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Thinking about purchasing a snow thrower (a.k.a. snow blower)?


Living in Northeast US definitely has nice privileges. Fresh flowers blooming in Spring, hot beach weather during Summer, pretty fall foliage, and white snow…wait, back up. Snow?! I used to like snow until I bought a house with an 80 ft long gravel driveway with a “helipad” parking lot in the rear!

I shoveled for over 7 years and when my old but trusty, ergonomically shaped snow shovel broke, I figured it was a sign that I should upgrade and get myself a snow blower. The following article describes how I researched and finally bought a John Deere 1330SE snow blower.

Consideration # 1- Quality

Snowblower quality is a tough question to answer as it largely depends on the time period. From the 60’s forward there have been many companies come and go. There has been lots of consolidations and buyouts of snowblower manufacturers. Quality has changed considerably. There is a great deal of labeling so take a peak at the makers section of the first page.

Generally, Snapper, Ariens, and almost Toro and Simplicity are top quality throughout the years. Snapper and Ariens been consistent but Ariens has gone for mass sales and makes lesser models. Their top of the line models are quality. Ariens lesser models better than snowblowers made by MTD, AYP and at pretty much on par with Toro. Toro has slipped in recent years but their older models very good. The bottom of the line Ariens are on par with most machines.

MTD snowblowers are generally below the better makes and noticeably so. The metal is lighter, gear and drives not the best but with proper use an MTD machine can easily last many years. BUT – MTD makes a decent machine for the money.

Honda – at the top, alone at the top and in it’s own price class also. BUT they are worth the money.

Features that make a quality difference

Auger gearbox

The auger blades are driven by the impeller drive shaft which goes into the auger gearbox. The auger gearbox contains a shaft worm drive gear and helical gear which drive the auger blades are important.

The gears use by the better makers are large and strong, Snapper, Simplicity, Ariens and close Toro. MTD and AYP products gears are smaller. The gears used by the lesser makers although not the quality of the best makes are sufficient that with care can last many years.

There are lots of 20 year old MTD and Craftsman snowblowers around and some 30 years old. The quality back then was a bit better. Still, more recent builds are not as robust. Ariens makes several versions of most models and the quality between models is pretty big and the price also. One important difference is the auger gear case.

The higher quality models have a big steel gear case with large gears on roller bearings. The lesser models have a thin aluminum housing, small gears and are just bearings not roller bearings.

The lesser gear cases by Ariens are still better than most manufacturers of lesser quality.

Check for slop in auger gear case

Turn the impeller blades and see how much play there is before the auger blades move. If the impeller shaft lifts noticeably when the blades are turned then pass on the snowblower. There’s too much wear to take a chance on a purchase.

Robustness of the auger blades

Companies are coming out with thinner and thinner auger blades. Hitting a rock, branch now and then is expected and should not permanently damage the augers. These days the augers are less robust and bend. Auger blades are held on with pins that should shear when something is hit.

Thickness of metal used

Banging on the intake housing will give you and idea of how much metal or how solid the machine is. The older machines had fantastic paint, quality metal and a lot of it. Many older machines from the mid-60’s through the early 80’s will outlast machines made today.

Quality of paint

Scrapes inside the blower housing are expected. Depending on the type of area the snowblower cleared there may or may not be paint removed inside the bucket and impeller.

Snowblowers pickup dirt and stones so get scrapped on the inside. Some people clear stone driveways and catch lots of rocks. Scraping and internal rust is not important provided it’s surface rust. There are many 20-30 year old snowblowers around with quite a bit of rust. The metal used then was quality and the parts all still solid. Newer machines with rust could be a problem. Many have surface rust which is not a big deal but deep rust or heavy bubbling under the paint is an issue. If the rust is not deep, the metal still strong then it’s not critical. Rust inhibitor like Must for Rust can be applied and Rust-Oleum over that for protection.


Tecumseh used to be THE engine maker but since 2010’s, most snowblower engines are made by Briggs. The Tecumsehs and Briggs are great engines and given proper maintenance and use will last 20 years easily. M

otors wear and will loose their compression. Rings and valves wear so the older motors will not perform as well as new engines. But the old motors will still toss snow and far but not at far as a new motor. Most peoples requirements can be met by a second hand snowblower with an older motor. Many of the new makers are using foreign made OHV engines and they are pretty good.


