way across..
its the 1-foot and bigger snows that are the problem..
We get probably five to eight decent 6"-18" snowfalls every winter..
so im pretty sure I would want to go with the 2-stage..
although a single stage would be nice for the deck too...hmmm..

well..im not going to buy two! ;)
so the deck will just have to fend for itself..

thanks,
Scot
 

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I am also retired and keep enough food on hand to last a couple of weeks (or more if I really had to) so I'd agree with you and do the same, but the city has an ordinance that the sidewalk "must be cleared within 48 hours of the beginning of a snow storm" or the city will do it and add the cost to the property tax bill... and city workers are NOT "cheap" (a new snowblower would be cheaper!).

The "48-hours" bit is new this year because there are so many abandoned or unoccupied flood damaged houses in so much of the city that they are trying to be lenient. BUT the 48-hours does not reset of start-over if a second storm comes along within 48 hours of the first one.

The "cleared" definition also changed due to the severity of the ice storms last year... I spent many hours last year breaking up 3 to 6 inches of ice on my sidewalk after five different ice storm. Now, the sidewalk must be passable by a "grandmother"... but it was specifically stated that it is not YOUR grandmother; it is the grandmother of the inspector that comes to check on conplaints and nobody knows which inspector will be sent! Ice is allowed to be on the walk as long as there is some grit on it to make it non-slippery.

Downtown sidewalks will actually be inspected, but residential areas will be inspected only if they receive a complaint.

And I know of no snowblower that would work on the ice we had last year

.
 

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I bought mine after the snow season was over. 30 per cent off!!

So, I have a 8 horse 2 stage for approx. $500.00 with electric start!!

Compared to a plow service, I can do my side walks, and go through gates to get to my shed. Shoveling all I have would be at least $50 a storm. Plow service would be $30 for just my driveway.

Plus, I do not mind doing the snow removal myself.
 

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Ottawa normally does not receive a lot of snow, winter is just bitterly cold. But when it does snow, it may snow a good little bit and a half dozen 25 cm (10 inches) or more snowfalls per year are not uncommon. Paul's pic taken last winter gives a good idea of what a snowy Ottawa winter will look like when the snow never melts but just accumulates. Most storms pass south of us ie right through upstate New York where Scot lives and they get lots more snow than the Ottawa Valley.

My driveway is on a grade and is long ... over 100 feet ... so I have a contract with a local farmer to blow it out. He comes on average about 10 times over the course of the winter (16 times in last year's snow!). I would guess that Scot's estimate of 5-8 snowplows per season is way too low for snowbelt country and that perhaps 20 would be a better guess.

In that scenario, for a 65 foot driveway, the benefit would likely swing toward blowing it out yourself. But that depends on the value you place on staying in bed as opposed to being out blowing snow at 530 am when it is -20 outside. My advice would be a 2 stage blower with electric start, a headlight, and (after you have snow blown in your face) you will add a snow shield of some sort. I personally would not buy a Sears but would lean toward a Toro, Husquana or one of the farm equipment suppliers but that is simply my own prejudice.

There is no reason why a tuned up snowblower should give trouble especially with an electric start. Most of the folks I see with snowblower problems leave their machine outside under a tarp year round ... and never add any stabilizer to the gas ... or run the gas from the carb at the end of a season ... or clean/regap plugs etc etc.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Hi Scot


From experience (across the lake from you) if you buy the biggest most powerful snowblower you can afford, there will still be days when you wish you had gone bigger. So go for something substantial and you won't constantly wish you were paying someone to do it for you. I actually enjoy running my old-school 10 horse Tecumseh-powered beast (27 inch - two-stage). Kind of a Tim the Tool Man thing.

Make sure you put chains on the tires. Store it in a nice dry place and you should have few maintenance issues.




Cheers...
 

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Careful!

My dad hated winter.

One year he bought a snowblower.

The first big snow we had, he snowblowed the driveway. The turnaround. The sidewalk. The sidewalk around back that we never used. The neighbor's sidewalk. The neighbor's driveway. The sidewalk down to.....

"Have fun?"

"Na. Hate winter."
 

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I've got a Troy 8HP tiller that's outfitted with an adjustable plow blade about 30 inches wide. I bought it 2nd hand about 15 years ago. It came with tire chains! Put a new motor in it a couple of years ago after I blew the old one up (Tecumseh -- no loss!) It goes a great job as long as I'm plowing less than 8 inches at a pass. Our township has a 24 hour limit on the sidewalk plowing. Since we live in suburbia, there's no actual requirement to even have a sidewalk. If they ever give me any crap about being late with the plowing the sidewalk is going to get jackhammered and replaced with grass. (That'll teach them to mess with a crumudgeon!)

My dad had a Sears snowblower that was new in 1980-something and still works today with minimal fussing. Don't make things like they used to.
 
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