Shoveling vs. Snowblowing For Snow Removal

Snow blower picture
Ariens Company

When you need to remove snow from a residential driveway, at most you have five basic choices:

  1. Snowblowing
  2. Shoveling the snow
  3. Finding someone else to shovel your snow
  4. Hiring snowplow contractors
  5. Installing a heated driveway

Of these, snowblowing and shoveling are the two "DIY" methods to remove snow. You may already know how to shovel snow and its pros and cons. There are also advantages and disadvantages to snowblowing, and it may not be worthwhile to buy a snowblower. While some people need a snowblower as shoveling is too physically demanding, others may find shoveling takes less time for the typical driveway.

Snowblower vs. Shovel in Time to Clear Driveway

To shovel a driveway, all you have to do is to grab the shovel and have at it. Compare the simplicity of that process with what's involved in using an electric snowblower:

  • Take it out of storage.
  • Locate an extension cord.
  • Move any cars parked in your driveway.
  • Plug in the electric snowblower (perhaps first shoveling a path to the electrical outlet).
  • Do your snowblowing.
  • Unplug the electric snowblower.
  • Clean it off.
  • Store the unit and the extension cord away once again.
  • Return your vehicles to their parking spaces.
  • Repair the electric snowblower as needed.

Moving the automobiles takes extra time and effort on your part. When shoveling, you can easily remove snow around any cars parked in your driveway; shoveling boasts the advantage of maneuverability. But snowblowing puts you in a straight-jacket—it is best done in long, straight sweeps, for which you'll need an unobstructed path. So you will most likely have to move parked cars when using a snowblower.

Consider also that when you're snowblowing, you have less control over where the snow will be deposited than when you're shoveling. For example, say there's a shrub planted along your driveway that you don't want to heap snow upon. When shoveling, it's easy enough to avoid covering the bush. But when you're removing snow with a snowblower, it's not so easy. You have to adjust your angle so that the snow will be blown either to the left or to the right of the shrub (even then, the wind may thwart your good intentions). That's a real pain, especially if it's not just a matter of a single bush.

Taking all this into account, you probably could shovel your driveway in one-third of the time it takes to clear it with an electric snowblower. Even more time may be needed if you have to wait for the wind to be right for snowblowing so the snow doesn't blow back into your face.

When It Makes Sense to Buy a Snowblower

Of course, one size does not fit all. You may have physical difficulty shoveling snow, in which case a snowblower is a great solution (assuming you can get it to start). Having the right machine can make the difference between enjoying self-reliance versus having to depend on someone else for snow removal.

If you're thinking of buying a snowblower, the issue then becomes gas snowblower versus an electric snowblower. It's important to get this decision right because the two have distinct pros and cons.​

If you have a long driveway and your health isn't too bad, buy a gas-powered model. You don't want to be dragging a cord along for a great distance.

But for smaller spaces, electric snowblowers are ideal. They're easy to move around (being lightweight), easy to store (being compact), and easy to maintain (no need for oil and gas). Furthermore, they are the best choice for people who are trying to avoid physical strain, precisely because they are lightweight.

If you're in reasonably good health but remain unconvinced of the virtues of shoveling, look into ergonomic snow shovels and aluminum snow shovels which might be the right tools for you.