The lesser machines are not as good as the big brands but can last for many years. There’s also a big price break so a trade off. Rust is ok if on the surface. The key is maintenance and proper use by the prior owner.

Consideration # 2- Brand History

There are only a few large manufacturers of snowblowers and hundreds of “brands”.

Toro, Ariens, Snapper, Simplicity, MTD, and Husqvarna are some of the manufacturers. Craftsman and Sears are not makers. Sears and Craftsman buy from many makers and have their labels attached.

Deere used to make machines but also has MTD made machines labeled and painted as Deere. Some older Sears machines were made by Toro. A Sears or Craftsman could be made by anyone.

Finding the maker

Snowblowers have marketing model names but each snowblower has a small tag usually on the tractor drive section (where the wheels are) that has a tag with the factory model and serial number. These numbers can be used to find the specifics about the machine at the factory website. The factory websites often have the operators manual, parts breakdowns with part number and at times service manuals.

For example google , Toro, Ariens, Simplicity, MTD and you will get their main site. Go to homeowners or the service and support section and there will be a place to lookup information about a specific snowblower. Give the site the factory model number from the snowblower tag and it will return the manuals for that snowblower.

MTD makes Bolens, Snowflite, Yard Machines, McCullouch, White, Gardenway, Sears, Craftsman, Troy-bilt and many more names.

AYP makes Roper, Poulan, Husky, Rally, Sears, Craftsman.


Over the years a company develops a reputation for their machines. After a buyout for example Troy-bilt by MTD what will the quality be like. Are all Troy-bilt machines then the quality of MTD machines? Bolens is another name which is now made by MTD.

It’s iffy. For example, MTD may buy Troy-bilt but what happend to the Troy manufacturing facility? Were the facilities closed or still used for production? MTD makes some models and puts the Troy label on them.

Briggs and Stratton bought Murray but what happened to the Murray plant?

Simplicity bought Snapper. This one is interesting because both are high quality companies.

Most of these companies are huge. When MTD buys Troy they may breakup the lawnmower division and keep the snowblower division of the acquired company. Just who made what at any give time gets very complex so a little research by going to the company site helps to get information about a product.

Consideration # 3 – Brands

There are many brands and sub-brands to consider.  To make the matter more confusing, certain brands like Sears Craftsman and John Deere snow blowers are made by contract manufacturers.

  • Ariens
  • Honda Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE)
  • Husqvarna
  • John Deere
  • MTD
  • Simplicity
  • Toro


  • Cost: $$ – $$$$
  • Known as the “King of Snow”, Ariens (pronounced “aa-rons” NOT “Ary-ann”)
  • Company has been around for more than 50 years
  • I believe it also has done contract manufacturing in the past for John Deere.
  • Sold at most Home Depot stores and local retailers (if purchased fro HD, HD will contact local retailer for setup and delivery)
  • Medium to high quality (exception being Sno-Tek, sub-brand of Ariens; this model is considered to be low to medium quality)
  • Ariens link to snowthrowers


  • Cost: $$$-$$$$
  • Brand related to legendary quality
  • Available through local dealers
  • Medium to high quality machines
  • Uses Honda engines only
  • Honda Outdoor Power Equipment link to snow thrower (external site does not allow direct linking; please copy and paste; )

John Deere

  • Cost: $$$-$$$
  • Highly recognizable classic green and yellow color
  • John Deere no longer manufactures snow blowers itself (contracted out to Simplicity starting in 2008-2009?)
  • Available from local retailers and at some Lowes locations
  • Medium to high quality machines
  • John Deere link to snowthrowers


  • Cost: $-$$$
  • As far as I can figure out, MTD now ownsa whole bunch of diverse brands such as Troy-bilt, Yard-man, Yard machines, White Outdoor, Bolens, Cub Cadet, Remington.
  • It is my understanding that they also have “secret” contract manufacturing with other snow thrower companies (i.e. lower end machines from Toro and Sears Craftsman).
  • Most Lowes stores sell Troy-bilt machines.
  • MTD link to snowthrowers


  • Cost: $$$-$$$$
  • Owned by an engine manufacturer, Briggs & Stratton (BASC)
  • BASC also owns other well-known brands like Snapper, Ferris, and Murray (Murray used to contract out its snowthrower manufacturing to MTD before it was taken over by Simplicity)
  • Available only through authorized local dealers
  • Medium to high quality machines
  • Simplicity link to snowthrowers


