Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage Gas Snow Blowers

Man using snowblower in winter storm
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Snow blowers are a smart choice for removing snow from pathways, front walks, and driveways. They are a good tool to own if you live in a region subject to heavy snowfall.

Choosing between single-stage and two-stage gas snow blowers is important in terms of depth of snow cleared, throw distance, power, and of course, price.

Types of Snow Blowers

Snow blowers, often called snow throwers, fall into two categories: single-stage models or two-stage models. The difference between the two models lies in a key component: the auger.

The auger is the large corkscrew-type part at the front that is responsible for pulling up the snow from the ground.

  • Single-Stage Models: The auger both pulls up and discharges the snow. The snow discharge distance is usually limited to about 36 inches. Because the auger touches the ground, it is covered in rubber to protect the surface.
  • Two-Stage Models: The auger only pulls up the snow from the ground. A separate component within the snow blower, the impeller, discharges the snow from the chute. This allows the snow blower to send the snow a greater distance—up to 60 inches—than with single-stage gas snow blowers. Because the auger does not touch the ground, it is all metal (not rubber-tipped, as with the single-stage models).

Gas vs. Electric Snow Blowers

Gas snow blowers are available in both single-stage and two-stage models. Electric snow blowers are only available in the single-stage option. Gas snow blowers are more powerful than electric models, plus they give you more mobility since you are not tied down by an extension cord.

Single-Stage Snow Blower

  • Front auger gathers and removes snow from pathway
  • Soft rubber-tipped auger
  • Auger touches ground
  • 8-inch maximum snow depth
  • Paved surfaces only, not gravel or dirt
  • Good only for slight inclines

With single-stage models, the spinning auger cuts into the snow, gathers the snow, and discharges it from the chute.

Single-stage snowblowers never come in self-propelled form. But the spinning of the auger does slightly help to pull the snow blower forward as the auger contacts the surface.

Single-stage snow blowers are not recommended for regions prone to heavy snowfall or wet snow. They simply do not have enough power to move deep or wet snow. With a single-stage model, an 8-inch snowfall is around the maximum depth that the blower can handle.

Single-stage snow blowers are best for areas that only experience light or moderate snowfalls and for homes with paved small- or medium-sized two-car garages and driveways.

Two-Stage Snow Blower

  • Front auger scoops up the snow, then a separate fan-type impeller throws snow to the side
  • All-metal auger
  • Auger does not touch ground
  • 24-inch maximum snow depth
  • Paved, gravel, or dirt surfaces
  • Good only for even steep inclines

With two-stage gas snow blowers, the auger that sucks up the snow does not contact the ground. This allows two-stage snow blowers to clear paved surfaces, plus crushed stone or gravel driveways.

Since the auger does not contact the ground, a thin layer of snow or ice will remain. This can be scraped or shoveled by hand or treated with ice melt.

Two-stage snow blowers can clear a wider surface than single-stage blowers can: often up to 30 inches in a single pass.

Engine-driven wheels or tracks propel two-stage gas snow blowers. The user only steers the machine and does not have to push it.

Low-End vs. High-End Models

Lower-End
  • Narrower clearing capacity—around 21 inches

  • Sometimes start with pull cord

  • Few or no extra features

Higher-End
  • Broad clearing capacity—up to 30 inches

  • Always have electric starts

  • Features like headlights, heated grips, improved steering

Single-Stage Models

Lower-end single-stage snow blowers tend to have narrow clearing paths—around 21 inches wide. Some of the lower-cost single-stage models may require you to pull a cord (like some lawnmowers) to start the machine.

Higher-end single-stage snow blowers will have wider tracks, electric starters, and extra features such as headlights and semi-pneumatic tires.

Two-Stage Models

Many lower-end two-stage snow blowers are essentially the same as single-stage models except for one difference: the separately powered snow thrower.

As two-stage models reach the upper end of quality, they have clearing widths ranging from 30 to 40 inches and a greater snow throwing distance. All upper-end two-stage models have electric starts. Many of these premium models have features such as dual-grip steering, heated grips, dash-mounted chute rotation, low-temperature starting capacities as low as 20 degrees below zero, and tight turning ratios.

Cost

Most gasoline-powered snow blowers are more expensive than electrically powered snow blowers.

In general, gas-powered snow blowers begin at around $500 for single-stage wheeled models and peak at around $4,500 for two-stage track-mounted models.

A reasonable middle price point for snow blowers ranges from $800 to $1,200. The lower end of this price span brings you 24-inch to 30-inch dual-stage snow blowers with electric starters. The upper end gives you helpful extras like LED headlights, heated grips, and a greater number of gears.