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 – Brand Evaluation

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

Ariens ($$ – $$$$)

  • 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

Honda ($$$$)

John Deere ($$$-$$$$)

  • 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

MTD ($-$$$)

  • 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

Simplicity ($$$-$$$$)

  • 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

Toro ($$-$$$$)

  • 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 #2 – 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 #3 – 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 #4 – 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 agnozing 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: it c

25 thoughts on “Thinking about purchasing a snow thrower (a.k.a. snow blower)?”

  1. Did you ever finish this article? I am in the same situation and was just looking for information on the john deere blower. I am stuck between the airens and john deere. Do you still like your John Deere? Was it worth the money? Any other info would be great.

  2. @Christos-

    Thanks for the reminder! I updated my earlier post to include my decision about John Deere. I will add some pictures of my new baby in a snow storm. Just make sure to have plenty of shear pins and some orange markers.

  3. I’ve had a honda hs928 sinc 2001 and it has server me well, but I’m having problems with the cold on hands , thumb-index-and middle fingers so i’m thinking of trading up, but i can’t seem to find any with hand warmers from honda, are they that good at keeping hands warm? The only one I see is the Ariens, but is that hydrostatic driive, tht sure is nice. thank you for listening Paul

  4. Any GOOD suggestions to get\keep the oil in the crank warmed up before use
    .My wife bought me a new Sears blower, manual pull start, powered wheels, with
    rotating chute, etc. On sale, of course. I “need” to store it outside, under my deck in the back of the house, under a tarp. I am considering anything from a heat lamp focused on the crank case (curved so a flat Katz mag heater won’t work…), to buying a small oil pan-type heater (which I have on my Honda and works great).
    I plan to shift to synthetic 5-30W after the first 5 hrs break in is over which should help. I could turn on the heat a few hours before each storm
    so keeping it on all the time wouldn’t be necessary. Suggestions?? The marker idea sounds smart as do the goggles! Thanks…Jay

  5. I have a John Deere 1330 SE and I have no complaints. The electric shute, heated hand grips and one pull start are great, but the snow clearing power is just awesome. Hope this helps.

  6. @Denis-

    Thanks! I just had my first opportunity to use my John Deere and it was awesome. I was actually having fun until I went through 2 shear pins, chewing up 2 wet newspaper rolls on my neighbors sidewalk. I guess no good deed goes unpunished, heh?

  7. Wires were pre-installed when I purchased the unit?

    Can you post a picture of your setup?

  8. I have John Deere X300 with a 44″ blower
    This is the worst snow blower I have ever owned!!!

  9. I have a two year pld 1330se jd.i lie in nee england my rear wheel spin and spin in the snow.if anything iam pushing the machine . Ehat could be wrong

  10. @butch-

    I am not sure if I understand you correctly. But if your wheels are spinning but not moving forward, you are trying to push too much snow. You may want to lift up the auger by pressing down on the handles little bit and try again.

    good luck

  11. I’ve had mine for 2 years now and I am happy with it, though it is cumbersome to maneuver.

    Regarding your issue, have you checked to make sure both of your augers are turning (you will need someone to assist)? If not, you may want to check and replace its shear pins.

  12. 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

  13. @Herb-

    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 😉

  14. 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.

  15. @Ruben-

    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?


  16. 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!

  17. Hi-

    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!


  18. 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. .

  19. @John-

    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?

  20. 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

  21. 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!

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