  • Cost: $$-$$$$
  • Established brand for over 80 years
  • Owns other brands like Lawn Boy, Pope, Hayter
  • Available through local dealers
  • Medium to high quality machines
  • Although unconfirmed, Toro’s lower end machines are (or used to be) made by MTD
  • Toro link to snowthrowers

Consideration # 4 – Snowthrower types

  • There are two main types of snow throwers:  single stage and two (dual) stage
  • Single stage is used for light duty as it has single auger that is responsible for scooping up and throwing the snow
  • Two stage (or dual stage) is used for medium to heavy duty as it has an auger to scoop up the snow and impeller for throwing snow.
  • Two stage units can be further brown down into medium duty or heavy duty.  Heavy duty snowblowers come come with larger frame or chasis, larger engine, augur, etc.
  • It is RECOMMENDED to buy a snowthrower that is appropriate for your use.  Heavy duty snowthrowers are more difficult to handle as they are larger and heavier than medium duty snowthrower.

Consideration # 5 – Mechanics

  • Engines: Almost all snowblowers today use engines from Briggs and Stratton with Robin/Subaru engine taking up the small market share..  Techumseh used to be other major engine manufacturer but they went bankrupt few years ago (parts business was re-sold to an Asian company).  One exception is Honda which uses its own Honda small engines. Generally speaking, larger the engine size, further it can throw the snow (keep in mind that when you have a two car width driveway, you may be forced to throw snow in one direction only)
  • Starter: Recoil (pull to start), Electric (may or may not have to be plugged in to an outlet, as most snowblowers do not have batteries attached to them), or Recoil/Electric combo.
  • Wheel or track: Tracks provide, well more traction.  However, prices on tracked Honda (Ariens has a small line up of track models)is astronomically high.  If you have lots of extra cash, buy a Honda snowblower with tracks.  Just keep in mind though, you will need a dolly of some sort to move that beast when the engine is not running!)
  • Augur: Ribbon auger or stamped auger; Most come with a ribbon design which I believe are superior as it has less surface area for the snow to stick
  • Chute control: Manual or electric; Typically you need one hand for throttle (to move the snowblower) and one hand for all other tasks (augur, chute direction/height controls, etc).  Electric controls (as found in John Deere 1330SE) makes your life bit easier
  • Dealers: HD/Lowes send out snowblowers with warranty and/or repair issues to local dealers.  You pay a slightly higher price to support local businesses and get to know them to get your snowblowers serviced right.

Consideration # 6 – Gotcha’s to think about

  • Storage: Unless you have a large garage with lots of extra space, you will need a storage shed.  Potential problem comes when you get whacked with deep snow and you have to retrieve the snowblower out from the shed.  In my case, I have two, standard 8×7 garage doors which house a minivan and a wagon.  After getting rid of lots of junk and custom building shelves using 2×4 (will post info on that project later), I was able to squeeze in my blower between 2 cars with the ability to get it out without moving either cars.  Just something to think about what you will do in your situation.
  • Debris: You most likely will know when you will need your snowthrower in advance.  To prevent breaking your shear pins, take a walk around the area you will be clearing.  Pick up any large debris like branches, large rocks, and especially newspaper.  I did all of these and still ended up breaking my shear pin when I cleared my elderly neighbors sidewalk when broken part of her gas shutoff housing got stuck in my thrower.
  • Tools: Have at least 4 to 8 shear pins on hand (they should come with cotter pins as well).  In addition, have a long flat head screw driver, hammer, large pliers in a neon zip lock bag.  Oh yeah, and have latex gloves handy too as you cannot work replacing shear pins with “oven” gloves on (latex gloves will protect your hands somewhat from the cold).
  • Markers: I thought I knew the driveway like the back of my hands and boy was I wrong.  When the snow covers everything (rocks, retaining walls, curb stones, etc), it becomes very disorienting.  before the storm hits, go buy some orange marker sticks and place them around places so that you know where to stay away from
  • Fuel: At least a 5 gallon gas container with fuel stabilizer (trust me, you will thank me when your snowblower starts with one pull).  Also remember, red container is for gasoline, blue is for kerosene and yellow for diesel.  Most gas stations will not sell you gas without correctly colored cotainers.
  • Eye protection: If you can, get a detachable cab to protect yourself from the element.  I thought that was for sissies until I started to clear the snow in 15 mph wind.  At minimum, wear ski pants, and wear some type of eye protection.

Final Decision

It took me about 2 long and agonizing weeks to thoroughly analyze the specs and match them to my needs (i.e. gravel driveway, budget, etc.).  My top three choices came down to:

  • Ariens
  • John Deere
  • Simplicity

When comparing respective mechanical specifications, each brands were fairly close to each other, not considering minor items like hand warmers, etc.  Ariens are widely available at Home Depot and John Deere units are available at certain Lowes stores.  Simplicity could be found at local power equipment dealers.

At first you might think buying from Home Depot or Lowes would give you better access to future repairs and service related issues but that is not necessarily true.  Most, if not all stores farm out their snow blower services to local dealers.

In the end, I purchased my John Deere 1330SE from a local dealer because of their expert knowledge and comfort in knowing their service department crew (from my previous encounter with John Deere lawnmower).  Matter of fact, I was so comfortable with my decision that I did not mind paying $150 above what I could have paid at Lowes.  It also didn’t hurt that I was helping a local business.

I will post some pictures of my new John Deere in 2 feet of snow

Reference links


Tuesday 31st of March 2015

honda honda honda. Ive had them all . Then i decided to go to honda becauce i have there lawn more. Yes it is more expensive butt worth every penny, I have the 622 model the smallest one and my only regret is that Idid not buy the 24 inch. if your thinking of honda by all means go for it


Thursday 7th of May 2015

I agree with you that Honda has excellent build quality. However, I can't recall seeing any of their units having electric chute option? With 80 foot long driveway with 900 square feet of landing pad in the rear, I have to say that electric chute is an awesome option to have!


Wednesday 4th of February 2015

Found your article of manufactures, preference for JD, and follow up discussion very interesting. Had an Ariens older model for some 25 years, w/no dealer service required, essentially all I ever did is perform routine service; I did have to replace transmission gear shaft bearings once or twice. finely the engine wore out. and I bought a new Model 926013 in 2007. Now after only 6 years of generally light (one or two 12" storms/yr) service., lost power to drive wheels. Thought it was cable adj on the friction disk, Tightened twice , being able to make a pass or two befor failing again. wheel Dealer says its the "Differential Remote"- looks like a gear on the wheel shaft, Part No.52601600. Dealer wants about $ 375.00 for repairs and is charging $ 180.00 for this part , when his own wed site is $ 149.95 and other part sites $135.00. Is this type of transmission the standard in the industry ? Any comment on transmission drive systems to be avoided, and type to be preferred. Don't think the problem here is with the drive disk and friction disk, Snapper been using this transmission for what must be 30 years or more on there rider lawn mowers.. Problem is between the friction wheel shaft and the Wheel shaft may be this differential remote has some defects. Your comments or suggestions in this area are appreciated. .


Thursday 5th of February 2015


Sorry about your troubles. Having worked on limited snowthrower brands, I cannot definitively say if your problem is common or not.

With many snowthrower brands being re-badged, I think most of them, excluding Ariens and Honda, have some type of friction disk implementation with varying degrees of limited slip differential (I think JD uses a clutch + sprocket assembly).

Unlike others, I believe Honda and Ariends use hydrostatic transmission and Remote differential respectively.

Have you recently run into any rocks or metal objects that might have "tweaked" your shaft? Have you visually inspected the remote differential part to see if the teeth on the inner rings are in tact. What about the shaft? Is that straight?

With the total repair price hovering around $500 after sales tax, maybe it might be worthwhile to try to replace it yourself?


Thursday 11th of December 2014

Hi Kevin… I enjoyed your article, as i am currently in the market for a powerful snow thrower, i found it very helpful. I noticed in the last comment you said that if money was no object, you would check out the honda. did price play an issue in choosing the JD over the Honda for you initially? or was the JD the best regardless of price? also, what Honda did you compare to the JD 1330SE? I am considering the JD 1332PE, Honda HS724 wheeled and the Honda HS928 tracked. Please let me know what you think. I have a 4 bay area that needs clearing, but the distance from the first bay to the street is not very long, maybe 10-15 feet. thanks!


Saturday 27th of December 2014


Although I am happy with my John Deere 1330SE, at this point (December 2014), If you are buying new, I would NOT recommend it as John Deere no longer produces walk behind snowblowers. In addition, most John Deere dealers are now carrying Honda blowers along with Ariens so any new JD blowers would be a leftover stock that may have been sitting around for awhile. If you are buying used, I would buy a JD snowblower because parts are plentiful due to it being a re-badged Simplicity models made by Briggs-Stratton.

When I purchased mine, price played a factor but I mainly chose JD because of the local JD dealer reputation and 1330se's engine size with 30" inch wide augers to quickly clear 100 feet of side walk, 75 feet of driveway and a 900+ sq feet of parking space, not to mention clearing my elderly neighbors driveways. My neighbor has the HS92; it's is lighter and smaller so it is more maneuverable than mine; and its hydrostatic drive makes it much easier to drive than my "5 speed". There is no way my wife can control 1330se due to its weight and size where as she can probably control the Honda.

Not sure it is a big deal for you or not, but JD has the electric chute control (very convenient as you can direct while blowing) whereas Honda has the manual chute control.

Hope this helps!



Monday 27th of January 2014

Everyone is yakity yaking about the snow throwing abilities of brands A – Z. I was led down this path and caught up in what was touted as important with snow blowers. I bought a Craftsman machine. It looked good in the store and it got decent reviews. Come to find out snow throwing ability is only part of the story. The Craftsman Drive System, shared by other brands is not designed for any type of rugged use such as a sloped, gravel drive, a heavy snow blower handling heavy snow. After 3 hours of service the $600 machine’s transmission stripped gears the machine was too heavy to maneuver by hand under this circumstance. It’s sitting in the barn, useless.

My research led me to find the Craftsman transmission is shared in MTD, Yard Machines, and probably others.


Tuesday 28th of January 2014


Sorry to hear about your unfortunate circumstance. Though I agree with some of your statements, I hope you did not get the impression that "brand evaluation" was the most important factor in determining the right snowblower for any particular buyer.

The brand evaluation was done because I had found that most of the companies no longer manufactured their own as you found out.

I probably should have expanded more but I did briefly outline that "heavier duty" snowblowers were heavier, which would make maneuvering more difficult.

With my John Deere 1330SE snowblower, I have cleared my 80 ft long gravel driveway (skimming to reduce picking up gravel) as well as my elderly neighbor's paved driveway which has around 20% incline so overall, I am very happy with my purchase.

If you are thinking about purchasing a new one, I would encourage you to actually handle the unit at the store to see how it feels. If money was not an issue, I would check out Honda snowblower with tracks. It is fairly small but very powerful and can go pretty much anywhere.

Hopefully you can get the Craftsman unit repaired under warranty and sell it on Craiglist?



Thursday 21st of November 2013

We are in the process of doing our due diligence before buying a blower, much like you did.We had pretty much settled on the 30"cub cadet largely due to its high rating and the oversized 16''augers.This changed when we looked up the warranty,and found that there is absolutely no warranty on their aluminum gear box.We have a list of features that we want on our new blower.It started to look like we would have to compromise ,as no machine had all these features,until we looked at the j.d.1330 blower.A cast gear box and an American made engine were most important j.d. has both.We wanted over sized augers j.d. has14,"industry standard is 12" A throttle is mandatory for warming up a cold engine and and cooling off a hot one ,j.d. has it .A large fuel tank is important so we wont be refueling a hot engine partially through our job,j.d. has it. weight is important as it is as a sign of quality and a heavier machine will push through in less than ideal conditions where a light one will sit and spin.The 1330 is almost 100 pounds heavier than most competitors.Luxury items that are standard are the electric chute controls rather than cranks or levers.Hand warmers are standard .The only concern we have is how well the diff.steering will compare to the 'power steering ' used by others??? Herb


Friday 22nd of November 2013


Thanks for your comment. Regarding your question about differential vs. "power" steering, I really did not see the need for the latter as JD's wheel gets disengaged when you let go of the throttle handle.

With wheels disengaged, I pivot the machine slightly and continue to clear the area. I have a medium build (~190 lbs) so I am not strong by any means.

As you stated, of all the blowers I looked around, JD had the best combination of features and price.

PS. Make sure to pick up some silicone spray cans and extra shearing pins. Silicone spray cans work wonders with wet, sticky snow and shearing pins, well, after you chomp up a roll of wet, frozen paper ;)